Anacyclus is a genus, or subgroup, of the Asteraceae family of plants, which includes many flowering plants such as the aster, sunflower, and daisy. Of this genus, one species, A. pyrethrum, is notable for its use as a stimulating medicinal herb. A. depressus is another member of the Anacyclus genus that is notable because of its use in horticulture and gardening. Both types of plant have green, feathery leaves and small, white flowers.
The anacyclus pyrethrum is a perennial flowering herb native to the Mediterranean, especially North Africa, and is also a native of northern India and the Himalayas. It is often called by its common name, pellitory. The plant has a strong resemblance to another flowering herb of the Asteraceae family, chamomile, with its small white flowers and fern-like leaves.
Roots of the anacyclus pyrethrum have many medicinal uses due to the presence of compounds called alkamides, which are fatty acids chemically bound to ammonia derivatives called amines that appear to have a stimulating effect on the nervous system. The plant also appears to have mild antibacterial properties, and also stimulates the production of saliva. Some traditions of herbal medicine take advantage of the plant's stimulating qualities and add its powdered roots to oil to create a topical aphrodisiac. It is effective in treating toothache, sore throats, and rheumatism, and has also been used to treat a variety of nervous disorders. When it is applied directly to bare skin, the plant is a powerful irritant that causes redness and burning sensations.
Anacyclus depressus is a similar flowering perennial that is sometimes thought to be a variety of the species A. pyrethrum, and at other times, is thought to be its own unique species. It is also known as the Mount Atlas daisy, as its small white flowers strongly resemble daisies. This species of the Anacyclus genus is usually grown as a decorative garden plant.
The flowers of Anacyclus depressus only bloom for a short time, usually from spring to the early summer months. Flowers thrive when the plants are grown in full sun, and will close during the evening and even on particularly overcast days. Leaves of the Anacyclus depressus have feathery fronds similar to ferns, which are a deep green color tinged with silver. The plants are cultivated from seeds that are collected during their dormant winter period. They are very tolerant of drought conditions, and in fact prefer slightly dry air to a humid climate.