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What is Blessed Thistle?

Blessed thistle
Other Names: Bitter Thistle, Carbenia Benedicta, Cardo Santo, Cnicus benedictus, Holy Ghost Herb, Spotted Thistle, St. Benedict's Thistle

Note: Although the plants look similar, blessed thistle (Cnicus benedictus) has much different uses than milk thistle (Silybum marianum). Individuals who have any doubts about the thistle product they plan to take should not take it.

Health benefits of blessed thistle:
Blessed thistle is a bitter herb usually taken by mouth to relieve indigestion and diarrhea. It may also be taken to improve appetite and it is approved by the German E Commission (the German government agency that oversees the us eof herbal products) as an appetite enhancer. Historically, women have taken it to increase the flow of breast milk after having a baby, but this use is no longer recommended because no studies have been conducted to evaluate blessed thistle's effects on infants.

Topically, a poultice of blessed thistle is used to soothe skin irritated by burns, scrapes, shaving, sunburn, and other relatively minor injuries. A poultice is usually a soft cloth that has been soaked in a medication, possibly heated, and applied to an aching or injured area of skin surface. Blessed thistle contains chemicals which have an astringent effect. Astringents shrink and tighten the top layers of skin or mucous membranes, thereby reducing secretions, relieving irritation, and improving tissue firmness.

When should I be careful taking it?
When taken by mouth, blessed thistle can irritate the lining of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. For most individuals, this irritation is minor. However, it can worsen gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), ulcers, and inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Therefore individuals who have any GI condition should not use blessed thistle.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid taking blessed thistle because not enough is known about how it might affect developing babies or infants.

What side effects should I watch for?

Major Side Effects:
Blessed thistle in single oral doses of 5,000 mg (5 grams) or more has been reported to cause vomiting.

Less Severe Side Effects:
Blessed thistle belongs to the same family of plants that also includes chrysanthemums, daisies, and ragweed. Individuals who are sensitive to any of these types of plants may also be sensitive to blessed thistle.

What interactions should I watch for?
If blessed thistle is taken by mouth, it may increase the production of stomach acid, potentially interfering with Histamine-2 (H-2) receptor blockers and proton pump inhibitors.

H-2 receptor blockers include:

cimetidine (Tagamet)
famotidine (Pepcid)
nizatidine (Axid)
ranitidine (Zantac)

Proton pump inhibitors include:

omeprazole (Prilosec)
pantoprazole (Protonix)
Non-prescription Drugs

Blessed thistle may possibly increase the production of acid in the stomach, thereby interfering with the effectiveness of antacids and over-the-counter medications such as Pepcid AC, Prilosec OTC, and Zantac AR.

Some interactions between herbal products and medications can be more severe than others. The best way for you to avoid harmful interactions is to tell your doctor and/or pharmacist what medications you are currently taking, including any over-the-counter products, vitamins, and herbals. For specific information on how blessed thistle interacts with drugs, other herbals, and foods and the severity of those interactions.

Should I take it?
Blessed thistle is believed to have originated in areas around the Mediterranean Sea. It now grows as a weed in most mild and warm climates. Smaller than some other thistles, blessed thistle plants are usually between 12 inches and 20 inches tall, with thick stems and long, deeply toothed leaves. Both the stems and leaves are covered with fuzz and the leaves have sharp, spiny, thorn-like projections. Small yellow flowers bloom during most of the summer. The part of blessed thistle that is used in medicine is called the "flowering tops", which consists of flowers, leaves, and upper stems--gathered while the plants are in full bloom, and then chopped and dried for use.

Blessed thistle has a long history as both food and medicine. Roman are known to have used its leaves and roots for vegetables as long as 1,500 years ago. Its leaves began to be used to feed cattle and other farm animals at about the same time. During the Middle Ages, blessed thistle was considered to be useful in treating numerous conditions, including bubonic plague and smallpox. It was often grown in medicinal herb gardens at European monasteries. The Latin name of blessed thistle honors St. Benedict, who is traditionally accepted as the founder of monasteries in Italy. Brothers of St. Benedict have used it for centuries as a flavoring for their Benedictine liqueur. Today, blessed thistle is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as flavoring for other alcoholic drinks.

Dosage and Administration:
Note: Blessed thistle and milk thistle are different plants with distinctly different properties and uses. Individuals should not use any thistle product if they are unsure of its origin.

Recommended doses of blessed thistle range from 1,500 mg to 6,000 mg (1.5 grams to 6 grams) a day. Blessed thistle can be used to make a tea by soaking about 1/2 teaspoon (approximately 2 grams) of dried blessed thistle in about 5 ounces of boiling water for 10 minutes to 15 minutes. The solid particles should be removed before drinking the tea. Because the tea has a bitter taste, it is often sweetened before drinking. The risk of gastrointestinal (GI)irritation increases with increasing doses of blessed thistle. Therefore, using more than about 5,000 mg (5 grams) of blessed thistle at one time is not recommended.

For topical use, either a soft, clean cloth may be soaked in blessed thistle tea or the solid parts left after a tea is made may be folded into a cloth and then the cloth applied to the affected area. Blessed thistle can be applied as often as needed.

By mouth, blessed thistle products are used primarily to treat gastrointestinal complaints such as poor appetite, indigestion, and diarrhea. Blessed thistle can also be applied to relieve skin irritation.

Because blessed thistle can irritate the esophagus, stomach, and intestines, so individuals who already have gastrointestinal irritation from GERD, ulcers, or inflammatory bowel conditions should not take it orally. Small children and pregnant or breast-feeding women also should avoid its use because not enough is known about its effects on developing babies and children.

Individuals who are allergic to members of the daisy family of plants may have allergic reactions from taking blessed thistle products or handling the plants.

Side Effects:
Oral blessed thistle doses of 5,000 mg (5 grams) or greater may cause severe vomiting.

Orally, blessed thistle can interfere with prescription and non-prescription drugs that suppress stomach acid.

Solaray's Blessed Thistle

Nature's Answer's Blessed Thistle Extract

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