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Cnicus benedictus flor.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae
Subfamily: Carduoideae
Tribe: Cynareae
Genus: Cnicus
Species: C. benedictus
Binomial name
Cnicus benedictus
  • Cnicus microcephalus Boiss.
  • Cnicus pseudo-benedictus Asch.
  • Epitrachys microcephala K.Koch

Cnicus benedictus (St. Benedict's thistle, blessed thistle, holy thistle or spotted thistle), 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. It is the sole species in the monotypic genus Cnicus. Other species once included in the genus have largely been reclassified to Cirsium, Carduus, and Centaurea.


It is an annual plant growing to 60 cm tall, with leathery, hairy leaves up to 30 cm long and 8 cm broad, with small spines on the margins. The flowers are yellow, produced in a dense flowerhead (capitulum) 3–4 cm diameter, surrounded by numerous spiny basal bracts.

The related genus Notobasis is included in Cnicus by some botanists; it differs in slender, much spinier leaves, and purple flowers.

Medicinal uses[edit]

It has sometimes been used as a galactogogue to promote lactation.[2] The crude extracts contain about 0.2% cnicin. It is also a component in some bitters formulas.[3]

In Shakespeare's comedy Much Ado About Nothing, this thistle, in tincture form, is recommended for a cold.


These thistles are not considered edible, unlike Cirsium, Arctium and Onopordum species; the leaves are considered unpalatable if not bitter.

19th century illustration


  1. ^ "The Plant List".
  2. ^ Newman, Jack. "Herbs for Increasing Milk Supply". Canadian Breastfeeding Foundation. Retrieved 2010-05-16.
  3. ^ Sahan, Yasemin; Dulger, Dilek (2013). "Antioxidant properties and their bioaccessibility of Blessed Thistle under different processed treatments". The FASEB Journal. 27 (1 Suppl): 1065.23. doi:10.1096/fasebj.27.1_supplement.1065.23. Retrieved 1 May 2015.

External links[edit]