Note: Blessed thistle should not be mistaken for milk thistle ( Silybum marianus ) or other members of the thistle family.
The plant was widely cultivated in the Middle Ages in Europe. Its medicinal use was mentioned by Shakespeare in his play Much Ado About Nothing and was prominent in many of the herbals of the period.
The German Commission E approved Blessed thistle for treatment of dyspepsia and loss of appetite.
Thistle is the old English name for a large family of plants chiefly found in Europe and Asia, of which there are fourteen species in Great Britain:
- Holy Thistle
- Milk Thistle
- Scotch Thistle
- Dwarf Thistle
- Creeping Plume Thistle
- Welted Thistle
- Woolly-Headed Thistle
- Melancholy Thistle
- Spear Thistle
- Musk Thistle
- Marsh Plume Thistle
- Carline Thistle
- Common Star Thistle
- Yellow Star Thistle
Medicinal Uses of Blessed Thistle
Blessed Thistle (or Holy) is a thistle that has been cultivated for several centuries in Britain for its medicinal use. It is said to have obtained its name from its high reputation as a heal-all, even able to cure the plague. The whole herb is used.
The plant was at one time supposed to be a cure for fevers of all kinds. A warm infusion of 1 ounce of the dried herb to a pint of boiling water was standard use.
Blessed Thistle is used for strengthening the heart, circulation of the blood, and is useful in all remedies for lung, kidney, and especially liver problems.
Blessed Thistle is also used as a brain food to help stimulate one's memory.
Some people soak gauze in blessed thistle and apply it to the skin for treating boils, wounds, and ulcers. It is also used as a diuretic for increasing urine output.
For women, blessed thistle is used in remedies for menopause and for menstrual cramping. This herb is often used by lactating women to stimulate blood flow to the mammary glands and to increase the flow of milk. It is considered one of the best medicines for this purpose.
Blessed Thistle was once believed to strengthen the emotions and as such was often used for melancholy, agitation and nervous disorders.
The leaves, dried and powdered, are good for worms.
Four different ways of using Blessed Thistle have been recommended for ingestion:
- It may be eaten in the green leaf, with bread and butter for breakfast, like watercress
- The dried leaves may be made into a powder and a drachm taken in wine or other beverage every day
- A wine glass of the juice may be taken every day
- The usual and the best method: An infusion may be made of the dried herb, taken any time as a preventive, or when intended to remove disease, at bed time.
The most common form of ingestion for culinary purposes is through tea. Generally Blessed Thistle has been used in bitter tonic drinks and in other preparations taken by mouth to enhance appetite and digestion. Usage in and with foods is not recommended.
Blessed thistle is generally considered to be safe when used by mouth in recommended doses for short periods of time, with few reported side effects. Direct contact with blessed thistle can cause skin and eye irritation.
Blessed thistle taken in high doses may cause stomach irritation and vomiting. Blessed thistle is traditionally believed to increase stomach acid secretion and may be inadvisable in patients with stomach ulcers, reflux disease (heartburn), hiatal hernia, or Barrett's esophagus.
Blessed Thistle Tea
Hot tea brewing method:
Place 6 tea bags into a teapot or heat resistant pitcher. Pour 1-1/4 cups of freshly boiled water over the tea. Steep for 5 minutes.
Quarter fill a serving pitcher with cold water. Pour the tea into your serving pitcher straining the bags. Add ice and top-up the pitcher with cold water. Garnish and sweeten to taste.
Note: A rule of thumb when preparing fresh brewed iced tea is to double the strength of hot tea since it will be poured over ice and diluted with cold water.
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