Sow Thistle, Puha

Sonchus oleraceus - L.

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves; Root; Stem.

Edible Uses: Gum.

Young leaves - raw or cooked. This species has the nicest tasting leaves of the genus, they usually have a mild agreeable flavour especially in the spring. They can be added to salads, cooked like spinach or used in soups etc. The leaves contain about 30 - 40mg of vitamin C per 100g, 1.2% protein, 0.3% fat, 2.4% carbohydrate, 1.2% ash. A zero moisture analysis is also available. It might be best, though it is not essential, to remove the marginal prickles. Stems - cooked like asparagus or rhubarb. They are best if the outer skin is removed first. Young root - cooked. They are woody and not very acceptable. The milky sap has been used as a chewing gum by the Maori.

Medicinal Uses

Cancer; Emmenagogue; Febrifuge; Hepatic; Hydrogogue; Poultice; Tonic; Warts.

The plant is emmenagogue and hepatic. An infusion has been used to bring on a tardy menstruation and to treat diarrhoea. The latex in the sap is used in the treatment of warts. It is also said to have anticancer activity. The stem juice is a powerful hydrogogue and cathartic, it should be used with great caution since it can cause colic and tenesmus. The gum has been used as a cure for the opium habit. The leaves are applied as a poultice to inflammatory swellings. An infusion of the leaves and roots is febrifuge and tonic.

Other Uses


The latex in the stem contains 0.14% rubber, but this is much too low for commercial exploitation.