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Primrose

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Primrose

Primrose, Other Names - Past and Present

Chinese: bao chunhua
Korean: aengcho
Urdu: basanti gulab
French: primevere
Old French: primerose (lit. 'first rose')
English: common primrose / English primrose / butter rose / English cowslip / fairy cup (other nomenclatures exist)
Late Middle English: primerose (adopted from Old French)
Latin (esoteric): prima rosa
Latin (scientific nomenclature): Primula vulgaris

Background and History

The common or English primrose is often mistaken for the more popular evening primrose (genus Oneothera), of which it is not a part, due to the fact that it is often used as a short moniker for evening primrose. The English primrose is rather a very common countryside plant commonly found in open fields, and, on occasion waste areas. It is thought to be a native of the western and southern parts of Europe, although its range extends to beyond the European continent, with some direct and closely related species thriving in a large part of Asia and the New World. Despite being very common in the wild, uncultured specimens can become quite scarce on occasion due to seasonal indiscriminate collecting, which more often than not kills the plant. Some collectors pick only a few at a time, but the majority of individuals who collect common primroses with the intent of using its delicately scented flowers for potpourris or herb sachets often do so unheeding of relative damage rendered to the plant.

Primroses are moderately-sized perennials measuring some ten to thirty centimeters in length upon maturity, replete with small-sized leaves notable for their wrinkled, aged appearance and dentate edge. It is characterized by its uniquely-shaped inflorescence which features a slight arching from the middle of the petal, terminating in two often concentric curves that make the whole of the five-petaled flower. It is known for being pastel-hued, with many wild specimens showcasing shades of ivory, white, pink, pale magenta, yellow, or any nuanced combination of these colours. Some modern cultivars flaunt a more assorted array of colours, and both wild and cultivated varietals are popular garden plants. [1]

Primroses belong to a vast genus of plants, which makes them a common sight in both the tropics and semi-tropics. While it is viewed by most as a purely ornamental garden plant, ancient cultures, most predominantly those of the Chinese and the Europeans place some curative stock in primroses. Its use as a medicinal plant is chiefly centered in ethnic European, Indo-European, and folkloric Breton herbal medicine, although its use in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Grecian and Early Roman herbal medicine is also known.

Common / Popular Uses

Unlike a wholly unrelated plant named after it (the evening primrose), common primrose is chiefly grown as an ornamental plant, with a number of different varietals and cultivars made available in the market for gardeners and horticulturists alike. Wild primrose is also a prime choice for ornamental plants, although due to the recent scarcity brought about by the often violent and thoughtless harvesting of its flowers during season, actively obtaining and replanting wild primrose from a site to one's personal garden is considered a potentially illegal act, although this isn't a general given. [2] More often than not, if one manages to purchase a plot of land which already have a significant number of primrose bushes growing on it, one gets to 'keep' it by default and cultivate (or eradicate) it however one wills. Due to the popularity of common primrose flowers and their relative scarcity however, coming upon even a single growing bush in one's backyard can be considered a godsend.

Aside from being employed as a decorative plant, traditional European herbal medicine, especially traditional Celtic and Breton herbalism readily employ the flowers, roots, and (on occasion) the leaves of the plant for medicinal purposes, with each subsequent plant part possessing its own distinct medicinal properties.

The most common method of employing primrose is in the creation decoctions, although it is a versatile herb that may be applied and processed through a variety of different mediums. A decoction of the flowers of the plant, usually in combination with its leaves (and often rarely, combined with fresh or dried roots) have been employed by early Greek physicians as a nearpanacea. Within the context of European herbalism however, a decoction of the plant parts (typically consisting of a combination of the flowers and the root) have long been employed as a sedative. In the olden days, it was given to individuals who were said to suffer from hysterics, and was at one time even employed as a remedy for palsy and tremors. Moderately strong decoctions of the leaves (or a combination of the leaves and roots) were employed as a disinfectant chiefly due to its astringent properties. [3] Combined with antiseptic herbs, it was useful for the medication of bandages or for washing open wounds, cuts, and other injuries. Very strong decoctions of its leaves yielded a liquor which possessed antispasmodic, vermifuge, expectorant, analgesic and antipyretic properties. When used raw and made into a poultice or a paste, it may be employed as a healing salve for open wounds. Mixed with oil and heated, it can help to relieve mild symptoms of rheumatism and arthritis; while heated sans the oil, it makes for an excellent compress to reduce inflammations and fevers. A maceration of the dried leaves (often combined with the dried root of the plant) makes for an excellent ointment for the relief of pains associated with rheumatism, arthritis, muscular spasms, and general discomforts brought about my over-exertion or strain, although it is not as potent as the sole distillated essential oil of the plant's roots. [4]

An infusion made solely of the flower petals has been employed in both European and New World herbal medicine as a remedy for insomnia, restlessness, fatigue, and, in stronger concentrations, even tremors, palsy, and frenzy, and, due to its efficiency, has even been sold as a tisane, or otherwise integrated into tea-recipes promoted for sleep and relaxation. [5] While fresh, the flowers may even be employed as a culinary additive, yielding a mildly pleasant yet lingering aroma when incorporated into soups and stews. It is a fairly common ingredient in traditional cuisine redolent of the Mediaeval era. The dried flowers may also be allowed to macerate in oil, to be employed as a soothing massage ointment that promotes relaxation. It is best applied to the upper extremities, and works best when massaged into the temples, scalp, neck, and upper back.

The fresh and dry root of the plant also possesses potent medicinal properties - far more potent than the leaves or flowers by themselves, although doubly efficient if combined with either (or both) constituent parts. Mildly decocted in either it's fresh or dry form, the root of the primrose makes for an excellent expectorant, especially when combined with mint, honey, and cloves. The root is nowadays most often dried and powdered. Like ginger root, it may be combined with honey along with a number of other medicinal plants and taken as a quick remedy for a variety of different bronchial problems. The honey mixture may likewise be employed as an antibacterial salve or soothing balm for skin inflammations, allergies, and minor cuts or scrapes. Nowadays, the dried and powdered root of the primrose is often encapsulated and sold as a food supplement, either by itself, or combined with its other component parts.

A more potent albeit less popular medicinal remedy derived from common primrose is the obtainment of the essential oil of the root. Obtained through steam distillation, the essential oil of the plant is akin to evening primrose oil in its quality and mode of use. Despite not being as popular as the oil of the former species, it is employed in much the same way. The essential oil of primrose is often employed as a sedative when applied to the upper extremities. Just like evening primrose oil, it may be applied topically to soothe burns and an assortment of topical ailments, or it may be applied religiously to scars and wounds to help hasten healing. It has also been employed to help smoothen the skin and improve its vibrancy, elasticity, and texture. The essential oil of the common primrose may also be employed as a salve or ointment for the relief of rheumatic and arthritic pains due to its mildly analgesic properties. However, the production of primrose essential oil is labour-intensive, and the demand for it in the general market is low, hence its relative obscurity. The use of the whole dried root nevertheless remains quite popular, as it is known to impart a certain aroma and flavour to alcoholic beverages. It has been employed for just such purposes since ancient times, and is a common ingredient in ciders, ales, and wine. [6] It is said that incorporating the dried root (often with the inclusion of its flowers) into the creation of such beverages makes for a very fragrant liquor which, when drunk, is said to soothe frayed nerves, remedy headaches, and calm hysterics. Stronger infusions typically yield a tincture which can be employed as an emetic, an emmenagogue, and as a general tonic said to purify the blood. Plain tinctures that are made from large dried roots (commonly referred to as 'tubers') allowed to steep in at least 90% to 100% proof alcohol is commonly given as a sedative when diluted with water, or employed as an emmenagouge. In milder dilutions, it may even be employed for the management of epilepsy and hysteria.

Esoteric / Magickal Uses

The use of primrose in the esoteric sense is closely interlinked with the predominant goddess worship of the early Europeans. The flowers of the plant are considered sacred to a number of goddesses, but are most commonly ascribed to as invocatory of the goddess Freyja. Wearing garlands of primrose flowers, or drinking a brew made from primrose flowers and roots is said to evoke the blessings of the goddess, while the consumption of any raw part of primrose is supposed to grant one the 'sight' or ability to see the world of the Fae. [7] Furthermore, a tea of primrose blossoms offered to the object of one's eye is said to elicit feelings of love and desire. Bathing one's person with an infusion of primrose blossoms is believed to enhance one's attractiveness, desirability and charisma. Burning dried primrose flowers (or ground primrose root), while not traditionally performed as part of magickal rites, is, in the modern context, employed for protection and for the enhancement or attainment of extrasensory abilities. Because it is believed to be a protective herb, planting primrose around one's household was also traditionally believed to protect the homestead from ill-fortune, sickness, and discord. [8] A household where primroses grew was said to be favoured by, and blessed by the little folk, especially by Fae. Due to its traditional associations with relaxation and sleep, dried flowers were commonly sewn into pillows during ancient times, as it was believed to promote restful sleep devoid of nightmares, as well as to enhance the harmony and loyalty of each family member.

While the consumption of all the constituent parts of primrose is relatively safe for individuals of all ages, pregnant women are discouraged from taking highly concentrated decoctions or tinctures of the plant, as its emmenagogue properties may result in accidental miscarriage. While tisanes derived from the flower of the primrose is relatively safe for pregnant and nursing individuals, it is best given only in very mild or diluted consistencies in order to avoid possible accidental complications. Any product derived from the common primrose regardless of the method of derivation should not be given to infants below three years of age due to possible complications that may result in mild to extreme discomfort for infants who imbibe primrose-derived remedies.

References

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primula_vulgaris

[2] http://www.seedaholic.com/primula-vulgaris.html

[3] http://medicinalherbinfo.org/herbs/Primrose.html

[4] http://herbs-treatandtaste.blogspot.com/2011/03/common-or-english-primrose-useful-herb.html

[5 - 6] http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/p/primro69.html

[7] http://www.magialuna.net/p.html

[8] http://www.northernshamanism.org/herbalism/herbal/freyas-herbs.html

Main article researched and created by Alexander Leonhardt, Scientific Studies report by Dan Ablir. © herbs-info.com 2013

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