Sunday, 27 April 2008


The use of Cowslip (primula veris), known as ‘herba paralysis’ and ‘palsywort’, for spasm, cramps, paralysis and rheumatic pain was once widespread, and dates back to at least the medieval period. Also called ‘Key Flower’, an association with keys from a link with the pagan goddess Freya was later christianised, giving the names ‘Our Lady’s Keys’, and 'Herb Peter'.

The young leaves were formerly eaten in salad and mixed with other herbs to stuff meat, while its ‘somewhat narcotic juices’ were utilised in Cowslip wine.

A home-made infusion is useful for coughs and bronchitis and the flower tea soothes headaches (only the yellow part of the flower is used, all green parts are carefully discarded). Indeed, Cowslip is a rich source of salicylates (aspirin-like compounds) and has the reputation of being second only to Betony for relieving head pain. Cowslip is also used internally in modern herbalism for asthma, arthritis, restlessness and insomnia and applied externally to treat sunburn.

A sedative, expectorant herb which relaxes spasms and reduces inflammation.

Flowers April – May
NB: No longer collected from the wild as has now become rare.

CAUTION: Skin irritant and allergen; Do not use in pregnancy, if sensitive to aspirin or taking anti-coagulant medicine such as Warfarin

PLEASE NOTE: These notes on the history and use of herbs have been compiled for general interest and are not intended as medical advice, for which you should consult a professional herbalist.

‘Herbs and Healing Plants of Britain and Europe’ Dieter Podlech (1987)
'A Modern Herbal' Mrs M. Grieve FRHS ed. Mrs C. F. Leyel (1973)
'The Herb Society's Complete Medicinal Herbal' Penelope Ody MNIMH (1993)
'RHS Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses' Deni Brown (2002)


Marilena said...

i like natural alternatives for health, and beauty. i posted on my blog today about being a green gardener. there are many natural alternatives people can plant for health, and being a green gardener is one step to help repairing our poor old planet.

Cheryl said...

Wonderful post Hedgewitch. I have dozens of these little plants in my garden. I was not aware of the medicinal qualities. Absolutely amazing that you can get so much from one plant.

Hedgewitch said...

hi marilena .. I love that post you did today :-)

you're so right, our poor old planet needs all the helpers she can get

oh, that's so great that you have cowslips, cheryl! we saw them naturalised along a bank at the nature reserve and they are just so pretty. I knew they could be used medicinally, but I was staggered, too, at just how useful this plant can be.

lotta said...

I love cowslips, the are called "gullviva" in Swedish and their arrival is a true sign of spring. Thanks for writing about their medicinal use - very interesting!

Hedgewitch said...

hello lotta ... many thanks and welcome!

kate smudges said...

I love Cowslips - they certainly are one of the best signs of spring. They have only begun to send up foliage here. I didn't realise they had so many medicinal uses.

Hedgewitch said...

hello Kate .. welcome :-)

I love when a humble native wildflower turns out to be packed full of healing potential.

In the UK, we are constantly hearing about the latest superfood or wonderplant, always some exotic species.. but actually we have a complete medicine chest in our own woodlands and meadows!