Sylibum marianum
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Other names: Marian thistle, St. Mary's thistle, Our Lady's thistle
Family: Asteraceae
Habitat: Native to the Mediterranean region of Europe, southern Russia and north Africa, but naturalized in California and the eastern US. May be found growing wild in warm, dry waste areas. Milk thistle may also be grown in gardens.
In Italy it is found mostly in the South and Center, more rarely in the North. It is easily found in uncultivated fields, pastures, along woodpaths. cardo.jpg (5732 byte)

It was chosen as an ingredient of Wonderup because:
It contains of a large number of bioflavonoid complexes (phytoestrogens) called flavonolignans, including principally silybin (of the sylimarin complex) accompanied by isosilybin, dehydrosilybin, silydianin, silychristin, etc. . These phytoestrogens, like those in the other ingredients of Wonderup, regulate the production of female hormones (estrogens), whose balance is fundamental for the woman's general wellbeing and for a correct and healthy development of the breast, the main receptor of estrogens in the female body. A scarcely developed breast is in fact the symptom of a lack of estrogens during puberty, a lack which can be remedied by reestablishing a correct level of estrogens through the delicate and safe action of phytoestrogens, which feed the female breast and restore its volume and tone.

Other characteristics and properties:
Milk thistle was once greatly valued in folk medicine in Europe - a reputation that has gradually unjustly decreased. Milk thistle is in fact rich in therapeutic virtues which make it precious especially in the treatment of liver dysfunctions.

Milk Thistle has indeed a long history of use in European folk medicine as a liver tonic. Silymarin from Milk Thistle has shown a protective effect against many types of chemical toxins, including alcohol. An extract of Milk Thistle is used to improve liver function, protect against liver damage and enhance regeneration of damaged liver cells. Clinical studies have confirmed the usefulness of standardized Milk Thistle extracts in cases of toxic liver, cirrhosis, and other chronic liver conditions secondary to alcohol abuse.

Properties and medical use of flavonolignans (Silymarin) from Silybum marianum

Phytotherapy Research (United Kingdom), 1996, 10/SUPPL. 1 (S25-S26)

Purified flavonolignan extracts from the fruits of the milk thistle (Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertn., syn. Carduus marianus L.) mainly contain silymarin, an isomer mixture of silibinin, isosilibinin, silicristin and silidianin. Silymarin is used for oral treatment of toxic liver damage (induced by alcohol, drugs or environmental toxins) and for supportive therapy in chronic inflammatory liver diseases and in liver cirrhosis. Silymarin and its main isomer silibinin, respectively, have been shown to possess antioxidant properties thus preventing lipid peroxidation and membrane destruction in cells. In addition, protein biosynthesis and cell regeneration are accelerated in the damaged liver leading to restoration of the liver functions. Certain mushroom toxins are prevented from entering the liver cell by silibinin due to competitive inhibition of receptors at the cell membrane. Intravenous treatment with a soluble silibinin derivative is now an important life-saving factor in the standard therapy of cases of Amanita phalloides poisoning. Finally, it has recently been shown that silymarin inhibits leukotriene production which explains its antiinflammatory effect and that it has an antifibrotic action. Clinical trials confirm the positive effects found in experimental studies. Thus, silymarin is nowadays not only the best documented drug for liver therapy but also one of the most intensively investigated plant extracts with known mechanisms of action.
Copyright 1995-1999 By The Life Extension Foundation

* Liver regenerative tonic - Helps with liver problems or enlargement: alcoholic liver disease, drug-induced liver disease, chronic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis, jaundice, multiple chemical sensitivities, industrial toxin exposure, detoxification/cleansing programs. Protects liver from toxic mushroom poisoning. Regenerates liver tissue damaged by hepatitis, cirrhosis, alcoholism, drugs, and environmental toxins. Also helps with fatigue, depression, and food allergies.

Milk Thistle prevents free radical damage to liver cells, prevents the formation of leukotrienes and stimulates the production of new liver cells (protein synthesis or cell protein production), accelerating regeneration process. The liver protects the body from toxic chemicals. Silybin, found in Milk Thistle, protects the liver from environmental toxins entering the body through food, water, air and skin. Silybinin has no known effects on the liver enzyme system; therefore, it protects the body from damaging effects of pharmaceutical drugs and anesthesia without breaking down drug delivery.

With all that the liver must process in our daily lives, it is no wonder it may become overwhelmed at times. Milk thistle can help rejuvenate it and possibly even protect it from future damage. Anyone who has or has had hepatitis, cirrhosis or other conditions of the liver or gall bladder should consider adding milk thistle to their supplement plan. In fact, it wouldn't hurt everyone to add it as a tonic herb.

* Poisoning antidote - especially for the Death Cap Mushroom.
Silibinin and other components of the silymarin complex were first discovered to be beneficial in treating liver diseases in Germany several decades ago. A favorite national pastime in Germany is mushroom collecting, a practice with inherent risks, such as Amanita phalloides - the Death Cap mushroom. Consuming the Death Cap mushroom results in severe, usually deadly, liver damage (it destroys its cells) - in fact, those that survive Death Cap poisoning have been so badly damaged that they most often require liver transplants to survive. Miraculously, silymarin binds to the liver cells preventing the mushroom poisons from also binding, blocking their poisonous effect. The silymarin is also able to directly neutralize the poison itself, making it effective even though it has been taken after the mushroom poison has been ingested. Milk thistle extract, for this very reason, is kept on hand in German hospitals where it is administered on an emergency basis for treating otherwise fatal Death Cap poisonings.

* cholagogue - affects liver and detoxification systems due to its ability to stimulate the emptying of the gallbladder and the flow of bile into the duodenum.

* acts as an antioxidant, with far greater free radical damage control than vitamin E. Silybin, found in Milk Thistle stimulates Super Oxide Dismutase (SOD) activity which acts as free radical scavenger more potent than Vitamin E (SOD is "a metal-containing enzyme that reduces potentially harmful free radicals of oxygen formed during normal metabolic cell processes to oxygen and hydrogen peroxide" - Webster dictionary). In the presence of Silibinin, less glutathione ("a peptide C10H17N3O6S that contains one amino-acid residue each of glutamic acid, cysteine, and glycine, that occurs widely in plant and animal tissues, and that plays an important role in biological oxidation-reduction processes and as a coenzyme", Webster) is used in the tissue, resulting in a smaller decrease of the glutathione pool. Glutathione reduces free radical activity, not only in the liver, but in cells in the entire body. Milk Thistle inhibits the enzyme, lipoxygenase, preventing the formation of leukotrienes, components responsible for inflammations.

* galactogogue - stimulates milk production in nursing mothers

* relieves cramps and mentrual pains

* treat headaches associated with menstrual cycles

* balances female hormones (estrogens)

* demulcent effect in treating pleurisy.

* antihermorragic - known since ancient times for this property

* depurative - purifies the blood and the liver

* diuretic - facilitates elimination of toxins through urine

* febrifuge - reduces fever

* appetite stimulant - aids digestion - digestive bitter

* antispasmodic - prevents muscle cramps

Usage Warnings
Mild laxative effect in some users. May cause loose bowels for the first 2-3 days because of Gallbladder stimulation, but this will subside.

Culinary uses: Salad green & cooked vegetable (spinach like flavor)
* Formerly frequently cultivated in gardens
* The stalks may be eaten and are palatable and nutritious
* Young leaves may be eaten as a salad, and were sometimes baked in pies
* The flower heads were formerly boiled and eaten, treated like those of an Artichoke
Here is a plant that is truly a gift of nature being both food and medicine. In the spring, the young shoots can be boiled and eaten like cabbage and the young leaves can be added to salads. In the fall, the seeds are a favorite food of goldfinches and an important medicinal for people. The flower heads were once boiled and eaten like artichokes, according to Mrs. Grieve in her book A Modern Herbal.

History and Curiosities -- folk use:
* Thought to be a great breeder of milk and proper diet for nursing women
* Thought to have a healing property in those with snake bites
* If worn around the neck it would protect you from snake bites
* Fruit formerly thought to cure hydrophobia
* Applied externally, said to have been proven beneficial in cases of cancer
* The young, tender plant be boiled and eaten in the spring as a blood cleanser
* Fruits have been used for many years for a variety of conditions, especially liver complaints. However, medicinal use of the plant, except as a simple bitter, was practically discontinued early in the twentieth century.

Pliney the 1st century ad Roman naturalist stated the plant was excellent for carrying off the bile, thus restoring liver function.

Was used by European wet nurses to increase their breast milk. The white veins on the leaves represent drops of the Virgin Mary's milk fallen there when she nursed the baby Jesus. Hence the name marianum.

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