The Potential of Milk Thistle

The potential of milk thistle (Silybum marianum L.), an Israeli native, as a source of edible sprouts rich in antioxidants.

Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2007 Aug 20;:1-8

Vaknin Y, Hadas R, Schafferman D, Murkhovsky L, Bashan N.

Department of Agronomy and Natural Resources, Institute of Plant Sciences, Volcani Center, Bet Dagan, Israel.  

The potential of wild plants in Israel as sources of edible sprouts has not been investigated until now. Milk thistle (Silybum marianum L.) is native to the Mediterranean basin and is now widespread throughout the world; its young fleshy stems are traditionally eaten by the local Arab sector in Israel, and its sprouts are rich in antioxidants and have been used as a traditional medicine for diseases of the liver and biliary tract. The active extract of milk thistle, silymarin, is a mixture of flavonolignans and is a strong antioxidant that has been proved to promote liver cell regeneration, to reduce blood cholesterol and to help prevent cancer. The present objective was to investigate the potential of milk thistle as a source of edible sprouts rich in antioxidants. We found that seed germination within 3-4 days was high (96%, except for striated seeds). Exposure to light significantly reduced sprout growth and significantly increased the polyphenol content and antioxidative capacity. The polyphenol content was 30% higher in seeds originating from purple inflorescences than in those from white ones. We thus found milk thistle to be a good candidate source of healthy edible sprouts.