The medicinal power of autumn crocus

Autumn crocus has a light pink flower on a long tubular stem without leaves. It is an ornamental plant in the garden. It resembles a crocus and, like this plant, is a bulbous plant. Autumn crocus naturalizes easily. They love water but sometimes you see them in the woods. In the Netherlands it is a rare plant in the wild, but it is widely cultivated. The autumn crocus originally comes from West Asia and the Mediterranean, but nowadays you see it throughout Europe with the exception of the north. It is a plant of great toxicity or toxicity. NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.

Botanical drawing autumn crocus / Source: Public domain, Wikimedia Commons (PD)


  • Poisonous plant
  • Naming
  • History of autumn crocus
  • Active substances
  • Autumn crocus in gout
  • Autumn crocus on ulcers
  • Autumn crocus warning

Poisonous plant

The plant is considered poisonous; you definitely cannot eat the flowers or other parts of fall crocus. As with many poisonous plants, it has medicinal properties in minute concentrations. However, the plant is so toxic that no one can simply use it. It has serious side effects. The medicinal use of this plant should only be done under medical supervision.


The Latin name of autumn crocus is Colchicum Autumnale . In Dutch, this flower is called, in addition to autumn crocus: Flower without leaf, Dry flowering, Bald damselfly, Flower of life, Naked beguine and Spider flower. The Latin name Colchicum comes from Colchis. That is a region on the Black Sea where the flower grows in abundance. Autumnale means autumn, the plant got this name because it blooms in the fall or as you might say: in the autumn tide. It only gets leaves in the following spring.

History of autumn crocus

In Greek mythology there is a beautiful reason for the origin of this plant. The sorceress Medea prepared a drink of rejuvenation for Aeson. Some drops of the drink fell on the ground and from them the autumn crocus was born. In the past, autumn crocus was used for rheumatism, tendon sheath inflammation, inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, liver disorders and asthma. Today, these medicinal uses have fallen into disuse.

Active substances

Centuries ago the bulb was used for medicinal purposes, but nowadays only the seed is used. Autumn crocus mainly contains the tropopnalkaloids colchicnine, cornigerine, demecolcine, colchiciline, cholchifoline and derivatives of these substances.

Autumn crocus in gout

Autumn crocus is not a plant to experiment with yourself. That’s because the therapeutic dose is close to the toxic dose. In addition, the plant does not have many medicinal uses. There are alternative medicine plants without risks that can be used just as well. The plant does have a special effect on gout. Many plants relieve or cure gout because they have a diuretic effect, which means that all waste products are removed from the body more quickly. The waste products that cause gout also disappear faster with diuretics. But autumn crocus works differently; it has a direct anti-inflammatory effect. Colchicine from autumn crocus has a stronger effect than the synthetic anti-gout drug indomethacin.

Autumn crocus on ulcers

Close-up flower autumn crocus / Source: Böhringer friedrich, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-2.5)

Ulcers or ulcerations can be treated with autumn crocus. This application is not widely used in phytotherapy, partly in view of the possible side effects. Yet it is used by some for:

  • Behcet’s syndrome or ulcerations in the mouth, throat and genitals accompanied by eye, skin and joint infections.
  • Familial Mediterranean fever, a hereditary condition with fever, abdominal pain, joint pain and damaged kidneys.

Autumn crocus warning

  • The use of colchicine should only be done under medical supervision.
  • A doctor gives just enough colchicine to prevent diarrhea, for example 1 mg of isolated colchicine at a time.
  • The toxic symptoms only occur two to six hours after ingestion.
  • The toxic symptoms are: burning sensation in the mouth and esophagus, thirst, nausea, vomiting, painful colic, bloody diarrhea, meteorism, blood in the urine, excessive fluid loss, paralysis, respiratory distress, blue discoloration, shock, low blood pressure, respiratory paralysis and ultimately death.