This section is from the book "A Text Book Of Materia Medica, Being An Account Of The More Important Crude Drugs Of Vegetable And Animal Origin", by Henry G. Greenish. Also available from Amazon: A Text Book of Materia Medica : Being an Account of the More Important Crude Drugs of Vegetable and Animal Origin.
The lily of the valley, Convallaria majdlis, Linne (N.O. Liliaceoe), is a small herbaceous plant, with perennial creeping rhizome, widely distributed over Europe and indigenous in England, where it occurs in woods or thickets, being much more abundant in some countries than in others.
The plant produces two broadly elliptical leaves and a flowering scape, bearing in the axils of small bracts pedicellate, campanulate flowers, forming a unilateral raceme of fragrant, white drooping flowers. The root, leaves, and flowers have all been used in medicine, but the part now usually employed is the flowers. The entire inflorescence is collected and dried, during which process the white flowers assume a brownish yellow tinge and the fragrant odour almost entirely disappears.
The drug consists of the slender scape, bearing from three to eight brownish yellow campanulate flowers. The perianth has six, recurved teeth, and bears on its inner surface six large anthers; the ovary is superior and three-celled. It possesses a slight agreeable odour and bitter taste.
Two crystalline glucosides, convallamarin and con-vallarin have been isolated from the lily of the valley.
Convallamarin, C23H44012, has been obtained as a crystalline powder readily soluble in water and in alcohol, but only slightly in ether; it yields a violet coloration with sulphuric acid and may be hydrolysed into dextrose and con-vallamaretin; its action is that of a cardiac tonic and diuretic.
Convallarin, C34H62O11, crystallises in prisms, soluble in alcohol and slightly soluble in water, the aqueous solution frothing when shaken; it has a purgative action. According to Robert (1915) an acid and a neutral convallarin exist, both possessing the typical saponin action on blood (see p. 254).
Lily of the valley flowers are occasionally used as a cardiac tonic in the place of foxglove.