Knapweed, GreaterBotanical Name: Centaurea Scabiosa
Family: N.O. Compositae
Synonyms: Hardhead. Ironhead. Hard Irons. Churls Head. Logger Head. Horse Knops. Matte Felon. Mat Fellon. Bottleweed. Bullweed. Cowede. Boltsede.
Parts Used: Root, seeds.
Habitat: Frequent in the borders of fields and in waste places, being not uncommon in England, where it is abundant on chalk soil, but rare in Scotland.
Description: The plant is a perennial, the rootstock thick and woody in old plants. The stem is 1 to 3 feet high, generally branched, very tough. The leaves, which are firm in texture, are very variable in the degree of division, but generally deeply cut into, the segments again deeply notched. The lower leaves are very large, often a foot or even more in length, making a striking looking rosette on the ground, from which the flowering stems arise. The whole plant is a dull green, sparingly hairy. It flowers in July and August. The flowers are terminal, somewhat similar to those of the Cornflower in general shape, though larger. All the florets are of the same colour, a rich purplish-crimson, the outer ray ones with the limb divided nearly to the base into narrow, strap-shaped segments. The flower-head is hard and solid, a mass of bracts lapping over each other like tiles, each having a central green portion and a black fringe-like edge. In some districts the plant is called from these almost round heads, 'Hardhead,' and the ordinary English name, Knapweed, is based on the same idea, Knap, being a form of Knop, or Knob.
This larger species of Knapweed was in olden times called 'Matte Felon,' from its use in curing felons or whitlows. As early as 1440 we find it called 'Maude Felone,' or 'Boltsede.'
This species is very common and generally distributed in pastures, borders of fields and roadsides throughout Britain, and flowers from early June till well into September. Both species of Knapweed may readily be distinguished from Thistles by the absence of spines and prickles.
Medicinal Action and Uses: The Knapweed was once in great repute as a vulnerary. It was included in the fourteenthcentury ointment, Save, for wounds and for the pestilence, and was also used with pepper for loss of appetite.
The root and seeds are used. Its diuretic diaphoretic and tonic properties are recognized.
It is good for catarrh, taken in decoction, and is also made into ointment for outward application for wounds and bruises, sores, etc.
Culpepper tells us: 'it is of special use for soreness of throat, swelling of the uvula and jaws, and very good to stay bleeding at the nose and mouth.'