Milk Thistle Cultivation – How and Where it is Done

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Milk thistle cultivation

What is Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is a flowering herb related to the daisy and ragweed family. Its scientifical name is Silybum marianum it is also known as cardus marianus,  blessed milkthistle, Marian thistle, Mary thistle, Saint Mary’s thistle, Mediterranean milk thistle, variegated thistle and Scotch thistle. It is native to Mediterranean countries but now is found throughout the world. It was used in classical Greece to treat liver and gallbladder diseases and to protect the liver against toxins. Due to its benefits for liver health, it has become widely popular and nowadays is a common addition to many gardens and backyards

What Are the Active Ingredients of Milk Thistle

The active ingredient is silymarin, found primarily in the seeds, is a flavonoid complex, Flavonoids are a diverse group of phytonutrients (plant chemicals). Along with carotenoids, they are responsible for the vivid colors in fruits and vegetables.  Both are powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory and immune system benefits. Silymarin undergoes enterohepatic recirculation, which results in higher concentrations in liver cells than in serum.

Milk thistle cultivation
Milk thistle cultivation

Milk thistle cultivation occurs in different environments, but it prefers high temperatures and dry conditions, is a very drought tolerant plant. The main requirement is a well-draining soil.

Outdoor Milk Thistle Cultivation:

  • Spread the seed directly over the desired area in the spring or fall. Milk thistle seeds only take two weeks to germinate. Since it grows in clumps, it is recommendable to space the plant 12-15 inches apart.
  • The seeds are the main part of the milk thistle plant harvested for use.The most mature seeds turn brown and are protected by the pappus, a circle of hairs formed from the modified calyx that appears as silvery white fluff. It assists the dispersal of the seeds by the wind.
  • When the flower has finished blooming and it is loaded with seeds, the flower head must be cut with less than one inch (2.5 cm) of the stem. This also can be done by hand, protecting yourself with gloves because the plant has many thorns.
  • You can fertilize this plant with nitrogen and potassium. This is rarely necessary because milk thistle is a hardy plant that thrives in poor soils.
  • In order to control its spread, it is advised to harvest the seeds before they become over-mature. To prevent re-seeding, it is recommended to mulch around the plant.
  • During the milk thistle cultivation, the fluffy pappus should be removed from the seeds. The seeds should be dried in a warm, dry, well-ventilated area. Afterward, they can be stored in an airtight container.



1.Francine Rainone Milk Thistle Am Fam Physician. 2005 Oct 1;72(7):1285-1292


3  Rambaldi A, Jacobs BP, Gluud C (2007). “Milk thistle for alcoholic and/or hepatitis B or C virus liver diseases”. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (4): CD003620. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD003620.pub3PMID 17943794.

4  Greenlee, H.; Abascal, K.; Yarnell, E.; Ladas, E. (2007). “Clinical Applications of Silybum marianum in Oncology”. Integrative Cancer Therapies. 6 (2): 158–65. doi:10.1177/1534735407301727PMID 17548794


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