The Blessed Thistle
The blessed thistle (Cnicus Benedictus) also known by many other names including Holy Thistle, Spotted Thistle, and sometimes simply Cinicus, is a flowering plant which is common throughout southern Europe and western Asia. The Blessed Thistle is relatively easy to identify so long as you identify the following traits. The leaves should be green and covered in fine hairs with several large spikes protruding from the leaf edges, the dandelion-like flower is unmistakable as underneath it lies a network of sharp spines that will make your job much harder when trying to forage the edible parts of the plant. It is mostly found on damaged lands such as wildfire sites, flood-damaged sites and more.
Historic Uses and Tales
The blessed thistle's holy reputation comes from its uses as an herbal medicine during the middle ages. It is believed that the name 'blessed thistle' comes from the battle of 1st Century King of Franks, Charlemagne. His army is said to have been dying from the bubonic plague when an angel came to him in his sleep and advised the kind to feed his army the thistle plant. Legend has it that the blessed thistle cured the bubonic plague of each of his soldiers and they went on to win the battle. While the accuracy of this tale could be debated, it's a cool story anyway! One accurate part of this tale was that the blessed thistle was seen by many herbal doctors during the middle ages as medicine to cure the bubonic plague.
The blessed thistle is still today used as a common herbal medicine to cure and treat the ill. The plant is used to promote gastrointestinal health, help detoxify the liver, contains anti-inflammatory qualities, and can stimulate breast milk production in new mothers (the plague isn't so much of an issue now!) The blessed thistle boost the production bile in the digestive system, which boosts the production of other bodily fluids that aid in the breaking down of food. This means that foods such as carbohydrates and fat are digested more easily which in turn leads to lower cholesterol. The increased production of bile also helps to detoxify the liver, making the blessed thistle a handy plant for improving liver health.
A compound found in the plant named cnicin has anti-inflammatory properties which have been found to eliminate inflammations in the body. Despite this, there is a warning against taking this plant if you have an inflammatory bowel disease. However, the plant is great to use on inflammation on the skin, as the blessed thistle can also help remedy infections. This makes it a great survival plant to use in case of injury. Finally, the plant is also used as a way to increase breast milk production. The blessed thistle acts as a diuretic, which increases the flow of breast milk for mothers. This also means that the plant increases the production of urine! This comes with another warning as the plant is not recommended for those who are pregnant.
How to use
The most common way to take the blessed thistle is by making a tea from the leaves of the plant. Take the top leaves of the plant (you may want to use gloves!) and store in a bag or basket. Once you have brought them home, you can use them fresh in some boiling water for 5 minutes and your tea will be ready for drinking. You will probably need some honey or sugar to make it less bitter. You can also preserve it for long time use by spreading out onto a rack and allowing to dry for a day or two. Once you are ready to use it, take about 1 to 3 teaspoons of the shredded plant per cup of boiling water and seep for 5 minutes.
Thank you all very much for taking the time to read my post, I hope you enjoyed it and found it interesting.