Milk Thistle (in Latin named Silybum Marianum) has been used across Europe since the first century. The plant’s leaves, flowers and roots have been eaten as a vegetable, and its seed-like fruits have been consumed for hundreds of years as a coffee alternative.
Milk Thistle is a member of the sunflower family, with purple flowers and milky white leave veins. It blooms from June to August, and then the shiny black seeds are harvested, around the end of September.
Milk Thistle has a long history in European folk medicine, as a liver tonic. ‘Silymarin’, the main active ingredient, has shown a protective effect against many types of chemical toxins, as well as alcohol. The extract is used to improve liver function, protect against liver damage and enhance regeneration of damaged liver cells. Milk Thistle can also be beneficial in preventing and treating gallstones by improving the flow of bile.