Although native to Europe and Asia, blessed thistle is now cultivated in many areas of the world, including the United States. The leaves, stems, and flowers are all used in herbal preparations.
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Indigestion, Heartburn, and Low Stomach Acidity
Refer to label instructions
Blessed thistle acts as a digestive stimulant and may be helpful for indigestion.
Bitter herbs are thought to stimulate digestive function by increasing saliva production and promoting both stomach acid and digestive enzyme production.2 As a result, they are particularly used when there is low stomach acid but not in heartburn (where too much stomach acid could initially exacerbate the situation). These herbs literally taste bitter. Some examples of bitter herbs include greater celandine, wormwood, gentian,dandelion, blessed thistle, yarrow, devil’s claw, bitter orange, bitter melon, juniper, andrographis, prickly ash, and centaury.3. Bitters are generally taken either by mixing 1–3 ml tincture into water and sipping slowly 10–30 minutes before eating, or by making tea, which is also sipped slowly before eating.
The sesquiterpene lactones, such as cnicin, provide the main beneficial effects of blessed thistle in the treatment of indigestion. The bitterness of these compounds stimulates digestive activity, including the flow of saliva and secretion of gastric juice, which leads to improved appetite and digestion.4 Some pharmacological evidence suggests that blessed thistle may also have anti-inflammatory properties.5
The German Commission E monograph recommends 4–6 grams of blessed thistle per day.6 Alternatively, tincture (1/2 teaspoon [2 ml] three times per day) may be used. Approximately 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) of the dried herb can also be added to 1 cup (250 ml) of boiling water and steeped 10 to 15 minutes to make a tea. Three cups can be drunk each day.
Blessed thistle is generally safe and is not associated with side effects. Anyone with allergies to plants in the daisy family should use blessed thistle cautiously.
1. Lust JB. The Herb Book. New York: Bantam Books, 1974, 343.
2. Schulz V, Hänsel R, Tyler VE. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physician’s Guide to Herbal Medicine. 3rd ed, Berlin: Springer, 1998, 168–73.
3. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 425–6.
4. Bradley PR (ed). British Herbal Compendium, vol 1. Bournemouth, Dorset, UK: British Herbal Medicine Association, 1992, 126–7.
5. Foster S. 101 Medicinal Herbs. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, 1998, 32–3.
6. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 92.
Last Review: 11-07-2012
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