Common Daisy its past and present medicinal uses

Bellis perennis

Billeder of Norden's Flora  {1917-1927
Billeder of Norden's Flora {1917-1927

Introduction

There can not be many among us who do not instantly recognize the common daisy Bellis perennis, which has been extolled by poets and eminent writers here in the UK , since the days of Chaucer {1300's}. It is a plant, that in the UK {and other countries}flowers throughout most of the year, as the following words of Montgomery alludes----

" It smiles upon the lap of May,

To sultry August spreads its charms,

Meets cold October on his way

And twines Decembers arms"

The generic name of Bellis derives from the Latin bellis, meaning pretty. The common name of the flower is a corruption of days eye, alluding to the flowers opening in the day light hours and closing during darkness {or dull and wet weather}

Here we look at the plants past and present medicinal history with notes from herbalists and physicians of days gone by.

Normally I would not hesitate to give a description of the the subject under review, but in this case the subject is so well known as to forego the description. However, after careful consideration I decided to go ahead for this member of the Asteraceae family {formerly the Compositate} is interesting {as are most members of the family} in the make up of its flowers.

Flower close

Note the yellow disc florets beginning to open
Note the yellow disc florets beginning to open | Source

Description of the common daisy

This charming little plant whitens the pastures and grassy places from New year until December, and surely no other plant is as well known as this one. As previously mentioned the make up of this flower is not as it may at first seem. For the flower is more correctly a flower head, for it is more compact and more 'finished' looking than any other member of this family.

More than two hundred tubular , bright-yellow, florets are closely packed together in a central disk. What we commonly refer to as the petals are in fact outer rows of white disc florets which in botanical parlance are referred to as as rays {ray florets}, which may number about fifty. Nature has designed these for 'advertising purposes'. These white ray florets lack stamens which the yellow disk florets have, thus they have given up the production of pollen. They are often tinged with red.

It is known that the outer yellow disc florets open first {this can be observed in the photograph above}, and the inner most last. It takes several days for this expansion to be accomplished and the fertilization of the 200+ florets, as a consequence the daisy remains fresh for a relatively long period of time.

According to Edward Step " It is certain therefore, that a large number of the florets will be fertilized by pollen brought from another daisy plant, quite as many will be fertilized by the pollen of the main central disk florets of the same head. By this arrangement, which is pretty general throughout this large and extensive family of plants, two advantages are secured. The continual crossing maintains the vigour of the race, and the fertilization of the older by the younger florets of the same head insures the production of an abundance of seeds. The flower heads are borne singly on long stems.

" Little flower,

With silver crest and golden eye

That welcomes every changing hour,

And weather's every sky "

{Montgomery}

Lovely bright flowers

Source

Historical notes.

Wordsworth, described it as the 'poets darling', and not less so, that like the wind it comes to every field. Backhouse when in Australia stated, " Many little flowers begin to enamel the ground, one of which is to much like an English daisy, not to excuse pleasing recollections, associated with that little flower, though others bespeak the antipodes of England"

Gardener, whilst writing in Brazil penned these thoughts about thedaisy.

" I wonder alone, and often look,

For the primrose bank by the rippling brook;

Which, waken'd to life by vernal beams,

Am emblem of youth and beauty seems;

And I ask where the violet and daisy grow,

But a breeze born voice, in whispering's low,

Swept from the north o'er southern seas,

Tells me i'm far from the land of these"


Another author wrote " The daisy is not relished by cattle and is disliked even by geese"

The Italians called it the flower of Pratolina, Meadow flower, or Fiore de primaver {flower of spring} and the French termed it La Petite Marguerite { Marguerite derives from the Latin Margarita meaning a pearl}. In Scotland the plant is referred to as the bairnwort which testified to the joy of children wandering the meadows and gathering it by the lapful for the manufacture of daisy chains.

St.Louis of France, employed as a devise on his ring, a criucfix, having inside it a Lily, alluding to the heraldic insignia of France, and a daisy referring to his wife Margaret, daughter of Raymond Beranger, Count of Toulouse, who accompanied him on the sixth crusade. The ring was thus, the sign of all he held most dear, -religion,his country and his bride.

In England it was said that " spring had come when one could set a foot upon nine daisy's. One author wrote " God has not scattered the daisies over green meadows or sunny hill, by our wayside or on the grave of our loved ones, that we should pass them unheeded, or crush them beneath our footsteps without a thought to their grace. We have but to look into the star of gold and silver, to see what his hands have wrought. The star is full of flowers, each perfect in itself, each so wonderously constructed, that he who has not looked at them through a lens has not yet learned half their wondrous beauty, though even by a glance he may have learned to say with Chaucer "----

Above all flouris in the mede,

Then love I most these flouris white and rede,

Soche that men callen daisies in our towne,

To them I have so great affections,

As I sayd erst, when coming in the Maie,

That I am up and walking in the mede,

To see this floure against the sunne sprede,,

When it uprises early by the morrow,

That blissful sight softeneth my sorrow.

So glad am I, when that I have presence

Of it, to doune it all reverance,

As she that is of all floures the floure,

Fulfilled of all virtue and honoure;

And ever like faire and fresh of hewe,

As wel in winter as in summer newe;

This love I evir, and shall until I die,

All sweare I not, of this I shall not lie,

There loved no wight nothen in his life,

And whanne that is eve, I renne blithe.

As soone as ever the sunne ginneth west,

To scene this floure, ho it will go to rest;

For fear of night, so hateth she the darknesse,

Her chere is plainly spread in the brightnesse,

Of the sunne, for there it will unclose"


The poem above was written in the 1300's . Explanatory notes---Floure =flower. Sunne =sun. ginneth=gone chere=cheer, Maie, the month of May. woll=would.


The monks dedicated the flower to Saint Margaret who was a very popular saint in times gone by, her name and associated legends were conveyed all over Europe by the early Crusaders. Margaret portrayed as a woman of innocence and meekness-" maid Margaret that was so meeke and milde"

The daisy was connected to many emminent women bearing the name Margaret. Margaret of Anjou, during the days of her prosperity, not only wore the daisy as a device, but saw it embroidered on the silk and velvet robes of her courtiers, who surrounded her, and worn by the ladies in their hair in her honour. However, when sorrow came to the Queen, the daisy flower was rejected as unfit for a courtly ornament.

Netje Blanchen {America} in her book Nature's Garden, when writing of the Ox-eye daisy {White weed}, relates to us that Burns the Scottish poet wrote " Wee modest, crimson-tippit flower", She continues " Shakespeare, Burns, Chaucer, Wordsworth, and all the British poets who have written familiar lines about the daisy, extolled a quite different flower from ours-Bellis perennis, the little pink and white blossom that hugs the English turf as if it loved it"

Ox-eye daisy {moon daisy}

The Ox-eye, or Moon daisy is a taller relative of the common daisy and is also sometimes referred to as the Marguerite.
The Ox-eye, or Moon daisy is a taller relative of the common daisy and is also sometimes referred to as the Marguerite. | Source

The Medicinal and culinary past.

Long a go the Apothecaries referred to them as Consolida minor, alluding to their powers of consolidating wounds. It was given the name of bruise wort because it relieved and cured the bruises 'which were caused by blows'.

An old English herbal stated-" The greater wild daisie is a wound herb of good respect, often usual in those drinkes and salves that are for wounds, inward and outward." I believe, this remark, could allude to the taller relative the Ox-eye daisy. Leucanthemum vulgare. An author wrote in the year 1696-" They who wish to have pleasant dreams of the loved and absent, should put dazy rootes under their pillow" Another unusual piece of advise relates that, those who do not want their lap dogs to grow any bigger, should give them daisie rootes boiled in milke"


The leaves of the daisy , although somewhat acrid, have for centuries been eaten in spring salads, or boiled like spinach. The leaves and flowers were the parts generally employed for medicinal purposes, have a sharp and somewhat astringent taste, but no smell. Geoffroy, states, that they yield by analysis a considerable proportion of oil and ammonial salts. The sensible qualities of the root, however, are far more powerful. According to Lewis " it has a subtle penetrating pungency, which is not dissipated by drying, it is dissolved both by water and spirit"

The Ancient physicians were very lavish in its praise, and Culpeper,{1600's} said that God made the daisy so plentiful, because it is of great use" Fabricius and Ettmuller spoke of the efficacy in promoting the absorbtion of extravasated blood, whether from wounds, contusions or any other cause. Matthiolus affirmed that wounds of the thorax which have penetrated even into the cavity have been cured by this remedy.

The expressed juice or decoction of the leaves and flowers are usually given internally, and the bruised herb, either alone or mixed with lard {into an ointment} was applied externally. This was a very popular ointment , widely used , during the 1300's. A syrup was produced from the flowers to treat coughs and colds.

Whatever, the practical fame of this dainty little flower, its use in medicine had dwindled to almost nothing by the 1800's.

Illustration Daisies in a field

Source

Modern day uses

In some regions daisy leaves are eaten in salads as are the petals {white ray florets}. They may also be cooked in soups and stews. However, the daisy is one of those plants that produce a taste that you either love or loathe.

The flowering tops and foliage can be utilized in a herbal poultice which is said to be good against acne, bruises, sprains and strains etc. As a medication for internal use it is recommended that the advise and guidance of a professional herbalists should be sought, if there is a problem with bleeding , digestion or irritation is a problem.

For most of the above ailments the daisy is used in Homeopathy as a treatment.

Although no longer used in herbal medicine as much as it once was, we continue to admire this little flower, which only requires a little sun to encourage it to bloom at any time of the year. Of course the daisy has given rise to garden cultivars which are very popular in gardens during the spring, they are sold under the name of Bellis at nurseries and garden centers.

More by this Author


7 comments

D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 2 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

aviannovice,

Hi Deb, thank you for your welcome visit, and for leaving your comments, Best wishes to you.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Not only is it beautiful, but the daisy has there good uses.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 2 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Seafarer mama, Thank you for your visit and your kind comments are appreciated. Ox-eyes are beautiful when they are in large groups. Best wishes to you.


Seafarer Mama profile image

Seafarer Mama 2 years ago from New England

Such a lovely hub about a pretty flower. In the summer, the ox-eyes lace our back yard and are pretty to meditate upon from my deck. ~:0)


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 2 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

DDE, hi

Devika , glad to have helped. your comments are as always much appreciated.

tsadjatko, thank you for visiting and for leaving your comments. Where you thinking of lackadaisical ? meaning listless or languid. Best wishes to you.


tsadjatko profile image

tsadjatko 2 years ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

Interesting, I thought you might say that Daisies had something to do with where the phrase "lackadaisy" came from but no that's not the case.


DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

A simple looking plant with such beautiful flowers. I had no idea of such uses of this plant. You taught me about daisies and the unique benefits.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working