Blessed Thistle

Blessed Thistle (Cnicus benedictus)

Beneficial Qualities

  • Stimulation of digestion (digestive)
  • Cleansing of the blood (depurative)
  • Strengthening nerves (nervine)
  • Stimulating metabolism
  • Antibiotic, antiviral properties
  • Cleansing the liver and kidneys
  • Stimulating the secretion of uric acid (diuretic)
  • Stimulating the secretion of gastric juices
  • Historically known to help aid acid indigestion (heartburn remedy)
  • Reduces flatulence (carminative)
  • Helps counteract diarrhea
  • Generally strengthening as a tonic
  • Herbal Bitter (stimulant, especially good for liver and ovaries)
  • Antiseptic
  • Expectorant
  • Promotes healing of wounds
  • Stimulates transpiration (sudorific)
  • Stimulates appetite
  • Induces the flow of mother's milk (galactagogue)
  • Stimulates menstruation (emmenagogue)
  • May induce vomiting, but only when used in high doses (emetic)


Historically or traditionally known to support the body's function and physiology in:

  • Lessening the severity of fever, colds
  • Reducing outbreaks of herpes, sores, boils, scabies
  • Vertigo, deafness
  • Liver and gall challenges
  • Depression and amnesia
  • Mild headaches
  • Digestive disorders, constipation, diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite, anorexia nervosa
  • Stomach and intestinal complaints, hemorrhoids
  • Reducing accumulation of phlegm in the lungs

Side Effects:
Persons who are allergic to daisy family plants [Fam. Asteraceae] may experience allergy symptoms to Blessed Thistle. High doses (over 5 grams of the herb per cup of infusion) may cause vomiting and diarrhea. The therapeutic dose is safe.

Blessed Thistle is a low growing annual plant, up to 40cm, with Thistle-like appearance. Through its bitter properties, Blessed Thistle increases the flow of gastric juices helping with dyspepsia, indigestion, and headaches associated with liver congestion. British and German Pharmacopoeias recognize that 'bitters', including Blessed Thistle, stimulate bile flow and cleanse the liver. In Europe, Blessed Thistle, as a "bitter vegetable drug" is considered to be a medicinal agent used to stimulate appetite, aid digestion, and promote health. Studies confirm that bitters increase gastric juice and bile acid secretions by increasing the flow of saliva through stimulation of specific receptors on the mucous membrane lining of the mouth. Traditionally in most countries, including England, Germany, Russia, China, India, and Africa, 'bitters' are used to strengthen and tonify the body. Blessed Thistle extracts also have anti-bacterial activity. Research on Blessed Thistle herb has demonstrated antibiotic properties for: 1) cnicin, 2) the essential oil, and 3) the polyacetylenes contained in the herb. The essential oil has bacteriostatic action and may help against Staphylococcus aureus, S. faecalis, but not E. coli. Research on Blessed Thistle has demonstrated that cnicin has considerable activity for stimulating cellular regeneration, detoxification, and cleansing. Cnicin also has anti-inflammatory activity.

Shakespeare recommended Blessed Thistle in his plays for its soothing effect. Blessed Thistle may be used to stimulate secretion of saliva, increase appetite, and even facilitate digestion or stimulate the flow of bile. It has been used as a component in alterative remedies, and has antibacterial and antifungal activity.

Pharmacologic activities for Blessed Thistle include possible blockade of gonadotropin and anti-inflammatory properties. However, there are no reported human clinical trials showing any of these disadvantages. Blessed Thistle is recommended for use by public health personnel in Ontario, Canada, as well as by the Canadian Breastfeeding Foundation. Blessed Thistle has been approved by the German Commission E.