Milk-Thistal
1253540482image_Milk-Thistal out.jpg LATIN NAME--Silybum Marianum FAMILY-Asteraceae Makoy Milk thistle is a plant that is native to the Mediterranean region. It has been used for thousands of years as a remedy for a variety of ailments, especially liver problems. Common Names Milk thistle, Mary thistle, holy thistle. Milk thistle is sometimes called silymarin, which is actually a mixture of the herb's active components, including silybinin (also called silibinin or silybin). Milk thistle is a flowering herb. Silymarin, which can be extracted from the seeds (fruit), is believed to be the biologically active part of the herb. The seeds are used to prepare capsules containing powdered herb or seed; extracts; and infusions (strong teas). INTRODUCTION Members of this genus grow as annual or biennial plants. The erect stem is tall, branched and furrowed but not spiny. The large, alternate leaves are waxy-lobed, toothed and thorny, as in other genera of thistle. The lower leaves are cauline (attached to the stem without petiole). The upper leaves have a clasping base. They have large, disc-shaped pink-to-purple, rarely white, solitary flower heads at the end of the stem. The flowers consist of tubular florets. The phyllaries under the flowers occur in many rows, with the outer row with spine-tipped lobes and apical spines. The fruit is a black achene with a white pappus. Only two species are currently classified in this genus: • Silybum eburneum Coss. & Dur., known as the Silver Milk Thistle, Elephant Thistle, or Ivory Thistle o Silybum eburneum Coss. & Dur. var. hispanicum • Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertner, the Blessed Milk Thistle, which has a large number of other common names, such as Variegated Thistle. The two species hybridise naturally, the hybrid being known as Silybum × gonzaloi Cantó, Sánchez Mata & Rivas Mart. (S. eburneum var. hispanicum x S. marianum) S. marianum is by far the more widely known species. It is believed to give some remedy for liver diseases (e.g. viral hepatitis) and an extract, silymarin, is used in medicine. The adverse effect of the medicinal use of milk thistle is loose stools. MEDICINAL PROPERTIES Milk thistle is believed to have protective effects on the liver and improve its function. It is typically used to treat liver cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis (liver inflammation), and gallbladder disorders. Treatment claims also include: Lowering cholesterol levels Reducing insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes who also have cirrhosis Reducing the growth of cancer cells in breast, cervical, and prostate cancers Milk thistle is also used in many products claiming to reduce the effects of a hangover. Milk thistle can also be found as an ingredient in some energy drinks. Milk thistle is known for its ability to enhance milk production in nursing women. SIDE EFFECTS AND CAUTIONS In clinical trials, milk thistle generally has few side effects. Occasionally, people report laxative effect, upset stomach, diarrhea, and bloating. Milk thistle can produce allergic reactions, which tend to be more common among people who are allergic to plants in the same family (for example, ragweed, chrysanthemum, marigold, and daisy). DISTRIBUTION Milk thistles are thistles of the genus Silybum Adans., flowering plants of the daisy family (Asteraceae). They are native to the Mediterranean regions of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. CULTIVATION AND PROPAGATION SOIL Milk thistle is adaptable to hot, dry areas and waste places. It is not particularly demanding as to soil type, and in fact has been reported to do well on compacted clay soils. Very light soils are not recommended. CLIMATE A full sun location is recommended. For best results, fields should be improved by incorporating rotted manure. This will improve nutrient levels and moisture-holding properties. Non-organic producers may consider the application of nitrogen fertilizers, and more rarely potash, if soil tests indicate a need. PROPAGATION Milk thistle is propagated by seed. Freshly collected seed will germinate only at cool temperatures, but seed stored dry for five months will germinate at warm temperatures. In Saskatchewan, only spring seeding is recommended. The seed can be sown directly when the soil temperature is still cool. Early sowing is advisable because the plant needs four to five months to grow and mature. Optimum germination has been reported under conditions of 2-15°C at night (air temperature), alternated with daytime temperatures of 10-30°C. Very few varieties of Milk thistle have been developed, and only generic seed is available in North America at present. Silma is a variety developed in Poland in 1993. A few high quality lines have also been developed in Germany. Transplanting of Milk thistle plugs is possible, but is practical only for small scale cultivation. The seedlings can be started indoors in April, taking care not to allow the temperature to exceed 30°C. Transplants are set out around the end of May, after being hardened off. Spacing of plants depends on the type of harvesting to be done. Mechanical harvesting (desirable because of the spiny nature of the plants) allows for closer spacing. Trials at Outlook, It has been suggested that 40 cm row spacing is suitable if mechanical harvesting is planned, while hand-harvesting requires row-cultivation, with rows at least 1.5 m apart. Within the row, thinning to 60 cm has been recommended. WATER REQUIREMENTS Milk thistle is considered drought resistant and normal rainfall will often suffice. Under severe drought conditions, some watering may be advisable to initiate germination and to promote optimum yields later. SITE SELECTION AND SEEDING There is evidence of genetic differences between populations of milk thistle with regard to the content of silymarin. Conditions such as rainfall and average temperature also affect silymarin production, with higher temperatures and drier conditions apparently increasing production. Milk thistle is very adaptable to many different growing conditions, but must have well drained soils. Due to its tendency to weediness, site selection should take into consideration containment so that its spread can be controlled if necessary. Seed is sown spring or fall, and takes two weeks to germinate. It self-seeds easily. IRRIGATION Milk thistle is very drought resistant and should not require irrigation unless severe conditions arise. HARVESTING The timing of harvest is dependent on the stage of maturity of the crop. The seed heads tend to mature over a long period of time, depending on date of bloom for each head. Consequently, early maturing heads may shatter and lose at least a portion of their seeds before the majority of heads are ready for harvesting. Usually harvest will take place some time in September. Research in Brazil has indicated that harvesting should be done about two weeks after 50 per cent of the heads have dry flowers. Hand picking, only possible by wearing heavy gloves and protective clothing, will yield superior quality seed, but may not be practical, and even impossible, depending on plant spacing. If it is done, weekly pickings in September would likely be necessary. A regular combine can be used to harvest Milk thistle, using a sunflower header. The seed should be dried to 12 per cent moisture or less.
 
LATIN NAME--Silybum Marianum
 
FAMILY-Asteraceae

 
 
   

     
           

 
     
           

Milk thistle is a plant that is native to the Mediterranean region. It has been used for thousands of years as a remedy for a variety of ailments, especially liver problems.
     
                  
Common Names      
           
Milk thistle, Mary thistle, holy thistle. Milk thistle is sometimes called silymarin, which is actually a mixture of the herb's active components, including silybinin (also called silibinin or silybin).

Milk thistle is a flowering herb. Silymarin, which can be extracted from the seeds (fruit), is believed to be the biologically active part of the herb. The seeds are used to prepare capsules containing powdered herb or seed; extracts; and infusions (strong teas).
     
                   
           

INTRODUCTION

Members of this genus grow as annual or biennial plants. The erect stem is tall, branched and furrowed but not spiny. The large, alternate leaves are waxy-lobed, toothed and thorny, as in other genera of thistle. The lower leaves are cauline (attached to the stem without petiole). The upper leaves have a clasping base. They have large, disc-shaped pink-to-purple, rarely white, solitary flower heads at the end of the stem. The flowers consist of tubular florets. The phyllaries under the flowers occur in many rows, with the outer row with spine-tipped lobes and apical spines. The fruit is a black achene with a white pappus.
     
                   
           

Only two species are currently classified in this genus:

• Silybum eburneum Coss. & Dur., known as the Silver Milk Thistle, Elephant Thistle, or Ivory Thistle o Silybum eburneum Coss. & Dur. var. hispanicum

• Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertner, the Blessed Milk Thistle, which has a large number of other common names, such as Variegated Thistle.
     
                   
           

The two species hybridise naturally, the hybrid being known as Silybum × gonzaloi Cantó, Sánchez Mata & Rivas Mart. (S. eburneum var. hispanicum x S. marianum)

S. marianum is by far the more widely known species. It is believed to give some remedy for liver diseases (e.g. viral hepatitis) and an extract, silymarin, is used in medicine. The adverse effect of the medicinal use of milk thistle is loose stools.
     
                   
           

MEDICINAL PROPERTIES

Milk thistle is believed to have protective effects on the liver and improve its function. It is typically used to treat liver cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis (liver inflammation), and gallbladder disorders. Treatment claims also include:

Lowering cholesterol levels
Reducing insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes who also have cirrhosis
Reducing the growth of cancer cells in breast, cervical, and prostate cancers
Milk thistle is also used in many products claiming to reduce the effects of a hangover.
Milk thistle can also be found as an ingredient in some energy drinks.
Milk thistle is known for its ability to enhance milk production in nursing women.
     
                   
           

SIDE EFFECTS AND CAUTIONS

In clinical trials, milk thistle generally has few side effects. Occasionally, people report laxative effect, upset stomach, diarrhea, and bloating. Milk thistle can produce allergic reactions, which tend to be more common among people who are allergic to plants in the same family (for example, ragweed, chrysanthemum, marigold, and daisy).
     
                   
           

DISTRIBUTION

Milk thistles are thistles of the genus Silybum Adans., flowering plants of the daisy family (Asteraceae). They are native to the Mediterranean regions of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
     
                   
           

CULTIVATION AND PROPAGATION

SOIL


Milk thistle is adaptable to hot, dry areas and waste places. It is not particularly demanding as to soil type, and in fact has been reported to do well on compacted clay soils. Very light soils are not recommended.
     
                   
           

CLIMATE

A full sun location is recommended. For best results, fields should be improved by incorporating rotted manure. This will improve nutrient levels and moisture-holding properties. Non-organic producers may consider the application of nitrogen fertilizers, and more rarely potash, if soil tests indicate a need.
     
                   
           

PROPAGATION

Milk thistle is propagated by seed. Freshly collected seed will germinate only at cool temperatures, but seed stored dry for five months will germinate at warm temperatures. In Saskatchewan, only spring seeding is recommended. The seed can be sown directly when the soil temperature is still cool. Early sowing is advisable because the plant needs four to five months to grow and mature. Optimum germination has been reported under conditions of 2-15°C at night (air temperature), alternated with daytime temperatures of 10-30°C.

Very few varieties of Milk thistle have been developed, and only generic seed is available in North America at present. Silma is a variety developed in Poland in 1993. A few high quality lines have also been developed in Germany.

Transplanting of Milk thistle plugs is possible, but is practical only for small scale cultivation. The seedlings can be started indoors in April, taking care not to allow the temperature to exceed 30°C. Transplants are set out around the end of May, after being hardened off. Spacing of plants depends on the type of harvesting to be done. Mechanical harvesting (desirable because of the spiny nature of the plants) allows for closer spacing. Trials at Outlook, It has been suggested that 40 cm row spacing is suitable if mechanical harvesting is planned, while hand-harvesting requires row-cultivation, with rows at least 1.5 m apart. Within the row, thinning to 60 cm has been recommended.
     
                   
           

WATER REQUIREMENTS

Milk thistle is considered drought resistant and normal rainfall will often suffice. Under severe drought conditions, some watering may be advisable to initiate germination and to promote optimum yields later.
     
                   
           

SITE SELECTION AND SEEDING

There is evidence of genetic differences between populations of milk thistle with regard to the content of silymarin. Conditions such as rainfall and average temperature also affect silymarin production, with higher temperatures and drier conditions apparently increasing production. Milk thistle is very adaptable to many different growing conditions, but must have well drained soils. Due to its tendency to weediness, site selection should take into consideration containment so that its spread can be controlled if necessary. Seed is sown spring or fall, and takes two weeks to germinate. It self-seeds easily.
     
                   
           

IRRIGATION

Milk thistle is very drought resistant and should not require irrigation unless severe conditions arise.
     
                   
           

HARVESTING

The timing of harvest is dependent on the stage of maturity of the crop. The seed heads tend to mature over a long period of time, depending on date of bloom for each head. Consequently, early maturing heads may shatter and lose at least a portion of their seeds before the majority of heads are ready for harvesting. Usually harvest will take place some time in September. Research in Brazil has indicated that harvesting should be done about two weeks after 50 per cent of the heads have dry flowers. Hand picking, only possible by wearing heavy gloves and protective clothing, will yield superior quality seed, but may not be practical, and even impossible, depending on plant spacing. If it is done, weekly pickings in September would likely be necessary. A regular combine can be used to harvest Milk thistle, using a sunflower header. The seed should be dried to 12 per cent moisture or less.
     
                   
           

    
 
 
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