Carbenia benedicta. N.O. Compositae.
Synonym ► Carduus benedictus, Blessed Thistle.
Features ► Thomas Johnson, in his edition of Gerard’s Herbal, published in 1636, gives us the following description of this member of the familiar thistle family ► “The stalks of Carduus benedictus are round, rough and pliable, and being parted into diverse branches, do lie flat on the ground ; the leaves are jagged round about and full of
harmless prickles in the edges; the heads on the top of the stalks are set with and environed with sharp prickling leaves, out of which standeth a yellow flower; the seed is long and set with hairs at the top like a beard; the root is white and parted into strings; the whole herb, leaves and stalks, and also the heads, are covered with a thin down.”
Action ► Although more popular among the old herbalists than among those of to-day. Holy Thistle is still valued for its tonic, stimulant and diaphoretic properties.
Mainly used in digestive troubles, the 1 ounce to 1 pint infusion, given warm in wineglass doses several times daily, is also found capable of breaking up obstinate colds. As it is held to stimulate the mammary glands, the infusion has been given with the object of promoting the secretion of milk.
Tilke is enthusiastic in his praise of the herb ► “I have found it such a clarifier of the blood, that by drinking an infusion once or twice a day, sweeted with honey, instead of tea, it would be a perfect cure for the headache, or what is commonly called the meagrims.” The same writer recommends it as a salad “instead of watercresses.”
The medicinal use of Holy Thistle goes back far beyond the days of Tilke, or even Johnson. William Turner, Domestic Physician to the Lord Protector Somerset in the reign of King Edward VI, in his Herbal published 1568, agrees with Tilke that the herb is “very good for the headache and the megram.”