Daffodil - Botany And History

The daffodil is a relatively ancient plant, if one considers it as under the very broad genera of the Narcissus. While it is considered a native of Europe, daffodils are also found throughout much of Eurasia, Asia Minor, and throughout the temperate, tropical, and sub-tropical regions of the Americas. Because the plant belongs to a large genera, it often possesses various characteristics that make each sub-specie unique unto itself. The wild daffodil however, is distinctive for its unique trumpet-like appearance. It sports very pale yellow flowers that border on ivory-hued, with a darked-hued central trumpet that can range from bright yellow to almost brazen in hue. Much like most plants under the Narcissus genera, daffodils grow from bulbs which grow into slightly tallish plants between two to three feet in length. Generally growing in clumps or bunches, each bunch can sport between ten to as much as twenty flowers depending on the species - some growing singularly per stalk, while others growing profusely in alternate growths throughout the length of the stalk. The main branch or primary stalk of the plant may appear to be soft, but it is tough and somewhat resilient, although some species of daffodil often contain a minute amount of sap in its stalks and is notable for its lack of leaves.

The flowers of the wild daffodil are a uniform pale-yellow to ivory, with a bright-yellow to brassy central trumpet, although cultivated varieties also sport hues like ivory-white, pale pink, golden-yellow, and even deep-orange. Daffodils (if not the whole of the narcissus) are a favourite medium of horticulturists, and throughout the years they have developed several unique hybridised species which flaunt varied colours, various layers and segments of petals, or two-tone colourations. [1] Daffodils are among the most popularly cultivated flowers, and, being hardy perennials, are some of the easiest to grow.

The daffodil (along with all the other plant species under the genus Narcissus) has become so popular a horticultural feature that it has spawned a number of dedicated groups that are set on developing new strains and hybrids. Such groups exist throughout much of Europe and the Americas, although a small number can also be found in several parts of Asia and a small part of Africa, where most of the cultivars are grown in controlled artificial environments, although contrary to most botanical information regarding its origins, the daffodil may have initially been a native of Greece. Aside from being a common garden plant, wild specimens are often considered a pest by farmers and equestrian raisers, as the plants, which often grow on grassy fields, can pose a threat to the health of livestock due to their somewhat toxic nature which causes weakness and vomiting in lifestock, depending on the plant constituent that is consumed. Because of this, daffodils are often vehemently weeded out in areas where livestock or cattle graze, although because they are a hardy species, ridding a pasture or lawn of them can prove to be somewhat difficult.

While the use of daffodils remain strongly ornamental and horticultural at present, the plant has a long albeit now somewhat defunct, medicinal usage, although daffodils and other species in the genus Narcissus possess a toxic nature which may counter-productive to its medicinal applications.

Daffodil - Herbal Uses

Daffodils are typically cultivated by expert horticulturists as ornamental plants, and bred into a dizzying array of garden varietals which sport colour-schemes and shapes otherwise impossible in the wild. Because of their hardy nature and beautiful inflorescence, they are favoured by many landscape gardeners, horticulturists, and bouquet shops, although they are rarely used on their own in floral arrangements, but rather incorporated with other flowers to follow a specific theme or concept.

Outside of its mainstay as a horticultural medium, daffodils have also played a somewhat strong role in early alternative medicine. The earliest extant records of its medicinal employment dates back to the time of the Ancient Greeks, where various plant constituents were employed for emetic, diuretic, and vulnerary purposes, and may have perhaps even been used as an early type of slow-acting poison. [2] Among the various constituents of daffodil, its bulb is most commonly employed in medicine in both its fresh and dried form. The Ancient Greeks employed the daffodil as an emetic - a compound which induced vomiting, either by decocting fresh bulbs and / or flowers in water or wine, or otherwise allowing the dried matter to infuse in the same liquids. [3] Daffodils were famed in Ancient Greece for their capacity to heal wounds and prevent the onset of infection, so much so that dried and powdered roots of the plant, or in some cases, a combination of the dried flowers and root bulb were used an early type of disinfectant and astringent; these plant constituents were even infused in oil and employed as a remedy for uterine tumours and various other cancerous growths. [4] Daffodils may have also provided some significant analgesic after-effects which may have been integral to its eventual popularity in spite of its poisonous nature. The use of the plant soon spread to Ancient Rome, and, afterwards, persisted until well into the height of the Roman Republic and the latter Empire. It was the primary constituent of a once famed analgesic and vulnerary ointment called narcissinum. Almost no extant records remain which describes the composition of narcissinum, although herbals that date from the 1700s - 1800s suggest that it was once a very popular remedy in pre-Christian Rome, and that its usage may have persisted until well into the Renaissance. Daffodils remained in vogue in the medicinal practices of the Tudor Era, where mild to moderate decoctions of the root were prescribed as a remedy for colds, flu, and as a means to remedy the onset of ague, and was strongly recommended for the remedy of tertian ague. [5] By the early Victorian Era, the use of daffodils had even progressed to include the treatment of various dermal problems. It is said that the powdered roots, when mixed with roasted ground barley and made into a paste, was an excellent remedy for warts, scars, pustules, and scabs. [6] Steeped in mulled wine, it was used as an antispasmodic during the Middle Ages until well into Elizabethan Era, with its use extending to that of a sedative for the treatment of dementia, hysteria, palsy and tremors.

Prior to the advent of the Industrial Revolution, daffodil remained a mainstay of rustic country medicine. A curious application of the roots involves its being used as a remedy of various sorts of ear infections. It is said that the extracted juices of fresh daffodil root, when mixed with honey and a cold maceration of wine, frankincense, and myrrh, was said to cure even the foulest of ear infections and facilitate in the hastening of wound healing and the prevention of sepsis. [7] Another, far more uncanny application for the dried root is in its supposedly superior capacity to remove thorns and splinters from the skin simply by repeatedly rubbing the powdered root unto the affected area, although this practice is generally only attributed upon, with a strong possibility of it's being mere fabrication. Shavings of the dried root, when allowed to infuse in oil, may also be used to remedy various topical ailments, although it is far more favoured as a potent analgesic and rubifacient, and may be employed as a mean to lessen the discomforts brought about by rheumatism, arthritis, and gout. [8] A poultice of the same constituent part also works excellently for pain relief, especially for grave injuries like fractures, pulled ligaments, or torn tendons, coupled with proper first aid and other curative measures. The dried bulb may even be made into a tincture by slowly macerating it in one's choice of high-alcohol beverage (i. e. vodka), although the due to the concentrations that result from tincturing, the adverse effects of daffodil are also subsequently increase.

The flowers, when used by itself typically in the form of infusions are given to remedy whooping cough, flu, and intermittent fevers. [9] It may have even played a minor part in some dieter's tea fads of the early 1920s, as it induced vomiting even when consumed in moderate amounts, especially for very strong infusions. A syrup of the flowers allowed to macerate in honey has also been employed from the middle of the Edwardian Period until well into the 1930s as a type of narcotic, although such applications no longer persist today.

While daffodils are now commonly considered a relic of outdated alternative medicine with risks that far outweigh its capacity to cure, modern scientific forays into alternative medicine have uncovered that daffodils may possess a very powerful compound that could halt the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease in its tracks. Recent studies on the compound galanthamine (also called galantamine, a chemical extracted from the bulb of various species of daffodils) have shown that it may possess the capacity to treat and prevent cognitive degeneration brought about by Alzheimer's. [10] While it has now been marketed as a potential miracle drug, there is still very little concrete evidence to guarantee its safety, although its ability to stave off the disease, halt its progression, and help improve the quality of life of people who suffer from it have been proven beyond doubt.

Daffodil - Esoteric Uses

Daffodils once played a somewhat minor role in the magicks of the Europeans, although it may have had roots from the Ancient Greeks which may have employed daffodils as amulets against misfortune - a practice that persisted in common superstition until the late 1600s. It is said that daffodils were an excellent plant to have around one's house or hedge, as it had the power to protect any place from malignant forces and to help clear negativity. Ceremonial magick places some significant value on the powdered root of daffodil, which was believed to be a powerful theriac (antidote for poison) in spite of the contrary being true. Powdered root of daffodil was sometimes incorporated into love philtres and potions in the belief that to partake of such concoctions would enhance one's fertility (i. e. improve the chances of conceiving) or increasing one's luck. [11] Alternative methods that is said to elicit similar effects was to carry flowers or a piece of dried root on one's person, preferably encased in a medicine pouch or a juju bag. The flowers may be scattered around a place to remove negativity, or, if scattered around the bedroom, it was believed to increase a woman's fertility. [12] The powdered root may be burnt as incense to drive away evil spirits and cleanse any area or object. Both combined is said to make for a very powerful counter-magick, said to be able to break any type of hex or curse with ease. While daffodils played a somewhat common role in folkloric magick, it has very few applications today.

Daffodil - Contraindications And Safety

In spite of its long-standing use as a medicinal herb, pure forms of daffodil (i. e. un-extracted variants, unlike galanthamine) possess a highly toxic nature, and, if consumed in even moderate doses can result in vomiting, diarrhoea, tremors, and eventually, death due to the breakdown of the central nervous system. The whole plant is itself toxic, possessing various chemical compounds (iycorine / narcissine) which are highly hepatotoxic, with preparations derived from the bulb being the most concentrated. In spite of its long-standing use, inexpert herbalists are advised to avoid all preparations made from, or containing the non-extract form of daffodil, especially ones prepared as tinctures. Preparations made from traditional (read 'expert') herbalists may be comparatively safer, although it is best to shy away from its use altogether.

Daffodil - Other Names, Past and Present

Chinese: laba shuixian
Japanese: suisen
Korean: suseonhwa
Filipino: narsiso / narciso (adopted from the Spanish 'narciso')
French: coucou / Jeannette / jonquille / jonquille sauvage / narcissi jaune / narcissi des pres / narcissi trompette / paquette
Spanish: narciso
Italian: narciso
English: daffodil / daffadown / daffadown dilly / daffadowndilly / porillon / lent lily
Old English (esoteric): affodellde-affodell
Irish: lus an chromchinn
German: narzisse
Welsh: cenhinen Bedr / cenin Pedr (lit. 'Peter's leek')
Greek: narkissos
Latin (scientific nomenclature): Narcissus (entire genera) / Narcissus pseudonarcissus (specifically 'wild daffodil' or 'common daffodil'; other nomenclatures exist out of the various number of plant species under its genera)
Note: Narcissus pseudonarcissus shall be the primary focus of this article, setting aside the whole genera in the light of traditional herbals' stylistics


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissus_(plant)

[2] https://thedaffodilsociety.com/wordpress/daffodils-medical-uses/

[3- 4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2856661/

[5][6][7] https://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/d/daffod01.html

[8 - 9] https://www.henriettes-herb.com/eclectic/kings/narcissus.html

[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12137632

[11] https://www.magialuna.net/d.html

[12] https://www.oocities.org/wita_fox/herbs/magical-properties/daffodil.html

Main article researched and created by Alexander Leonhardt.
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