Substances & Homeopatic Remedies

    Carduus marianus

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    Silybum marianum


    Sil-ybum: an old Greek name applied by Dioscrorides to some thistle like plants


    Traditional name

    Used parts

    Tincture of the seeds.


    Plantae; Spermatophyta, Angiospermae - Flowering Plants; Dicotyledonae; Asteridae / Synandrae; Asterales; Compositae / Asteraceae - Composites / Daisy or Sunflower Family



    Original proving

    An admirable proving of this drug, by Dr. Reil, of Halle, is contained in the third volume of the  Hom. Vierteljahrs. - Schrift, page 453.

    Description of the substance

    Biennial growing to 1.2m by 1m at a fast rate. It is hardy to zone 7 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf all year, in flower from July to September, and the seeds ripen from August to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees. We rate it 2 out of 5 for usefulness.

    The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soil. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires dry or moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

    This plant looks much like any other thistle, apart from one key difference - there is a strong milky white colour around the leaf veins. This is a classic example of plant 'signatures' I.e. the idea that the appearance of a plant gives a clue to its uses. In this case the link is very direct, as Milk Thistle is used to stimulate milk production.
    Milk Thistle likes a warmer climate than is found in most of Britain, so you may be better to buy, rather than grow it. You would also need a sizeable patch of ground to get a decent quantity of seeds. I recommend that you buy either the whole seeds (which store well), or the tincture. If you buy the seeds, prepare them in a coffee grinder before making a tea with them. Milk Thistle is available from most herbalists and some health food shops.
    Treating alcoholism and its consequences is one of my specialities. I have used this herb many times to help repair damaged liver tissue in patients but only once did I make the mistake of giving an alcohol based tincture to a recovering alcoholic. We both learnt our lesson fast, when the tincture set off a binge of drinking. I changed the prescription to dried seeds straight away and no harm was done, but if you use Milk Thistle for the same condition don't make the same mistake.

    Il cardo mariano o carciofo selvatico è una pianta erbacea biennale, a fusto eretto e robusto, con foglie grandi bordate di spine e fiori porpora, raccolti in capolini, circondati da brattee spinose. Secondo una leggenda, le macchie bianche delle foglie sono gocce di latte cadute dal seno di Maria, al tempo della fuga in Egitto. Le proprietà terapeutiche dei semi di cardo mariano sono già note al Mattioli (1554) che li considera colagoghi e diuretici. Alla fine del XIX secolo vengono utilizzati per le sindromi emorragiche e nell'ipotensione arteriosa. La fitoterapia moderna attribuisce a questa pianta proprietà epatopprotettive, tonicovascolari ed emostatiche.