How to Harvest Milk Thistle Seeds

by Daisy

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  1. Make sure all your affairs are in order.

  2. Call 911 and get them en route to your location.

  3. Don protective gear.

  4. Carefully approach the milk thistle.

While it isn’t quite that dire, it is almost that dire. Milk thistle has the most aggressive thistles, and they’re everywhere–on the stem, under the base of the flower, all around, and I think maybe inside of it?

And any glove that allows you a modicum of dexterity will not faze these things.

What I have learned to do is proceed slowly, use scissors to trim off any visible barbs, and leave a long enough stem so that I can hold on to the stem and not the bud itself when removing the seeds.


Once I’ve trimmed off as many of the prickles as I can find, I reach in carefully and pluck out the fluff. That’s not the botanical term for this, but I think you will understand what I mean.


The seeds are attached to the fluff. If you grasp the fluff tightly, you can pull the seeds off of it pretty easily. The more dry the seed heads are, the more readily the seeds will fall off. I would definitely wait to de-seed until the seed heads are completely browned (no green remaining).


The yield per seed head was a bit less than a tablespoon per head. Not a lot to show for this much peril.


You can get rid of the remaining fluff by tossing it in a bowl in front a fan, or wait for a windy day. I think from eight or so heads, I got about a half cup of milk thistle seeds. I’ll probably grind it and tincture it.

If you have lots and lots of these, I would just put them in bags (or boxes) and shake them once they’re really, really dry, then carefully remove the seeds from the bottom of the containers. You would miss a lot of the seeds that way, but it would be the only, and safest way to proceed with a lot of these to process.

Milk thistle (silymarin) is used to help people with liver problems, aid in the treatment of diabetes, and lower LDL cholesterol. It also contains the super-antioxidant glutathione. It’s ground into a meal similar to flaxseed, or made into a tincture, supplement, or tea. Some sources indicate it should be avoided by pregnant, breastfeeding, or those with estrogen-sensitive conditions due to its ability to mimic estrogen. Also not for the ragweed-allergic.







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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sockeye March 28, 2017 at 12:21 pm

Hi, I am curious that most pictures I see of milk thistle seeds are like yours, a pale seed. Mine when I harvest them are glistening almost black colour. Some of mind that I consider immature are pale. Do you think I have a different variety? I bought them from a medicinal herb dealer.

Daisy March 31, 2017 at 7:50 am

Sockeye–Hm, may be a maturity thing. Hard to say.

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