Blessed thistle

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  • Botanical: Cnicus benedictus
  • Family: Asteraceae
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Blessed thistle


Cnicus benedictus



Known as

Cnicus,Cnicus benedictus, St. Benedict's thistle, Blessed Thistle, Holy Thistle, Spotted Thistle, Benediktenkraut, Kardobenedikte, Benediktendistel, Benediktenwurz, Bitterdistel, Bernhardinerwurzel, Bornwurz, Natterkraut

Old Use


Collection Times

July to October

Parts Used

flowers, leaves, roots




bowel cleansing, bile weakness, burns, cramps stomach, depression, flatulence, liver weakness, vomiting, wounds

Mind & Nerves

loss of appetite

Respiratory System


Stomach & Intestinal

abdominal pain, bowel cleansing, bladder weakness, bile weakness, cystitis, flatulence, gastrointestinal, laxative, liver weakness, nausea, vomiting

Skin & Hair



antiseptic, antipyretic, anti inflammatory, astringent, cholagogue, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, galactagogue, stimulant, stomachic, tonic


It is an annual plant growing to 60 cm tall, with leathery, hairy leaves up to 30 cm long and 8 cm broad, with small spines on the margins. The flowers are yellow, produced in a dense flowerhead (capitulum) 3-4 cm diameter, surrounded by numerous spiny basal bracts.

Properties & Uses

The blessed thistle was widely cultivated in the middle ages, when it was seen as a cure-all for all manner of diseases including the plague. Although less widely used nowadays, it is still seen to have a wide range of applications though it is mainly employed as an ingredient in herbal tonics. The whole plant is astringent, bitter, cholagogue, diaphoretic, diuretic, strongly emetic in large doses, emmenagogue, galactogogue, stimulant, stomachic and tonic. A warm infusion of the plant is said to be one of the most effective means of improving the milk supply of a nursing mother. An infusion of the whole plant has also been used as a contraceptive and is often used in the treatment of liver and gall bladder problems. The plant is also used internally in the treatment of anorexia, poor appetite associated with depression, dyspepsia, flatulent colic etc. The whole plant was infused overnight in cold water and the liquid drunk three times daily in the treatment of VD. Men were required to run after each dose in order to encourage sweating. The treatment often caused nausea and vomiting- excessive doses of the plant cause vomiting. The plant is used externally in the treatment of wounds and ulcers. The plant is harvested in the summer as it comes into flower and is dried for later use. A homeopathic remedy is made from the plant. It is used in the treatment of the liver and gall bladder. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Cnicus benedictus for dyspepsia (indigestion) and loss of appetite.

Other Uses

A good quality oil is obtained from the seed. It has been used in emergencies when other oils were not available


May cause allergic reaction if sensitive to the Asteraceae/Compositae family. Possible eye irritation. Excess of 5g per cup of tea may cause stomach irritation and vomiting. Possible cross-reactivity with mugwort and echinacea (also bitter weed, blanket flower, chrysanthemum, colt's foot, dandelion and marigold. Increases stomach acid secretion so caution needed with gastric ulcers and heartburn. Possible increase in bleeding - care needed with anticoagulants or blood thining agents


S. Europe to W. Asia. An infrequent casual in Britain


cnicin, essential oils, mucilage, tannin, mineral salts, vitamin B 1

For educational purposes only This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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