Blessed Thistle Enhances Nerve Regeneration

Summary: Cnicin, a compound derived from the plant Blessed Thistle, significantly enhances nerve regeneration. The study shows that Cnicin can accelerate the growth of axons, the long fibers of nerve cells, which is crucial for the recovery of nerve function after injury.

This new finding was demonstrated in animal models and human cell cultures, where Cnicin treatment led to rapid improvements in paralysis and neuropathy symptoms. Remarkably, Cnicin can be administered orally, offering a practical advantage over injectable treatments and highlighting its potential for broader clinical application.

Key Facts:

  1. Cnicin, extracted from Blessed Thistle, has been shown to speed up axon growth, essential for nerve repair.
  2. The compound’s effectiveness was observed in both animal models and human cells, with treated subjects showing quicker recovery from nerve damage.
  3. The study emphasizes the need for further clinical trials to determine the optimal dosage, as Cnicin operates within a narrow therapeutic window.

Source: University of Cologne

Blessed thistle (Cnicus benedictus) is a plant in the family Asteraceae and also grows in our climate. For centuries, it has been used as a medicinal herb as an extract or tea, e.g. to aid the digestive system.

Researchers at the Center for Pharmacology of University Hospital Cologne and at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Cologne have now found a completely novel use for Cnicin under the direction of Dr Philipp Gobrecht and Professor Dr Dietmar Fischer.

This shows blessed thistle.
Administering a daily dose of Cnicin to mice or rats helped improve paralysis and neuropathy much more quickly. Credit: Neuroscience News

Animal models as well as human cells have shown that Cnicin significantly accelerates axon (nerve fibres) growth. The study ‘Cnicin promotes functional nerve regeneration’ was published in Phytomedicine.

Rapid help for nerves

Regeneration pathways of injured nerves in humans and animals with long axons are accordingly long. This often makes the healing process lengthy and even frequently irreversible because the axons cannot reach their destination on time.

An accelerated regeneration growth rate can, therefore, make a big difference here, ensuring that the fibres reach their original destination on time before irreparable functional deficits can occur.

The researchers demonstrated axon regeneration in animal models and human cells taken from retinae donated by patients. Administering a daily dose of Cnicin to mice or rats helped improve paralysis and neuropathy much more quickly.

Compared to other compounds, Cnicin has one crucial advantage: it can be introduced into the bloodstream orally (by mouth). It does not have to be given by injection.

“The correct dose is very important here, as Cnicin only works within a specific therapeutic window. Doses that are too low or too high are ineffective. This is why further clinical studies on humans are crucial,” said Fischer.

The University of Cologne researchers are currently planning relevant studies. The Center for Pharmacology is researching and developing drugs to repair the damaged nervous system.

Funding: The current study received funding of around 1,200,000 euros from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research within the framework of the project PARREGERON.

About this nerve regeneration and supplements research news

Author: Anna Euteneuer
Source: University of Cologne
Contact: Anna Euteneuer – University of Cologne
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original Research: Open access.
Cnicin promotes functional nerve regeneration” by Dietmar Fischer et al. Phytomedicine


Cnicin promotes functional nerve regeneration


The limited regenerative capacity of injured axons hinders functional recovery after nerve injury. Although no drugs are currently available in the clinic to accelerate axon regeneration, recent studies show the potential of vasohibin inhibition by parthenolide, produced in Tanacetum parthenium, to accelerate axon regeneration. However, due to its poor oral bioavailability, parthenolide is limited to parenteral administration.


This study investigates another sesquiterpene lactone, cnicin, produced in Cnicus benedictus for promoting axon regeneration.


Cnicin is equally potent and effective in facilitating nerve regeneration. In culture, cnicin promotes axon growth of sensory and CNS neurons from various species, including humans. Neuronal overexpression of vasohibin increases the effective concentrations comparable to parthenolide, suggesting an interaction between cnicin and vasohibin. Remarkably, intravenous administration of cnicin significantly accelerates functional recovery after severe nerve injury in various species, including the anastomosis of severed nerves. Pharmacokinetic analysis of intravenously applied cnicin shows a blood half-life of 12.7 minutes and an oral bioavailability of 84.7% in rats. Oral drug administration promotes axon regeneration and recovery after nerve injury in mice.


These results highlight the potential of cnicin as a promising drug to treat axonal insults and improve recovery.

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