Thursday, 29 March 2018

How Blessed Thistle Supports The Immune System



Blessed thistle is the name of a strange and beautiful looking wild plant native to the Mediterranean area of Europe, but also found in parts of the United States and Europe. The prickly flower has a bright, flowering top (varieties range from yellow to purple) and equally prickly stems and leaves.

The scientific name for the plant is Cnicus benedictus, and its common names - including blessed thistle, holy thistle, and St. Benedict’s Thistle - can be looked at as compliments. Or, in other words, after people experience the potential health benefits of this plant, they begin bestowing nicknames such as “blessed” or “holy” upon the plant.

People have used the tops, leaves, and stems of blessed thistle since the Middle Ages to make medicine. At the time, one of blessed thistle’s primary functions was as a treatment for the bubonic plague. It was also given as a tonic to monks.

Still, even today, blessed thistle is used in natural and alternative medicine. There are many ways to prepare blessed thistle (which we’ll discuss later), but it is used “for loss of appetite and indigestion; and to treat colds, cough, fever, bacterial infections, and diarrhea. It is also used as a diuretic for increasing urine output, and for promoting the flow of breast milk in new mothers.”

What lends blessed thistle all of these potential health benefits? In a word: tannins.

Blessed Thistle and Tannins


Blessed thistle contains tannins. If you’ve heard the word “tannins” before, it’s likely been in the context of wine. Put simply, if you’ve ever had wine that left your mouth or tongue feeling dry, that was likely because of the tannins. The dryer the sensation, the higher the tannins.

Tannins are polyphenolic compounds present in many plants that bind to proteins. They are full of antioxidants and help protect the body from cellular oxidative damage. In other words, they are a crucial part of supporting your body’s natural defense system. There is even some evidence that tannins may have anti-carcinogenic properties.

How to Use Blessed Thistle


There are a number of ways to use blessed thistle, depending on your goals.

Tea


One popular way is to make blessed thistle tea. You can buy blessed thistle tea bags or blessed thistle tea concentrate. Often, blessed thistle will come as part of a tea blend, with other herbs selected based on your health goals. For example, a mother’s milk tea (meant to support lactation) may contain blessed thistle, fenugreek, fennel, anise, and coriander.

Poultice


An herbal poultice is a “paste made of herbs, clay, activated charcoal, salts, or other beneficial substances” that is wrapped in cloth and placed on the skin. Obviously, a poultice is used when contact with the skin is beneficial - think herbal poultices that may treat bug bites, stings, burns or rashes.

Because blessed thistle is used to treat bacterial infections, some people will use a blessed thistle poultice as a treatment for boils, wounds, or ulcers. The tannins in blessed thistle, and their potential anti-inflammatory properties, may make a blessed thistle poultice ideal for swelling around an injury. To make a simple blessed thistle poultice, soak some gauze in blessed thistle and apply it to the area that needs treatment.

Capsules


If teas or poultices aren’t your thing, capsules are an easy way to ingest blessed thistle. You can find blessed thistle capsules online, or at most grocery or health food stores. As with tea, you can take capsules that are strictly blessed thistle, or a blend that contains blessed thistle, such as this fenugreek, anise, and blessed thistle blend meant to support lactation.

Precautions


As with all herbal supplements, your use of blessed thistle (including the appropriate dose) may be affected by your age, medical history, and other drugs or supplements you are taking. Pregnant women should not take blessed thistle. Be sure to talk with your healthcare practitioner to make sure you can safely incorporate blessed thistle into your diet.
Have you ever made a blessed thistle poultice? How about tea? How did it go?

2 comments:

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