St. Mary's Thistle




The Main Benefits St Mary's Thistle May Assist With*:
  • Supports a healthy liver and protects it from damage
  • Improves liver function and detoxification
  • Improves fatty liver disease
  • Promotes healthy skin
  • Protects the brain from age-related damage
  • Helps to build bone density
  • Supportive in cancer therapies
  • Boosts breast milk production
  • Decreases pimples, acne, and blemishes
  • Lowers blood sugars
  • Boosts metabolism and aids weight loss
  • Improves mood disorders and depression
  • Treats gallstones
  • Reduces hangovers


Botanical name

Silybum Marianum

Traditional Chinese Medicine name

Shui Fei Ji

Other common names

Milk thistle, Blessed Milk Thistle, Variegated Thistle, Sow Thistle and Scotch Thistle

What is The History of St. Mary's Thistle?

Writings about St Marys Thistle go back as far as the first century where we see recordings of its medicinal use by a Greek physician, pharmacologist, and botanist by the name of Pedanius Dioscorides. He wrote a manuscript called De materia medica which remained a leading source of botanical names and pharmacological information for sixteen centuries.

There is a legend surrounding this thistle plant which is recorded in its name – St Marys Thistle. It is said that the white motley parts on the thistle leaf came from a drop of the Virgin Marys breast milk which gently fell on to the surface of the leaf. Interestingly, this herb is particularly good at stimulating breast milk production and has been used as a ‘galactagogue’ for nursing mothers for nearly 200 years.

St Marys Thistle is native to countries in the Mediterranean, North Africa, and the Middle East. For many decades, Europeans have viewed St Marys Thistle as a ‘daily health insurance’ against environmental pollutants, over-the-counter drugs such as paracetamol and overindulgence in alcohol and rich foods.

Recognised Targets and Mechanisms of Action

St Marys Thistle doesn’t just contain one or two active constituents - it is a complex mix of diverse flavonolignans (silybin A, silybin B, isosilybin A, isosilybin B, silychristin A, silychristin B and silydianin), a flavonoid taxifolin and the bioflavonoid quercetin. The oil fraction of the plant and seed contains linoleic, oleic and palmitic acids, sterols, tocopherol (vitamin E) and phospholipids.

Over the last 10 years about 12,000 papers have been published on these substances and they have been used clinically as hepato-protectants, antioxidants, chemo preventives and anticancer agents.

Liver Protective Actions
  • Stimulates nucleolar polymerase A, which increases ribosomal protein synthesis and inhibits lipid peroxidation.
  • Increases antioxidant concentrations and improves outcomes in hepatic diseases resulting from oxidant injury.
  • Increases antioxidant concentrations and improves outcomes in hepatic diseases resulting from oxidant injury.
  • Many protective effects may be due to its strong ability to chelate iron and reduce chronic iron overload.
  • Significantly prevents lead and cadmium poisoning.
  • Activates protecting mechanisms, such as the expression of hepcidin, that regulates iron uptake and by potentially directly chelating iron to reduce its absorption.
  • Protects liver cells from a number of substances in vitro or in vivo including carbon tetrachloride-induced liver cirrhosis, ethanol, paracetamol-induced liver peroxidation, cyclosporine, phenothiazine, butyrophenone, erythromycin, amitriptyline and nortriptyline, oestradiol, amanita phalloides, tacrine, iron overload and induced lung cancer.
  • Reduces aspartate transaminase (AST) and alanine transaminase (ALT) levels
  • Is a popular treatment for numerous liver conditions including hepatitis and cirrhosis.
  • Stimulates superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity of lymphocytes and erythrocytes, and increases serum levels of glutathione and glutathione peroxidase (GPx).
  • Protects the liver by inhibiting Hepatitis C virus RNA-dependent RNA polymerase.
  • Reduces steatohepatitis - a type of fatty liver disease characterised by inflammation of the liver with concurrent fat accumulation in liver.
Skin Activity
  • Slows down ageing of the skin due to its radical-inhibiting activity.
  • Beneficial effects in hepatotoxicity and radiotherapy-induced skin and mucosa damage.
  • Prevents UVA-induced damage to normal human dermal fibroblasts.
  • Is an effective inhibitor of collagenase and elastase activity.
Anti-Asthma Activity
  • Pre-treatment with silybin prevents the development of airway hyper-responsiveness, significantly inhibits airway inflammatory cell recruitment and peribronchiolar inflammation and reduces the production of various cytokines in bronchoalveolar fluid.
Cardiovascular Activity
  • Reduces total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol levels.
Anti-Diabetic Activity
  • Is a potent agent against insulin resistance and diabetes-induced hyperglycaemia.
  • Reduces urinary albumin excretion, urinary tumour-necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) levels, and urinary and serum malondialdehyde (MDA) levels.
  • Reduces raised nuclear translocation of nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2), and reduces tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α mRNA expression in the liver of insulin-resistant rats.
Kidney Protection Activity
  • Reduces induced nephrotoxicity in vivo via antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions.
Anti-Fungal Activity
  • Possesses notable antifungal effects particularly with regards to preventing the growth of dermatophyte fungi that commonly causes skin disease in animals and humans -Microsporum, Epidermophyton, and Trichophyton.
Bone and Joint Activity
  • Significantly inhibits the interleukin1β -induced inflammatory response. Excess production of these inflammatory cytokines play vital roles in the development of osteoarthritis.
Cancer Support Activity
  • Demonstrates remarkable anticancer as well as cancer chemo-preventive efficacy in preclinical cell culture and animal models of several cancer models including skin, breast, lung, bladder, colon, prostate, lung and kidney carcinomas.
  • Shows reduced liver damage in children receiving chemotherapy.
Anti-Epileptic Activity
  • Provides significant protection against induced convulsions (seizure intensity, latency, and lethality) comparable with the reference drug - valproic acid.
Neurotransmitter Activity
  • Shown to be as effective as the common medication fluoxetine in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Brain Ageing Activity
  • Has potential as both a preventive and an active treatment for Alzheimer’s disease as it reduces the formation of amyloid plaque and protects cells from amyloid plaque-induced oxidative stress in a dose-dependent manner.


* These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA or TGA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease

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Herbal Extract Company of Australia. Full Monograph: (Silybum marianum (L) Gaertn.). Version Feb18/01.

Molecules. 2017 Jan 24;22(2):191. doi: 10.3390/molecules22020191. Silymarin/Silybin and Chronic Liver Disease: A Marriage of Many Years. Alessandro Federico, Marcello Dallio, Carmelina Loguercio.

Molecules. 2019 Mar; 24(6): 1022. Published online 2019 Mar 14. doi: 10.3390/molecules24061022 Skin Protective Activity of Silymarin and its Flavonolignans. Jitka Vostálová, Eva Tinková, David Biedermann, Pavel Kosina, Jitka Ulrichová, and Alena Rajnochová Svobodová.

CNS Neurol Disord Drug Target. 2015;14(2):295-302. doi: 10.2174/1871527314666150116110212. Silymarin extends lifespan and reduces proteotoxicity in C. elegans Alzheimer's model. Jitendra Kumar, Kyung-Chae Park, Anjali Awasthi, Birendra Prasad.