About Milk Thistle


Thistle is an herb that is commonly difficult to dispose of. These plants can overwhelm agricultural plots, sapping plants of their energy. On a positive note, one of these types of thistle--the milk thistle--is useful as an antioxidant, undoing the damage that many chemicals do to the liver and helping guard against cancer.


Milk thistle serves as an herbal remedy for the liver and gallbladder. Research conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in 2000 found that milk thistle might protect the liver from damage that is caused by drugs such as Tylenol. The antioxidants found in milk thistle help repair the liver and the rest of the body, possibly helping prevent cancer. Milk thistle also can play a role in repairing liver damage caused by alcoholism and has traditionally been used as an antidote to deathcap mushrooms.


The roots of the milk thistle can be eaten raw, boiled and buttered. The shoots can be cut and boiled. Soaking the stems of the milk thistle removes bitterness and then stems can be put in a stew.


Thistle is a plant that often emerges in areas that lack proper landscaping. Milk thistle has stems that are spiny. These stems can get as long as 10 feet. Milk thistle can also be identified by the leaves, which are broad and have white blotches where the milky-white fluid is located. During flowering season, milk thistle has reddish-purple flowers. When the flowers are fertilized, they produce fruit that is hard, brown, shiny and covered with spots.


Thistle often spreads very rapidly, and many of these herbs are often seen as weeds. These plants are very hardy and will flourish whenever they have enough sun. The fluid the milk thistle produces contains silymarin. This is sold dried in a capsule, in liquid form or in a tincture.


Thistle spreads so rapidly and is so potentially dangerous to crops that some areas of the world have passed regulations requiring that thistle be weeded out. Despite this herb's longevity, it can be dangerous if mixed with other chemicals. While many individuals think that herbal supplements are safe to take with more traditional medications, the silymarin found in milk thistle can potentially interact with antipsychotics, dilantin, halothane, allergy medications, cholesterol drugs, anti-anxiety medications, blood thinners and possibly some cancer drugs.

Keywords: milk thistle, thistle plants, deathcap mushroom, mary thistle, holy thistle

About this Author

Charles Pearson has written as a freelancer for two years. He has a B.S. in Literature from Purdue University Calumet and is currently working on his M.A. He has written three ebooks so far: Karate You Can Teach Your Kids, Macadamia Growing Handout and The Raw Food Diet.