Blessed thistle (Cnicus benedictus) has been utilized in herbal medicine for hundreds of years, and originates from the Mediterranean. One of its most common uses is to stimulate breast milk production in nursing mothers. The herb has dozens of practical uses, such as improving appetite and reducing period cramps in women. Blessed thistle is often used as tea, and can be found in capsule and ointment/cream form as well. It is also an ingredient in many 8-herb essiac tea blends.
The most commonly used parts of the plant are the seeds, leaves, and flowers. The plant comes from the Mediterranean, but has gradually spread out and currently grows in many areas of the world. Historically, blessed thistle has been used for centuries, and was very prominent during the medieval times. It has been around since at least the Roman era. It was used for basic healing tasks such as curing headaches, stomachaches, and inflammation, but was also used for issues and pains all over the body. It was seen as a miracle cure-all medicine among the people in that era. The herb is mentioned in Shakespeare’s play “Much Ado about Nothing” as a cure for heartache. The herb has also been used with religious connotation, which is partly how it got its common name.
Benefits of Blessed Thistle:
- It stimulates breast milk production in mothers. This can be found in tea specially formulated for mothers with low breast milk.
- Helps to cure colds and fevers
- Can treat wounds such as ulcers and boils
- Can reduce inflammation
- Increases blood circulation.
- Contains sodium and potassium
- Can improve allergies
- Has antibacterial properties
- Stimulates menstruation
- Decreases pain due to menstruation
- Can relieve headaches
- Can help with diarrhea
- Improves liver function
- Treats loss of appetite
- Treats indigestion and decreases gas production
- The herb stimulates the production of stomach acid and bile, and should not be taken if you have medical issues such as ulcers of the stomach, as it can make them worse.
Similarly, the herb may aggravate acid reflux and heartburn for the reason above.
- Can be used as a diuretic
- Reduces period cramps
- Can improve issues of the liver
Many of these benefits revolve around the same property of the herb. For instance, because the herb is bitter to the taste, it stimulates both bile and stomach acid production. As long as the dosage is kept under control, this property is beneficial to the stomach, liver, gallbladder, and digestive system overall. It can be used to stop diarrhea because it contains astringent properties. The herb also works to regulate hormones associated with menstruation, which is why it helps to stimulate late periods and reduce pain from cramping. In addition to treating a wide variety of discomforts and diseases, the herb has properties that allow it to lead your body towards better health on its own. A prominent component of this is the immunity boosting effects of blessed thistle. It strengthens your immune system’s function, and helps decrease the chance of cancer cells developing into a metastatic tumor. The herb helps your immune cells kill cancer cells before they can develop into a tumor. It also improves the immune system’s ability to destroy other harmful substances in the body, such as bacterial cells that do not belong. One last example is that the herb helps protect your cells from toxins, such as chemicals and pesticides.
Possible Side effects:
As with any substance, there are potential side effects. It is recommended that you not use this herb in high doses, especially through ingestion. It will likely cause discomfort and stomach pain, and could aggravate other areas of the body too.
- Ingesting blessed thistle during pregnancy can trigger miscarriage in early pregnancy, or premature labor in later pregnancy. It affects the tissue of the uterus and should never be taken during pregnancy.
- Diarrhea and vomiting may occur, but usually only if the herb is taken in large quantities.
- Upset stomach may occur due to increased stomach acid and bile, especially if you take the herb on an empty stomach.
- Blessed thistle may trigger allergies, and should be used with caution if you have allergies to plants, especially daisies and sunflowers, as they are from the same family. People allergies to artichokes may also be allergic to this herb.
- Eye irritation may occur
- Blessed thistle may reduce the effectiveness of antacids because it increases stomach acid and bile concentrations.
- May decrease the effectiveness of medications that decrease stomach acid, including H2 Blockers and proton pump inhibitors.
Some of the side effects of blessed thistle are due to improper dosing. Taking a very large dose of the herb will almost certainly induce stomach pain, as well as diarrhea and/or vomiting. This is because the herb increases the concentration of acid in the stomach and promotes digestion. If you take it on an empty stomach, the pain will be more exaggerated. Taking an antacid may have some effect to reduce this, but it is not likely to eliminate the issue with a safe dose. If you already have gastric issues, this herb may do more harm than good. The reason that blessed thistle should be avoided if you have allergies to sunflowers, ragweed, or daisies is that it is from the same family as them, and people commonly develop allergies to similar things. If you are interested in trying the herb for its medicinal purposes but are allergic to one of these plants, you can get allergy tested to determine if it is safe. It is also an option to introduce the blessed thistle in very small amounts to test whether or not you react to it.
Given its huge range of health benefits, maybe blessed thistle really is the miracle cure-all medicine. It’s certainly worth a try if you suffer from any of the issues listed above, since pharmaceutical drugs are often complicated with many side effects. Current pharmaceutical drugs are frequently recent additions to the market, and sometimes turn out to have long-term ill effects years after millions have already used them. In addition, it’s hard to forget that pharmaceutical companies often create these drugs for profit, and that might not always mean the best for our health. Blessed thistle and other herbs grow without thought of monetary profit, and have been proven beneficial for centuries. Always be careful when trying new medicines of any kind, and ensure that you obtain the proper dose. Blessed thistle may just turn out to be medicine you’ve been looking for.