Main value is a tonic, particularly for the digestive system.
Said to improve circulation and blood, thereby strengthening the brain and memory.
St. Benedict’s thistle, blessed thistle, holy thistle or spotted thistle, is a thistle-like plant in the family Asteraceae, native to the Mediterranean region, from Portugal north to southern France and east to Iran.
The roots of the blessed thistle is used by Algerian locals to heal burns and wounds. When root powder mixture was added to rat wounds during a study, the powder proved more effective in healing the wounds than in natural time.
This plant is common to southern Europe and the Levant, and has been introduced into this and several other countries. It flowers in June, at which time the leaves and tops should be collected, as the plant is at its highest degree of medicinal power; they should be thoroughly and speedily dried, and be kept free from moisture, light, and free access of air. Their odor is faint and rather disagreeable, and their taste is exceedingly bitter. Their properties are yielded to water or alcohol, forming a pleasantly-bitter draught when infused with the former fluid, but a sickening and repulsive decoction.
Chemical Composition.—The leaves yield, upon analysis, an amorphous, brownish-yellow, bitter principle, resin, a fixed oil, gum, sugar, albumen, some salts, etc. The bitter principle was discovered, in 1839, by Nativelle who called it cnicin and is supposed to be the active constituent of the plant. It crystallizes in transparent white needles, which have a bitter taste, are odorless, neutral, unaffected by the atmosphere, are fused and decomposed by heat, slightly soluble in cold, but more so in boiling water, sparingly soluble in ether, but readily in alcohol. Chemically it approaches salicin. Vomiting is produced by it in doses of 5 or 6 grains; 7 or 8-grain doses have proved beneficial in periodical fevers
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—A cold infusion is tonic; a warm infusion diaphoretic and emmenagogue; and, if strong, emetic. Used as a tonic in loss of appetite, dyspepsia, and intermittent diseases. Valuable also in the forming stage of febrile and inflammatory affections. Colds may be broken up with it, and it acts well in menstrual suppression from cold. Dose of the powder, from 10 to 60 grains; of the infusion, 2 fluid ounces; specific cnicus benedictus, 5 to 10 drops, every 4 hours.
Growing Blessed Thistle: Sow Blessed Thistle seeds directly outdoors in the spring after danger of frost has passed. Blessed Thistle grows best in an area of the garden that receives full sun. Requires good soil drainage. Harvest before it flowers. Plant can be cut back by 1/3 and harvested 2 – 3 times during a growing season. If a few flowers are allowed to go to seed, it will re-seed for next year’s use. Birds also enjoy the seed, so some gardeners recommend gathering the herb seeds and sowing it to ensure next year’s supply.
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