Description. The milk thistle is an annual or biannual herbaceous plant of the Asteraceae family or Compositae family.
Homeland of milk thistle is Asia and Southern Europe. It was first discovered in Greece, Turkey, Israel, Egypt, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Albania, Portugal, Spain. It is distributed throughout the world.
The stem of the plant is erect, simple or branching, furrowed, grows 60-150 cm in height. Bottom leaves are rather large (up to 80 cm long, 30 cm wide), wrinkled. The flowers are of tubular shape, bisexual, have a purple, pink, purple, or white color, collected in large globular anthodes. The fruits are obovate with an aigrette on the top, compressed laterally, about 5-8 mm long, 2-4 mm wide; color varies from light brown to black; often fruits are spotted, sometimes with a lilac shade. It has no smell, the taste is bitter. It flowers all summer.
The plant is unpretentious to climatic conditions and to soils. It grows on waste grounds, along roads and on railroad embankments.
In Germany milk thistle has been included to the list of drugs for the treatment of cirrhosis and liver inflammation of the state level. In other EU countries, it is not included to the mandatory program, but is recommended as an additional remedy.
Milk thistle is sown in an open sunny area. It is necessary to take into account the features of the plant - it spreads by self-seeding very actively, this fact must be taken into account when choosing a place for it in the garden. If grown in the garden, it is recommended to sow it in one row in the center of the bed, because the milk thistle, planted in the edge, will not allow taking caring for itself.
Milk thistle is not exacting to the soil, but prefers loose, light, sandy loamy or loamy soils.
Its seeds can be sown in spring in late April or early May in the open ground or before the winter. If the seeds are fresh, then you can safely do without pre-seeding treatment. The seeds of milk thistle are sown in furrows 2-2.5 cm deep. Upon seeding, the rows should be sprinkled with peat or humus. After the appearance of leaves, the plant should be singled out, leaving an interval of 20 cm between them, and after repeated singling out it is increased to 40 cm.
Seeds ripen unevenly, from the second half of August to September. Self-seeding is inadmissible, otherwise the milk thistle will fill the whole area.
Application. In folk medicine, the fruits of the plant are used for treatment of the diseases of liver and spleen, in case of hepatitis and chronic cough, cholelithiasis.
In scientific medicine such preparations are made on its basis as oil, tablets ("Siliborum") and tinctures, which are used in the treatment of liver diseases (hepatitis, cirrhosis, toxic lesions).
Milk thistle preparations are applied for treatment of diseases of the bile duct, hepatitis, torminas caused by gallstones and sand, hemorrhoids and coprostasia. Milk thistle is used for treatment of diabetes mellitus, chronic gastrointestinal diseases, varicose veins.
Its fruits are included in the mixtures for treatment of liver and spleen diseases.
Milk thistle is also used in dietary nutrition, while using almost all parts of the plant. Roots are used in raw, boiled and fried form. Young shoots are soaked through the night, thus removing the bitterness, and then they are added to salads or cooked.
The flowers of the milk thistle are dried and grinded, using them later as a seasoning.
Milk thistle is often brewed up in the form of tea.