Although the raw plant is toxic, when properly prepared, an beneficial herbal remedy can be derived from the seeds of the delphinium plant, D. staphysagria. The plant, which is also known as stavesacre and lice bane, grows naturally in the southernmost regions of Europe and Asia. While the purplish-blue flowers of this species may be attractive and admired in the garden, its aroma is certainly not. Even so, throughout history, stavesacre has found popularity among many cultures in the realm of herbal medicine.
The ancient Greeks and Romans ingested staphysagria tonic to induce vomiting. It was also used as a laxative. The seeds, which are said to have a bitter, burning taste, were occasionally chewed to help relieve pain from toothache as well. In addition, the plant was prescribed for the treatment of headaches, wounds, and urinary health.
The remedy most associated with this delphinium species was used for nervous disorders. Staphysagria is considered very effective for the treatment of symptoms related to emotional health, especially following a traumatic event. Anything from anxiety to stress and depression is thought to have been alleviated by the use of this herbal remedy. Since the plant is so severely toxic, however, it’s rarely taken internally anymore.
Even the external use of this plant should be performed with caution. Staphysagria has been found useful with certain problems of the eyes and used externally to relieve eyelid inflammation and sties. In addition, it has been helpful for itchy skin, bites and stings, and for the treatment of warts. One of the plant’s most notable remedies has been the elimination of parasites, working especially well for treating head lice. Compounds found in this species are effective for destroying the eggs or nits of lice.
The poisonous properties of stavesacre come from an alkaloid called delphinine. While remedies of stavesacre are available in various forms that include ointments, powdered seeds, sweetened pellets, alcohol-based tinctures, and decoction extracts, staphysagria should never be used without strict, monitored supervision of a qualified practitioner. In addition to severe vomiting and gastrointestinal problems, an overdose of this remedy can cause excitability, depression, paralysis, and even death.
In addition to their medicinal history, many delphinium species, such as this one, were used to make blue dye or ink from the ground-up flowers. It was also believed in some cultures that the external use of staphysagria would ward off scorpions.