Every Herb Has a Story: Milk Thistle Health Benefits

| 8/30/2011 12:07:20 PM

R.BureshRandy Buresh (Registered Nurse and Herbalist), is the co-owner and founder of Oregon’s Wild Harvest. Oregon’s Wild Harvest grows, harvests and produces their own medicinal herbal products, many of which use the herbs grown on their certified Biodynamic® and Organic farm in Sandy, Oregon. www.oregonswildharvest.com 

Isn’t it interesting that some of the most common so-called weeds may just be what we all need to be eating on a daily basis?

I’ve mentioned many times that these plants grow and flourish on this earth not only to provide us with a source of food, but also as a means to heal our bodies. So the next time you see someone spraying an herbicide on dandelion, plantain, burdock or milk thistle, take a moment and think: Why are these plants so tough? Why do they keep coming back year after year? Why have these plants all been here for thousands of years? You can find these plants growing everywhere—even out of the cracks of cement on busy highways.

8-30-2011-milk thistle
Milk thistle is medicinally valued for supporting healthy liver function.
Courtesy Randy Buresh

The “weed” I’m going to focus on today is milk thistle, as this herb has a long history of safe and effective medicinal use dating back thousands of years. Dioscorides, a first century Greek physician, gave milk thistlethe name Silybum marianum. Silybum relates to a number of edible thistles and marianum honors the symbolic associations to the Virgin Mary.

The part of the plant used in modern day herbal medicine is the seeds. Good quality seeds are black and shiny. This particular plant, native to the Mediterranean, was brought to the United States by the early settlers as a food source and also used for liver health.  Milk thistle is now found growing wild in most parts of the United States.