Carline Thistle

Carline Thistle

Scientific Names of Carline Thistle:    

Carlina acaulis L. [Fam. Asteraceae]


Coarsely cut, dried root for making infusions

Traditional Usage:    

– Antibacterial
– Catarrh (upper respiratory mucous)
– Digestive Disorders
– Diuretic
– Fever (to induce sweating)
– Gargle
– Gastrointestinal Disorders
– Herpes Sores (topically)
– Rashes (topically)
– Skin Conditions (topically)
– Toothache (topically)
– Wounds (topically)


Carline thistle, Carlina acaulis L. [Fam. Asteraceae], is a short-stemmed perennial herb, often called stemless carline thistle, native to the mountains of central and southern Europe. The low-growing plant has spiny, toothed leaves and attractive off-white flowers encompassed by sharp silvery bracts giving it a characteristic thistle-like appearance. Through its bitter properties, its root increases the flow of gastric juices relieving dyspepsia and gastrointestinal upsets associated with digestive organ congestion. German authorities recognize that ‘bitters’, including carline thistle root, stimulate bile flow and cleanse the liver of fatty deposits. In Europe, carline thistle root is rarely used today, except as a component of the gastrointestinal remedy, Swedish Bitters. Carline thistle root tea is listed in the German Commission E monographs as a diuretic and was used in folk medicine for treating digestive disorders, inducing sweating and as a gargle for treating catarrh (mucous) of the upper respiratory tract. Applied topically, the tea was also used to soothe toothaches. The essential oil has been shown to have antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus, Enterococcus, Salmonella and Shigella. In folk tradition, the root extracts prepared with wine and water were said to be good for washing out wounds and sores. Studies show that the acetone extracts of carline thistle root have strong antibacterial activity, but not the aqueous extracts.

Active Ingredients:    

Carline thistle root contains: 1.5-2% essential oil containing approximately 80% carlina oxide (benzyl-2-furylacetylene) and about 15% carilene. The root also contains 18-22% inulin; bitter substances of the sesquiterpene lactone type, probably occurring in glycosidic form; phenol; palmitic acid; tannins; resins; and flavonoids.

Suggested Amount:    

Carline thistle root is generally taken as an herbal tea one to three times per day. As an aromatic bitter, a cup of the unsweetened tea is drunk half-an-hour before meals. German authorities recommend using 1.5g of the finely chopped or powdered drug (root) per cup of tea (1 teaspoon of cut carline thistle root weighs approximately 2.8 grams). It is recommended that cold water be added to the herb material and brought to a boil for a short time and strained.

Drug Interactions:    

None known


None known

Side Effects:    

None known


Glazunova NP, Katkevich RI, Korshunov SP, Vereshchagin LI. 1968. [Antibiotic activity of some furylacetylene compounds]. Antibiotiki. 1968 Feb; 13(2): 131-4. Russian.

Kernoczi Z, Hethelyi E, Danos B, Tetenyi P. 1987. Presence of carlina oxide in plants of Hungary. Stabilization and antimicrobial effect. Acta Pharm Hung. 1987 Jul; 57(3-4): 171-81.

Rodriguez E, Towers GHN, and Mitchell JC. 1976. Biological activities of sesquiterpene lactones. Phytochemistry 15: 1573-1580.

Wichtl M (ed). 1994. Carlinae radix – Stemless carlina root (English translation by Norman Grainger Bisset). In Herbal Drugs and Phyto-pharmaceuticals. CRC Press, Stuttgart, pp. 126-127.