Silybum marianum Gaertn


It’s a biennial of 40 cm to 1.5 m high. Its root is branched and bulky and it has a rosette of big leaves. The stem is erect, strong, branched, striated, hairless at the top. Leaves are alternate and big (basal leaves go up to 25 to 50 cm), pinnated with very developed lobes that formed three-dimensional pleats (shown right upper side). Cauline leaves become less in number, less divided and with an auricular base. All of them are spiny-margined with elongated nerves in spines of different sizes, very prickly pointing in different directions. Limb is dark green, bright, with irregular white spots. Tomentose in bundle when it is young and starts losing hair as it widens. Flowers are hermaphrodite, with actinomorph purple corolla. Fruits are small achenia (one single seed) oval-shaped, slightly flattened of 6-7 mm in length and up to 3 mm in width and approximately 1.5 mm in thickness. In the upper side a yellow cartilaginous protuberance is found; in the lower side a canaliculate thread on the side. In the drug the bright silvered thistle flower has been eliminated, it can be easily detached. They are found in white, gray and black. It belongs to the Tubular Compositeae family.

It is native of southern Europe, Middle East and northern Africa. It lives in Central Europe and the southern Australia. Most part of the plant is imported, especially from Argentina, Chile, Romania and Hungary. It grows on pastures, prairies, waste ground, disturbed sites, roadsides, railroads. It blooms between late spring and early summer and is harvested in autumn. The first thing to do is to cut the flower heads and the achenia are dropped.

Part used

Fruits and seeds. Sometimes the leaves and roots are also used.


Internal use

  • Prevention and treatment of liver disorders: hepatobiliary deficiency, acute and chronic hepatitis, hepatic cirrhosis, hepatic steatosis (fatty liver), dyskinesia of the hepatobiliary tract, chronic degenerative hepatopathies, hepatic necrosis, etc.
  • As a hepatoprotector, it has to be prescribed in long term treatments for at least 40 days. The prophylactic treatment with silymarin is more effective than the therapeutic one, once the liver has been damaged.
  • Bile disorders: bile dyskinesia, biliary lithiasis, cholelithiasis, cholangitis, cholestasis.
  • Alcoholism.
  • Toxin intoxications (Amanita phalloides), drugs (such as acetaminophen, phenytoin and phenothiazines) alcohol and poisons.
  • People who take drugs potentially harmful for the liver (hepatotoxic drugs).
  • Lack of appetite, hyposecretors, meteorism and flatulence.
  • Hemorrhages: hematuria, epistaxis (nose bleeding) metrorrhagia.
  • Seasickness and vomit on the road.
  • Allergic reactions such as hay fever, hives and asthma.
  • Others: flu, common cold, cystitis, oliguria, headaches, neuralgia, tiredness and asthenia or fatigue, diabetes, etc. 

External use

  • Erythema and skin aging
  • Hemorrhoids, varicose veins and ulcers in legs.


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