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Notes from the Apothecary

Notes from the Apothecary: Anemones


Whenever you hear the word “anemone” you’ll either imagine a gorgeous yet shy sea creature or a beautiful flower found both in the wild and in gardens all over the world. Of course, here in the Apothecary, we’re excited about the flowers! There are well over a hundred species of anemone, including Anemone blanda and Anemone nemorosa, both often referred to as wood anemones or the more evocative name, windflowers.

Anemones are in the same family as buttercups (Ranunculaceae) and grow from bulbs or rhizomes, usually coming back year after year. In Europe, anemones are keepers of living history, in a way, as large patches indicate you’re most likely standing in a patch of ancient woodland.


The Kitchen Garden

There are many varieties of anemone you can get for your garden, including Anemone coronaria, a species which comes in a range of purples and pinks. This makes it a great choice for attracting pollinators like butterflies and bees—great if you’re growing fruits and veggies!

Don’t make the mistake of trying to eat your anemones, though. They’re entirely poisonous, although as we’ll see, some parts have historically been used for medicinal purposes. Remember, these flowers are closely related to buttercups which are also poisonous and can cause irritation to both humans and animals.

Growing anemones is relatively easy. Make sure the soil has good drainage so they don’t get waterlogged. Give them a sunny spot, some compost, and let them do their thing! In colder climates, you may need to dig anemone tubers (bulbs) up and store them carefully until spring when you can replant them.


The Apothecary


Despite being an irritant, anemones have cropped up in folk medicine in many places around the globe. There’s a great article on the National Library of Medicine which states that at least 50 species of anemone are used as medicine and that they could offer clues to aid in modern drug discovery. Actions noted include:

    • Antimicrobial
    • Immunomodulatory
    • Antioxidant
    • Anti-inflammatory
    • Possible anti-cancer action

As with many plant-based medicines, research here is lacking, but there is some interesting potential noted. Of course, please don’t start eating anemones to treat your own conditions—they can make you very sick!

In TCM (traditional Chinese medicine), anemone is a cooling plant, used to clear heat and detoxify the body. It’s also used to treat dysentery and malaria.

In other parts of the Far East, some anemone species are taken as an antihistamine or as a sedative. In Russia, the plant has been used as a liver tonic, while across Europe anemones have been used to help break a fever.


The Witch’s Kitchen


Anemones are such a contradiction, able to both harm and heal. They’re stunningly beautiful, yet also small, not overstated, and in the case of white wood anemones, slow and patient. These flowers spread so slowly, it can take a century for a patch to grow by six feet!

The word anemone means “daughter of the wind” in ancient Greek. The flowers are linked, through Greek mythology, to both Aphrodite and Adonis. Aphrodite sprinkled nectar or tears on the blood of her fallen lover, Adonis, and there the flowers burst forth. Anemones are a reminder of joys that can’t be forgotten, meaningful relationships, and love that lasts throughout grief or beyond death.

Ares was the murderer of Adonis, in the form of a wild boar. These flowers may represent the downfall of a jealous nature, and the damage jealousy can cause to relationships and partnerships. Be wary of including anemones in your sacred space if you work with any of these deities as they may not appreciate the reminder of this event!

The anemone’s connection to the wind can’t be ignored, either. If you want flowers for the East of your altar or sacred space to represent air, Anemones are ideal. They also represent frailty, short cycles, and a reminder that all good things come to an end, so make time to enjoy them while you still can.

Other fabulous names I’ve come across for this flower include wind crowfoot, grandmother’s nightcap, and thimbleweed. Across the world, anemones are seen as either good or bad luck, so you’ll have to make your own mind up about that aspect! I always feel lucky to see any of these gorgeous flowers on my travels.


I Never Knew…

According to flower specialists Interflora, the association between anemones and bad luck was so strong in parts of Europe that people would hold their breath when passing the flowers, just in case!


*Image credits

Colourful anemones By Aviad2001 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

White wood anemones By Lilly M – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Anemones growing in a Polish forest, By Tomasz Kuran aka Meteor2017 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,



About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist and content creator. She’s a nature-based witch, obsessed with Irish and British Paganism and Folklore, plus she’s a massive plant nerd. She’s also a long-time Hekate devotee and a newbie Lokean. She works extensively with the UK Pagan Federation, including editing their bi-annual children’s magazine. Mabh is a passionate environmentalist and an advocate for inclusiveness and positive social transformation.

Mabh is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors,  Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways, and most recently, Practically Pagan: An Alternative Guide to Planet Friendly Living. Search “Mabh Savage” on Spotify and @Mabherick on all socials.