A Prickly Friend: The Thistle


  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,641 admin

    Of the 12 thistles (Cirsium species) growing here in BC, 6 can be found in my area. There is one I just learned about, Cirsium x vancouverense; a rare natural hybrid between C. edule and C. brevistylum. It is found in a few locations on southern Vancouver Island. I wonder if other species are able to hybridize as well.

    No matter where you live, there must be a thistle species of some kind growing near you.

    I've never tried eating thistle. Not sure why. C. edule and C. undulatum are supposed to be the most tasty of all the species. I'll have to put it on my list of things to try this year.

    Has anyone ever seen a horse eat a thistle? Must be a delicacy for them. They are able to curl back both upper and lower lips and extend their teeth to nip the flower bud out without getting prickled. Its so cool (and funny) to watch!

    Depending on the species, thistles have a variety of medicinal properties.

    C. vulgare: Anti-inflammatory. Diaphoretic. Tonic. Cholagogue. Astringent. Antiviral. Antibacterial. C. arvense: Emetic. Tonic. Diaphoretic. Diuretic. Astringent. Cholagogue. Antibacterial. 

    There is an interesting article in the Journal of the American Herbalists Guild on C. vulgare's anti-inflammatory properties for anyone suffering from a variety of spondyloarthropathies.

    And for anyone interested in TCM research into a variety of Cirsium species, here is research document.