Daisy, a humble little flower that is widespread in many parts of the world. A children’s favourite for making ‘daisy chains’ or ‘fairy chains’, the daisy has also been used in food and medicine.
Flower-heads solitary on a leafless stalk springing from the root (a scape). The outer florets white, tipped with red, the inner yellow; the flower-bracts dark green and in one row; the stem 2.5cms to 20cms high, leafless; the leaves blunt, oblong, narrowing at the base (spathulate); and the root creeping.
Habitat and distribution
Daisies are naturalised in many parts of the world. They can be found in Britain, Europe, parts of the Middle East and western Asia. As well as various states in the USA. They grow in meadows, grasslands, lawns, hills, woods, parks and gardens.
Parts used for food
Leaves, flowers, and roots.
January to November.
Food uses of daisy
The young flower heads or buds can be added to salads, soups or sandwiches; or the flower heads used to decorate salad dishes. The leaves can be eaten raw despite their bitter aftertaste, but are better mixed in salads or cooked and might be used as a potherb. The buds can be preserved in vinegar and used in cooking as a substitute for capers.
It is both an anti-inflammatory herb and a vulnerary (improves circulation) herb. Drink daisy tea for the plant’s health-giving and restorative properties. A modern study of wild edibles used during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992–95) showed that daisies contain 34 mg of vitamin C per 100 g.
Herbal medicine uses of daisy
The plant was recognised as a medicinal herb from the 15th century onwards. The Flemish herbalist Robert Dodoens, or Dodonaeus, (1517–1585) wrote:
Daisies boiled in water, either the whole plant or just the flowers, and especially the small or wild (species), are good for fever, heating up the liver and all internal organs. This same herb in food or soups stimulates the movement of the bowels”.
By the 17th-century, B. perennis also had a reputation for broken bones, which is perhaps where it got the name ‘bone flower’. The English naturalist William Turner (1509–1568) knew it as ‘banwort’, “because it helpeth bones to knyt againe”.
In Irish folk medicine, the plant was used for all manner of conditions, as Gerard would have approved, including scrofula, tuberculosis, pleurisy, coughs, colds, headaches, stomach and liver complaints, and various skin problems from chilblains to ringworm.
It could be made into a lotion for weak eyes and an ointment for burns, as it was used similarly in other parts of Britain.
While it has been less admired for its taste, its pretty flowers are always a crowd-pleaser. Daisies can be frosted and sprinkled on cakes for decoration or added to a cup of boiled water for a beautiful tea.
Few side effects are recorded from the use of daisies in food or medicine. Use only in moderation. Some people can have an allergic reaction to members of the daisy family.
Allen, D. E. & Hatfield, G. (2004) Medicinal plants in folk tradition: an ethnobotany of Britain & Ireland. Portland: Timber Press.
Cleene, M. de & Lejeune, M. C. (2002) Compendium of symbolic and ritual plants in Europe. Ghent: Man & Culture.
Couplan, F. (1998) The encyclopedia of edible plants of North America. New Canaan: Keats Pub.
Facciola, S. (1998) Cornucopia II: a source book of edible plants. Vista, CA: Kampong Publications.
Kuhnlein, H. V. & Turner, N. J. (1991) Traditional plant foods of Canadian indigenous peoples: nutrition, botany, and use. Food and nutrition in history and anthropology v. 8. Philadelphia: Gordon and Breach.
Redzi?, S. (2010) Use of wild and semi-wild edible plants in nutrition and survival of people in 1430 days of siege of Sarajevo during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992-1995). Collegium Antropologicum. 34 (2), 551–570.
Vickery, R. (1997) A dictionary of plant-lore. Oxford: Oxford University Press.