Family • Compositae - Sonchus oleraceus Linn. - SOW THISTLE - Dian ku mai cai

Scientific names

Sonchus oleraceus Linn.
Sonchus ciliatus Lam.
Sonchus mairei H. Lev.
Sonchus sundaicus Blume
Hieracium oleracerum Linn.
Lactuca oleracerea Linn.
Ku ju cai (Chin.)

Common names

Gagatang (Ig.)
Common sowthistle (Engl.)
Milkweed (Engl.)
Milk thistle (Engl.)
Smooth sow thistle (Engl.)
Swinles (Engl.)
Sow thistle (Engl.)
Dian ku mai cai (Chin.)

Other vernacular names

FRENCH: Laitron commun.
INDONESIA: Tempuh wiyang, Delgiyu, Camawak.
VIETNAM: rau di[ees]p d[aj]i, nh[ux] c[us]c, rau c[us]c s[uwx]a.

The common name ‘sow thistle’ derives from its attractiveness to swine and the similarity of its leaf to the pig’s ear. The scientific name’s latin roots are:sonchus, hollow stem and oleraceus, delectable nature, herb used in cooking.


Gagatang is an erect, annual, milky, hairy or slightly glandular herb, growing 40 to 80 centimeters high. Leaves are oblong to lanceolate, 10 to 20 centimeters long, coarsely and lyrately lobed; the lobes somewhat reflexed and toothed, the terminal ones large, the lateral one pointing downwards, and those of the stem clasping at the base. Heads are peduncled, about 1 centimeter long. Bracts are smooth, thin and green. Flowers are numerous and yellow. Achenes are nearly 3 millimeters long, compressed, ribbed and rough.


Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Sonchus oleraceus / Wikipedia

(2) Antidepressant-Like Activity of Sonchus oleraceus in Mouse Models of Immobility Tests / Fabiana Cardoso Vilela, Marina de Mesquita Padilha, Geraldo Alves-Da-Silva, Roseli Soncini, Alexandre Giusti-Paiva / Journal of Medicinal Food. February 2010, 13(1): 219-222 / doi:10.1089/jmf.2008.0303.

(3) Evaluation of the antinociceptive activity of extracts of Sonchus oleraceus L. in mice. / Vilela F C, de Mesquita Padiha et al / J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Jul 15;124(2):306-10. Epub 2009 May 3

(4) Anxiolytic-like effect of Sonchus oleraceus L. in mice / Cardoso Vilela F et al / J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Jul 15;124(2):325-7. Epub 2009 May 3.

(5) The antioxidant and cytotoxic activities of Sonchus oleraceus L. extracts / Yin Jie, Kwon, Gu-Joong, Wang, Myeong-Hyeon / Nutrition Research and Practice / v.1, no.3, 2007, pp.189-194 / KOI : KISTI1.1003/JNL.JAKO200735836553460

(6) Microbial Growth and Quorum Sensing Antagonist Activities of Herbal Plants Extracts / Reema al-Hussaini and Adel M Mahasneh / Molecules 2009, 14, 3425-3435; doi:10.3390/molecules14093425

(7) Studies on Sesquiterpene Glycosides from Sonchus oleraceus L.(Pharmacognosy,Chemical) / Miyase Toshio and Fukushima Seigo / Chemical & pharmaceutical bulletin 35(7), 2869-2874, 1987-07-25

(8) Sonchus oleraceus L. / Common names / GLOBinMED

(9) STUDY OF THE EFFECT OF CRUDE EXTRACTS OF Sonchus oleraceus ON CANCER CELL GROWTH (In vivo) / Zeinab R.Zgheir, Nahi Y. Yaseen, Talib A. Makkawi / Iraqi Journal of Veterinary Medicine Vol. 34, No. 1, 2010

(10) Antioxidant Activity of Puha (Sonchus oleraceus L.) as Assessed by the Cellular Antioxidant Activity (CAA) Assay. / Phytotherapy research : PTR / DOI:

(11) The Effect of Crude Extracts of Sonchus oleraceus on Cancer Cell Growth (In vitro) / *Zainab R.Zghair۩ Nahi Y. Yaseen Talib A. Makkawi / Iraqi J. Vet. Med. 34 ( 2 ): 30 – 38; 2010.

(12) Antioxidant Activities of Sonchus oleraceus L. / Sundara Mudiyanselage Maheshini Rangika Mawalagedera / Thesis / 2014 / Victoria University of Wellington

(13) CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL INVESTIGATIONS OF THE ROOTS OF SONCHUS OLERACEUS L. GROWING IN EGYPT / Ehab Saad Elkhayat / Bull. Pharm. Sci., Assiut University, Vol. 32, Part 1, 2009, pp. 189-197.

(14) Anti-inflammatory and antipyretic effects of Sonchus oleraceus in rats. / Fabiana C Vilela, Andressa D Bitencourt, Layla D M Cabral, Lidiane S Franqui, Roseli Soncini, Alexandre Giusti-Paiva / Journal of ethnopharmacology, 12/2009; 127(3):737-41./ DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2009.11.030

(15) Evaluation of the antinociceptive activity of extracts of Sonchus oleraceus L. in mice. / Fabiana Cardoso Vilela, Marina de Mesquita Padilha, Lucas Dos Santos-E-Silva, Geraldo Alves-da-Silva, Alexandre Giusti-Paiva / Journal of ethnopharmacology, 124(2):306-10./ DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2009.04.037

(16) Anti HIV and Antibacterial property of coumarinsisolated from Sonchus oleraceus / *Suneetha1 T.B, Dr. *S M Gopinath, Divya T.K, Amarshankar, Narasimha Murthy.T.P / Engineering and Technology, Vol. 2, Issue 10, October 2013

(17) Dietary modulation of the human colonic microbiota through plant-derived prebiotic compounds / Kassim, Muhammad Arshad / Thesis / 2007 / Dept. of Biotechnology, Durban University of Technology

– Found only in the Benguet subprovinces, Rizal and Laguna provinces in Luzon.
– In waste places, along trails, old gardens, on talus slopes at altitudes of 1,200 to 2,000 meters.
– Occurs in all warm countries.

– Reported to contain the same constituents as S. arvensis.
– Contains fixed oil with stearic and palmitic acids, ceryl-alcohol, invert sugar, choline, tartaric acid.
– Milky juice contains oxydase, coautchoue, mannite, l-inosite, etc.
– Phytochemicals of aqueous extracts yielded sugar reducers, phenolic compounds, tannins, flavonoids and coumarins.
– Study yielded four sesquiterpene glycosides – sonchusides A, B, C and D together with five known glycosides – glucozaluzanin C, macrocliniside A, crepidiaside A and picrisides B and C.

Parts used
Stem, leaves, gum, juice.

– Brownish gum formed by the evaporation of the common sow thistle, when taken internally in a dose of two to four grains, acts as a “powerful hydragogue cathartic” with strong effects on the liver, duodenum and colon. Its effects resemble elaterium, producing large and watery discharges, thus an effective agent in ascites and hydrothorax. However, it may cause griping like senna and produce tenemus like aloes. To counteract that effect, the gum is administered with manna, aniseed, and carbonate of magnesia, or with stimulants and aromatics
– Natives of Bengal use an infusion of leaves and roots as tonic and febrifuge.
– In Indochina, stems used as sedative and tonic.
– In Italy, used as a laxative and diuretic.
– Juice of the plant used for cleaning and healing ulcers.
– In Brazilian folk medicine, used as a general tonic. Also used in the treatment of headaches, general pain, hepatitis, infections, inflammation and rheumatism.

Gagatang4Study Findings
• Antidepressant: Study of S oleraceus extracts in mice showed evidence of an antidepressant-like effect comparable to that of amitriptyline (10mg/K p.o.).
• Antinociceptive: Extracts of SO markedly demonstrated antinociceptive action in mice, supporting previous claims of traditional use. At 300 mg/kg, it had a stronger antinociceptive effect than indomethacin (5 mg/kg) and morphine (10 mg/kg).
• Anxiolytic: Study of extract of aerial parts showed anxiolytic effects in mice similar to clonazepam (0.5 mg/kg).
• Phytochemicals / Low Toxicity: Study of aqueous extracts showed phenolic compounds, tannins, flavonoids and coumarins. Toxicity test on Artemia salina indicated low toxicity.
• Antioxidant / Cytotoxicity: Study of SO extracts showed concentration-dependent antioxidant activity. The methanol extracts yielded the greatest the most phenolic and flavonoid contents. Cytotoxicity activity showed the ethanol extract had the best activity against the growth of stomach cancer cell.
• Anti-Quorum Sensing / Antimicrobial: A study of 14 ethanolic extracts of different parts of 8 plants for antimicrobial and antiquorum sensing activity showed Sonchus oleraceus and Laurus nobilis to have superior activity against Chromobacterium violaceum. Quorum sensing is involved in microbial pathogenesis, and its inhibition may be a way of controlling bacterial infections with the advantage of reducing risks of resistance development.
• Phytochemicals: Study yielded alkaloids anthraquinones, flavonoids, terpenes, tannins, steroids, and cardiac glycosides in leaves and roots.
• Antitumor: Study evaluated three types of extracts on AM-3 (Murine mammary adenocarcinoma). In the group treated with cold aqueous extract for a month, necrotic changes in cancer mass was noted. Results showed antitumor effects and, possibly, activation of the immune system.
• Antioxidant: Study showed strong antioxidant activity as measured in the 2,2-diphenylpicrylhydrazyl (DPPH) assay. Data suggest a potential as a nutraceutical supplement for human health.
• Wound Healing: A 10% extract of Sonchus oleraceus was studied in repair of skin tissues in 36 male Wistar rats. Results showed less necrotic tissue, lower slough and more granulation tissue, increased fibroplasia, less neovascularization. Results showed tissue repair conforming with normal physiological patterns.
• Antimalarial: Nine crude extracts of three Sudanese medicinal plants were evaluated for antimalarial activity in their ability to inhibit growth of Plasmodium falcifarum. Ethanolic and chloroform extracts of S. oleraceus were inactive; however a petroleum extract showed moderate activity against P. falcifarum.
• Cytotoxic Variations / Anticancer: Study evaluated ethanolic, cold aqueous, and hot aqueous extracts against three cancer cell lines in vitro. The three extracts showed concentration and time dependent growth inhibitory effects, the highest obtained from the ethanol extract. Results suggest cytotoxic concentrations showed variation in values among cell lines according to cell types in vitro.
• Effects of Stressors, Cooking and Digestion on Antioxidant Activities: Study showed caftaric, chlorogenic, and chicoric acids to account for 92% of phenolic compounds in S. oleraceus leaves. Study identified factors that caused significant variation in antioxidant properties, namely: maturation, genetic heredity, abiotic stressors, propagation method, and cooking. Human cells were more protected from oxidative damage if leaves had stressor-augmented antioxidant activities. Results suggest the potential of S. oleraceus as a functional food crop.
• Loliolide / Roots / Cytotoxic: Phytochemical study of roots of Sonchus oleraceus yielded loliolide together with 15-O-β-glucopyranosyl- 11β,13-dihydrourospermal A, ursolic acid, lupeo, and β- sitosterol-3-O-β-glucopyranoside. Compounds 1 and 2 showed cytotoxic activity against L5187Y cell line.
• Anti-inflammatory: Study evaluated the anti-inflammatory activity of S. oleraceus in in vivo inflammatory models. A hydroalcoholic extract demonstrated marked anti-inflammatory activity in a carrageenan-induced paw edema model in rats.
• Antinociceptive: Study evaluated hydroethanolic and dichlormethane extracts of aerial parts in chemical and thermal models markedly demonstrated antinociceptive action in mice.
• Anti-HIV / Inhibition of Protease Activity / Coumarins: Study evaluated coumarin compounds extracted from S. oleraceus for inhibitory action against enzymes involved in the replication of HIV. Methanol extracts showed significant inhibition of protease activity as compared to standard, lopinavir.
• Modulation of Human Colonic Microbiota through Plant-Derived Prebiotics: Prebiotics are naturally occurring carbohydrates classified as non-digestible oligosaccharides present in edible plants, eliciting systemic physiological functions, acting as fermentable substrates for colonic-microflora. Study evaluated prebiotic compounds, especially inulin, in non-commercialized leafy plants. Of 22 plants studied, Sonchus oleraceus exhibited the best prebiotic effect, and was the only plant to stimulate all the probiotics.

Extracts and supplements in the cybermarket.