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Botanical Name: Sonchus alpinus
Species: C. Alpina
Common Names: Cicerbita alpina, Alpine Sow-thistle or Alpine Blue-sow-thistle, Mountain sow- thistle
Habitat : Sonchus alpinus is native to upland and mountainous parts of Europe.It grows on many mountains of Europe (the Alps, the Pyrenees, the northern Apennines, the Scandinavian Peninsula, Scotland (where it is endangered and found in only four known locations), the Carpathians and the Urals. These plants can be found in alpine woods, besides streams, in rich-soil in hollows and in tall meadows, usually between 1,000 and 1,800 metres (3,300 and 5,900 ft) above sea level.
Sonchus alpinus on average reaches 80 centimetres (31 in) in height, with a minimum height of 50 cm (20 in) and a maximum height of 150 cm (59 in). The stem is erect and usually unbranched. It has glandular hairs and contains a white milky juice, a kind of latex. The alternate leaves are broad, triangular and clasping the stem, bluish-grey beneath, hairy along the veins and with toothed margins. The inflorescence is a panicle. Each composite flower is about 2.5 cm (1 in) wide and is set within a whorl of bracts. The individual blue-violet florets are tongue-like with a toothed, truncated tip, each having five stamens and a fused carpel. All the florets are ray florets; there are no disc florets. The seeds are clothed in unbranched hairs. The flowering period extends from June to September in the temperate northern hemisphere.
CLICK & SEE THE PICTURES : It is a tall handsome plant with very large blue flowers, but also very rare in the islands.
Edible Uses:Sonchus alpinus has been used as a salad in Lapland, the young shoots being stripped of their skin and eaten raw, but Linnaeus informs us that it is somewhat bitter and unpalatable.
The edible shoots of Cicerbita alpina contain 8-O-Acetyl-15-beta-D-glucopyranosyllactucin, which causes the bitter taste of the vegetable, and caffeic acid derivatives chlorogenic acid, 3,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid, caffeoyltartaric acid, and cichoric acid
Medicinal Uses: Culpepper considers that the Sow-Thistles possess great medicinal virtues, which lie chiefly in the milky juice. He tells us:
‘They are cooling and somewhat binding, and are very fit to cool a hot stomach and ease the pain thereof. . . . The milk that is taken from the stalks when they are broken, given in drink, is very beneficial to those that are short-winded and have a wheezing.’
He goes on to inform us, on the authority of Pliny, that they are efficacious against gravel, and that a decoction of the leaves and stalks is good for nursing mothers; that the juice or distilled water is good ‘for all inflammation, wheals and eruptions, also for haemorrhoids.’ Also that:
‘the juice is useful in deafness, either from accidental stoppage, gout or old age. Four spoonsful of the juice of the leaves, two of salad oil, and one teaspoonful of salt, shake the whole well together and put some on cotton dipped in this composition into the ears and you may reasonably expect a good degree of recovery.’
‘the juice boiled or thoroughly heated in a little oil of bitter almonds in the peel of a pomegranite and dropped into the ears is a sure remedy for deafness.’
Finally, he informs us that the juice ‘is wonderfully efficacious for women to wash their faces with to clear the skin and give it lustre.’
Another old herbalist also says:
‘The leaves are to be used fresh gathered; a strong infusion of them works by urine and opens obstructions. Some eat them in salads, but the infusion has more power.’
The whole plant has stiff spines on the leaf margin, and the seeds and roots are used in homoeopathic medicine.
The milky juice of all the Sow-Thistles is an excellent cosmetic. The leaves are said to cure hares of madness
In Finland, this plant is known as “bear-hay” because the Eurasian brown bear feeds on it, as do elk and reindeer. People also sometimes make use of it and eat it raw or cooked in reindeer milk.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.