encyclopedia

Cowslip (Primula)

Scientific Names:    

Primula veris L. (syn. P. officinalis (L.) Hill. [Fam. Primulaceae]    
    
 
Forms:    

Cut and dried Primula flowers for infusions; Primula flower tincture; Primula root and Primula root preparations; Primula leaf juice.    
     

Traditional Usage:    

– Acne (leaf juice)
– Antispasmodic
– Anxiety
– Bone and Joint Conditions
– Breathing Disorders
– Bronchitis
– Catarrh (respiratory mucous)
– Coughs
– Dizziness
– Diuretic (mild)
– Expectorant
– Headache
– Insomnia
– Laryngitis
– Nerve Pain
– Nervous Excitability
– Restlessness
– Sedative
– Skin Conditions
– Vascular Disorders     
     
    
Overview:    

Cowslip, Primula veris L. (syn. P. officinalis (L.) Hill. [Fam. Primulaceae], otherwise known as Primula, is found in meadows and light undergrowth throughout the sunny regions of central and western Europe and Asia. Cowslip plants grow to about 20 cm tall have coarse and wrinkled leaves, and honey-scented, yellow flowers. Primula is primarily used for respiratory conditions such as bronchitis and coughs, as it has decongestant and phlegm thinning and loosening properties. It was popular in folk medicine and was believed to treat headache and nerve pain, as well as shaking and dizziness related to vascular weakness, although the validity of these claims has not been proven. The tea was traditionally recommended as a vascular tonic for sensations of dizziness and vascular insufficiency. Primrose root was taken for whooping cough, acute breathing disorders, bone and joint pain and stiffness, and nerve pain. In homeopathic medicine, primrose is prescribed for skin conditions. Primula leaf juice was also traditionally used for treating acne. The flowers can be made into a strong wine. Primula flowers can be taken as an infusion or in tinctures. The German Commission E recommends one to two teaspoons of dried primrose flowers or one teaspoon of the plant's dried root as a respiratory remedy for laryngitis, bronchitis, colds and coughs. The flowers and root are particularly recommended for dispelling catarrh of the respiratory tract – thick mucous that is difficult to move without a tea or other medicine. New studies using bioassays show that Primula veris has potential anxiolytic activity, and based on a study using chicks, Primula botanical extract may be useful in modulating anxiety states without causing sedation.    
     
    
Active Ingredients:    

Cowslip flowers contain: Up to 2% saponins, especially primula acid, largely concentrated in the sepals. In the other parts of the flowers flavonoids (gossypetin, kaempferol dirhamnoside, and 3-gentiotrioside, quercetin), carotenoids, traces of essential oil, and enzymes (primverase). Six new flavonoids have recently been identified: 3',4',5'-trimethoxyflavone and mono-, di- tri- and pentamethoxyflavones.
 
Cowslip root contains: 5-10% triterpenoid saponins including priverogenin A, B and others; phenolic glycosides especially primulaverin; rare sugars; sugar alcohols and small amounts of tannin.
 
   
Suggested Amount:    

As an expectorant and supportive treatment in promoting the secretion of phlegm (secretolytic) and alleviation of irritation in catarrh (mucous) of the upper respiratory tract, the recommended dosage for cowslip flower tea is: 1.5-3 teaspoons (2-4 g) of cut and dried flowers daily. One other source recommends 1-2 grams as an infusion taken three times daily. Pour (150 ml) of boiling water over the cut and dried herbal drug and steep 10-15 minutes, then strain. Drink hot infusion several times a day, especially in the morning and before bed. May sweeten with honey. 1 Teaspoon = 1.3 g. Primrose flower tincture is recommended with the daily dosage of 1.5 to 3 grams (about 0.25-0.5 teaspoonfuls); tincture prepared according to the German Erg. B 6 is recommended with the daily dosage of 2.5-7.5 grams. Primrose root is recommended with the daily dosage of 0.5 to 1.5 grams. As an expectorant, a cupful of the root infusion, sweetened with honey, is drunk every two to three hours. 1 teaspoon = ca. 3.5 grams. According to the German Commission E, primrose root tincture is recommended with the daily dosage of 1.5 to 3 grams, but other sources say up to 7.5g or about 1.5 teaspoonfuls. Because the potency of commercial preparations may vary, follow the manufacturer's directions whenever available.    
     
    
Drug Interactions:    

Excessive doses may interfere with existing hypo- or hypertensive therapy or cause gastrointestinal irritation.    
     
    
Contraindications:    

Skin reactions may occur for those allergic to Primula. The roots are not to be taken with aspirin, as they are high in salicylates. Excessive doses may interfere with existing hypo- or hypertensive therapy or cause gastrointestinal irritation. In view of the lack of safety data, use of cowslip during pregnancy and lactation should be avoided.    
     
    
Side Effects:    

Over-dosage of Primula may cause stomach upset, nausea and diarrhea. Allergic reactions to Primula have also been documented. The saponins have been reported to be haemolytic and are toxic to fish – and are said to be the constituents that act as gastro-intestinal irritants.    
     
    
References:    

Duke, J. 1997: The Green Pharmacy, The Ultimate Compendium of Natural Remedies from the World's Foremost Authority on Healing and Herbs. Pp. 119-120; 181; 373. Rodale Press.
 
Huck CW, Huber CG, Ongania KH, Bonn GK. 2000. Isolation and characterization of methoxylated flavones in the flowers of Primula veris by liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry.  J Chromatogr A. 2000 Feb 18; 870(1-2): 453-62.
 
Sufka KJ, Roach JT, Chambliss WG Jr, Broom SL, Feltenstein MW, Wyandt CM, Zeng L. 2001. Anxiolytic properties of botanical extracts in the chick social separation-stress procedure. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2001 Jan 1; 153(2): 219-24.
 
Wichtl, M and NG Bisset (Eds). 1994. Primulae flos – Primula flower. In Herbal Drugs and Phyto-pharmaceuticals. (English translation by Norman Grainger Bisset). CRC Press, Stuttgart, pp. 388-389.
 
Wichtl, M and NG Bisset (Eds). 1994. Primulae radix – Primula root. In Herbal Drugs and Phyto-pharmaceuticals. (English translation by Norman Grainger Bisset). CRC Press, Stuttgart, pp. 390-392.