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Milk Thistle

Botanical Name

Milk thistle, Carduus marianus, holy thistle, St. Mary’s thistle, our lady’s thistle, Marian thistle

Common Name

Milk thistle, Carduus marianus, holy thistle, St. Mary’s thistle, our lady’s thistle, Marian thistle



Parts Used

Seed, leaves, flowers, root

Native To

A small area in the Mediterranean.

Harvesting Guidelines

Milk thistle is a plant that produces seeds with many health benefits. However, gathering these seeds can be a bit tricky due to the plant's thorny exterior. To avoid getting pricked, it's recommended to wear gloves and protective clothing. Once the seed heads turn brown, they can be cut off with scissors and placed in a paper bag for 48 hours to dry. After this, the seeds can be carefully brushed off the head onto a window screen to remove any debris. Once cleaned, the seeds can be stored in a glass jar for later use.


Milk thistle seed has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as a therapeutic support for liver-spleen Blood and Yin. It is believed to have cooling and nourishing properties that can reduce inflammation and strengthen liver function. Roasted milk thistle is also used in TCM to balance and enhance digestion in sluggish metabolisms. As a tonic, milk thistle is taken over time to promote a strong and resilient liver that can effectively deal with the stress and toxicity of modern life.(1)

Milk thistle is a herb that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries due to its cleansing, detoxifying, and nourishing properties. It is believed to have a positive effect on the liver and digestion. According to Anne McIntyre, a Western herbalist and Ayurvedic practitioner, milk thistle is particularly effective in treating skin conditions, flushing toxins from the digestive tract, regulating fat metabolism, and supporting individuals with diabetes. It is also known to increase milk supply in nursing mothers.(2)

Milk thistle has been used for centuries in Western herbalism as a tonic for the liver and digestive tract. It is particularly helpful in situations where the liver is under stress, such as poor lipid digestion, headaches, and menstrual issues. Other indications of liver overload include fatigue, heat sensations, itchiness, and bitterness in the mouth. Milk thistle has been observed to be effective in treating general bilious conditions, which can cause swelling, pain, jaundice, and constipation. (3)

Milk thistle, a plant native to the Mediterranean region, has been found to contain compounds that offer protection to various organs and systems in the body. Studies have shown that silibinin and silicristin, two compounds found in milk thistle, can protect the kidneys from damage caused by environmental toxins and certain medications. While milk thistle is not typically associated with neurological health, recent research has suggested that its extracts may have potential benefits for conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, as well as age-related cognitive decline.(4)

Milk thistle is a popular herb used in traditional medicine to support liver health and detoxification. It is often paired with other herbs such as dandelion root, turmeric root, and artichoke leaf to create a tonic that repairs and stimulates the liver. In Chinese medicine, milk thistle is combined with white peony, dong quai, and cramp bark to treat tendon contracture due to blood vacuity, and with yellow dock and Baical skullcap for dermatological issues and toxin accumulation associated with alcoholism.(5)


Adult Dose (6)

Concentrated standardized silymarin capsules: (70-210 mg): one to two pills, two to three times per day

1:5 Tincture: 20-40 drops three times per day

6-15 g in decoction, as galactagogue; 3-6 mL tincture; 400-450 mg standardized silymarin extract

420 mg/day, 4 to 8 weeks


Milk thistle is generally considered a safe herb with few reported side effects. However, it may interfere with certain medications that are metabolized through the liver's cytochrome p450 pathway, such as cardiac glycosides, cyclosporine, birth control, and metronidazole. People with allergies to plants in the thistle/daisy family may also experience reactions to milk thistle. Additionally, milk thistle may affect the use of insulin and other medications for hypoglycemia. It's important to consult with a healthcare provider before taking milk thistle or any other supplement.(7)




(1)Garran, T.A. (2008). Western Herbs According to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Rochester, VT. Healing Arts Press.

(2)McIntyre, Anne. (n.d.). Milk Thistle: Silybum marianum (Monograph). Retrieved from

(3)McIntyre, Anne. (n.d.). Milk Thistle: Silybum marianum (Monograph). Retrieved from

(4)Kumar, J., Park, K.C., Awasthi, A., Prasad, B. (2015). Silymarin extends lifespan and reduces proteotoxicity in C. elegans Alzheimer's model. CNS Neurological Disorders Drug Targets. 14(2):295-302.

(5)Garran, T.A. (2008). Western Herbs According to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Rochester, VT. Healing Arts Press.

(6)Tillotson, A. (n.d.) Milk Thistle Seed (Silybum marianum). Retrieved from

(7)Foster, S. (2009). Milk Thistle Monograph. Stephen Foster Group, Inc. Retrieved from


Scientific Research:

Information offered on Achula and on this page is for educational purposes only. Achula makes neither medical claim, nor intends to diagnose or treat medical conditions. Women who are pregnant or nursing, and persons with known medical conditions, should consult their licensed healthcare provider before taking any herbal product. Links to external sites are for informational purposes only. Achula neither endorses them nor is in any way responsible for their content. Readers must do their own research concerning the safety and usage of any herbs or supplements.


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