Cyclamen, Ivy-Leafed

Medical Herbs Catalogue


Cyclamen, Ivy-Leafed

Botanical Name: Cyclamen hederaefolium
Family: N.O. Primulaceae
Synonym: Sowbread.
Part Used: Tuherous root-stock used fresh when the plant is in flower.

The Cyclamens at first glance do not appear to have much similarity with Primulas, but certain structural points in common have caused them to be grouped in the same family.

There are eight members of the genus, distributed over Southern Europe, North Africa and Western Asia, one of which, Cyclamen hederaefolium, the Ivy-leaved Cyclamen or Sowbread, has been occasionally found in Kent and Sussex, but is generally considered to have been introduced accidentally, being really a native of Italy. Its large, tuberous root-stock, in common with that of C. Europaeum and of others found in the south of Europe, is intensely acrid, a quality that has caused its employment as a purgative.

Description: It occurs rarely in hedge banks and copses, flowering in September. The tuber, 1 to 3 inches in diameter, is turnip-shaped, brown in colour and fibrous all over. The nodding rose-coloured or white flowers, which appear before the leaves, are placed singly on fleshy stalks, 4 to 8 inches high. The corolla tube is short, thickened at the throat, the lobes are bent back and are about an inch in length and red at the base. As the fruit ripens, the flower-stalk curls spirally and buries it in the earth. The name of the genus is derived from the Greek cyclos (a circle), either from the reflexed lobes of the corolla, or from the spiral form of the fruit-stalk. The leaves, appearing after the flowers, are somewhat heart-shaped, five to nine angled, in the manner of ivy leaves, dark green, with a white mottled border, often purple beneath, and spring straight from the root on longish stalks or petioles. They continue growing all the winter and spring till May, when they begin to decay, and in June are entirely dried up.

The apparently inappropriate name of this beautiful little plant, Sowbread, arises from its tuberous roots having afforded food for wild swine.

The favourite greenhouse Cyclamens flowering in the winter months, are varieties of a Persian species, C. Perscum, introduced into European horticulture in the middle of the eighteenth century.

Part Used Medicinally: The tuberous rootstock, used fresh, when the plant is in flower.

Constituents: Besides starch, gum and pectin, the tuber yields chemically cyclamin or arthanatin, having an action like saponin.

Medicinal Action and Uses: A homoeopathic tincture is made from the fresh root, which applied externally as a liniment over the bowels causes purging.

Old writers tell us that Sowbread baked and made into little flat cakes has the reputation of being 'a good amorous medicine,' causing the partaker to fall violently in love.

Although the roots are favourite food of swine, their juice is stated to be poisonous to fish.

Powdered root: dose, 20 to 40 grains.

The fresh tubers bruised and formed into a cataplasm make a stimulating application to indolent ulcers.

An ointment called 'ointment of arthainta' was made from the fresh tubers for expelling worms, and was rubbed on the umbilicus of children and on the abdomen of adults to cause emesis and upon the region over the bladder to increase urinary discharge.