Cnicus benedictus/Carduus benedictus (Compositae)
HOLY THISTLE, BLESSED THISTLE
Named holy thistle because it was
seen as a remedy for the plague, the flowering plant is used internally by
herbalists for sluggish or disturbed digestion. Externally it is applied to
wound and ulcers.
The common names of C. benedictus reflect its veneration as a cure of the plague.
Shakespeare said, in Much Ado About Nothing, that "it is the only thing for a
qualm", but its more recent fame is due to its use in the liqueur Benedictine.
A native of southern Europe, it is naturalized in the United States and cultivated in many other
countries. It is a thistle-like annual with spear-shaped toothed leaves with a spine on each tooth, and flowerheads covered in sharp bristly scales.
Bitter glycosides, including cnicin; alkaloids; volatile oil; tannins; mucilage.
Astringent; bitter (digestive stimulant); prevents haemorrhage; induces sweating.
Used internally in the treatment of anorexia, indigestion, sluggish digestion,
and infectious gastritis (stomach inflammation), and applied externally to wounds and ulcers. Many related thistles are used medicinally;
for example, Chinese physicians prescribe tiger thistle to stop internal bleeding and for high blood pressure.