Botanical Name – Cnicus benedictus
Family – Asteraceae
Common Names – Holy Thistle, Blessed Thistle, St Benedict Thistle, Carduus Benedictus
Description – Native to Southern Europe, Blessed Thistle is a large annual that has been cultivated in herb gardens for centuries for its medicinal use. Characteristic of many thistles, it grows about 2 feet tall, has hairy stems and spiny edged leaves. Even its bright yellow flowers are spiny. Blessed Thistle can be distinguished by its many, long, reddish, hairy stems and dull green clasping leaves that can grow up to 12 inches long and 3 inches wide. The flowers are bright yellow surrounded by spiny bracts. The whole plant is covered in a thin down.
Part used – The leaves and flowering tops are harvested just as the plant begins to flower, usually in July.
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
Preparation –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 the primary treatment for the bubonic plague. Today it’s used to improve digestion, treat liver and stomach problems, increase milk supply for nursing mothers, help alleviate symptoms of PMS, and to treat and prevent infection and inflammation.
Blessed thistle’s cooling, bitter energy works primarily through the stomach and the liver by stimulating the body’s secretion of bile and other gastric acids. This makes it useful treating liver congestion, stomach upset, dyspepsia, fevers, jaundice and hepatitis. Larger amounts of the infusion is a reliable emetic producing vomiting without muss, fuss or inconvenience. A Smaller dose will stimulate the appetites and digestive juices.
Blessed thistle a dependable galactagogue, taken to help increase the production of breast milk and is often used along with other herbs like Fennel seeds and Stinging Nettle or Alfalfa leaves.
It is often used as a treatment for PMS symptoms including heartache, melancholy, headache, cramping and pain. Many of the old herbalists report Blessed Thistles effectiveness for treating or preventing headaches and problems of the brain, especially when the headache or migraine is linked to the menstrual cycle or undigested toxins.
Externally Blessed thistle is used 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 and boils.
Preparation Methods & Dosage – The weak cold infusion made by steeping a teaspoon of herb in cold water for a few hours 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 emmenogoge, encouraging menses and should not be taken when pregnant.
Blessed Thistle is counter indicated for inflammatory intestinal problems, such as Crohn’s disease.
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