IDENTIFICATION of Silybum marianum
Italian common name:
Cardo mariano o Carciofo selvatico
Mediterranean – Turanica
the entire Mediterranean basin
Evergreen or deciduous:
PLANT RECOGNITION of Silybum marianum
from 30 cm up to 2 m.
from 30 cm up to 1 m.
biennial herbaceous plant. Upright, light posture.
The lamina is shiny green in color with prominent white veins, glabrous, with a wavy and lanceolate-lobed margin; the lobes are triangular ending with robust spines. The large basal leaves are petiolate and can reach 20 – 40 cm in length. Those of the scape are smaller and less divided, expanded at the base into two small ears.
the flower develops the second year. The tubular flowers are made up of large globose, terminal, purple flower heads, which grow on long peduncles, the base on which the flower rests is equipped with thorns.
oblong achenes, narrower at the base and laterally compressed, provided with a uniseriate and bristly pappus at the apex
Robust, striated and branched
In the Middle Ages, milk thistle was cited as a hepatoprotector and cholagogue.
At the end of the last century the seeds were used for hemorrhagic syndromes and arterial hypotension.
Italian climatic area:
All of Italy: from sea level to the sub-mountain area. Rarer in the north, it becomes more frequent moving to the centre, south and islands until it becomes invasive.
Need for water:
rainwater is enough if there are no periods of prolonged drought.
The seeds are collected by shaking the flower heads (imitating the action of the wind) and are placed directly in the ground
if cultivated, eliminate only the damaged or dead parts
An ancient Christian tradition has it that the name “Marian” derives from small white streaks on the leaves of the plant, which should represent the milk of the Virgin Mary, lost during breastfeeding in a shelter in a vegetation of thistles, in the period of escape in Egypt with Joseph and baby Jesus.
The fruits of the Milk Thistle are very popular with birds, especially goldfinches. So much so that it is said that they may have taken their name from this plant.
If instead you want scientific information on the plant such as the chemical composition, pharmacological information, and the explanation of the mechanisms of treatment of the liver and UV radiation, I refer you here
Plateario, in the fifteenth century, indicated it “…against liver pain…” and “…to release the poison…”.
Mattioli, in the sixteenth century, considered its seeds cholagogues and diuretics, Lindanus ordered it against rabies.
Even for dogs, under medical supervision, it can be an aid for gastrointestinal problems.
In the kitchen:
Milk thistle is a medicinal plant, used for the treatment of liver diseases. Modern phytotherapy uses it in decoction or infusion, however with some caution in patients suffering from hypertension, due to the presence of tyramine.
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Image sources: thanks to Pixabay and many thanks to Thanasis Papazacharias for the image for social media, Rajesh Balouria for the cover image and then in descending order Otto Prukner, József Szabó, Otto Prukner, valverbe.it, Laura Maria, Вилина Петрова, actaplantarum.it and 3071145 for the closing image.