herbalcraft

Herb Of The Day

                                     Silybum marianum

—Synonym—
Marian Thistle. Milk thistle.

( There are many types of “ Thistle” often mistaken for one another)
—Parts Used—Whole herb, root, leaves, seeds and hull.

The Marian, or Milk Thistle, is perhaps the most important medicinally among the members of this genus, to which all botanists do not, however, assign it, naming it Silybum Marianum.

—Description—It is a fine, tall plant, about the size of the Cotton Thistle, with cutinto root-leaves, waved and spiny at the margin, of a deep, glossy green, with milkwhite veins, and is found not uncommonly in hedgebanks and on waste ground, especially by buildings, which causes some authorities to consider that it may not be a true native. In Scotland it is rare.

This handsome plant is not unworthy of a place in our gardens and shrubberies and was formerly frequently cultivated. The stalks, like those of most of our larger Thistles, may be eaten, and are palatable and nutritious. The leaves also may be eaten as a salad when young. Bryant, in his Flora Dietetica, writes of it: ‘The young shoots in the spring, cut close to the root with part of the stalk on, is one of the best boiling salads that is eaten, and surpasses the finest cabbage. They were sometimes baked in pies. The roots may be eaten like those of Salsify.’ In some districts the leaves are called 'Pig Leaves,’ probably because pigs like them, and the seeds are a favorite food of goldfinches.

The common statement that this bird lines its nest with thistledown is scarcely accurate, the substance being in most cases the down of Colt’s-foot (Tussilago), or the cotton down from the willow, both of which are procurable at the building season, whereas thistledown is at that time immature.

Westmacott, writing in 1694, says of this Thistle: 'It is a Friend to the Liver and Blood: the prickles cut off, they were formerly used to be boiled in the Spring and eaten with other herbs; but as the World decays, so doth the Use of good old things and others more delicate and less virtuous brought in.’

The heads of this Thistle formerly were eaten, boiled, treated like those of the Artichoke.

There is a tradition that the milk-white veins of the leaves originated in the milk of the Virgin which once fell upon a plant of Thistle, hence it was called Our Lady’s Thistle, and the Latin name of the species has the same derivation.

—Medicinal Action and Uses—The seeds of this plant are used nowadays for the same purpose as Blessed Thistle, and on this point John Evelyn wrote: 'Disarmed of its prickles and boiled, it is worthy of esteem, and thought to be a great breeder of milk and proper diet for women who are nurses.’

It is in popular use in Germany for curing jaundice and kindred biliary derangements. It also acts as a demulcent in catarrh and pleurisy. The decoction when applied externally is said to have proved beneficial in cases of cancer.

Gerard wrote of the Milk Thistle that: 'the root if borne about one doth expel melancholy and remove all diseases connected therewith… . My opinion is that this is the best remedy that grows against all melancholy diseases,’ which was another way of saying that it had good action on the liver. He also tells us: 'Dioscorides affirmed that the seeds being drunke are a remedy for infants that have their sinews drawn together, and for those that be bitten of serpents:’ and we find in a record of old Saxon remedies that 'this wort if hung upon a man’s neck it setteth snakes to flight.’ The seeds were also formerly thought to cure hydrophobia. Culpepper considered the Milk Thistle to be as efficient as Carduus benedictus for agues, and preventing and curing the infection of the plague, and also for removal of obstructions of the liver and spleen. He recommends the infusion of the fresh root and seeds, not only as good against jaundice, also for breaking and expelling stone and being good for dropsy when taken internally, but in addition, to be applied externally, with cloths, to the liver. With other writers, he recommends the young, tender plant (after removing the prickles) to be boiled and eaten in the spring as a blood cleanser.

A tincture is prepared by homoeopathists for medicinal use from equal parts of the root and the seeds with the hull attached.

It is said that the empirical nostrum, antiglaireux, of Count Mattaei, is prepared from this species of Thistle.

Thistles in general, according to Culpepper, are under the dominion of Jupiter.
–Magickal Uses– Snake Enraging. An herb of protection and vitality. A bowlful placed in a room strengthens the spirits and renews vitality. One may be carried for added strength and energy. They offer protection when grown in the garden or carried in the pocket.

Use in healing spells and for depression. It is said that when a man carries one he becomes a better lover. A method of calling spirits is to boil some thistle. After removing it from the heat, be seated next to the bowl and begin meditating. As the steam rises, so will your questions and their answers will be heard. 

Grown in a garden it wards off thieves. Grow in a pot by your doorstep to protect against evil. Keep in your pocket it guards you. Throw it in the fire to ward off lighting.

If you have a spell cast against you wear a garment made of spun thistle. Stuff poppets with it to break hexes. Thistle is used in any magic where you are the target of any negative energy;, for protection and blessing.

Thistles are used in healing spells, and when men wear it they become better lovers. Thistles also drive out melancholy when worn or carried.

In England they used the tallest thistle as a magical wand or walking stick.
To call spirits, place some thistle in boiling water. Remove from heat and lie or sit beside it. As the steam rises call the spirits and listen carefully; they may answer your question.

Milk-thistle can be used for protection and to dispel the negative daemons of gloom and doom. It attracts good spirits and helps to fend off all evil influences. The name suggests that prior to becoming associated with the Virgin Mary this herb belonged to the Great Goddess.

–Personal Note– I find this herb fascinating. Especially because it is one of the only known herbs to be able to protect and promote healing from Amanita phalloides poisoning, one of the most deadly mushrooms.