Botanical Source.—The primrose is a perennial, stemless plant, having a short, upright, scaly root-stalk, of a brownish color, and giving off numerous fleshy roots, which contain a yellow meditullium and are covered with a thick and mealy bark. The pendulous flowers (flores primulae) are borne in umbels of 10 or 12 upon scapes, which are either short or long. The 5-angled calyx is pale-yellow, while the corolla is of a lemon-yellow hue, and is marked in the throat with 5 blotches of a saffron color. The fresh root is slightly sweet in odor, while the taste, at first sweetish, is afterward acrid and bitterish. The flowers, when fresh, have a sweetish taste, and an odor suggestive of honey. When dry they have a deep-greenish color. Primrose is well known as a garden plant, and is native to the grassy and wooded lands of Europe and north Asia.
Chemical Composition.—The root of Primula veris, according to Saladin (1830), contains an acrid, neutral principle, which he called arthanitin, and which he had previously discovered in the root of Cyclamen europaeum, Linné. Buchner and Herberger (Report f. d. Pharm., Vol. XXXVI, 1831, p. 36) named it cyclamin (C20H34O10, Hilger and Mutschler). It is a white, crystallizable powder, soluble in alcohol, insoluble in ether, chloroform, and oils; soluble, with difficulty, in water. The aqueous solution foams upon shaking. Upon drying the root, cyclamin decomposes to some extent. De Luca and Hilger found this substance to be a glucosid. By boiling with diluted acids, it splits into sugar and cyclamiretin (C15H22O2). Saladin also found the root to contain a semisolid, yellowish essential oil, having the odor of fennel. It deposits primula camphor (C11H12O5, Hilger and Mutschler), melting at 49° C. (120.2° F.), soluble in alcohol, ether, benzol, soluble with difficulty in water, and producing a violet color with ferric chloride.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—This plant constituted an important remedy in the early days of medicine. Under the names Radix paralyseos and Radix arthritica, it was formerly in great repute in paralysis and gout, and the plant was valued as a remedy in muscular rheumatism, neuralgic headache (hemicrania), dysmenorrhoea, toothache, gravel, and insomnia. Primula possesses sternutatory, astringent, vermifuge, antispasmodic, and pain-relieving properties. It is now seldom employed in medicine. Prof. J. M. Scudder (Spec. Med., p. 212) suggests a tincture of the fresh plant in bloom (℥viij to alcohol, 98 per cent, Oj), the dose of which should range from the fraction of a drop to 10 drops. He gives the following indications: "Extreme sensitiveness, pain from slight impressions, restlessness, and insomnia." Infusion may be made of 5 to 10 per cent strength, the dose being 1 fluid ounce; dose of the flowers, 5 to 15 grains.
Related Species.—Primula auricula, Linné. Europe, in the mountains and cultivated. Fragrant lemon-yellow flowers. The aqueous distillate of the root deposits fragrant auricula camphor (Hünefeld). This species has, for ages, been used in certain parts of Germany as a remedy for phthisis pulmonalis. Other plants related to primrose are:
Primula obconica, England, is said to produce an eruption similar to that produced by poison ivy (Rhus Toxicodendron). Dr. J. H. Neale (see Amer. Homoeopathist, Dec., 1897, p. 429) reports an interesting severe case of poisoning by this plant. Lotions of glycerin and alcohol (containing tincture of belladonna) gave relief.
King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.