July 14 2024

Medicinal uses of Pheasant eye(Adonis vernalis)

Legal implications     

adonis vernalis

This plant probably originated in the Middle East is extinct in some European countries, reason why is now legally protected in many areas, and their trade is strictly regulated within the European Union and other territories, as befits an endangered species.

Medizzine recommended, therefore, make sure that the legal environment surrounding permits the collection and use of this plant before collecting. You must be aware that it is a very toxic plant, extremely delicate handling and capable of producing death. Due to both legal and medical reasons, you should not use this plant for medicinal uses.


It is a perennial plant that can reach up to 40 cm. high, with abundant pinnate leaves. Flowers, 3 to 6 cm in diameter, are yellow, incorporating up to 20 petals.

In the Iberian Peninsula there are the rare examples in calcareous, moist and rich grass, at some point, in South oriented places. Specimens may be contemplated in the Ebro valley, the mountains of Cuenca, Burgos, Sierra de Sancayet (Valencia) and Sierra de Alfacar, in the province of Granada.

The plant blooms during the second half of spring. If harvested, you benefit from the aerial parts of the plant and collected during that season.


Pheasant's eye, spring pheasant's eye, yellow pheasant's eye, false hellebore.


The plant contains glycosides (cardenolides) related to digitalis: adonidoside, adonivernoside, zimarin and adonitoxin and other substances as strophantogenins and vernadigin (adonitoxigenin_3-O-beta-D-diginoside). The rhizome, much more active than the leaves, contains vernadine.

Traditional applications     

Glycosides contained in the plant have effects similar to those of the digital. Thus, both Adonis Vernalis as other related plants have heart tonic effects, exerting, at therapeutic doses, diuretic and maybe sedative actions. The Adonis Sibir and related species have a similar composition, although sedative effects predominate and accumulates less than the variety Vernalis and produces a greater suppressive effect on heart rate [1].

It should be noted that the entire plant is toxic and very dangerous to handle.

Clinical studies     

An observation published in 1986 about the effects of a plant of similar composition, Adonis chrysocyanthus includes cardiotonic and diuretic effects in 31 patients[2].

Adverse reactions / toxicology     

This plant is toxic to humans and also for most domestic animals or livestock use.

As examples, we note an observation indicating that three horses died from ingesting grass containing specimens of Adonis aestivalis, a plant similar in composition to Adonis Vernalis, which contains cardenolides similar to those of oleander and digitalis.

The animals showed bloating within hours of ingestion of grass. Necropsy showed endocardial and epicardial hemorrhage as well as foci of myocardial necrosis and intestinal distension.

The strophanthidin, the aglycone that is present in several cardenólides of botanical species, was identified by gas chromatography[3].

Have been published observations of toxicity in pigs caused by Adonis microcarpa seeds, an Adonis vernalis related ranunculaceae, consisting in vomiting, breathing difficulties and even death caused by the plant cardiac glycosides, digoxin-like[4].

In 1975 was published in fifteen patients a syndrome lupus-like with recurrent episodes of fever, arthralgia, myalgia, pulmonary and cardiac involvement, elevated ESR, leukocytosis and lymphopenia associated with mitochondrial antibodies in plasma, related with prolonged intake of a drug called venocuran, that was prescribed for peripheral venous diseases and included among other substances, alkaloids from Adonis. The mechanism responsible for the disorder has not been elucidated[5].

Experimental studies     

There is not relevant information available at the date of this review


1: Maksiutova SS, Lazareva DN. [Pharmacological properties of Adonis sibir and A. vernalis growing in Bashkiria]. Farmakol Toksikol. 1978 Mar-Apr;41(2):223-6.
2: Mamadov IuM. [Pharmacodynamics of Adonis chrysocyanthus]. Farmakol Toksikol. 1986 Sep-Oct;49(5):71-2.
3: Woods LW, Filigenzi MS, Booth MC, Rodger LD, Arnold JS, Puschner B. Summer pheasant's eye (Adonis aestivalis) poisoning in three horses. Vet Pathol. 2004 May;41(3):215-20.
4: Davies RL, Whyte PB. Adonis microcarpa (pheasant's eye) toxicity in pigs fed field pea screenings. Aust Vet J. 1989 May;66(5):141-3.
5: Wälli F, Grob PJ, Müller-Schoop J. [Pseudo-(venocuran-)lupus--a minor episode in the history of medicine]. Schweiz Med Wochenschr. 1981 Sep 19;111(38):1398-405.

Date page update: July 7, 2009.


The information contained in this website does not replace professional advice and guidance from the attending physician, to whom you should consult before making decisions about your health problems. MEDIZZINE cannot warrant or assume any responsibility for the accuracy or comprehensiveness of the information provided. Conversely, MEDIZZINE recognizes that the information provided is not exhaustive and, therefore, does not expose all of the available information and, in any case, cannot replace information and criteria that your doctor may provide you.