Blessed thistle (Cnicus benedictus, before it was Carduus benedictus) gets its name because it was used as a tonic by the Benedictine monks in the 14th century. These monks grew blessed thistle in their monastery gardens. Health benefits of blessed thistle have been used for centuries. This herb was even used to treat the bubonic or Black Plague during the Middle Ages. Historically it has been considered as a cure it all.
There are a lot of stories about this herb of many names, which include holy thistle, lady’s thistle, bitter thistle, cardo Santo and more. It is said that Emperor Charlemagne’s troops came with the plague during one of his military campaigns. An angel came to Charlemange in his sleep and told him to shoot an arrow in the air. That arrow would land on the plant that would cure his men. Of course, this plant was Cnicus benedictus which they called blessed thistle.
How to Use Blessed Thistle?
This herb has emmenagogue, galactagogue, vermifuge, astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic, emetic and antimicrobial properties. Health benefits of blessed thistle were mentioned in Turner’s herbal of 1568: “Traditional usage: headache, migraine, improves appetite, liver stimulant, fever, sweat inducing, galactagogue, prophylactic to plague.” Even Shakespeare mentions this herb: “Get you some of this distilled Carduus benedictus and lay it to your heart; it is the only thing for a qualm…”
Cnicin is a compound found in blessed thistle which has anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Blessed thistle chemical constituents also include other sesquiterpenes like absinthin and polyacetylene, as well as lignans such as tannins, flavonoids and arctigenin. It also contains essential nutrients such as calcium, manganese and potassium.
There are no guidelines for appropriate use of health benefits of blessed thistle. Try to keep your daily dose under 5 grams (5,000 milligrams). Most supplements range between 300-450 milligrams. Make sure to buy quality supplements as herbal remedies are not well regulated.
Do not confuse blessed thistle with milk thistle (Silybum marianum), which is used to treat liver disorders. There are many species of thistle, however not all are used medicinally. It is possible to grow blessed thistle in your garden. It is native to the Mediterranean areas of Europe and Africa, but now it’s found in other parts of the world. This herb is used in herbal magic as part of healing spells and to ward off malevolent magic.
Health Benefits of Blessed Thistle
As the baby latches to its mother’s breast, the nerves within her nipple become activated, activating hormones in the mother’s system. Prolactin is the hormone that boosts milk supply, and oxytocin releases milk. Not all mothers produce enough milk, so some need extra help. Health benefits of blessed thistle stimulate milk production, as this herb is a galactagogue which means that it increases the flow of breast milk.
Breastfeeding mothers usually drink blessed thistle tea alone or combined with other herbs such as fenugreek, alfalfa, stinging nettle or goat’s rue. Add the herbs to the water after it has boiled and let it steep for 5 to 15 minutes.
Traditional medicinal use of blessed thistle includes alleviating menstruation symptoms including cramps, headaches and brain fog. It is one of the oldest folk remedies for amenorrhea, which is the absence of the menstrual cycle. For menstrual problems it is usually taken in combination with other herbs including cramp bark, blue cohosh root and ginger.
Cnicin, found in blessed thistle and many bitter herbs, helps stimulate the production of saliva and gastric acid, which aid digestion. Health benefits of blessed thistle include alleviating constipation, stomach pain and gas. Drink bless thistle tea before eating to prevent indigestion, gas and bloating. It can also promote a person’s appetite which is useful when ill or following a surgery or treatment.
By aiding the digestive system, blessed thistle can reduce the risk of liver illness and gallstones. This herb, just like milk thistle, is great for detoxification of the body and the liver. A well functioning liver is crucial for overall well being. Health benefits of blessed thistle include the production of bile which is a natural way to detox the liver. Some believe that it is also useful in treating jaundice.
Health benefits of blessed thistle include its diuretic properties which stimulate the production of urine, as well as the flow and frequency of urination. Diuretics are needed for people who have urinary tract infections and kidney illnesses. Thankfully there are natural diuretics, so there is no need to use pharmaceutical medication.
Health benefits of blessed thistle include its expectorant abilities. This herb helps loosen and thin mucus, so you can cough it up.
Blessed thistle can help neutralize common bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, and E. Coli. A study found that cnicin binds to bacteria in a special way, by blocking the enzymes necessary for replication. Therefore the bacteria are unable to reproduce and die. The same effect may apply to fungal infections. It is best to use it as a topical antibacterial, since it is unknown how potent it is when taken orally.
Plants of the Asteraceae family have antifungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties according to this study. Health benefits of blessed thistle can be used as a topical treatment for wounds and minor cuts. Soak cold blessed thistle tea in a gauze or cotton pad and place it over the affected area a few times per day. This herb is also rich in antioxidants that can help the skin look young.
Side Effects of Blessed Thistle
There aren’t many side effects of using blessed thistle. However, consuming more than 6 grams per day could cause vomiting and stomach irritation. Avoid using it if you have gastrointestinal conditions, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Pregnant women should not consume blessed thistle as it may stimulate uterine contractions. Children should also avoid using blessed thistle medicinally.
Do not use it if you are taking antacids or heartburn medications. Blessed thistle can increase stomach acid, thus interfering with these medications. To be safe, it is best to wait a few hours between taking these medications and blessed thistle. This herb is also a diuretic, so be cautious if taking pharmaceutical diuretics.
Those who are allergic to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, and daisies cannot take advantage of the health benefits of blessed thistle.