Blessed Thistle has an amazing variety of folk history, medicinal uses, and modern applications. One of the first English descriptions of Blessed Thistle medicinal qualities is John Gerard from 1633: “As Carduus Benedictus is bitter, so is it also hot and dry in the second degree, and also withal cleansing and opening. Blessed thistle taken in meat or drink is good for the swimming and giddiness of the head; it strengthens the memory and is a singular remedy against deafness. The same boiled in wine and drunk, heals the griping pains of the belly, kills and expels worms, causes sweat, provokes urine, and drives out gravel, cleanses the stomach; and is very good against the 4 day fever. The juice of the said Carduus is singular good against all poisons, as Heromenous Boeke witnesses, in whatsoever the medicine is taken, and helps the inflammation of the liver, as reported by Joachimus Camerorius of Noremberg. The powder of the leaves ministered in the quantity of half a dram, is very good against the pestilence, if it is received within 24 hours after the taking of the sickness, and the party sweat upon the same: the like virtue has the wine, wherein the herb has been boiled. The green herb pounded and laid to, is good against all hot swellings, as erysipelas, plague, sores and botches, especially those that proceed of the pestilence, and is also good to be laid upon the bites of mad dogs, serpents, spiders, or any venomous beast whatsoever; and so is it likewise if it is taken inwardly. The distilled water thereof is of a less virtue.”
Further added is, “It is reported that it likewise cures stubborn and rebellious ulcers, if the decoction is taken for certain days together, and likewise Arnoldus de Villanova reports, that if it is stamped with Barrows grease to the form of an unguent, adding thereto a little wheat flower, it does the same, being applied twice a day. The herb also is good being stamped and applied, so is the juice.”
“The extraction of the leaves drawn according to art, is excellent good against the French disease, and quatrain agues, as reported of the aforesaid Camerarius.”
“The same author reports, that the distilled water taken with the water of Lovage and Dodder, helps the sauce-flegme face, if it is drunk for certain days together. ”
Bruno Vonarburg describes the uses, “ …as a tea, it is useful for dyspeptic problems of the gastro-intestinal tract, colon problems, to increase energy, for cramps of the liver-gallbladder area. It is useful for appetite disturbances, hyper and hypo-acidity (too little or too much stomach acidity), and under activity of the pancreas, jaundice, blood problems and sticking pains in the side.” (I assume it is the liver or right side.)
The Flora website lists the traditional uses of Blessed Thistle: “Aqueous extract of whole, dried herb and flowers. Traditional usage: Acne, anorexia/appetite loss, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, cellular regeneration, cleansing, detoxifying, digestive disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, headaches, hormone imbalances, skin disorders. Through its bitter properties, blessed thistle increases the flow of gastric juices relieving 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 mucus membrane lining of the mouth.”
Dr. Fr. Losch talks about the uses of Blessed thistle: “Powdered Blessed thistle of 2 to 4 grams in wine protects against the pestilence, poisons, and removes bad material out of the stomach and kills worms, cleanse the chest and blood, calms colic, promotes sweating, protects against the foul stomach fever, pains of the side, and inner wounds. Blessed thistle taken in food and drink helps dizziness and severe headaches over the eyes.”
Earl Mindell lists the folk uses of Blessed Thistle as, “Amenorrhea, stimulates bile production, liver disorders, sluggish appetite, improves circulation, stimulates memory, resolves blood clots, stops bleeding, menstrual problems, and lowers fevers.”
Stan Malstrom describes the uses of Blessed Thistle: “For internal parasites; works well for worms. Increases milk while nursing, balances hormones, and helps with cramps and other female problems.” Terry Willard, an eminent herbologist describes Blessed thistle, “Tonic, (cold), diaphoretic (hot), emmenagogue and emetic (in double or triple doses).” James Duke describes a newly researched use for Blessed thistle as having anti-HIV activity.
John Tobe describes the action of Blessed thistle as, “Aleipharmic, anthelmintic. From Thomas Green-Universal Herbal “…capable of curing the plague and other malignant feveral disorders…’ Useful for ointments externally.” E.A. Mueller’s book Die Frau als Hausärztin (Mother as the home’s doctor) is used for “gout, bladder stones, asthma. It is also used for chronic colon disturbances, fever diseases, and seeds are extracted for blood problems.”
Schöenenberger describes the traditional Swiss uses: “The inner uses-the entire plant is heart and stomach strengthening, is especially good for mucus congestion. Inflammation and wounds of the stomach and colon. Also from lung mucus, liver problems, jaundice, fevers, cancer like wounds, and weakness from chronic diarrhea,, and constitutional weakness from the tea.”
Dieter Podlech recommend Blessed Thistle as “Useful for loss of appetite, colon problems. Useful for liver and gallbladder problems and increase bowel movement.” Hugo Hertwig, from pre-world war II Germany from Berlin describes the “…inner and outer uses of Blessed thistle works on the skin. The wound needs to be cleansed with water and then the decoction can be put on. Blessed thistle uses are shown as skin problems over the stomach, liver, kidneys to the lungs areas.”
M. Pahlow describes the uses of Blessed thistle: “It stimulates the stomach acid, improves the appetite, protects against colon problems. It stimulates bile production and bile flow. It is useful for chronic stomach problems, and loss of appetite from nervous reasons. Traditional uses include stomach, gallbladder, liver and colon disturbances, appetite loss, bloating, and constipation. It is also used for lung problems, blood poisoning, heart disturbances, and externally for wounds.”
Richard Willfort describes internal and external uses of Blessed thistle: “Used for colon problems, gallbladder diseases, liver diseases, jaundice, and gastritis, dyspepsia, gas, and bloating…Also used for constipation, feverish diseases and sluggishness of the gastrointestinal tracts, and weakness of the stomach operations. It also improves and cleanses the blood, anemia. it improves the lung and heart. It is especially good for coughs, catarrh; beginning lung inflammation, lung or heart asthma, heart weakness that are connected with stomach or colon problems. Used externally as a damp warm pack for breast cancer, poor healing wounds, frostbite, and skin lupus of the face. Folk medicine uses include a wound powder, cancer therapy includes a decoction put on breast cancer. It is also useful for cancer-like wounds of the colon and stomach. It regulates excessive menstrual blood flow. It is useful as a nerve calmer. It is also helpful for insomnia, hysteria, and nervous colon tract problems. The seed is used for side pains, purgative, and to induce vomiting.” He also discusses the homeopathic uses of Blessed Thistle, known as Carduus Benedictus. In Europe, many natural practitioners use a combination of several therapies to help the body heal. He says, “Homeopathy uses are for glandular diseases, scrofula, wounds, and mucus.”
Jacobus Theodorus Tabernaemontanus compiled a very comprehensive list of the uses of Blessed Thistle in various forms, known at that time. The next several paragraphs pertain to his book, and there will only be one foot note to apply to all. Perhaps we have more to learn today. I have translated this from German and this translation is the only known English translation: “The powder (of the herb or the seed), one teaspoon consumed, produces sweating and drives the poison from the heart. It cleanses the blood and kills worms. Used in such a way, is a protection against the pestilence, and doesn’t let the poison overrun you. The general person needs this powder against the persistent fever and as prevention against it.”
He further states, “The powder consumed in warm wine causes sweating: others boiled the herb in wine and drink therefrom, but it is a bitter drink (If you can’t stand the taste make pills.) Taken over a period of time protects against headaches, vertigo, floaters before the eyes, jaundice, edema, and drives the excess dampness from the stomach and uterus, calms the colon, gout, brightens the face, and sharpens the hearing, and cleanses the lungs. This powder taken as one teaspoon, is used for quaternian (four-day) fever, and children’s rheumatic complaints…” and again, “This herb is especially good as a liver herb to alleviate constipation. those that have an open wound inside the body should take blessed thistle, boiled in wine or water, and thus drunk, will help him. The new Simplicisten as Matthiolus, Bokius, and others think that this will help migraine headaches that appear above the eyes and sometimes cause vertigo. Use this in food and drink.”
“External uses. Matthiolus writes that there is hardly another more precious herb for cancer, and other foul wounds as blessed thistle. He relates that a woman with breast cancer wound open to the bone was healed by the herb (decocted) and it was used to wash the open wound and the dry powder was put in.”
Continuing, “The flower of blessed thistle in open wounds heals them up and is often protective. The leaves cut and laid upon, heals the pestilence. The leaves extinguish the burn of the fire (such as the sting or bite of the scorpion or snake). Make a plaster of pork fat and wheat paste with red wine ( and blessed thistle powder), lay it on foul wounds.”
Also, “You can drive out stones and alleviate women’s problems with a steam bath or sweat bath. the leaves mixed with sweet wine, laid on the wound brings good relief.”
“Blessed Thistle distilled uses: D. Camerarius says that the distilled water of Blessed Thistle distilled a second time is a special medicinal agent for deafness when it is put in the ears. To treat headaches, soak a linen cloth in the distilled herb water and put on the head. The same water put in the eyes relieves sore, red, itching eyes. One can also remove eye spots by drinking the water and putting it in the corner of the eyes. It is also used for dark and obscured eyes (cataracts). It also takes the pain from burns caused by water or oil; put a cloth soaked with this water. It is also used for old foul wounds also on the face of the female breasts, when washed soothes and furthers wound healing, especially when your put the powder into the wound. This is also for post-birth wounds.”
Blessed Thistle in wine: It is useful for all wounds. As with the distilled water, it is useful for the pestilence, poison, headaches, vertigo, dirty blood, and many others. It provokes sweating and menses, as well as urination. It is useful for side aches and sharp pains when associated with wind causes (trapped gas), and drives out the foul stomach fever.”
Gaea and Shandar Weiss describe Blessed Thistle, “It is tonic, diaphoretic, emetic, stimulant, and emmenagogic. Considered a tonic for the heart, …it increases circulation. Promotes perspiration, breaks fevers, increases milk in nursing mothers. Blood purifier and a general tonic. In large amounts it induces vomiting, and is a general stomach tonic. In medieval times, … nervous system, treating melancholy, mental agitation, and other nervous disorders with valerian, wood betony, and sage. The name of holy thistle comes from its ability to keep people relaxed, calm peaceful. All thistles are considered tonics for the liver. Blessed thistle is warming, drying, and used for liver problems especially with alcohol. Blessed thistle is a tonic herb for the liver, reproductive system and blood. It is a spleen cleanser.”
Emil Schlegel writes in his book Religion Der Arznei (Religion of the Healer) about the doctrine of signatures. His rendition of the theme is not connected to astrological themes but comes from earlier latin texts. He translates from J.B. Porta in his “Phytognomonica, octo libris contenta; in quibus nova facillimaque affertur methodus, qua plantarum, animalium, metallorum; rerum d enique omnium ex prima extimae faciei inspetione quivis abdiot vires assequatur.” The reader will see an interesting and thorough work where a portion that deals with blessed thistle I translated into English, “Plants that have a similarity with animal parts, have similar powers. The raspberry bush is thorny and works against poisons, for example Carduus Benedictus, not just against snake bites, but against the rabid dog bite, and is effective also for scorpion, spider bites, etc…” (pg 67)
Chapter 5. “Of bitter tastes… Myrrh, aloe, blessed thistle, gentian, wormwood, veronica, etc. It has two wonderful qualities. It keeps the bowel clean and has a balsamic character that prevents fermentation. It prevents and helps septic diseases such as fevers, parasites, and lice.” (pg 91) Chapter 8. “Yellow blooms. They have a sympathy with the gallbladder. It is the bile that removes the toxicity of the joints and body. (In fact the coloring of the stool as well as urine comes from the bile.) Whenever I have a plant, that has a yellow bloom, it removes toxicity from the body...yet a drawing taste, belongs to the spleen and black bile, especially where the root is reddish or gray: Wormwood, yellow iris, tormentil, blessed thistle, potentilla reptans, urginea maritima…”(pg 101)
Chapter 23. “Special Forms of Leaves. All leaves that have thorns, have a pain relieving energy (spiritum), it calms many kinds of puncture wounds of the body, but as the signature shows, it is not an opiate, but has a sharp character. Blessed thistle alleviates stabbing pan of the spleen and left side. Frauendistel (Milk Thistle), alleviates stabbing pains of the neck. Eberwurz (Carline Thistle), relieves stabbing pains in pestilent diseases. Mannestreu (Sea Holly), all stabbing pains in the empty spaces (of the body). Wacholderschösslein (Juniper stems), for stabbing pains in the hips. Stechpalmenblätler (Holly leaves), relieve stabbing pains of the joints. All leaves that are long and thin are a sign of the spleen. Spitzwegerich (Plantain), Farnkrauter (Fern herbs), Weidenblatter (Willow leaves), Blessed thistle. All leaves that have hairy leaves, but are rough, have a power against corrosive inflammations of the arteries…blessed thistle releases the heat of the arteries in the area of the spleen and the quartan (four-day) fevers…” (pg107-108)
Dr. Christopher’s therapeutic action of Blessed thistle is, “Tonic (cold), diaphoretic, (hot), emetic (double or triple dosage), emmenagogue, stimulant, febrifuge, antiperiodic, vulnerary. Blessed thistle is wonderful for nursing mothers, stimulating the production of mother’s milk. it is very useful in purifying the blood, aiding circulation, and for all liver problems. As a tonic it strengthens the brain, heart, and stomach. Medicinal uses; biliousness, chronic headaches, colds dropsy, dyspepsia, emesis, fractured bones (poultice), heart problems, insanity, intermittent fevers, kidneys, liver, loss of appetite, lungs, strengthens memory, menstrual disorders due to colds, painful menstruation, mother’s milk, purification of blood.”
Peter Holme puts the use of blessed thistle in Chinese therapeutic terms: “Functions and indications – 1)Stimulates digestion, removes accumulations and relieves appetite loss: reduces liver congestion and resolves mucous damp. Liver and stomach Qi stagnation: appetite loss, painful digestion, depression, constipation, headache. Liver congestion, jaundice. Intestines mucus damp (spleen damp): indigestion, gurgling distended abdomen, alternating constipation and diarrhea. Chronic gastroenteritis. 2) Promotes urination, relieves fluid congestion and relieves edema: resolves toxicosis and promotes lactation. Liver fluid congestion: edema from waist down, nausea. Kidney Qi stagnation: headaches, dry skin, poor appetite, intermittent pains. General toxicosis with rheumatism, arthritis, gout. Poor vision, Scanty or poor quality breast milk. 3) Promotes sweating, dispels wind cold and reduces fever: promotes eruptions. External wind cold: feverishness, fatigue, aching. Cold and flue onset. Eruptive fevers: measles, chickenpox, etc. Remittent fevers (Shao Yang stage) including malaria. Head damp cold: sinus congestion, dizziness, heavy head. 4) Promotes expectoration, resolves viscous phlegm and relieves coughing. Lung phlegm damp: full cough, wheezing, coughing up thick viscous phlegm. Chronic bronchitis, bronchial asthma. 5) Restores the nerves, promotes clear thinking and relieves depression and fatigue. Nerve and brain deficiency: dull thinking memory loss, dizziness, poor hearing, tinnitus, nervous depression. Exhaustion or debility due to overwork, illness, chronic stress. 6) Promotes tissue repair, antidotes poison and reduces tumors. Slow- healing wounds, sores, internal ulcers. Tumors, cancer. Stings, bites, chilblains.”
Based upon the previous lists of uses for Blessed thistle from historic, herbal, and folk medicine uses, the top remedy uses are for wounds(15), liver problems (14), fevers, (13), stomach problems (13), colon problems (10), blood problems(10), and appetite disturbances (10).
The next several uses are for headaches (9), lungs (8), heart (7), emetic (6), menstrual problems (6), sweating (6), and parasite problems (6). Other uses of blessed thistle call for pestilence (5), poisons(5), bites (4), cancer (4), constipation (4), deafness (4), depression (4), dizziness (4), dyspeptic problems, jaundice (5), gallbladder problems (4), memory (4), milk production, (4), nervous disorders (4), and side pains (4).
As from the above sources, this next part is a comprehensive list of disorders treated by blessed thistle: Acne, agitation, alexipharmic, amenorrhea, anemia, anorexia, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-periodic, appetite disturbances, bile stimulant, bites, bitter, bladder stones, bleeding, bloating, blood clots, blood problems, botches, bowel movements, brain, breast cancer, bronchitis, burns, cancer, catarrh, cataracts, cellular regeneration, chilblains, chickenpox, circulation, cleansing, colds, colic, colon problems, constipation, coughs, cramps, deafness, depression, detoxification, diarrhea, diaphoretic, edema, emetic, energy, erysipelas, exhaustion, expectoration, eye problems, fatigue, fevers, flu, fractured bones, French disease, frostbite, gallbladder problems, gas, gastritis, hyper-acidity, hypo-acidity, indigestion, inflammation, insanity, jaundice, kidney, lice, liver, lungs, lupus, malaria, measles, memory, menses problems, migraines, milk production, mucus damp, mucus congestion, nausea, nervous system, pancreas, pestilence, plague, poison, purgative, quatrain agues, relaxant, reproductive system, rheumatism, septic diseases, side pains, sinus congestion, skin disorders, sores, spleen, sticking pains, stimulant, stomach problems, stones, stress, sweating, swellings, tonic, toxicity, tumors, ulcers, uterine problems, and urination problems. Thus, Blessed Thistle has a vast array of historical uses.