Along with iris, saffron, verbena, and mint, the white asphodel was one of the sacred plants of the goddess Junona, in whose honour women commemorated the Matronalia feast. The Romans also believed that after death, the soul of the deceased travelled to the underworld. If the deceased had been a sinner during their lifetime, they would fall into the abyss, and if they were neither good nor bad, they would come to the field of asphodels where they could feed on its edible bulbs forever. Because of this, the asphodel was considered a plant that protects the dead.
Folk medicine mentions that bulbs, rich in starch, were eaten cooked, baked or used in the form of flour. However, due to the toxic alkaloid of asphodelin, it is not recommended today.
According to Dioscorides, the white asphodel is well known to everyone, and the flower is called anthericon. The roots are underground, oblong, round, acorn-like, and spicy. Taken as a beverage it stimulates urination and menstruation, and 1 drachm (3,411 g) of root extract, taken with wine, heals coughs, spasms, and ruptures. When the amount the size of a vertebra is eaten, it makes people happier, and 3 drachms are given for the successful treatment of a snake bite. After that, the bite must be covered with a leaf, root and flower bandage combined with wine. Boiled root juice, combined with sweet old wine, peace, and saffron, is a healing balm for the eyes and is suitable for use when warmed up and without additives. With frankincense, honey, wine, and myrrh, it treats purulent ear infections, and the juice itself relieves toothache if inserted into the ear on the opposite side of the tooth. Ash obtained from the root, if applied directly, promotes hair growth where the hair has fallen off. Olive oil, which is cooked in recessed roots, helps with frostbite and burns when applied as a bandage. If drunk with wine, fruits, and flowers, it serves as the ultimate antidote to the centipede and scorpion bite and is an excellent purgative.
Theophrastus wrote that the white asphodel has a very high stem and that the fleshy root is used as a culinary delicacy. The plant produces many woody seeds, triangular and black, placed below the flower in a round chalice that opens in summer so the seeds fall out. The leaves that sprout directly from the root are long, narrow and somewhat flexible.
The peculiarity of this plant in comparison to others that have a smooth stem is that it is very narrow and has branches at the top.
The asphodel has many edible and tasty parts: the stem is eaten baked, the seeds toasted, and the crushed root with figs has a beneficial effect.