Edelweiss

Leontopodium alpinum

Herbs gallery - Edelweiss

Common names

  • Alpine Everlasting Flower
  • Beautiful Star
  • Edelweiss
  • Federweiss
  • Glacier Queen
  • Lion's Foot
  • Star Glacier

Edelweiss (scientific name Leontopodium alpinum) is a very familiar flower that is found blooming naturally in the mountains. Hence, it is also referred to as the edelweiss mountain flower. This species is a member of the Asteraceae family, which also includes the sunflower and daisy.

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Leontopodium alpinum has a preference for growing on limestone rocks, especially at altitudes varying between 1,800 meters and 3,000 meters. This herb is not toxic and has been traditionally employed in folk medicine in the form of a remedy for respiratory ailments and abdominal problems. The flowers of this herb are scarce and have a very brief life span. They are generally found in the remote mountainous regions. Owing to its rough beauty combined with purity which is generally associated with the Carpathians and the Alps, edelweiss has been used in the form of a representation of alpinism. In addition, this species forms the national symbol of a number of countries, including Austria, Bulgaria, Romania and Switzerland. According to a folklore related to the edelweiss, when one gifts the flower of this plant to his/ her beloved, it represents a promise that he/ she will always remain dedicated to their beloved.

It is worth mentioning here that in Europe the blooms of edelweiss are amongst the famous alpine wild flowers. Aside from being used for ornamental purposes, traditionally this plant's uses include a remedy for a number of respiratory ailments like tuberculosis. In the present day, this herb has a number of uses in the cosmetic industry, especially skin care. It is found in a number of skin care creams and lotions that are meant to reduce fine lines and wrinkles. In addition, this herb is also used for treating varicose veins, which are related to old age, different vascular problems as well as hemorrhoids.

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As the species name of edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum) suggests, this plant has its origin in Europe's mountainous regions, especially the Alps. This herb has a preference for soils that may vary from light to heavy and containing lime. It thrives best in an open place receiving full sunlight. Edelweiss possesses the aptitude to tolerate frost. This is a perennially growing herb that grows up to a height of anything between 0.2 meter and 0.25 meter. This herb produces star-like, whitish flowers during spring.

The foliage of edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum) has an inclination to remain low as well as dense close to the ground. The growth rate of this plant is somewhat moderate and when provided with favourable conditions, it can survive for about a decade or so.

Edelweiss is a perennially growing plant that does best when grown in places receiving full sunlight to having partial shade. This plant has a preference for arid to mean moisture levels and requires an extremely well-drained soil. Edelweiss is thought to be a drought-resistant plant and, hence, it is a perfect choice for xeriscape application or growing in gardens having low water supplies. This plant is very specific regarding the soil conditions it is grown in. It strongly prefers an alkaline soil that is poor in nutrient value. In addition, edelweiss can reasonably tolerate urban pollution. You can propagate this species either from its seeds or by division.

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Sometimes, this herb produces large florescences measuring anything between 6 cm and 12 cm, which, in mythology, have been termed as "Edelweiß kings". This plant has various popular names, which only goes to manifest its appeal universally. The name of this plant has been derived from two German words - "edel" denoting "noble" and "weiss" denoting white. The botanical or scientific name of the herb has been derived from the Greek word denoting the "lion's foot". This has a reference to the form of the downy flowers of edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum).

Edelweiss bears a corymb-like flower. These flowers comprise anything between 30 and 60 small flowers that appear on furry and raised stems having white-hued woolly leaves. The flowers are assembled in the form of a star with whitish downy bracts encircling them, thereby creating the typical velvet star. This makes the edelweiss blooms so attractive and special. This species is a perennially growing plant that is a member of the Asteraceae family. This plant is commonly found growing in the pastures, especially places having limestone rocks. In Europe, edelweiss is a protected species and no one is allowed to pick the plant or flowers.

Parts used

Flowers.

Uses

Similar to several other herbs, Leontopodium alpinum has been historically employed for particular health benefits. After drying out the herb, you can cut the flowers of the plant and prepare it in an alcohol solution. The resultant extract can be employed in the form of a therapeutic herb. People have traditionally known that edelweiss is helpful in treating diarrhea and dysentery. In fact, people in Germany called this herb as the "stomach ache flower". In addition, this herb was also used to treat diphtheria and tuberculosis. For this purpose, the herb was ingested after blending with honey and hot milk. One of the oldest uses of edelweiss is to treat rheumatic pain. In addition, this herb was also employed in the form of an astringent for helping to alleviate coughs.

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Earlier, people widely used edelweiss in the form of a therapeutic herb. They mixed the herb with honey and milk and took the combination internally for treating stomach aches. In addition, in old times, people also used edelweiss as a love potion.

Following the discovery of edelweiss, scientists detected that the herb enclosed various compounds that were highly beneficial for our skin. Some of these phytochemicals include bisabolane derivates, luteolin, beta sitosterol and chlorogenic acid.

In fact, chlorogenic acid itself is a family of organic compounds that occur naturally and it is the main polyphenol present in coffee. This phytochemical possesses anti-microbial properties and is known to be a potent antioxidant that has proved to slow down the growth of tumours. In addition, chlorogenic acid also possesses the ability to counteract free radicals even before they can cause any damage to DNA, thereby aiding in putting off the signs of aging.

On the other hand, luteolin is basically a flavonoid. It is among the various citrus bioflavonoids that are supposed to offer numerous health benefits. This flavonoid scavenges free radicals and possesses anti-inflammatory properties. At the same time, luteolin has the ability to lower the seriousness of various allergic reactions. Similarly, derivatives of bisabolane present in the herb have anti-inflammatory attributes.

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Beta sitosterol contained by edelweiss is basically a plant sterol having a chemical structure akin to that of cholesterol. Within our body, this substance possesses the ability to lower the levels of harmful or LDL cholesterol in the blood stream. At the same time, when applied topically, this compound works as an anti-inflammatory agent, thereby aiding to calm as well as alleviate the irritated skin.

Owing to the presence of the above mentioned compounds as well as some others, it has been found that edelweiss is a potent antioxidant that helps to shield the skin from the negative effects of aging. It is important to note that edelweiss contains phytochemicals that possess the ability to absorb ultra violet rays of the sun. It is believed that the herb has obtained this quality since it is found growing naturally at high altitudes. This is the main reason why this herb forms an important ingredient in various natural products that help to block the harmful rays of the sun.

When you combine all the above mentioned properties of edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum), you get an amazing herb that combats all the negative elements that are responsible for aging, such as free radicals, ultraviolet rays and various oxidative stressors. At the same time, this herb provides the requisite nourishments to the skin, making it healthier from inside out. Additionally, this herb also protects the skin from all types of inflammations, combats bacterial invasion and offers the skin an overall calming and soothing effect.

Habitat and cultivation

Edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum) is irregularly distributed and this plant has a preference for places having rocky limestone soils. Usually, this species if found growing naturally at altitudes between 1800 meters and 3000 meters. This plant is covered by a dense hair, which is believed to be an adaptation for growing at high altitudes. This dense hair covering protects edelweiss from various environmental issues such as extreme cold, dryness and even ultraviolet (UV) radiation. As this herb is normally found growing in inaccessible locations, it is normally associated with several countries in the Alpine region that usually witnesses mountaineering activities.

This species is also cultivated in gardens, as it has an attractive inflorescence accompanied with unusual silver foliage. Edelweiss plants can be propagated from their seeds.

Research

In recent times, researchers are exploring the protection mechanisms of edelweiss, as it has been thriving successfully in the nature despite being exposed to high altitudes as well as extreme sunlight and draught situations. Findings of some of these studies have corroborated that the extract obtained from edelweiss encloses highly potent antioxidants as well as properties that help to protect its cells. In addition, scientists have found that this herb possesses anti-microbial as well as anti-inflammatory properties.

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