The Milk Thistle

Silybum marianum

The Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) has traditionally been used to treat liver, kidney and gall bladder problems, and to counteract the effects of death cap mushroom poisoning.


While the herb's effectiveness against liver diseases such as viral and alcoholic hepatitis in humans has not been conclusively proven, both experience-based medicine and preliminary studies suggest that the plant may support the liver's natural regeneration, and to protect it against the effects of toxins.


The Milk Thistle in Modern Herbal Medicine:

  • The German Kooperation Phytopharmaka lists the herb as a recognized medicinal plant.
  • Cochrane finds that further studies are needed to confirm or refute the plant's effectiveness against hepatitis B or C.

The Milk Thistle in Fiction:

  • So far, I haven't come across any mentions of this remedy. If you know of a story in which the milk thistle plays a role, please let me know!

Blog Posts

The Herbwoman's Arts in Modern Medicine

As mentioned in previous posts, herbal medicine -- be it the traditional, experience-based herbalism or the evidence-based phytotherapy -- has seen a revival in recent years. From alleviating depression, to strengthening the immune system, to fighting antibiotics-resistant bacteria: Herbal remedies are much sought after.


So let's see what the real world is doing with regard to the herbwoman's traditional remedies.


While many questions are still open concerning both the ingredients and healing virtues of medicinal plants, efforts are being made to research such plants and establish an evidence-based approach to herbal medicine.

Here are some medicinal plants from the herbwoman's medicine cabinet whose healing properties have been confirmed by long experience and/or modern science:


To treat heart disorders the local herb witch will prescribe a tincture made from Hawthorn (Crataegus) leaves and flowers. The herb supports the circulatory and respiratory system, and in modern medicine is used to strengthen the heart, and even to treat mild-to-moderate heart failure. Historically, Hawthorn berries were also used for these indications, so our imaginary village healer may also prescribe a potion or syrup made of the plant's red fruit.


As an antidote for mushroom poisoning, and to cleanse and protect the liver, a village healer should always have Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) seeds at hand. Milk thistle is the only effective antidote for death cap (Amanita phalloides) poisoning, and modern studies suggest (though do not prove conclusively) that the herb may support the liver's natural regeneration, making it the herbwoman's go-to remedy not only to treat poisoning, but also to fight yellow fever and other liver problems.

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 *** Please note: This blog is not intended as medical advice. ***

Do not try this at home.
(Or at least, don't use any of the remedies described here this without consulting your physician first.)