- Botanical: Daphne mezereum
- Family: Thymelaeaceae
- Hits: 723
Known asFebruary daphne, mezereon, mezereum, spurge laurel or spurge olive
Old Usemedical, industry
Parts Usedbark, resin
Medicinalrheumatism, ulcers, vomiting
Muscle & Jointsrheumatism
Stomach & Intestinalvomiting
It is a deciduous shrub growing to 1.5 m tall. The leaves are soft, 3–8 cm long and 1–2 cm broad, arranged spirally on the stems. The flowers are produced in early spring on the bare stems before the leaves appear. They have a four-lobed pink or light purple (rarely white) perianth 10–15 mm diameter, and are strongly scented. The fruit is a bright red berry 7–12 mm diameter; it is very poisonous for people, though fruit-eating birds like thrushes are immune and eat them, dispersing the seeds in their droppings.
Properties & Uses
Mezereum has been used in the past for treating rheumatism and indolent ulcers, but because of its toxic nature it is no longer considered to be safe. The plant contains various toxic compounds, including daphnetoxin and mezerein, and these are currently being investigated (1995) for their anti-leukaemia effects. The bark is cathartic, diuretic, emetic, rubefacient, stimulant and vesicant. The root bark is the most active medically, but the stem bark is also used. It has been used in an ointment to induce discharge in indolent ulcers and also has a beneficial effect upon rheumatic joints. The bark is not usually taken internally and even when used externally this should be done with extreme caution and not applied if the skin is broken. The bark is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use. The fruits have sometimes been used as a purgative. A homeopathic remedy is made from the plant. It is used in the treatment of various skin complaints and inflammations.
A yellow to greenish-brown dye is obtained from the leaves, fruit and bark. The seed contains up to 31% of a fatty oil. No further details are given.
All parts of the plant are highly toxic. Skin contact with the sap can cause dermatitis in some people
It is native to most of Europe and Western Asia, north to northern Scandinavia and Russia. In southern Europe it is confined to medium to higher elevations and in the subalpine vegetation zone, but descends to near sea level in northern Europe. It is generally confined to soils derived from limestone.
The acridity of the bark is chiefly due to mezeen, a greenish-brown, sternutatory, amorphous resin. Mezereic acid, into which it can be changed, is found in the alcoholic and ethereal extracts, together with a fixed oil, a bitter, crystalline glucoside, daphnin, and a substance like euphorbone. Daphnin can be resolved into daphnetin and sugar by the action of dilute acids.