Wildcrafting & Foraging

Musk Thistle: Friend or Foe?

musk thistle

musk thistle

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 heavy gloves!

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musk thistle


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.


musk 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 reputed 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?

These statements are offered as anecdotal information and are not intended as health care advice. Please see professional medical help if you have health care concerns.

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

Before You Eat Wild Edibles

Before you eat any wild plants, make sure you have identified them correctly and you’re preparing them properly. This post is not intended as a identification guide and you should use a reliable source to identify wild foods before consuming. You are responsible for your own health and well being!

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

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5 Comments on “Musk Thistle: Friend or Foe?

  1. I have always loved the musk thistle! Have been paid to remove it from properties in the mountains… have used it in dried and fresh flower arrangements… monarch butterflies love them too! It simply smells wonderful!!!

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