Blessed Thistle is an herbal medicine from the Cardo Santo plant that was considered sacred during the European Middle Ages because of its healing properties. During that time Cnicus herb was commonly used as a digestive stimulant, a tonic, and was eaten as a vegetable. During the 16th century, it was even mentioned by William Shakespeare in his play Much Ado about Nothing (1598: 1599 CE).
It comes from the Asteraceae plant family of the Mediterranean areas of Portugal and the South of France.
Blessed Thistle is one of the medicinal herbs that have a certain degree of acceptance within the medical community. Today, the German E Commission, a government agency that oversees the use of herbal products approves the plant’s ability to increase appetite and support the digestive process. It is also an approved food additive in the United States as seen in liqueurs like Benedictine.
The plant is known by other names such as the following:
- Cardo Bendito
- Cardo Santo
- Carduus Benedictus
- Cnici Benedicti Herba
- Holy Thistle
Unlike many herbal supplements, this one may be recommended to pregnant women. It’s quite interesting that public health nurses in Canada and the Canadian Breastfeeding Foundation encourages pregnant women to use the plant for increased lactation.
Apart from being used to stimulate lactation for breastfeeding mothers, the plant also has other health benefits. These benefits, however, have not all undergone clinical trials in terms of its safety and effectiveness:
- Fights bacterial infections
- Treats indigestion and flatulence
- Prevents excessive bleeding
- Treats yeast infections
- Increases breast milk production
- Alleviates many premenstrual syndrome symptoms
- Lessens or possibly halts inflammations
- Stimulates bile production
Blessed thistle contains sesquiterpene lactones, triterpenoids, lignans, tannins, essential oils, flavonoids, and polyenes. – National Institute of Health
The key component of blessed thistle is cnicin, which treats the loss of appetite and indigestion by stimulating the secretion of gastric juices and saliva. It also assists with the detoxification of the liver by stimulating the flow of bile. Other main benefits of the plant include being used as a component of the alternative disease remedy Flor-essence and having anti-inflammatory properties.
However, like the previous benefits listed there are no reported clinical trials for any of these main benefits. Most of the available literature on the plant is theoretical in nature, and still lacks concrete evidence. Nevertheless, based on its usage for thousands of years, the plant has evidently been used to treat several health conditions.
While much anecdotal evidence exists, Blessed Thistle still needs to be studied further. Anyone considering the use of alternative medicine may want to try the blessed thistle given how many people attest to its healing properties.