Benedictine herb

Authors: Prof. Dr. med. Peter Altmeyer, Prof. Dr. med. Martina Bacharach-Buhles

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Last updated on: 17.11.2023

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Benedictine knot; Benedict's Thistle; Bitter Thistle; Blessel thistle

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Benedict's herb is a 10 to 40 cm tall, thistle-like, annual composite plant that flowers in June/July.

The dried parts of the plant harvested during the flowering period are used for phytotherapeutic purposes, cardobenedicta herb - Cnici benedicti herba.

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Mediterranean region, Near East. Is also cultivated in Europe and the USA.

Field of application/use
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Already used in medicine in the Middle Ages, it is therefore one of the very old medicinal plants. Formerly used externally for ulcers and pernions, among others. Today the herb is still officially used (Herba Cardui benedicti). The main focus of today's application is on the bitter effect. It is also occasionally used as a cholagogue and biliary therapeutic, in combination with other plants in some ready-made preparations and as a tea and herbal cure.

Undesirable effects
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The bitter substance cnicine was already isolated in 1837. Later, further bitter compounds were detected, all of which turned out to be compounds of the sesquiterpenlakton class. A characteristic feature of these is that they are probably present in the plant in glycosidically bound form and already polymerise in the leaf. Cnicine, which has not yet been fully allergologically investigated, may be a relatively weak contact allergen because the immunologically important methylene group on the lactone ring is sterically hindered by the longer side chain on the adjacent C atom. Sensitizing potency: Strong. Frequency of sensitization: Very rare.

Clinical picture
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  2. Wenigmann M. (2017) Phytotherapy medicinal drugs, phytopharmaceuticals, application. Urban & Fischer, p.79