Herb: Lily Of The Valley

Latin name: Convallaria majalis

Family: Convallariaceae

Medicinal use of Lily Of The Valley:

Lily of the valley has a long and proven reputation in herbal medicine in the treatment of heart complaints. It contains the glycosides convallarin and convallamarin which are powerful cardiac tonics and diuretics and are also used in allopathic medicine. However, because of the plants potential toxic properties it should never be used without expert advice. All parts of the plant are antispasmodic, cardiotonic, strongly diuretic, emetic, febrifuge, laxative and sedative. The plant is usually harvested when in flower and can be dried for later use, though it is stronger acting when fresh. The inflorescence is said to be the most active medicinally and is often harvested separately. An infusion of the flowers and roots is a digitalis substitute (obtained from Digitalis species), though less powerful, that is especially useful in the treatment of valvula heart diseases, cardiac debility, dropsy and chronic lung problems such as emphysema. Lily of the valley encourages the heart to beat more slowly, regularly and efficiently, at the same time it is strongly diuretic, reducing blood volume and lowering blood pressure. Its effect is less cumulative than digitalis which makes it safer for elderly patients. It is often prescribed combined with the fruits of Crataegus spp. An ointment made from the roots is used in the treatment of burns and to prevent scar tissue.

Description of the plant:


15 cm
(6 inches)

May to


Habitat of the herb:

Dry shady woodland, usually on calcareous soils, and especially in ash woodlands.

Edible parts of Lily Of The Valley:

A wine can be prepared from the flowers, mixed with raisins.

Other uses of the herb:

An essential oil is obtained from the flowers. It is used in perfumery and for snuff. A green dye is obtained from the leaves in spring. A yellow dye is obtained from the leaves in autumn. Plants can be grown as a ground cover in woodland shade or in a shrubbery.

Propagation of Lily Of The Valley:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe, otherwise in late winter, in a cold frame. Germination, particularly of stored seed can be very slow, taking 2 - 12 months or more at 15C. Sow the seed thinly so that the seedlings can be allowed to grow on undisturbed in the pot for their first year. Apply a liquid feed during the growing season to ensure that the seedlings are well fed. Divide the young plants into individual pots when they die down in late summer and grow them on in pots in a shady position in a cold frame for at least another year before planting them out into their permanent positions when they are dormant. Division in September. Very easy, larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring.

Cultivation of the herb:

Dry shady woodland, usually on calcareous soils, and especially in ash woodlands.

Known hazards of Convallaria majalis:

All parts of the plant are poisonous. However, the toxic principle is very poorly absorbed when taken orally so poisoning is unlikely to occur. The leaves can be a mild skin irritant.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.