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Saffron Meadow

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  • Botanical: Colchicum autumnale
  • Family: Colchicaceae
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Saffron Meadow

Botanical

Colchicum autumnale

Family

Colchicaceae

Known as

autumn crocus, meadow saffron, naked lady

Old Use

medical, industry

Collection Times

summer

Parts Used

roots, seed

Medicinal

diarrhea, gout, joint pain, knee pain, rheumatism

Muscle & Joints

arthritis, gout, joint pain, knee pain, rheumatism

Respiratory System

catarrh

Stomach & Intestinal

diarrhea, gastrointestinal

Properties

analgesic, anesthetic

Description

It has lanceolate leaves, dark green, glabrous, often a foot long. Flowers light purple or white, like crocus but for their six stamens; the ovaries remain underground until the spring after flowering, when they are borne up by the elongating peduncles and ripen. It flowers in September and October. The leaves and fruit are poisonous to cattle. The root is called a corm, from which in autumn the light-purplish mottled flowers arise.

Properties & Uses

Though known since at least the time of the ancient Greeks, autumn crocus was considered too poisonous to use medicinally and it was not until research in the Eighteenth century that the plant was discovered to be of value in the treatment of gout. In modern herbalism it is still used to relieve the pain and inflammation of acute gout and rheumatism, although frequent use has been known to encourage more frequent attacks of the complaint. Both the corm and the seeds are analgesic, antirheumatic, cathartic and emetic. They are used mainly in the treatment of gouty and rheumatic complaints, usually accompanied with an alkaline diuretic. Leukaemia has been successfully treated with autumn crocus, and the plant has also been used with some success to treat Bechet's syndrome, a chronic disease marked by recurring ulcers and leukaemia. A very toxic plant, it should not be prescribed for pregnant women or patients with kidney disease, and should only be used under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. See also the notes above on toxicity. The seeds are harvested in early summer, the corms in mid to late summer when the plant has fully died down. They are dried for later use. The fresh bulb is used to make a homeopathic remedy. It is used in the treatment of nausea, diarrhoea and rheumatism.

Other Uses

The poisonous alkaloid 'colchicine' is extracted from this plant and used to alter the genetic make-up of plants in an attempt to find new, improved varieties. It works by doubling the chromosome number

Cautions

All parts of the plant, but especially the bulb, are poisonous. They cause vomiting, violent purging, serious inflammation of the stomach and bowels, and death. Handling the corms can cause skin allergies in some people

Distribution

Colchicum autumnale is the only species of its genus native to the United Kingdom, with notable populations under the stewardship of the County Wildlife Trusts. It also occurs across mainland Europe from Portugal to Ukraine, and is reportedly naturalized in Denmark, Sweden, European Russia, the Baltic States and New Zealand.

Constituents

starch, sugar, resin, tannin, and water

For educational purposes only This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.