Half a Hundred Herbs Week 49 – Daisy
I had to look hard for this photo. I am sure I must have taken many pictures with daisies in them, but they seem to have been at the back of the chorus, with larger more showy herbs taking the limelight. And yet every poet, from Chaucer to Alice Oswald seems to have written about them and loved them. We’ve all made daisy chains, we’ve all looked for the first daisies in spring, which some people say doesn’t start until you can put your foot on nine daisies at the same time (seven in some places). They seem to flower earlier and earlier and to get into the most pristine of lawns (good, I say), but for a long time I didn’t know of any herbal use to which they could be put.
Then I came across a book called How to Enjoy Your Weeds by Audrey Wynne Hatfield, whose The Magic of Herbs had started me on the whole herbal enterprise. She says they were used as an ointment for bruises, and for treating varicose veins, and has a recipe for something called ‘daisy whisky’. It takes a gallon of flowers, however, so I don’t see myself trying this any time soon. Mrs Grieve says the taste is very bitter and acrid, so much so that insects won’t attack it, and that a decoction of the leaves has been used as a pesticide, so although it has a history of treating liver complaints and scurvy, I think it might be as well not to take it internally.
These moon daisies are not just larger versions, but an entirely different species, Leucanthemum vulgare, as opposed to the bellis perennis above. It is used externally like the smaller daisy, but can also be used internally to treat asthma and catarrh and bronchitis. It grows wild everywhere especially along the hedges and motorway verges, getting more ragged as the summer goes on, but so welcome in April.
Daisies used to be classified as compositae, but now they have a family of their own, the asteraceae. It can cause confusion if you are looking through older herbals.