This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
Cowslap, Cowslek, Cowslip, Cowslip Primrose, Cowslop, Cow's-mouth, Cow-stripling, Cow-stropple, Crewel, Culverkeys, Fairy Cups, Galligaskins, Gaskins, Herb Paralysy, Herb Peter, Ladykeys, Lady's Fingers, May Flower, Paigle, Cow Paigle, Palsywort, Passwort, Peter, Petty Mullein, Plaggis, Plum-rocks, St. Peterwort.
Paigle is a name given to several different plants, and several sayings are current in connection with it in different parts.
"The yellow marigold, the Sunnes owne flower, Pagle, and Pinke, that Decke fair Florals bower." Professor Skeat derives it from the French paillole, Italian pagniola, a spangle, the root beingpaille, straw, from Latin palea. As to the name Palsywort, Gerarde says: "They are thought to be good against the paines of the joints and sinewes", and "A conserve made with the flowers . .. prevaileth woonderfully against the palsie." Artetyke is a corruption of Arthritica. a name given because the Cowslip was supposed to be good for pains in the joints.
The name Cowslip is supposed to be Cow's lip. In Yorkshire it is called Cooslop from Keslop, the prepared stomach of a calf used as rennet, and the wrinkled leaves and calyx were connected with that of the calf's stomach.
It is called Herb Peter because the flowers resemble a bunch of keys, the badge of St. Peter. Ariel is pictured by Shakespeare reclining in a "Cowslip's bell", the crimson spots being called "Gold Coasts Spots" - "these be rubies fairy favours".
It is the Key-flower in Germany. An ointment was formerly made of the flowers for the complexion, and supposed to take away spots by the Doctrine of Signatures.
Quite recently a writer said: "The village Damsels use it as a cosmetic, and we know it adds to the beauty of the complexion of the town-immured lassie when she searches for and gathers it herself in the early spring morning".
Photo. Matson - Cowslip (Primula veris, L.)
This plant was called Our Lady's Bunch of Keys and St. Peter-wort from its resemblance to a bunch of keys. It was supposed to induce sleep. Another legend has it that the nightingale is only to be heard when Cowslips are in profusion, but the nightingale's range is not so extensive as that of the Cowslip. It was used as a drug in the time of Chaucer. At the present day it is used in country districts for making Cowslip wine, which is very like the sweet wines of S. France.
Cowslip smells of anise. The leaves have been used as potherbs and in salads. Silkworms are fed upon them. Liqueurs and syrups are flavoured with the leaves.
It is not variable under cultivation, though it is remarkable that Parkinson and Gerarde speak of a double variety. Milton speaks of "the yellow Cowslip and the pale Primrose".
The Cowslip has been used as a corroborant and antispasmodic, and as an anodyne.
Essential Specific Characters: 200. Primula veris, L. - Flowering stem a scape, leaves ovate, contracted below, flowers pale yellow, in drooping umbels, calyx cam-panulate, teeth ovate, corolla limb cup-shaped, capsule oval.