Pheasant’s Eye (Adonis vernalis)

Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Pheasant's Eye
Adonis vernalis
Ranunculaceae

None known

  • Medicinal Use

    Pheasant’s eye has a long history of medicinal use and is still retained in the Pharmacopoeias of several European countries[268]. The plant contains cardiac glycosides similar to those found in the foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)[254]. These substances improve the heart’s efficiency, increasing its output at the same time as slowing its rate[254]. It also has a sedative action and so is generally prescribed for patients whose hearts are beating too fast or irregularly[254]. The herb is not often prescribed, however, due to irregular absorption[268].

    The herb is cardiotonic, diuretic, sedative and vasoconstrictor[4, 7, 9, 13, 46, 238]. It has sometimes been used internally as a cardiotonic with success where the better known foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) has failed – especially where there is also kidney disease[4]. The herb is also used in the treatment of low blood pressure and its strong diuretic action can be used to counter water retention[254]. It is included in many proprietary medicines, especially since its effects are not cumulative[238]. The plants are harvested every third year as they come into flower[7], they are dried for use in tinctures and liquid extracts[238]. The herb does not store well so stocks should be replaced every year[238]. Use with great caution[9], see the notes above on toxicity.

    The plant is used in homeopathy as a treatment for angina[254].

  • Edible Use

    None known

  • Cautionary Notes

    A toxic principle is present in very small quantities in the plant[7, 9, 13, 19, 65]. It is poorly absorbed so poisoning is unlikely[65].

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe or else it can be slow and erratic to germinate[200, 238]. Sow the seed in partial shade in rich soil in September or March[111]. Prick out the seedlings when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the cold frame for their first season. Plant out when dormant in the autumn[K]. Division in early spring or in autumn. The divisions can be difficult to establish[200], so it is probably best to pot them up and keep them in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are growing away well.
Grows well in any ordinary garden soil that is not too heavy[1]. Prefers a moist well-drained soil in sun or semi-shade[4, 200]. Easily grown in a very well-drained rather dry soil in sun or part shade[187]. Plants flower better when growing in a sunny position[268]. This plant is adored by slugs and is therefore very difficult to grow in the open garden where slugs are common[187]. A very ornamental plant[1], it is rather rare in the wild so only cultivated plants should be harvested[7]. A greedy plant inhibiting the growth of nearby plants, especially legumes[54].
C. and S. Europe

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*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.