Carduus Marianus.—St. Mary's Thistle.

Botanical name: 

Fig. 57. Carduus marianus. Photo: Silybum marianum 5. The ripe seeds of Carduus marianus, Linné (Cnicus marianus, Silybum marianum, Gaertner).
Nat. Ord.—Compositae.
COMMON NAMES: Mary thistle, Milk thistle, St. Mary's thistle.

Botanical Source.—Mary thistle is an annual, or biennial plant, glabrous, or but slightly wooly, growing to a height of 2 or 3 feet, and branching but little. Its leaves, which are shining and smooth above, are marked with white veins; the lower leaves are deeply pinnatifid, the lobes being broad and very prickly; the upper ones clasp the stem by prickly auricles, and are scarcely decurrent. The large, drooping flowerheads, with purple florets, are solitary and terminal upon the branches. The involucral bracts are very broad at the base and have a stiff, spreading leaf-like appendage, terminating in a long spine, and bordered at its base with prickles. The fruit is an achenium. The pappus hairs are simple.

History and Description.—Mary thistle is indigenous to southern Europe. The part used in medicine is the fruit known as Fructus silybi, or Semen cardui mariae. The achenia are from 1/6 to 1/5 of an inch long, obovate, smooth, shining, and pale-brown in color, with striae of a black, or blackish hue. At the apex they are oblique and have a marginal crown of a yellowish color, from the center of which the style-base projects. They have no odor, but a mucilaginous and oleaginous, as well as bitterish, taste. They yield their virtues to diluted alcohol. The Homoeopathic mother tincture is prepared by covering the whole ripe seeds (1 part by weight) with diluted alcohol (2 parts), and letting stand in a dark, cool place in a well-stoppered bottle for 8 days, shaking twice a day. It is then decanted, strained, and filtered. The introduction of this medicine into Eclectic therapeutics is due chiefly to Prof. H. T. Webster, M. D. (Dynam. Therap.), and to Prof. Finley Ellingwood, M. D. (Ecl. Annual, Vol. I).

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Carduus marianus is an old remedy, which had nearly passed out of use and has more recently been revived. Rademacher valued the seeds in hemorrhages associated with splenic or hepatic disorders. That it influences the parts supplied by the coeliac axis, particularly the distribution of the hepatic and splenic arteries, especially the latter, seems well established. Congestive conditions of the splenic circulation are those most benefited by it. To a lesser extent, the whole venous apparatus is influenced by this drug, giving power to the veins, and preventing varicoses and other dilatations. But little effect, however, is observed upon the hemorrhoidal circulation, as piles do not seem to be directly benefited by it. Dull, aching, splenic pain passing up under the left scapula, and associated with pronounced general debility and despondency is the indication for its use. It controls splenic pain even where no enlargement can be detected, and it is the remedy for hypertrophy of the spleen when non-malarial in character. Congestion of the liver, spleen and kidneys is relieved by its use. Bilious states, with stitches in the side and pain in the abdomen, hard and tender right hypochondrium, gall stones, jaundice, hepatic pain and swelling, vomiting of pregnancy, and leucocythemia, are conditions in which it is reported useful. Amenorrhoea, with wrong of the portal circulation, melaena, hemoptysis, and uterine hemorrhage, have all been successfully treated with it. Hematuria, with weight and pain in the pelvis, has been promptly met by 25-drop doses in water, twice a day. Painful dysuria, from urethral caruncle, and pelvic congestion have also been quickly relieved by it. A strong tincture (seed, ℥viii to alcohol Oj), or the homoeopathic mother tincture, in doses of from 1 to 20 drops.

Specific Indications and Uses.—Splenic, hepatic and renal congestion, face sallow, appetite capricious; nervous irritability; despondency; physical debility; pain in either hypochondriac; pelvic tension and weight; congestion of the parts supplied by the coeliac axis; and non-malarial splenic hypertrophy.

King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.