Milk Thistle – Silybum marianum

Current Demand = Normal
Demand: Poor – Normal – Good

Parts Used: Herb & Seed
Current Market Price = $ varies/lb.

Milk Thistle - Silybum marianum Milk Thistle - Silybum marianum
Milk Thistle - Silybum marianum Milk Thistle - Silybum marianum

Family: Compositae

Common Names: Blessed Thistle, Marian Thistle, Mary Thistle, and Mediterranean Milk Thistle…


Milk Thistle is a biennial and has an erect grooved stem, waxy lobed, toothed, large mottled green leaves with pale yellow spines and pink-to-purple flowers found at the end of the stem. The flowers bloom from July to September and it leafs all year. There is a fruit is a black achene with a white pappus.


Growing region: Milk thistle can be found the southwestern states from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. It was introduced into the United States from Europe.

Milk thistle prefers light, medium, and heavy soils and must be well drained. It can grow in alkaline soil but prefers acid, neutral and basic soils. It cannot grow in the shade and requires dry or moist soil.

Seed: sow in March or April and will flower in the summer and complete a full life cycle. If sown in May to August, the plant may not flower until the next year. The best edible roots should be produced from a May/June sowing. If the seed is sowed in the spring, the leaves will be edible all year long.


Edible Parts: herb, seed

Seeds ripen from August to October. If the plant is sowed in the spring, the leaves are edible all year long. The roots are best when the plant is sowed in the May/June.

Gather the larger more mature plants leaving plenty of younger smaller plants to seed the area for future harvest.

After harvest, remove all foreign matter (rocks, weeds and vines). The clean roots need to be dried. When possible dry indoors in a well ventilated barn loft or attic to protect against the elements. If natural heat is not available you may need to add heat and a fan for continuous airflow. Whether you dry indoors or outdoors you will need to turn the herb daily.

The key to drying herbs, roots or bark is an even combination of heat and airflow.

Once your herb is completely dry (largest stem will snap not bend and leaves will crumble) in 3-7 days depending on the drying conditions. Place the herb carefully into a cardboard box or paper bag for storage in a dry area until you are ready to sell or use. Do not store the herb or root in plastic as it will tend to mold.

Attributes (Images)

By Taken byfir0002 | 20D + Sigma 150mm f/2.8 (Own work) [GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons

Giancarlo Dessì (Posted by –gian_d 22:07, 16 March 2007 (UTC))