Milk thistle is a Mediterranean plant in the daisy family that is characterized by tufts of purple flower heads surrounded by a halo of protective thorns. Because the plant is associated with the Virgin Mary, who is reputed to have wept over the plant, it is also called Holy Thistle, Blessed Thistle, Mary Thistle and Lady’s Thistle. The plant is harvested for its seed, which contains a significant amount of amino acids, protein and, most notably, a group of chemical compounds referred to as silymarin. Milk thistle seed can be added to salads and other foods, but is most commonly used to produce teas, infusions, tinctures and extracts.
Whole milk thistle seeds are obtained from Silybum marianum, a Mediterranean herb commonly called Holy Thistle, Lady's Thistle and Blessed Thistle.
While the seeds are most frequently used to make teas, tinctures and infusions, they can also be as food. In fact, the seeds, with a flavor profile similar to flax, contain up to 25% protein. Try adding whole milk thistle seeds to salads, shakes and smoothies, cereals and breads.