Cnicus benedictus (Blessed Thistle) has been around a very long time since the Greek and Roman times. The Greeks called this herb knekos, or thistle, became cnicus to the Romans (Keville, 1996). In medieval days, it was called carduus benedictus, or "blessed thistle", because its virtues made it considered a cure-all (Keville, 1996). Many different formulas through the centuries used blessed thistle, including plague treatments (Keville, 1996). Blessed Thistle is known as Holy thistle which does have antiseptic and antibiotic properties (Houdret, 2002). Monks in medieval Europe were very fond of blessed thistle and added it as a tonic to their elixirs (Keville, 1996). It was even said to strengthen the emotions as Shakespeare knew when he wrote in " Much Ado About Nothing" " Get you some of this distilled Carduus Benedictus and lay it to your heart; it is the only thing for a qualm... I mean plain holy thistle" (Keville, 1996).
This is a bitter herb that was used for fevers and it was said to be helpful for nursing mothers to improve the supply of milk (Houdret, 2002). Blessed thistle is native to the Mediterranean region of Europe, and has been naturalized throughout the United States and Europe (Natural Medicines, 2015). It may be used with benefit in appetite loss (anorexia), dyspepia and indigestion (Hoffman, 1996). Blessed thistle has been Generally Recognized As Safe status (GRAS) for use in foods in the United States (Natural Medicines, 2015). It is used in manufacturing, blessed thistle is used as a flavoring in alcoholic beverages In manufacturing, blessed thistle is used as a flavoring in alcoholic beverages (Natural Medicines, 2015). Blessed thistle may also be included in the unproven anti-cancer herbal remedy, Essiac® (Natural Medicines, 2015). The herb has been tested in vitro for its antimicrobial, anticancer and anti-inflammatory effects, with some positive results (Natural Medicines, 2015). However, no controlled trials have documented clinical benefits in humans (Natural Medicines, 2015).
Keville, K. (1996) The Illustrated Herb Encyclopedia - A Complete Culinary, Cosmetic, Medicinal and Ornamental Guide To Herbs, (New York, NY: Mallard Press: 1991), 68
Houdret, J, (2002) Herbs (New York, NY - Hermes House, Anness Publishing Inc.) pp 136
Hoffmann, D. (1996) The Complete Illustrated Herbal. (New York, NY: Barnes & Noble Inc,), 79
Natural Medicines (2015) Blessed Thistle, Therapeutic Research Center https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=94