Native to the Mediterranean, Cnicus benedictus is an annual in the Asteraceae family. It has long narrow leaves and is completely covered in fine hairs, with a characteristic, prickly, green flowerhead. Blessed thistle herb has a long history of use in traditional European herbalism extending back to the Middle Ages. Bitter in flavor, blessed thistle is commonly used in extracts and cordials.
Blessed thistle has been revered since the Middle Ages in Europe for its use as a digestive stimulant and nutritive tonic. It was also eaten as a vegetable. This herb is approved by the German Commission E for its ability to increase appetite and support the digestive process and is also an approved food additive in the United States for its flavoring of liqueurs such as Benedictine.