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Convallaria majalis

Convallaria majalis                Common name: Lily of the Valley

Family:  Liliaceae

Part Used: Leaf, flower (whole plant when flowering)

Constituents: Cardioactive glycosides, over 30 different types (inc.: convallatoxin, convallatoxol, convallamarin, convallarin, and convallaric acid), saponins, flavonoids, asparagin.

Medicinal actions:  Cardioactive-tonic & stimulant, bitter, mild gastric tonic, anti-arrhythmic, hypertensive, diuretic, antispasmodic

Medicinal use: Has similar but milder cardiac effects to Digitalis but without the toxic buildup. Exerts a positive inotropic and negative chronotropic action on the heart and is specific for congestive heart failure with edema. It is most indicated in bradycardic and/or arrhythmic forms of heart failure, although tachycardic hearts also respond to this herb.  Mitral stenosis, mitral regurgitation and cor pumonale are especially good indications for the use of this plant.

Pharmacology: 

  • Cardioactive glycosides, convallamarin & convallarin have stronger cardiac effects than Digitalis but a shorter half-life, and aglycones have a slower absorption rate.
  • Flavonoids stimulate vasodilation of coronary vessels but have a hypertensive effect systemically.
  • Asparagin is diuretic and helps drain fluids from edematous tissue.

Pharmacy: Tincture (1:5, 40%), 0.5-1.0 ml TID (8-15 drops). Infusion: 1 tsp/cup. Dried leaves: 60-200mg TID. Short term use best (4-6 weeks).

Toxicity: Signs of toxicity: nausea, vomiting, violent purging, cardiac arrhythmias, increased blood pressure, restlessness, trembling, mental confusion, extreme weakness, depression, collapse of circulation, and death. Monitor BP and edema. Berries are poisonous.

Contraindications: Should not be used in conjunction with anthraquinone glycoside containing plants.

Interactions: Anthraquinones, through their laxative effect, can deplete potassium levels, which will potentiate the cardioactive effect of cardioactive glycosides. This potentiation may result in cardiac arrhythmias.

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