Cyclamen spp

Other Names Sowbread

General Information

Cyclamen is a low-growing perennial native to the Mediterranean region and Northeast Africa where they grow as an understory plant in dry forested areas. The leaves are green, heart-shaped and variegated and generally appear in late winter, dying back in the hottest part of the summer. Flowers appear in autumn on 4-6 inch stalks above the leaves. The flowers are fairy-like consisting of five united petals in white, pink, red or purple with pink being the most common. They are followed by a five-chambered fruit containing sticky seeds which are very attractive to ants, as they are designed to be dispersed by them. The root is a black tuber, somewhat like a turnip.

History and Folklore

Cyclamen was prescribed by Dioscorides for just about everything from snake bite and other poisons to cataracts to boils. It was said also that a woman who walked over cyclamen while pregnant would abort and those who ate cakes made of it would fall violently in love. Added to wine, it ensured the drinker would be thoroughly drunk.

The name sowbread comes from its reported popularity as a food source among wild pigs in its native region.

The name Cyclamen comes from the Greek kyklaminos, meaning circle. It may be a reference to the spiraling habit of the seed stem or the round corms.

In the language of flowers, Cyclamen is a gracious way to say goodbye.


Most cyclamens cannot tolerate any frost, although there are some hardy species available in nurseries. In the North, they are best grown in pots so they can be brought indoors and protected from heat and frost. Allowing the plant to become too warm will cause it to go dormant. Don't throw it away, but be patient and it will return when the temperatures cool down a bit. 65 degrees is the ideal temperature for them.

Plant the corm just below the surface in a rich sandy soil. Water when the soil becomes dry (less often when dormant) and fertilize once a month with a mild fertilizer. It should bloom all winter long for you if you don't keep your house too warm.

Harvest the tuber in it's second or third year in the summer after the plant has gone dormant.

Slice thin and roast slowly until thoroughly dry and then pound into a powder. Store in a sealed container.

Magical Attributes

Cyclamen is sacred to Hecate.
It is feminine in nature and associated with the element of water and the planet Mars. It is both passive and active.

Cyclamen may be incorporated into any spell designed to increase joy and happiness in a situation, to increase affection in a relationship and your good old fashioned love spell. Likewise, it can be used to the opposite affect, to gently send away an unwanted person.

''Cyclamen hederaefolium'' is the species most associated with the love spell. Small cakes made of the roasted tuber are said to cause the one who eats them to fall violently in love with the one who bakes them, or become violently ill, whatever. (Please see cautions)

It may also be a useful addition to wedding cakes (see warnings) and is an appropriate decoration for handfastings. It is certainly a suitable houseplant for adorning the bedroom as it increases the libido and fertility. It will also keep away nightmares and prevent negative spells cast at household members from taking effect.

The oil or the flower itself may be worn to protect one against a broken heart. It is also useful for candle-magic love spells.

Its best use, either the oil, the plant itself or the powdered, roasted root, is in spells designed to build confidence, self-esteem and self love.

Household Use

For European gardeners- The plant is used as food by the larvae of the gothic moth (Naenia typica) in Europe and may be a useful addition to butterfly gardens enjoyed at night as well as during the day there.

Healing Attributes

Cyclamen is used in homeopathic medicine to bring on late menstruation and as a treatment for vertigo and dizziness and various other irritations of the head.

It has also been used to expel worms. 8-10 grains of the dried powdered root are used.

This is an extreme plant. There are safer alternatives.

It is a very powerful purgative.

Culinary Use

Eating the raw root can cause violent purging, but this effect disappears after it is roasted. It can then be pounded into a sort of flour for use in cooking and baking. I have found no recipes for this! I do not recommend trying this as I can find no good instructions for how to do it safely and properly. Please add to this wiki if you have more information on this.


This plant is poisonous to cats and fish.

Cyclamen is a very powerful, violent purgative! Use with caution and in very small quantities. Pregnant women should never use this plant, internally or externally, for any purpose!

However, it is a very lovely ground-cover for those shady spots in your garden.

See Also

You can Print this page for your Book of Shadows

Do you have a question or something to add?

Add a New Comment