|Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)|
This is something I've been wanting to shout from the rooftops for some time: There are no bad plants, but there are bad people.
There was a time (perhaps we're still there) when knowledgeable, practicing herbalists were considered to be suspect at best, or worse, evildoers, green witches. Recently while visiting my mom, my little boy noticed that she lives on Greenwich road. "You grew up on Green Witch street dad?" I've since been having conversations with him about why some people fear the benevolent powers of plants and often, the people who utilize, honor, or respect them. Cultural ignorance is always a tough subject to explain to a young and wide-open mind.
Several years ago we had a cattle rancher as our nearest neighbor. He was a typical western dude with lots of horse-sense but, somewhat ironically, little room for progressive nature boy type sentiments. Once while conversing with him at our front door, he noticed a young volunteer Milk Thistle plant thriving in the desert soil near where we stood. He immediately changed the subject and blurted out with some emotion, "That's a bad plant! I spend lots of money every year trying to get rid of it. You should kill it so that it doesn't spread."
With as little revealing of my disappointment in his small estimation of the basic dignity of plant life as I could muster, I related the following to him. In the late 1980's, while living in Mexico, I picked up a nasty case of Hepatitis A at the village of the renowned elder Huichol shaman, Don Jose Matsuwa. It took a few weeks for the miserable fatigue, yellowing of skin and whites-of-the eyes, deep joint pain, and non- specific skin itchiness to kick in. It took a few more days still for me to figure out that I was the victim of a known viral attack. The lethargy and pain that Hepatitis brings is almost impossible to describe. You can get hit so hard that you nearly literally, want to die. Very soon after my diagnosis was confirmed (plenty of rest, and possibly, a gamma globulin injection is the standard allopathic recommendation), a holistic healer and friend of mine called on the phone because he heard I was down with The Hep. "I am having a bottle of glycerin-based Milk Thistle extract shipped overnight to you amigo. Use it and you will be better soon."
At the time I only knew Milk Thistle slightly, being aware of its prickly beauty and ability to weather the arid conditions of Arizona. Well, within 24 hours of ingesting the extract I was feeling 200% better!
It turns out that Milk Thistle has been used in Europe as a treatment not just for Hepatitis, but also for deadly mushroom poisoning. While an average of 50% of people who ingest Amanita or Gallerina mushrooms may die from liver failure, in certain trials of Milk Thistle extract, 0% mortality was observed. Today, one can find potentized, dry extracts of Milk Thistle sold as over the counter herbal medications, even in the most standard of drug store chains.
It is a good plant, and I love it. Here's what it tells me: "Don't listen to people who don't know what they're talking about but do so loudly. Be quiet enough to hear your own heartbeat and you will hear your own song of life."