Sow Thistle – a forgotten galactagogue and anti-anxiety “weed”
The Sow Thistle (also called Hare’s Thistle, Rabbit’s Thistle, and Goose Thistle), is an ancient galactagogue with many medicinal properties. It is liver-protective, anti-cancer, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial. It can be used to help relieve anxiety and anxiousness.[i]
Because Sow Thistles can be grown on any type of soil, and also 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.
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]
Harvest: Varieties of sow thistle have differently shaped leaves. They may be soft with rounded edges 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. You might also want to 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.
The main use for milk supply: leaves and stems, prepared as a concentrated broth or as food.
My Suggestion for your Galactagogue Trials
Recipe: To make a “decoction” (a strong broth), simmer the leaves and stalks in a half-covered pot for 20 minutes. Sip a just few teaspoons of the bitter liquid at a time. 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, and also milk-supply-boosting know-how for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.
Also, I am now working on a book that covers the biggest and most important secrets of using lactogenic herbs and foods effectively to optimize milk supply—using many of the plants listed in my gardening book. 🙂 I’m teaching a class on this same information that you can find here.
[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.