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More than Just Pretty Flowers

Updated: Jul 29, 2021

Each year the spring and summer bring an abundance of beautiful flowers to our gardens – flowers we admire for their beauty and fragrance but are often unaware that they offer more than these aesthetic qualities.

This month we thought we would look at a few of these flowers and share with you some of the medicinal aspects of these blooming beauties that you might not be aware of.

Peony (Paeonia lactiflora)

This beautiful, showy plant has a long history of medicinal use especially in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Dried peony root is used for a range of conditions including gout, osteoarthritis, fever, respiratory tract illnesses, and cough. Women use peony for menstrual cramps, polycystic ovary syndrome, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and for irregular menstruation. It is also used for viral hepatitis, liver cirrhosis, upset stomach, muscle cramps, and “hardening of the arteries” (arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis). Peony has been used for spasms, whooping cough, nerve pain, migraine headaches, and chronic fatigue syndrome. Topically it is used for healing cracked skin and soothing hemorrhoids. Note – The root of Peony is sometimes called red peony and white peony. This does not refer to the colour of the flowers, which are pink, red, purple, or white, but to the colour of the processed root.

Mallow (Malva sylvestris)

This pretty plant is a member of the Marshmallow plant family and as you would expect from marshmallow, it is soft and soothing. Common mallow is a popular herb to treat respiratory problems since it has healing properties that help the mucosa of the upper respiratory tract. Mallow traditionally is used as an herbal remedy for asthma, bronchitis, coughing, throat infections and emphysema. It is also used to treat wounds or inflammation of the mucous membrane in the mouth, throat, stomach and intestines. Other traditional uses of this herb include the treatment of gallstones, kidney stones, kidney inflammation, headache, constipation, gastritis, toothaches and insomnia. Due to the astringent, bactericidal and anti-inflammatory properties of the plant it can be useful externally as an herbal treatment for wounds, boils, skin rashes, insect bites, pimples, eczema, acne and swellings.

Periwinkle (Vinca minor)

This loving blue-flowered ground cover, referred to as common or lesser periwinkle, has been used for centuries for its ability to stop bleeding and improve blood flow in the body. Historically the leaves and flowers of periwinkle have been employed as an astringent and blood-staunching herb, effective against internal bleeding, heavy menstrual bleeding, or nosebleeds. Periwinkle is known to increase blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain, and has been used to treat arteriosclerosis and dementia caused by insufficient blood flow to the brain. It has also been shown to help improve the symptoms of tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Periwinkle is also an effective mouthwash for treating canker sores, sore throats and gingivitis.

Honeysuckle (Lonicera caprifolium/spp.)

The flowers of this sweet smelling vine have long been used in Western and Chinese Herbal Medicine and, although not used in Western herbal medicine as much today as it has been in the past, its traditional usage indicates that various parts of the plant have different therapeutic benefits. For instance, the bark has diuretic properties and can be taken to relieve gout, kidney stones, and liver problems. The leaves are astringent and make a good mouthwash and gargle for sore throats or canker sores. The flowers relieve coughs and act as an antispasmodic used in the treatment of asthma (a syrup made from honeysuckle and mallow flowers is excellent for stubborn dry coughs). Oil infused from the flowers, is used to restore circulation to the extremities that have been numbed by cold and to reduce pain and inflammation. Honeysuckle has long been used in Chinese medicine to clear heat and to relieve toxicity, especially that of such inflammatory diseases as rheumatoid arthritis, abscesses, sores, inflammation of the breast, and dysentery.

Pansy/Heartsease (Viola tricolor)

The colourful petals of the larger pansy and its miniature variety heartsease are excellent for removing waste material from the tissues of the body and helping to treat skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne. They can be used internally and used externally as wash in eczema and other skin problems and are even safe for small children. Both have also been used as stimulating expectorants for bronchial and congestive pulmonary complaints. For urinary problems they will aid in the healing of cystitis and can be used to ease the symptoms of frequent and painful urination. They can also be used as an eyewash to treat inflammation of eyelids and have been used as a mouthwash and gargle for inflammation of the mouth and throat.

Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)

The petals of this pretty flower (also known as Bachelor’s Button) have been used for hundreds of years to treat a range of conditions including muscle and joint pain, eye complaints, anxiety, skin irritations and digestive issues. Cornflower is especially effective for renal and urinary complaints and diarrhea. One of the main traditional uses of cornflower, especially in Europe, is to reduce inflammation in the region of the eyes and conjunctivitis where it can be used as eyewash and the petals are applied as a poultice. In addition, the petals of cornflower are also used internally in the form of a bitter energizer and stimulant, for enhancing digestion and to support the liver, in addition to augmenting resistance to infection by enhancing good gut flora. A tea made from the petals is used a hair rinse to treat dandruff, strengthen hair follicles and heal the scalp.

Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)

This colourful plant is a member of the mint family. As suggested by its name, it is a favourite of bees and should be a favourite of yours too! Also called Oswego Tea it can be made into a soothing, nice tasting tea to calm nerves and as a relaxing sleep aid. It is great for improving general digestion, easing flatulence, improving appetite, relieving colic, reducing bloating, alleviating menstrual cramping, and reducing nausea and vomiting. Bee balm is also good for cold & flu season where it can help break fevers, ease coughs and congestion and soothe aching muscles. Externally it heals cuts and stings, soothes skin conditions such as eczema and acne, and eases sore muscles, sprains and strains. It also makes a refreshing ice tea during the hot months of summer!

These flowers are only just a few of the beautiful plant healers out there so next time you're out appreciating a lovely wildflower, we hope you'll think of these and remember it's more than just a pretty face!

All material contained herein is provided for general information purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or consultation. Contact a reputable healthcare practitioner if you are in need of medical care.

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