Carduus marianus L. ou Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertn.
An edible wild plant, this artichoke belongs to Asteraceae family. A large biannual herbaceous plant with long, mottled leaves, originally native of Anatolia and the Mediterranean basin, it prefers dry, stony ground. The thorny purple flower-heads contain oleaginous seeds, and are the medicinal part of the plant.
The plant contains lignans (silymarin and silybin), flavonoids (quercetol, apigenin, kaempferol, naringin…), tocopherols (precursor of vitamin E), phenols, lipids and proteins.
Pharmacology and medicinal use
It was not until the nineteenth century that its medicinal use was described: it is used against jaundice, hypotension, migraines, gallstones and constipation.
Silymarin is the antidote for many toxins causing hepatic damage, such as Amanita phalloides and carbon tetrachloride. Two active mechanisms of the plant were revealed during trials :
- on one hand, it prevents toxins from penetrating hepatic cells by trapping free radicals,
- on the other hand, by polymerase, it stimulates the renewal of hepatic cells, even in cases of cirrhosis.
Milk Thistle supports the process of hepatic detoxification in cases of chronic or drug-induced hepatitis, and supports the organism during chemo-therapies and various chronic pathologies – it thus helps the patient to better tolerate the treatment. The plant regulates the excess of cholesterol LDL (bad cholesterol) and hyperlipidemia.
Mother tincture and low homeopathic dilutions (granules or triturations) are galenic forms which are the most appropriate for the plant. Herbal tea is not a convenient vehicle, since the oleaginous seeds are lipophile.
No acute or chronic toxicity has been reported in the literature, even at high concentrations. The plant can be used in the long term without inconvenience, especially in support of chemo-therapies and in cases of chronic hepatitis.
The plant is registered in the French Pharmacopoeia, and benefits from control monographs – the seeds are registered in the list of plants authorized as food supplements.
Milk Thistle is a grand and important plant in our pharmacopoeia, and should be recognised as such. It is easy to cultivate, and should become a therapeutic reflex. It is a natural resource in the service of all.
Taking advice from a health professional is essential for the care of one’s health.
- Anton R. et Wicht M., Plantes thérapeutiques, Tec&Doc. Paris, 1999
- Bindoli A. et al., Inhibitory action of silymarin on lipid peroxyde formation in rat liver mitochondries and microsomes, Biochem Pharmaco. 1977; 26 : 2405-2410
- Gaedeke J. et al., Cisplatin nephrotoxicity and protection by Silibinin, Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation. 1995; 11 : 55-62
- Guermonprez M., Pinkas M., Torck M., Matière Médicale Homéopathique, CEDH, 2005
- Lieber CS et al., Silymarin retards the progression of alcohol induced hepatic fibrosis baboons, J; Clin Gastroenterol. 2003;37 : 336-9