An Herbal Interlude with Blessed Thistle

Blessed Thistle for vertigo

Dear Annie, You suggested using Blessed Thistle in your blog about Vertigo. Would you please say more about it?

Hi, Thank you for asking, I LOVE talking about herbs. This is one I have grown for many years and am very familiar with. Here is an updated monograph.

Blessed Thistle

Botanical NameCnicus benedictus/ Cardyuus benedictus     


Common Names

Holy Thistle, Blessed Thistle, St Benedict Thistle


Blessed Thistle has a long history of medicinal use. It’s been used as medicine throughout Europe and Asia for hundreds of years.  Named for St. Benedictus, the patron saint of antidotes, it was thought to be a gift from God during the bubonic plague in the middle ages.  Blessed thistle has a history in the healing traditions of Ayurveda and is documented in the early healing journals of the Greeks and Romans.  Historians tell us that Blessed thistle was first cultivated in monastery gardens in the early 1600’s.  Many early herbalist wrote about this herb including Nicholas Culpeper (1653) and John Gerard (1633).


There are approximately 200 species of thistles around the world.  Our species, Blessed Thistle is a smallish annual. Native to Southern Europe, Eastern Asia and some parts of India, It has been cultivated extensively and is now naturalized in Europe and the Eastern United States. 

The Blessed thistle I grew in South Dakota had a low growth pattern that reminds me of a cross between an ornamental cabbage and a thistle. It usually grows between 12 to 24 inches high and round, depending on the environment.  The flowers are in the middle of a rosette of dull green, serrated leaves that can grow up to 12 inches long and 3 inches wide.  The bright yellow flower is surrounded by red spiny hairs that look sharper than they feel.  The whole plant is covered in a soft kind of downy spines. 

Blessed thistle reseeds itself easily.  In South Dakota this wasn’t a problem and it pretty much stayed in its own garden space.  However, care may need to be taken in some areas because Blessed thistle has been known to escaped cultivation and even reach noxious weed status in some states. 

I like to harvest the leaves and flowering tops just as the plant comes into flower.  Usually in late June and early July. Samuel Westcott Tilke, an herbalist from the early 19 century Great Britten, says the young buds and shoots can also be used. Some herbalists say that the leaves and flowers can be harvested at anytime. To know when to harvest the leaves and flowers or a plant. Look at it. Is it full of life and vitality? In my opinion, that’s when leaves and flowers are most potent. If you pay attention, the plant will tell you when it’s time.

Primary Constituents

Tannin, volatile oil, mucilage, sesquiterpernoid lactone, polyacetylene and cnicin, a bitter principle.

Medicinal Properties

Tonic, stimulant, emmenagogue, galactagogue, bitter, antiseptic, alterative, astringent, emetic, decongestant, diuretic, diaphoretic, febrifuge.


Tincture, decoction, infusion, poultice

Medicinal Use

Blessed Thistle was considered a heal-all in medieval Europe where it was used as a tonic and as a primary treatment for the bubonic plague.  Herbalists today use to improve digestion and to treat liver and stomach problems. I use it to help nursing mothers increase their milk supply and to help balance symptoms of PMS. It is a great herb for working with infection, inflammation and much more.

A Liver Herb

Blessed Thistle is primarily an herb of the liver. A healthy Liver affects the whole body. it is responsible for metabolizing poisons and toxins and breaking down and excreting excess hormones. When our blood is clear of toxic, unwanted biological material, digestion and the assimilation of nutrients is more efficient. 

Many diseases of the mind and body are caused by what Ayurveda calls “Mala” or undigested food stuff.  In modern medicine this can be anything from leaky gut syndrome, to an excess of viral antibodies.  Blessed Thistle helps the liver clear these agents from the system.  Along with cleaning and nourishing the blood, it also increases circulatory efficiency and tones the capillary system.  Making it a good herb to promote peripheral circulation (that is circulation to the fingers and toes), circulation to the head and brain. Think of Blessed thistle to help relieve nausea, vertigo, headache and migraine. 

Blessed thistle’s cooling, bitter energy works through the stomach by stimulating the body’s gastric acids, and through the liver to stimulate the production of bile.  This makes it useful treating liver congestion, stomach upset, dyspepsia, fevers, jaundice and hepatitis.  It is used to relieve abdominal bloating below the waist, and or with a feeling of fullness and flatulence.  Larger amounts of the infusion (or long steeped tea) produces vomiting.  Smaller doses stimulate the appetite by getting the digestive juices moving.

Hormonal Uses

As a woman’s herb, Blessed Thistle is traditionally used to increase breast milk in nursing women, and to treat the symptoms of PMS. As mentioned above it will help remove excess hormones from the system, making in a handy herb for conditions where excess hormones are at the root of the problem. Think polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), early menopause and primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) in women. When men are suffering with too many hormones there can be symptoms of erectile dysfunction, tender breasts, low sperm count and more.

I like to use Blessed thistle as a cold infusion along with Fennel seeds and Stinging Nettle leaves to support a new mothers journey to harmonize herb system. The will help support milk production, improve digestion, and remove any excess hormones from the birth. All this with the added benefit of providing lots of nutrition to the new mother.  Blessed thistle helps relieve monthly bloating below the waist and may ease anxiety or depression. 

Blessed Thistle with Red Raspberry leaves and/or Dandelion root works well for adolescent boys and girls as they move into the exciting world of hormones.  A cool infusion or tincture may reduce hormonally linked acne, depression and anxiety. 

Infectious Disease

Useful at the first stage of a fever or irruptive disease (like chickenpox).  Blessed thistle is taken as a warm tea to promote sweating and relieve the aches and pain associated with viral or bacterial infections.  I like to mix Blessed Thistle with Boneset or Yarrow and Elderflowers to relieve coughing, wheezing, chronic bronchitis, and thick viscus mucus. 


Blessed thistle increases peripheral circulation and tones the capillaries, especially in the head and eyes.  This make it useful as a nerve tonic, for poor memory, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), dizziness, vertigo, poor hearing, and diseases of the eyes.  It may also be useful when working with neuropathy, especially as a result of chemotherapy or diabetes. Use externally and internally for slow healing wounds, bites and skin ulcers and as an antidote or anti-toxin.

Externally I use Blessed thistle as a skin wash and poultice to slow bleeding, reduce inflammation, prevent infection, cool and heal the skin.  Use it to treat and heal wounds, sores, ulcers, rashes and the like.

Preparation & Dosage

The weak cold infusion is made by steeping a teaspoon of herb in cold water for a few hours and is used to treat conditions of a weak stomach and to stimulate appetite and digestion.  A warm infusion is used to treat fevers and infection.  ½ to 1 teaspoon of the tincture is used to increase circulation, treat headaches, and PMS.

Interactions and Counter-indications

Blessed Thistle is an emmenagogue, encouraging menses and should not be taken when pregnant. 

Blessed Thistle is counter indicated for inflammatory intestinal problems, such as Crohn’s disease.

Product Suggestions

Thank you for welcoming me into your inbox and for taking the time to read my blog.  It is my bliss to have the opportunity to share my experience and research with you.  I hope you find it helpful.  I would love to hear from you.  Please join the conversation my commenting or contacting contact me about your thoughts, ideas and experiences you’d like to share.  I’d love to know more about your experiences with Blessed Thistle and more.

Many Blessings



Mrs. M Grieve.  A Modern Herbal Volume 11, New York, Dover Publications Inc, 1971

Micheal Tierra, The Way of Herbs, NY, NY, Pocket Books, 1980

John Lust, The Herb Book, NY, NY, Benedict Lust Publications, 1974

Wood, Mathew, The Practice of Western Herbalism, Plant Healer Magazine, Volume VI, 2014 pg. 129.


These statements and products have not been evaluated by the FDA. They are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. If you have a health concern or condition, consult a physician. Always consult a medical doctor before modifying your diet, using any new product, drug, supplement, or doing any new exercises.

Herbs taken for health purposes should be treated with the same care as medicine. Herbal remedies are no substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle. If you are serious about good health, you’ll want to combine diet, exercise, herbals, a good relationship with your doctor and a generally healthy lifestyle. No one of these will do it alone.

This information is designed to be used as part of a complete health plan. No products are intended to replace your doctor’s care, or to supersede any of his/her advice or prescriptions.

7 thoughts on “An Herbal Interlude with Blessed Thistle”

  1. excellent post, very informative. I’m wondering why the opposite experts of this sector do not realize this. You must continue your writing. I’m confident, you’ve a great readers’ base already!

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