Herb: Mezereon

Latin name: Daphne mezereum

Family: Thymelaeaceae (Mezereum Family)

Medicinal use of Mezereon:

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.

Description of the plant:


150 cm
(5 feet)

to March


Habitat of the herb:

Damp deciduous mixed woodlands and on rich calcareous soils.

Other uses of Mezereon:

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.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - best sown in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe with the pot sealed in a polythene bag to hold in the moisture. Remove this bag as soon as germination takes place. The seed usually germinates better if it is harvested "green" (when it has fully developed but before it dries on the plant) and sown immediately. Germination should normally take place by spring, though it sometimes takes a further year. Stored seed is more problematic. It should be warm stratified for 8 - 12 weeks at 20C followed by 12 - 14 weeks at 3C. Germination may still take another 12 months or more at 15C. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle. Grow the plants on in the greenhouse for their first winter and then plant out in spring after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Layering.

Cultivation of Mezereon:

Damp deciduous mixed woodlands and on rich calcareous soils.

Known hazards of Daphne mezereum:

All parts of the plant are highly toxic. Skin contact with the sap can cause dermatitis in some people.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.