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Lily of the Valley

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  • Botanical: Convallaria majalis
  • Family: Asparagaceae
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Lily of the Valley

Botanical

Convallaria majalis

Family

Asparagaceae

Known as

Augenkraut, Chaldron, Faldron, Galleieli, Glasblümli, Herrenblümli, Maiblume, Maiblümchen, Maienlilie, Maizauken, Marienglöckchen, Marienriesli, Niesekraut, Schillerlilie, Schneetropfen, Springauf, Tallilie, Zaucken

Collection Times

May

Parts Used

herb, leaves

Medicinal

asthma, cancer, circulation, difficulty breathing, dropsy, high blood preasure, swollen feet, edema

Heart & Circulation

circulation, dropsy (edema), edema, hemostatic, high blood pressure, swollen feet

Infection & Inflammation

swollen feet

Mind & Nerves

anxiety, epilepsy, irritability, neurasthenia

Respiratory System

asthma, emphysema

Stomach & Intestinal

constipation, digestion, low blood pressure

Properties

antispasmodic, digestive, diuretic, febrifuge, sedative

Description

C. majalis is a herbaceous perennial plant that forms extensive colonies by spreading underground stems called rhizomes. New upright shoots are formed at the ends of stolons in summer, these upright dormant stems are often called pips. These grow in the spring into new leafy shoots that still remain connected to the other shoots under ground, often forming extensive colonies. The stems grow to 15–30 cm tall, with one or two leaves 10–25 cm long, flowering stems have two leaves and a raceme of 5–15 flowers on the stem apex.

The flowers are white tepals (rarely pink), bell-shaped, 5–10 mm diameter, and sweetly scented; flowering is in late spring, in mild winters in the Northern Hemisphere it is in early March. The fruit is a small orange-red berry 5–7 mm diameter that contains a few large whitish to brownish colored seeds that dry to a clear translucent round bead 1–3 mm wide. Plants are self-sterile, and colonies consisting of a single clone do not set seed

Properties & Uses

Lily of the valley has a long and proven reputation in herbal medicine in the treatment of heart complaints. It contains the glycosides convallarin and convallamarin which are powerful cardiac tonics and diuretics and are also used in allopathic medicine. However, because of the plants potential toxic properties it should never be used without expert advice. All parts of the plant are antispasmodic, cardiotonic, strongly diuretic, emetic, febrifuge, laxative and sedative. The plant is usually harvested when in flower and can be dried for later use, though it is stronger acting when fresh. The inflorescence is said to be the most active medicinally and is often harvested separately. An infusion of the flowers and roots is a digitalis substitute (obtained from Digitalis species), though less powerful, that is especially useful in the treatment of valvula heart diseases, cardiac debility, dropsy and chronic lung problems such as emphysema. Lily of the valley encourages the heart to beat more slowly, regularly and efficiently, at the same time it is strongly diuretic, reducing blood volume and lowering blood pressure. Its effect is less cumulative than digitalis which makes it safer for elderly patients. It is often prescribed combined with the fruits of Crataegus spp. An ointment made from the roots is used in the treatment of burns and to prevent scar tissue. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Convallaria majalis : Lily Of The Valley for arrhythmia, cardiac insufficiency, nervous heart complaints 

Other Uses

An essential oil is obtained from the flowers. It is used in perfumery and for snuff. A green dye is obtained from the leaves in spring. A yellow dye is obtained from the leaves in autumn. Plants can be grown as a ground cover in woodland shade or in a shrubbery

Cautions

All parts of the plant are poisonous. However, the toxic principle is very poorly absorbed when taken orally so poisoning is unlikely to occur. The leaves can be a mild skin irritant. Overdose may lead to nausea, vomiting, stupor, colour perception disorders, and cardiac arrhythmias. Internal use preparations no longer considered safe

Distribution

Europe, including Britain, from Scandanavia to Spain east to N.E. Asia, Greece and the Caucasus.

Constituents

Convallatoxin, Convallarin, Convallatoxol, digitalis glycosides, asparagine, flavonoids, saponins