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Cnicus benedictus - L.

Common Name Blessed Thistle
Family Asteraceae or Compositae
USDA hardiness 7-10
Known Hazards May cause allergic reaction if sensitive to the Asteraceae/Compositae family. Possible eye irritation. Excess of 5g per cup of tea may cause stomach irritation and vomiting. Possible cross-reactivity with mugwort and echinacea (also bitter weed, blanket flower, chrysanthemum, colt's foot, dandelion and marigold. Increases stomach acid secretion so caution needed with gastric ulcers and heartburn. Possible increase in bleeding - care needed with anticoagulants or blood thining agents [301].
Habitats Dry sunny places in arable, stony and waste ground[7, 9, 165].
Range S. Europe to W. Asia. An infrequent casual in Britain[17].
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Frost Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Cnicus benedictus Blessed Thistle

Cnicus benedictus Blessed Thistle


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Cnicus benedictus is a ANNUAL growing to 0.6 m (2ft).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 8. It is in flower from May to September, and the seeds ripen from July to October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Cnicus microcephalus. Cnicus pseudo-benedictus. Epitrachys microcephala

Plant Habitats

 Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Leaves  Oil  Root
Edible Uses: Condiment  Oil

Young leaves - raw[4, 268]. Flower heads, harvested before the flowers open, have been used as a globe artichoke (Cynara cardunculus) substitute[268]. The flower heads are rather small and using them in this way is very fiddly[K]. Root - boiled as a pot herb[268]. The herb is used as a flavouring[105, 183] (the part that is used is not specified).

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Appetizer  Astringent  Bitter  Cholagogue  Contraceptive  Diaphoretic  Diuretic  Emetic  
Emmenagogue  Galactogogue  Homeopathy  Stimulant  Stomachic  Tonic  VD

The blessed thistle was widely cultivated in the middle ages, when it was seen as a cure-all for all manner of diseases including the plague[238]. Although less widely used nowadays, it is still seen to have a wide range of applications though it is mainly employed as an ingredient in herbal tonics[268]. The whole plant is astringent, bitter, cholagogue, diaphoretic, diuretic, strongly emetic in large doses, emmenagogue, galactogogue, stimulant, stomachic and tonic[4, 7, 9, 21, 165, 207, 222, 268]. A warm infusion of the plant is said to be one of the most effective means of improving the milk supply of a nursing mother[4]. An infusion of the whole plant has also been used as a contraceptive[213] and is often used in the treatment of liver and gall bladder problems[9]. The plant is also used internally in the treatment of anorexia, poor appetite associated with depression, dyspepsia, flatulent colic etc[238]. The whole plant was infused overnight in cold water and the liquid drunk three times daily in the treatment of VD. Men were required to run after each dose in order to encourage sweating. The treatment often caused nausea and vomiting[213] - excessive doses of the plant cause vomiting[7]. The plant is used externally in the treatment of wounds and ulcers[238]. The plant is harvested in the summer as it comes into flower and is dried for later use[4]. A homeopathic remedy is made from the plant[9]. It is used in the treatment of the liver and gall bladder[9]. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Cnicus benedictus for dyspepsia (indigestion) and loss of appetite (see [302] for critics of commission E).

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses


A good quality oil is obtained from the seed[4, 61]. It has been used in emergencies when other oils were not available[222].

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Easily grown in ordinary garden soil[1]. Prefers a dry soil and a sunny position[7]. Grows best in a well manured soil[268]. A very ornamental plant, it is often cultivated in Europe as a medicinal herb and for its oil yielding seed[9, 61].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow in situ in the spring or early autumn[111]. The seed usually germinates in 2 - 6 weeks at 10°c[164].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Blessed Thistle, St. Benedict's thistle, holy thistle, spotted thistle, Cardo bendito, Cardo santo, Cristo pobre.

Native to the Mediterranean region, from Portugal north to southern France and east to Iran. Afghanistan, Africa, Argentina, Asia, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Caucasus, Chile, Czech, Europe, France, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Kurdistan, Macedonia, Mediterranean, North Africa, North America, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, Southern Africa, South America, Spain, Turkey, Uruguay.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

This plant can be weedy or invasive. It is known to be a noxious weed in South Carolina, USA.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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