Musk Thistle: Friend or Foe?

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Carduus nutans – Musk Thistle

Generally considered a noxious weed in the US, the Musk Thistle also has the reported health benefit of cleansing the liver. This native to Africa is actually a very beautiful flower, but has a hearty defense system against grazing animals and unprotected gardeners. If you wish to handle this plant, put on some really, really heavy gloves!

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Farmers’ Bane

Thistles tend to all be clumped into the ‘pestilence’ category by farmers. They love to grow in pastures and agricultural fields, giving grain and livestock farmers a tough time. Because of this, tons of herbicides are dumped on fields every year to eradicate these plants.

artistic thistle

Herbalists’ Beneficial

Although I haven’t tried this myself ( I value my fingers too much, and haven’t gotten up the nerve) the Musk thistle seeds can be harvested and consumed as a liver detoxing agent. The stems are also reported as edible. Harvest when young and ‘succulent’ (I have a hard time imaging this, but I am trying to be open minded), then peel the outer surface of the stalk. Maybe it would be good in a smoothie?

Here’s a video I found on You tube showing how to harvest the seeds:


Have you ever eaten the stalks or seeds of the Musk thistle? I’d love to hear about your experience.


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