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Silybum marianum has other common names include cardus marianus, milk thistle,blessed milkthistle, Marian thistle and Mary thistle. This species is an annual or biennialplant of the Asteraceae family. This fairly typical thistle has red to purple flowers and shiny pale green leaves with white veins. Originally a native of Southern Europe through to Asia, it is now found throughout the world.
Milk thistle is grown successfully on a range of soil types, from sandy soils to much heavier clay soils. Milk thistle is directly seeded in soils. Sowing occurs in autumn and spring, and row spacing is usually 40–75cm, with 20–30cm between plants in the row.
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum L. Gaertn.) is the most researched plant for the treatment of liver disease. Its therapeutic properties are due to the presence of silymarin, a mixture of three flavonolignans (silybin, silydianin and silycristin). The seeds contain the highest amount of silymarin, but the whole plant is used medicinally.