Leaves, flowering tops.
Blessed thistle has numerous therapeutic properties. This herb is an excellent bitter tonic that stimulates the secretions in the stomach, intestines as well as the gallbladder. In fact, the holy thistle, another name for blessed thistle, is taken to treat trivial problems of the digestive system. In addition, blessed thistle is also used to treat intermittent fevers. Blessed thistle possesses gentle antibiotic and expectorant properties. It is also used to prepare a balm to heal sores and wounds. During the Middle Ages, people cultivated the blessed thistle extensively. In those days, this herb was believed to be a cure-all for all types of ailments, counting plague. While the herb is not used so widely now, it is still believed to possess an assortment of applications, while it is primarily used in the form of an active element in many herbal tonics. The entire herb possesses cholagogue, bitter, astringent, diuretic, diaphoretic and potently emetic properties, especially when it is taken in large doses. It is also a stimulant, galactogogue, emmenagogue, stomachic as well as a tonic. A warm infusion prepared from the whole herb is believed to be among the most effectual ways of augmenting a nursing mother's breast milk supply. In addition, the infusion prepared with the whole herb has been employed in the form of a contraceptive and is frequently used to treat problems of the liver and the gallbladder. Blessed thistle is also used internally to treat poor appetite related to depression, dyspepsia, flatulence and as well as anorexia. There was a time when the whole blessed thistle plant was permeated in cold water all night and the liquid was drunk thrice every day to treat VD (venereal disease). It has been documented that it was necessary for men to run after taking every dose of this herbal medication with a view to induce perspiration. Such type of treatment frequently resulted in vomiting and queasiness - in effect, taking the medication in large doses may induce vomiting. Externally, blessed thistle is employed to treat ulcers and wounds. Blessed thistle is harvested during the summer while it starts blossoming and is dried up for use in future. This herb is also used to prepare a homeopathic remedy that is employed to treat gallbladder and liver problems. It may be noted here that the therapeutic guide to herbal medication, the German Commission E Monographs have approved the use of Cnicus benedictus or the blessed thistle for treatment of indigestion (dyspepsia) as well as loss of appetite.
Besides its therapeutic uses, blessed thistle is also used for culinary purposes, especially the young leaves, which are often consumed raw. The flower heads of this herb are harvested prior to the unfolding of the flowers and they have been employed in the form of a substitute for globe artichoke (Cynara cardunculus). Since the flower heads of blessed thistle are somewhat small, employing them in this manner is extremely tricky. The root of blessed thistle is boiled in the form of a pot herb. Blessed thistle is generally used in the form of a flavouring agent.
Blessed thistle belongs to the family Asteraceae. This herb is indigenous to the Mediterranean region and is found growing in the wild over a vast expanse of land ranging from Portugal in the north to France in the south up to Iran in the east. People of other regions of the world are also familiar with this herb and this species has been introduced in different regions of North America, where it grows as a noxious weed. This Mediterranean herb does well on arid stony ground as well as in open area, like meadows and pastures. The leaves and flowering tops of blessed thistle are harvested during the summer. Blessed thistle can be grown without any difficulty in common garden soil. This herb has a preference for arid soil and a sunlit location. Blessed thistle grows best on soils that have adequate manure. It is an extremely decorative plant and is frequently grown in Europe in the form of a medicinal plant as well as for its seeds that yield oil. Blessed thistle is propagated by its seeds that are sown in situ (in their permanent positions) during spring or the early part of autumn. Generally, it takes two to six weeks' time for the seeds to germinate when the temperature is maintained at 10� C.
Blessed thistle contains bitter glycoside called cnicin, flavonoids, essential oil, and mucilage.
Therapeutically, blessed thistle is mainly used in the form of a tincture. Usually, people take 2 ml of the blessed thistle tincture thrice every day. To prepare a tea from blessed thistle add about two grams of the dried up herb to one cup (250 ml) of boiling water and allow it to steep for about 15 minutes. For best results, drink three cups of this tea every day.
People using medications prepared from blessed thistle ought to be aware of its side effects and take necessary precautions. In fact, blessed thistle is a comparatively harmless herb and does not have any side effects. However, any individual having allergic reactions to plants belonging to the daisy family ought to use blessed thistle with caution. When taken in over doses, more than 5 gram in every cup of tea, this herb may result in vomiting. In some countries the use of blessed thistle as a medication is conditional on legal restrictions. The side effects of using blessed thistle may include probable irritation to the eyes. In addition, it may also result in probable cross-reaction with Echinacea and mugwort - sometimes, also blanket flowers, bitter weed, colt's foot, marigold, chrysanthemum and dandelion. Hence, they should not be used in conjugation with blessed thistle. Using blessed thistle may augment secretion of stomach acid and, hence, caution should be exercised by people enduring heartburn and gastric ulcers. This herb may also increase bleeding and, therefore, care should be taken while taking any anticoagulant or blood thinning medications. Blessed thistle should never be used during pregnancy.