Silybum marianum Milk Thistle. Annual or overwintering annual, native to the Mediterranean and widely naturalized. Giant, shiny-leaved plant with distinct white variegations, producing bright purple flowers that give way to hefty brown-black seeds that are one of the best liver protective herbs on Earth. Seed may be ground as needed in an electric coffee mill. Dosage is 1 tablespoon up to 3 times daily. This is a significant liver supportive herb for those at-risk through workplace toxicity (you work with hexane in a lab, you spray paint cars, you glue down floors, etc.) as well as those suffering from liver-related diseases (jaundice, hepatitis).
- Plant prefers moist, regular soil and full sun to part shade. Plant away from high traffic areas and avoid contact with the spines.
- Best to sow seed in late summer and harvest ripe seed the following year, but in areas with very cold winters it is possible to direct seed in the very early spring and pull off a harvest by fall.
- Tap-rooted plant does poorly in pots and is best sown directly in the soil. Plant all the seeds, because as nature would have it, some of them come up right away and some lie dormant to come up another day.
Certified organic, 50 seeds per packet
Photo by H. Zell
Planting & Care
Soil & Water:Prefers full sun and regular garden soil or poor soil. Requires consistent moisture.
Planting & Growing: Sow seeds about 1/2" deep. Germination in 1 to 3 weeks. Thin plants to 3 ft apart.
Harvesting & Storage: Harvest seed heads when purple flowers dry to white fluff. Wear gloves, cut off the partially dried capitulae and drop in a bucket, further dry in the sun for a few days, then wail with a stick until the seedhead is well broken apart, and screen and wind winnow until you get pure seed.