Lily of the Valley

lily_of_the _valley

Convallaria majalis- Lily of the Valley

Family: Convallariaceae

Other names: Convallaria bracteata, Convallaria fragrans, Convallaria latifolia, Polygonatum majale, May Lily, Convallaria, Our Lady’s Tears, Convall-lily, Lily Constancy, Ladder-to-Heaven, Jacob’s Ladder, Male Lily

Habitat: Europe, including Britain, from Scandanavia to Spain east to N.E. Asia, Greece and the Caucasus. Dry shady woodland, usually on calcareous soils, and especially in ash woodlands.

hazardsmallAll parts of the plant are poisonous. However, the toxic principle is very poorly absorbed when taken orally so poisoning is unlikely to occur. The leaves can be a mild skin irritant. Overdose may lead to nausea, vomiting, stupor, colour perception disorders, and cardiac arrhythmias. Internal use preparations no longer considered safe.

Lily of the valley has a long and proven reputation as a medicinal herb in the treatment of heart complaints. It contains the glycosides convallarin and convallamarin which are powerful cardiac tonics and diuretics and are also used in allopathic medicine. However, because of the plants potential toxic properties it should never be used without expert advice. All parts of the plant are antispasmodic, cardiotonic, strongly diuretic, emetic, febrifuge, laxative and sedative.An infusion of the flowers and roots is a digitalis substitute (obtained from Digitalis species), though less powerful, that is especially useful in the treatment of valvula heart diseases, cardiac debility, dropsy and chronic lung problems such as emphysemaLily of the valley encourages the heart to beat more slowly, regularly and efficiently, at the same time it is strongly diuretic, reducing blood volume and lowering blood pressure. Its effect is less cumulative than digitalis which makes it safer for elderly patients. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Convallaria majalis : Lily Of The Valley for arrhythmia, cardiac insufficiency, nervous heart complaints.

Lily-of-the-valley, Convallaria majalis
By D. Gordon E. Robertson (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (https://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Description of Lily of the Valley:

Convallaria majalis; Lily of the valley is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.2 m (0ft 8in) by 0.3 m (1ft). 
It is hardy to zone 3 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen in October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies, self.The plant is self-fertile. 
It is noted for attracting wildlife. 

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry moist or wet soil.

Convallaria_majalis,lily_of_the_valley
By H. Zell (Own work) [GFDL (https://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
Lily of the valley fruit is poisonous

Cultivation of Lily of the valley:

Succeeds in almost any situation, including the dense dry shade of large trees. Prefers a position in semi-shade in a moderately fertile well-drained moist woodland soil. Grows well in heavy clay, sand or chalky soils. Dislikes pure clay soils and boggy sites. Plants are hardy to -20°c or lower. A polymorphic species. It is a very ornamental plant, though it can become very invasive once it is established. Plants can take a couple of years to become established. There are several named varieties, selected for their ornamental value. The flowers are sweetly scented. Lily of the valley is occasionally cultivated as a medicinal plant for herbalists and allopaths. Plants seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits. A good bee plant.

Propagation of Lily of the valley:

Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe, otherwise in late winter, in a cold frame. Germination, particularly of stored seed can be very slow, taking 2 – 12 months or more at 15°c. Sow the seed thinly so that the seedlings can be allowed to grow on undisturbed in the pot for their first year. Apply a liquid feed during the growing season to ensure that the seedlings are well fed. Divide the young plants into individual pots when they die down in late summer and grow them on in pots in a shady position in a cold frame for at least another year before planting them out into their permanent positions when they are dormant. Division in September. Very easy, larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring.

Collection of Lily of the valley:

The plant is usually harvested when in flower and can be dried for later use, though it is stronger acting when fresh. The inflorescence is said to be the most active medicinally and is often harvested separately

Culinary uses of Lily of the valley:

A wine can be prepared from the flowers, mixed with raisins.

lily_of_the_valley,Convallaria_majalis.botanical viewMedicinal uses of Lily of the valley:

Part used: Flowers, leaves, whole herb

Antianxiety,  Antiarrhythmic , Anticonvulsant,  Antispasmodic, Cardiotonic,  Diuretic.  Emetic,  Febrifuge,  Laxative, Poultice,  Sedative,

Lily of the valley has a long and proven reputation as a medicinal herb in the treatment of heart complaints. It contains the glycosides convallarin and convallamarin which are powerful cardiac tonics and diuretics and are also used in allopathic medicine. However, because of the plants potential toxic properties it should never be used without expert advice. All parts of the plant are antispasmodic, cardiotonic, strongly diuretic, emetic, febrifuge, laxative and sedative.  The inflorescence is said to be the most active medicinally and is often harvested separately. An infusion of the flowers and roots is a digitalis substitute (obtained from Digitalis species), though less powerful, that is especially useful in the treatment of valvula heart diseases, cardiac debility, dropsy and chronic lung problems such as emphysema. Lily of the valley encourages the heart to beat more slowly, regularly and efficiently, at the same time it is strongly diuretic, reducing blood volume and lowering blood pressure. Its effect is less cumulative than digitalis which makes it safer for elderly patients. It is often prescribed combined with the fruits of Crataegus spp. An ointment made from the roots is used in the treatment of burns and to prevent scar tissue. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Convallaria majalis : Lily Of The Valley for arrhythmia, cardiac insufficiency, nervous heart complaints.

Other uses of Lily of the valley:

Dye,  Essential oil used in perfumery.

An essential oil is obtained from the flowers. It is used in perfumery and for snuff. A green dye is obtained from the leaves in spring. A yellow dye is obtained from the leaves in autumn. Plants can be grown as a ground cover in woodland shade or in a shrubbery. It is often used in bridal bouquets due to it’s pleasant scent.

lily_of_the_valley_flower_fairyEsoteric uses of Lily of the valley:

Soothing, calming, draws peace and tranquility, and repels negativity. Assists in empowering happiness and mental powers. Use in magickal workings to stop harassment. Married couples should plant Lily of the Valley in their first garden to promote longevity of the marriage. Note: Poisonous, use with caution.

The Chemistry:

Roughly 38 different cardiac glycosides (cardenolides) have been found in the plant, some among others:

Glyocides: Convallatoxin, convallatoxol, convallarin, convallamarin, convalluside, convallatoxloside, saponins, essential oil, citric and malic acid, flavonoids.

Saponins.

It also contains the unusual, poisonous amino acid azetidine-2-carboxylic acid.

This herb is only to be used by a qualified practitioner as it is classified as being a poisonous substance please view this article as being for information only.

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