The teasel was brought from Europe by wool manufacturers because the dried seed head, fastened to a spindle, was used extensively to "tease" or comb the nap of woolen cloth -- thus the name. It was also called gypsy comb.
In some species, the leaves clasp the stem, and when it rains, water collects in pools at the base of the leaves. This water was thought to be very special and was much sought after. For instance, it was thought to be an especially good thirst-quencher for the traveler. This special water was also used to bathe tired eyes and remove warts. It supposedly could make you as beautiful as Venus, and the plant is also called Venus' basin.
The flower heads keep their shape throughout the winter and are used in dried flower arrangements.