With spring upon us, wild flowers, lilacs, violets, pansies, chrysanthemums, daisies, and other blooms explode onto the scene, taking over gardens, fields and mountain sides as if they were here for a reason, perhaps screaming, “Eat me!,” or at least, “Look at me!”
We all know that certain flowers are edible, but little is known about their medicinal value and which ones are safe to eat.
Eating flowers is not a new concept by any means. Ancient mosaics of Pompeii display the gods dining on flower blossoms, and the common folks ate flowers regularly as well. In ancient Greece, France, and Rome, flowers were used to enhance the flavors of food, and even for medicinal purposes. (1)
In the States, an edible flower may show up as a garnish in a fine restaurant, but they don’t appear on menus as an entree as they did for centuries in Europe. Dandelions boiled with honey or batter-fried black elder flowers graced many plates as much more than just a garnish in Central Europe. (2)
Unfortunately, there has been little research on edible flowers and the safe limit of daily consumption for edible flowers is not yet known – so before you make flowers your next meal, start with small amounts, such as sprinkling some on your salad, adding them as a colorful garnish to your favorite dish or dessert, or tossing a few petals into your smoothie. (10)
On that note, do not eat flowers from florists, nurseries, garden centers, or flowers found on the side of the road. Consume only flowers that you or someone else has grown specifically for that purpose.
Flowers Are Full Of Nutrients
Edible flowers are loaded with nutrients, and when blooming, offer some significant seasonal and health benefits. One on the most notable constituents in flowers which give them their color are the carotenoids, which act as the precursors for the body’s intake of vitamin A. Flowers contain a very rare form of the carotenoid, lutein, that is not found in many other food sources. This form of lutein is a powerful antioxidant and is well known for supporting eye health as well as a host of other health issues. (1,2)
Research on marigolds showed that they have over 39 different phenolic compounds, with flavonoids being the major antioxidant detected. (3) While flowers are loaded with many types of antioxidants like carotenoids, flavonoids and phenols, it is the flavonoids that pack the most powerful antioxidant punch. (4-6) In one study involving nasturtiums, the darker the red-colored petals, the more antioxidants were found in the flower. (7)
This could suggest that, like berries, the darker the flower, the more potent the health benefits.
In addition to their notable antioxidant levels, edible flowers also contain trace amounts of protein, as well as trace amounts of phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, iron, manganese, copper, zinc, and molybdenum. Roses, violets, and nasturtiums, for example, will dress up any meal but they are also loaded with vitamin A, C, riboflavins, niacin, and minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, iron, and potassium. (8) It’s no wonder flowers were considered foods in Europe for centuries!
New and very exciting research suggests further health benefits, showing that the flower pollen extracts of rye pollen (Secale cereale), corn pollen (Zea mays) and timothy pollen (Phleum pratense) support the health and function of the urinary tract system, bladder and the prostate in men’s studies. The extract is available around the world under other brand names such as Cernitin, and in capsule and tablet forms as Cernilton. (9)
Emotional Flower Power
Flower essences (the essences of flowers diluted homeopathically in water with a preserving agent) have been used as medicines for the mind and emotions for many years. (11) However, the research on these remedies is interesting.
Many studies have been performed on flower remedies for mood-related conditions, and most show that the flower essences did not out-perform the placebo effect. In one study, for example, all 61 participants who ingested the flower remedy saw significant improvements in mood, but the placebo group saw the same results. (12)
As a result, scientists dismiss the benefits of flowers remedies as nothing more than placebo, but placebos can be powerful medicine. In many studies, placebos out-performed many of the new pharmaceutical drugs for mood control, and yet the drugs were still released. The placebo effect should not be underestimated – it generally ranges up to 82% effectiveness. (13-15)
Below, find a downloadable and printable chart with all of the edible flowers for this spring and summer. (16)