Cowslip and Primrose are beautiful early spring flowers that we have the pleasure to see decorating meadows, woodlands and roadsides. They belong to the same family (Primulaceae) and used to be very common, but suffered a recent decline mainly due to the loss of the grasslands where they grow. Luckily, they are still quite widespread and we can use them for their medicinal properties as well as for culinary purposes.
The whole plant can be used (flowers, leaves, and roots), however, when possible, it is advisable to only collect some of the flowers and the side leaves in order to avoid compromising the growth of the plant.
These plants may represent the perfect remedy for this 2020 spring when it seems that what we need the most is clearing and supporting our airways and calming our nerves.
Cowslip (Primula veris) has expectorant and decongesting properties, which can be very valuable at the present time. The flower is, in fact, used to treat a cold’s symptoms, swollen nose and throat, phlegm, cough, and bronchitis. Research shows that cowslip is particularly effective in soothing sinusitis (inflamed nasal passages) in combination with Elderflower. To treat cough, fever and bronchitis symptoms it is better to use the whole plant, including the root, in combination with thyme (which has antiviral properties).
Cowslip flowers are also antispasmodic and sedative, which means they can be taken as a lovely calming tea to relieve stress, muscle spasms, restlessness, headache, neuralgia (nerve pain), and insomnia.
The combined antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory actions make cowslip a good remedy for muscle pain and rheumatism, as well.
Primrose (Primula vulgaris) has very similar properties to cowslip. In the history of herbal medicine, it was mainly used as a remedy for muscular rheumatism and gout, whereas today it is mostly used as a sedative to treat restlessness, insomnia and nervous headaches. The root’s expectorant properties are recognized as well. In fact, the plant contains saponins, which have an expectorant effect, and salicylates which are the main ingredient of aspirin and have anti-inflammatory and febrifuge effects.
This means that cowslip and primrose can be used interchangeably depending on the availability.
How to use?
The flowers and leaves can be used by making a simple infusion (tea) to drink. Just pour boiling water over two teaspoons of flower petals and/or leaves and let them steep for 10/15 minutes.
When treating muscle spasms and pains, the infusion can be also be added to the bath water.
When it comes to the roots, the properties are a bit harder to extract, so a teaspoon of chopped roots should be simmered in water for 5 minutes in order to obtain a remedy.
Flowers and leaves can also be added to salads and used in cooking to prepare soups, rice dishes, omelettes, etc.
Contraindications and Interactions: this remedy is not indicated for pregnant women, in case of aspirin sensitivity, or for those taking anti-coagulant drugs such as warfarin.