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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

DAFFODILS- HOW TO USE DAFFODILS FLOWERS AND BULB FOR HEALTH BENEFITS


DAFFODILS, NARCISSUS PSEUDO-NARCISSUS
The daffodil is native to the British Isles and Europe where it grows wild. It is also known affectionately as the Daffy-down-dilly, daffodilly, which are said to be corruptions of “Asphodel” as the daffodil is thought to be similar in appearance to the asphodel of the ancient Greeks which was planted on or around tombs. That is how it became a portent of death. However, in Wales it is a symbol of the patron saint, David, (Dewi Sant in Welsh) and of rebirth and faithfulness as it blooms after even the harshest winters.
 It gets the name Narcissus either from the myth of the youth Narcissus who was so enamoured with his own reflection that he ignored the poor nymph who loved him and died. The narcissus flower grew where he died. The daffodil is not the narcissus which is simply called that by most florists although they belong to the same family and are closely related, and so is the jonquil, Narcissus jonquilla, and Narcissus poeticus is another type of flower in that family. However Pliny says that the narcissus family gets the name from the Greek “narkao” which means to benumb. This is perfectly plausible as the plant is poisonous and contains atropine as does the snowdrop. It also has caused death by paralysis of the central nervous system to animals which have eaten the plant. It has also caused accidental death or poisoning when the bulb has been mistaken for an onion and in these cases it has been noted that the toxin is fast acting and the high temperature it was exposed to during cooking, did not lower the toxicity of the daffodil bulb and only a relatively small quantity of the bulb was eaten.
Welsh daffodil
   The daffodil was a principal ingredient of the ancient ointment called “Narcissum.” Despite its toxic properties it has been used as an emetic to cause vomiting and purge the body. This emetic has been given in the form of powdered flowers or bulb. An infusion used to be made of the root or flowers or sometimes they were included in a syrup for pulmonary catarrh.
  Culpeper says that the roots have hot and dry properties and when boiled produced vomiting. He also states that they “are used with good success at the appearance of approaching agues” especially in fevers contracted in spring when seasons change. He goes on to say “the juice when mingled with honey, frankincense wine and myrrh and dropt in the ears, the roots made hollow and boiled in oil help raw ribed heels.” So if shoes didn’t fit and rubbed your heels daffodil roots were a good remedy. Galen believed that the daffodil plant was useful for wounds as it has astringent properties.
Wild daffodils
   Today daffodils are cultivated on the slopes of the Black Mountains in Powys, in mid Wales as they contain higher amounts of galantamine than daffodils grown further down the mountain.  Galantamine has been found in snowdrops and these were mainly grown in Bulgaria and China for the pharmaceutical industry as this has been found to be effective in warding off symptoms of Alzheimer’s and poliomyelitis (see snowdrops). As galantamine has also been found in daffodils and the Welsh ones seem to have a particularly high yield of this, they are also being cultivated for pharmaceutical use.
  It is perhaps fitting that daffodils are being cultivated in Wales as they are the national flower. There is much debate about how this came to be the national flower of Wales, but this would seem to be a matter of commonsense. St David’s Day is on March 1st and is celebrated in Wales every year.   Daffodils are usually blooming then and the daffodil’s name in Welsh means Saint Peter’s Leek or Cenhinen Pedr while the leek is the symbol of Wales and this is Cenhinen in Welsh. As they have such a close etymological relationship in Welsh it is hardly surprising that the daffodil, along with the leek became the national symbol. Also few other flowers bloom around March 1st.  The ancient Celts would have used the daffodil for cures and it seems that they may have employed them in cancer treatments and used them as a sedative. When Christianity was forced upon the inhabitants of Wales they would have kept faith with their traditions, and the daffodil was probably a potent symbol for those early people.
Wild daffodils
   It is said that the only Welsh-born Prime minister of Britain (1916-22), Lloyd George popularized the daffodil as a symbol of Wales as he wore it to all public engagements in his lapel and wore it when Edward Albert was invested as Prince of Wales at Caernafon in North Wales in 1911. Edward was to become King Edward VIII but abdicated to marry Mrs. Wallace Simpson.
   Daffodils contain the bioflavonoid quercetin and others, and there are crystals of the mineral calcium in the plant’s sap. Daffodils, despite their toxicity were used in traditional medicine for many purposes for centuries. The bulbs were pounded and made into a paste to be applied to wounds and were effective due to their astringent properties. The poultices made with these were also place on parts affected by gout, burns, and joint pains to bring relief. The flowers and bulbs were also used for hysteria and even epilepsy and were said to be effective remedies. 
   Daffodils are also called the Lenten Lily (Blodyn mis Mawrth in Welsh) as they bloom early in the year and are usually past their prime by the time Easter comes. The wild daffodils in the Lake District in northern England delighted the Romantic poet, William Wordsworth who wrote the famous “Daffodils” poem after encountering them on one of his walks.
      “I wander’d lonely as a cloud
       O’er vales and hills,
       When all at once I saw a crowd
       A host of golden daffodils.”
Apart from these daffodils that so delighted Wordsworth there are daffodils which grow around the coastal town of Tenby in West Wales, named Narcissus obvallaris, which are orange, and quite rare.
  Wild daffodils are smaller than their cultivated relatives and can have the most amazing fragrance. However they are best left where they grow as they are a protected species.
 
  

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