- Family Primulaceae
- Primula species
- Primrose (P. vulgaris), Cowslip (P. veris), Peagles, English Cowslip, True Cowslip, Butter Rose, Herb Peter Paigle Peggle, Key Flower, Key of Heaven, Fairy Caps, Petty Mulleins, Buckles, Crewel, Palsywort, Plumrocks, Mayflower, Password, Arthritica, Our Ladys Keys, Keys of St. Peter, Oxlip, Primula, Primuli
- Avoid the root if sensitive to aspirin.
- Do not take high doses of the herb during pregnancy because it is a uterine stimulant.
- Do not take if on blood-thinning or anticoagulant drugs.
- Excessive doses can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
Native to Europe and western Asia, the plant is a member of about 500 species that prefer fields and pastures with chalky soil. It is rarely seen in the wild anywhere in the world anymore and should not be picked if one is found. In many areas of Europe, the plant has been picked almost to extinction, mainly to make seductive cowslip wine, but also for the childish delight of sucking the sweet nectar from the flowers.
It is a hairy perennial, growing to about four inches in height, producing a basal rosette of slightly rough oblong leaves. The stems of the cowslip bear clusters of bright yellow bell-shaped flowers with reddish centers of each petal. The flowers of the primrose vary slightly in that they are paler yellow with golden centers at the bottom of each petal. The flowers are harvested in the spring, while the roots are gathered in the fall from established plants.
The Cowslip take its name from the Anglo-Saxon cu-sloppe, a reminder of the days when they bloomed in meadows among dairy herds. It is also speculated that the name resulted because the scent of the flowers has a unique milky aroma like that of a cows breath or that of a new baby.
The plant is so closely associated with springtime that it is known as primavera, or spring, in Spanish and Italian.
The plant has long been reputed to preserve beauty, as stated by a 16th century herbalist, William Turner.
- promote sweating
- sedating nervine
- stimulating expectorant
- volatile oil
- volatile oil
- silicic acid
- Flowers, root
- The plant is rich in glycosides, consisting of several sugar parts and one non-sugar part. It is the non-sugar parts, called aglycones, that have the therapeutic action.
- Infusions are used to treat headaches, feverish chills, or head colds with mucus.
- Tincture are used for insomnia, anxiety, or over-excitement.
- Compresses soaked in hot infusion are applied to facial or trigeminal neuralgia.
- Ointment is used on sunburns and skin blemishes.
- Essential oil is used for insomnia by placing a few drops into the bathwater.
- Massage oil is made by diluting essential oil into a neutral oil and using to treat nerve pain or, when applied to the temples, for migraine headaches.
- Decoctions are taken to clear stubborn phlegm, especially during chronic bronchitis; but it can also relieve arthritis and rheumatism.
- Tinctures are taken for the same ailments as the decoction.
- Compresses soaked in a decoction are used for painful arthritic joints.
The roots are high in saponins, irritating chemicals with expectorant properties, which make it a good herb to take for colds and bronchitis. It is also rich in salicylates, which have similar actions to aspirin. The flowers, however, contain neither of these compounds.
The flowers have very different uses in herbal medicine. The petals are very sedating and ideal for excited states. They also promote sweating and can be used for feverish colds, nasal congestion, and flu.
The roots were once a popular European standby for arthritis, but are now used mainly for chesty coughs. The root does help to stimulate and warm the lungs, which can be helpful when phlegm needs encouragement to move out.