Holy Thistle is believed to be a powerful herbal medicine. The leaves, stems and flowers are all used in the treatment of infected wounds or ulcers on the skin, lack of appetite and stomach gas. Its also thought to have an anti inflammatory effect.
Holy thistle is also known as Cnicus benedictus, St. Benedict's thistle, blessed thistle or spotted thistle. It was the sole species in the genus Cnicus, but has been reclassified as Centaurea benedicta. It is a thistle-like plant in the family Asteraceae, native to the Mediterranean region, from Portugal north to southern France and east to Iran. It is known in other parts of the world, including parts of North America, as an introduced species and often a noxious weed.
The flowering tops, leaves, and upper stems are all used for medicinal purposes. The crude drug contains about 0.2% cnicin.
Holy thistle was commonly used during the Middle Ages to treat the bubonic plague and as a tonic. Today, it is used for loss of appetite and indigestion, to treat colds, cough, fever, bacterial infections, and diarrhoea. It is also used as a diuretic, and for promoting the flow of breast milk in new mothers.
It is also sometimes applied to the skin topically for treating wounds, and ulcers. In manufacturing, holy thistle is used as a flavouring in alcoholic beverages.