Cowslip – Primula veris
The bright yellow flowers of the cowslip are starting to cover banks and meadows here in Norfolk at the moment in late March and are truly an uplifting sight: along with their cousins the primrose they are a sure sign of Spring. Also known as Herb Peter, Key flower, Key of Heaven, Fairy cups and petty mulleins, folklore has it that they first grew from the ground where St. Peter dropped his keys. The more common name of cowslip derives from old English cuslyppe or cowslop due to the fact they grew in abundance where cows grazed. The Latin name of ‘veris’ means spring and denotes the flowering time of this lovely plant
Cowslips were once a common plant of traditional meadows, ancient woodlands and hedgerows and were picked to make cowslip wine, and used in traditional celebrations, but the loss of natural habitats and over picking caused a decline in the species. Fortunately there has been a recovery over recent years, partly due to the fact that the seeds have been sown by the side of new roadways and other modern developments. Once a protected species they are now considered ‘common’ by the ‘Wildlife Trust’.
Containing a range of key constituents, cowslips, and to a lesser extent primroses are mainly anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic, with the roots being particularly expectorant.
An under-used and useful plant, the roots are used to stimulate the clearance of phlegm associated with bronchitis and catarrhal congestion. The root is also use as a diuretic and to slow blood clotting. The leaves have a similar property to the roots, although weaker in action while the flowers, which can be made into a tea, are sedative and recommended for over activity and poor sleep, especially in children. The flowers also have the anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic actions which can be used for asthma and other allergic reactions.
A Flower Essence can be made from cowslip which helps us interact with others on and equal footing while recognising the light within ourselves, bringing a quieting of the mind and inner contentment.
Cowslip should not be taken during pregnancy, or for those who are either allergic to aspirin or taking blood thinning medications. Excessive doses may cause vomiting and diarrhoea. Cowslip roots should not be harvested from the wild.