Milk thistle (Silybum [Carduus] marianus) is a spiny European plant with white-veined leaves and milky sap, the seed of which is used to treat liver disease. Milk thistle seed extract is used orally in the treatment of alcoholic and other cirrhoses and in Europe intravenously for its hepatoprotective effect in Amanita and other mushroom poisonings. It is grown in this country primarily as a "liver cleanser" and is reputed to protect this organ from a wide array of toxins. Milk thistle seed contains the active principle silymarin, a complex of flavonolignan compounds including silibinin (silybin), silidianin, and silychristin.
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