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.
Primroses and cowslips both have medicinal properties and the leaves can be used in salads
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.
Su is happy to answer any questions you may have via email on her website.