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Blessed Thistle AKA Cnicus benedictus
Note: Blessed thistle should not be mistaken for milk thistle (Silybum marianus) or other members of the thistle family.
The thistle comes from southern Europe but is cultivated in other regions of the continent. The plant has a strong and bitter taste. In fact, in Europe it is known as a “bitter vegetable drug“.
Blessed thistle 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.
The German Commission E approved Blessed thistle for treatment of dyspepsia and loss of appetite.
Thistle is the old English name for a large family of plants chiefly found in Europe and Asia, of which there are fourteen species in Great Britain:
- Holy Thistle
- Milk Thistle
- Scotch Thistle
- Dwarf Thistle
- Creeping Plume Thistle
- Welted Thistle
- Woolly-Headed Thistle
- Melancholy Thistle
- Spear Thistle
- Musk Thistle
- Marsh Plume Thistle
- Carline Thistle
- Common Star Thistle
- Yellow Star Thistle
Blessed Thistle as an Herb for Medicinal Uses
Blessed thistle (or Holy) is a thistle that has been cultivated for several centuries in Britain for its medicinal use. It is said to have obtained its name from its high reputation as a heal-all, even able to cure the plague. The whole herb is used.
The plant was at one time supposed to be a cure for fevers of all kinds. A warm infusion of 1 ounce of the dried herb to a pint of boiling water was standard use.
Blessed Thistle is used for strengthening the heart, circulation of the blood, and is useful in all remedies for lung, kidney, and especially liver problems.
Blessed Thistle is also used as a brain food to help stimulate one’s memory.
Some people soak gauze in blessed thistle and apply it to the skin for treating boils, wounds, and ulcers. It is also used as a diuretic for increasing urine output.
For women, blessed thistle is used in remedies for menopause and for menstrual cramping. As a woman ages, her body experiences a number of changes, many of which are the result of shifting hormone levels. This progression leads to changes in the menstrual cycle and eventually culminates in menopause with its many uncomfortable side effects. Blessed Thistle is often used in herbal remedies for these menopause symptoms and for menstrual cramping, as well.
This herb is also often used by lactating women to stimulate blood flow to the mammary glands and to increase the flow of milk. It is considered one of the best medicines for this purpose.
Blessed Thistle was once believed to strengthen the emotions and as such was often used for melancholy, agitation and nervous disorders.
The leaves, dried and powdered, are good for worms.
People who use and appreciate blessed thistle claim that it stimulates the body’s production of bile. this action, they say, makes the herb particularly valuable for liver problems.
Blessed Thistle for Ingestion
- It may be eaten in the green leaf, with bread and butter for breakfast, like watercress
- The dried leaves may be made into a powder and a drachm taken in wine or other beverage every day
- A wine glass of the juice may be taken every day
- The usual and the best method: An infusion may be made of the dried herb, taken any time as a preventive, or when intended to remove disease, at bed time.
Finding Nature’s Blessed Thistle
Blessed Thistle is generally found along roadsides and in wastelands. It is an annual, and reaches to 2 feet tall. Most folks consider this a pesky weed, so cultivation is not common. This plant is covered with tiny spines that are rather painful when they get stuck in the skin, so buying commercial is the easiest way to obtain it.
Culinary Uses of Blessed Thistle
The most common form of ingestion for culinary purposes is through tea. Blessed thistle is generally taken as an herbal tea three to five times per day. As an aromatic bitter, a cup of the unsweetened tea is drunk half-an-hour before meals. It is recommended that boiling water be poured over the finely chopped herb, or alternatively that cold water is added to the herb material and brought to the boil and after 5 to 10 minutes strained.
Generally Blessed Thistle has been used in bitter tonic drinks and in other preparations taken by mouth to enhance appetite and digestion. Usage in and with foods is not recommended.
Not to be used during pregnancy.
Health risks or side effects following the proper administration of designated therapeutic dosages are not recorded. The herb exhibits a strong potential for sensitization (cross- reactions with mugwort and cornflower, among others); however, allergic reactions have rarely been seen.
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