Lily Of The Valley

The Lily of the Valley grows wild in many of our English woods,

and possesses special curative virtues, which give it, according to

modern knowledge, a just place among Herbal Simples of repute.

This is the parent flower of our graceful, sweet-scented scape of

pendent, milk-white little floral bells, enshrined within two broad

leafy blades of dark green, and finding general favour for the

jardiniere, or the button-hole

Its name Convallaria majalis is derived from convallis, a

valley, and majalis, belonging to the month of May, when this

Lily comes into flower.

Rustics corrupt the double title to Liry Confancy, and provincially

the plant is known as Wood Lily, May Lily, and May

Blossom. Also it bears the name of Mugget, and is said to have

grown up after the bloody combat of St. Leonard with the Dragon.

The French call it Muguet, or little musk. The taste of the

flowers is acrid and bitter; they have been [314] employed with

benefit, when dried and powdered, as snuff, for headache, and

giddiness arising from weakness. A tincture of the plant is made,

and can be procured from any leading druggist. The active

medicinal principle is convallarin, which slows the disturbed

action of a weak, irritable heart, whilst at the same time increasing

its power. Happily the remedy is a perfectly safe one, and no harm

has been known to occur from taking it experimentally in full and

frequent doses; so that, in this respect, it is far preferable to the

Fox Glove, which is apt to accumulate in the blood with poisonous

results. To make the tincture of Convallaria, one part of the

flowers is treated with eight parts of spirit of wine (proof); and the

dose is from five to fifteen drops, with a tablespoonful of water,

three times in the twenty-four hours.

Also an infusion may be made with boiling water poured over the

whole plant-root, stems, and flowers; and this infusion may be given

continuously for from five to ten days; but it should be left off for a

time as soon as the irritability of the heart is subdued, and the pulse

steady and stronger. If taken during an attack of palpitation and

laboured breathing from a weak heart, the benefit of the infusion in

tablespoonful doses is felt at once.

Ten grains of the dried flowers may be infused in six ounces of

boiling water; and a tablespoonful of this be given three times a day

with perfect safety, and with a most soothing effect for a weak,

sensitive, palpitating heart; but it does not suit a fatty heart

equally well. Nevertheless, even for insufficiency of the valves, when

dangerous, or distressing symptoms of heart disease have set in, an

infusion of the flowers has proved very helpful. The rhizome,

root, exhales a pleasant odour, [315] different from that of the

flowers; it tastes sweet at first but afterwards bitter.

A fluid extract is further prepared, and may be mixed in doses of

from five to twenty drops with water. The Russian peasants have

long employed the Lily of the Valley for certain forms of dropsy,

when proceeding from a faulty heart.

In the summer, when the flowers are in bloom, two drachms, by

weight, of the leaves should be steeped in a pint of water, either cold

or boiling; and the whole of this may be taken, if needed, during the

twenty-four hours. It will promote a free flow of urine. Culpeper

commended the Lily of the Valley for weak memory, loss of speech,

and apoplexy; whilst Gerard advised it for gout. In Devonshire it is

thought unlucky to plant a bed of these Lilies, as the person who

does so will probably die within the next twelve months.

In the Apocrypha, Canticles ii, I, I am the Lily of the Valley,

this flower is apparently brought under notice, but some other plant

must be intended here, because the Lily Convally does not grow in

Palestine. The word Lily is used in Oriental languages for a flower

in general.

Distilled water from the flowers was formerly in great repute against

nervous affections, and for many troubles of the head, insomuch

that it was treasured in vessels of gold and silver. Matthiolus named

it Aqua aurea, golden water; and Etmuller said of the virtues of

the plant, Quod specifice armabit impotentes maritos ad bellum


A spirit made from the petals is excellent as an outward

embrocation for rheumatism and sprains; and in some parts of

Germany, a wine is prepared from the flowers mixed with raisins.

Old Gerard adopted an [316] unaccountable method for extracting

these virtues of the Lilies. He ordered that, The flowers being close

stopped up in a glass vessel, should be put into an ant hill, and taken

away again a month after, when ye shall find a liquor in the glass

which, being outwardly applied, will help the cure of the gout.

After the blossom has fallen off a berry is formed, which assumes in

the autumn a bright scarlet colour, and proves attractive to birds.