Adonis is a genus comprising roughly 25 perennial flowering plants belonging to the buttercup family known as Ranunculaceae. These species are commonly found growing in the arid meadows as well as steppes in the Eurasia region. A few species are also seen growing remotely in Spain and through Central Europe, such as in Valais, Switzerland and southern Europe.
In the north, these plants are seen growing up to Sweden. However, adonis plants are mainly distributed in the West Siberian Plain and the Pannonian Basin. Contrary to nearly all the other species of European adonis, plants growing in the above mentioned regions come to bloom during spring.
The flowers measure roughly 80 mm across and each flower may have as many as 20 vivid yellow petals. Plants of Adonis species are often grown for their ornamental value. The species called Adonis vernalis generally grows up to a height of 0.3 meters.
The species belonging to genus Adonis bloom in March and their seeds mature between May and June. The flowers of this species are hermaphrodite in nature, having male as well as female reproductive organs. These flowers are pollinated by flies, bees and beetles. In addition, the plants are also self-fertile.
Since long people in several countries have been using the adonis herb for medicinal purpose and the Pharmacopoeias of many European countries still retain this herb.
Despite the fact that adonis (Adonis vernalis) is an extremely poisonous herb, a number of people still use it for treating their heart ailments like irregular heartbeat, mild heart failure and complaints related to "nervous heart". Aside from using the herb for heart conditions, adonis is also employed for curing fever, cramps and menstrual problems.
Plants belonging to genus Adonis enclose cardiac glycosides that are akin to those present in Digitalis purpurea (foxglove). These compounds help to enhance the efficiency of the heart by augmenting the blood pumped by it, while slowing down the heart rate.
In addition, these cardiac glycosides have a sedative effect and, hence, doctors usually prescribe them for people with fast heartbeats or whose heartbeats are irregular. However, this herb is not prescribed very often as its absorption is not regular. Adonis possesses diuretic, cardio tonic, sedative as well as vasoconstrictor properties.
Occasionally, this herb is also employed internally in the form of a cardio tonic, especially in cases where the more familiar herb Digitalis purpurea (foxglove) fails to yield the desired results, particularly in patients who also suffer from kidney disorders. In many cases, use of this herb instead of foxglove proves to be more effective.
In addition to treating heart related problems, adonis is also employed for curing low blood pressure. Moreover, as this herb possesses potent diuretic properties, it can also be employed to treat water retention by the body. Adonis is a constituent of several patented medicines, particularly because the effects of this herb are not snowballing.
Adonis is also used in homeopathy for treating angina. Adonis vernalis has been approved by the German Commission E Monographs, which is a remedial guide for various herbal medicines, for treating conditions like nervous heart complaints as well as arrhythmia.
Adonis is also recommended for people suffering from chronic weak heart, a condition wherein blood circulation through the veins is swelled up. In fact, this condition may sometimes also result in the development of varicosed ulcers.
Adonis is especially valuable in conditions that are a result of imperfect arterial tension, which is attributed to ineffectual action of the heart. This herb is also effective in treating several different cases of dropsy, particularly when the kidneys do not function effectively. Administration of adonis helps to contract the weakened and dilated muscles of the heart, while enhancing their tone.
Generally speaking, the action of the herb in treating dropsy is more or less satisfactory compared to various other medications for heart condition. Although the diuretic effect of adonis is at times much more compared to Digitalis purpurea, it is not as strong or effective as digitalis in treating dropsy and related heart problems.
It has, however, been found that even in cases where the effect of digitalis is not satisfactory in producing diuresis, Adonis vernalis has a more constant diuretic action. Adonis vernalis is effective in treating irregular heartbeat and other related conditions, in addition to dyspnea caused by a weak heart.
Moreover, this herb is also employed for curing dyspnea caused by asthma owing to weak heart muscles. In many such cases, the results of using Adonis vernalis have been remarkably successful.
Plants belonging to genus Adonis have healthy growths in any common garden soil provided it is not very heavy. These plants have a preference for a moist soil with proper drainage. They grow well in the sun as well as in partially shaded locations. It is quite easy to grow these plants in an extremely well-drained soil compared to growing them in arid soil in the sun or semi-shaded sites.
Usually, adonis plants bear better quality and more flowers when they are grown in a sunny location. Slugs have a special liking for adonis plants and, hence, it is extremely tricky to grow them in any open garden where slugs are in plenty.
Adonis plants are extremely ornamental. Since these plants are rarely found in the wild, one should only harvest the cultivated plants. These plants are considered to be "greedy", as they encroach upon the growth of other plants, particularly legumes, in the neighbourhood.
Adonis is commonly propagated by its seeds. Ideally, sow the seeds as soon as they are ripe in a cold frame. Delay in sowing may lead to sluggish and unreliable germination. The seeds should be sown in rich soil in a semi-shaded location either in September or in March.
When the seedlings have grown sufficiently large for handling, prick them out individually and continue growing them in a cold frame throughout their first season. You can plant them outdoors in autumn when the plants are in a dormant state.
Adonis can also be propagated by root division, which ought to be undertaken either in the beginning of spring or during autumn. However, usually it is quite difficult to establish the divisions. Therefore, perhaps it is best to pot the divisions and place them in a greenhouse or in a cold frame till they are well established and are growing healthily.
Chemical analysis of plants belonging to genus Adonis has revealed that they are poisonous. Moreover, these plants enclose compounds that are cardio stimulant, for instance, aconitic acid and adonidin.
Generally, adonis is not safe for human use. However, it is quite safe to use the plant's extract prepared commercially under the direct supervision of a physician or healthcare provider. Here is a word of caution: you should never use adonis for self-medication. This species is extremely poisonous and the side effects of using this herb or its extract may include vomiting, nausea and unbalanced heart beat.
Harvesting of adonis plants is done once in three years soon after they start bearing flowers. These plants are dried up and stored for use in liquid extracts and tinctures. Since this herb does not remain well for longer periods, the stocks of dried adonis plants need to be replaced with fresh stocks annually.