The chrysanthemum, of which there are many varieties, has been known by a host of common names throughout history. Some of the chrysanthemum's common names include pellitory, feverfew , ox-eye daisy, and sunflower among others. It is a flower that has grown in gardens all around the world as far back as any records can tell, and seems to have been employed everywhere at some time or another as a cure for a host of complaints.
Chinese chrysanthemum flower
The Latin name for Chinese chrysanthemum flower is Chrysanthemum indicum, and it is known in China as Ju
Jua. The plant grows profusely throughout China and is both an emblem to the Chinese and greatly prized for its medicinal properties, particularly as an anti-inflammatory.
The best flowers for medicinal purposes are considered to be the yellow fragrant ones. They are classified as being acrid, bitter, and slightly cold in the Chinese pharmacopoeia. Traditionally, they are harvested in the fall, when they are in full bloom.
The herb is taken internally for headaches, dizziness , and hearing disorders. It is also useful as a treatment for high blood pressure (hypertension ). It is used as a compress or eye wash for inflammation of the eyes and for other eye problems such as dry-eye, blurred vision, and spots before the eyes. The herb can also be taken internally as an infusion and is combined with honeysuckle for the treatment of colds, the flu, and infected sores. It has a calming effect and can also be good for stress . Chrysanthemum is known to be a powerful antiseptic and antibiotic. However, people suffering from diarrhea should take it with caution.
There are many plants that go by the name of pellitory, but this one is also a member of the chrysanthemum family. Its botanical name is Chrysanthemum cinerariafolium, and it originated in Dalmatia. It is cultivated in both Dalmatia and California. Previously, Persian pellitory was the most widely used, but it has been superceded by Dalmatian pellitory in practical use due to ease of cultivation.
The variety of chrysanthemum that is perhaps the most useful as far as herbal medicine is concerned, is feverfew, or Chrysanthemum parthenium. Most species of chrysanthemum are tall daisy-like flowers and feverfew is no exception. It is commonly found in England and the United States, and is similar to chamomile in appearance. Feverfew differs from chamomile in that it is larger and the white petals are arranged around a flat yellow center, as opposed to conical, which is the case with chamomile. The hairy stems of feverfew grow to about 2 ft (61 cm) tall, and the leaves are serrated and downy. Feverfew is also known by other common names, including featherfew, featherfoil, flirtwort, bachelor's buttons, and wild chamomile.
The botanical name for the ox-eye daisy is Chrysanthemum leucanthemum. It is a common sight in Britain, where it is known as dun daisy or maudlinwort. It is common throughout Europe, Russia, and Asia. Again, it is a yellow-centered flower with white petals. It grows to a height of 1-2 ft (30-61 cm) and has small leaves with serrated edges.
The sunflower is a native of Mexico and Peru, and is commonly grown in the United States and many other areas of the world. This is the largest of the chrysanthemum family, and there are several subspecies, varying slightly in size. Generally it grows to a height of 3-12 ft (91-366 cm), with flower heads that may measure more than 6 in (15 cm) across. The leaves are serrated and rough.
The Flower Essence Society (FES) of California has a chrysanthemum essence that they recommend for those seeking spiritual growth.
According to many herbalists, species of chrysanthemum have many medicinal uses.
This is commonly known as insect powder due to its insecticide properties. An advantage is that the powder is completely harmless to humans, and so does not have side effects (as is the case with all chemical insecticides), and can be used as a lotion and applied to the skin as an insect repellant. If the flowers are burned, the smoke that is given off can be valuable in exterminating insects.
Feverfew is chiefly regarded for its ability to treat fevers, reduce swelling, and for its analgesic properties; it is an excellent cure for a headache or any other pain . It is also used to promote menstrual flow, as an antidote to depression and nervous disorders, and as a general tonic. In addition, feverfew can be used to help in cases of difficult breathing, particularly associated with asthma , and chest infections . It has been used as a treatment for insect bites and even rat bites. In the past, feverfew was recommended for planting around dwellings because of its antiseptic properties. It wards off disease and prevents pests and diseases from attacking other plants. Similar to Dalmatian pellitory, it also has a repellant effect on insects. It can be used externally for flatulence and colic .
The herb has a soothing effect and is recommended for night sweats, especially those associated with tuberculosis . It is recommended for use in cases of whooping cough , asthma, and nervous tension. Generally its action can be compared to that of chamomile. It is useful for relieving chronic coughs and bronchial catarrh. Externally, it can be used as a lotion for wounds, bruises , and some skin conditions. In this regard, some herbalists recommend it as an ointment for treating swellings and it is also known for treating gout . Others recommend it for treating jaundice and also as a diuretic and tonic.
The sunflower is chiefly grown for its seeds which produce an oil, similar to olive oil, that is both cheap to produce and a valuable source of fatty acids. In many parts of the world, the sunflower provides much needed nutrition in poorer areas. The seeds can be used medicinally for treatment of bronchial complaints. A tincture of the seed has been used successfully in areas such as Russia, Turkey, and Persia for fevers (even malaria ), where it has been found to be free of the complications sometimes associated with the use of quinine.
PARTS USED: FLOWERS. The chief use for Dalmatian pellitory is as an insecticide, or as an ointment to ward off insects. It is mainly dried and ground to a powder to this end.
PARTS USED: BARK, FLOWERS, AND LEAVES. For coughs it is generally made up into a syrup (decoction) with sugar or honey. The herb, when bruised and added to a little oil, can be used as an external application for flatulence and colic. For swellings and bites, it can be made up into a tincture, two teaspoonfuls of which should be mixed with half a pint of cold water and applied. As an infusion, made with boiling water and allowed to cool, feverfew will soothe pain of any kind, (muscular, nerve-related, rheumatic or intestinal). Chewing the leaves (one to four per day) can be effective in the case of migraine. It has also been used in this way to treat cases of worms .
PARTS USED: FLOWERS, ROOTS, AND LEAVES. This plant is mainly employed as an infusion. But in the case of tuberculosis, 15–60 drops of the fluid-extract should be taken in water. The flowers boiled with the leaves and stalks and sweetened with a little honey are a treatment for chest complaints.
PARTS USED: SEEDS AND LEAVES. Chest complaints: boil two ounces of the seeds in one quart of water until the water is reduced to 12 oz. Strain and add six ounces of Holland gin and six ounces of sugar. The dose is one to two teaspoonfuls of the mixture three times a day. Roasting the seeds and making an infusion is recommended for whooping cough .
As with any herbal preparations, all of the above should be used with care and preferably under the super-vision of an herbal practitioner.
Feverfew should not be used for migraine that is a result of some kind of deficiency in the body (whether nutritional or otherwise). It is possible that feverfew may cause dermatitis , allergic reactions, or sores in the mouth in susceptible individuals. It should not be taken by pregnant women due to its ability to stimulate the uterus.
Feverfew has been known to interfere with blood-clotting ability, and so a doctor should be consulted before it is used in conjunction with anticoagulants.
Buchman, Dian Dincin. Herbal Medicine. London: Tiger Books International, 1993.
Culpeper, Nicholas. Culpeper's Complete Herbal. London: Bloomsbury Books, 1992.
Grieve, Mrs. M. A Modern Herbal. London: Tiger Books International, 1992.
chry·san·the·mum / kriˈsan[unvoicedth]əməm/ • n. (pl. chrysanthemums ) a plant (genera Chrysanthemum and Dendranthema) of the daisy family, having brightly colored ornamental flowers and existing in many cultivated varieties. ∎ a flower or flowering stem of this plant.