Sow thistle – a multi-purpose “weed” that is a galactagogue
Would you believe that this ugly weed that overruns gardens and fields is used by nursing mothers to support their milk supply?
Sow Thistle – Super Food for Moms
Recently, while writing on A Mother’s Garden of Galactagogues, I learned that the Sow Thistle is highly nutritious and that it has been studied for its medicinal effects, especially for its ability to relieve anxiousness. [i]
Because Sow Thistles can be grown on any type of land, in a residential garden, in containers, or a rooftop garden, the Sow Thistle is viewed as a potential commercial crop. [ii]
The leaves are high in protein and fiber, potassium, copper, calcium, manganese, zinc, and phosphorus. They are extremely high in vitamin C. They are a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, so essential to a well-functioning immune system.
Medicinally, sow thistle is liver protective, anti-cancer, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial. They are thought to help prevent kidney and heart disease.
Main use for milk supply: leaves and stems, prepared as a concentrated broth, or as food.
Harvest: Varieties of sow thistle have differently shaped leaves. They may be soft with rounded edges (see the photos above), or tough and spiky-rimmed. The spiky leaves are tender when the plant is young, as in this photo, but as they age you’ll need to cut away the rim with scissors and soften the leaf with a rolling pin.
Food: Sow thistle leaves are delicious in early spring. They taste like sweet chard. They can be eaten in salad, boiled like spinach or sautéed in olive oil.
The unopened buds are also edible; they taste like hazelnuts.
Forgotten Galactagogue – Simmer that Thistle
Lactogenic diet: The ancient Greek doctor Dioscorides, (2000 years ago), lists sow thistle as a galactagogue.
The British herbalist Nicolas Culpeper described its use in 1653: The decoction of the leaves and stalks causes an abundance of milk in nurses.
Today, the use of sow thistle as a galactagogue is still remembered by the older generation in Italy.[iii]
Recipe: To make a “decoction” (a strong broth), simmer the leaves and stalks in water in a half-covered pot for 20 minutes. Sip a few teaspoons of the bitter liquid. Don’t overdo it.
Repeat the dose some hours later. If you tolerate it well, try repeating the dose every few hours for a few days. If after four days you notice no change, this plant is not going to have the desired effect.
Does this information intrigue you? If yes, you will enjoy my book A Mother’s Garden of Galactagogues, available now on amazon. It is full of planting info plus information for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.
Also – good news – I am working on a book that covers the biggest and most important secrets of using lactogenic herbs and foods effectively, with information seen nowhere else before—using lots of the plants that are listed in my gardening book. 🙂
[i] Xiu-Mei Li & Pei-Long Yang (2018) Research progress of Sonchus species, International Journal of Food Properties, 21:1, 147-157, DOI: 10.1080/10942912.2017.1415931
[ii] Xiu-Mei Li & Pei-Long Yang (2018) Research progress of Sonchus species, International Journal of Food Properties, 21:1, 147-157, DOI: 10.1080/10942912.2017.1415931
[iii] Geraci, Anna & Polizzano, Vincenza & Schicchi, Rosario. (2018). Ethnobotanical uses of wild taxa as galactagogues in Sicily (Italy). Acta Societatis Botanicorum Poloniae. 87. 10.5586/asbp.3580.