The cornflower plant covers the golden prairies from late spring onwards with its elegant blue flowers. For hundreds of years, the seeds of crops have been mixed with cornflower seeds and dispersed worldwide. Pliny the Elder, a 1st-century Roman botanist, portrayed the cornflower plant as “an annoying flower for harvesters,” who did everything they could not to cut it with their sickles and scythes. Also, other classical writers have given us other positive words about this delicate plant.
The medicinal virtues of the cornflower plant were discovered by Mattioli, a 16th-century botanist who declared that “the blue flowers of this plant alleviate reddened eyes.” The healing virtues are a result of, according to Mattioli, the blend of opposite colors, red vs. blue, following the theory of signs.
Cornflower Plant Scientific Facts
- Other names: Bluebottle, cyani, bachelor’s button, bluebonnet, blue centaury.
- French: Bleuet.
- Spanish: Azulejo, aciano, ojeras.
- Environment: It mainly grows in crop fields all over Europe, though it has also reached America. The cornflower plant is less common in the southeastern provinces of the European Union.
- Description: The cornflower plant is a member of the Compositae family. It possesses a thin, rigid stem that can grow up to 50 centimeters high. It contains complex, brightly blue-colored flowers and narrow leaves, which appear to be covered with a smooth velvet layer.
- Parts of the plant used medicinally: Flowers.
Healing Properties and Indications
The flowers contain anthocyanins and polyamines, whose actions are antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, bitter substances that act as appetizers and eupeptic (that facilitate digestion), and flavonoids with a mild diuretic effect. The flowers should be taken in infusions before meals. It is better not to sweeten the infusions.
Cornflower water, obtained by the decoction of its flowers, is primarily used in applications on the eyelids due to its notable anti-inflammatory effect. Eye irrigation and baths with cornflower water ease itching and eye irritation, besides giving a fresh and smooth look to tired eyelids. Thus, in many places, this plant is given the name of “bags-under-eyes.”
People who wash their eyes with cornflower water obtain a limpid and shimmering gaze, which flashes just like the cornflower’s tiny blue flowers in golden wheat fields.
- Conjunctivitis (swelling of the mucous membrane that covers the anterior membrane that covers the anterior part of the eyes). Eye cleansing with cornflower water, as well as eye drops, will help to eliminate eye secretions (sleep) and to make eye congestion disappear.
- Blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids) and styes (little furuncles which appear on the edge of the eyelids). In this case, the application of cornflower water in compresses or eye baths is recommended.
The cornflower plant was supposed to clear and preserve vision in ancient times, although only blue-eyed people. Thus, in French, this plant is called casselunetters (glasses-breaker). Today, we know that this was merely a myth; nevertheless, we should remember that cornflower is good for the eyes.
How to use Cornflower
- Infusion. Twenty to thirty grams of young flowers per liter of water. Have one cup before each meal.
- Cornflower water. To get it, if at all possible, use fresh flowers decocted in a fraction of thirty grams (two tablespoons) for every liter of water. Make sure to let it boil for five minutes. Then apply it to the eyes while it is warm; you can accomplish this in one of the following ways:
– Compresses. Soak a gauze and maintain it for fifteen minutes over the afflicted eye, two or three times a day.
– Eye bath. In a proper container, or simply wringing out a soaked cloth over the affected eye. Cornflower water must fall from the temple to the nose.
– Eye drops. A few drops of cornflower water into the eye three times a day.
George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Ed. Francesc X. Gelabert. Vols. 1 San Fernando de Henares: Editorial Safeliz, 2000. 131, 132. Print.