CORNFLOWER: Centaurea Cyanus, Centaurea Segetum, Centaurea Montana, etc.
Also known as: Bachelor's buttons, Blue Centaury, Blue cap, Bluebonnet, Hurtsickle, Cyani flower, etc.
Parts Used: flowers, leaves, seeds
Systems/Organs affected: eyes, immune, liver, gallbladder, female reproductive, digestive, kidneys, urinary tract, skin, oral
Properties: bitter tonic, stimulant, emmenogogue, antibacterial, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, digestive, mild apreient, astringent, antipruritic (prevents or lessens itching), ophthalmic, antitussive, diuretic, antivenin, sedative, splenic, hepatic, nephritic, anti-fungal, antispasmodic
Cornflower is a member of the Compositae family. It is a pretty annual (although it seems to propagate in the wild easily enough) with grayish green stems and lance-like leaves that are between 1-4 cm. long. The flowers are an intense blue color and form atop the downy stem. The leaves are also kind of downy and alternate on the stem. The plants can get up to three feet tall and prefer well drained soil and full sun although they seem to pop up everywhere. They do better in cooler climates as the heat causes them to wilt. This plant blooms from June to August and is best harvested when the weather is dry-between July and August. There are several colors of cornflower as it is a popular dried flower used by many gardeners and floral shops. However, the blue cornflower is the most used for food and/or medicine.
As with most herbs, cornflower has an interesting history. The Latin word 'centaured' speaks of how the plant was named. The Greeks worshiped a mythical centaur named Chiron who was a teacher of medicine and a tutor to Achilles. The name Cyanus is Greek and literally means, 'dark blue'. It is believed to be named after Cyanus, who loved the flower and was a faithful devotee to the Goddess Flora.
Cornflower is a native to Turkey and Greece but now grows wild throughout Europe and North America. It is the national flower of Estonia, Germany and the Swedish province of Ostergotland. It is also a political symbol associated with social liberalism parties in Estonia, Sweden and Finland.
The Egyptians thought that this plant could revive the dead and as such would place wrreaths of cornflowers near King Tut's tomb in hopes he would return from his slumber. 'Hatfield's Herbal' (2007) makes reference to a publication in the 17th century called 'Household Books' that spoke of making 'break spectacles water'. Supposedly this recipe would alleviate one's need to wear glasses. There are many references to it being used as an eyewash for sore or inflamed eyes so maybe there is something to that thought. Culpeper and Gerard both spoke of it as an effective herb for eyes as well as a general wound healer. Culpeper goes on to say that:
"As they are naturally cold, dry, and binding, so they are under the dominion of Saturn. The powder or dried leaves of the blue-bottle or corn-flower, is given with good success to those that are bruised by a fall, or have broken a vein inwardly, and void much blood at the mouth; being taking in the water of Plantain, Horsetail or the greater Comfrey, it is a remedy against the poison of the Scorpion, and resists all venoms and poisons. The seed or leaves taken in wine, is very good against the plague, and all infectious diseases, and is very good in pestilential fevers. The jioces put into fresh or green wounds, doth quickly solder up the lips of them together, and is very effectual to heal all ulcers and sores in the mouth. The juice dropped into the eyes takes away the heat and inflammation in them. The distilled water of this herb, has the same properties, and may be used for the effects adoresaid."
Traditionally, a decoction of the dried flowers was used for eye inflammation. The French still use it for eye conditions today. An infusion has been used for facial muscles, to prevent dark rings under the eyes and to get rid of wrinkles. Cornflower oil also is used for wrinkles and dark circles. The oil is extracted from the flower via steam distillation. It has been employed as a topical aid for eczema and skin ulcers. It is believed that soaking in a tub filled with cornflowers will ease muscles and joint stiffness helping such conditions as arthritis and rheumatism. The bitter components found in the plant have been found to be useful for indigestion, constipation, gas, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues. As it stimulates the appetite it becomes useful for eating disorders such as anorexia. The flowers have a stimulating effect on the liver and gallbladder as well-helping them to function more optimally. They also regulate and support kidney function.
Cornflower has been used in the past for women's issues as it can stimulate menstruation. One of the references even spoke of women with endometriosis using this herb to ease menstrual cramping. It also has been used in many cosmetics due to its antibacterial and anti-fungal effects. It's been used in many topical agents for skin maladies and in hair rinses and shampoos for scalp eczema.
Cornflower contains a number of beneficial elements, one of which is anthocyanins. Anthocyanins give many fruits and vegetables their color as well as their antioxidant nature. A lot of studies on anthocyanins in the past were in regards to how they affect vision. Anthocyanins are also strong anti-inflammatories which makes sense as to the use of cornflower as an eyewash. Cornflower also contains biotin, which helps to strengthen hair and nails (hence its use in cosmetics and mouthwashes). The flowers are rich in potassium salts, pectin and tannins. This makes them wonderfully astringent which tightens and tones tissues, skin and organs. It also is rich in folic acid, vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, flavonoids, sesquiterpene lactones, etc. The minerals in this plant make it a good one to use to assist in balancing one's pH levels.
Cornflower has a calming effect on the nervous system which can be beneficial for those with depression, anxiety and stress. The seeds have been used as a laxative for children and a decoction of the leaves has been used for rheumatic conditions. It also has been used for urinary infections, diarrhea, conjunctivitis, candida, sore muscles, to boost immunity to infections, for bleeding gums, colds, whooping cough, headaches, fevers, rapid heartbeat and nervous disorders.
It is a plant beloved by bees, butterflies and moths but seldom disturbed by deer so it is used as an ornamental hedge by many a gardener.
WebMD says that this herb is generally safe for herbal teas but they aren't sure about any medicinal uses (when are they EVER sure about any herb used medicinally in a good way). They caution women who are pregnant or breastfeeding to avoid the plant as it can stimulate uterine contractions. They also advise those who are allergic to the ragweed family (daisies, marigolds, chrysanthemums, etc.) to avoid this plant as it may cause allergic reactions. As always, consult a physician before ever starting any herbal product or regimen.
As is customary with any of my posts, I am including some links herein for your perusal. Enjoy, stay strong and healthy!