One of the most important plant medicines comes from this impressive thistle which can grow into large plants with purple flowers which produce the seeds, and leaves which have milky white veins. I once saw a commercial crop being grown to produce medicine and although they're not quite as endearing as a field of sunflowers there's something quite beautiful about this spiky little wonder. The botanical name is Silybum marianum (L), common names also include Blessed thistle, Scotch thistle and Saint Mary's thistle.
As an herbal medicine, milk thistle is an exemplary liver herb, facilitating liver detoxification and renewal of liver cells. It's an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, cholagogue and a bitter tonic. It's bitter taste stimulates the flow of gastric juices including bile which in turn helps with digestion and the elimination of waste from the body. In addition to being a specific liver targeting herb, it is helpful in almost any illness or disorder as a supportive herb enabling breakdown of internal and external toxins thus allowing the body to heal and repair in a holistic manner. It may be helpful in reducing cholesterol and protecting against diabetes, fatty liver disorders and helping improve kidney function.
Milk Thistle is widely available from your local herbalist and good health shops. If you can forage Milk Thistle, using very thick gloves to protect you from the very spiky leaves, harvest the seeds by putting the cut flower heads in a paper bag and allow them to dry before you gather the seeds to use as a ground powder or to make tea. You can use the seeds in salads, add to your nutty snack mix, your overnight oats or morning smoothie. Or of course milk thistle can be added to your tailor made tea or tincture from the Foxglove Apothecary.
Dioscorides, Pliny and Culpepper all harnessed the properties of this medicine and today it's as important and powerful in the Herbal Medicine Chest as it ever was. It's definitely one of my favourites!
I want to share what I know about natural medicine with you. I also love stories and articles about food and nature so in this blog I will be looking at all these subjects and how they come together in our daily lives.