buttercup is often the first or second flower we learn to name
and thus fall into the naming blindness trap. We have a word and
so stop seeing, that there are in fact several different species
that go by that name. Nonetheless most of them are great survivors
that grow almost anywhere in almost all conditions. I remember
when I was in Wales I would wander, picking brambles and hunting
rabbits, over a neighbour's fields where the actual topsoil had
been sold, buttercups grew in lush profusion where almost nothing
In folklore there is a sympathetic connection
made between the rich yellow of the buttercup, its occurrence
in pasture and butter. This survives in the children's game of
holding a flower under a friends chin to see if they like butter.
Non-medical uses of buttercups
The flowers of buttercups yield a light fawn
dye (alum as mordant), green (chrome as mordant) or yellow (with
tin as mordant).
Most if not all the members of the genus are also poisonous in
all parts, although the leaves and roots have been used as famine
foods the toxins being reduced by drying and heating. There are
stories of beggars using the sap to ulcerate their feet in order
to gain sympathy.
Medicinal uses of buttercups
Extreme caution advised
Acrid, Anodyne, Antispasmodic, Diaphoretic,
of medical actions
The whole plant is acrid, anodyne, antispasmodic,
diaphoretic and rubefacient. The plant has been crushed and applied
as a poultice to the chest to relieve colds and chest pains. The
fresh leaves have been used as a rubefacient in the treatment
of rheumatism etc. The flowers and the leaves have been crushed
and sniffed as a treatment for headaches. An infusion of the roots
has been used in the treatment of diarrhoea. The poulticed root
is also rubefacient and was applied to boils and abscess. The
plant sap has been used to remove warts. The sap has also been
used as a sedative. The flowers are used in Tibetan medicine,
where they are considered to have an acrid taste and a heating
potency. Their use is said to promote heat, dissolve tumours and
draw out serous fluids. They are used in the treatment of disorders
brought about by rotting sores or wounds. Use with caution, the
whole plant is extremely acrid and can cause intense pain and
burning of the mouth, mucous membranes etc.
Anecdotal accounts of Highlanders applying the juice
in limpet shells to raise blisters with a therapeutic intent.
The entire plant is analgesic and rubefacient. A poultice of the
chewed leaves (pity the poor chewer) has been used in the treatment
of sores, muscular aches and rheumatic pains. see the notes above
Plants For A Future,
Flora Celtica, www.floraceltica.com/,
Flora Celtica is an international project based at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, documenting and promoting the knowledge and sustainable use of native plants in the Celtic countries and regions of Europe.