Latin Name: Sonchus spp
Description: An erect annual hairy herb with a milky sap. It is 40 to 60 cm high, bluish-green, the leaves are alternate, do not have stalks and half clasp the stem. Leaves are 10 to 20 cm long and very coarsely lobed. Flower heads are about 1 cm long and yellow. The fruit is dry and 3 ribbed, it opens to a round white ball. The seeds blow in the wind.
Notes: It is a commercially cultivated vegetable.
Edibility Rating out of 5: 2
Medicinal Rating out of 5: 2
Edible Uses: Young leaves – raw or cooked, 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. 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 roots can be coocked. The Maoris of New Zealand use the milky sap as a chewing gum and use the plant in the traditional dish Puha and Pakeha.
Warnings: Some forms and species are very bitter.
Medicinal Uses: Cancer; Emmenagogue; Febrifuge; Hepatic; Hydrogogue; Poultice; Tonic; Warts.
Medicinal Information: 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: Gum; Latex.
The latex in the stem contains 0.14% rubber, but this is much too low for commercial exploitation.