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Common Names : Mezereon,February Daphne, Paradise plant.
Habitat: Daphne mezereum is native to most of Europe and Western Asia, north to northern Scandinavia and Russia. In southern Europe it is confined to medium to higher elevations and in the subalpine vegetation zone, but descends to near sea level in northern Europe. It is naturalized in Canada and the United States. It is generally confined to soils derived from limestone.
Daphne mezereum is a deciduous flowering plant, growing to 1.5 m tall. The leaves are soft, 3-8 cm long and 1-2 cm broad, arranged spirally on the stems. The flowers are produced in early spring on the bare stems before the leaves appear. They have a four-lobed pink or light purple (rarely white) perianth 10-15 mm diameter, and are strongly scented. The fruit is a bright red berry 7-12 mm diameter; it is very poisonous for people, though fruit-eating birds like thrushes are immune and eat them, dispersing the seeds in their droppings.
Parts Used: The bark of root and stem, berries, roots.
Constituents: The acridity of the bark is chiefly due to mezeen, a greenish-brown, sternutatory, amorphous resin. Mezereic acid, into which it can be changed, is found in the alcoholic and ethereal extracts, together with a fixed oil, a bitter, crystalline glucoside, daphnin, and a substance like euphorbone. Daphnin can be resolved into daphnetin and sugar by the action of dilute acids.
Mezereum has been used in the past for treating rheumatism and indolent ulcers, but because of its toxic nature it is no longer considered to be safe. The plant contains various toxic compounds, including daphnetoxin and mezerein, and these are currently being investigated (1995) for their anti-leukaemia effects. The bark is cathartic, diuretic, emetic, rubefacient, stimulant and vesicant. The root bark is the most active medically, but the stem bark is also used. It has been used in an ointment to induce discharge in indolent ulcers and also has a beneficial effect upon rheumatic joints. The bark is not usually taken internally and even when used externally this should be done with extreme caution and not applied if the skin is broken. The bark is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use. The fruits have sometimes been used as a purgative. A homeopathic remedy is made from the plant. It is used in the treatment of various skin complaints and inflammations.
An ointment was formerly used to induce discharge in indolent ulcers.
The bark is used for snake and other venomous bites, and in Siberia, by veterinary surgeons, for horses’ hoofs.
The official compound liniment of mustard includes an ethereal extract, and one of its rare internal uses in England is as an in gredient in compound decoction of sarsaparilla.
Authorities differ as to its value in chronic rheumatism, scrofula, syphilis and skin diseases. A light infusion is said to be good in dropsies, but if too strong may cause vomiting and bloody stools. Thirty berries are used as a purgative by Russian peasants, though French writers regard fifteen as a fatal dose.
In Germany a tincture of the berries is used locally in neuralgia.
Slices of the root may be chewed in toothache, and it is recorded that an obstinate case of difficulty in swallowing, persisting after confinement, was cured by chewing the root constantly and so causing irritation.
Other Uses :
A yellow to greenish-brown dye is obtained from the leaves, fruit and bark. The seed contains up to 31% of a fatty oil. No further details are given.
Known Hazards: Daphne mezereum is very toxic because of the compounds mezerein and daphnin present especially in the berries and twigs. If poisoned, victims experience a choking sensation. Handling the fresh twigs can cause rashes and eczema in sensitive individuals. Despite this, it is commonly grown as an ornamental plant in gardens for its attractive flowers.
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.