Milk thistle, Sylibum marianum, is a member of the Asteraceae family that includes Daisy.
Though native to the Mediterranean, it is now found throughout the world and is featured prominently in traditional botanical medicines of different cultures such as the Basque, Lebanese and the Germans, as a treatment for liver ailments and to counter the harmful effects of alcohol on the liver.
Its use and presence in traditional medicine going back to 2000 years ago when Military Physician Pedani Dioskurides in the 1st century recommended it for vomiting. In the Middle Ages, Hildegard of Bingen listed it as a treatment for stabbing chest pains- now known as pneumonia, while Gerard, a famous European herbalist, in his Herbal of 1597, prescribed the “excellent herb” Milk Thistle, for “melancholia”, a disease traditionally associated with the liver during that time. It is also used in managing biliary disorders, jaundice, rhinitis, and high fever and is known to help with milk production in lactating women, earning it its old nickname of Mary’s Thistle or Holy Thistle.
Milk thistle is used to treat liver diseases and in managing urinary disorders. It is known to be anti-inflammatory and as a supportive treatment for death cap mushroom poisoning. According to a study1, Silibinin, a compound extracted from the seeds of Milk Thistle, is a potent AntiViral Agent in patients with Chronic Hepatitis C not responding to the usual Interferon therapy. Furthermore, there is clear evidence for its use as a supportive element in alcoholic and child grade ‘A liver cirrhosis2. In 2011, the European Commission granted the Orphan Medicinal Product Designation to silibinin-c2’3-dihydrogensuccinate disodium salt synthesized from milk thistle extract to prevent the recurrence of hepatitis C in liver transplant recipients3.
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2. Rottapharm|Madaus.Media Communications Legalon®. Retrieved March 6, 2017.
3. Saller R,Brignoli R, Melzer J, Meier R (2008). “An updated systematic review withmeta-analysis for the clinical evidence of silymarin”. ForschendeKomplementärmedizin. 15 (1): 9–20. doi:10.1159/000113648. PMID 18334810.Retrieved 2010-12-14.