Did you know that the common daisy has been used for centuries as an herbal medicine and that modern researchers are investigating the therapeutic properties of this plant?
The common daisy (Bellis perennis) is arguably one of the most useful therapeutic herbs that we have that is grossly over-looked. Ask people about the daisy and most of them will have made daisy-chains but won’t know that the daisy is edible and is also a valuable herbal medicine.
Daisy has fallen out of use in modern herbal medicine but at one time its properties were much better known. It was used to ease aches, pains and strains in the way that people now use arnica (arnica is a type of daisy that grows in the Alps). Common daisy was known as “Gardeners’ Friend” because it was applied to relieve the aching joints of people who had been crouched down gardening all day. Why not try making your own daisy ointment and using it instead of shop-bought arnica cream? [Want to learn how to make your own ointments? The next herbal medicine class will take place on May 10th. Click here to read more details or book the class click here].
Daisy was also thought to be a wound-healer and people would apply it to cuts and scrapes to help to heal up wounds. A research study published in 2012 appears to confirm these properties of daisy. This study found that 100% of the wounds treated on rats with an extract of daisy healed perfectly without any scarring. The researchers concluded “Thus, traditional usage of wound healing activity of B. perennis was scientifically verified for the first time.”
Traditionally daisy was also made into infusions or tinctures and taken internally as a medicine. People used daisy extracts to relieve coughs, colds and catarrh. Modern analysis of this plant has found that daisies contain nearly as much vitamin C as lemons! Which brings me on to eating daisies…..
Daisies are edible and are a very easy plant to forage for. Pluck the young leaves and flowers and add them to salads. Try decorating cakes with some daisy petals. Daisy tea is very refreshing and has a subtle lemony taste. Add 2 tsp of fresh daisies to 1 cup of boiled water. Infuse for 10 mins. Strain off the herbs and drink the liquid. A word of warning: don’t do any of these things if you are very allergic to pollen because daisy flowers contain pollen and could trigger this allergy.
There is always so much to learn about therapeutic herbs. Sometimes modern researchers investigate known traditional uses of herbs and find chemicals in the plants that verify the traditional uses. Other times researchers discover possible new therapeutic uses for plants when they find chemicals in them that suggest another potential use. There are two remarkable examples of this from chemicals isolated in the common daisy. A glycosidase inhibitor found in the leaves of daisy appears to be similar to castanospermine and other HIV drugs. This raises the fascinating question of whether or not it would be possible to develop effective medicines from extracts of daisy for people who are HIVpositive. If I win the Euro Millions Lottery then I promise to fund this research!
A study published in 2014 indicates similarly mind-blowing potential. Researchers investigated anti-tumour properties (i.e. the potential ability to stop tumours growing) of extracts of daisy. I don’t know what prompted the researchers to investigate this because I haven’t come across any evidence from history of people having used daisy in an attempt to treat cancers and tumours. I’m glad that the researchers conducted this study though because they found that certain extracts of daisy showed highly significant anti-tumour activity. This study was conducted on potato tissue (this is the standard way for testing substances to see if they have anti-tumour properties) and is a very long way from suggesting that extracts of daisy may help to prevent cancer growth in humans. Often in scientific research what is effective in isolation in the test-tube is rendered completely ineffective when given to humans in real life (because of the complex interaction of all the different chemicals within the body). However, it would be fascinating to see what further studies into this area would reveal.
In the meantime I’m going to relax now and enjoy my vitamin-C laden cup of daisy tea.
Not such a humble daisy now eh?
This blog/article is copyright Vivienne Campbell 2015©
A fully-referenced version of this article is available to buy for €20. Please email me if you’d like to purchase a copy. Please note these are electronic (not printed) articles and are sent via email. All articles are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without my permission.