Pheasants Eye

Closeup of pheasants eye flowers (Adonis vernalis) in springtime (Hainburg, Austria)

The pheasant’s eye is a powerful medicinal plant, which works similar to the foxglove and is therefore also poisonous, although less poisonous than the foxglove. In the normal medicine chest the pheasant’s eye has therefore no place, but belongs in the hand of a specialist.

In contrast to the foxglove the digitalis glycosides of the pheasant’s eye do not accumulate in the body and are therefore more suitable to be taken over a longer period of time. The main area of application of pheasant’s eye is the heart and its various weaknesses.

Plant description

The perennial plant has a finger-thick rootstock with many secondary roots. In spring, 15 to 30 cm high stems sprout from the rootstock. The leaves are pinnate. The individual leaf sections are narrowly linear, almost like soft needles.

Between March and May, the Adonis flowers in a bright yellow. The flowers grow up to seven centimetres in size. They have many petals. It is the good time to collect it. The relationship to buttercup and marsh marigold can be clearly seen. However, the flowers of the pheasant’s eye are much larger and more splendid. Usually several flowers grow on one plant.


Scientific name
Adonis vernalis.

Plant family

Other names
Spring pheasant’s eye, yellow pheasant’s eye and false hellebore.

Plant parts used
Stem & Leaf.

Enhances the effect of other drugs, e.g. laxatives, sodium excretion drugs.

Attention! Toxic! Use only in ready-to-use preparations, homeopathic or external.

Side effects
Loss of appetite, breast enlargement in men (gynecomastia), depression, diarrhea, vomiting, hallucinations, heart rhythm disturbances, headaches, psychosis, pulse acceleration (tachycardia), visual disturbances, rigidity (stupor), confusion

Not for pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, in case of potassium deficiency – people who are sensitive to digitalis glycosides.

Flavonoids; Various digitalis glycosides: adonidoside, adonivernoside, cymarin, adonitoxin, adonin, choline, resin.

Medicinal properties

Main use: Heart.

Healing effects

        • Calming
        • Diuretic
        • Vein-strengthening

Areas of application

        • Asthma
        • Bronchial asthma
        • Epilepsy
        • Fever
        • Heart failure
        • Limited cardiac output
        • Tachycardia
        • Cardiac arrhythmia
        • Heart failure
        • Cough
        • Hypotension
        • Hyperthyroidism
        • Circulatory problems
        • Mild valvular insufficiency
        • Menstrual cramps
        • Nervous heart condition
        • Nervousness
        • Low blood pressure
        • Edema
        • Prostate trouble
        • Rheumatism
        • Rheumatic heart problems
        • Venous insufficiency
        • Dropsy

Forms of preparation

Since the pheasant’s eye is poisonous, you should not joke with it or experiment with it. The effect is difficult to estimate because of the slow absorption. The ratio of adonitoxin and cymarin is subject to strong fluctuations and the effect may be different up to the plant.

Finished preparations

The safest way is to use ready-to-use preparations, e.g. from the pharmacy, because in such ready-to-use preparations the quantity of active ingredients is always uniform, so that a safe dosage is possible. Even when using ready-made preparations, pheasant’s eye may only be used in consultation with the treating physician. Finished preparations are usually prepared from the powder of the above-ground parts of the adonis floret. Often these preparations also contain lily of the valley, sea onions and oleander, so they are mixed preparations.


In general, a tincture is more effective than a tea because the glycosides are partly not soluble in water. However, a large proportion of the active ingredients are already destroyed in the stomach, because the glycosides react sensitively to stomach acid.

It is not recommended to make your own tinctures for pheasant’s eye. On the one hand, this is due to the rarity of pheasant’s eye and, on the other hand, to its toxicity, which makes the pheasant’s eye in its own tinctures unpredictable. Medically prescribed tinctures of the pheasant’s eye should only be used according to the doctor’s instructions.

Mixed teas

In folk medicine, pheasant’s eye was traditionally used in mixed teas to treat heart complaints, menstrual problems, fever and oedema, especially swollen feet. The advantage of using it as an ingredient in mixed teas is that it is not so easy to overdose the plant.


As a homeopathic remedy, pheasant’s eye is used in low potencies against similar complaints as in the herbal medicine. In addition, the homeopathic Adonis vernalis is used against circulatory weakness in infectious diseases and sometimes for prostate problems. Adonis vernalis in homeopathic preparation is usually taken 3 times a day with 5 – 15 drops.

If you take digitalis glycosides, you must not use Adonis vernalis preparations at the same time.

Poisoning with the pheasant’s eye causes nervous restlessness. It can also cause nausea and vomiting. If there is a suspicion of adonis poisoning, you should definitely see a doctor immediately.

Plant history & legends

The pheasant’s eye is originally a plant of the continental steppes of Eurasia. Thus it has its origin in the West Siberian steppes. After the ice ages, the pheasant’s eye migrated to Western Europe in places. It was able to make itself at home everywhere where it is dry like steppe and where the meadows were kept relatively short by grazing. Therefore the spread of pheasant’s eye is closely related to sheep husbandry.

Because sheep farming has become less and less, the pheasant’s eye is also becoming increasingly rare. In some places, extra sheep are kept to maintain the dry grasslands and thereby, among other things, to maintain the living conditions for the pheasant’s eye.

In 16th and 17th century, the pheasant’s eye was used as a remedy for heart failure and dropsy. A little later, in the 18th century, pheasant’s eye became a fashionable medicinal plant. Large quantities of the root were excavated in Thuringia and sold throughout Europe. As a result, the pheasant’s eye was greatly decimated and is now a very rare plant.

The legend tells that the beautiful Adonis was loved by Aphrodite. In Cyprus, Adonis was killed by a boar in an act of revenge of the goddess Artemis. Wherever the blood of the beautiful Adonis now drips, an Adonis vernalis grows. However, this is the summer form of the Adonis vernalis, because this flower blooms red.

Another variation of the Adonis legend comes from Roman mythology. Here it is the jealous Mars who sends the boar to kill Adonis. Adonis had gotten involved with the goddess Venus. Venus and Aphrodite are different names of the same goddess of love.

Cultivation Tips

The pheasant’s eye is considered difficult to cultivate, but it is still worth a try. For the cultivation of pheasant’s eye you need a calcareous soil and a very dry, sunny location. Since snails love to eat the pheasant’s eye, measures against snails should be taken before planting.

The pheasant’s eye thrives in warm, rather dry places on calcareous soil. It is a typical plant of the dry continental climate. Its preferred habitats are steppe lawns and dry grasslands. As these types of grass are rare, pheasant’s eye is also very rare in most areas. It is therefore no wonder that Adonis rose is strictly protected.

The pheasant’s eye slows down the growth of neighbouring plants, so it is not suitable for groups with different types of flowers. If you want to sow the pheasant’s eye, it is best to do so in a cold cold frame as soon as the seeds are ripe in summer. The seeds usually take a long time to germinate. Once the plants have germinated and survived the first year, you can plant them in their place in the dry bed. It is easier if you can buy the finished plants. You can then plant them directly into the bed.

Harvest tips

Because the pheasant’s eye is strictly protected, it must not be collected in nature. Also with plants in your own garden you should be very careful with the harvest.

As the active ingredients of pheasant’s eye vary greatly depending on the location and climate, it is very easy to under- or overdose on self-collected plants. Again, the best way to enjoy the beautiful effects of this sun-yellow flowers is to buy the preparations from pheasant’s eye in a pharmacy.


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