© Sertürner Bildarchiv

Botanical name

Cowslip - Primula veris L. Oxslip - Primula elatior L.


Primula (Primulaceae)

Useful information about the plant

The Primrose populates the meadows and sparse shrubs with three different sub-species over a large area of East Asia and Central Asia to Central Europe. It is not present in the far north. The botanical name comes from the Latin Primula "prima" (= the first) and "ver" (= the spring, gen. veris = Spring) and means "first small fruits of the spring". Thus reflecting the fact that the primrose is the first plant to flower in the spring. The scapes (up to 20cm high) springs up from a rosette of velvety hairy leaves. At the end are pleasantly fragrant flowers arranged in an umbel. The sepals are fused into a tube, which prominently protrudes from the yolk-yellow corolla with 5 lobes. The scapes of the closely related Oxslip (Primula elatior (L.) Hill.) grow up to 30cm, its corolla is pale yellow to sulphur yellow and does not have a scent. Flowering time of both species is April through May.

Medicinally used plant parts (drug)

Both the dried rhizome and with the attached 1mm thick, long roots along with the dried flowers and calyx are used. Both drugs can be obtained from Primula veris and/or Primula elatior be won. The drug from the root comes from the former Yugoslavia, Turkey and Bulgaria.

Ingredients of the drug

Primrose roots contain triterpenoid and phenolic glycoside. Primrose flowers (primulas) also contain triterpenoid.

Descriptions of the quality

The quality of primula (Primula radix) is specified in the European Pharmacopoeia (Ph. Eur.), the quality of primulas (primroses flower, Primulae flos cum calycibus) is specified in the German Drug Codex (DAC).

Medical Application

Recognised medical use

With catarrh in the respiratory tract (Commission E), productive coughs and chronic bronchitis (ESCOP). An area of use based on clinical data (approval) reads: "for colds with viscous mucus."
The HMPC has classified primroses and primula flowers (primulas) as traditional herbal medicinal products (see "traditional use").

Traditional use

The HMPC has categorised primula and primroses as a traditional herbal medicine (§ 39a AMG). Based on many years of experience primula and primroses can be used as an expectorant in coughs associated with colds. Primula is also traditionally used in combination with other drugs to support the release of mucus in the respiratory tract (traditionally used in accordance with § 109a).

Medicinal herbal preparations in finished drug products

Primula root

  • As a primula tea
  • Dried extract in capsules, tablets and soluble instant teas
  • Fluid extract in drops and juice
  • Tincture in drops and solutions
  • Thick extract in juice
Primula flowers
  • Primula flowers in tea blends
  • Powdered primula flowers in sugar-coated tablets


Prepared drugs: see package insert;
Tea infusions: drink warm 1 cup of primrose rot and/or flower sweetened with honey every 2 to 3 hours as an expectorant. Daily dose of the root: 0.5 to 1.5g of the drug; daily dose of the flower: 2 to 4g of the drug.

Preparation of a tea infusion

Primrose root: 0.2 to 0.5g of the finely cut drug is mixed with 150ml of cold water, the mixture is brought to the boil, remove from the heat and strain after 10 min.
Primrose flowers: Pour 150ml of boiling water over 1.3g (1 teaspoon) of the drug and strain after 10 to 15 minutes.


If the person suffers from asthma, primula root and flowers should not be applied, and also with children with obstructive laryngitis. Caution must be exercised in patients with gastritis and peptic ulcers.
There is currently no experience in the safety of the use of primula root and flowers during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Its use against coughs in children under 4 years old is not recommended, because this symptom should be dealt with by a trained medic.

Side effects

For people with sensitive stomachs it can cause stomach discomfort and may cause allergic reactions.


None known


Drug monographs

HMPC, Commission E, ESCOP

Further reading

Wichtl: Teedrogen und Phytopharmaka, pg. 528
Schilcher: Leitfaden Phytotherapie, pg. 208
Van Wyk: Handbuch der Arzneipflanzen, pg. 255
Kommentar zum Europäischen Arzneibuch (Primrose root, no. 1364)

→ Medicinal plants
→ Glossary
→ Advisor