Blessed thistle is used in natural skin care products for its astringent properties. It will temporally shrink and tighten the top layer of skin reducing the appearance of cellulite for a few hours.
Not to be confused with Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum). Blessed thistle is native to the Mediterranean, a member of the Aster family (asteraceae) that was grown in the gardens of monks and used to make bitter tonics and liqueurs and was documented in the literature as plant with multiple health imparting properties. It is mentioned in virtually all the writings issued during times of epidemic infectious diseases, including Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
No doubt you are wondering how it came to be called “blessed”? During the reign of the medieval king Charlemagne his troops were infected with the plague. An angel came to Charlemagne in his sleep and told him that if he were to shoot an arrow in the air, the arrow would land on the plant that would cure his men. The arrow fell on a big patch of Cnicus benedictus, and the emperor fed it to his troops. Their lives were saved, and the plant was dubbed the Blessed Thistle.
The use of bitter plants to tonify digestion is one of the primary tools in the herbalists repertoire. Proper digestion is the foundation of health. Blessed thistle does contain bitter principles called sesquiterpenes which also impart the bitter taste to the wormwoods (Artemisia) and to Ginkgo biloba. Bitters stimulate the secretion of digestive juices in the stomach and support the breakdown of fats, supporting a healthy appetite and assisting in the assimilation of nutrients. The tea has been used historically by midwives and naturopaths to support healthy breast milk production.
Topically, a poultice of blessed thistle is used to soothe skin irritated by burns, scrapes, shaving, sunburn, and other relatively minor injuries. A poultice is usually a soft cloth that has been soaked in a medication, possibly heated, and applied to an aching or injured area of skin surface. Blessed thistle contains chemicals which have an astringent effect. Astringents shrink and tighten the top layers of skin or mucous membranes, thereby reducing secretions, relieving irritation, and improving tissue firmness.
Blessed thistle (Cnicus benedictus; also known as Holy Thistle or St. Benedict’s Thistle) is a small, annual herb native to the Mediterranean and naturalized in North America. Often referred to as a noxious weed today, blessed thistle has been used as an herbal remedy since the Middle Ages.
The leaves, stems and blossoms of blessed thistle have been used over the centuries in various bitter tonic beverages, in teas and in capsules. In this post, we’ll cover a few of the health benefits of blessed thistle to help you decide if it may be right for you.
Blessed thistle is often used to help stimulate the body’s secretion of gastric acid and the flow of bile, which can improve digestion. It can also be used to address flatulence and indigestion. In addition, it can stimulate appetite, which makes it helpful in treating anorexia.
Blessed thistle is thought to be a galactagogue, taken to help increase breast milk production. It seems to work optimally when used along with fenugreek, alfalfa, fennel, stinging nettle or goat’s rue. Blessed thistle is well known as a remedy for women. It can help alleviate many PMS symptoms, including painful menstruation and PMS-related headaches.
Two compounds found in blessed thistle, polyacetylene and cnicin, can help your body battle bacterial infections. Some studies have shown these compounds to be effective against Bacillus subtilis, Brucella species, Escherichia coli, Proteus species, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus faecalis.
Blessed thistle has been shown to lessen or totally halt inflammation. However, if you have inflammatory bowel problems, you should consult your health practitioner before taking blessed thistle. As mentioned above, blessed thistle can stimulate the bile production, which assists with detoxification of the liver.
Blessed thistle can help prevent or at the very least slow down bleeding due to its astringent-like qualities. Because of these properties, blessed thistle is used to create natural remedies for skin ulcers and boils.
Blessed Thistle (also known as Holy Thistle or St. Benedict’s Thistle) was given this name due to its reputation as a cure-all. It’s Latin name, Cnicus Benedictus, was given because its ability to cure was considered a gift from God. It is perhaps most well known for its usage with female related problems, though it should not be used during pregnancy. It can be found and used in tinctures, capsules, or teas.
Blessed Thistle is often used in teas for nursing mothers to help increase milk supply. It is known to increase circulation and treat hormone imbalance. It enhances memory by delivering oxygen to the brain and is supportive of the heart and lungs.
“Herbalists use it as a female tonic to increase mother’s milk and treat painful menstruation.
Large doses produce an emetic and expectorant effect. Its bitter glycosides are said to stimulate appetite and act as a tonic to the digestive tract. Large doses are also said to produce a diaphoretic and general stimulant action.
In the last century, blessed thistle has received a reputation for its action on the internal organs such as the liver and kidneys. Homeopaths have touted it most highly in this regard and use a tincture to treat jaundice, hepatitis, and arthritis.
Early man believed that ingesting bitter herbs gave strength that could be used to combat illness. Physiologically, bitter herbs stimulate various organs of the body into a reflex action that triggers the glands into action, producing various effects. In blessed thistle, the organs affected are thought to be the liver and female reproductive organs.
This herb contains bitter compounds that decrease the thickness while increasing the production of mucosal fluids particularly in the digestive and respiratory systems. It also contains astringent compounds that are antiseptic, dilate peripheral blood vessels, and shrink inflamed tissue. Blessed thistle is an excellent herbal source of potassium and sodium. The herb has been used to treat dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, arthritis, dysura, jaundice, fevers and respiratory allergies.”
As a tea infusion, in capsules or as an extract, or externally as a poultice for boils and wounds.
Modern herbal applications of blessed thistle are based on a long history of use in Europe and in Indian Ayurvedic medicine. Blessed Thistle is used to treat digestive ailments fundamentally caused by insufficient secretion of stomach acid. The herb’s bitter taste triggers a reflex reaction that releases gastric juices into the stomach, especially those needed to digest fats. For this reason, modern herbalists agree that the plant is helpful for loss of appetite, upset stomach, and gas, although it may be better to take the herb before these symptoms occur (such as before eating a fatty meal), rather than after. The herb is also antibacterial.
Generally not recommended during pregnancy. If you are allergic to artichokes, avoid this herb.”
Blessed thistle is used to stimulate secretion of gastric juices and saliva, to increase appetite and facilitate digestion, and to stimulate the flow of bile. It has been used as a minor component of the alternative cancer remedy Flor-Essence and has antibacterial and antifungal activity. Other pharmacologic activities for blessed thistle include blockade of gonadotropin and anti-inflammatory properties. However, there are no reported human clinical trials for any of these uses.
Because of its irritating effect, blessed thistle is contraindicated in gastric ulcer or in inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn disease.
Blessed thistle should not be used in pregnancy. No evidence exists to support the efficacy of its common use to promote lactation.
People sensitive to the sesquiterpene lactones of other asteraceous plants should use blessed thistle with caution. Blessed thistle extract was strongly sensitizing in a study of 12 species in the family Asteraceae.
Blessed thistle is native to North Africa, southern Europe, and western Asia. It grows most often in stony, uncultivated places. It is an annual, growing about 0.7 m in height, with pale yellow, prickly flowers. The whole plant is covered with down.
The plant was widely cultivated in the Middle Ages in Europe. Its medicinal use was mentioned by Shakespeare in his play Much Ado About Nothing and was prominent in many of the herbals of the period. It was thought to be useful in treating plague; however, its main uses were for digestive complaints, gout, fever, and headache. Blessed thistle also was recommended as an emmenagogue, galactogogue, and abortifacient. The dried leaves, stems, and flowers are used medicinally.
It is used in flavoring Benedictine liqueur and has GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status for alcoholic beverage use only. Blessed thistle has been used as a secondary component of the polyherbal alternative cancer treatment Flor-Essence (Flora Manufacturing and Distributing, Inc.). It is available as a single herb and in homeopathic preparations. Blessed thistle was approved by the German Commission E for treatment of dyspepsia and loss of appetite.
The most prominent constituent of blessed thistle is the bitter sesquiterpene lactone ester cnicin. Other germacrane sesquiterpenes include salonitenolide and artemisiifolin. The bitter lignans arctiin, arctigenin, and nortracheloside are also present. Two C13 polyacetylenes have been isolated as well. A patent discloses antifungal proteins active against plant pathogenic fungi, isolated from the seed of blessed thistle.
Bitter principles such as cnicin stimulate secretion of gastric juices and saliva, thereby increasing appetite and facilitating digestion. They are also capable of stimulating the flow of bile.
Blessed thistle is a minor component of the alternative cancer remedy Flor-Essence , one of 8 herbs in the formulation. In this context, cnicin is cytotoxic to leukemia cells, while sesquitepenes, lacking the ester moiety, had lesser activity. The same structural requirements apply to antibacterial activity. Similarly, cnicin was the most active sesquiterpene against a variety of fungi in another study.
Other pharmacologic activity found for blessed thistle include blockade of gonadotropin. Cnicin has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties in a rat paw edema test.
There are no reported human clinical trials for any of these indications.
When taken by mouth, blessed thistle can irritate the lining of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. For most individuals, this irritation is minor. However, it can worsen gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), ulcers, and inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Therefore individuals who have any GI condition should not use blessed thistle.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid taking blessed thistle because not enough is known about how it might affect developing babies or infants.
Blessed thistle may possibly increase the production of acid in the stomach, thereby interfering with the effectiveness of antacids and over-the-counter medications such as Pepcid AC, Prilosec OTC, and Zantac AR.
Some interactions between herbal products and medications can be more severe than others. The best way for you to avoid harmful interactions is to tell your doctor and/or pharmacist what medications you are currently taking, including any over-the-counter products, vitamins, and herbals. For specific information on how blessed thistle interacts with drugs, other herbals, and foods and the severity of those interactions.
Blessed thistle is believed to have originated in areas around the Mediterranean Sea. It now grows as a weed in most mild and warm climates. Smaller than some other thistles, blessed thistle plants are usually between 12 inches and 20 inches tall, with thick stems and long, deeply toothed leaves. Both the stems and leaves are covered with fuzz and the leaves have sharp, spiny, thorn-like projections. Small yellow flowers bloom during most of the summer. The part of blessed thistle that is used in medicine is called the “flowering tops”, which consists of flowers, leaves, and upper stems–gathered while the plants are in full bloom, and then chopped and dried for use.
Blessed thistle has a long history as both food and medicine. Roman are known to have used its leaves and roots for vegetables as long as 1,500 years ago. Its leaves began to be used to feed cattle and other farm animals at about the same time. During the Middle Ages, blessed thistle was considered to be useful in treating numerous conditions, including bubonic plague and smallpox. It was often grown in medicinal herb gardens at European monasteries. The Latin name of blessed thistle honors St. Benedict, who is traditionally accepted as the founder of monasteries in Italy. Brothers of St. Benedict have used it for centuries as a flavoring for their Benedictine liqueur. Today, blessed thistle is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as flavoring for other alcoholic drinks.