Milk thistle, Silybum marianum, also known as “snake milk”, “milk ipecac”, or “emetic root”is grown in full sun, and thrives in moderately to poor soil that is neutral to alkaline.
It can be used to help encourage milk flow in breastfeeding mothers, but is probably best known for it’s ability to support the liver. Milk thistle is actually kept on hand by European poison control centers due to it’s reputation in preventing death in mushroom poisoning cases.
It has the ability to help stimulate healing of damaged organs, and can prevent damage done by other drugs. Since it can help the liver remove toxins, as well as rejuvenate, it is beneficial for those who are alcohol drinkers. Studies support the best benefits are obtained with long term use.
While it has no known contradications in use, milk thistle can have a mild laxative effect.
The other effect it may have is that it can lower blood glucose levels, so those on glucose lowering medicines should only use this with direct supervision from a qualified health professional, so as to not lower blood glucose levels dangerously.
Growing your own milk thistle is fairly easy. We simply sewed a few seeds where we wanted it and it spread like wildfire! It can also be foraged for in hedges and waste areas in many parts of Europe and North America.
The young leaves can be used as a spinach substitute and the young flower heads can be cooked eaten like you would an artichoke. We let our flower heads dry out, then cut them from the stems to collect the seeds from the dried heads.
Milk thistle can be used as a tincture, infusion or in capsules. To tincture, simply:
- 10 grams crushed seeds or powder
- 50mL of alcohol
- allow to steep for 3-4 weeks, shaking daily
- Strain, then store in a cool, dry place.
- Take up to 30 drops of this tincture 3x a day in water.
To use milk thistle seeds as an infusion, simply add 1 tsp dried seeds to 1 cup of boiling water, steep for 5-10 minutes and drink 1-2 times a day.
To take milk thistle in powdered form, you can find it at your health supply store or online. The usual dosage is 200-400 mg in capsule form. If you prefer, you can order your own powder and empty capsules and take 1 capsule 3x a day.
What is your favorite use for milk thistle? Do you enjoy it in teas, or would you rather powdered form in a pill? Be sure to pin this to your favorite boards for later!