Other Common Names:
The other common names for the herb thistle are Blessed Thistle, St. Benedict Thistle, Holy Thistle, Spotted Thistle, Cardin and Carduus Benedictus.
Medieval monks held this plant in high esteem, as the name suggests and considered it a cure for everything from smallpox to headaches, being supposed to even cure the plague. It has been stated that the herb was first cultivated by Gerard in 1597, and infact there is also a quote about the herb thistle in the Herbal of Turner in 1568. (Grieve, M.)Blessed Thistle is an old English name for a large family of plants occurring chiefly in Europe and Asia. There are 14 species of Thistles just in Great Britain.
Thistle is an annual plant which grows about 2 feet high. The stem is reddish in colour and mostly slender. For being slender and under the weight of its leaves and flower heads the stem is not able to maintain upright. The leaves are long, narrow, with prominent pale veins and the irregular teeth of the wavy margin ending in spines. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by insects.
It is in flower from May to September, and the seeds ripen from July to October. The flowers are pale yellow, in green prickly heads, each scale of the involucre, or covering of the head, ending also in a long, brown bristle.
The thistle herb is a native of Southern Europe and it grows more readily in England in cultivation. It is an infrequent casual in Britain. Thus it is widely distributed in southern Europe, western Asia and North America.
It is usually seen in dry sunny arable places, stony and waste grounds. The plant prefers light sandy, medium loamy and heavy clay soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic alkaline soils.
Thistle is mainly cultivated for its oil yielding seeds which is of medicinal use. It prefers a dry and well manured soil. This herb is propagated by seed. Allow 2 feet each way when thinning out the seedlings. The seeds are usually sown in spring, but if the newly-ripened seeds are sown in September or October in sheltered situations, it is possible to have supplies of the herb green, both summer and winter. The seed usually germinates in 2 - 6 weeks at 10°c.
The pale yellow flowers of the thistle are in bloom from May to September.
The whole herb of the thistle plant is of both medicinal and culinary use. The leaves and flowering tops are collected in July, just as the plant breaks into flower, and cut on a dry day, the best time being about noon, when there is no longer any trace of dew on them.
• It helps in treating conditions of the stomach and acts as a tonic, creating appetite and preventing sickness.
• It is said to have great power in the purification and circulation of the blood, and thus strengthening the brain and the memory.
• The leaves, dried and powdered, are good for worms.
• It is considered one of the best medicines which can be used for the nursing mother for improving the milk supply.
• Thistle is a good remedy for all kinds of aches and also helps in better hearing.
• Thistle is mainly employed as an ingredient in herbal tonics.
• Thistle helps in curing vertigo and plague.
• It is also been used as a contraceptive and in the treatment of liver and gall bladder problems.
• The plant is also used internally in the treatment of anorexia, poor appetite associated with depression, dyspepsia, flatulent colic etc.
• It is used in treating veneral diseases in men.
• Blessed Thistle has been used as a mild antibiotic, an anti-inflammatory, a treatment for lapsed menstrual cycles, and for smallpox, plague, and hepatitis.
• Blessed Thistle is externally used for chill blains, sores and wounds.
• The herb may be eaten on bread and butter, like Watercress.