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Silybum marianum has other common names include cardus marianus, milk thistle, blessed milkthistle, Marian thistle, Mary thistle, Saint Mary's thistle, Mediterranean milk thistle, variegated thistle and Scotch thistle.
Milk thistle has been used for a number of purposes including treatment of liver disease, prevention and treatment of cancer, and supportive treatment of poisoning from death cap mushrooms; however, clinical studies are largely heterogeneous and contradictory. Milk thistle has also been known to be used as food. The roots can be eaten raw or boiled and buttered or par-boiled and roasted. The young shoots in spring can be cut down to the root and boiled and buttered. The spiny bracts on the flower head were eaten in the past like globe artichoke, and the stems (after peeling) can be soaked overnight to remove bitterness and then stewed. The leaves can be trimmed of prickles and boiled as a spinach substitute or they can also be added raw to salads.