Thistles in your Smoothie?

Silybum Marianum or Milk Thistle

This morning a good friend emailed me with a question: was it okay to put thistle into her smoothie? She went on to say that thistles are the most prolific greens in her yard (including her cultivated greens). She further announced that she had made a green smoothie with the thistle and some apples, and that it had tasted pretty good.

Three things came to mind with the question.  First, I started thinking "dandelion" when I was reading "thistle".  Second, I thought of the morose old donkey Eeyore in A. A. Milne's "Winnie-the-Pooh" who eshewed apples for a diet of prickly thistles.  And, third, I thought about one of my raw foodie mentors, Victoria Boutenko, who talks about eating your greens "as the goat does"-- changing them up frequently, eating of the vast wild (organic, well-washed) greens--that we often think of as 'weeds'-- in rotation with our romaine and kale.

My hunch was that thistles are probably full of nutrients-- chlorophyl for sure-- and that they would be a nutritious, albeit somewhat bitter, addition to a smoothie.  I didn't think that they would be easy eating in a salad or a sandwich (similar to stinging nettles in that respect).
And then I ran across this very interesting video by Victoria Boutenko's son Sergei, who is now traveling the world and presenting workshops on wild edibles.  I'm pretty impressed with what he has to say.  He mentions some fruits that he would choose to blend with the thistle.  He also mentions that peeling the stem back exposes a tasty stalk that can be chopped and used in salads like celery or cucumber (has the potential to taste like either of these).  Since I also have a fair representation of thistle in my backyard I believe that I will do a little exploring.  If I come up with any really amazing recipes, I will post them here.

Some notes on the healing and values of the Silybum Marianum or Milk Thistle:
Milk Thistle is the thistle I believe my friend is referring to since it is the thistle that grows rather prolifically in my yard, and we live in the same community. Milk thistle has been used in herbal medicine in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East likely right back to Biblical times.

In the video with Sergei, he explains that the prickly thistle was probably hybridized to create today's various lettuces (and maybe artichokes).  An herbalist writing in 1694 says of the thistle: "

'It is a Friend to the Liver and Blood: the prickles cut off, they were formerly used to be boiled in the Spring and eaten with other herbs; but as the World decays, so doth the Use of good old things and others more delicate and less virtuous brought in.' ~A Modern Herbal/Thistles

At the blog site of the Alternative Medicine College of Canada, the herbalist re-states that the Milk Thistle is a detox agent that is excellent for all kinds of digestive upsets and nausea: food poisoning, excess alcohol consumption, hepatitis, cirrhosis, chemotherapy, and even jaundice.  Milk thistle is also useful for protecting against the damage of environmental pollutants (it is high in antioxidants).  And, I like this one for me: Milk thistle may also play a role in controlling the rise and fall of our blood sugars.

Sheryl-Anne, writing from the Alternative Medicine College blog, gives this recipe for a liver tonic and digestive aid:

  • 1/3 tsp. dried chicory root powder
  • 1/3 tsp. dried dandelion root powder
  • 1/3 tsp. dried Milk Thistle seeds powder
Add to boiling water in a cup, stir, steep and drink.


 To your living health!

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  2. Thank you for your kind comments. Since writing this my husband came home from a local fair with a little booklet of plants that are invasive on our Island and have been making it difficult for indigenous plants to thrive, even survive. Well, guess what is on the "invasive" list: yes, the Thistle that I describe above in such glowing terms. Reminds me a little of your website disclosures. All the best, Cynthia