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Primroses Su B

Right now, Devon is full of primroses. The common primrose, Primula vulgaris, is one of those early spring flowers, like sweet violet and coltsfoot, that have a particular virtue in soothing coughs and sore throats.

They all contain significant amounts of mucilage, which for the plant works as a kind of antifreeze. Made into a medicine, it will soothe inflamed respiratory membranes.

So they don’t just gladden your heart when they appear in woods and hedgerows, they offer you relief from some of winter’s ailments as well.

Cowslips – Primula veris – are less common here, though you see them in abundance on chalk uplands, a little later in the spring. They share some of the same properties, but they also have a gently calming action, and can help if you have trouble sleeping. Suitable for children as well as adults, they can be taken as tincture or made into a tea.

In fact, the leaves and flowers of both kinds of Primula can be eaten in salads or made into wine, but unless you grow them in your own garden, you’ll have to buy dried flowers or ready-made tincture, because they need our protection in the wild.

They are coming back now from the dark days of the 70s and 80s, but there is still a way to go.

EDITOR: Su has an excellent Herb Handbook available to buy directly from her website or from Amazon.

Meet The Author...
Su Bristow
Who Am I?
I studied at the School of Herbal Medicine for four years, and qualified in 1989, becoming a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists ( The road to herbal medicine led from my early interest in organic gardening and healthy eating, through the study of social and physical anthropology at Cambridge, where I specialised in medical anthropology. What fascinated me was how people deal with their health problems when they have only the natural resources around them, and their own ingenuity. I went on to learn massage and reflexology, and worked at a residential naturopathic clinic, where I learned about the use of diet and other natural ways of healing. After qualifying as a herbalist, I set up practice in mid-Devon. Since then I have continued to expand my expertise, with counselling skills, first aid, and knowledge of the Chinese and Ayurvedic systems of herbal medicine. Besides one-to-one consultation, I have also taught evening classes, students of the Westcountry Massage Association, and various private courses.
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