Plant Family:

Asteraceae

 

Habitat & Cultivation: 

Thought to have originated in areas around the Mediterranean Sea and possibly regions of India, milk thistle is now found growing wild in most parts of the world with moderate temperatures, including Canada, Europe, and the United States. Because it spreads rapidly, grows in marginal areas such as vacant lots, and crowds out other plants. Most milk thistle is sourced from the Pacific Northwest, though it’s native to the Mediterranean region and southwestern Europe. According to Mountain Rose Herbs, milk thistle “is considered a noxious weed in several states, particularly in the Pacific Northwest in states such as Washington,”

 

Parts Used/Collection: 

The seed is the medicinal part of the plant (Hoffman, 2003). When dried, the seeds can be eaten, extracted into a tincture or tea, or powdered and encapsulated (Mountain Rose Herbs, n.d.).

 

Herbal Actions: 

  • hepatic

  • galactagogue

  • demulcent

  • cholagogue

  • antihepatotoxic

 

Indications: 

For postpartum, it may be used as a safe liver tonic, such as in hepatitis positive clients or those with preeclamptic symptoms, but more often it would be used as a galactagogue, indicated when a mother may be struggling with adequate milk supply  (Hoffman, 2003).

 

Contraindications: 

Helpful for those experiencing the opposite of the qualities listed above, those with too much warm, dry, rough, light, mobile.  In ayurveda, this may be seen as pitta or vata. Kapha may be aggravated by milk thistle, depending on the situation. This is one of the more grounding liver herbs (we will go over liver herbs next quarter), which can be something you’re looking for.

 

Plant Constituents: 

 

System Affinities:

 

Energetics:

Cold, oily, smooth, soft, heavy, stable.  Helpful for those experiencing the opposite of this, those with too much warm, dry, rough, light, mobile.  This is one of the more grounding liver herbs (we will go over liver herbs next quarter), which can be something you’re looking for.

 

Safety: 

Milk thistle is safe for lactation, and according to Hoffmann (2003) there is no side effects or drug interactions reported. Mills and Bones (2005) gives it a B1 for pregnancy, stating that is is safe to use and a C in lactation, stating it is compatible with breastfeeding.

 

Personal Experience:

 

 

Research: 

American Botanical Council. (2000). Fenugreek seed. Accessed online at www.herbalgram.org.

 

Mills, S. & Bone, K. (2005). The essential guide to herbal safety. London, England: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone

 

Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)