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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

Thistle, BlessedThistle, Milk

aka Cardin, Holy Thistle, St Benedict Thistle, Spotted Thistle
(Cnicus benedictus syn Carbenia benedicta syn Carduus benedictus)
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Has been largely replaced by Chamomile

Excess causes vomiting!
Legally restricted in some countries!
Persons allergic to members of the Compositae family may suffer allergic reactions!
NOT to be used during PREGNANCY!

CONTAINS: (zero moisture basis per 100 grams) = 8.5 mg aluminum, 13.3% ash, 1120 mg calcium, 76% carbodydrates, 0.18 mg chromium, 0.38 mg cobalt, 9.8% crude fiber, 37.9% dietary fiber, 1.1% fat, 2.4 mg iron, 177 mg magnesium, 0.21 mg manganese, 0.31 mg niacin, 270 mg phosphorus, 2600 mg potassium, 9.6% protein, 0.21 mg riboflavin, 0.34 mg selenium, trace mg silicon, 122 mg sodium, 0.27 mg thiamine, 2.5 mg tin, 22,200 IU vitamin A, 3.0 mg vitamin C, trace mg zinc.
87% water (when fresh), 9.4% water (when dried); 8% starch, alkaloids, bitter glycosides (including cnicin), tannins, aromatic compounds, volatile oils, fixed oils, resins, sequiterpene lactone glycoside, tannin, 12-20% mucilage, 12% sugars (consisting of glucose and sucrose).

An annual which is native to the Mediterranean region and parts of Asia, but naturalized to many other countries, mainly in waste places. It attains a height of 2 feet on a pentagonal, bristly, much-branched stem with yellow flowers to 1½ inch across which are surrounded by spiny, leathery bracts; leaves are long-stemmed, downy and clasping with spines at the margin and with deeply indented pale veins; fruit is a seed pod filled with small seed and surrounded by spines. In the Middle Ages it was quite common and could be found growing in wild and stony regions of southern Europe and was popular in 'physick' gardens.

Cnicus is Latin and derived from the Greek 'knekos' meaning 'safflower' (a name they applied in general to thistles). Earlier taxonomy labeled it 'carduus' which is Latin for 'spiny'. 'Benedictus' from the Latin means blessed.
Was once considered a 'cure-all' and was part of plague treatments.

In pagan ritual it has been used in association with the god Pan and to ward off malevolent influences of a hex. Said to increase a flagging attitude of self-motivation. It was added to the Ritual Cup for spiritual purifaction and taken by the Priest to invoke the Sun God. Used today as an herb of protection. Astrologically ruled by Mars and Aries.

PROPAGATION:By seed in spring (germinates in 1 to 3 weeks).
NEEDS: Ordinary soil in full sun, but tolerates poor soil; plant 14 inches apart when soil is 65 to 70 degrees F. Keep flowers picked before they seed themselves as can become a pest.
FLOWERS: July to September
PART USED MEDICINALLY: Leaves and flowering tops which are dried for use in infusions, decoctions, extracts, and tablets.
HARVEST: Leaves and flowering tops when in bloom (use chamomile to substitute).


Bitter, alterative, antiseptic, antibiotic, antitumor, appetite stimulant (stimulates secretion of saliva and gastric juices), astringent, diuretic, expectorant, styptic, febrifuge, galactogogue, emmenogogue, diaphoretic, emetic, mild calmative, tonic (liver and heart), blood purifier, vermifuge; acts primarily on digestion, but also affects glandular, circulatory, liver, female reproductive (stimulant), and urinary systems; also said to strengthen memory, heart and lungs. Some anti-HIV activity has been reported (unable to confirm).
Once considered a 'cure-all', it was also used to increase circulation and as a tonic for the heart.
Has been used internally for anorexia (combined with Turtlehead and seeds of Cola), poor appetite due to depression, arthritis, cancer, dropsy, dyspepsia, flatulent colic, diarrhea (combined with Meadowsweet, Agrimony, and Tormentil), excess mucous, liver and gall bladder problems, chronic headache, jaundice, kidney problems, leucorrhea, respiratory infections, senility, spleen problems, and insufficient lactation (often combined with Raspberry leaf and Marshmallow root). Also has a history of use for all types of liver problems, but has largely been replaced by Milk Thistle.
In the treatment of fever a handful of leaves and flowering tips was infused in 1 pint of boiling water, steeped 10 minutes, then given in wineglassful doses or a mouthful at a time.
Has been used to treat painful menstruation (combined with Ginger, Cramp bark and Blue cohosh root; or simply combined with Chamomile) and amenorrhea. Is often found in female balancing formulas to regulate menstruation.
Has been used externally for wounds and ulcers. As a poultice has been used to treat chilblains and sores.
Was once believed to strengthen the emotions and was used for melancholy, agitation, and nervous disorders.

All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully.
INFUSION = 1 tsp dried herb, cut very fine, to 1 cup boiling water, steeped 10 minutes, taken cold 1 large mouthful at a time.
EXTRACT = 10 to 20 drops daily in liquid.
TINCTURE = 5 to 20 drops daily in liquid.

Used to treat arthritis, hepatitis, jaundice.

Used in the form of high-protein oil cakes as livestock feed.

(Silybum marianum)


A protective agent for the liver (widely used in Europe). Is used by people travelling to foreign countries as a prophylactic against possible contaminants in food and water.
Silymarin is a standarized extract of a complex compound found in the seeds.
Protects liver cells from damage due to viral hepatitis, and toxins such as solvents, alcohol and drugs.
Has also been used for PMS, sluggish liver, hepatitis and cirrhosis.

Once grown as a vegetable. The leaves used in salads and cooked like spinach. The stalks were steamed or boiled and eaten like asparagus. The flower head eaten like artichokes. The roots were boiled and eaten like salsify. The seeds were roasted, then infused in water to produce a coffee substitute.

©2001 by Ernestina Parziale, CH