The Poisonous Path: Daffodil

The Poisonous Path: Daffodil

Pake Nielson

When you find yourself walking down a poisonous and otherwise toxic life path, it can be very hard to notice your misdirection at first. Maybe it's a toxic situation, relationship, or habit that continues to drain your energy, disturb your clarity and damage your physical peace. Quickly what started as something uncomfortable, or perhaps something too comfortable, slowly takes your power, a potency at the cost of vitality. Lulling you into thorns of baneful complacency. 

While we owe much if not most of our medicinal knowledge to plants, failing to distinguish between species will only end in certain arrangements. With little to go off of other than their senses, intuition, and inheritance, our ancestors had blindly faced these seemingly irrational and unrecognizable afflictions. Leaving never more of someone other than woeful omens and lessons taught at a fatal tuition. 

However, these same plants of poisonous properties can heal and relieve conditions where other herbs fall short. This is what gives them their value. Not to mention the ceremonial and spiritual uses acclaimed to these powerful herbs. In this blog, we will be discovering the lively and dangerous personalities of each plant along the poisonous path. 

Daffodil: Narcissus pseudonarcissus 

Narcissus pseudonarcissus, more commonly known as Daffodil, is a fairly common poisonous flower found in many gardens and floral arrangements. This six-pointed flower can take on many colors, usually of yellow, pink, white, or orange. Its most recognizable quality is the bell-shaped corona which protrudes from a base of 5- 6 petals. This flower grows from a bulb giving it the ability to bloom every year, which makes it a perennial plant. Narcissus pseudonarcissus is a member of the Amaryllidaceae family, which contains over 73 genera and over 1,600 other species.

While Narcissus pseudonarcissus can be found in just about every garden from coast-to-coast, Daffodils originated from Northern Europe, native to Spain and Portugal. It wasn’t until the late 1700s, when colonial farmers started to plant Daffodils in South Carolina, that daffodils first appeared in a 1761 English almanac known as The Gardener. 

While it might have been unknown at the time, planting daffodils helps to ward off mammals who would otherwise graze in the gardens. This is due to Narcissus pseudonarcissus toxic constituent Lycorine found most potently in the bulbs. When consumed internally, Lycorine can cause vomiting, nausea, episodes of diarrhea, and abdominal pain. These symptoms can last for up to three hours. Ultimately, this toxin can cause dangerously low blood pressure and damage to the liver. 

Herbal Use 

To the herbalist, Daffodil is best known for its emetic and more so its astringent properties. When applied topically, this flower can act as an astringent, stopping bleeding and helping swelling/ infection subside. Daffodil has been used for abrasions, small cuts, and skin tears with great success in rejuvenating skin and aiding tissue repair. Aside from cuts, wounds, and infections, you can find it in remedies for earaches, ruptured eardrums, and ear infections. 

I was able to find one traditional ear infection remedy, which calls for the use of Daffodil extract, mixed in with honey, frankincense wine, and myrrh. Again, it's the astringent actions being utilized here, Narcissus’ ability to pull and constrict gives it its value as an external method of removing ailments and matters of infection. Today, herbalists make little to no use of this plant at all, as its toxic component makes it an impractical solution when there are nontoxic alternatives. 

Medicinal Uses 

While this plant is no longer used by herbalists, Western medicine continues to research and discover new uses for Narcissus pseudonarcissus and its noxious constituents. Today, research continues for the use of Lycorine in the fight against cancer, specifically that of drug-resistant cancers. Studies dating back to the 1970s have shown Lycorine’s potential as an effective treatment against tumor growth in ovarian cancers. Today, Lycorine continues to be studied for its discoverable abilities to fight cancer, Alzheimer's, and depression. 

Cultural Backgrounds 

Daffodils are known best for their part in the Greek legend of Narcissus, in which a young man, vain and self-centered, finds himself enchanted by the reflection of his own beauty in a forest lake. He became so tangled in his own image that he is unable to move or sleep or eat. Worried for the beautiful young man, the goddess Nemesis turns him into a flower, the Daffodil - Narcissus pseudonarcissus. It is from this legend that the physiological condition known as narcissism comes from. 

Besides Greek legend, Daffodils have appeared in a number of other myths and folklore. In Egypt, pharaohs were sometimes entombed with daffodil bulbs. Because daffodils blooms as a harbinger of spring during the lead-up to Easter, they have also been known by the name of Lent Lilies. In popular floral culture, Daffodils usually symbolize rebirth, Easter, hope, joy, resilience, good luck, and forgiveness. As for customs, it is common to give daffodils on the 10th wedding anniversary. 

Some of the most toxic paths in life are lined with rows of flowers, but no matter how misleading daffodils may be, finding your way back is a matter of learning how to heal all the afflictions. Today, Daffodil is not used by many herbalists, and for good reason. While it makes a lovely addition to your garden or valentine bouquet, taking such an herb would be ill-advised. Thank you for taking the time to walk the poisonous path with us, and if you have any thoughts, comments, questions or emotional outburst to share I would love to hear from you!


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