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Herbs & Oils
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The warm, spicy taste of this popular herb's leaf combines well with garlic, tomatoes, eggplant, and Italian dishes; Basil flavors vinegar, pesto sauce, and oil. The essential oil flavors condiments and liqueurs, and scents soaps and perfumes. Inhaling the essential oil refreshes the mind and stimulates a sense of smell dulled by viral infection. The infusion relieves gas and stomach pains. Reputadly abortive, it can help expel the placenta. A warming herb, it is used for colds and flu, constipation, vomiting, headaches, and menstrual cramps. Steep two teaspoons per cup of water for twenty minutes; take up to one and a half cups per day.
Parts Used: Leaf and stem
Magical Uses: Burn basil to exorcise negativity from the home. To do a really thorough cleansing and protection of yourself and your home, also sprinkle a little basil in each corner of each room in the house and add to your bathwater. Basil is used to mend lovers' quarrels and brings good luck to a new home. The scent of basil causes sympathy between two people and so is worn to avoid major clashes. Basil Use it in rites of exorcism and in the ritual bath. Sprinkle to powder over the ara of your heart to promote fidelity. The scent brings happiness to the home and will protect you in crowds.
Aromatherapy Uses: Bronchitis; Fatigue; Colds; Loss of Concentration; Migraine; Gout; Aches and Pains; Insect bites; Insect Repellent; Coughs; Migraine; Insomnia; Anxiety; Depression; Infectious Disease. Key Qualities: Restorative; Tonic; Antidepressant; Refreshing; Uplifting; Fortifying; Purifying; Clearing; Warming; Cephalic; Stupefying in excess.
The culinary leaves may be slightly narcotic, and aid digestion when added to Bouquet garni, marinades, pâte, soups and stews. The wood is used to give an aromatic tang to smoked foods, and oil of Bay, from the fruit, flavors some liqueurs. A leaf decoction added to bath water will relieve aching limbs, and diluted leaf essential oil can treat sprains and rheumatic joints but may irritate the skin. The leaf and berry are used in salves for itching, sprains, bruises, skin irritations, and rheumatic pain. The fruit and leaf are simmered until soft and made into a poultice with honey for chest colds. Bay leaf and berry tea makes a bath additive that helps the bladder, bowel, and female reproductive organs. Use two tablespoons per cup and steep for forty-five minutes; add to bath water.
Parts Used: Leaf and berry
Magical Uses: Bay leaves were used by the Delphic priestesses. The incense and the leaf are said to produce a phrophetic trance. Burn for psychic powers, purification, wish magic, exorcism, healing/health, protection, divination, visions, clairvoyance, energy, power, strength, inspiration, wisdom, meditation, defense, creative word. Put the leaves under your pillow to give inspiration and visions. An herb of the sun, bay brings the light of summer into the darkest time of the year. Carry the leaf or place in the home to ward off illness and hexes.
Aromatherapy Uses: Sprains; Colds; Flu; Insomnia; Rheumatism.
Benzoin is a shrubby tree with gray bark, simple leaves, and short racemes of small, fragrant, bell-shaped white flowers. The scented yellowish resin is thought to be created in response to injury, so it is tapped by making hatchet incisions in the trunk. The resin, called benzoin or gum benjamin, is used as incense, a fixative in perfumes, and is added to cosmetics to prevent fats turning rancid. The tree resin is used externally, diluted with water, as an antiseptic skin wash. Taken internally, it relieves intestinal gas and is antiseptic to the urinary tract. Take ten to twenty drops in water or tea four times a day. Put it in vaporizers or use it an an inhalant for bronchitis, and laryngitis. A simple method is to place it, along with a few drops of the oils of peppermint and eucalyptus, in a bowl of boiling hot water. Put your face as close to the bowl as you can and cover your head, and the bowl, with a towel. Inhale the steam. Tincture of bensoin is often added to salves as a preservative; (one ound of benzoin to about one and a half quarts of salve.) Benzoin is used in Aromatherapy but may cause allergic reactions.
Parts Used: Resin
Magical Uses: An herb of purification, burned in incense to sanctify an area. The scent is also used to attract business when combined with basil, peony or cinnamon. Dilute the essential oil and rub onto the body to increase your personal power. It awakens the conscious mind as well.
Burn to purify, protect, for prosperity, for astral projection or to increase mental powers.
Aromatherapy Uses: Asthma; Bronchitis; Laryngitis; Chills; Flu; Colic; Coughs; Itching; Arthritis; Colds; As a Sedative. Benzoin has been found to help retain skin elasticity. It is valuable in treating dry, cracked skin and is believed to be anti-depressant. Key Qualities: Warming; Energizing; Uplifting; Comforitn; Purifying; Elevating; Stimulant; Soothing; Antidepressant.
Bergamot has aromatic flowers and fruits. The thin, smooth peel yields Bergamot oil for "true" eau de Cologne and Earl Grey Tea.
Parts Used: Flower and fruit
Magical Uses: Use for money and protective rituals. Add the distilled bouquet to your bathwater for these purposes. Synthesized versions of the oil abound but should not be used.
Aromatherapy Uses: Boils; Cold Sores; Insect Bites; Spots; Varicose Ulcers; Colds; Flu; Fevers; Acne, Tension, Wounds; Coughs; Stress; as an Antidepressant; as an Insect Repellent; Depression; Cystitis; Infectious Diseases; Tonsilitis; Halitosis, Flatulence; Loss of appetite. Key Qualities: Reviving; Refreshing; Calming; Soothing; Uplifitin; Sedative; Regulating; balancing; Anti-Depressant.
(Mentha x piperita 'citrata')
This herb is sometimes confused with the Citrus of the same name. Bee Balm is also called bergamot at times. This is a bairless mint with thin smooth leaves and purple runners, it has purplish flowers. In full sun it develops a strong citrus scent and the whole plant is tinged purple. In shade the color is more coppery. Use it as an aromatic herb in potpourri or to make a honey-sweetened drink. The flavor is not so good for cooking. Also called Eau De Cologne Mint.
Parts Used: Leaf and Essential Oil
Magical Uses: The leaves of bergamot mint are slipped into wallets and purses to attract money. Fresh leaves are also rubbed onto money before spending it to ensure it's return. Also used in "success" rituals and spells.
(Stachys officonalis or Stachys betonica or Betonica officionalis)
Also known as Bishopwort, Wood Betony or Purple Betony. Wood betony has fairly pungent, scalloped, hairy leaves and spikes of pale magenta summer flowers. A Druid sacred herb. The arial parts provide a tea substitute and are added to tonics and herbal cigarettes. An infusion is mildly sedative and cleansing and is a nerve and circulation tonic for migraine, anxiety, indigestion, drunkenness, and difficult labor. Wood Betony was an Anglo-Saxon protective charm
Parts Used: Leaf, flower, stem and root
Magical Uses: This was a very powerful herb to the Druids as it has the power to expel evil spirits, nightmares and despair. It was burned at Midsummer Solstice for purification and protection. Sprinkle around or near al doors and windows to form a protective barrier. If troubled by nightmares fill a small cloth pillow and place it under your pillow. Betony is added to purification and protection mixtures and incenses.
A Druid sacred tree. Also known as Lady of the Woods, Paper Birch or White Birch. The antibacterial leaves give a diuretic tea used to treat gout and rheumatism, to dissolve kidney and bladder tones and to lower cholesterol. Steep two teaspons of leaf per cup of water for twenty minutes. The dose is one to one a half cups over a day. Birch twigs and leaves are simmered and added to the bath for itchy skin conditions and falling hair. Taken before bed, the tea is sedative. The young shoots and leaves make a tonic laxitive. The inner bark is simmered and used in fevers. Twigs and bark are simmered using two teaspoons of plant per cup of water for twenty minutes. The dose is one-fourth cup four times a day. The twigs of B. lutea (Yellow birch) and B. lenta (black birch) are gathered in spring and simmered gently for twenty minutes to make a delicious beverage. Please note: the leaves must be used fresh, and not after Midsummer, as they will then contain natural insecticides. The white birch has no real flavor and does not make a good beverage tea. The bark and bud oil are used in medicated soaps.
Parts Used: Leaf, bark and twigs
Magical Uses: The traditional broom of witches is made of birch twigs. Protection, purification, wards negativity, love, new beginnings, changes. Birch is a feminine tree and an embodiment of the Great Mother. Cradles are often made of her wood as a protection for the child.
Aromatherapy Uses: Gout; Rheumatism; Eczema; Ulcers.
A Blackberry leaf decoction is a blood and skin tonic, and a poultice treats eczema. The juicy purple-black fruit are rich in fiber and Vitamin C. The root is a classic remedy for diarrhea and is reputed to clean the kidneys and urinary tract of stones and gravel. Simmer two teaspoons for the root per cup of water for twenty minutes, and take a quarter cup four times a day. The buds and leaves are used fresh in poultices for wounds, burns, mouth sores, and sore throats. Chew the leaves or make a poultice. The berries are slightly binding (as is blackberry wine) and are useful in diarrhea, as are the leaves.
Parts Used: Root, leaf, bud, and berry
Magical Uses: Sacred to Brighid, the leaves and berries are used to attract wealth or healing. This is a Goddess herb, belonging to the planetary spere of Venus. Protection, health, prosperity, pie for Lughnassadh, to commemorate the harvest.
Also know as Sloe, Mother of the Wood, or Wishing Thorn. This tree has small, serrated, oval leaves on dark, thorny branches with purple blooms and black fruit. The leaves yield a mouthwash. The astringent fruits make Sloe gin. Traditionally, the wood was used to make clubs.
Parts Used: Leaf, twig, fruit
Magical Uses: Returns evil to sender. The thorns are used for sticking into black figure candles or poppets of enemies that will not leave you alone. Hung over doorways or carried, the sloe wards off evil and calamity, banishes demons and negative vibrations.
The flowers decorate salads and cakes and are frozen in ice cubes. The cooling, mineral-rich leaves flavor drinks, dips, and salt-free diets. A leaf and flower infusion is an adrenaline tonic taken for stress, depression, or cortisone and steroid treatment. It reduces fevers, dry coughs, and dry skin rashes. Pressed seed oil can be used like Evening Primrose for menstrual and irritable bowel problems, eczema, blood pressure, arthritis and hangovers.
Parts Used: Flower, leaf, stem and seeds
Magical Uses: Tea aids psychic power. Carry the leaves for protection. Carry the fresh blossoms to strengthen your courage. Use in money and business spells.
Also known as Wild Rose, Sweet Briar, Hop Fruit, or Briar. Regular scented roses may be substituted. See also ROSE.
Parts Used: Flower and fruit
Magical Uses: For clairvoyant dreams, steep two teaspoons fresh or dried rose petals in one cup of boiling water. Cover and let stand five minutes. Drink at bedtime. Burn the petals with love incense to strengthen love spells. Rose essential oil is used in formulas designed to attract love, confer peace, stimulate sexual desires and enhance beauty. Healing; Creativity; Love Luck; Prophetic Dreams; Protection; Psychic Awareness; Divination; Clairvoyance; Anointing; Balance.
Aromatherapy Uses: Anxiety; Depression; Circulatory Problems; menopausal Problems; as an Antiseptic and Tonic; Menstrual Disorders; Stress; Tension; as a Sedative.
(Genista scoparius syn. Cytisus scoparius and Sarothamnus scoparious)
Also known as Scotch Broom, and Irish broom. A Druid Sacred Tree, it is a many-branched erect shrub with simple or trifoliate leaves, and golden "sweet-pea" flowers. A flowering sprig of Broom was a heraldic battle device of Henry II of England who is said to have taken the family name Plantagenet from this medieval "planta genista".
Flowering broom tips are gathered in spring (before Midsummer) and are later used fresh or dry. The seeds are as useful as the tops. Both are soluble in water and alchohol. The infusion is used to tread cardiac edema. Simmer one teaspoon of the herb or seeds per cup of water for twenty minutes. The dose is one-half cup a day in one-fourth cup doses. Broom is combined with dandelion root, uva ursi, and juniper berries to treat bladder and kidney ailments. Take one part broom, one half oart uva ursi, and one half part dandelion root. Simmer until the liquid is reduced to half the original quantity. Add one-half part juniper berry and cool. A pinch of cayenne is sprinkled into each one-eighth cup dose. Caution: Acute kidney problems contraindicate this herb. Broom is a heart tonic. Use one teaspoon of the herb per cup of water, and do not exceed more than one-half cup per day. One to ten drops of tincture may be given as a dose.
Parts Used: Flowering twig and seed.
Magical Uses: Broom flowers bound with colored ribbons are carried at weddings. Couples may choose to "jump the broom" as they make their transition to a new station of life. Broom can be substituted for furze(gorse) at Spring Equinox. The Irish called it the "Physician's Power" because of its diuretic shoots. Sweep your outside ritual areas with it to purify and protect. Burning the blooms and shoots calms the wind. Hang indoors for protection and purification. Toss in the air or bury it to raise or calm winds.
Botanical: Melissa officin alis (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Labiatae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Sweet Balm. Lemon Balm.
---Habitat---A native of South Europe, especially in mountainous situations, but is naturalized in the south of England, and was introduced into our gardens at a very early period.
---Description---The root-stock is short, the stem square and branching, grows 1 to 2 feet high, and has at each joint pairs of broadly ovate or heart-shaped, crenate or toothed leaves which emit a fragrant lemon odour when bruised. They also have a distinct lemon taste. The flowers, white or yellowish, are in loose, small bunches from the axils of the leaves and bloom from June to October. The plant dies down in winter, but the root is perennial.
The genus Melissa is widely diffused, having representatives in Europe, Middle Asia and North America. The name is from the Greek word signifying 'bee,' indicative of the attraction the flowers have for those insects, on account of the honey they produce.
---History---The word Balm is an abbreviation of Balsam, the chief of sweet-smelling oils. It is so called from its honeyed sweetness It was highly esteemed by Paracelsus, who believed it would completely revivify a man. It was formerly esteemed of great use in all complaints supposed to proceed from a disordered state of the nervous system. The London Dispensary (1696) says: 'An essence of Balm, given in Canary wine, every morning will renew youth, strengthen the brain, relieve languishing nature and prevent baldness.' John Evelyn wrote: 'Balm is sovereign for the brain, strengthening the memory and powerfully chasing away melancholy.' Balm steeped in wine we are told again, 'comforts the heart and driveth away melancholy and sadness.' Formerly a spirit of Balm, combined with lemon-peel, nutmeg and angelica root, enjoyed a great reputation under the name of Carmelite water, being deemed highly useful against nervous headache and neuralgic affections.
Many virtues were formerly ascribed to this plant. Gerard says: 'It is profitably planted where bees are kept. The hives of bees being rubbed with the leaves of bawme, causeth the bees to keep together, and causeth others to come with them.' And again quoting Pliny, 'When they are strayed away, they do find their way home by it.' Pliny says: 'It is of so great virtue that though it be but tied to his sword that hath given the wound it stauncheth the blood.' Gerard also tells us: 'The juice of Balm glueth together greene wounds,' and gives the opinion of Pliny and Dioscorides that 'Balm, being leaves steeped in wine, and the wine drunk, and the leaves applied externally, were considered to be a certain cure for the bites of venomous beasts and the stings of scorpions. It is now recognized as a scientific fact that the balsamic oils of aromatic plants make excellent surgical dressings: they give off ozone and thus exercise anti-putrescent effects. Being chemical hydrocarbons, they contain so little oxygen that in wounds dressed with the fixed balsamic herbal oils, the atomic germs of disease are starved out, and the resinous parts of these balsamic oils, as they dry upon the sore or wound, seal it up and effectually exclude all noxious air.
---Cultivation---Balm grows freely in any soil and can be propagated by seeds, cuttings or division of roots in spring or autumn. If in autumn, preferably not later than October, so that the offsets may be established before the frosts come on. The roots may be divided into small pieces, with three or four buds to each, and planted 2 feet apart in ordinary garden soil. The only culture required is to keep them clean from weeds and to cut off the decayed stalks in autumn, and then to stir the ground between the roots.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Carminative, diaphoretic and febrifuge. It induces a mild perspiration and makes a pleasant and cooling tea for feverish patients in cases of catarrh and influenza. To make the tea, pour 1 pint of boiling water upon 1 oz. of herb, infuse 15 minutes, allow to cool, then strain and drink freely. If sugar and a little lemonpeel or juice be added it makes a refreshing summer drink.
Balm is a useful herb, either alone or in combination with others. It is excellent in colds attended with fever, as it promotes perspiration .
Used with salt, it was formerly applied for the purpose of taking away wens, and had the reputation of cleansing sores and easing the pains of gout.
John Hussey, of Sydenham, who lived to the age of 116, breakfasted for fifty years on Balm tea sweetened with honey, and herb teas were the usual breakfasts of Llewelyn Prince of Glamorgan, who died in his 108th year. Carmelite water, of which Balm was the chief ingredient, was drunk daily by the Emperor Charles V.
Commercial oil of Balm is not a pure distillate, but is probably oil of Lemon distilled over Balm. The oil is used in perfumery.
Balm is frequently used as one of the ingredients of pot-pourri. Mrs. Bardswell, in The Herb Garden, mentions Balm as one of the bushy herbs that are invaluable for the permanence of their leaf-odours, which,
'though ready when sought, do not force themselves upon us, but have to be coaxed out by touching, bruising or pressing. Balm with its delicious lemon scent, is by common consent one of the most sweetly smelling of all the herbs in the garden. Balm-wine was made of it and a tea which is good for feverish colds. The fresh leaves make better tea than the dry.'
---Refreshing Drink in Fever---
'Put two sprigs of Balm, and a little woodsorrel, into a stone-jug, having first washed and dried them; peel thin a small lemon, and clear from the white; slice it and put a bit of peel in, then pour in 3 pints of boiling water, sweeten and cover it close.'
'Claret Cup. One bottle of claret, one pint bottle of German Seltzer-water, a small bunch of Balm, ditto of burrage, one orange cut in slices, half a cucumber sliced thick, a liqueurglass of Cognac, and one ounce of bruised sugar-candy.
'Process: Place these ingredients in a covered jug well immersed in rough ice, stir all together with a silver spoon, and when the cup has been iced for about an hour, strain or decanter it off free from the herbs, etc.' (Francatelli's Cook's Guide.)
A bunch of Balm improves nearly all cups.
Balm of Gilead
See Balsam of Gilead.
Botanical: Chelone Glabra (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Scrophulariaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Chelone. Snake-head. Turtle-head. Turtle-bloom. Shellflower. Salt-rheum Weed. Bitter Herb. Chelone Obliqua. Glatte. White Chelone. The Hummingbird Tree.
---Part Used---The whole fresh herb.
---Habitat---Eastern United States and Canada.
---Description---This erect little plant, from 2 to 4 feet high, grows sparingly on the margins of swamps, wet woods, and rivers. It is a perennial, smooth herb, bearing opposite, oblong leaves, and short, dense, terminal spikes of two-lipped, white or purplish, cream or rose flowers, the lower lip bearded in the throat and the heart-shaped anthers and filaments woolly. The leaves have a slight somewhat tea-like odour and a markedly bitter taste. They should be planted in pots to prevent the roots from creeping too far.
The name of the genus Chelone comes from the Greek word meaning a tortoise, from the resemblance of the corolla to a tortoise-head. The whole, fresh plant is chopped, pounded to a pulp, and weighed, and a tincture is prepared with alcohol. The decoction is made with 2 oz. of the fresh herb to a pint.
---Constituents---The bitter leaves communicate their properties to both water and alcohol. Chelonin is an eclectic medicine prepared from Chelone, and is a brown, bitter powder given as a tonic laxative.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The leaves have anti-bilious, anthelmintic, tonic and detergent properties, with a peculiar action on the liver, and are used largely in consumption, dyspepsia, debility and jaundice, in diseases of the liver, and for worms in children for which the powder or decoction may be used internally or in injection. As an ointment it is recommended for inflamed tumours, irritable ulcers, inflamed breasts, piles, etc.
For long it has been a favourite tonic, laxative and purgative among the aborigines of North America, though their doses render its tonic value doubtful.
---Dosages---Of decoction, 1 to 2 fluid ounces. Of fluid extract, 1/2 to 1 drachm. Of the powder, 1 drachm. Of the tincture, 1 to 2 fluid drachms. Of Chelonin, 1 to 2 grains.
Balsam of Gilead
Botanical: Commiphora Opobalsamum
Family: N.O. Burseraceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Balsamum Meccae var. Judiacum. Balsamum Gileadense. Baume de la Mecque. Balsamodendrum Opobalsamum. Balessan. Bechan. Balsam Tree. Amyris Gileadensis. Amyris Opobalsamum. Balsumodendron Gileadensis. Protium Gileadense. Dossémo.
---Part Used---The resinous juice.
---Habitat---The countries on both sides of the Red Sea.
---Description---This small tree, the source of the genuine Balm of Gilead around which so many mystical associations have gathered stands from 10 to 12 feet high, with wandlike, spreading branches. The bark is of a rich brown color, the leaves, trifoliate, are small and scanty, the flowers unisexual small, and reddish in color, while the seeds are solitary, yellow, and grooved down one side. It is both rare, and difficult to rear, and is so much valued by the Turks that its importation is prohibited. They have grown the trees in guarded gardens at Matarie, near Cairo, from the days of Prosper Alpin, who wrote the Dialogue of Balm, and the balsam is valued as a cosmetic by the royal ladies. In the Bible, and in the works of Bruce Theophrastes, Galen, and Dioscorides, it is lauded.
---History---Balm, Baulm or Bawm, contracted from Balsam, may be derived from the Hebrew bot smin, 'chief of oils,' or bâsâm, 'balm,' and besem, 'a sweet smell.' Opobalsamum is used by Dioscorides to mean 'the juice flowing from the balsam-tree.'
Pliny states that the tree was first brought to Rome by the generals of Vespasian, while Josephus relates that it was taken from Arabia to Judea by the Queen of Sheba as a present to Solomon. There, being cultivated for its juice, particularly on Mount Gilead, it acquired its popular name. Later, it was called Opobalsamum, its dried twigs Xylobalsamum, and its dried fruit Carpobalsamum.
Its rarity, combined with the magic of its name, have caused the latter to be adopted for several other species.
Abd-Allatif, a Damascan physician of the twelfth century, noted that it had two barks the outer reddish and thin, the inner green and thick, and a very aromatic odour.
The juice exudes spontaneously during the heat of summer, in resinous drops, the process being helped by incisions in the bark. The more humid the air, the greater the quantity collected. When the oil is separated, it is prepared with great secrecy, and taken to the stores of the ruler, where it is carefully guarded. The quantity of oil obtained is roughly one-tenth the amount of juice. It is probable that an inferior kind of oil is obtained after boiling the leaves and wood with water.
The wood is found in small pieces, several kinds being known commercially, but it rapidly loses its odour.
The fruit is reddish grey, and the size of a small pea, with an agreeable and aromatic taste.
In Europe and America it is so seldom found in a pure state that its use is entirely discontinued .
---Constituents---The liquid balm is turbid whitish, thick, grey and odorous, and becomes solid by exposure. It contains a resin soluble in alcohol, and a principle resembling Bassorin.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---It has been used in diseases of the urinary tracts, but is said to possess no medicinal properties not found in other balsams.
Abies Balsamea, Balm of Gilead Fir, orAmerican Silver Fir. The name is applied to this Canadian species, in Europe, because of the supposed resemblance of its product, an oleoresinous fluid obtained from punctured blisters in the bark, which is really a true turpentine, known as Canada Balsam or Canada Turpentine. Its odour distinguishes it from Strassburg Turpentine, which is sometimes substituted for it. It is diuretic, and stimulates mucous tissues in small doses. In large doses it is purgative, and may cause nausea.
Populus Candicans is called Balm of Gilead in America. The buds are used, and called Balm of Gilead Buds, as are those of P. Nigra and P. balsamifera, the product of the last being imported into Europe under the name of Tacomahaca. They are covered with a fragrant, resinous matter, which may be separated in boiling water, the odour being like incense, and the taste bitter and rather unpleasant. They are stimulant, tonic, diuretic, and antiscorbutic. A tincture of them is useful for complaints of the chest, stomach, and kidneys, and for rheumatism and scurvy. With lard or oil they are useful as an external application in bruises, swellings, and some cutaneous diseases. In ointments they are a little inferior to paraffin as a preventive of rancidity.
The bark of P. balsamifera is tonic and cathartic.
---Dosages---Of solid extract, 5 to 10 grains. Of tincture, 1 to 4 fluid drachms. Of fluid extract, 1 to 2 drachms. Of extract of the bark, 5 to 15 grains.
Dracocephalum Canariense or Cedronella Triphylla is known as a garden plant something like Salvia, and called Balm of Gilead for no better reason than that its leaves are fragrant. It is a native of America and the Canaries.
Balsam of Peru
Botanical: Myroxylon Pereiræ (KLOTSCH)
Family: N.O. Leguminosae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Toluifera Pereira. Myrosperum Pereira.
---Part Used---Oleoresinous liquid.
---Habitat---Central America in the forests of San Salvado.
---Description---A large and beautiful tree with a valuable wood like mahogany, and a straight smooth trunk; the last is coarse grey, compact, heavy granulated and a pale straw color, containing a resin which changes from citron to dark brown; smell and taste balsamic and aromatic. Leaves alternately, abruptly pinnate, leaflets two pairs mostly opposite, ovate, lanceolate with the end blunt emarginate; every part of the tree including the leaves abounds in a resinous juice. The mesocarp of the fruit is fibrous, and the balsamic juice which is abundant is contained in two distinct receptacles, one on each side. The beans contain Coumarin, the husks an extremely acrid bitter resin, and a volatile oil; a gum resin, quite distinct from the proper balsam, exudes from the trunk of the tree and contains gum resin and a volatile oil; the tree commences to be productive after five or six years, and continues to yield for thirty years; the flower has a fragrance which can be smelt a hundred yards away.
The process of extraction produces three grades of balsam; the title 'Balsam of Peru' is derived from the fact of its being shipped from Peru. There are several fictitious Peruvian balsams found in commerce, but they do not contain the same properties. A white balsam is made from the fruit of Myroxylon Peruviatta or Pereiræ, which has a peculiar resinous body and none of the chemical constituents of Balsam of Peru; this is termed Myroxocarpin. Another substance obtained from the same tree and much used in Central America is termed Balsamito, it is an alcoholic extract of the young fruit. This is used as a stimulant, diuretic, anthelmintic and external application to gangrenous ulcers and to remove freckles. Balsam of Peru is warm and aromatic, much hotter and more stimulating than Balsam of Copaiba and is used for similar complaints. It is specially useful for rheumatic pains and chronic coughs.
---Constituents---A colorless, aromatic, oily liquid, termed cinnamein, dark resin peruviol, small quantity of vanillin and cinnamic acid.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Stimulant, expectorant, parasiticide. Used in scabies and skin diseases; it destroys the itch acarus and its eggs, and is much to be preferred to sulphur ointment, also of value in prurigo, pruritis and in later stages of acute eczema. It is a good antiseptic expectorant and a stimulant to the heart, increasing blood pressure; its action resembles benzoic acid. It is applied externally to sore nipples and discharges from the ear. Given internally, it lessens mucous secretions, and is of value in bronchorrhoea gleet, leucorrhoea and chronic bronchitis, and asthma. It is also used in soap manufacturing, for its fragrance, and because it makes a soft creamy lather, useful for chapped hands. Balsam of Peru can be applied alone or as an ointment made by melting it with an equal weight of tallow.
---Dose---10 to 30 drops, best given in syrup, with the yolk of an egg added, or with gumarabic.
---Adulterations---Castor oil, Copaiba, Canada turpentine, etc.
The pod is used in the island as a carminative, and externally in the form of a tincture. As a lotion for rheumatic pains, the stems yield a balsamic juice.
This bark is used in powder and in decoction for wounds and ulcers, and the dried concrete juice of the trunk of the tree IS very similar to Balsam of Peru.
Balsam of Tolu
Botanical: Myrospermum Toluiferum
Family: N.O. Leguminosae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Balsamum Tolutanum. Tolutanischer Balsam. Balsamum Americanum.
---History---There is still some obscurity about the origin of the different South American balsam-yielding trees. The appearance of the above variety is said to differ but slightly from the Peruvian, but the method of gathering the balsam is quite different. V-shaped cuts are made in the tree, and the liquid is received into calabash cups placed at an angle; these are emptied into flasks of raw hide, conveyed by donkeys to the depôts, and finally shipped in tin or earthen vessels, which occasionally contain large pieces of red brick. On arrival the balsam is soft and sticky, but exposure to the air makes it hard and brittle, more like resin, with a crystalline appearance. In color it is pale, yellowish red or brown. It has a sweet, aromatic, resinous taste - becoming soft again when chewed - with an odour resembling vanilla or benzoin, especially fragrant when the balsam is burned, but completely changing and resembling the clove-pink if dissolved in a minute portion of liquor potassa.
As the balsam solidifies, its odour becomes more feeble, but the quantity of cinnamic acid increases, and it thus becomes valuable to perfumers as a fixative, an ounce added to a pound of volatile perfume making it much more permanent.
Tolu Balsam is frequently adulterated with turpentines, styrax, colophony, etc., and may be tested by heating it in sulphuric acid. If pure, it will yield a cherry-red liquid, and will dissolve without any appearance of sulphurous acid.
---Constituents---About 80 per cent amorphous resin, with cinnamic acid, a volatile oil, and a little vanillin, benzyl benzoate and benzyl cinnamate. It is freely soluble in chloroform, glacial acetic acid, acetone, ether, alcohol and liquor potassa, scarcely soluble in petroleum-benzine and benzol.
To distinguish it from Balsam of Peru it can be tested with sulphuric acid and water, yielding a grey mass instead of the lovely violet color of the genuine Peruvian Balsam.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Stimulant and expectorant, much used as the basis of cough mixtures. The vapour from the balsam dissolved in ether when inhaled, is beneficial in chronic catarrh and other noninflammatory chest complaints. The best form is that of an emulsion, made by titurating the balsam with mucilage and loaf sugar, and adding water.
Two parts of Tolu, 3 of Almond oil, 4 of gum-arabic, and 16 of Rose-water, make an excellent liniment for excoriated nipples.
---Preparations---Tincture, B.P. and U.S.P., 1/2 to 1 drachm. Syrup, B.P. and U.S.P., 1/2 to 1 drachm. Lozenges, incense and pastilles are also prepared.
Botanical: Gnaphalium polycephalum
Family: N.O. Asteraceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Indian Posy. Sweet-scented Life Everlasting. Old Field Balsam. Gnaphalium Obtusifolium or Blunt-leaved Everlasting. Gnaphalium Connoideum. Fragrant Everlasting. None-so-Pretty. Catsfoot. Silver Leaf.
---Parts Used---Herb, leaves, flowers.
---Habitat---Virginia, Pennsylvania and New England.
---Description---Leaves lanceolate; stalk tomentose, panicled; flowers tubular, yellow, glomerate, conical, terminating; stems single, 9 inches high. Corollas yellow, flowering July to August. Leaves have a pleasant aromatic smell and an aromatic, slightly bitter, astringent, agreeable taste. The Antennaria Margaritacea or Gnaphalium Margaritacea, or Pearl-flowered Life Everlasting, has the same properties as White Balsam.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Astringent. Beneficial for ulcerations of the throat and mouth; warm infusions used to produce diaphoresis; also of service in quinsy, pulmonary complaints, leucorrhoea. Can be used internally and as a local application, likewise used as fomentations to bruises, indolent tumours. An infusion given in diseases of the bowels - haemorrhages etc. The fresh juice is reputed anti-venereal and anti-aphrodisiac; the cold infusion vermifugal; the dried flowers are used as a sedative filling for the pillows of consumptives. A tincture is made from whole plant.
Botanical: Aralia nudicaulis (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Araliaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses Dosage
---Synonyms---Wild Sarsaparilla. Shot Bush. Wild Liquorice.
---Part Used---The root.
---Description---An indigenous perennial in shady rocky woods, very common in rich soil, rhizome horizontal, creeping several feet in length and more or less twisted; of a yellowish-brown color externally and about 1/4 inch in diameter, has a fragrant odour and a warm, aromatic, sweetish taste.
---Constituents---Contains 3.05 per cent of resin, 0.33 per cent of oil tannin, an acid albumen, mucilage and cellulose.
---Medicinal Action and Uses and Dosage---As Sarsaparilla.
ELDER (AMERICAN DWARF)
Botanical: Actaea spicata (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Ranunculacea
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Herb Christopher. Bugbane. Toadroot.
---Habitat---It is to be found in copses on limestone in Yorkshire and the Lake District, but is so uncommon as to be regarded by some botanists as almost a doubtful native.
The Baneberry, or Herb Christopher, is a rather rare British plant belonging (like the Paeony) to the Buttercup order, but distinguished from all other species in the order by its berry-like fruit. It is considered to have similar anti-spasmodic properties to the Paeony.
---Description---The black, creeping root-stock is perennial, sending up each year erect stems, growing 1 to 2 feet high, which are triangular and either not branched, or very sparingly so. The foot-stalks of the leaves are long and arise from the root. These divide into three smaller foot-stalks, and are so divided or re-divided that each leaf is composed of eighteen, or even twenty-seven, lobes or leaflets.
The flower-stem arises from the roots and has leaves of the same form, but smaller. The flowers grow in spikes and are of a pure white.
The whole plant is dark green and glabrous (without hairs), or only very slightly downy. It flowers in June and in autumn ripens its fruits, which are egg-shaped berries, 1/2 inch long, black and shining, many-seeded and very poisonous, well justifying the popular name of Baneberry.
The plant is of an acrid, poisonous nature throughout, and though the root has been used in some nervous cases, and is said to be a remedy for catarrh, it must be administered with great caution.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Antispasmodic. The juice of the berries, mixed with alum, yields a black dye.
There are two varieties of this species, one of British origin, only distinguished from the rest of the species by its berries being red, instead of black and the other an American plant (Actaea alba, or White Cohosh) with white berries. Both varieties grow in the writer's garden.
The American species is considered by the natives a valuable remedy against snake-bite, especially of the rattlesnake, hence it is - with several other plants - sometimes known as one of the 'Rattlesnake herbs.'
It is said the name 'Herb Christopher' was also formerly applied to the flowering fern, Osmunda regalis.
The name of the genus is from the Greek acte, the elder, which these plants resemble as regards the leaves and berries.
Toads seem to be attracted by the smell of the Baneberry, which causes it also to be termed Toadroot, the name arising possibly also from its preference for the damp shady situations in which the toad is found.
It is also called Bugbane, because of its offensive smell, which is said to drive away vermin.
Closely allied to this plant, and at one time assigned to the same genus, is the plant known as Black Cohosh.
See (BLACK) COHOSH.
See PLANTAIN (FRUIT).
Botanical: Berberis vulgaris (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Berberidaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Berbery. Pipperidge Bush. Berberis Dumetorum.
---Parts Used---Bark, root-bark.
---Habitat---The Common Barberry, a well-known, bushy shrub, with pale-green deciduous leaves, is found in copses and hedges in some parts of England, though a doubtful native in Scotland and Ireland. It is generally distributed over the greater part of Europe, Northern Africa and temperate Asia. As an ornamental shrub, it is fairly common in gardens.
---Description---The stems are woody, 8 to 10 feet high, upright and branched, smooth, slightly grooved, brittle, with a white pith and covered with an ash-colored bark.
The leaves of the barren shoots of the year are alternate, 1 to 1 1/2 inch long, shortly petioled, presenting various gradations from leaves into spines, into which they become transformed in the succeeding year. The primary leaves on the woody shoots are reduced to three-forked spines, with an enlarged base. The secondary leaves are in fascicles from the axil of these spines and are simple, oval, tapering at the base into a short foot-stalk, the margins finely serrate, with the teeth terminating in small spines.
The flowers are small, pale yellow, arranged in pendulous racemes, produced from the fascicles of leaves, towards the ends of the branches. Their scent is not altogether agreeable when near, but by no means offensive at a distance. Their stamens show remarkable sensibility when touched springing and taking a position closely applied to the pistil. Insects of various kinds are exceedingly fond of the Barberry flower. Linnaeus observed that when bees in search of honey touch the filaments, they spring from the petal and strike the anther against the stigma, thereby exploding the pollen. In the original position of the stamens, Iying in the concavity of the petals, they are sheltered from rain, and there remain till some insect unavoidably touches them. As it is chiefly in fine, sunny weather that insects are on the wing, the pollen is also in such weather most fit for the purpose of impregnation, hence this curious contrivance of nature for fertilizing the seeds at the most suitable moment.
The berries are about 1/2 inch long, oblong and slightly curved; when ripe, of a fine, red color and pleasantly acidulous.
The leaves are also acid, and have sometimes been employed for the same purposes as the fruit. Gerard recommends the leaves 'to season meat with and instead of a salad.'
Cows, sheep and goats are said to eat the shrub, horses and swine to refuse it, and birds, also, seldom touch the fruit, on account of its acidity; in this respect it approaches the tamarind.
---History---In many parts of Europe, farmers have asserted that wheat planted within three or four hundred yards of a Barberry bush became infected with rust or mildew, but this belief has not been substantiated by recent observations.
Professor Henslow (Floral Rambles in Highways and Byways) writes:
'It was thought by farmers in the middle of the last century that the Barberry blighted wheat if it grew near the hedge. Botanists then ridiculed the idea; but in a sense the farmers were right! What they observed was that if a Barberry bush grew, say, at the corner of a wheatfield the leaves of the wheat became "rusty," i.e. they were streaked with a red color when close to the bush; and that this "red rust" extended steadily across the field till the whole was rusted. The interpretation was at that time unknown. A fungus attacks the leaves of the Barberry, making orange-colored spots. It throws off minute spores which do attack the wheat. These develop parasitic threads within the leaf, from which arise the red rust-spores: subsequently dark brown or black spores, consisting of two cells, called wheat-mildew, appear. After a time these throw off red, onecelled spores which attack the Barbarry; and so a cycle is completed. Though it was not really the bush which blighted the wheat, the latter suffered through its agency as the primary host plant.'
---Uses---The Barberry used to be cultivated for the sake of the fruit, which was pickled and used for garnishing dishes. The ripe berries can be made into an agreeable, refreshing jelly by boiling them with an equal weight of fine sugar to a proper consistence and then straining it. They were formerly used as a sweetmeat, and in sugar-plums, or comfits. It is from these berries that the delicious confitures d'epine vinette, for which Rouen is famous, are commonly prepared.
The roots boiled in Iye, will dye wool yellow, and in Poland they dye leather of a beautiful yellow color with the bark of the root. The inner bark of the stems will also dye linen of a fine yellow, with the assistance of alum.
Provincially, the plant is also termed Pipperidge Bush, from 'pepon,' a pip, and 'rouge,' red, as descriptive of the scarlet, juiceless fruit.
Berberis is the Arabic name of the fruit, signifying a shell, and many authors believe the name is derived from this word, because the leaves are glossy, like the inside of an oyster-shell.
Among the Italians, the Barberry bears the name of Holy Thorn, because it is thought to have formed part of the crown of thorns made for our Saviour.
---Cultivation---It is generally propagated by suckers, which are put out in plenty from the roots, but these plants are subject to send out suckers in greater plenty than those which are propagated by layers, therefore the latter method should be preferred.
The best time for laying down the branches is in autumn (October), and the young shoots of the same year are the best- these will be well rooted by the next autumn, when they may be taken off and planted where they are designed to remain.
Barberry may also be propagated by ripened cuttings, taken also in autumn and planted in sandy soil, in a cold frame, or by seeds, sown in spring, or preferably in autumn, 1 inch deep in a sheltered border when, if fresh from the pulp, or berry, they will germinate in the open in the following spring.
---Parts Used---Stem-bark and root-bark. The stem-bark is collected by shaving and is dried spread out in trays in the sun, or on shelves in a well-ventilated greenhouse or in an airy attic or loft, warmed either by sun or by the artificial heat of a stove, the door and window being left open by day to ensure a warm current of air. The bark may be also strung on threads and hung across the room.
When dried, the pieces of bark are in small irregular portions, about 2 inches long and 1/2 inch wide, and of a dark-yellowish grey color externally, and marked with shallow longitudinal furrows. It frequently bears the minute, black 'fruits' of lichen. The bark is dark yellowish brown on the inner surface separating in layers of bast fibres.
The bark has a slight odour and a bitter taste, and colors the saliva yellow when chewed.
The root-bark is greyish brown externally and is dried in a similar manner after being peeled off. When dry, it breaks with a short fracture. It contains the same constituents as the stem-bark and possesses similar qualities.
---Constituents---The chief constituent of Barberry bark is Berberine, a yellow crystalline, bitter alkaloid, one of the few that occurs in plants belonging to several different natural orders. Other constituents are oxyacanthine, berbamine, other alkaloidal matter, a little tannin, also wax, resin, fat, albumin, gum and starch.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Tonic, purgative, antiseptic. It is used in the form of a liquid extract, given as decoction, infusion or tincture, but generally a salt of the alkaloid Berberine is preferred.
As a bitter stomachic tonic, it proves an excellent remedy for dyspepsia and functional derangement of the liver, regulating the digestive powers, and if given in larger doses, acting as a mild purgative and removing constipation.
It is used in all cases of jaundice, general debility and biliousness, and for diarrhoea.
---Preparations---Powdered bark, 1/4 teaspoonful several times daily. Fluid extract, 1/2 to 1 drachm. Solid extract, 5 to 10 grains.
It possesses febrifuge powers and is used as a remedy for intermittent fevers. It also forms an excellent gargle for a sore mouth.
A good lotion for application to cutaneous eruptions has also been made from it.
The berries contain citric and malic acids, and possess astringent and anti-scorbutic properties. They are useful in inflammatory fevers, especially typhus, also in bilious disorders and scurvy, and in the form of a jelly are very refreshing in irritable sore throat, for which also a syrup of Barberries made with water, proves an excellent astringent gargle.
The wiccans are said still to employ a diluted juice of the berries in pestilential fevers, and Simon Paulli relates that he was cured of a malignant fever by drinking an infusion of the berries sweetened with sugar and syrup of roses.
The black tops must be cut off; then roast the fruit before the fire till soft enough to pulp with a silver spoon through a sieve into a china basin; then set the basin in a sauce pan of water, the top of which will just fitit, or on a hot hearth, and stir it till it grows thick. When cold, put to every pint 1 1/2 lb. of sugar, the finest double-refined, pounded and sifted through a lawn sieve, which must be covered with a fine linen to prevent its wasting while sifting. Beat the sugar and juice together 3 1/2 hours if a large quantity, but 2 1/2 for less; then drop it on sheets of white, thick paper, the size of the drops sold in the shops. Some fruit is not so sour and then less sugar is necessary. To know if there be enough, mix till well incorporated and then drop; if it runs, there is not enough sugar, and if there is too much it will be rough. A dry room will suffice to dry them. No metal must touch the juice but the point of a knife, just to take the drop off the end of the wooden spoon, and then as little as possible.
---To prepare Barberries for Tartlets---
Pick Barberries that have no stones, from the stalks, and to every pound weigh 3/4 lb. of lump sugar; put the fruit into a stone jar, and either set it on a hot hearth or in a saucepan of water, and let them simmer very slowly till soft; put them and the sugar into a preserving-pan, and boil them gently 15 minutes. Use no metal but silver.
---Barberries in Bunches---
Have ready bits of flat white wood, 3 inches long and 1/4 inch wide. Tie the stalks of the fruit on the stick from within an inch of one end to beyond the other, so as to make them look handsome. Simmer them in some syrup two successive days, covering them each time with it when cold. When they look clear they are simmered enough. The third day do them like other candy fruit.
Mrs. Beeton (an old edition) says:
'Barberries are also used as a dry sweetmeat, and in sugar-plums or comfits; are pickled with vinegar and are used for various culinary purposes. They are well calculated to allay heat and thirst in persons afflicted with fevers. The berries arranged on bunches of nice curled parsley, make an exceedingly pretty garnish for supper-dishes, particularly for white meats, like boiled fowl à la Béchamel; the three colors, scarlet, green and white contrasting so well, and producing a very good effect.'
Botanical: Berberis aristata
Family: N.O. Berberidaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Ophthalmic Barberry. Darlahad.
---Part Used---Dried stems.
---Habitat---A shrub indigenous to India and Ceylon.
It is known as 'Darlahad,' under which names are included the dried stems of Berberis Iycium and B. asiatica, but only the stem of B. aristata is official in the Indian and Colonial Addendum for use in India and the Eastern Colonies, in intermittent fevers.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---A bitter tonic antiperiodic and diaphoretic. The chief constituents are those of common Berberiabark, the bitter principle being the alkaloid Berberine, which is present in considerable quantity, together with tannin, resin, gum, starch and other alkaloidal matter. When dried, it occurs in undulating, cylindrical pieces, 1 to 2 inches in diameter. The drug has a faint odour and a bitter taste.
Botanical: Berberis asiatica
Family: N.O. Berberiaceae
The root-bark is light colored, corky, almost inodorous, with a bitter, mucilaginous taste. It contains much Berberine, and a dark-brown extract is made from it employed in India under the name of 'Rusot.' This extract is sometimes prepared from the wood or roots of different species of Barberry. It has the consistency of opium and a bitter, astringent taste.
For Berberis aquifolium, see (MOUNTAIN) GRAPE
Botanical: Hordeum distichon (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Graminaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
Dosage and Preparation
---Synonyms---Pearl Barley. Perlatum.
---Part Used---Decorticated seeds.
---Description---Pearl Barley is the grain without its skin; rounded and polished; this is the official variety. Taste and odour farinaceous. The Scotch, milled, or pot barley isthe grain with husks only partly removed. Patent Barley is the ground decorticated grain.
---Constituents---Pearl Barley contains about 80 per cent of starch and about 6 per cent of proteins, cellulose, etc.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Pearl Barley is used for the preparation of a decoction which is a nutritive and demulcent drink in febrile conditions and in catarrhal affections of the respiratory and urinary organs: barley water is used to dilute cows' milk for young infants, it prevents the formation of hard masses of curd in the stomach. Malt is produced from barley by a process of steeping and drying which develop a ferment 'diatase' needed for the production of alcoholic malt liquors, but in the form of Malt Extract it is largely used in medicine. Vinegar is an acid liquid produced by oxidation of fermented malt wort. Malt vinegar is the only vinegar that should be used medicinally.
---Dosage and Preparation---Barley water. Pearl Barley washed 10 parts, water to 100 parts, boil for 20 minutes, strain. Dose, 1 to 4 oz.
---Adulterants---Pearl Barley is sometimes treated with french chalk and starch to whiten it and increase the weight.
Botanical: Bartsia odontites
Family: N.O. Scrophulariaceae
This common little plant, which has no old popular name, is an abundant weed in cornfields and by the roadside. It is not very attractive in appearance, its narrow, tapering leaves being of a dingy purplish green and the flowers of a dull rose color, small and in onesided spikes, which usually droop at the ends.
A less common species, Bartsia viscosa, is found in marshes and damp places- the flowers are yellow, and might be mistaken for Yellow Rattle, from which it may be easily distinguished by its solitary, unspiked, yellowflowers, and by being covered with clammy down. It grows to a height of 6 to 12 inches, and is very common in many parts of Devon and Cornwall, where it sometimes grows 2 feet high.
Botanical: Bartisa Latifolia
Family: N.O. Scrophulariaceae
A small annual with reddish stems, leaves and flowers; partly parasitic on the roots of grasses.
Botanical: Ocymum minumum
Family: N.O. Labiatae
Part Used Medicinally
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Part Used---Leafy tops.
Bush Basil (Ocymum minumum) is a low, bushy plant, seldom above 6 inches in height, much smaller than Sweet Basil.
The leaves are ovate, quite entire, the white flowers in whorls towards the top of the branches, smaller than those of Sweet Basil, and seldom succeeded by ripe seeds in England.
There are two varieties, one with black-purple leaves and the other with variable leaves.
Both Bush and Garden Basil are natives of India, from whence it was introduced in 1573. Bush Basil may occasionally live through the winter in this country, though Sweet Basil never does.
Both varieties flower in July and August.
The leafy tops of Bush Basil are used in the same manner as the Sweet Basil for seasoning and in salads. t
The leaves of O. viride, a native of Western Africa, possess febrifugal properties; and at Sierra Leone, where it bears the name of 'Fever-plant,' a decoction of them, drunk as tea, is used as a remedy for the fevers so prevalent there.
The leaves of O. canum, and O. gratissimum in India, and of O. crispum in Japan, all sweet-scented varieties, are prescribed as a remedy for colds.
O. teniflorum is regarded as an aromatic stimulant in Java; and 0. guineense is much employed by the negroes as a medicine in cases of bilious fever.
These plants are all free of any deleterious secretions; for the most part they are fragrant and aromatic, and hence they have not only been used as tonics, but are also valuable as kitchen herbs.
In Persia and Malaysia Basil is planted on graves, and in Egypt women scatter the flowers on the resting-places of those belonging to them.
These observances are entirely at variance with the idea prevailing among the ancient Greeks that it represented hate and misfortune. They painted poverty as a ragged woman with a Basil at her side, and thought the plant would not grow unless railing and abuse were poured forth at the time of sowing. The Romans, in like manner, believed that the more it was abused, the better it would prosper.
The physicians of old were quite unable to agree as to its medicinal value, some declaring that it was a poison, and others a precious simple. Culpepper tells us:
'Galen and Dioscorides hold it is not fitting to be taken inwardly and Chrysippusrails at it. Pliny and the Arabians defend it. Something is the matter, this herb and rue will not grow together, no, nor near one another, and we know rue is as great an enemy to poison as any that grows.'
But it was said to cause sympathy between human beings and a tradition in Moldavia still exists that a youth will love any maiden from whose hand he accepts a sprig of this plant. In Crete it symbolizes 'love washed with tears,' and in some parts of Italy it is a love-token.
Boccaccio's story of Isabella and the Pot of Basil, immortalized by Keats, keeps the plant in our memory, though it is now rarely cultivated in this country. It was formerly grown in English herb gardens. Tusser includes it among the Strewing herbs and Drayton places it first in his poem Polyolbion.
'With Basil then I will begin
Whose scent is wondrous pleasing.'
In Tudor days, little pots of Basil were often given as graceful compliments by farmers' wives to visitors. Parkinson says:
'The ordinary Basill is in a manner wholly spent to make sweete or washing waters among other sweet herbs, yet sometimes it is put into nosegays. The Physicall properties are to procure a cheerfull and merry hearte whereunto the seeds is chiefly used in powder.'
---Cultivation---Basil dies down every year in this country, so that the seeds have to be sown annually. If in a very warm sheltered spot, seeds may be sown in the open, about the last week in April, but they are a long time coming up, and it is preferable to sow in a hot bed, about the end of March, and remove to a warm border in May, planting 10 inches to a foot apart.
Basil flourishes best in a rich soil.
---Part Used Medicinally---The whole herb, both fresh and dried, gathered in July.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Aromatic and carminative. Though generally employed in cooking as a flavouring, Basil has been occasionally used for mild nervous disorders and for the alleviation of wandering rheumatic pains- the dried leaves, in the form of snuff, are said to be a cure for nervous headaches.
An infusion of the green herb in boiling water is good for all obstructions of the internal organs, arrests vomiting and allays nausea.
The seeds have been reckoned efficacious against the poison of serpents, both taken internally and laid upon the wound. They are also said to cure warts.
In common with other labiates, Basil, both the wild and the sweet, furnishes an aromatic, volatile, camphoraceous oil, and on this account is much employed in France for flavouring soups, especially turtle soup. They also use it in ragoûts and sauces. The leafy tops are a great improvement to salads and cups.
Although it is now comparatively little used in England for culinary purposes, this herb was one of our favourite pot-herbs in older days, and gave the distinctive flavour that once made Fetter Lane sausages famous.
---A Recipe for Aromatic Seasoning---
'Take of nutmegs and mace one ounce each, of cloves and peppercorns two ounces of each, one ounce of dried bay-leaves, three ounces of basil, the same of marjoram, two ounces of winter savory, and three ounces of thyme, half an ounce of cayenne-pepper, the same of grated lemon-peel, and two cloves of garlic; all these ingredients must be well pulverized in a mortar and sifted through a fine wire sieve, and put away in dry corked bottles for use.' (Francatelli's Cook's Guide.)
O. Americanum. First recorded in 1789 as found in the West Indies.
The name 'Ocymum' is said by Mathiolus to be derived from the Greek word 'To smell,' because of the powerful aromatic and pungent scent characterizing most of the plants of this genus. Decoctions made from 0. Americanum are used in cases of chest trouble and dysentery; and an essential oil is also extracted from the plant.
Closely akin to the above-named is the O. gratissimum cultivated in China as a culinary herb.
O. canum is used as a tincture made from the leaves in homoeopathy.
Botanical: Ocymum basilium (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Labiatae
---Description---Common or Sweet Basil which is used in medicine and also for culinary purposes, especially in France, is a hairy, labiate plant, growing about 3 feet high. The stem is obtusely quadrangular, the labiate flowers are white, in whorls in the axils of the leaves, the calyx with the upper lobe rounded and spreading. The leaves, greyish-green beneath and dotted with dark oil cells, are opposite, 1 inch long and 1/3 inch broad, stalked and peculiarly smooth, soft and cool to the touch, and if slightly bruised exale a delightful scent of cloves.
There are several varieties, differing in the size, shape, odour and color of the leaves. The Common Basil has very dark green leaves, the curled-leaved has short spikes of flowers, the narrow-leaved smells like Fennel, another has a scent of citron and another a tarragon scent, one species has leaves of three colors, and another 'studded' leaves.
---History---The derivation of the name Basil is uncertain. Some authorities say it comes from the Greek basileus, a king, because, as Parkinson says, 'the smell thereof is so excellent that it is fit for a king's house,' or it may have been termed royal, because it was used in some regal unguent or medicine. One rather unlikely theory is that it is shortened from basilisk, a fabulous creature that could kill with a look. This theory may be based on a strange old superstition that connected the plant with scorpions. Parkinson tells us that 'being gently handled it gave a pleasant smell but being hardly wrung and bruised would breed scorpions. It is also observed that scorpions doe much rest and abide under these pots and vessells wherein Basil is planted.' It was generally believed that if a sprig of Basil were left under a pot it would in time turn to a scorpion. Superstition went so far as to affirm that even smelling the plant might bring a scorpion into the brain.
'Being applied to the place bitten by venomous beasts, or stung by a wasp or hornet, it speedily draws the poison to it. - Every like draws its like. Mizaldus affirms, that being laid to rot in horse-dung, it will breed venomous beasts. Hilarius, a French physician, affirms upon his own knowledge, that an acquaintance of his, by common smelling to it, had a scorpion breed in his brain.'
In India the Basil plant is sacred to both Krishna and Vishnu, and is cherished in every Hindu house. Probably on account of its virtues, in disinfecting, and vivifying malarious air, it first became inseparable from Hindu houses in India as the protecting spirit of the family.
The strong aromatic scent of the leaves is very much like cloves.
Every good Hindu goes to his rest with a Basil leaf on his breast. This is his passport to Paradise.
Botanical: Calamintha Clinopodium
Family: N.O. Labiatae
---Synonyms---Hedge Basil. Hedge Calamint.
---Habitat---The plant is widely distributed throughout the North Temperate Zone, and is common in England and Scotland in dry hedges and the borders of copses, mostly in high situations. In Ireland it is somewhat rare.
The Wild Basil, or Hedge Basil (Calamintha Clinopodium) (sometimes called Hedge Calamint), is a straggling plant with somewhat weak-looking, though erect stems, rising to a height of a foot or 18 inches, and thickly covered with soft hairs.
---Description---The shortly - stalked, egg shaped leaves, 1 to 2 inches long, are placedopposite to one another on the four-angled stem, the pairs being some distance apart. They are only slightly toothed at their edges and like the stem are downy with soft hairs.
The flowers, with tubular, lipped corollas of a pinkish color, are arranged on the stem in several crowded, bristly rings or whorls, at the points from which the leaf-stalks spring, and are in bloom from July to September.
The whole herb is aromatic and fragrant, with a faint Thyme-like odour, and like Calamint has been used to make an infusion for similar complaints.
The name of the species, Clinopodium, signifies 'bedfoot.' An old writer says 'the tufts of the plant are like the knobs at the feet of a bed,' but the comparison is not very obvious. By some botanists the plant has been described under the name of C. vulgare, but it is now assigned to the genus, Calamintha.
Botanical: Myrica cerifera (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Myricaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Wax Myrtle. Myrica. Candle Berry. Arbre à suif. Myricae Cortex. Tallow Shrub. Wachsgagle.
---Parts Used---The dried bark of the root. The wax.
---Habitat---Eastern North America.
---Description---The only species of a useful family that is regarded as official, Myrica cerifera grows in thickets near swamps and marshes in the sand-belt near the Atlantic coast and on the shores of Lake Erie. Its height is from 3 to 8 feet, its leaves lanceolate, shining or resinous, dotted on both sides, its flowers unisexual without calyx or corolla, and its fruit small groups of globular berries, having numerous black grains crusted with greenish-white wax. These are persistent for two or three years. The leaves are very fragrant when rubbed.
The bark as found in commerce is in curved pieces from 1 to 7 inches long, covered with a thin, mottled layer, the cork beneath being smooth and red-brown. The fracture is reddish, granular, and slightly fibrous. The odour is aromatic, and the taste astringent, bitter, and very acrid. It should be separated from the fresh root by pounding, in late autumn, thoroughly dried, and when powdered, kept in darkened, well-closed vessels.
The wax was first introduced into medicinal use by Alexandre in 1722. It is removed from the berries by boiling them in water, on the top of which it floats. It melts at 47 to 49 C. (116.6 to 120.2 F.). It is harder and more brittle than beeswax. Candles made from it are aromatic, smokeless after snuffing, and very brittle. It makes a useful body for surgeon's soap plasters, and an aromatic and softening shaving lather. It has also been used for making sealing-wax. Four-fifths of this wax is soluble in hot alcohol, and boiling ether dissolves more than a quarter of its weight. Four pounds of berries yield about one pound of wax.
---Constituents---There has been found in the bark of stem and root volatile oil, starch, lignin, gum, albumen, extractive, tannic and gallic acids, acrid and astringent resins, a red coloring substance, and an acid resembling saponin.
The wax (Myrtle Wax) consists of glycerides of stearic, palmitic and myristic acids, and a small quantity of oleaic acid.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Astringent and stimulant. In large doses emetic. It is useful in diarrhoea, jaundice, scrofula, etc. Externally, the powdered bark is used as a stimulant to indolent ulcers, though in poultices it should be combined with elm. The decoction is good as a gargle and injection in chronic inflammation of the throat, leucorrhoea, uterine haemorrhage, etc. It is an excellent wash for the gums.
The powder is strongly sternutatory and excites coughing. Water in which the wax has been 'tried,' when boiled to an extract, is regarded as a certain cure for dysentery, and the wax itself, being astringent and slightly narcotic, is valuable in severe dysentery and internal ulcerations.
---Dosages---Of powder, 20 to 30 grains. Of decoction, 1 to 2 fluid ounces. Of alcoholic extract, or Myricin, 5 grains.
---Other Species---MURICA GALE, SWEET GALE, ENGLISEI BOGMYRTLE, or DUTCH MYRTLE, the badge of the Campbells. The leaves of this species have been used in France as an emmenagogue and abortifacient, being formerly official under the name of Herba Myrti Rabantini, and containing a poisonous, volatile oil. The plant is bitter and astringent, and has been employed in the northern counties as a substitute for hops, and also mingled with bark for tanning, and dyeing wool yellow. The dried berries are put in broth and used as spices. Formerly it was much used in cottage practice, its properties being similar to those of M. cerifera. It is covered with a golden, aromatic dust, and is thus used to drive away insects. The leaves are infused like tea, especially in China, as a stomachic and cordial. See GALE (SWEET).
M. nagi. A glucoside, Myricitrin, resembling quercitrin, has been separated from the yellow coloring matter, or myricetin.
M. cordifolia, of the Cape of Good Hope, yields a wax which is said to be eaten by Hottentots.
M. Pensylvanica has roots with emetic properties.
A Brazilian species yields a waxy-resinous product called Tabocas combicurdo, which is used as a 'pick-me-up.'
BAYBERRY is a synonym for the Wild Cinnamon or Pimenta acris of the West Indies and South America, which yields Bay Rum and oil of Bayberry.
Botanical: Phaceolus vulgaris
Family: N.O. Leguminaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Part Used---Dried ripe seeds.
---Habitat---Native of Indies; cultivated all over Europe; also said to be found in ancient tombs in Peru.
---History---This well-known plant has been cultivated from remote times. Because of the seeds close resemblance to the male testicle, the wiccans made it an object of sacred worship and forbad its use as food. In Italy at the present day beans are distributed among the poor, on the anniversary of a death. The Jewish high priest is forbidden to eat beans on the day of Atonement.
---Constituents---Starch and starchy fibrous matter, phaseoline, extractive albumen mucilage, pectic acid, legumin fatty matter, earthy salts, uncrystallizable sugar, inosite, sulphur.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---When bruised and boiled with garlic Beans have cured otherwise uncurable coughs. If eaten raw they cause painful severe frontal headache, soreness and itching of the eyeball and pains in the epigastrium. The roots are dangerously narcotic.
Botanical: Arctostaphylos Uva-Ursi
Family: N.O. Ericaceae
Parts Used Medicinally
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Arbutus Uva-Ursi. Uva-Ursi.
---Habitat---The Bearberry (Arctostaphylos Uva-Ursi, Sprengel), a small shrub, with decumbent, much branched, irregular stems and evergreen leaves, is distributed over the greater part of the Northern Hemisphere, being found in the northern latitudes and high mountains of Europe, Asia and America. In the British Isles, it is common in Scotland, on heaths and barren places in hilly districts, especially in the Highlands, and extends south as far as Yorkshire; it grows also on the hills of the north-west of Ireland. In America it is distributed throughout Canada and the United States as far south as New Jersey and Wisconsin.
It is very nearly related to the Arbutus, and was formerly assigned to the same genus - in Green's Universal Herbal, 1832, it will be found under the name Arbutus Uva- Ursi - but it differs from Arbutus in having a smooth berry with five one-seeded stones, whereas the Arbutus has a rough fruit, each cell of the ovary being four to five seeded.
The only other British species assigned to the genus, Arctostaphylos, the Black Bearberry (A. alpina), with black berries, found on barren mountains in northern Scotland, and not at all in England, is the badge of the clan of Ross.
The generic name, derived from the Greek, and the Latin specific name, UvaUrsi, mean the same: the Bear's grape, and may have been given to the plant, either from the notion that bears eat the fruit with relish, or from its very rough, unpleasant flavour, which might have been considered only fit for bears.
---Description---The much-branched trailing stems are short and woody, covered with a pale brown bark, scaling off in patches, and form thick masses, 1 to 2 feet long. The long shoots rise obliquely upward from the stems for a few inches and are covered with soft hairs
The evergreen leaves are of a leathery texture, from 1/2 inch to an inch long, like a spatula in form, being rounded at the apex and tapering gradually towards the base to a very short stalk or petiole. The margin is entire and slightly rolled back and the young leaves fringed with short hairs. The upper surface of the leaf is dark, shining green, the veins deeply impressed, the lower side is of a paler green, with the veins prominent and forming a coarse network. The leaves have no distinctive odour, but they have a very astringent and somewhat bitter taste.
The pretty waxy-looking flowers are in small, closely-crowded, drooping clusters, three to fifteen flowers together, at the ends of the branches of the preceding year, appearing in early summer, May - June, before the young leaves. The corolla, about two-thirds inch across, is urn-shaped, reddish white or white with a red lip, transparent at the base, contracted at the mouth, which is divided into four to five short reflexed, blunt teeth, which are hairy within. There are ten stamens, with chocolate-brown, awned anthers. The berry, which ripens in autumn, is about the size of a small currant, very bright red, smooth and glossy, with a tough skin enclosing an insipid mealy pulp, with five one-seeded stones.
---Parts Used Medicinally---The dried leaves are the only part of the plant used in medicine. The British Pharmacopceia directs that the leaves should be obtained only from indigenous plants. They should be collected in September and October, only green leaves being selected and dried by exposure to gentle heat.
Leaves must be gathered only in fine weather, in the morning, after the dew has dried, any stained and insect-eaten leaves being rejected. Drying may be done in warm, sunny weather out-of-doors, but in half-shade, as leaves dried in the shade retain their color better than those dried in direct sun. They may be placed on wire sieves, or frames covered with wire or garden netting, at a height of 3 or 4 feet from the ground to ensure a current of air, and must be taken indoors to a dry room, or shed, before there is any risk of damp from dew or showers. The leaves should be spread in a single layer, preferably not touching, and may be turned during drying.
Failing sun, which in the case of leaves collected like the Bearberry in September and October cannot be relied on, any ordinary shed, fitted with racks and shelves can be used, provided it is ventilated near the roof and has a warm current of air, caused by a coke or anthracite stove. Empty glasshouses can readily be adapted into dryingsheds, especially if heated by pipes and the glass is shaded; ventilation is essential, and there must be no open tank in the house to cause steaming. For drying indoors, a warm sunny attic or loft may be employed, the window being left open by day, so that there is a current of air and the moist, hot air may escape: the door may also be left open. The leaves can be placed on coarse butter-cloth stented, i.e. if hooks are placed beneath the window and on the opposite wall, the buttercloth can be attached by rings sewn on each side of it, and hooked on so that it is stretched taut. The drying temperature should be from 70 to 100 degrees F.
All dried leaves should be packed away at once in wooden or tin boxes, in a dry place as otherwise they re-absorb moisture from the air.
Dried Bearberry leaves are usually quite smooth, and entirely free from the hairs that are present on the margins of the growing leaves and on the foot-stalks, which drop off during the drying process.
The commercial drug frequently consists of the entire plants, and therefore contains a large quantity of stems, but the latter should not be present, according to the official definition of the United States Pharmacopoeia, in greater amount than 5 per cent.
The leaves of other plants have been mistaken for Bearberry leaves, notably those of the Cowberry (Vaccinium Vitis-idaea) and of the Box (Buxus sempervirens), and have occasionally been used to adulterate the drug, but Bearberry leaves are readily distinguished by the characteristics given, viz. the spatulate outline, entire margin and rounded apex. Those of the Box have a notch cut out at the apex (emarginate) and have the epidermis loose and separable on the under surface of the leaf, and are, moreover, quite devoid of astringency. The leaves of the Cowberry may be distinguished by the glandular brown dots scattered over their under surface and the minute teeth on their margins. They have only a very slight astringent taste.
---Constituents---The chief constituent of Bearberry leaves is a crystallizable glucoside named Arbutin. Other constituents are methyl-arbutin, ericolin (an ill-defined glucoside), ursone (a crystalline substance of resinous character), gallic acid, ellagic acid, a yellow coloring principle resembling quercetin, and probably also myricetin. Tannin is present to the extent of 6 to 7 per cent. On incineration, the leaves yield about 3 per cent. of ash.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---In consequence of the powerful astringency of theleaves, Uva-Ursi has a place not only in all the old herbals, but also in the modern Pharmacopoeias. There are records that it was used in the thirteenth century by the Welsh 'Physicians of Myddfai.' It was described by Clusius in 1601, and recommended for medicinal use in 1763 by Gerhard of Berlin and others. It had a place in the London Pharmacopoeia for the first time in 1788, though was probably in use long before. It is official in nearly all Pharmacopceias, some of which use the name Arbutus.
The usual form of administration is in the form of an infusion, which has a soothing as well as an astringent effect and marked diuretic action. Of great value in diseases of the bladder and kidneys, strengthening and imparting tone to the urinary passages. The diuretic action is due to the glucoside Arbutin, which is largely absorbed unchanged and is excreted by the kidneys. During its excretion, Arbutin exercises an antiseptic effect on the urinary mucous membrane: Bearberry leaves are, therefore, used in inflammatory diseases of the urinary tract, urethritis, cystisis, etc.
Besides the simple infusion (1 OZ. of the leaves to 1 pint of boiling water), the combination of 1/2 oz. each of Uva-Ursi, Poplar Bark and Marshmallow root, infused in 1 pint of water for 20 minutes is used with advantage.
The tannin in the leaves is so abundant that they have been used for tanning leather in Sweden and Russia.
An ash-colored dye is said to be obtained from the plant in Scandinavian countries.
The berries are only of use as food for grouse. Cattle, however, avoid the plant.
---Allied Species---Manzanita, the leaves of A. glauca from California, are employed like Uva-Ursi.
The leaves of A. polifolia from Mexico and A. tomentosa (madrona) are also used in medicine.
Botanical: Polymnia uvedalia (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Compositae
Medicinal Action and Uses
Dosage and Preparation
---Synonyms---Uvedalia. Leaf Cup. Yellow Leaf Cup.
---Habitat---New York to Missouri and southward.
---Description---A tall branching plant found growing in very rich soil the root is greyish brown in color and furrowed, bark thin, brittle and easily scales off, odourless, taste salty and slightly bitter.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Anodyne laxative and stimulant, valuable in malarial enlargements of the spleen, swollen glands and dyspepsia caused by the spleen. Of great use applied externally in stimulating the growth of the hair, and is an ingredient of many American hair ointments and lotions.
---Dosage and Preparation---Fluid extract, dose, 15 to 60 minims.
Botanical: Galium verum (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Rubiaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Our Lady's Bedstraw. Yellow Bedstraw. Maid's Hair. Petty Mugget. Cheese Renning. Cheese Rennet.
---Habitat---Yellow Bedstraw is abundant on dry banks, chiefly near the sea. Its small, bright yellow flowers are closely clustered together in dense panicles at the tops of the wiry, square, upright stems, which are I to 3 feet high, and bear numerous very narrow, almost thread-like leaves, placed six to eight together in whorls. The flowers are in bloom in July and August.
The plant is inodorous, but has an astringent, acidulous and bitterish taste.
The common English name of this plant, 'Our Lady's Bedstraw,' is derived from its use in former days, even by ladies of rank, for stuffing beds. (The origin of the name is more probably from the Christian legend that this was one of the 'Cradle Herbs,' i.e. was in the hay in the manger at Bethlehem. - EDITOR)
Dr. Fernie tells us that because of its bright yellow blossoms, this herb is also named 'Maid's Hair,' for in Henry VIII's reign 'maydens did wear silken callis to keep in order their hayre made yellow with dye.' It has also been known as 'Petty Mugget,' from the French petit muguet, a little dandy.
The plant has the property of curdling milk, hence another of its popular names ' Cheese Rennet.' It was called ' Cheese Renning' in the sixteenth century, and Gerard says (quoting from Matthiolus, a famous commentator of Dioscorides), 'the people of Thuscane do use it to turne their milks and the cheese, which they make of sheepes and goates milke, might be the sweeter and more pleasant to taste. The people in Cheshire especially about Nantwich, where the best cheese is made, do use it in their rennet, esteeming greatly of that cheese above other made without it.' The rich color of this cheese was probably originally derived from this plant, though it is now obtained from annatto.
The Highlanders also made special use of Yellow Bedstraw to curdle milk and color their cheese, and it has been used in Gloucestershire for the same purpose, either aloneor with the juice of the stinging-nettle.
The name of this genus, Galium, from the Greek word gala, milk, is supposed to have been given from this property of the plants which is shared more or less by most of the group.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Galium verum contains the same chemical principles as G. aparine.
It is still used to a limited degree as a popular remedy in gravel, stone and urinary diseases.
It was formerly highly esteemed as a remedy in epilepsy and hysteria, and was applied externally in cutaneous eruptions, in the form either of the recently expressed juice, or of a decoction from the fresh plant.
'An ointment,' says Gerard, 'is prepared which is good for anointing the weary traveller.'
Culpepper recommends the decoction to stop inward bleeding and bleeding at the nose, and to heal all inward wounds generally.
The flowering tips, distilled with water, are stated to yield an acid liquor which forms a pleasant summer drink.
The flowers of this species and still more those of G. elatum, an allied non-British species, are considered in France a remedy for epilepsy.
The Yellow Bedstraw can furnish a red dye, like its ally, the Madder of the Continent, Rubia tinctorum. It has been cultivated for the purpose, but with little or no profit, as the roots are too small, though it has been used in the Hebrides for dyeing woollen stuffs red. When attempts have been made to cultivate it, the produce per acre has occasionally exceeded 12 cwt., which is considered an average crop for Madder, but the roots do not yield as much in proportion, and its cultivation has never been undertaken on a very large scale, the crops having been found too small to pay under ordinary circumstances. The same cultivation is necessary as for Madder, the plant requiring a deep, light, but rich loam to succeed well, and the land must be well trenched an manured before planting. The running roots are to be planted, though it may be raised from seed, a plan that has also sometimes been adopted with Madder.
The stem and leaves of this Galium yield good yellow dye, which has been used to great extent in Ireland.
Several other species of this genus have roots capable of yielding red or yellow dye but none of them have been practical applied, their produce being too small to admit of their successful cultivation as dyed plants.
See (Black) Hellebore (Helleborus Foetitus).
Botanical: Galium molugo
Family: N.O. Rubiaceae
Galium molllgo, the Hedge Bedstraw, another closely allied species, with white flowers, very common in this country, has much the same properties as Lady's Bedstraw.
An American species, G. tinctorum (Linn.), is closely allied in properties to G. verum. It is said to be useful in cutaneous diseases, and the root is employed by the Indians for staining their feathers and other ornaments red.
Besides the above, there are also four other British species, i.e. G. palustré (Water Bedstraw), common in watery places; G. uliginosum (Rough Marsh Bedstraw), smaller than the first-mentioned, the stem being rarely more than a foot high, slender and brittle; G. saxatile (Heath Bedstraw), a small species with dense panicles of white flowers; G. tricorué which is tolerably common in some of the English counties and in the Isle of Wight. The stems of this species are about a foot long and rough, as well as the leaves, with prickles pointing backwards, the flowers grow in threes and the first is reflexed. About seven or eight other species have been described by British botanists; they are, however, of rare occurrence.
Botanical: Fagus sylvatica
Family: N.O. Corylaceae
---Synonyms---Buche. Buke. Boke. Bog. Bok. Buk. Hetre. Faggio. Faya. Haya. Fagos.
---Part Used---The oil of the nuts.
---Habitat---Europe, including Britain. (Indigenous only in England.) Armenia, Palestine, Asia Minor Tanan.
---History---The common name of the Beech tree, found in varying forms throughout the Teutonic dialects, means, with difference of gender, either 'a book' or 'a beech,' the Runic tablets, or early books, having been made of this wood. Fagus is from a Greek word meaning 'to eat,' referring to the edible character of the Beechmast.
The Beech is one of the largest British trees, especially on chalky and sandy soil. In England it may grow to 140 feet in height, or spread to 130 feet in diameter, with a trunk 21 feet in girth. As the wood is brittle and short-grained, it is not well suited for purposes where strength and durability are required. One of the principal objections to it is that it is liable to be perforated by a small beetle. Its chief uses are for panels for carriages, carpenter's planes, stonemason's mallets wooden bowls, granary shovels, boot-lasts, sabots, and for chair-making, small articles in turnery, also for making charcoal for color manufacturers, and gunpowder. On the Continent Beech is used for parquet flooring, wood pavement and bentwood furniture, and very extensively as fuel for domestic heating, as its heating power surpasses that of most other timber.
Owing to the capacity of its root system for assisting in the circulation of air throughout the soil, and by the amount of potash in the leaves, Beech trees conserve the productive capacity of the soil better than any other kind of tree, and improve the growth of other trees when planted with them.
Fences of young Beech trees may be employed with advantage in flower gardens, as their leaves generally remain on the branches during the winter and screen the young plants .
The nuts of Beech, called 'mast,' are chiefly used in England as food for park deer. In other countries they are valued for feeding farm animals: in France for feeding swine and fattening domestic poultry, especially turkeys, and pigs which are turned into Beech woods to utilize the fallen mast. Beech mast has even been used as human food in time of distress or famine. Horses, however, should not be fed on it.
Well-ripened mast yields from 17 to 20 per cent. of a non-drying oil - similar to hazel and Cotton-seed oils - and is used in European countries for cooking, as well as for burning, and in Silesia as a substitute for butter. The cake left when the oil has been pressed out may be used as a cattle food.
During the War an attempt was made in Germany to use Beech leaves as a substitute for tobacco, and a mixture was served to the army, but proved a failure.
---Constituents---The wood ash of the Beech affords a large proportion of potash. The oil of the nuts occupies a position in the fixed oils between the vegetable non-drying and the true drying oils. Like the Cotton-seed oils, it forms more or less elaidin on treatment with nitrous acid or mercuric nitrate, but does not become wholly solidified. Beech tar is completely soluble in 95 per cent. acetic acid. Turpentine oil, chloroform and absolute ether do not entirely dissolve it. The petroleum ether is not colored by copper acetate solution. Choline is present in the seeds.
---Medicinal Uses---The tar is stimulating and antiseptic, used internally as a stimulating expectorant in chronic bronchitis, or externally as an application in various skin diseases.
The oil is used in the same ways as the other fixed oils of its class.
---Other Species---BEECH DROPS (OROBANCHE VIRGINIANA,EPIFAGUS VIRGINIANA, BROOM RAPE, CANCER ROOT), a parasite on Beech tree roots, has a bitter, nauseous, astringent taste, diminished by drying. It is given internally in bowel affections, and is reputed to cure cancer, though this is doubtful As a local application to wounds or ulcers it will arrest gangrene. It appears to act upon the capillary system like the tincture of muriate of iron.
ALBANY BEECH DROPS (Pterospora Andromeda) is a rare plant of North America valuable as a sedative diaphoretic in typhus, pleurisy and erysipelas
COPPER-BEECH (F. sylvatica var. purpurea). The leaves of this species may be used like those of the Red-leaved Hazel for the extraction of anthocyan pigment.
Family: N.O. Chenopodiaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Spinach Beet. Sea Beet. Garden Beet. White Beet. Mangel Wurzel.
---Parts Used---Leaves, root.
---Description---Beta vulgaris (Linn.) is a native of South Europe, extensively cultivated as an article of food and especially for the production of sugar, and presents many varieties.
It is derived from the Sea Beet (B. maritima, Linn.), which grows wild on the coasts of Europe, North Africa and Asia, as far as India, and is found in muddy maritime marshes in many parts of England, a tall, succulent plant, about 2 feet high, with large, fleshy, glossy leaves, angular stems and numerous leafy spikes of green flowers, much like those of the Stinking Goosefoot.
The lower leaves, when boiled, are quite equal in taste to Spinach, and the leaf-stalks and midrib of a cultivated form, the Spinach Beet (B. vulgaris, var. cicla), are sometimes stewed, under the name of Swiss Chard (being the Poirée à Carde of the French, with whom it is served as Sea Kale or Asparagus). This white-rooted Beet is also cultivated for its leaves, which are put into soups, or used as spinach, and in France are often mixed with sorrel, to lessen its acidity. It is also largely used as a decorative plant for its large handsome leaves, blood red or variegated in color. Its root, thoughcontaining almost as much sugar as the red Garden Beet, neither looks so appetizing nor tastes so well.
The Mangel Wurzel, or Mangold, also a variety of the Beet, too coarse for table use, is good for cattle, who thrive excellently upon this diet, both its leaves and roots affording an abundance of valuable and nutritious food.
In its uncultivated form, the root of the Sea Beet is coarse and unfit for food, nor has any use been made of the plant medicinally, but the Garden Beet has been cultivated from very remote times as a salad plant and for general use as a vegetable. It was so appreciated by the ancients, that it is recorded that it was offered on silver to Apollo in his temple at Delphi.
---Constituents---The root contains about a tenth portion of pure sugar, which is one of the glucoses or fruit sugars and is very wholesome. It is softer than cane sugar and does not crystallize as well as the latter. There is a treacle principle in it, but this renders it all the more nutritious. Canesugar has to be converted by the digestive juices into fruit sugar, before the body can absorb it, but the sugar present in the Beetroot is already in the more easily assimilated form, thus making the Beet a valuable food. Its sugar is a force-giver and an energy creator, a source of vitality to the human body. Besides its tenth portion of pure sugar, Beetroot has as much as a third of its weight in starch and gum.
The Beet makes an appetizing vegetable, plain boiled, stewed, or baked and a good pickle, and in Russia forms an appetizing soup - called Bortsch - the red root in this case being made to exude all its juice into a rich, white stock.
A pleasant wine can be made from the roots and an equally good domestic ale has also been brewed from Mangolds. A considerable amount of alcohol can be obtained by distillation.
Although modern medicine disregards the Beet, of old it was considered to have distinct remedial properties.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The juice of the White Beet was stated to be 'of a cleansing, digestive quality,' to open obstructions of the liver and spleen, and, says Culpepper, 'good for the headache and swimmings therein and all affections of the brain.' Also,
'effectual against all venomous creatures and applied upon the temples, it stayeth inflammations in the eyes, it helpeth burnings, being used without oil and with a little alum put to it is good for St. Anthonys Fire. It is good for all weals, pushes, blisters and blains in the skin: the decoction in water and vinegar healeth the itch if bathed therewith and cleanseth the head of dandriff, scurf and dry scabs and relieves running sores and ulcers and is much commended against baldness and shedding the hair.'
The juice of the Red Beetroot was recommended 'to stay the bloody flux' and 'to help the yellow jaundice,' also the juice 'put into the nostrils, purgeth the head, helpeth the noise in the ears and the toothache.'
The Sugar Beet, or White Beet, is a selected form of the ordinary red-rooted Garden Beet and is now the chief source of our sugar; as food for animals, it has been preferred to turnips and carrots.
About 1760, the Berlin apothecary Marggraff obtained in his laboratory by means of alcohol, 6.2 per cent. of sugar from a white variety of Beet and 4.5 per cent. from a red variety. At the present day, as a result of careful study of many years, improvement of cultivation, careful selection of seed and suitable manuring, especially with nitrate of soda, the average Beet worked up contains 7 per cent. of fibre and 92 per cent. of juice. The average yield of its weight in sugar was stated in 1910 to be 12.79 per cent. in Germany and 11.6 per cent. in France.
In Great Britain, the cultivation of Beet for sugar was first seriously undertaken in Essex in 1910, as the result of careful consideration during several years and since the War. The Beet Sugar Industry, aided by Government subsidy, can now be regarded as on a permanent basis. In 1926-7, no less than fourteen factories were handling the Beet crops, mostly in Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire, producing large quantities of white refined sugar.
See (DEADLY) NIGHTSHADE.
Botanical: Sesamum Indicum (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Pedaliaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Parts Used---Leaves, seeds.
---Habitat---America, Southern States, and India. Cultivated in Africa and Asia.
---Description---An annual plant with branching stem 4 or 5 feet high, leaves opposite, petiolate, shape varies; flower reddish white, single, on short peduncles in axils of leaves; fruit an oblong capsule with small oval yellowish seeds. The genus Sesamum comprises ten or twelve species. In India two species occur wild, it is cultivated in the U.S.A. and in the West Indies; it grows as far north as Philadelphia.
---Constituents---The seeds by expression yield a fixed oil consisting essentially of the glycerides of oleic and linoleic acids with small preparations of stearin, palmitin and myristin. Sesamin, another constituent of the oil, may be obtained in long crystalline needles melting at 118 degrees F., insoluble in water, light petroleum, ether alkaloids and mineral acids, easily soluble in chloroform, benzine, and glacial acetic acid. Liquid fatty acids are present to about 70 per cent., solid fatty acids 12 to 14 per cent.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Sesame oil is used in the preparation of Iodinol and Brominol, which are employed for external internal or subcutaneous use. The best qualities of the oil are largely used in the manufacture of margarine. Sesame oil may be used as a substitute for Olive oil in making the official liniments, ointments and plasters in India and the African, Eastern, and North America Colonies. The negroes use the seed as food, boiling them for broth and making them into puddings and other dishes. The leaves which abound in gummy matter when mixed with water form a rich bland mucilage used in infantile cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, catarrh and bladder troubles, acute cystitis and strangury. The oil is said to be laxative and to promote menstruation.
---Dosage---1 or 2 full-sized leaves stirred in 1/2 pint of cold water, or in hot water if the dried leaves are used.
Botanical: Styrax benzoin (DRY.)
Family: N.O. Styraceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
Dosages and Preparations
---Synonyms---Gum Benzoin. Gun Benjamin. Siam Benzoin. Sumatra Benzoin.
---Habitat---Siam, Sumatra and Java.
---Description---Benzoin is a balsamic resin. Normally the trees do not produce it or any substance analogous to it, but the infliction of a wound sufficiently severe to injure the cambium results in the formation of numerous oleoresin ducts in which the secretion is produced, it is, therefore, a pathological product. The trunk of the tree is hacked with an axe, and after a time the liquid Benzoin either accumulates beneath the bark or exudes from the incisions. When it has sufficiently hardened it is collected and exported, either in the form of loose pieces (tears) or in masses packed in oblong boxes or in tins; several varieties are known, but Siam and Sumatra Benzoins are the most important. The incisions are made when the tree is seven years old, and in Sumatra each tree yields about 3 lb. annually for ten or twelve years. The first three years' collections give the finest Benzoin; after that the runnings are known as the 'belly,' and finally the tree is cut down and the resin scraped out, this being termed the 'foot.' Siam Benzoin externally is reddish yellow, internally milky white, has an agreeable odour, recalling vanilla, contains benzoic acid but not cinnamic acid. Sumatra Benzoin is always in blocks of a dull reddish or greyish-brown color. Fine qualities have a strong storax-like odour, quite distinct from the vanilla odour of the Siamese variety. Sumatra Benzoin contains cinnamic acid.
---Constituents---The chief constituent of Siam Benzoin is benzoic acid (up to 38 per cent.), partly free and partly combined with benzoresinol and siaresinotannol; it also contains vanillin and an oily aromatic liquid. When quite pure it should be entirely soluble in alcohol and yield only traces of ash. Sumatra benzoin contains 18 per cent. or more of benzoic acid and about 20 per cent. of cinnamic acid the latter partly free and partly combined with benzoresinol and sumarisinotannol; it also contains 1 per cent. of vanillin, styrol, styracin, phenyl-prophyl cinnamate and benzaldehyde, all of which combine to produce its characteristic odour.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---It is used externally in the form of a tincture, diluted with water as a mild stimulant and antiseptic in irritable conditions of the skin. It acts as a carminative when taken internally is rapidly absorbed, and mildly expectorant diuretic and antiseptic to the urinary passages. In the form of Compound Tincture of Benzoin, it is used as an inhalant with steam in laryngitis and bronchitis. It is a preservative of fats, and is used for that purpose in Adips Benzoatus.
---Dosages and Preparations---Benzoic Acid B.P., 5 to 15 grains. Compound Tincture of Benzoin, B.P. and U.S.P., 1/2 to 1 drachm. Compound Tincture of Camphor, B.P. (paregoric) poison, 1/2 to 1 drachm. Tincture of Benzoin, B.P.C. 1/2 to 1 drachm. Tincture of Benzoin, U.S.P., 15 minims.
Botanical: Monarda didyma
Family: N.O. Rustaceae
---Synonyms---Scarlet Monarda. Oswego Tea. Bee Balm.
So far, Monarda punctata is considered the only plant indigenous to North America which can be looked upon as a fruitful source of Thymol, though another American swamp plant, closely allied to it, M. didyma, the Scarlet Monarda, is said to yield an oil of similar composition, though not to the same degree.
---Description---This species, on account of its aromatic odour, has become a favourite in our gardens. It has showy, scarlet flowers in large heads or whorls at the top of the stem, supported by leafy bracts, the leaflets of which are of a pale-green color tinged with red. Its square, grooved and hard stems rise about 2 feet high, and the leaves which it bears in pairs are rather rough on both surfaces.
The whole plant is strongly impregnated with a delightful fragrance; even after the darkly-colored leaves have died away, the surface rootlets give off the pleasant smell by which the plant has earned its common name 'Bergamot,' it being reminiscent of the aroma of the Bergamot Orange.
It is known in America as 'Oswego Tea,' because an infusion of its young leaves used to form a common beverage in many parts of the United States.
It is also sometimes called 'Bee Balm,' as bees are fond of its blossoms, which secrete much nectar.
It delights in a moist, light soil, and in a situation where the plants have only the morning sun, where they will continue in flower longer than those which are exposed to the full sun. It is a very ornamental plant and readily propagated by its creeping roots and by slips or cuttings, which, if planted in a shady corner in May, will take root in the same manner as the other Mints.
Botanical: Piper betel (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Peperaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Chavica Betel. Artanthe Hixagona.
---Part Used---The leaves.
---Habitat---India, Malaya and Java.
---Description---The Betel plant is indigenous throughout the Indian Malay region and also cultivated in Madagascar, Bourbon and the West Indies. It is a climbing shrub and is trained on poles or trellis in a hot but shady situation. The leaves are pressed together and dried, sometimes being sewn up together in packets for commerce.
---Constituents---The chief constituent of the leaves is a volatile oil varying in the leaves from different countries and known as Betel oil. It contains two phenols, betel-phenol (chavibetol) and chavicol. Cadinene has also been found. The best oil is a clear yellow color obtained from the fresh leaves. The Indians use the leaves as a masticatory (the taste being warm, aromatic and bitter), together with scraped areca nut and lime.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The leaves are stimulant antiseptic and sialogogue; the oil is an active local stimulant used in the treatment of respiratory catarrhs as a local application or gargle, also as an inhalant in diphtheria. In India the leaves are used as a counter-irritant to suppress the secretion of milk in mammary abscesses. The juice of 4 leaves is equivalent in power to one drop of the oil.
---Dosage---Betel oil, 1 to 2 minims.
Botanical: Trillium pendulum (WILLD.)
Trillium erectum (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Liliaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Indian Shamrock. Birthroot. Lamb's Quarters. Wake-Robin. Indian Balm. Ground Lily.
---Parts Used---The dried root and rhizome. The leaves.
---Habitat---Middle and Western United States.
---Description---All the seventeen species of the genus are North American plants, distinguished by their possession of three green, persistent sepals and three larger withering petals, of varying color.
Trillium erectum or T. pendulum, perennial, smooth herb, has an erect stem of from 10 to 15 inches in height, bearing three leaves, broad, almost rhomboid, and drooping white flowers, terminal and solitary. Grows in the rich soil of damp and shady woodlands, flowering in May and June.
The official description of the rhizome is 'oblique, globular, oblong or obconical, truncate below., terminated by a small bud surrounded by a sheath of scarious leaf bases annulated by leaf scars and fissured by stem scars. It is from 0.6 to 5 cm. in length, and from 0.6 to 3.5 cm. in width, more or less compressed laterally, rootlet scars in several concentrie rows on the underside in the upper portions. Externally yellowish to reddish brown; internally of a pale yellow; fracture somewhat uneven with a more or less spongy appearance. Odour distinct; taste bitter and acrid, with a sensation of warmth in the throat, and when chewed causing an increased flow of saliva. Trillium yields not more than 5 per cent. of ash.'
The drug is one of those prepared by the Shakers.
---Constituents---There have been found in it volatile and fixed oils, tannic acid, saponin, a glucoside resembling convallamarin, an acid crystalline principle colored brown tinged with purple by sulphuric acid, and light green with sulphuric acid and potassium dichromate, gum, resin, and much starch.
The fluid extract is an ingredient in Compound Elixir of Viburnum Opulus.
Professor E. S. Wayne isolated the active principle, calling it Trilline, but the preparation sold under that name has no medicinal value, while the Trilline of Professor Wayne has not been used.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Is said to have been in use among the aborigines and early settlers of North America. It is antiseptic, astringent and tonic expectorant, being used principally in haemorrhages, to promote parturition, and externally, usually in the form of a poultice, as a local irritant in skin diseases, or to restrain gangrene.
The leaves, boiled in lard, are sometimes applied to ulcers and tumours.
The roots may be boiled in milk, when they are helpful in diarrhoea and dysentery.
---Dosages---Of powdered root, a drachm three times a day. Of fluid extract, 30 minims, as astringent and tonic expectorant. Trilline, 2 to 4 grains.
---Other Species---Most of the genus Trillium have medicinal properties, especially T. erythrocarpum, T. grandiflorum, T. sessile, and T. nivale.
The acrid species are useful in fevers and chronic affections of the air-passages. Merely smelling the freshly-exposed surface of the red Beth roots will check bleeding from the nose.
Botanical: Stachys Betonica (BENTH.), Betonica officinalis (LINN.)
Family N.O. Labiatae
Part Used Medicinally
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Habitat---It is a pretty woodland plant, met with frequently throughout England, but by no means common in Scotland. Though generally growing in woods and copses, it is occasionally to be found in more open situations, and amongst the tangled growths on heaths and moors.
There are five species of Stachys growing wild in this country - the once much-valued Betony (S. Betonica); the Marsh Stachys, or Clown's Woundwort (S. palustris); the true Woundwort (S. Germanica), a doubtful native, occurring occasionally on limestone soils in England, but very common on the Continent, where the dense covering of its leaves was at one time in rustic surgery employed in the place of lint for dressing wounds, the low-creeping Field Stachys (S. arvensis); and the Hedge Stachys, or Hedge Woundwort (S. sylvatica), perhaps the commonest of them all.
---History---The Wood Betony (S. Betonica according to present-day nomenclature, though nemed Betonica officinalis, by Linnaeus) was held in high repute not only in the Middle Ages, but also by the Greeks who extolled its qualities. An old Italian proverb, ' Sell your coat and buy Betony, ' and 'He has as many virtues as Betony,' a saying of the Spaniards, show what value was placed on its remedial properties. Antonius Musa, chief physician to the Emperor Augustus, wrote a long treatise, showing it was a certain cure for no less than fortyseven diseases.
Throughout the centuries, faith in its virtues as a panacea for all ills was thoroughly ingrained in the popular estimation. It was largely cultivated in the physic gardens, both of the apothecaries and the monasteries, and may still be found growing about the sites of these ancient buildings. Robert Turner, a physician writing in the latter half of the seventeenth century, recounts nearly thirty complaints for which Betony was considered efficacious, and adds, 'I shall conclude with the words I have found in an old manuscript under the virtues of it: "More than all this have been proved of Betony." '
In addition to its medicinal virtues, Betony was endowed with power against evil spirits. On this account, it was carefully planted in churchyards and hung about the neck as an amulet or charm, sanctifying, as Erasmus tells us, 'those that carried it about them,' and being also 'good against fearful visions' and an efficacious means of 'driving away devils and despair.' An old writer, Apelius, says:
'It is good whether for the man's soul or for his body; it shields him against visions and dreams, and the wort is very wholesome, and thus thou shalt gather it, in the month of August without the use of iron; and when thou hast gathered it, shake the mold till nought of it cleave thereon, and then dry it in the shade very thoroughly, and with its root altogether reduce it to dust: then use it and take of it when thou needst.'
Many extravagant superstitions grew up round Betony, one, of very ancient date, was that serpents would fight and kill each other if placed within a ring composed of it; and others declared that even wild beasts recognized its efficacy and used it if wounded, and that stags, if wounded with a dart, would search out Betony, and, eating it, be cured.
---Description---It comes up year after year from a thickish, woody root. The stems rise to a height of from 1 to 2 feet, and are slender, square and furrowed. They bear at wide intervals a few pairs of oblong, stalkless leaves, 2 to 3 inches long, and about 3/4 to 1 inch broad, with roughly indented margins in other plants of this group, the pairs of leaves arise on alternate sides of the stem. The majority of the leaves, however, spring from the root and these are larger, on long stalks and of a drawn-out, heart shape. All the leaves are rough to the touch and are also fringed with short, fine hairs; their whole surface is dotted with glands containing a bitter, aromatic oil.
At the top of the stem are the two-lipped flowers of a very rich purplish-red, arranged in dense rings or whorls, which together form short spikes. Then there is a break and a piece of bare stem, with two or four oblong, stalkless leaves and then more flowers, the whole forming what is termed an interrupted spike, a characteristic peculiarity by which Wood Betony is known from all other labiate flowers. The cup or calyx of each flower is crowned by five sharp points, each representing a sepal. The corolla is a long tube ending in two lips, the upper lip slightly arched, the lower one flat, of three equal lobes. The four stamens lie in two pairs within the arch of the upper lip, one pair longer than the other, and shed their pollen on to the back of bee visitors who come to drink the honey in the tube, and thus unconsciously effect the fertilization of the next flower they visit, by carrying to it this pollen that has been dusted upon them. After fertilization, four brown, smooth three-cornered nutlets are developed. The flowers are in bloom during July and August.
The common name of this plant is said by Pliny to have been first Vettonica, from the Vettones a people of Spain, but modern authors resolve the word into the primitive or Celtic form of bew (a head) and ton (good), it being good for complaints in the head. It has sometimes, also, been called Bishopswort, the reason for which is not evident. The name of the genus, Stachys, is a Greek word, signifying a spike, from the mode of flowering.
---Part Used Medicinally---The whole herb, collected from wild plants in July, when at their best, and dried.
Collect only on a fine day, in the morning, but after the dew has been dried by the sun, Cut off the stems shortly above the root (which is no longer used, as in olden days); strip off all discolored or insect-eaten leaves, and as the stems are fairly firm, tie them up in bunches of about six stalks together, spread out fanwise, so that the air can penetrate to them all, and hang them over strings to dry, either in half-shade, in the open air, or in the drying room. The bunches should be of uniform sizes to facilitate packing when dry. If dried out-of-doors, take in before there is any risk of becoming damp from dew or showers. For drying indoors, a warm, sunny attic or loft may be employed, the window being left open by day, so that there is a current of air, and the moist, hot air may escape: the door may also be left open. The temperature should be from 70 to 100 degrees F. Failing sun any ordinary shed, fitted with racks and shelves, can be used as a drying room, provided it is ventilated near the roof and has a warm current of air, caused by an ordinary coke or anthracite stove. The important point in drying is rapidity and the avoidance of steaming: the quicker the process of drying, the more even the color obtained, making the product more saleable.
All dried leaves and herbs should be packed away at once in wooden boxes or tins in a dry place, as otherwise they re-absorb about 12 per cent. of moisture from the air, and are liable to become mouldy. The herbs should not be pressed down heavily when packing, or they will tend to crumble.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Betony was once the sovereign remedy for all maladies of the head, and its properties as a nervine and tonic are still acknowledged, though it is more frequently employed in combination with other nervines than alone. It is useful in hysteria, palpitations pain in the head and face, neuralgia and all nervous affections. In the Medicina Britannica (1666) we read: 'I have known the most obstinate headaches cured by daily breakfasting for a month or six weeks on a decoction of Betony made with new milk and strained.'
As an aromatic, it has also astringent and alterative action, and combined with other remedies is used as a tonic in dyspepsia and as an alterative in rheumatism, scrofula and impurities of the blood.
The weak infusion forms a very acceptable substitute for tea, and in this way is extensively used in many localities. It has somewhat the taste of tea and all the good qualities of it, without the bad ones. To make Betony tea, pour a pint of boiling water on an ounce of the dried herb. A wineglassful of this decoction three times a dayproves a benefit against languid nervous headaches.
The dried herb may also be smoked as tobacco, combined with Eyebright and Coltsfoot, for relieving headache.
A pinch of the powdered herb will provoke violent sneezing. The dried leaves formed an ingredient in Rowley's British Herb Snuff, which was at one time quite famous for headaches.
The fresh leaves are said to have an intoxicating effect. They have been used to dye wool a fine yellow.
Gerard tells us, among other uses, that Betony,
'preserveth the lives and bodies of men from the danger of epidemical diseases. It helpeth those that loathe and cannot digest their food. It is used either dry or green either the root or herb - or the flowers, drunk in broth or meat or made into conserve syrup, water, electuary or powder - as everyone may best frame themselves, or as time or season requires.'
He proceeds to say that the herb cures the jaundice, falling sickness, palsy, convulsions, gout, dropsy and head troubles, and that 'the powder mixed with honey is no less available for all sorts of colds or cough, wheezing, of shortness of breath and consumption,' also that 'the decoction made with mead and Pennyroyal is good for putrid agues,' and made in wine is good as a vermifuge, 'and also removes obstructions of the spleen and liver.' Again,
'the decoction with wine gargled in the mouth easeth the toothache.... It is a cure for the bites of mad dogs.... A dram of the powder taken with a little honey in some vinegar is good for refreshing those that are wearied by travel. It stayeth bleeding at the nose and mouth, and helpeth those that spit blood, and is good for those that have a rupture and are bruised. The green herb bruised, or the juice, applied to any inward hurt, or outward wound in body or head will quickly heal and close it up. It will draw forth any broken bone or splinter, thorn or other thing gotten into the flesh, also healeth old sores or ulcers and boils. The root is displeasing both to taste and stomach, whereas the leaves and flowers by their sweet and spicy taste, comfort both in meat and medicine.'
See FIGWORT, WATER.
Botanical: Vaccinium myrtillus (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Vacciniaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Whortleberry. Black Whortles. Whinberry. Trackleberry. Huckleberry. Hurts. Bleaberry. Hurtleberry. Airelle. Vaccinium Frondosum. Blueberries.
---Parts Used---The ripe fruit. The leaves.
---Habitat---Europe, including Britain, Siberia and Barbary.
---Description---V. myrtillus grows abundantly in our heathy and mountainous districts, a small branched shrub, with wiry angular branches, rarely over a foot high, bearing globular wax-like flowers and black berries, which are covered when quite ripe with a delicate grey bloom, hence its name in Scotland, 'Blea-berry,' from an old North Countryword, 'blae,' meaning livid or bluish. The name Bilberry (by some old writers 'Bulberry') is derived from the Danish 'bollebar,' meaning dark berry. There is a variety with white fruits.
The leathery leaves (in form somewhat like those of the myrtle, hence its specific name) are at first rosy, then yellowish-green, and in autumn turn red and are very ornamental. They have been utilized to adulterate tea.
Bilberries flourish best on high grounds, being therefore more abundant in the north and west than in the south and east of England: they are absent from the low-lying Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, but on the Surrey hills, where they are called 'Hurts,' cover the ground for miles.
The fruit is globular, with a flat top, about the size of a black currant. When eaten raw, they have a slightly acid flavour. When cooked, however, with sugar, they make an excellent preserve. Gerard tells us that 'the people of Cheshire do eate the black whortles in creame and milke as in these southern parts we eate strawberries.' On the Continent, they are often employed for coloring wine.
Stewed with a little sugar and lemon peel in an open tart, Bilberries make a very enjoyable dish. Before the War, immense quantities of them were imported annually from Holland, Germany and Scandinavia. They were used mainly by pastrycooks and restaurant-keepers.
Owing to its rich juice, the Bilberry can be used with the least quantity of sugar in making jam: half a pound of sugar to the pound of berries is sufficient if the preserve is to be eaten soon. The minuteness of the seeds makes them more suitable for jam than currants.
---Constituents---Quinic acid is found in the leaves, and a little tannin. Triturated with water they yield a liquid which, filtered and assayed with sulphate of iron, becomes a beautiful green, first of all transparent, then giving a green precipitate.
The fruits contain sugar, etc.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The leaves can be used in the same way as those of UvaUrsi. The fruits are astringent, and are especially valuable in diarrhoea and dysentery, in the form of syrup. The ancients used them largely, and Dioscorides spoke highly of them. They are also used for discharges, and as antigalactagogues. A decoction of the leaves or bark of the root may be used as a local application to ulcers, and in ulceration of the mouth and throat.
The fruit is helpful in scurvy and urinary complaints, and when bruised with the roots and steeped in gin has diuretic properties valuable in dropsy and gravel. A tea made of the leaves is also a remedy for diabetes if taken for a prolonged period.
---Dosages---Of powder of the berries, 4 grammes. Of syrup, 60 grammes to a litre of water. Of fluid extract, 1/2 to 2 drachms.
---Other Species---V. arboreum, or Farkleberry. This is the most astringent variety, and both berries and root-bark may be used internally for diarrhoea, chronic dysentery, etc. The infusion is valuable as a local application in sore throat, chronic ophthalmia, leucorrhoea, etc.
V. resinosum, V. damusum, and V. gorymbosum have properties resembling those of V. myrtillus.
The Bog Bilberry ( V. uliginosum) is a smaller, less erect plant, with round stems and untoothed leaves, greyish green beneath. Both flowers and berries are smaller than those of the common Bilberry. This kind is quite absent in the south and only to be found in mountain bogs and moist copses, in Scotland, Durham and Westmorland.
The berries of both species are a favourite food of birds.
The 'Huckleberry' of North America, so widely appreciated there, is our Bilberry - the name being an obvious corruption of 'Whortleberry.'
---Recipe for Bilberry Jam---
Put 3 lb. of clean, fresh fruit in a preserving pan with 1 1/2 lb. of sugar and about 1 cupful of water and bring to the boil. Then boil rapidly for 40 minutes. Apple juice made from windfalls and peelings, instead of the water, improves this jam. To make apple juice, cover the apples with water, stew down, and strain the juice through thick muslin. Blackberries may also be added to this mixture.
If the jam is to be kept long it must be bottled hot in screw-top jars, or, if tied down in the ordinary way, more sugar must be added.
Bilberry juice yields a clear, dark-blue or purple dye that has been much used in the dyeing of wool and the picking of berries for this purpose, as well as for food, constitutes a summer industry in the 'Hurts' districts. Owing to the shortage of the aniline dyestuffs formerly imported from Germany, Bilberries were eagerly bought up at high prices by dye manufacturers during the War, so that in 1917 and 1918 a large proportion of the Bilberry crop was not available for jam-making, as the dyers were scouring the country for the little blue-black berries.
Family: N.O. Convolvulaciae
---Uses---All the Convolvulus family have purgative properties in a greater or less degree. Convolvulus Scammonia is used in homoeopathy. A tincture is made from the gum resin. The drugs known as Jalap and Scammony are produced from the Jalap Bindweed and the C. Scammonia.
There are three kinds of Convolvulus or Bindweed in our native flora: the Field, Hedge, and the Sea Convolvulus. We have also many southern species growing in our gardens, chief among which are the handsome Morning Glory (Ipomea purpurea Linn.), C. purpureus, a native of Asia and America, with large purple flowers, and the pretty little annual, C. minor, a native of southern Europe, its cheerful flowers a combination of blue, yellow and white.
Botanical: Convolvulus sepium
---Synonyms---Hedge Convolvulus. Old Man's Night Cap. Hooded Bindweed. Bearbind.
---Habitat---The Greater Bindweed, or Hedge Convolvulus (C. sepium), is a hedge plant found abundantly throughout England and Scotland, but only of local occurrence in Scotland. Like the Field Convolvulus, it is, in spite of the beauty of its flowers, regarded as a pest by both the farmer and the gardener, its roots being long and penetrating in a dense mass that exhausts the soil, and its twining stems extending in masses over all other plants near, and strangling them to a still greater degree than its smaller relative
---Description---The leaves of this Bindweed are arrow-shaped and large, somewhat thin and delicate in texture. They are arranged singly on alternate sides of the stem, as is the case with all species of Convolvulus and from their axils spring the flower-stalks, which are square and in every case bear only one large blossom, conspicuous for its snowy whiteness. The flowers are among the largest which this country produces. The calyx is entirely hidden by the two large bracts that enclose it, and which completely hide the flower while in bud, a feature that has gained it also the name of 'Hooded Bindweed,' and has led some botanists to place it in a different genus, Calystegia, the name being derived from two Greek words signifying 'beautiful covering.' The specific name, sepium, is derived from the Latin sepes, a hedge, andrefers to its place of growth.
The flowers are in bloom from July to September, and like all the other species expand during sunshine and remain closed during dull weather. They do not, however, like those of the Field Convolvulus, close during a shower.
Anne Pratt (Flowers and their Associations) notices the fact that while some twining plants follow the apparent course of the sun and turn round the supporting stem from left to right, others, like the large White Bindweed or Convolvulus, twine contrary to the sun, from right to left, and never otherwise; even if the gardener turn it in another direction, the plant, if unable to disengage itself and assume its natural bias, will eventually perish.
Botanical: Convolvulus Jalapa (LINN.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Habitat---The Jalap Bindweed (C. Jalapa, Linn.), but more often called Ipomea Jalapa or purga, is a native of South America and Mexico. It derives its name from Xalapa, in Mexico, where it is very abundant. It is freely grown out of doors, however, in the southern countries of Europe, and plants have been grown here in the garden of the Society of Apothecaries and also in Norfolk and Hampshire.
---Description---It is a handsome climbing convolvulaceous plant with crimson flowers and a tuberous root, which is of officinal value. The tubers, varying in size from a walnut to an orange, are dark, umber-brown in color and much wrinkled. They are imported either whole or sliced.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The drug Jalap is prepared from a resin which abounds in the roots. It has a slight smoky odour and the taste is unpleasant, followed by pungent acridity. It has strong cathartic and purgative action, and is used in constipation, pain and colic in the bowels and general intestinal torpor, being combined, in compound powder, with other laxatives, and with carminatives such as ginger, cloves, etc. It accelerates the action of rhubarb.
Jalap forms a safe purge for children, being given in sugar or jam to disguise the taste, and has been used thus with calomel or wormwood as a vermifuge. It proves an excellent purge in rheumatism.
---Preparations---Powdered root, 3 to 20 grains. Tincture, B.P., 1/2 to 1 drachm. Powdered resin, 2 to 5 grains. Compound powder, B.P., 1 to 2 drachms. Jalapin, 1 to 3 grains.
Other members of this Convolvulus family have economic uses. C. dissectus, an American species abounds in prussic acid, the liquor known as Noyau being prepared from it with the aid of alcohol, and the oil of Rodium, which is so attractive to rats as to cause them to swarm to it without fear, even if held in the hand of a rat-catcher, is the produce of another Convolvulus, known as C. Rhodorhiza.
One of the most important members of the order economically is C. Batatas, the tuberous-rooted Bindweed, or SWEET POTATO, the roots of which abound in starch and sugar and form a nourishing food, very valuable in the tropics, where it is largely cultivated. The roots are somewhat in shape like an oblong and ugly potato, often club-shaped, and are of a reddish color. When cooked, they are excessively sweet, not unlike liquorice, and not attractive in appearance. They are usually of greater size and weight than ordinary potatoes.
Before the introduction of the Potato into Europe, the Sweet Potato was regularly imported as a wholesome article of diet, and was grown in Spain and Portugal, to which it had been brought from the West Indies. The Potato which Shakespeare mentions twice - in the Merry Wives of Windsor and in Troilus and Cressida - is the Sweet Potato, and not the more familiar tuber of our days.
Botanical: Convolvulus Soldanella
---Habitat---The Sea Bindweed (C. Soldanella) is a very beautiful species growing only on sandy sea-shores, decorating the sloping sides of sand-hills with its large, pale rosecolored flowers striped with red.
---Description---Its stems are not climbing being usually buried beneath the sand, the flowers and leaves merely rising above the surface. The leaves are fleshy, roundish or kidney-shaped, about the size of the Lesser Celandine, placed singly on alternate sides of the stem on long foot-stalks. The flowers are produced singly at each side of the stem, on four-sided, winged stalks, and blossom in July, being succeeded by round capsules. The bracts are large, egg-shaped and close to the flower, which is nearly as large as the Great Bindweed, and expands in the morning and in bright weather, closing before night. This species is also frequently assigned to the genus Calystegia.
Botanical: Convolvulus Scammonia
Medicinal Action and Uses
Morning Glory (Convolvulus Duartinus)
---Habitat---The Syrian Bindweed, or Scammony (C. Scammonia), can be grown here and will thrive well on dry soil, but we import from Smyrna and Aleppo what is needed for medicinal purposes.
---Description---It has flowers of a very delicate tint of sulphur yellow and leaves of a similar shape to our native species.
The roots are 3 to 4 feet long and from 9 to 12 inches in circumference; tapering, covered with a light grey bark and containing a milky juice. Scammony is a gummy resin, obtained from this milky juice of the root by clearing away the earth from the upper part of the root and cutting off the top obliquely, about 2 inches below where the stalks spring. Then a vessel is fixed in such a position as to receive the exuding juice, which gradually hardens and becomes the Scammony of commerce. The best Scammony is black, resinous and shining when in the lump, but of a whitish-ash color when powdered, with a strong cheesy smell and a somewhat acrid taste, turning milky when touched by the tongue. It occurs in commerce in irregular pieces 1 to 2 inches or more in diameter.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Scammony is a drastic cathartic, closely allied in its operation to Jalap; though not so nauseous, it is more active and irritating, and in inflammatory conditions of the alimentary canal should not be used.
The root itself is seldom used: the resin prepared from it is generally combined with other cathartics to diminish its action and prevent griping.
---Preparations---Powdered root, 3 to 12 grains. Powdered resin, B.P., 3 to 8 grains. Compound Powder, B.P., 10 to 20 grains.
It appears to have been well known to the Greek and Arabian physicians, who used it for various other purposes as well as for a purgative. The dose is generally from 3 to 12 grains. Seven grains of Scammony resin gradually rubbed well up with 3 oz. milk forms a safe purgative, to which a taste of ginger can be added. It is used as a smart purge for children, especially for those with worms, on account of the smallness of the dose necessary to produce its effect, the slight taste and the energy of its operation.
It is useful as a hydragogue in dropsies. Meyrick considered it a rough and powerful, but very useful purgative of great service in rheumatic and other chronic disorders, reaching the seat of many sources of trouble that an ordinary purge does not affect.
The leaves of the Sea Bindweed abound with a milky juice which has been employed as a purge - in 1/2 oz. doses. Applied externally, the leaves are reputed to diminish dropsical swelling of the feet. The whole plant used to be gathered fresh, when about to Hower, and boiled in ale, with nutmegs and cloves, and the decoction given as a strong purge, which was said to be best adapted to robust constitutions, being very violent in its action. The juice oozing from the stalks and root of the Sea Bindweed hardens into a kind of resin, which is also used as a purge in the same way as Scammony - a closelyrelated plant of foreign origin, which is much imported for this purpose.
Both the preceding species of Convolvulus also possess the virtues of Scammony. The smallness of their roots prevents the juice being collected in the same way as the foreign species, but an extract made from the expressed juice of the roots or any preparation of them has the same purgative quality, only in less degree. Meyrick states that the root of C. arvensis is a rough purgative, and to such constitutions as can bear it, will prove serviceable in jaundice, dropsy and other disorders arising from obstructions of the viscera, the best method of administering it being to bruise the roots and give their expressed juice in strong beer. The juice of theGreater Bindweed, taken in doses of 20 to 30 grains is also a powerful drastic purge, and country people often boil its freshly-gathered roots in ale in the same manner as the Field Bindweed. Though for those of a strong constitution there is no better purge, on account of the nausea which it tends to produce, it is not considered fit for the delicate.
Botanical: Convolvulus Duartinus
Common: MORNING GLORY
A tincture of the flowers is used for headaches, rheumatism and inflamed eyes.
See (FIELD) CONVOLVULUS.
Botanical: Betula alba (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Betulaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---White Birch. Bouleau. Berke. Bereza. Monoecia triandria. B. pubescens. B. verrucosa.
---Parts Used---The bark and the leaves.
---Habitat---Europe, from Sicily to Iceland. Northern Asia.
---History---The name is a very ancient one, probably derived from the Sanscrit bhurga, 'a tree whose bark is used for writing upon.' From its uses in boat-building and roofing it is also connected with the A.S. beorgan, 'to protect or shelter.'
Coleridge speaks of it as the 'Lady of the Woods.' It is remarkable for its lightness, grace, and elegance, and after rain it has a fragrant odour.
The young branches are of a rich red brown or orange brown, and the trunks usually white, especially in the second species of B. alba, B. verrucosa. B. pubescens is darker, and has downy instead of warted twigs.
The wood is soft and not very durable, but being cheap, and the tree being able to thrive in any situation and soil, growing all over Europe, is used for many humble purposes, such as bobbins for thread mills, herring-barrel staves, broom handles, and various fancy articles. In country districts the Birch has very many uses, the lighter twigs being employed for thatching and wattles. The twigs are also used in broom making and in the manufacture of cloth. The tree has also been one of the sources from which asphyxiating gases have been manufactured, and its charcoal is much used for gunpowder.
The white epidermis of the bark is separable into thin layers, which may be employed as a substitute for oiled paper and applied to various economical uses. It yields oil of Birch Tar, and the peculiar, well-known odour of russia leather is due to the use of this oil in the process of dressing. It likewise imparts durability to leather, and it isowing to its presence that books bound in russia leather are not liable to become mouldy. The production of Birch Tar oil is a Russian industry of considerable importance. It is also distilled in Holland and Germany, but these oils are appreciably different from the Russian oil. It has the property of keeping away insects and preventing gnatbites when smeared on the hands. It is likewise employed in photography.
When the stem of the tree is wounded, a saccharine juice flows out which is susceptible, with yeast, of vinous fermentation. A beer, wine, spirit and vinegar are prepared from it in some parts of Europe. Birch Wine, concocted from this thin, sugary sap of the tree, collected from incisions made in the trees in March, honey, cloves and lemon peel being added and then the whole fermented with yeast, makes a very pleasant cordial, formerly much appreciated. From 16 to 18 gallons of sap may be drawn from one large tree, and a moderate tapping does no harm.
---Constituents---Birch bark only contains about 3 per cent. of tannic acid, but is extensively used for tanning, wherever there are large birch forests, throughout Northern Europe. As it gives a pale color to the skin, it is used for the preliminary and the final stages of tanning. It contains betulin and betuls camphor.
The leaves contain betulorentic acid.
By destructive distillation, the white epidermis of the bark yields an empyreumatic oil, known variously in commerce as oil of Birch Tar, Oleum Rusci, Oleum Betulinum or Dagget. This is a thick, bituminous, brownish-black liquid, with a pungent, balsamic odour. It contains a high percentage of methylsalicylate, and also creosol and guaiacol. The Rectified Oil (Oleum Rusci Rectificatum) is sometimes substituted for oil of Cade.
Birch Tar oil is almost identical with Wintergreen oil. It is not completely soluble in 95 per cent. acetic acid, nor in aniline, but Turpentine oil dissolves it completely.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Various parts of the tree have been applied to medicinal uses. The young shoots and leaves secrete a resinous substance having acid properties, which, combined with alkalies, is said to be a tonic laxative. The leaves have a peculiar, aromatic, agreeable odour and a bitter taste, and have been employed in the form of infusion (Birch Tea) in gout, rheumatism and dropsy, and recommended as a reliable solvent of stone in the kidneys. With the bark they resolve and resist putrefaction. A decoction of them is good for bathing skin eruptions, and is serviceable in dropsy.
The oil is astringent, and is mainly employed for its curative effects in skin affections, especially eczema, but is also used for some Internal maladies.
The inner bark is bitter and astringent, and has been used in intermittent fevers.
The vernal sap is diuretic.
Moxa is made from the yellow, fungous excrescences of the wood, which sometimes swell out from the fissures.
---Dosage---Of alcoholic extract of the leaves, 25 to 30 grains daily.
B. benta (Cherry Birch, Black Birch, Sweet Birch, Mahogany Birch, or Mountain Mahogany) is an American variety, with richlymarked wood suitable for the use of cabinet and pianoforte makers. The liquor is used in Kamschatka without previous fermentation. The cambium, or the layer between the wood and the bast, is eaten in the spring, cut into strips like vermicelli, and the bark is stimulant, diaphoretic, and astringent, in a warm infusion. In decoction or syrup it forms an excellent tonic for dysentery, and is said to be useful in gravel and female obstructions.
B. trophylla is a syn. of Rhus Aromatica, or Fragrant Sumach.
B. papyracea, or Paper Birch, is largely used for canoe-making in America.
B. nana, or Smooth Dwarf Birch, rarely grows above 3 feet in height. The leaves are said to dye a better yellow than the Common Birch; the seeds are a principal food of ptarmigan in Lapland; Moxa is prepared from it and regarded as an effective remedy in all painful diseases.
Botanical: Aristolochia longa (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Aristolochiaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Part Used---The root.
---Habitat---Southern Europe and Japan.
---Description---There are several species of the Aristolochias used by herbalists in India. The root is spindle-shaped from 5 cm. to 3 dm. in length, about 2 cm. in thickness, fleshy, very brittle, greyish externally, brownish-yellow inside, bitter and of a strong disagreeable odour when fresh.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Said to be useful as an aromatic stimulant in rheumatism and gout and for removing obstructions, etc., after childbirth. Dose, 1/2 to 1 drachm of the powdered root.
Aristolochia, cymbifera from Brazil and Mexico is said to have medicinal properties similar to the official species. Butte affirms it is a depressant to the sensory nerve centres and is useful in neuralgia and pruritis; it was formerly considered alexiteric, antiparalytic, antiperiodic and aphrodisiac.
A. Argentina root is used in that republic as a diuretic and diaphoretic, especially for rheumatism.
A. Indica is used as an emmenagogue, antiarthritic, stomachic, purgative and vermifuge, and in the East Indies is used for similar purposes as the American and European species.
A. Sempervirens is said to be used by the Arabians as a remedy against the poisonous effects of snake-bite.
A. Foetida in Mexico is used as a stimulant to foul ulcers.
A. serpentaria used in bilious, typhoid and typhus fevers, smallpox, pneumonia, amenorrhoea and fevers of a septicaemic type. It is often given in combination with Peruvian Bark, rendering it more active and preventing ill effects on the stomach. It is also used in North America, as are several other varieties of the species, as an alexiteric and for the bites of mad dogs.
Botanical: Polygonurn Bistorta (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Polygonaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Osterick. Oderwort. Snakeweed. Easter Mangiant. Adderwort. Twice Writhen.
---Part Used---The root-stock, gathered in March, when the leaves begin to shoot, and dried.
---Habitat---A native of many parts of Northern Europe, occurring in Siberia and in Japan and in Western Asia to the Himalayas. It is common in the north of England and in southern Scotland, growing in moist meadows, though only of local occurrence; in Ireland, it is very rare.
---History---In many places, it can only be regarded as an escape from cultivation, its leaves and young shoots having formerly been widely used in the spring as a vegetable, being still, indeed, in the north of England an ingredient in Herb Pudding, under the name of 'Easter-mangiant,' the latter word a corruption of mangeant, i.e. a plant to be eaten at Easter, 'Easter Giant' and 'Easter Ledges' being variations of this name In Lancashire and Cumberland, the leaves and young shoots were eaten as a green vegetable under the name of Patience Dock and Passions. The roots and leaves had also a great reputation as a remedy for wounds, so that the plant was generally cultivated for medicinal use, as well as for employment as a vegetable.
The name Bistort (Latin bis = twice, torta = twisted) bears reference to the twice-twisted character of the root-stock, an old local name, 'Twice-Writhen,' being a literal translation of the Latin. Its twisted, creeping nature is also the origin of the names Snakeroot, Adderwort and Snakeweed. It was at one time called Serpentaria, Columbrina, Dracunculus and Serpentary Dragonwort, and has been thought to be the Oxylanathum Britannicum and Limonium of the ancients.
Externally, the root-stock is black, but internally is colored red and is rich in tannic and gallic acids, which makes it a powerful astringent and has enabled it to be used in tanning leather, when procurable in sufficient quantity.
The root-stock, as it appears in commerce, is about 2 inches long and 3/5 inch broad, twice bent, as in the letter S, more or less annulate, bearing a few slender roots, otherwise smooth, reddish brown internally, dark purplish or blackish brown externally, depressed or channelled on the upper surface, convex and with depressed root-scars below with a thick bark surrounding a ring of small woody wedges, which encloses a pith equal in thickness to the bark.
The drug has an astringent and starchy taste, but no odour.
Besides being one of the strongest vegetable astringents among our native plants, the roots contain much starch, and after being steeped in water and subsequently roasted have been largely consumed in Russia, Siberia and Iceland in time of scarcity and are said after such preparation to be nutritious and a useful article of food, bread having been made of the root-flour of this and another Siberian species of Polygonum.
Where established, the Bistort becomes often a noxious weed in low-lying pastures, frequently forming large patches difficult to extirpate on account of its creeping root-stock.
---Description---A number of tuberous roots are produced from the S-shaped root-stock from the upper side of which spring directly large oval leaves, with heart-shaped bases, of a bluish-green color on the upper side and ash-grey, tinged with purple, underneath, both leaf-stalks and blades being about 6 inches long. The upper part of the leafstalk is winged. The flower-stalk, 12 to 18 inches high, is very erect, slender, unbranched, and bears leaves smaller than the root-leaves and few in number, broader at their base and on very short stalks. The stems terminate in a dense, cylindrical spike of striking flesh-colored flowers, which consist of five colored sepals, eight stamens and an ovary with two to three styles. The flowers are grouped in twos, one flower complete, the other with normal stamens, but only a rudimentary ovary. The styles of the complete flower do not mature and become receptive of pollen from visiting insects, till their stamens have shed their pollen and fallen, cross-fertilization thus being ensured. The flowers are produced in May and June and again in September and October. The fruit is three-seeded, the ripe seeds are small, brown and shining. Birds commonly feed upon the seeds, which can be employed to fatten poultry.
---Cultivation---The plant may be propagated by division of the root-stock, in early autumn or spring. Bistort is sometimes used to ornament moist parts of the rockery and shady border. When grown in bold masses, it is a handsome and attractive plant.
When it has a corner in the kitchen garden, it is well to pluck it now and then, even when it is not immediately required for culinary purposes, as the plant has a strong tendency to disappear.
---Constituents---Bistort root has never been carefully analysed, but it is known to contain about 20 per cent. of tannin and a large amount of starch, as well as some gallic acid and gum. Its virtues are extracted by water and its decoction becomes inky black on the addition of a persalt of iron and with gelatine it forms a precipitate. Red coloring matter is also present.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Bistort root is one of the strongest astringent medicines in the vegetable kingdom and highly styptic and may be used to advantage for all bleedings, whether external or internal and wherever astringency is required. Although its use has greatly been superseded by other astringents of foreign origin, it is of proved excellence in diarrhoea, dysentery, cholera and all bowel complaints and in haemorrhages from the lungs and stomach, and is a most effectual remedy for bleeding from the nose and exceedingly useful in dealing with haemorrhoids. It is used - as a medicine, injection and gargle - in mucous discharges, as well as for haemorrhages.
A teaspoonful of the powdered root, in a cupful of boiling water, may be drunk freely as required.
The decoction, often also used, is made from 1 OZ. of the bruised root boiled in 1 pint of water. One tablespoonful of this is given every two hours in passive bleedings and for simple diarrhoea. The decoction is also useful as an injection in profuse menstruation and in leucorrhoea and is a useful wash in ulcerated mouth and gums, and as a gargle. It is also used as a lotion to ulcers attended with a discharge.
Bistort is considered valuable for diabetes, given in conjunction with tonics, and has itself tonic action.
The older herbalists considered both the leaves and roots to have 'a powerful faculty to resist poison.' Combined with the bitter flag root (calamus), the root was used to cure intermittent fever and ague. Green (Universal Herbal, 1832) cites its frequent use in intermittent fever, both alone and with gentian, 3 drachms daily being administered.
It was used, dried, and powdered on cuts and wounds to stop bleeding. The decoction in wine, made from the powder, was drunk freely 'to stay internal bleedings and fluxes,' and was considered 'available against ruptures, burstings and bluises from falls and blows'- also to 'help jaundice, expel the venom of the plague, smallpox, measles or other infectious disease, driving it out by sweating.' A distilled water of the leaves and roots was used to wash any part stung or bitten by a venomous creature, or to wash running sores or ulcers; also as a gargle in sore throat and to harden spongy gums, attended with looseness of teeth and soreness of the mouth. Gerard stated that the root would have this effect, 'being holden in the mouth for a certaine space and at sundry times.' He also states that 'the juice of Bistort put into the nose prevaileth much against the disease called Polybus.'
The root was also employed externally as a poultice.
The powdered leaves were employed to kill worms in children.
In Salmon's Herbal the following preparations are given, with their uses:
1. A liquid juice of the whole plant.
2. A distilled water of the roots and leaves.
3. A powder of the leaves (good to killworms and for other things.)
4. A powder of the root. (Prevails against malignity of measles and small-pox and expels the poyson of the Plague or Pestilence or of any other infectious disease, driving it out by sweating.)
5. A compound powder of the root (made of equal quantities of Bistort, Pellitory of Spain and burnt Allum made into a paste with a little honey and put in hollow of a tooth or at the side, eases their pain and stops the defluxion of rheum on the part cleanses the head and brain and causes evacuation of abundance of rheumatic matter.
6. A decoction of the root in wine or water.
7. A decoction compound of the root. (6 oz. Bistort root, 4 oz. Angelica, 4 oz. of Zedoary, 1 oz. of Winter's Cinnamon, all being bruised, infuse in red port wine or Canary, 5 quarts, for 6 hours, then giving it 2 or 3 boils, take it from the fire, strain out the wine from the ingredients, which let settle, then decant the clear from the rest sweeten with syrup of lemons or syrup of vinegar. This is a notable medicament against Measles, Small-Pox Calenture, Spotted Fever and even the Plague. It also prevails against any vegetable poison, which is taken inwardly, if timely given.)
8. The diet drink, made of the roots, leaves and seeds.
9. The spiritous tincture.
10. The acid tincture.
11. The oily tincture.
12. The saline tincture.
13. The fixed salt (resists putrefaction).
14. The essence.
---Dosage---The root is generally administered in powder, the dose being from 1/4 to 1/2drachm in water.
A fluid extract is also prepared from the root, the dose being 1/2 to 1 drachm.
A decoction is also much employed.
SOME MODERN HERBAL RECIPES IN WHICH BISTORT IS AN INGREDIENT
---Infants' Diarrhcea Syrup---
1 OZ. Bistort root, 1/4 oz. Cloves, 1/2 oz. Marshmallow root, 1/4 oz. Angelica powder, 1/4 oz. best Ginger powder.
Bruise the root and cloves small. Add 1 1/2 pint boiling water and simmer down to a pint. Then pour boiling mixture upon the powder, mix well and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Allow to get cold, strain and add lump sugar, sufficient to form a syrup, boil up again, skim, and when cold bottle for use.
This may be given to children in a little Raspberry Leaf Tea, 3 to 6 teaspoonfuls daily, according to age of child. If bleeding from bowels, or flux, a tea of Cranesbill is recommended instead of Raspberry Tea. (SKELTON) .
1/2 OZ. Marshmallow root powder, 1/2 oz. Bistort root powder, 1/2 oz. Cranesbill root powder.
Mix the powders thoroughly and then form into a stiff paste with treacle. Preserve in a jar and take a small quantity (about the size of a bean) three times a day. When constipation is present, 1/4 oz. Turkey rhubarb powder may be added to the other powdered roots. For the blind piles, 1/2 oz. Barberry bark should be added.
Pile Ointment should be applied at the same time, made as follows: 1/2 oz. Bistort root, 1/2 oz. Cranesbill herb, cut up fine.
Simmer gently for an hour with 2 OZ. lard and 2 OZ. mutton suet. Strain through a coarse cloth and squeeze out as much strength as possible. Add 1 OZ. Olive oil and mix well. Allow to cool gradually. This is equally good for Chapped Hands, Sore Lips, etc. (SKELTON.)
---Decoction for Piles---
1 OZ. Marshmallow root, 1 oz. Bistort root, 1 oz. Comfrey root, 1 OZ. White Poplar bark, 1 OZ. Cranesbill, 1 OZ. Yarrow, drachms each Cloves and Cinnamon.
Bruise the roots, add 2 quarts of water and boil 20 minutes, then add the herbs, Cloves and Cinnamon and boil 10 minutes longer. Strain and sweeten with brown sugar.
Dose, a wineglassful four times a day. Also use Celandine (Pilewort) Ointment. (Medical Herbalist.)
---Gargle for Ulcerated Tonsils---
2 drachms Tincture of Bistort root, 2 drachms Tincture of Bloodroot. Add 2 tablespoonsful of warm water.
Use as gargle, or spray the throat.
---Compound Bistort Wash---
1 drachm Tincture of Bistort, 1/2 oz. Bayberry powder.
Infuse the powder in 8 oz. of boiling water let it remain until cold, strain the liquid off clear, add the tincture and use freely morning, noon and night.
In inflamed mucous discharges from the ears, nose, vagina, urethra or any other part, this wash is exceedingly useful. (National Botanic Pharmacopoeia.)
Fluid Extract Bistort, Jambul Seed, Pinus Can, Rhus Aromat., Potentilla Tormentilla of each 2 drachms. The same quantity of Tincture of Hydrastis.
Put the whole into a 12-OZ, bottle and fill with distilled water. Dose, 1 tablespoonful every four hours after meals. (Medical Herbalist.)
---Recipe for Bistort Pudding---
The Herb Pudding still eaten in Cumberland and Westmorland, where Bistort is common in moist meadows and is also cultivated, is a very wholesome dish and very suitable in May, when ordinary green vegetables used to be scarce.
The chief constituents are Bistort shoots and Nettles, and the younger and fresher these greens are the more satisfactory is the resultant food. Allow about 1 1/2 lb. of Bistort to 1 lb. of Nettles. A few leaves of Black Currant and Yellow Dock may be added and a sprig of Parsley. Wash the vegetables thoroughly (in salt and water in the last rinsing), then chop them fairly fine. Place them in a bowl and mix in about a teacupful of barley (washed and soaked), half a teacupful of oatmeal, salt and pepper to flavour, and if liked, a bunch of chives mixed. Boil the whole in a bag for about 2 1/2 hours, to allow the barley to get thoroughly cooked. The bag should be tied firmly, for while the greens shrink, the barley swells. Turn out into a very hot bowl, add a lump of butter and a beaten egg: the heat of the turned-out pudding is sufficient to cook the egg.
---Other Species---About forty species of Polygonum are recorded as having been medicinally employed. A number of species yield blue or yellow dyestuffs.
Botanical: Apocynum androsaemifolium (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Apocynacae
Medicinal Action and Uses
Poisons and Antidotes
---Synonyms---Milkweed. Dogsbane. Fly-Trap.
---Parts Used---The dried rhizome, roots.
---Description---The genus Apocynum contains only four species, two of which Apocynum androsaemifolium and A. cannabinum, or Black Indian Hemp, resemble each other very closely, the roots being distinguished by the thick-walled stone cells, which in the former are found in an interrupted circle near the middle of the bark, and in the latter are absent.
A. androsaemifolium is a perennial herb, 5 or 6 feet in height, branching, and, in common with the other three members of the genus, yielding on incision a milky juice resembling indiarubber when dry.
The leaves are dark green above, paler and downy beneath, ovate, and from 2 to 3 inches long. The flowers are white, tinged with red, having five scales in the throat of the corolla which secrete a sweet liquid, attractive to flies. These scales are very sensitive, and when touched bend inward, imprisoning the insects.
The tough, fibrous bark of all four species is used by the Indians of California as a substitute for hemp, in making twine, bags, fishing-nets and lines, and linen.
The milky root is found in commerce in cylindrical, branched pieces, about a quarter of an inch thick, reddish or greyish brown outside, longitudinally wrinkled, and having a short fracture and small pith. There is scarcely any odour, and the taste is starchy, afterwards bitter and acrid.
---Constituents---The nature of the active principle is uncertain. A glucoside, Apocynamarin, was separated, but the activity is thought to be due not to the glucoside, but to an intensely bitter principle, Cymarin.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---One of the digitalis group of cardiac tonics, apocynum, is the most powerful in slowing the pulse, and its action on the vaso-motor system is also very strong. Being rather irritant to mucous membranes, it may cause nausea and catharsis, so that some cannot tolerate it. It is a powerful hydragogue, helpful in dropsies due to heart-failure, and in the ascites of hepatic cirrhosts has been called the 'vegetable trocar.'
It is used as an alterative in rheumatism, syphilis and scrofula.
---Dosage---5 to 15 grains.
---Poisons and Antidotes---The absorption in the gastro-intestinal tract being very irregular, the dosage and patient must be carefully watched and guarded.
A. cannabinum, or Black Indian Hemp, Canadian Hemp, American Hemp, Amyroot, Bowman's Root, Indian Physic Bitter Root, Rheumatism Weed, Milkweed, Wild Cotton, Choctaw Root, is diuretic, expectorant, diaphoretic, emetic, and cathartic. It should not be substituted for A. androsaemifolium or vice versa.
It is not the Indian Hemp (Cannabis Indica) which yields 'hashish.'
A. hypericifolium bears some resemblance to the above.
A. venetum contains an alkaloid, Apocynteine, said to be a cardiac sedative.
BITTER ROOT is also a common name of Gentiana lutea, or Yellow Gentian, the wellknown bitter, and of Lewisia rediviva or Spathulum, with a starchy, edible root.
MILKWEED is also a common name of Asclepias.
DOG'S BANE is also a common name of Aconitum Cynoctonum.
See Apple, Bitter.
See Nightshade (Woody).
Botanical: Rubus fructicosus
Family: N.O. Rosacea
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Bramble. Bumble-Kite. Bramble-Kite. Bly. Brummel. Brameberry. Scaldhead. Brambleberry.
---Parts Used---Root, leaves.
---Habitat---In Australia, the Blackberry grows more luxuriantly than in any other part of the world, though it is common everywhere.
The Blackberry, or Bramble, growing in every English hedge-row, is too well known to need description. Its blossoms, as well as its fruits, both green and ripe, may be seen on the bush: at the same time, a somewhat unusual feature, not often met with in other plants.
---History---The name of the bush is derived from brambel, or brymbyl, signifying prickly. We read of it as far back as the days of Jonathan, when he upbraided the men of Shechem for their ingratitude to his father's house, relating to them the parable of the trees choosing a king, the humble bramble being finally elected, after the olive, fig-tree and vine had refused the dignity. The ancient Greeks knew Blackberries well, and considered them a remedy for gout.
Opinions differ as to whether there is one true Blackberry with many aberrant forms; or many distinct types. Professor Babington divides the British Rubi into forty-one species, or more.
Rubus rhamnifolius and R. coryfolius furnish the Blackberries of the hedges, in which the calyx of the fruit is reflexed; has also a reflexed calyx, but the leaves are hoary underneath. R. coesius furnishes Dewberries, distinguished by the large size of the grains, which are covered with bloom and few in number, the whole being closely clasped by the calyx. R. saxatilis, the Roebuck-berry, and the badge of the McNabs, is an herbaceous species found in mountainous places in the North, and distinguished by its ternate leaves and fruit of few red large grains.
R. chamaenorus, the Cloudberry, and badge of the McFarlanes, is also herbaceous, with an erect stem, 6 to 8 inches high, lobed leaves and a single flower which is succeeded by a large orange-red fruit of an agreeable flavour. The double-flowering Rubus of gardens is a variety of R. fructicosus. R. lancinatus, of which the native country is unknown, is a rampant species with deeplycut leaves and large black fruit, which are highly ornamental in autumn.
R. odoratus, the American Bramble, is an erect, unbranched shrub, with large fivelobed leaves and rose-colored flowers.
R. occidentalis, the Virginian raspberry, has pinnate and ternate leaves, white flowers and black fruit. It is well known that the barren shoots of most of our British Rubi from being too flexile to keep upright, bend downwards even from the hedges and thickets, and root their ends in the soil, thus following that mode of increase which in the strawberry is effected by the scion. The loop thus formed was formerly an object of occasional search, being reputed in some counties (and we have known it so in Gloucestershire) as capable of curing hernia or rupture when used aright, to which end the afflicted child is passed backwards and forwards through the arching bramble. The origin of this custom is difficult to trace; but quoting from Notes and Queries, the passing of children through holes in the earth, rocks, and trees, once an established rite, is still practised in various parts of Cornwall. Children affected with hernia are still passed through a slit in an ash sapling before sunrise, fasting; after which the slit portions are bound up, and as they unite so the malady is cured.
It would appear that in Cornwall the bramble-cure is only employed for boils, the sufferer being either dragged or made to crawl beneath the rooted shoot. We have heard of cows that were said to be 'mousecrope,' or to have been walked over by a shrew-mouse (an ancient way of accounting for paralysis), being dragged through the bramble-loop, in which case, if the creature could wait the time of finding a loop large enough, and suffer the dragging process at the end, we should say the case would not be so hopeless as that of our friend's fat pig, who, when she was ailing, 'had a mind to kill her to make sure on her!' (LINDLEY S Treasury of Botany.)
The Blackberry is known in some parts of the country as 'Scaldhead,' either from producing the eruption known as scaldhead in children who eat the fruit to excess - the over-ripe fruit being indigestible - or from the curative effects of the leaves and berries in this malady of the scalp, or from the remedial effects of the leaves, when applied externally to scalds. The leaves are said to be still in use in England as a remedy for burns and scalds; formerly their operation was helped by a spoken charm. Creeping under a Bramble-bush was itself a charm against rheumatism, boils, blackheads, etc. Blackberries were in olden days supposed to give protection against all 'evil runes,' if gathered at the right time of the moon. The whole plant had once a considerable popular reputation both as a medicine and as a charm for various disorders. The flowers and fruit were from very ancient times used to remedy venomous bites; the young shoots, eaten as a salad, were thought - though Gerard cautiously suggests the addition of a little alum - to fasten loose teeth. Gerard and other herbalists regard the bramble as a valuable astringent, whether eaten or applied: its leaves 'heal the eies that hang out,' and are a most useful application for piles, its fruit stops looseness of the bowels and is good for stone, and for soreness in mouth and throat.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The bark of the root and the leaves contain much tannin, and have long been esteemed as a capital astringent and tonic, proving a valuable remedy for dysentery and diarrhoea, etc. The root is the more astringent.
---Preparations---Fluid extract, 1/2 to 1 drachm. Fluid extract, root, U.S.P., 15 drops. Syrup, U.S.P., 1 drachm.
The fruit contains malic and citric acids, pectin and albumen. If desiccated in a moderately hot oven and then reduced to a powder, it is a reliable remedy for dysentery.
The root-bark, as used medicinally, should appear in thin tough, flexible bands, inodorous, strongly astringent and somewhat bitter. It should be peeled off the root and dried by artificial heat or in strong sun. One ounce, boiled in 1 1/2 pint water or milk down to a pint, makes a good decoction. Half a teacupful should be taken every hour or two for diarrhoea. One ounce of the bruised root, likewise boiled in water, may also be used, the dose being larger, however. The same decoction is said to be useful against whooping-cough in the spasmodic stage.
The leaves are also employed for the same purpose. One ounce of the dried leaves, infused in one pint of boiling water, and the infusion taken cold, a teacupful at a time, makes a serviceable remedy for dysentery, etc.
---Blackberry Wine---Blackberry jelly has been used with good effects in cases of dropsy caused by feeble, ineffective circulation, and the London Pharmacopoeia (1696) declared the ripe berries of the bramble to be a great cordial, and to contain a notable restorative spirit. Blackberry wine is made by crushing the fruit and adding one quart of boiling water to each gallon of the fruit, allowing to stand for 24 hours, stirring occasionally, and then straining off the liquid. 2 lb. of white sugar are then added to every gallon, and it is kept in a tightly corked cask till the following October. This makes a trustworthy cordial astringent, used in looseness of the bowels. Another delicious cordial is made from pressing out the juice from the ripe Blackberries, adding 2 lb. of sugar to each quart and 1/2 oz. of nutmegs and cloves. Boil all together for a short time, allow to get cold and then add a little brandy.
In Crusoe's Treasury of Easy Medicines (1771) a decoction of Blackberry leaves is recommended as a fomentation for longstanding ulcers. There is also a popular country notion that the young shoots, eaten as a salad, will fasten loose teeth. A noted hair-dye has been made by boiling the leaves in strong lye, which imparts to the hair a permanent soft black color.
---Blackberry Vinegar---is a wholesome drink that is easily made and can with advantage have its place in the store cupboard for use in winter, being a fine cordial for a feverish cold.
Gather the berries on a fine day, stalk them, put into an earthenware vessel and cover with malt vinegar. Let them stand three days to draw out the juice. Strain through a sieve, drain thoroughly, leaving them to drip through all day. Measure the juice and allow a pound of sugar to each pint. Put into a preserving pan, boil gently for 5 minutes, removing scum as it rises, set aside to cool, and when cold, bottle and cork well.
A teaspoonful of this, mixed with water will often quench thirst when other beverages fail and makes a delicious drink in fever.
Botanical: Rubus villosus (AIT.)
Family: N.O. Rosaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Brombeere. Bramble, or Fingerberry. Or. Nigrobaccus, and R. Cuneifolius.
---Parts Used---Leaves, root, bark.
---Habitat---Cultivated in United States of America from a Eurobean species.
---Description---It is prepared in thin tough flexible bands, outer surface blackish or blackish grey, inner surface, pale brownish, sometimes striped, with whitish tasteless wood adhering. It is inodorous, very astringent (root more so than the leaves) and rather bitter.
---Constituents---Tannic acid is abundant in it up to 10 per cent, and can be extracted readily by boiling water or dilute alcohol.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---An astringent tonic for diarrhoea, dysentery, etc. It is very similar in action to the wild English Blackberry.
---Preparations---Fluid extract of dried bark of root Rubus, U.S.P., 15 minims.
Syrup of Rubus, U.S.P., 1 fluid drachm.
---Other Species---Of the genus Rubus a large number are indigenous in the United States, where they are called Blackberry, Dewberry, Cloudberry. Most of them are shrubby or suffruticose briers, with astringent roots and edible berries, some have annual stems without prickles, these are called Raspberries.
See Guelder Rose.
Botanical: Leptandra Virginica (NUTT.)
Family: N.O. Scrophulariaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Veronica Virginica. Veronica purpurea. Paederota Virginica. Eustachya purpurea and Eustachya alba. Culveris Root. Culver's Physic. Physic Root. Leptandra-Wurzel.
---Parts Used---The dried rhizome, roots.
---Habitat---Eastern United States.
---Description---This tall, herbaceous perennial was included by Linnaeus in the genus Veronica, but was later assigned by Nuttall to the genus Leptandra, a nomenclature followed by present-day botanists. It has a simple, erect stem, 3 or 4 feet high or more, smooth and downy, furnished with leaves in whorls and terminating in a long spike of white flowers, 6 to 10 inches long. The leaves, of which there are from four to seven in each whorl, are lanceolate, pointed and minutely serrate, and stand on short footstalks. A variety with purple flowers has been described as a distinct species under the name of Leptandra purpurea. The plant flowers in July and August. It grows throughout the United States, in the south mostly in mountain meadows - in the north in rich woods, and is not unfrequently cultivated. It will grow readily in Britain. The rhizome and roots are nearly odourless, the taste bitter and rather acrid, and are generally used dried. The rhizome is of horizontal growth, nearly cylindrical, somewhat branched, externally dark brown to purplish brown, smooth and faintly longitudinally wrinkled, and showing stem bases at intervals of 1/2 to 1 1/2 inch. The rootlets, rising from the under portion, are wiry and brittle when dry.
---Constituents---The roots contain volatile oil, extractive, tannic acid, gum, resin, a crystalline principle, a saccharine principle resembling mannite, and a glucoside resembling senegin. Both the crystalline principle and the impure resin obtained by precipitating with water a tincture of the root have been called Leptandrin and is said to be the active principle. The properties are extracted by both water and alcohol.
An ester of p-methoxycinnamic acid, a phytosterol verosterol, and some dimethoxycinnamic acid are also obtained.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The fresh root is a violent cathartic and may also be emetic. The dried root is milder and less certain. Leptandrin excites the liver gently and promotes the secretion of bile without irritating the bowels or purging. As it is also a tonic for the stomach, it is very useful in diarrhoea, chronic dysentery, cholera infantum, and torpidity of the liver.
The accounts of its use are conflicting, perhaps owing to the difference in the action of the root in its dry and fresh states. There appears to be a risk of the fresh root producing bloody stools and possibly abortion, though a decoction may be useful in intermittent fever. It has been stated that the dried root has been employed with success in leprosy and cachetic diseases, and in combination with cream of tartar, in dropsy.
---Dosages---15 to 60 grains. Of the impure resin, 2 to 4 grains. Of the powdered extract, U.S.P., 4 grains. Of the fluid extract, 15 minims as a laxative. Leptandrin, 1/4 to 2 grains.
Botanical: Fucus vesiculosis (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Fucaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Fucus. Sea-Wrack. Kelp-Ware. Black-Tang. Quercus marina. Cutweed. Bladder Fucus. Fucus (Varech) vesiculeux. Blasentang. Seetang. Meeriche.
---Parts Used---The dried mass of root, stem and leaves. (The thallus.)
---Habitat---North Atlantic Ocean.
---Description---Almost all the more solid Algae were formerly described by the name of Fucus, but now it is applied to one genus of Fucaceae, most of the species of which are found only in the northern seas, many being more or less exposed at low water. Fucus vesiculosis is found on submerged rocks on both coasts of North America, and in Europe north of the Mediterranean, where it drifts in from time to time through the Strait of Gibraltar.
The perennial frond or thallus is coarse, light yellow or brownish-green in color, erect, and from 2 to 3 feet in height. It attaches itself to the rocks by branched, rootlike, discoid, woody extremities, developed from the base of the stalk. The frond is almost fan-shaped, narrow and strap-shaped at the base, the rest flat and leaf-like in form, wavy, many times divided into two with erect divisions having a very strong, broad, compressed midrib running to the apex. The margin is entire, the texture tough and leathery, mainly olive brown in color, the younger portion yellower, shining. Air vesicles developed in the substance of the frond, usually in pairs, one on either side of the midrib and often one at the fork of the divisions, broadly oval, or spherical, attaining when fully grown half an inch in diameter, are the characteristics of this species which have suggested both the English and Latin names.
The fructification is contained in small globose conceptacles with a firm wall lined with numerous jointed hairs and sunk in the surface of large ovoid-oblong or narrower pointed or blunt, swollen receptacles, filled with a transparent mucous. These attain an inch in length and are situated at the ends of the divisions of the fronds.
The entire living plant is gathered from the rocks about the end of June and dried rapidly in the sun, when it becomes brittle and may be easily reduced to a coarse powder. Care should be taken to turn it frequently, to avoid the development of a putrid odour. If dried by artificial heat, it retains its hygroscopic qualities and does not become brittle. It is in perfect condition only during early and middle summer, and should not be collected when too fully matured, as it quickly undergoes decomposition. When thrown up on the shore by the sea, the seaweed is not suitable for medicinal purposes, as the soaking of the detached plants in sea-water causes the loss of important constituents by diffusion from cells containing protoplasm which has lost its vitality.
As found in commerce, the drug Fucus is hard and brittle, forming a much wrinkled mass, blackish or with more or less of a whitish efflorescence or incrustation, but it acquires a cartilaginous consistency when slightly moistened. It has a strong, sea-weedlike odour and a nauseous, saline and mucilaginous taste. Occasionally, from some unexplained cause, it is very astringent. The powder is reddish brown, with numerous fragments of epidermal tissue, with polygonal cells from 0.012 to 0.025 mm. in length.
Bladderwrack is a valuable manure for potatoes and other crops and is gathered for this purpose all along the British coast. It is largely used in the Channel Islands, where it is called Vraic, the early potatoes from Jersey being grown by seaweed manure. Fresh seaweed contains 20 to 40 lb. of potash to the ton, and dried seaweed 60 to 230, so that its collection and use were strongly recommended to farmers while the War caused a shortage of artificial fertilizers. It may be spread on the land and left for some time before ploughing in, but should not be left in heaps, as rotting liberates the potash which may be wasted. The seaweed may be dried and burnt to ashes, then sprinkled on the ground as Kelp.
The early broccoli from Cornwall is fertilized with wrack, and on the west coast of Ireland, driftweed is almost the only manure used for raising potatoes. In the Channel Islands it is used for producing the smoke for drying bacon and fish, while in the Hebrides, cheeses while drying are covered with the salty ashes, and horses, cattle and sheep have been fed with it.
During the War the French Ministry of War experimented with regard to the value of seaweed as food for horses. A batch of twenty fed on the usual ration of oats and fodder gained eleven kilogrammes less in two months than a similar number fed on the same weight of seaweed. Another trial resulted in the cure of some sick horses fed on seaweed, while others fed on oats remained out of health.
In Denmark, a few years ago, the possibility of making paper from seaweed was mooted, but the cost of collecting probably proved too serious an obstacle.
It is also possible that considerable quantities of alcohol might be obtained from various species.
Many attempts have been made to make kelp-burning successful by finding a use for by-products from destructive distillation in retorts, but the cost of collection, drying and fuel prevents such experiments being financially profitable. There were at one time flourishing kelp industries in the Hebrides, and Lord Leverhulme, the owner of Lewis Isle, sent experts to report on the possibilities, but his death and lack of official support caused the matter to be dropped.
Kelp is prepared from several species of Fucus (including Black Wrack, F. serratus and Knobbed Wrack, F. nodosus, and on the coast of France about a dozen other species) and from the deep-sea tangle, Laminaria species, especially L. digitata. The latter yield 'drift-wood kelp,' obtainable only when cast up on the shore by gales or other causes. These contain ten times as much iodine as the Fuci and are practically now the only kelps used in making iodine. The species of Fucus growing within the tidal range and cut at low water are called 'cut-weeds.'
F. vesiculosis is the badge of the M'Neills.
---Constituents---Bladderwrack contains about 0.1 per cent. of a volatile oil, cellulose, mucilage, mannite, coloring and bitter principles, soda and iodine, and bromine compounds of sodium and potassium. These saline ingredients constitute 14 to 20 per cent. of its ashes, which the dry plant yields in the proportion of 2.5 to 4 per cent., and also remain in the charcoal resulting from its exposure to heat in closed vessels. The proportions, especially of iodine, vary according to both locality and season. They are most abundant at the end of June. It has been stated that 0.8 per cent. of a sugar named Fucose exists in dried seaweed, and that this yields an alcohol, Fucitol. The air in the vesicles consists of a considerably higher percentage of Oxygen and a lower percentage of Nitrogen than in the outer atmosphere. Its value as a fertilizer is due to its potash.
One hundred pounds of red wrack, dried to a moisture content of 10 per cent., when heated for a short time with weak sulphuric acid and the acidity still further reduced after cooling, may be fermented with brewers' yeast and is then capable of yielding about 6 litres of alcohol on distillation. It is alleged that under industrial conditions this amount might be increased.
Kelp, or dried seaweed, was the original source of iodine, being discovered as such by Courtois in 1812, when investigating the products obtained from the mother-liquors prepared by lixiviating burnt seaweed. Iodine does not occur in nature in the uncombined condition, but is widely, though sparingly distributed in the form of iodides and iodates, chiefly of sodium and potassium, in seawater, some seaweeds, and various mineral and medicinal springs.
Kelp-burning as a source of iodine is a dead industry, owing to a cheaper process of obtaining it from the mother-liquors obtained in the purification of Chile saltpetre, and the use of kelp - an impure carbonate of soda, containing sulphate and chloride of sodium and a little charcoal - as a source of alkalies for soap and glass manufacture has been rendered obsolete by the modern process of obtaining carbonate of soda cheaply from common salt. Unless very recently discontinued, however, the preparation of iodine from kelp is still carried on at Glasgow.
Several methods were employed: (1) the weeds being dried in the sun, burned until formed into a confused mass, and sprinkled with water to break it up into pieces which were treated at chemical works; or (2) the seaweed was heated in large retorts, whereby tarry and ammoniacal liquors pass over and a very porous residue of kelp remained; or (3) the weeds were boiled with sodium carbonate, the liquid filtered and hydrochloric acid added to the filtrate, when alginic acid is precipitated; this is filtered off, the filtrate neutralized by caustic soda and the whole evaporated to dryness and carbonized.
The resulting kelp was then lixiviated with water, which extracts the soluble salts, and the liquid concentrated to crystallize the less soluble salts for removal. The addition of sulphuric acid set chemical processes in action, which finally liberated the iodine from its compounds.
Three tons of Tangle (Laminaria) give a ton of kelp, or 20 tons of cut-weed, or Fucus.
Good drift may yield as much as 10 to 15 lb. of iodine per ton, and cut-weed kelp only 3 to 4 lb. Other constituents vary from 2 to 10 per cent. in different samples.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Bladderwrack is not largely used at present, any virtues it may have being due to the iodine contained in it. It has alterative properties, has been used in scrofula, and is thought by some authorities to reduce obesity through stimulating the thyroid gland.
The charcoal derived from Kelp has been used in the treatment of goitre and scrofulous swellings under the name of Æthiops vegetabilis or vegetable ethiops, introduced by Dr. Russell in 1750, who also used a jelly for similar purposes, both internally and externally. He was also successful in dispersing scrofulous tumours by rubbing in the mucus of the vesicles of Bladderwrack, afterwards washing the parts with sea-water. The charcoal was also helpful in goitre. The iodine from other sources led to the neglect of kelp products.
In 1862 Dr. Duchesne-Duparc found while experimenting in cases of chronic psoriasis, that weight was reduced without injuring health, and used the drug with success for the latter purpose. Dr. Godfroy experimented on himself, losing five and a quarter pounds in a week after taking before three meals a day an extract made into pills containing 25 grams (3.75 grains). The bromine and iodine stimulated the absorbent glands to increased activity, without causing an atrophied wasting of the glands. Later experiments of Hunt and Seidell indicated that the result is brought about by stimulation of the thyroid gland.
Sea-pod liniment, is the expressed juice and decoction of fresh seaweed as dispensed by sea-side chemists for rheumatism, and the extract, taken continuously in pills or fluid form is reputed to relieve rheumatic pains as well as to diminish fat without harm.
Sea-pod essence is good for rubbing into sprains and bruises, or for applying on wet lint under oiled silk, as a compress, changed as often as hot or dry. It may be preceded by fomentations of the hot decoction.
Embrocation for strengthening the limbs of rickety children can be made from the glutinous substance of the vesicles, bottled in rum.
Fucus or Seaweed wine, from grapes and dried Fucus, has been praised as a remedy in diseases of the hip and other joints and bones in children.
For external application to enlarged or hardened glands, the bruised weed may be applied as a cold poultice.
---Dosage---Of charcoal, 10 grains to 2 drachms.
Of extract, 3 to 10 grains, in pills, massed with powdered Liquorice or Marshmallow roots, to reduce swelling and obesity.
Of liquid extract, 1 to 2 fluid drachms. It is the basis of many advertised nostrums. Sodium and potassium iodides are often added to supplement the small proportion of iodine. It is used in mixture form, generally with alkali iodides and sometimes in combination with Liquor Thyroidei.
Of decoction, 2 fluid ounces, three times daily.
Of infusion, 1 wineglassful.
Solid extract may be dissolved in diluted alcohol and mixed with syrup.
(All doses for combating obesity are gradually increased.)
Of fluid extract, 10 minims.
The Alginic acid obtained from seaweed is used to form an organic compound with iron, which is sold under the trade name of Algiron or Alginoid Iron. It contains about 11 per cent. of iron and is given in doses of 2 to 10 decigrams (3 to 15 grains).
Fucol is a trade name for a cod-liver oil substitute, said to be obtained from roasted Bladderwrack with a bland oil. It is green in color, and resembles coffee in odour and taste.
Fucusin tablets are recommended in obesity.
F. nodosus the Knobbed Wrack, has anarrower thallus, without a midrib and single vesicles.
F. serratus, the Black Wrack, has a veined and serrate frond, without vesicles . Both contain the same constituents as Bladderwrack.
F. serratus has been much used in Norway for feeding cattle, being called there 'cowweed.' Linnaeus stated that in Gothland the inhabitants boiled it with water, mixed it with a little coarse meal or flour, and fed their hogs with it, for which reason they called the plant 'Swine-tang.' In Sweden the poor people covered their cottages with it and sometimes used it for fuel.
F. siliquosus has a very narrow frond, with short branches and articulated vesicles of a pod-like appearance.
This and the two preceding species are permitted by the French Codex to be employed in the place of F. vesiculosis.
F. natans (Sargassum bacciferum) is the Gulf-weed of the Atlantic Ocean and is often found in immense masses floating in the sea.
The frond is terrate and has linear and serrate branches and globular vesicles of the size of a pea.
F. vesiculosis was reputed to be the Antipolyscarcique nostrum of Count Mattei.
F. canaliculatus is remarkable for its amphibious habits, growing on large boulders and recovering after being baked by the sun into hard brown masses.
F. amylaceus, or Ceylon Moss, abounding in starch and vegetable jelly, is used like carrageen, or Irish moss.
F. Helminthocorton (Corsican Moss or Gigartina Helminthocorton) is regarded in Europe as an anthelmintic and febrifuge. It is an ingredient in the trade mixture called Corsican Moss, used in decoction of from 4 to 6 drachms to a pint, the dose being 1 wineglassful three times a day.
Another seaweed, Agar-agar, of the East Indies, is sent to China in large quantities for making jellies and for a size used in stiffening silks. An aperient medicine is known by its name. (American.)
Laminaria digitata, sea-girdles or tangles, of Scotland, gives a good substance for bougies. The stems are strong and tenacious, from 2 to 12 inches long and an inch or more wide, drying easily with much shrinkage and becoming firm, only slightly softer than horn, and yet elastic. It may be kept thus for years, and will absorb moisture at any time and swell to the original size, thus being valuable for dilating bougies and tents.
The Laminariaceae species are very remarkable in many ways. L. digitata, L. stenophylla, and L. saccharina are the principal ones associated with the kelp industry.
F. crispus is a name of Chondrus crispus or Gigartina mamillosa (Irish Moss or Carrageen) of European coasts, well known as a demulcent. Dosage, 4 drachms.
Family: N.O. Chenopodiaceae
---Habitat---They grow only on seashores, or in saline plains and other places where the soil is impregnated with salt, and are almost exclusively confined to the temperate and tropical regions of the Northern Hemisphere, very few being found in the Southern.
The Sea-blites are members of the genus Suaeda, the name derived from the Greek word for soda, in which the plants abound.
They are smooth or downy herbaceous, or more frequently shrubby, plants, with alternate, somewhat tapering, fleshy, stalkless leaves, bearing solitary or clustered stalkless or short-stalked, usually perfect flowers in their axils. Their fruits, utricles, are enclosed in the slightly enlarged or inflated berry- like calyx, but do not adhere to it.
Botanical: Sueada fruticosa
---Synonym---Shrubby Sea Blite
The Shrubby Sea-Blite is one of our rarer British species. It grows on sandy and shingly beaches, mostly on the east coast, but it is very common in the warmer parts of Europe and also in Northern Africa and Western Asia.
It is a shrubby, erect, branching, evergreen, perennial plant, 2 to 5 feet high, with thick and succulent, semi-cylindrical, bluntish, pale-green leaves, and small stalkless flowers, either solitary, or two or three together.
It is one of the plants burned in Southern Europe for the manufacture of barilla.
Blite, Annual Sea
Botanical: Suaeda maritima
Suaeda maritima (Linn.), the Annual Sea-Blite, is our other British species and is common on muddy seashores. It is a low straggling plant, smooth, glaucous and reddish in winter, with slender branches rising 1 to 2 feet; acute, semi-cylindrical, short fleshy leaves; flowers, 1 to 5 together, styles two. It is in flower from July to October.
Culpepper tells us there are
'two sorts, the white and the red. The white hath leaves somewhat like unto beets but smaller, rounder and of a whitish-green color. The red is in all things like the white, but that its leaves and tufted heads are exceedingly red at first and after turn more purplish.... They are all of them cooling, drying and binding and useful in fluxes of blood, especially the red.'
He also mentions
'another sort of wild Blites, like the other wild kinds, but having long and spiky heads of greenish seeds, seeming by the thick setting together to be all seed. This sort fishes are delighted with, and it is a good and usual bait, for fishes will bite fast enough at them, if you have but wit enough to catch them when they bite.'
The name Blite has also been applied to several of the Chenopodiums.
Botanical: Amaranthus blitus
---Synonyms---Strawberry Spinach. Berry-bearing Orache.
The Strawberry Blite belongs to the closely allied order Amaranthacece, and is not strictly a native of Britain, only occasionally appearing on rubbish heaps. It is an inconspicuous weed, and to the casual observer would be regarded as an Orache or Goosefoot. Its trailing stems are a foot or so in length, bearing more or less oval leaves and numerous green flowers clustered in the leaf axils. The flowers are unisexual and without petals, both kinds of flowers being borne, however, on the same plant. The female flower develops into a juicy crimson capsule, full of purple juice, having somewhat the appearance of a Wood Strawberry, hence the popular name of the plant. Was formerly much used for coloring in cookery. It flowers in August.
Botanical: Sanguinaria Candensis (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Papaveraceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
Preparations and Dosages
---Synonyms---Indian Paint. Tetterwort. Red Pucoon. Red Root. Paucon. Coon Root. Snakebite. Sweet Slumber.
---Parts Used---Root, whole plant.
---Habitat---United States of America and Canada, found in rich open woods from Canada, south to Florida and west to Arkansas. and Nebraska.
---Description---A perennial plant, one of the earliest and most beautiful spring flowers. In England it will grow freely if cultivated carefully, it has even grown in the open in gravelly dry soil in the author's garden. It has a lovely white flower and produces only a single leaf and a flowering scape about 6 inches high. When the leaf first appears it is wrapped round the flower bud and is a greyish-green color covered with a downy bloom - Leaves palmate five to nine lobed, 6 to 10 inches long. After flowering the leaves increase in size, the underside paler showing prominent veins. The white flower is wax-like with golden stamens. The seed is an oblong narrow pod about 1 inch long. The rootstock is thick, round and fleshy, slightly curved at ends, and contains an orange-red juice, and is about 1 to 4 inches long, with orange-red rootlets. When dried it breaks with a short sharp fracture, little smell, taste bitter acrid and persistent, powdered root causes sneezing and irritation of the nose. The root is collected in the autumn, after leaves die down; it must be stored in a dry place or it quickly deteriorates.
---Constituents---Alkaloids Sanguinarine, Chelerythrine, Protopine and B. homochelidonine; Sanguinarine forms colorless crystals. Chelerythrine is also colorless and crystalline. Protopine (also found in opium) is one of the most widely diffused of the opium alkaloids. The rhizome also contains red resin and an abundance of starch.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Emetic cathartic expectorant and emmenagogue, and of great value in atonic dyspepsia, asthma, bronchitis and croup. (The taste is so nauseating, that it may cause expectorant action.) Of value in pulmonary consumption, nervous irritation and helpful in lowering high pulse, and in heart disease and weakness and palpitation of heart of great use. For ringworm apply the fluid extract. Also good for torpid liver, scrofula, dysentery. It is applied to fungoid growths, ulcers fleshy excrescences, cancerous affections and as an escharotic. Sanguinaria root is chiefly used as an expectorant for chronic bronchitis and as a local application in chronic eczema, specially when secondary to varicose ulcers. In toxic doses, it causes burning in the stomach, intense thirst, vomiting, faintness vertigo, intense prostration with dimness of eyesight.
The root has long been used by the American Indians as a dye for their bodies and clothes and has been used successfully by American and French dyers.
---Preparations and Dosages---Fluid extract of Sanguinaria, U.S.P., dose 1 1/2 minims. Tincture of Sanguinaria, U.S.P., 15 minims. Powdered root, 10 to 30 grains. Sanguinarin, 1/4 to 1 grain. Fluid extract, 10 to 30 drops .
Botanical: Scilla nutans (S. M.)
Hyacinthus nonscriptus (LINN.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Calverkeys. Culverkeys. Auld Man's Bell. Ring-o'-Bells. Jacinth. Wood Bells. Agraphis nutans, Link.
---Part Used---Bulb, dried and powdered.
---Habitat---Abundant in Britain, Western Europe to Spain, eastward to Central France, along the Mediterranean to Italy.
---Description---From the midst of very long, narrow leaves, rising from the small bulb, and overtopping them, rises the flower-stem, bearing the pendulous, bell-shaped blossoms, arranged in a long curving line. Each flower has two small bracts at the base of the short flower-stalk. The perianth is bluish-purple and composed of six leaflets.
The Wild Hyacinth is in flower from early in April till the end of May, and being a perennial and spreading rapidly, is found year after year in the same spot, forming a mass of rich color in the woods where it grows. The long leaves remain above ground until late in the autumn.
Linnaeus first called it Hyacinthus, tradition associating the flower with the Hyacinth of the Ancients, the flower of grief and mourning. Hyacinthus was a charming youth whom both Apollo and Zephyrus loved, but Hyacinthus preferred the Sun-God to the God of the West Wind, who sought to be revenged, and one day when Apollo was playing quoits with the youth, a quoit (blown by Zephyrus out of its proper course) killed Hyacinthus. Apollo, stricken with grief, raised from his blood a purple flower, on which the letters Ai, Ai were traced, so that his cry of woe might for evermore have existence upon earth. As our native variety of Hyacinth had no trace of these mystic letters our older botanists called it Hyacinthus nonscriptus, or 'not written on.' A later generic name, Agraphis, is of similar meaning, being a compound of two Greek words, meaning 'not to mark.'
It is the 'fair-hair'd hyacinth' of Ben Jonson, a name alluding to the old myth. We also find it called Jacinth in Elizabethan times. In Walton's Angler it is mentioned as Culverkeys.
---Constituents---The bulbs contain inulin, but are characterized by the absence of starch (which in many other monoeotyledons is found in company with inulin). Even if fed on cane-sugar, Bluebell bulbs will not form starch. They also contain a very large quantity of mucilage.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Though little used in modern medicine, the bulb has diuretic and styptic properties.
Dried and powdered it has been used as a styptic for leucorrhoea; 'There is hardly a more powerful remedy,' wrote Sir John Hill (1716-75), warning at the same time that the dose should not exceed 3 grains. He also informs us that a decoction of the bulb operates by urine.
Tennyson speaks of Bluebell juice being used to cure snake-bite.
The flowers have a slight, starch-like scent, but no medicinal uses have been ascribed to them.
The bulbs are poisonous in the fresh state. The viscid juice so abundantly contained in them and existing in every part of the plant has been used as a substitute for starch, and in the days when stiff ruffs were worn was much in request. From its gummy character, it was also employed as bookbinders' gum.
Gerard informs us that it was also used for setting feathers upon arrows. De Candolle (1778-1841) suggested that the abundant mucilage might be put to some economic purpose.
---Substitutes---any other bulbous plants related to Scilla (Hyacinthus, Muscari Gagea, etc.) have been used as diuretics, and probably contain related, if not identical substances.
Botanical: Menyanthes trifoliata (TOURNEF.)
Family: N.O. Gentianaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Buckbean. Marsh Trefoil. Water Trefoil. Marsh Clover.
(Dutch) Bocks. Boonan.
(German) Bocksbohne or Scharbocks-Klee.
---Habitat---The Buckbean, or Bogbean, grows in spongy bogs, marshes and shallow water throughout Europe, being rather scarce in the south of England, though common in the north and in Scotland.
---Description---It is a green, glabrous plant, with creeping rootstock and procumbent stem, varying in length according to situation, covered by the sheaths of the leaves, which are on long, fleshy, striated petioles and three-partite, the leaflets being entire and about 2 inches long and 1 broad. It blossoms from May to July, the flowers being borne on long stalks, 6 to 18 inches high, longer than the leaves and clustered together in a thick short spike, rendering them very conspicuous. The corollas, 3/4 inch across, are outwardly rose-colored and inwardly white and hairy, with reddish stamens. The Buckbean is one of the prettiest of our wild flowers deserving of cultivation in the garden, where it grows and thrives well, if planted in peat with water constantly round the roots.
---History---The plant was held to be of great value as a remedy against the once-dreaded scurvy. Scharbock, its German name, is a corruption of the Latin scorbutus, the old medical name for the disease.
'Bean' is probably an affix from the resemblance of the foliage to that of the beans grown in cottage gardens. Gerard says that the leaves are 'like to those of the garden beane.'
Its specific name, trifoliata, carries the same reference to the form of its leaves.
The generic name, Menyanthes, is from two Greek words signifying month and flower. It was a name bestowed by Linnaeus, and it has been suggested that the plant was so called because it remains in flower for a month; but it is actually often in bloom during May, June and July!
One of the older writers describes its inflorescence as a 'bush of feather-like floures of a white color, dasht ouer slightly with a wash of light carnation.'
Buckbean has a reputation for preserving sheep from rot, but it is doubtful whether they really touch it, on account of its extreme bitterness.
---Constituents---The chief constituents are a small quantity of volatile oil and a bitter principle, a glucoside called Menyanthin. The bitterness is imparted to both alcohol and water.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Tonic, cathartic, deobstruent and febrifuge. An extract is made from the leaves, which possesses strong tonic properties, and which renders great service in rheumatism, scurvy, and skin diseases. An infusion of 1 OZ. of the dried leaves to 1 pint of boiling water is taken in wineglassful doses, frequently repeated. It has also been recommended as an external application for dissolving glandular swellings. Finely powdered Buckbean leaves have been employed as a remedy for ague, being said to effect a cure when other means fail. In large doses, the powder is also purgative. It is used also as a herb tobacco.
The juice of the fresh leaves has proved efficacious in dropsical cases, and mixed with whey has been known to cure gout.
In Halliwell's Popular Rhymes and Nursery Tales this rhyme occurs:
'Buckee, Buckee, biddy Bene,
Is the way now fair and clean?
Is the goose ygone to nest,
And the fox ygone to rest?
Shall I come away?'
These curious lines are said by Devonshire children when they go through any passages in the dark, and are said to be addressed to Puck or Robin Goodfellow. Biddy bene= Anglo-Saxon biddan, to ask or pray; bén, a supplication or entreaty. Buckee is perhaps a corruption of Puck.
Buckbean tea, taken alone or mixed with wormwood, centaury or sage, is said to cure dyspepsia and a torpid liver.
---Preparation---Fluid extract, 10 to 40 drops.
Botanical: Peumus Boldus (MOLINA)
Family: N.O. Monimiaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Boldu. Boldus. Boldoa Fragrans.
---Part Used---The leaves.
---Description---An evergreen shrub growing in the fields of the Andes in Chile, where its yellowish-green fruit is eaten, its bark used for tanning, and its wood utilized in charcoalmaking.
Leaves are opposite, sessile, about 2 inches long entire, and color when dried red brown, coriaceous, prominent midrib, a number of small glands on their surface. Odour peculiar, when crushed very strongly disagreeable, not unlike oil of Chenopodium (wormseed). The leaves contain about 2 per cent on distillation of an aromatic volatile oil, chemically related to oil of Chenopodium.
A peculiar alkaloid called Boldine has been found in the leaves and when injected hyperdermically, paralyses both motor and sensory nerves, also the muscle fibres. When given internally, in toxic doses, it causes great excitement, exaggerates the reflexes and the respiratory movements, increases diuresis, causes cramp and convulsions ending in death from centric respiratory paralysis, the heart continuing to beat long after respiration ceases. Of late years Boldine has been largely used in veterinary practice for jaundice.
---Constituents---Boldo leaves contain about 2 per cent of volatile oil, in which, in addition to terpenes, terpineol has been detected. They also contain the bitter alkaloid Boldine and the glucoside Boldin or Boldoglucin.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Tonic, antiseptic, stimulant. Useful in chronic hepatic torpor. The oil in 5-drop doses has been found useful in genito-urinary inflammation. Has long been recognized in South America as a valuable cure for gonorrhoea.
---Preparations---Tincture of Boldo, B.P.C., used as a diuretic. Dose, 10 to 40 minims. Fluid extract, 1/4 to 1/2 drachm.
---Other Species---The Australian tree Monimia rotundifolia contains an oil rather similar, which may be safely substituted for Boldo.
Botanical: Eupatorium perfoliatum (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Compositae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Habitat---Thoroughwort or Boneset is a very common and familiar plant in low meadows and damp ground in North America, extending from Nova Scotia to Florida.
Boneset was a favourite medicine of the North American Indians, who called it by a name that is equivalent to 'Ague-weed,' and it has always been a popular remedy in the United States, probably no plant in American domestic practice having more extensive and frequent use; it is also in use to some extent in regular practice, being official in the United States Pharmacopceia, though it is not included in the British Pharmacopoeia.
---Constituents---All parts of the plant are active, but the herb only is official, the leaves and tops being gathered after flowering has commenced. They contain a volatile oil, some tannic acid, and Eupatorin, a bitter glucosidal principle, also resin, gum and sugar. The virtues of the plant are yielded both to water and alcohol.
---Description---Boneset is a perennial herb, with an erect stout, cylindrical hairy stem, 2 to 4 feet high, branched at the top. The leaves are large, opposite, united at the base, lance-shaped, 4 to 8 inches long (the lower ones being the largest), tapering to a sharp point, the edges finely toothed, the veins prominent, the blades rough above, downy and resinous and dotted beneath. The leaves serve to distinguish the species at the first glance - they may be considered either as perforated by the stem, perfoliate (hence the specific name), or as consisting of two opposite leaves joined at the base, the botanical term for which is connate. The flower-heads are terminal and numerous, large and slightly convex, with from ten to twenty white florets, having a bristly pappus, the hairs of which are arranged in a single row. The odour of the plant is slightly aromatic, the taste astringent and strongly bitter. This species shows considerable variety in size, hairiness, form of leaves and inflorescence. It flowers from July to September.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Stimulant, febrifuge and laxative. It acts slowly and persistently, and its greatest power is manifested upon the stomach, liver, bowels and uterus.
It is regarded as a mild tonic in moderate doses, and is also diaphoretic, more especially when taken as a warm infusion, in which form it is used in attacks of muscular rheumatism and general cold. In large doses it is emetic and purgative.
Many of the earlier works allude to this species as a diuretic, and therefore of use in dropsy, but this is an error, this property being possessed by Eupatorium purpureum, the purple-flowered Boneset, or Gravel Root.
It has been much esteemed as a popular febrifuge, especially in intermittent fever, and has been employed, though less successfully, in typhoid and yellow fevers. It is largely used by the negroes of the Southern United States as a remedy in all cases of fever, as well as for its tonic effects. As a mild tonic it is useful in dyspepsia and general debility, and particularly serviceable in the indigestion of old people. The infusion of 1 OZ of the dried herb to 1 pint of boiling water may be taken in wineglassful doses, hot or cold: for colds and to produce perspiration, it is given hot; as a tonic, cold.
As a remedy in catarrh, more especially in influenza, it has been extensively used and with the best effects, given in doses of a wineglassful, warm every half hour, the patient remaining in bed the whole time; after four or five doses, profuse perspiration is caused and relief is obtained. It is stated that the popular name Boneset is derived from the great value of this remedy in the treatment of a species of influenza which had much prevailed in the United States, and which from the pain attending it was commonly called Break-Bone Fever.
This species of Eupatorium has also been employed in cutaneous diseases, and in the expulsion of tapeworm.
---Preparations---Powdered herb. Dose 12 to 20 grains.
Fluid extract, 1/2 to 1 drachm.
Eupatorin. Dose, 1 to 3 grains.
Botanical: Borago officinalis (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Boraginaceae
Part Used Medicinally
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Parts Used---Leaves and flowers.
---Habitat---The Common Borage is a hardy annual plant coming originally from Aleppo but now naturalized in most parts of Europe and frequently found in this country, though mostly only on rubbish heaps and near dwellings, and may be regarded as a garden escape. It has long been grown freely in kitchen gardens, both for its uses as a herb and for the sake of its flowers, which yield excellent honey.
---Description---The whole plant is rough with white, stiff, prickly hairs. The round stems, about 1 1/2 feet high, are branched, hollow and succulent; the leaves alternate, large, wrinkled, deep green, oval and pointed, 3 inches long or more, and about 1 1/2 inch broad, the lower ones stalked, with stiff, one celled hairs on the upper surfaces and on the veins below, the margins entire, but wavy. The flowers, which terminate the cells, are bright blue and star-shaped, distinguished from those of every plant in this order by their prominent black anthers, which form a cone in the centre and have been described as their beauty spot. The fruit consists of four brownish-black nutlets.
---History---In the early part of the nineteenth century, the young tops of Borage were still sometimes boiled as a pot-herb, and the young leaves were formerly considered good in salads.
The fresh herb has a cucumber-like fragrance. When steeped in water, it imparts a coolness to it and a faint cucumber flavour, and compounded with lemon and sugar in wine, and water, it makes a refreshing and restorative summer drink. It was formerly always an ingredient in cool tankards of wine and cider, and is still largely used in claret cup.
Our great grandmothers preserved the flowers and candied them.
Borage was sometimes called Bugloss by the old herbalists, a name that properly belongs to Anchusa officinalis, the Alkanet, the Small Bugloss being Lycopsis arvensis, and Viper's Bugloss being the popular name for Echium vulgare.
Some authorities consider that the Latin name Borago, from which our popular name is taken, is a corruption of corago, from cor, the heart, and ago, I bring, because of its cordial effect.
In all the countries bordering the Mediterranean, where it is plentiful, it is spelt with a double 'r,' so the word may be derived from the Italian borra, French bourra, signifying hair or wool, words which in their turn are derived from the Low Latin burra, a flock of wool, in reference to the thick covering of short hairs which clothes the whole plant.
Henslow suggests that the name is derived from barrach, a Celtic word meaning 'a man of courage.'
'Pliny calls it Euphrosinum, because it maketh a man merry and joyfull: which thing also the old verse concerning Borage doth testifie:
Ego Borago - (I, Borage)
Gaudia semper ago. - (Bring alwaies courage.)
Those of our time do use the flowers in sallads to exhilerate and make the mind glad. There be also many things made of these used everywhere for the comfort of the heart, for the driving away of sorrow and increasing the joy of the minde. The leaves and floures of Borage put into wine make men and women glad and merry and drive away all sadnesse, dulnesse and melancholy, as Dios corides and Pliny affirme. Syrup made of the floures of Borage comforteth the heart, purgeth melancholy and quieteth the phrenticke and lunaticke person. The leaves eaten raw ingender good bloud, especially in those that have been lately sicke.'
According to Dioscorides and Pliny, Borage was the famous Nepenthe of Homer, which when drunk steeped in wine, brought absolute forgetfulness.
John Evelyn, writing at the close of the seventeenth century tells us: 'Sprigs of Borage are of known virtue to revive the hypochrondriac and cheer the hard student.'
Parkinson commends it 'to expel pensiveness and melanchollie.' Bacon says that it 'hath an excellent spirit to repress the fuliginous vapour of dusky melancholie.' Culpepper finds the plant useful in putrid and pestilential fever, the venom of serpents, jaundice, consumption, sore throat, and rheumatism.'
---Cultivation---Borage flourishes in ordinary soil. It may be propagated by division of rootstocks in spring and by putting cuttings of shoots in sandy soil in a cold frame in summer and autumn, or from seeds sown in fairly good, light soil, from the middle of March to May, in drills 18 inches apart, the seedlings being thinned out to about 15 inches apart in the rows. If left alone, Borage will seed itself freely and comes up year after year in the same place. Seeds may also be sown in the autumn. Those sown then will flower in May, whereas those sown in the spring will not flower till June.
---Part Used Medicinally---The leaves, and to a lesser extent, the flowers. Gather the leaves when the plant is coming into flower. Strip them off singly and reject any that are stained and insect-eaten. Pick only on a fine day, when the sun has dried off the dew.
---Constituents---Borage contains potassium and calcium, combined with mineral acids. The fresh juice affords 30 per cent, the dried herb 3 per cent of nitrate of potash. The stems and leaves supply much saline mucilage, which when boiled and cooked likewise deposits nitre and common salt. It is to these saline qualities that the wholesome invigorating properties of Borage are supposed to be due. Owing to the presence of nitrate of potash when burnt, it will emit sparks with a slight explosive sound.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Diuretic, demulcent, emollient. Borage is much usedin France for fevers and pulmonary complaints. By virtue of its saline constituents, it promotes the activity of the kidneys and for this reason is employed to carry off feverish catarrhs. Its demulcent qualities are due to the mucilage contained in the whole plant.
For internal use, an infusion is made of 1 OZ of leaves to 1 pint of boiling water, taken in wineglassful doses.
Externally, it is employed as a poultice for inflammatory swellings.
---Preparation---Fluid extract. Dose, 1/2 to 1 drachm.
The flowers, candied and made into a conserve, were deemed useful for persons weakened by long sickness, and for those subject to swoonings; the distilled water was considered as effectual, and also valuable to cure inflammation of the eyes.
The juice in syrup was thought not only to be good in fevers, but to be a remedy for jaundice, itch and ringworm. Culpepper tells us that in his days: 'The dried herb is never used, but the green, yet the ashes thereof boiled in mead or honeyed water, is available in inflammation and ulcers in the mouth or throat, as a gargle.'
Botanical: Buxus sempervirens (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Buxaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Parts Used---Wood and leaves.
---Habitat---Chiefly in limestone districts in western and southern Europe, westward to the Himalayas and Japan, northward to central and western France and in Britain, in some parts of southern and central England.
---Description---Box in its familiar dwarfed state is merely a shrub, but when left to grow naturally it will become a small tree 12 to 15 feet in height, rarely exceeding 20 feet, with a trunk about 6 inches in diameter covered with a rugged, greyish bark, that of the branches being yellowish. It belongs to the family Buxacece, a very small family of only six genera and about thirty species, closely related to the Spurge family - Euphorbiaceae. Only this evergreen species has been utilized in medicine.
Its twigs are densely leafy and the leaves are about 1/2 inch in length, ovate, entire, smooth, thick, coriaceous and dark green. They have a peculiar, rather disagreeable odour and a bitter and somewhat astringent taste. The flowers are in heads, a terminal female flower, surrounded by a number of male flowers. The fruit dehisces explosively the inner layer of the pericarp separating from the outer and shooting out the seed by folding into a U-shape.
---Constituents---The leaves have been found to contain besides a small amount of tannin and unimportant constituents, a butyraceous volatile oil and three alkaloids: (i) Buxine, the important constituent, chiefly responsible for the bitter taste and now regarded as identical with the Berberine of Nectander bark, (ii) Parabuxine, (iii) Parabuxonidine, which turns turmeric paper deep red. The bark contains chlorophyll, wax, resin, argotized tallow, gum, lignin, sulphates of potassium and lime, carbonates of lime and magnesia, phosphates of lime, iron and silica.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The wood in its native countries is considered diaphoretic, being given in decoction as an alterative for rheumatism and secondary syphilis. Used as a substitute for guaiacum in the treatment of venereal disease when sudorifics are considered to be the correct specifics.
It has been found narcotic and sedative in full doses; emetico-cathartic and convulsant in overdose. The tincture was formerly used as a bitter tonic and antiperiodic and had the reputation of curing leprosy.
A volatile oil distilled from the wood has been prescribed in cases of epilepsy. The oil has been employed for piles and also for toothache.
The leaves, which have a nauseous taste, have sudorific, alterative and cathartic properties being given in powder, in which form they are also an excellent vermifuge.
Various extracts and perfumes were formerly made from the leaves and bark. A decoction was recommended by some writers as an application to promote the growth of the hair. The leaves and sawdust boiled in Iye were used to dye hair an auburn color.
Dried and powdered, the leaves are still given to horses for the purpose of improving their coats. The powder is regarded by carters as highly poisonous, to be given with great care. In Devonshire, farriers still employ the old-fashioned remedy of powdered Box leaves for bot-worm in horses.
In former days, Box was the active ingredient in a once-famous remedy for the bite of a mad dog.
Animals in this country will not touch Box, and though camels are said to readily eat the leaves, they are poisoned by them.
The timber, though small, is valuable on account of its hardness and heaviness, being the hardest and heaviest of all European woods. It is of a delicate yellow color, dense in structure with a fine uniform grain, which gives it unique value for the wood-engraver, the most important use to which it is put being for printing blocks and engraving plates. An edge of this wood stands better than tin or lead, rivalling brass in its wearing power. A large amount is used in the manufacture of measuring rules, various mathematical instruments, flutes and other musical instruments and the wooden parts of tools, for which a perfectly rigid and non-expansive material is required, as well as for toilet boxes, pillrounders and similar articles.
The Boxwood used by cabinet-makers and turners in France is chiefly the root. Gerard tells us:
'The root is likewise yellow and harder than the timber, but of greater beauty and more fit for dagger haftes, boxes and suchlike. Turners and cuttlers do call this wood Dudgeon, wherewith they make Dudgeonhafted daggers.'
In France, Boxwood has been used as a substitute for hops and the branches and leaves of Box have been recommended as by far the best manure for the vine, as it is said no plant by its decomposition affords a greater quantity of vegetable manure.
---Dosage---As a purgative: dose of the powdered leaves, 1 drachm.
As vermifuge: 10 to 20 grains of the powdered leaves.
As sudorific: 1 to 2 oz. of the wood, in decoction.
---Other Species---DWARF BOX (Buxus suffructaca) possesses similar medicinal properties.
The American Boxwood used in herbal medicine as a substitute for Peruvian Bark, being a good tonic, astringent and stimulant, is not this Box but a kind of Dogwood, native to America, Cornus florida.
---Adulterant---Box bark which is also bitter and free from tannin, is sometimes substituted for Pomegranate Bark, which is employed as a worm-dispeller.
Box leaves have sometimes been substituted for Bearberry leaves (Uva-Ursi), from which they are distinguished by their notched apex.
Box leaves are also sometimes used as adulteration of senna, but are easily detected by their shape and thickness.
The custom of clipping Dwarf Box in topiary gardening is said to have originated with the Romans, a friend of Julius Caesar having invented it.
Botanical: Cornus florida (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Cornaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Bitter Redberry. Cornel. New England Boxwood. Dog-Tree. Flowering Dogwood. American Dogwood. Benthamidia florida. Box Tree. Virginian Dogwood. Cornouiller à grandes fleurs. Mon-ha-can-ni-min-schi. Hat-ta-wa-no-minschi.
---Part Used---The dried bark of the root.
---Habitat---The United States, from Massachusetts to Florida.
---Description---An ornamental little tree introduced into English cultivation about 1740, but still uncommon. It grows from 10 to 30 feet in height, with oval, opposite leaves, dark, clear green above and lighter below. The flowers occur in a small bunch surrounded by four large, white, involucral bracts that give the tree the appearance of bearing large white flowers. The name 'Florida' alludes to this effect, and the name 'Cornus,' from cornu, 'a horn,' refers to the density of the wood. It flowers so punctually in the third week in May that it sets the time for the Indians' corn-planting. The oval berries are a brilliant red. The bark is blackish, and cut into almost square sections. The inner bark can be utilized to make black ink, half an ounce of bark being mixed with two scruples of sulphate of iron and two scruples of gum-arabic dissolved in sixteen ounces of rainwater. A scarlet pigment can be obtained from the root bark. The wood is heavy and fine-grained, valuable for small articles because it takes an excellent polish. It is cut in autumn and dried before using. The twigs, stripped of their bark, whiten the teeth, and are used as a dentifrice by the Creoles who inhabit Virginia. The juice of the twigs preserves and hardens the gums. A bitter but agreeable drink can be prepared from the fruits infused in eau-de-vie.
In commerce the bark is usually in quilled pieces several inches long and from 1/2 to 2 inches broad, which may be covered with the greyish-red outer bark or may be deprived of it. They are brittle, and the short fracture shows a mottled red and white color. There is a slight odour, and the taste is bitter and a little aromatic; when fresh, almost acrid. The powder is a reddish-grey color.
---Constituents---The bark has been found to contain tannic and gallic acids, resin, gum, extractive, oil, wax, red coloring matter, lignin, potassa, lime, magnesia, iron, and a neutral, crystalline glucoside called Cornin. Either water or alcohol extracts the virtues of the bark. The flowers are said to have similar properties, and to be sometimes used as a substitute. It is said that the berries, boiled and pressed, yield a limpid oil.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Before Europeans discovered America, the Red Indianswere using the bark in the same way as Peruvian bark. It is valuable in intermittent fevers, as a weak tonic for the stomach, and antiperiodic, as a stimulant and astringent. As a poultice in anthrax, indolent ulcers, and inflamed erysipelas, it is tonic, stimulant and antiseptic. In the recent state it should be avoided, as it disagrees with stomach and bowels. Cinchona bark or sulphate of quinea often replace it officially. 35 grains of Cornus bark are equal to 30 grains of cinchona bark.
The leaves make good fodder for cattle, and in Italy the oil is used in soups.
The ripe fruit, infused in brandy, is used as a stomachic in domestic practice, and a tincture of the berries restores tone to the stomach in alcoholism. Hippocrates, Dioscorides, and Pliny recommend them in diarrhoea.
---Dosage---Formerly, 1 to 2 oz. of the powder between paroxysms of intermittent fever.
Of fluid extract, 30 minims as a tonic.
Of cornin, 2 grains.
---Other Species---C. circinata, or Round leaved Dogwood, and C. Amomum or C.Sericea (Silky Cornel or Swamp Dogwood), have similar properties and are sometimes used as substitutes.
C. sanguinea or C. stolonifera, a European species, is stated to have cured hydrophobia. A decoction was formerly used for washing mangy dogs, hence its name of Dogberry or Hound's Tree. It also yields an oil that is both edible and good for burning.
A Chilian species has edible berries, with which a drink called Theca is prepared. The juice of the leaves, or Maqui, is administered in angina.
C. caerulea has an astringent bark.
C. mascula, called in Greece akenia, and in Turkey kizziljiek, or redwood, yields the red dye used for the fez, and the astringent fruit is good in bowel complaints, and is used in cholera and for flavouring sherbet. The flowers are used in diarrhoea, and the berries were formerly made into tarts called rob de cornis.
The dwarf C. suecica has small red berries which form part of the Esquimaux' winter food-store. In Scotland they have such a reputation as a tonic for the appetite that the tree is called lus-a-chraois, or Plant of Gluttony.
Dogwood is also a popular name of Pisicia Erythrina, which yields a powerful soporific used for toothache. Its chief use is for poisoning birds, fish, or animals, which may be eaten afterwards without ill effect. Fish after eating it may be caught in the hand, stupefied.
Botanical: Veronica beccabunga (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Scrophulariaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Water Pimpernel. Becky Leaves. Cow Cress. Horse Cress. Housewell. Grass. Limewort. Brooklembe. Limpwort. Wall-ink. Water-Pumpy. Well-ink.
---Habitat---Brooklime is found in all parts of Great Britain, being very common and generally distributed, occurring as far north as the Shetlands, and in the Highlands ascending up to 2,800 feet. It is found in Ireland and the Channel Islands.
---Description---It grows abundantly in shallow streams, ditches, the margins of ponds, etc., flourishing in the same situations as Water Cress and Water Mint, throwing out stout, succulent, hollow stems that root and creep along the ground at the base, giving off roots at intervals, and then ascend, bearing pairs of short, stalked, oval-oblong leaves, smooth, about 1 1/2 inch long, slightly toothed on their margin and thick and leathery in texture. The whole plant is very smooth and shiny in appearance, turning blackish in drying. The flowers are rather numerous, in lax, axillary racemes, 2 to 4 inches long, given off in pairs, whereas in Germander, Speedwell, only one flower stem rises from each pair of leaves. They begin to open in May and continue in succession through the greater part of the summer, though are at their best in May and June. The corollas are bright blue, with darker veins and a white eye, the petals oval and unequal. Occasionally a pink form is found.
The flower is adapted for cross-fertilization in the same manner as Veronica chamaedrys, the stamens and style projecting from the flower and forming an alighting place for insects. The petals are wide open in the sun but only partly expanded in dull weather. The flowers are much visited by insects, especially by a fly, Syritta pipians. The Honey Bee is also a visitor and some other small wild bees. Two species of beetle and the larva of a moth, Athalia annulata, feed on the leaves. The capsule is round, flat notched and swollen and contains winged, smooth seeds.
The specific name of this plant seems to be derived from the German name, Bachbunge bach, signifying a brook, and bunge, a bunch. Another source given for the specific name is from the Flemish beckpunge meaning 'mouth smart,' a name suggested by the pungency of its leaves, which were formerly eaten in salads. Dr. Prior tells us that the name Brooklime is in old writers Broklempe or Lympe, from its growing in the lime or mud of brooks, the Anglo-Saxon word lime, coming from the Latin limus, a word that from mud used in the rude buildings of Anglo-Saxon times, has come to be applied to the calcareous stone of which mortar is now made.
---Constituents---Tannin and a special bitter principle, a pungent volatile oil and some sulphur.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Alterative, Diuretic. The leaves and young stems were once in favour as an antiscorbutic, and even now the young shoots are sometimes eaten in spring with those of Watercress, the two plants being generally found growing together. As a green vegetable, Brooklime isalso wholesome, but not very palatable.
In earlier days the leaves were applied to wounds, though their styptic qualities appear to be slight. They are sometimes bruised and put on burns.
The juice, with that of scurvy-grass and Seville oranges, formed the 'spring juices' once valued as an antiscorbutic.
The plant has always been a popular simple for scrofulous affections, especially of the skin. An infusion of the leaves is recommended for impurity of the blood, an ounce of them being infused in a pint of boiling water.
In the fourteenth century, Brooklime was used for many complaints, including swellings, gout, etc.
Botanical: Cytisus scoparius (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Leguminosae
Part Used Medicinally
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Spartium scoparium (Linn.). Genista scoparius (Lam.). Sarothamnus scoparius (Koch). Broom Tops. Irish Tops. Basam. Bisom. Bizzom. Browme. Brum. Breeam. Green Broom.
---Habitat---The densely-growing Broom, a shrub indigenous to England and common in this country, grows wild all over temperate Europe and northern Asia, being found in abundance on sandy pastures and heaths. It is sparingly naturalized in sandy soil in North America.
It is remarkable as the only native medicinal plant used as an official drug that we draw from the important order of the Leguminosae, or pod-bearing tribe. Though now more generally known as Cytisus scoparius (Linn.), it has also been named Spartium scoparium (Linn.), Sarothamnus scoparius (Koch), and Genista scoparius (Lam.).
Its long, slender, erect and tough branches grow in large, close fascicles, thus rendering it available for broom-making, hence its English name. The local names of Basam, Bisom, Bizzom, Breeam, Browme, Brum and Green Broom have all been given it in reference to the habit of making brooms of it, and the name of the genus, Sarothamnus, to which it was formerly assigned, also points out this use of the plant, being formed from the Greek words signifying 'to sweep' and 'a shrub.' The specific name, Scoparius, also, is derived from the Latin scopa, a besom. The generic name Cytisus is said to be a corruption of the name of a Greek island, Cythnus, where Broom abounded, though it is probable that the Broom known to the ancients, and mentioned by Pliny and by Virgil under the name of Genista, was another species, the Spanish Broom, Spartium junceum, as the Common Broom is in Greece and not found in Southern and Eastern Europe, being chiefly a native of Western, Northern and Central Europe.
The medicinal use of the brush-like branches of the Broom, under the name Genista, Genesta, or Genestia, is mentioned in the earliest printed herbals, under Passau, 1485, the Hortus Sanitatis, 1491, the Grete Herball, 1516, and others. It is likewise the Genista figured by the German botanists and pharmacologists of the sixteenth century.
Broom was used in ancient Anglo-Saxon medicine and by the Welsh physicians of the early Middle Ages. It had a place in the London Pharmacopceia of 1618 and is included in the British Pharmacopoeia of the present day.
Bartholomew says of Broom:
'Genesta hath that name of bytterness for it is full of bytter to mannes taste. And is a shrub that growyth in a place that is forsaken, stony and untylthed. Presence thereof is witnesse that the ground is bareyne and drye that it groweth in. And hath many braunches knotty and hard. Grene in winter and yelowe floures in somer thyche (the which) wrapped with hevy (heavy) smell and bitter sauer (savour). And ben, netheles, moost of vertue.'
---Description---It grows to a height of 3 to 5 feet and produces numerous long, straight, slender bright green branches, tough and very flexible, smooth and prominently angled. The leaves are alternate, hairy when young the lower ones shortly stalked, with three small, oblong leaflets, the upper ones, near the tips of the branches, sessile and small, often reduced to a single leaflet. Professor G. Henslow (Floral Rambles in Highways and Byways) says with reference to the 'leaves' of the broom: 'It has generally no leaves, the green stems undertaking their duties instead. If it grows in wet places, it can develop threefoliate leaves.' The large bright yellow, papilionaceous, fragrant flowers, in bloom from April to July, are borne on axillary footstalks, either solitary or in pairs, and are succeeded by oblong, flattened pods, about 1 1/2 inch long, hairy on the edges, but smooth on the sides. They are nearly black when mature. They burst with a sharp report when the seeds are ripe flinging them to a distance by the spring-iike twisting of the valves or sides of the pods. The continuous crackling of the bursting seed-vessels on a hot, sunny July day is readily noticeable. The flowers have a great attraction for bees, they contain no honey, but abundance of pollen.
'In flowers without honey, such as the Broom, there is a curious way of "exploding" to expel the pollen. In the Broom the stigma lies in the midst of the five anthers of the longer stamens, and when a bee visits the flower those of the shorter explode and disperse their pollen on the bee pressing upon the closed edges of the keel petal. "The shock is not enough to drive the bee away . . . The split now quickly extends further . . . when a second and more violent explosion occurs." The style was horizontal with a flattened end below the stigma; but when freed from restraint it curls inwards, forming more than a complete spiral turn. It springs up and strikes the back of the bee with its stigma. The bee then gathers pollen with its mouth and legs.' (From The Fertilization of Flowers, by Professor H. Mueller, pp. 195-6)
---History---As a heraldic device, the Broom was adopted at a very early period as the badge of Brittany. Geoffrey of Anjou thrust it into his helmet at the moment of going into battle, that his troops might see and follow him. As he plucked it from a steep bank which its roots had knit together he is reputed to have said: 'This golden plant, rooted firmly amid rock, yet upholding what is ready to fall, shall be my cognizance. I will maintain it on the field, in the tourney and in the court of justice.' Fulke of Anjou bore it as his personal cognizance, and Henry II of England, his grandson, as a claimant of that province, also adopted it, its mediaeval name Planta genista, giving the family name of Plantagenets to his line. It may be seen on the Great Seal of Richard I, this being its first official, heraldic appearance in England. Another origin is claimed for the heraldic use of the Broom in Brittany. A prince of Anjou assassinated his brother there and seized his kingdom, but being overcome by remorse, he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, in expiation of his crime. Every night on the journey, he scourged himself with a brush of 'genets,' or genista, and adopted this plant as his badge, in perpetual memory of his repentance. St. Louis of France continued the use of this token, founding a special order on the occasion of his marriage in the year 1234. The Colle de Genet, the collar of the order, was composed alternately of the fleur-de-lys of France and the Broomflower, the Broomflower being worn on the coat of his bodyguard of a hundred nobles, with the motto, 'Exaltat humiles,' 'He exalteth the lowly.' The order was held in great esteem and its bestowal regarded as a high honour. Our Richard II received it, and a Broom plant, with open, empty pods, can be seen ornamenting his tomb in Westminster Abbey. In 1368 Charles V of France bestowed the insignia of the Broom pod on his favourite chamberlain, and in 1389 Charles VI gave the same decoration to his kinsmen.
The Broom is the badge of the Forbes. Thus, according to Sandford, it was the bonny broom which the Scottish clan of Forbes wore in their bonnets when they wished to arouse the heroism of their chieftains, and which in their Gaelic dialect they called bealadh, in token of its beauty.
'This humble shrub,' writes Baines, 'was not less distinguished than the Rose herself during the civil wars of the fourteenth century.'
Apart from its use in heraldry, the Broom has been associated with several popular traditions. In some parts, it used to be considered a sign of plenty, when it bore many flowers. The flowering tops were used for house decoration at the Whitsuntide festival but it was considered unlucky to employ them for menial purposes when in full bloom.
An old Suffolk tradition runs:
'If you sweep the house with blossomed Broom in May
You are sure to sweep the head of the house away.'
And a yet older tradition is extant that when Joseph and Mary were fleeing into Egypt, the plants of the Broom were cursed by the Virgin because the crackling of their ripe pods as they touched them in passing risked drawing the attention of the soldiers of Herod to the fugitives.
The Broom has been put to many uses. When planted on the sides of steep banks, its roots serve to hold the earth together. On some parts of our coast, it is one of the first plants that grow on the sand-dunes after they have been somewhat consolidated on the surface by the interlacing stems of the mat grasses and other sand-binding plants. It will flourish within reach of sea spray, and, like gorse, is a good sheltering plant for sea-side growth.
Broom is grown extensively as a shelter for game, and also in fresh plantations among more important species of shrubs, to protect them from the wind till fully established.
The shrub seldom grows large enough to furnish useful wood, but when its stem acquires sufficient size, it is beautifully veined, and being very hard, furnishes the cabinetmaker with most valuable material for veneering.
The twigs and branches are serviceable not only for making brooms, but are also used for basket-work, especially in the island of Madeira. They are sometimes used in the north of England and Scotland for thatching cottages and cornricks, and as substitutes for reeds in making fences or screens.
The bark of the Common Broom yields an excellent fibre, finer but not so strong as that of the Spanish Broom, which has been employed from very ancient times- it is easily separated by macerating the twigs in water like flax. From the large quantity of fibrous matter contained, the shoots have been used in the manufacture of paper and cloth.
Tannin exists in considerable amount in the bark, which has been used in former times for tanning leather.
Before the introduction of Hops, the tender Freen tops were often used to communicate a bitter flavour to beer, and to render it more intoxicating.
Gerard says of the Broom:
'The common Broom groweth almost everywhere in dry pastures and low woods. It flowers at the end of April or May, and then the young buds of the flowers are to be gathered and laid in pickle or salt, which afterwards being washed or boiled are used for sallads as capers be and be eaten with no less delight.'
Broom buds were evidently a favourite delicacy, for they appeared on three separate tables at the Coronation feast of James II. The flowers served the double purpose of an appetizer and a corrective.
Sometimes a bunch of green Broom tied up with colored ribbons was carried by the guests at rustic weddings instead of rosemary, when that favourite aromatic herb proved scarce.
Withering (Arrangement of Plants) stated that the green tops were a good winter food for sheep, preventing rot and dropsy in them.
The blossoms were used for making an unguent to cure the gout, and Henry VIII used to drink a water made from the flowers against the surfeit.
Dodoens (Herbal, 1606) recommended a decoction of the tops in dropsy and for 'stoppages of the liver.'
Gerard tells us: 'The decoction of the twigs and tops of Broom doth cleanse and open the liver, milt and kidnies.'
Culpepper considered the decoction of Broom to be good not only for dropsy, but also for black jaundice, ague, gout, sciatica and various pains of the hips and joints.
Some of the old physicians burned the tops to ashes and infused the salts thus extracted in wine. They were known as Salts of Broom (Sal Genistae).
The powdered seeds are likewise administered and sometimes a tincture is employed. Bruised Broom seeds were formerly used infused in rectified spirit, allowed to stand two weeks and then strained. A tablespoonful in a glass of peppermint water was taken daily for liver complaints and ague.
The leaves or young tops yield a green dye.
The seeds have similar properties to the tops, and have also been employed medicinally, though they are not any longer used officially. They have served as a substitute for coffee.
---Cultivation---Broom is most easily raised from seed, sown broadcast in the open air, as soon as ripe. Seedlings may be transplanted in autumn or spring to their permanent position. Prune directly after flowering, if the shoots have not been gathered for medicinal use, shortening the old shoots to the base of promising young ones.
As their roots strike down deeply into the ground, the plants can be grown in dry, sandy soil, where others will not grow. They do well on rough banks.
Broom may also be increased by layers. Choice garden varieties are generally increased by cuttings inserted in cold frames in September.
---Constituents---Broom contains two principles on which its activity depends. Sparteine, discovered in 1851 by Stenhouse, of which about 0.03 per cent is present, is a transparent, oily liquid, colorless when fresh, turning brown on exposure, of an aniline-like odour and a very bitter taste. It is but slightly soluble in water, but readily soluble in alcohol and ether. Stenhouse stated that the amount of Sparteine in Broom depends much upon external conditions, that grown in the shade yielding less than that produced in sunny places.
Scoparin, the other principal constituent, is a glucoside, occurring in pale-yellow crystals, colorless and tasteless, soluble in alcohol and hot water. It represents most of the direct diuretic activity of Broom.
Volatile oil, tannin, fat, wax, sugar, etc., are also present. Broom contains a very large quantity of alkaline and earthy matter, on incineration yielding about 3 per cent of ash, containing 29 per cent of carbonate of potash.
Sparteine forms certain salts of which the sulphate (official in the British and the United States Pharmacopceias) is most used in medicine. It occurs in colorless crystals, readily soluble in water.
Oxysparteine (formed by the action of acid on Sparteine) is used as a cardiac stimulant.
The flowers contain volatile oil fatty matter, wax, chlorophyll, yellow coloring matter, tannin, a sweet substance, mucilage, albumen and lignin. Scoparin and the alkaloid sparteine have been separated from them.
---Part Used Medicinally---The young, herbaceous tips of the flowering branches are collected in early spring, generally in May, as they contain most alkaloid at the close of the winter. They are used officially both in the fresh and dried state.
Broom Juice (Succus Scoparii) is directed to be obtained by pressing out the bruised, fresh tops, adding one-third volume of alcohol and setting aside for seven days, filtering before use.
For the expression of the juice the fresh tops may be gathered in June. Broom Juice is official in the British, French, German and United States Pharmacopoeias.
Infusion of Broom (Infusum Scoparii) is made by infusing the dried tops with boiling water for fifteen minutes and then straining. It was introduced in the British Pharmacopoeia of 1898, in place of the decoction of Broom of the preceding issues.
The Fluid Extract of Broom of the United States Pharmacopceia is prepared from the powdered dried tops.
The drug, as it appears in commerce, consists of very long, much-branched, tough and flexible twigs, which lie parallel with and close to one another and are about 1/25 to 1/12 inch thick, narrowly five-winged, with alternating, slight nodes, dark-green and usually naked; internally, greenish-white.
When fresh, the whole plant has a strong and peculiar odour, especially when bruised, which almost entirely disappears on drying.
The tops are dark green when fresh and dark brownish-green when dried.
The quality of the drug deteriorates with keeping, and this condition can be determined by the partial or complete loss of the slight, peculiar odour of the recently dried drug.
The deep yellow flowers, dried, are considerably employed separately, under the name Flores Genistae, or Flores Scoparii.
Broom Seeds are used sometimes and are as active as the tops. Water and alcohol extract their active properties.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Diuretic and cathartic. Broom tops are used in the form of decoction and infusion, often with squill and ammonium and potassium acetate, as a feeble diuretic, generally in dropsical complaints of cardiac origin. The action is due to the Scoparin contained, whose action on the renal mucous membrane is similar to that of Buchu and Uva-Ursi.
The infusion is made from 1 OZ. of the dried tops to a pint of boiling water, taken in wineglassful doses frequently. When acute renal inflammation is present, it should not be given.
Broom Juice, in large doses, is apt to disturb the stomach and bowels and is therefore more often used as an adjuvant to other diuretics than alone.
A compound decoction of Broom is recommended in herbal medicine as of much benefit in bladder and kidney affections, as well as in chronic dropsy. To make this, 1 OZ. Broomtops and 1/2 oz. of Dandelion Roots are boiled in one pint of water down to half a pint, adding towards the last, 1/2 oz. of bruised Juniper berries. When cold, the decoction is strained and a small quantity of cayenne added. A wineglassful is taken three or four times a day.
The statements of different investigators, both clinical and pharmacological, concerning the effects of the Sparteine in preparations of Broom, have elicited absolutely opposing views on the effect upon the nerves and circulatory system. It is found to produce a transient rise in arterial pressure, followed by a longer period of decreased vascular tension. Small doses slow the heart for a short period of time and then hasten its rate and at the same time increase the volume of the pulse. Those who advocate its employment claim that it is a useful heart tonic and regulator in chronic valvular disease. It has no cumulative action, like Digitalis.
In large doses, Sparteine causes vomiting and purging weakens the heart, depresses the nerve cells and lowers the blood pressure and has a strong resemblance to the action of Conine (Hemlock) on the heart. In extreme cases, death is caused by impairing the activity of the respiratory organs. Shepherds have long been aware of the narcotic properties of Broom, due to Sparteine, having noticed that sheep after eating it become at first excited and then stupefied, but the intoxicating effects soon pass off.
---Preparations---Fluid extract, 1/2 to 1 drachm. Juice, B.P., 1 to 2 drachms. Infusion, B.P., 1 to 2 oz.
---Substitutes---It is essential that true Broom be carefully distinguished from Spanish Broom (Spartium junceum), since a number of cases of poisoning have occurred from the substitution of the dried flowers of Spartium for those of the true Broom.
Botanical: Ruscus aculeatus (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Liliaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Kneeholy. Knee Holly. Kneeholm. Jew's Myrtle. Sweet Broom. Pettigree.
---Parts Used---Herb and root.
---Habitat---Butcher's Broom, a low, shrubby, evergreen plant, which occurs not infrequently in woods and waste and bushy places, especially in the south of England, is sometimes called Knee Holly, though it is in no way allied to the true Holly, being a member of the Lily tribe. It is, however, entirely different in appearance to the bulbous plants we regard as the characteristic representatives of this group, it being, in fact, the only Liliaceous shrub known in this country, and the only representative of its genus among our flora, the other species of the genus, Ruscus, being mostly native to northern Africa.
---Description---The name Knee Holly appears to have been given it from its rising to about the height of a man's knee (though occasionally specimens are found growing about 3 feet high), and from its having, like the true Holly, prickly leaves, which are also evergreen.
There is no other British plant exhibiting any similarity to the Butcher's Broom. Its tough, green, erect, striated stems, which are destitute of bark, send out from the upper part many short branches, plentifully furnished with very rigid leaves, which are really a mere expansion of the stem, and terminate each in a single sharp spine. The small greenish-white flowers are solitary growing from the centre of the leaves and blossom in the early spring. They are dioecious, i.e. stamens and pistils are on different plants, as is also mostly the case with the Holly and Mistletoe. The corolla is deeply six-cleft, the stamens, in the one kind of flower, connected at the base, the style, in the fertile flowers, surrounded by a nectary. The fertile flowers are succeeded by scarlet berries as large as cherries, which are ripe in September, and remain attached to the plant all the winter and cause it often to be picked for room decoration.
Another member of the same family is Ruscus racemosus or Alexandrinus, a favourite evergreen shrub with the leaf-like branches unarmed, and the racemes of small flowers terminal. It is the original of the 'poets' laurel' so often seen in classic prints. It, too has red berries - smaller than those of the Butcher's Broom.
Other species are R. androgynous, a native of the Canaries, which bears its flowers along the edges of the so-called leaves; R. Hypophyllum, in which the flowers are borne on the underside of the flattened branches; and R. Hypoglossum, also from southern Europe, in which the flowers are on the upper side under a bract-like branchlet.
The young shoots of Butcher's Broom have often been eaten like those of the Asparagus, a plant to which it is closely allied. The matured branches used to be bound into bundles and sold to butchers for sweeping their blocks, hence the name: Butcher's Broom. It is frequently made into besoms in Italy. One of the names given the plant, 'Jew's Myrtle,' points to its use for service during the Feast of Tabernacles. 'Pettigree' is another old popular name, the meaning of which is not clear.
Parkinson tells us that Butcher's Broom was used to preserve 'hanged meate' from being eaten by mice, and also for the making of brooms,
'but the King's Chamber is by revolution of time turned to the Butcher's stall, for that a bundle of the stalkes tied together serveth them to cleanse their stalls and from thence have we our English name of Butcher's broom.'
Culpepper says it is
'a plant of Mars, being of a gallant cleansing and opening quality. The decoction of the root drank, and a poultice made of the berries and leaves applied, are effectual-in knitting and consolidating broken bones or parts out of joint. The common way of using it is to boil the root of it, and Parsley and Fennel and Smallage in white wine, and drink the decoction, adding the like quantity of Grassroot to them: The more of the root you boil the stronger will the decoction be; it works no ill effects, yet I hope you have wit enough to give the strongest decoction to the strongest bodies.'
---Cultivation---Butcher's Broom is very hardy, thriving in almost any soil or situation, and is often planted in shrubberies or edges of woods, on account of its remaining green after the deciduous trees have shed their leaves.
Propagation is generally effected by division of the roots in autumn. The shrub may also be propagated by seed, but quicker results are obtained by the other method. When planted under trees it soon spreads into large clumps.
---Part Used---The root or rhizome, collected in autumn. The root is thick, striking deep into the ground. When dry, it is brownish grey, 2 to 4 inches long and 1/3 inch in diameter, having somewhat crowded rings and rounded stem scars on the upper surface and many woody rootlets below. If a transverse section be made, a number of vascular bundles in the central portion are to be seen. The root has no odour, but its taste is sweetish at first and then slightly acrid.
The whole herb is also collected, being dried in the same manner as Holly leaves.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Diaphoretic, diuretic, deobstruent and aperient. Was much recommended by Dioscorides and other ancient physicians as an aperient and diuretic in dropsy, urinary obstructions and nephritic cases.
A decoction of the root is the usual form of administration, and it is still considered of use in jaundice and gravel. One pint of boiling water to 1 OZ. of the twigs, or 1/2 oz. of the bruised fresh root has also been recommended as an infusion, which may be taken as tea.
In scrofulous tumours, advantage has been realized by administering the root in doses of a drachm every morning.
The decoction, sweetened with honey, is said to clear the chest of phlegm and relieve difficult breathing.
The boughs have been employed for flogging chilblains.
Botanical: Genista tinctoria (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Leguminosae
---Synonyms---Dyer's Greenwood. Dyer's Weed. Woad Waxen.
(French) Genêt des Teinturiers.
---Parts Used---Twigs and leaves.
---Habitat---The Dyer's Broom (Genista tinctoria, Linn.) is a small shrubby plant with narrow, pointed leaves and yellow flowers, growing in meadows, pastures and heaths and on the borders of fields, not uncommon in England but rare in Scotland. It is wild throughout Europe and established on barren hills and on roadsides in the eastern states of North America. It is also cultivated in greenhouses in the United States, on account of its profusion of yellow papilionaceous flowers.
---Description---The bright green smooth stems, 1 to 2 feet high, are much branched; the branches erect, rather stiff, smooth or only lightly hairy and free from spines. The leaves are spear-shaped, placed alternately on the stem, smooth, with uncut margins, 1/2 to 1 inch in length, very smoothly stalked; the margins fringed with hairs.
The shoots terminate in spikes of brightyellow, pea-like flowers, opening in July. They are 1/2 to 3/4 inch long, on foot-stalks shorter than the calyx. Like those of the Broom, they 'explode' when visited by an insect. The 'claws' of the four lower petals are straight at first, but in a high state of tension, so that the moment they are touched, they curl downwards with a sudden action and the flower bursts open. The flowers are followed by smooth pods, 1 to 1/4 inch long, much compressed laterally, brown when ripe, containing five to ten seeds.
A dwarf kind grows in tufts in meadows in the greater part of England and is said to enrich poor soil.
Cows will sometimes eat the plant, and it communicates an unpleasant bitterness to their milk and even to the cheese and butter made from it.
All parts of the plant, but especially the flowering tops, yield a good yellow dye, and from the earliest times have been used by dyers for producing this color, especially for wool; combined with woad, an excellent green is yielded, the color being fixed with alum, cream of tartar and sulphate of lime. In some parts of England, the plant used to be collected in large quantities by the poor and sold to the dyers.
Tournefort (1708) describes the process of dyeing linen, woollen, cloth or leather by the use of this plant, which he saw in the island of Samos. It is still applied to the same purpose in some of the Grecian islands. The Romans employed it for dyeing, and it is described by several of their writers.
The plant is called in French Genêt des Teinturiers and in German Färberginster. Its English name in the fourteenth century was Wede-wixin, or Woud-wix, which later became Woad Waxen. We find it also called Green Weed and Dyer's Weed.
It has diuretic, cathartic and emetic properties and both flower tops and seeds have been used medicinally, though it has never been an official drug.
The powdered seeds operate as a mild purgative, and a decoction of the plant has been used medicinally as a remedy in dropsy and is stated to have proved effective in gout and rheumatism, being taken in wineglassful doses three or four times a day.
The ashes form an alkaline salt, which has also been used as a remedy in dropsy and other diseases.
In the fourteenth century it was used, as well as Broom, to make an ointment called Unguentum geneste, 'goud for alle could goutes,' etc. The seed was also used in a plaster for broken limbs.
A decoction of the plant was regarded in the Ukraine as a remedy for hydrophobia, but its virtues in this respect do not seem to rest on very good evidence.
Botanical: Spartium junceum (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Leguminosae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Habitat---The Spanish Broom is a small shrub, indigenous in the south of Europe and cultivated as an ornamental plant. The flowers are large, yellow and of an agreeable scent. It is identified with the Spartium of the ancients, which is reputed to have been very violent in action and was said by Gerard and other herbalists 'to cause to vomit with great violence, even as white Hellebor.'
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The Spanish Broom in its medicinal properties closely resembles the common Broom, but is from five to six times more active. The symptoms produced by overdoses are vomiting and purging, with renal irritation. The seeds have been used to a considerable extent in dropsy, in the form of a tincture. The flowers yield a yellow dye.
The dried flowers of Spanish Broom are readily differentiated, those of the true Broom having a small bell-shaped calyx with two unequal lobes, the upper of which is bi-dentate and the lower minutely tridentate, while in Spartium junceum, the calyx is deeply cleft to the base on one side only.
By macerating the twigs a good fibre is obtained, which is made into thread in Languedoc, and its cord and a coarse sort of cloth in Dalmatia.
The name Spartium is from the Greek word denoting 'cardage,' in allusion to the use of the plant.
Coronilla scorpioides (Koch) has been used medicinally as substitute for Broom.
Coronilla is the herbage of various species of the genus of that name, natives of Europe and some naturalized in North America.
The drug, at least that from Coronilla scorpioides (Koch), contains the glucoside Coronillin, a yellow powder. The action and uses of the drug are very similar to those of Broom.
The leaflets are said to produce a dye like indigo by proper fermentation, and are also reported as a laxative.
Botanical: Sorghum vulgare (PERS.)
Family: N.O. Graminacae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Sorghum Seeds. Sorghum Saccharatum (Moench). Guinea Corn.
---Habitat---Spain. Italy and south of Europe. Cultivated in the United States of America.
---Description---Known as Millet or Guinea Corn. Is cultivated in the same way as oats or barley in northern Europe; the seeds are small, round and white, the plant is canelike and similar to Indian Corn, but producing large heads of the small grain. Sorghum is generally classified under two varieties, saccharine and non-saccharine. The saccharine sorghums are not used for producing sugar owing to the difficulty of crystallization.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---It yields a very white flour which is used for making bread, and the grain is used for feeding cattle, horses and poultry. The grain is diuretic and demulcent if taken as a decoction. The plant is extensively cultivated in America for the manufacture of brooms and brushes.
The decoction of 2 oz. of seeds to 1 quart of water, boiled down to 1 pint, is used in urinary and kidney complaints.
In the semi-arid districts of western America it is reported that cattle have been poisoned by eating the green sorghum of the second growth; possibly due to hydrocyanic acid in the leaves.
Botanical: Tamus communis (LINN.
Family: N.O. Dioscoreaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
Black Bryony belongs to a family of twining and climbing plants which generally spring from large tubers, some of which are cultivated for food, as the Yam, which forms an important article of food in many tropical countries. Great Britain only furnishes one species of this tribe, Tamus communis, which, from its powerful, acrid and cathartic qualities, ranks as a dangerous irritant poison.
It is a very common plant in woods and hedges, with weak stems twining round anything within reach, and thus ascending or creeping among the trees and bushes to a considerable distance.
---Description---The leaves are heart-shaped pointed, smooth and generally shining as if they had been varnished. Late in autumn they turn dark purple or bright yellow, making a very showy appearance. In winter, the stems die down, though the root is perennial.
The flowers are small, greenish-white, in loose bunches and of two kinds, barren and fertile on different plants, the latter being succeeded by berries of a red color when ripe.
The large, fleshy root is black on the outside and exceedingly acrid, and, although an old cathartic medicine, is a most dangerous remedy when taken internally. It is like that of the yam, thick and tuberous and abounding in starch, but too acrid to be used as food in any manner.
The young shoots are said to be good eating when dressed like Asparagus- the Moors eat them boiled with oil and salt, after they have been first soaked in hot water.
Gerard says of this plant:
'The wild black Briony resembleth the white Briony vine, but has not clasping tendrils and is easier to be losed. The root is black without and of a pale yellow color within, like Box. It differs from white Briony only in that the root is of a yellow box color on the inside, and the fruit or berries are black when they come to ripeness.'
As to the color of the berries, Gerard is at fault: they are bright red. Other writers have also made the same mistake. The root is nearly cylindrical, 1 to 1 1/2 inch in diameter, 3 to 4 inches long or more, and black.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Rubifacient, diuretic. The expressed juice of the fresh root, mixed with a little white wine, has been used as a remedy for gravel, being a powerful diuretic, but it is not given internally now, and is not included in the British Pharmacopoeia. Death in most painful form is the result of an overdose, while the effect of a small quantity, varying not with the age only, but according to the idiosyncrasies of the patient, leaves little room for determining the limit between safety and destruction. The expressed juice of the root, with honey, has also been used as a remedy for asthmatic complaints, but other remedies that are safer should be preferred.
The berries act as an emetic, and children should be cautioned against eating them.
As an external irritant, Black Bryony has, however, been used with advantage, and it was formerly much employed. The scraped pulp was applied as a stimulating plaster, and in gout, rheumatism and paralysis has been found serviceable in many instances.
A tincture made from the root proves a most useful application to unbroken chilblains, and also the fruits, steeped in gin, are used for the same remedy.
Black Bryony is a popular remedy for removing discoloration caused by bruises and black eyes, etc. The fresh root is scraped to a pulp and applied in the form of a poultice.
For sores, old writers recommend it being made into an ointment with 'hog's grease or wax, or other convenient ointment.'
The generic name Tamus is given to the plant from the belief that it is the same as that referred to in the works of Pliny under the name of Uva Taminia.
The Greeks use the young suckers like Asparagus, which they much resemble.
T. cretica is a native of Greece and the Greek Archipelago.
---Preparation---Tincture, 1 to 5 drops.
Bryony, European White
Botanial: Bryonia alba (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Cucurbitaceae
---Synonyms---Black-berried White Bryony. European White Bryony.
The Black-berried White Bryony is a plant very similar in general appearance to Bryonia dioica, having also palmate rough leaves and similar unisexual flowers, which are succeeded, however, by globular black berries.
The root is very similar to that of Bryonia dioica and contains the same substances, but it is stated also to contain a glucoside Brein, which causes the drug to produce a somewhat different physiological effect.
The tincture is used by homoeopathists, and is said to be one of the best diuretics in medicine. It is an excellent remedy in gravel and all other obstructions and disorders of the urinary passages, and has also been used for relieving coughs and colds of a feverish, bronchial nature.
---Preparation---Fluid extract, 1/6 to 1 drachm Bryonin, 1/4 to 2 grains.
Botanical: Bryonia dioica (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Cucurbitaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---English Mandrake. Wild Vine. Wild Hops. Wild Nep. Tamus. Ladies' Seal. Tetterbury.
(French) Navet du diable.
---Habitat---The Cucumber tribe has a single representative among our wild plants in the Red-berried, common or White Bryony. This is a vine-like plant growing in woods and hedges, and exceedingly common in the south of England, rarer in the Midland counties, and not often found in the north of England. It is of frequent occurrence in central and southern Europe.
---Description---The stems climb by means of long tendrils springing from the side of the leaf stalks, and extend among the trees and shrubs often to the length of several yards during the summer, dying away after ripening their fruit. They are angular and brittle, branched mostly at the base, and are, as well as the somewhat vine-shaped leaves very rough to the touch, with short, pricklelike hairs - a general character of the exotic plants of this order.
The leaves are stalked, with the stalk curved, shorter than the blade, which is divided into five lobes, of which the middle one is the longest - all five are slightly angular.
The flowers, which bloom in May, are small, greenish, and produced, generally three or four together, in small bunches springing from the axils of the leaves. Stamens and pistils are never found in the same flower, nor are the flowers which have them individually ever met with on the same plant in this species, whence the name dioica, signifying literally 'two dwellings.' The male flowers are in loose, stalked bunches, 3 to 8 flowers in a bunch, or cyme, the stamens having one-celled, yellow anthers. The fertile flowers, easily distinguished from the barren by the presence of an ovary beneath the calyx, are generally either stalkless (sessile) or with very short stalks - two to five together. The corollas in each case consist of five petals, cohering only at the base. The outer green calyx is widely bell-shaped and five-toothed.
The berries, which hang about the bushes after the stem and leaves are withered, are almost the size of peas when ripe, a pale scarlet in color. They are filled with juice of an unpleasant, foetid odour and contain three to six large seeds, greyish-yellow, mottled with black, and are unwholesome to eat.
The whole plant is rather succulent, bright green and somewhat shining.
The name of the genus, Bryonia, derived from the Greek bryo, 1 shoot, or sprout appears to have reference to the vigorous an active growth of its annual stems, which proceed from the perennial roots, and so rapidlycover other shrubs, adhering to them with their tendrils. Bryonia dioica is the only British representative of the genus.
---History---Under the name of Wild Nepit was known in the fourteenth century as an antidote to leprosy.
It produces a large, tuberous rootstock which is continuous with a thick, fleshy root which attains an enormous size. Gerard says of it:
'The Queen's chief surgeon, Mr. Wiiliam Godorous, a very curious and learned gentleman, shewed me a root hereof that waied half an hundredweight, and of the bignes of a child of a yeare old.'
This large, fleshy, pale-colored root used often to be seen suspended in herb shops, occasionally trimmed into a rude human form. Green (Universal Herbal, 1832) tells us:
'The roots of Bryony grow to a vast size and have been formerly by imposters brought into a human shape, carried about the country and shown for Mandrakes to the common people. The method which these knaves practised was to open the earth round a young, thriving Bryony plant, being careful not to disturb the lower fibres of the root; to fix a mould, such as is used by those who make plaster figures, close to the root, and then to fill in the earth about the root, leaving it to grow to the shape of the mould, which is effected in one summer.'
The plant is still sometimes called Mandrake in Norfolk.
In this fleshy root is found a somewhat milky juice, very nauseous and bitter to the taste. It is of a violently purgative and cathartic nature, and was a favourite medicine with the older herbalists, well known to and much used by the Greeks and Romans prescribed by Galen and Dioscorides, and afterwards by Gerard, but is now seldom employed by regular practitioners, though sometimes by the homoeopathists, though they mostly use another variety of Bryony that is not indigenous to this country. The French call the root Navet du Diable (Devil's Turnip), from its violent and dangerous action.
Withering says a decoction made by boiling one pound of the fresh root in water is 'the best purge for horned cattle,' and it has been considered a sovereign remedy for horse grip.
Gerard declared the root to be profitable for tanners to thicken their hides with.
Bartholomew's Anglicus tells us that Augustus Caesar used to wear a wreath of Bryony during a thunderstorm to protect himself from lightning.
Culpepper says it is a 'furious martial plant,' but good for many complaints; among others, 'stiches in the side, palsies, cramps, convulsions ' etc.
The acrid and cathartic properties of the root are shared in some measure by all parts of the plant: the berries are emetic and even poisonous. They have been used for dyeing. The young shoots in the spring are considered to be inert, and have sometimes been boiled and eaten as greens without harm resulting. Among animals, goats alone are said to eat this plant.
The extracts made from some exotic species of this tribe, as the Squirting Cucumber (Momordica elaterium) and the Colocynth (Cucumis colocynthis), afford useful medicine.
---Part Used---The root is collected in the autumn and used both in the fresh and dry state. When fresh, it is of a dirty yellow or yellowish-white color, externally marked at close intervals with prominent transverse corky ridges, which often extend half round the root and give it the appearance of being circularly wrinkled. Internally, it is whitish, succulent and fleshy, with a nauseous odour - which disappears in great measure on drying - and a bitter, acrid taste. The juice which exudes on cutting the root is milky, owing to the presence of numerous minute starch grains. The root is usually simple, like a carrot or parsnip, but sometimes is forked into two.
When sold dry, Bryony root appears in circular, brittle pieces, 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick about 2 inches in diameter, the thin bark greyish-brown and rough, longitudinally wrinkled, the central portion whitish or greyish, showing numerous round wood bundles arranged in concentric rays, with projecting radiating lines. The taste is disagreeably bitter, but there is no odour.
The large size, tapering shape, transverse corky ridges and nauseously bitter taste of Bryony root are distinctive. Small specimens may resemble Horseradish root, but that is cylindrical and smooth and has a pungent taste.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Irritative, hydragogue, cathartic. Its chief use was as a hydragogue cathartic, but is now superseded by Jalap. Its use as a purgative has been discontinued as dangerous, on account of its powerful and highly irritant nature.
It was formerly given in dropsy and other complaints. It is of so acrid a character that, if applied to the skin, it produces redness and even blisters. It has been used for cataplasms, and praised as a remedy for sciatica, rheumatism and lumbago.
It is still considered useful in small doses for cough, influenza, bronchitis and pneumonia, and has also been recommended for pleurisy and whooping-cough, relieving the pain and allaying the cough.
It has proved of value in cardiac disorders caused by rheumatism and gout, also in malarial and zymotic diseases.
In case of poisoning by Bryony, the stomach must be evacuated and demulcent drinks given. The body temperature must be maintained by the use of blankets and hot bottles.
Botanical: Barosma betulina (BART. and WENDL.)
Family: N.O. Rutaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Habitat---A small shrubby plant chiefly found in the south-west region of Cape Colony.
The standard Buchus of commerce are obtained from three species: Barosma betulina, known as 'shorts'; B. crenulata, known 'ovals' and 'shortbroads,' and B. serratifolia, known as 'longs.' The leaves of the firstnamed are most valued and constitute the foliea buchu of the British Pharmacopoeia.
The Hottentots use several species, all under the common name of 'Bucku.' The leaves have a rue-like smell, and are used by the natives to perfume their bodies.
Buchu leaves are collected while the plant is flowering and fruiting, and are then dried and exported from Cape Town. The bulk of the Buchu exported to London from South Africa eventually finds its way to America, where it is used in certain proprietary medicines.
---Description---The leaves of B. betulina (short Buchu) are of a pale green color, 1/2 to 3/4 inch long, 1/2 inch or less wide, leathery and glossy, with a blunt, strongly-curved tip and finely-toothed margin, with round oil glands scattered through the leaf. Frequently the small flowers, with five whitish petals, and the brownish fruits may be found mixed with the drug. The leaves have a strongly aromatic taste and a peppermint-like odour.
---Constituents---The principal constituents of Buchu leaves are volatile oil and mucilage, also diosphenol, which has antiseptic properties, and is considered by some to be the most important constituent of Buchu its absence from the variety known as 'Long Buchu' has led to the exclusion of the latter leaves from the British Pharmacopoeia.
The Cape Government exercises strict control over the gathering of Buchu leaves and has lately made the terms and conditions more onerous, in order to prevent the wholesale destruction of the wild plants, no person being permitted to pick or buy Buchu without a licence. Cultivation experiments with Buchu have been made from time to time by private persons, and during the war experiments were conducted at the National Botanic Gardens, Kirstenbosch (near Cape Town), the result of which (given in the South African Journal of Industries, 1919, 2, 748) indicate that, under suitable conditions, the commercial cultivation of Buchu should prove a success, B. betulina, the most valuable kind, being the species alone to be grown. The plant is particularly adapted to dry conditions, and may be cultivated on sunny hillsides where other crops will not succeed.
It is doubtful whether the cultivation of Buehu could be conducted satisfactorily outside South Africa. B. betulina was introduced to this country in 1790, but does not appear to be in eultivation at the present time, except as a greenhouse plant. This and B. serratifolia are grown in Kew Gardens.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---In gravel, inflammation and catarrh of the bladder it is specially useful. The infusion (B.P.) of 1 OZ. of leaves to 1 pint of boiling water is taken in wineglassful doses three or four times a day.
---Other Preparations---Fluid extract: dose, 1/2 to 1 drachm. Tincture, B.P.: dose, 1/2 to 1 drachm. Solid extract: dose, 5 to 15 grains. Barosmin: dose, 2 to 3 grains.
Buchu has long been known at the Cape as a stimulant tonic and remedy for stomachic troubles, where it is infused in Brandy and known as Buchu Brandy. Its use was learnt from the Hottentots.
It was introdueed into official medicine in Great Britain in 1821 as a remedy for cystitis urethritis, nephritis and catarrh of the bladder.
Family: N.O. Rhamnaceae
Family: N.O. Rhamnaceae
---Synonyms---Highwaythorn. Waythorn. Hartsthorn. Ramsthorn.
Three species of the genus Rhamnus (the name derived from the Greek rhamnos, a branch) are possessed of the same medicinal properties in varying degrees.
The Common or Purging Buckthorn, a much-branched shrub, usually about 6 feet high, but sometimes as much as 10 or 12 feet, is indigenous to North Africa, the greater part of Europe and North Asia. Though found throughout England in woods and thickets and near brooks, it is practically confined to a calcareous soil, except in a few counties, such as Bucks., Herts., Oxon. and Wilts. In Scotland it occurs only in a single locality.
---Description---The main stem is erect, the bark smooth, of a blackish-brown color, on the twigs ash-colored. The smaller branches generally terminate in a stout thorn or spine, hence the ordinary name of Buckthorn, and the older names by which the shrub has been known: Highwaythorn and Waythorn. Gerard calls it Ram or Hart's Thorn. The leaves grow in small bunches on footstalks, mostly opposite towards the base of the young shoots, though more generally alternate towards the apex. They are eggshaped and toothed on the edges, the younger ones with a kind of soft down. In the axils of the more closely arranged leaves, developed from the wood of the preceding year, are dense branches of small greenish-yellow flowers, about one-fifth inch across, which are followed by globular berries about the size of a pea, black and shining when ripe, and each containing four hard, dark-brown seeds.
Goats, sheep and horses browse on this shrub, but cows refuse it. Its blossoms are very grateful to bees.
---Part Used---The berries are the part used medicinally, collected when ripe and from which an acrid, nauseous, bitter juice is obtained by expression. From this juice, with the addition of sugar and aromatics, syrup of Buckthorn (Succus Rhamni) is prepared.
When freshly gathered in the autumn, the berries are about 1/3 inch in diameter, with the remains of a calyx beneath. The fruit is collected for use chiefly in the counties of Herts., Bucks. and Oxon, and is usually expressed in the locality where it is grown, by the collectors themselves, who sell the juice to the wholesale druggists, generally more or less diluted with water, the admixture being generally about 6 parts water to 1 of juice.
From the dried berries, a series of rich but fugitive colors is obtained; the berries used to be sold under the name of 'French berries' and imported with those of Rhamnus infectorius from the Levant. If gathered before ripe, the berries furnish a yellow dye, used formerly for staining maps or paper. When ripe, if mixed with gum-arabic and limewater, they form the pigment 'Sap or bladder green,' so well known to water-color painters. The bark also affords a yellow dye.
---Cultivation---Buckthorn is seldom cultivated, the berries being collected from thewild shrubs, but it can be easily raised from seed in autumn, soon after the berries are ripe, usually about September, but if left too late the berries soften and will not bear carriage well. The shrub may also be propagated like any other hardy deciduous tree or shrub by cuttings or layers: if the young shoots be laid in autumn, they will have struck roots by the following autumn, when they may be separated and either planted in a nursery for a year or two, or at once planted in permanent quarters. Buckthorn is not so suitable for hedges as the hawthorn.
---Constituents---Buckthorn berry juice contains Rhamnocathartin (which is yellowand uncrystallizable), Rhamnin, a peculiar tannic acid, sugar and gum. The fresh juice is colored red by acids and yellow by alkalies, and has a bitter taste and nauseous odour. Its specific gravity should be between 1.035 and 1.070, but it is seldom sold pure. The ripe berries yield on expression 40 to 50 percent of juice of a green color, which on keeping turns, however, gradually to a reddish or purplish brown color, on account of the acidification of the saccharine and mucilaginous matter.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Laxative and cathartic.
Buckthorn was well known to the AngloSaxons and is mentioned as Hartsthorn or Waythorn in their medical writings and glossaries dating before the Norman Conquest. The Welsh physicians of the thirteenth century prescribed the juice of the fruit of Buckthorn boiled with honey as an aperient drink.
The medicinal use of the berries was familiar to all the writers on botany and materia medica of the sixteenth century, though Dodoens in his Herbal wrote: 'They be not meat to be administered but to the young and lusty people of the country which do set more store of their money than their lives.'
Until late in the nineteenth century, syrup of Buckthorn ranked, however, among favourite rustic remedies as a purgative for children, prepared by boiling the juice with pimento and ginger and adding sugar, but its action was so severe that, as time went on, the medicine was discarded. It first appeared in the London Pharmacopceia of 1650, where, to disguise the bitter taste of the raw juice, it was aromatized by means of aniseed, cinnamon, mastic and nutmeg. It was still official in the British Pharmacopoeia of 1867, but is no longer so, being regarded as a medicine more fit for animals than human beings, and it is now employed almost exclusively in veterinary practice, being commonly prescribed for dogs, with equal parts of castor oil as an occasional purgative.
The flesh of birds eating the berries is stated to be purgative.
There used to be a superstition that the Crown of Thorns was made of Buckthorn.
Botanical: Rhamnus Frangula (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Rhamnaceae
---Part Used Medicinally
---Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Black Dogwood. Frangula Bark.
---Habitat---The Alder Buckthorn is a slender shrub, widely distributed over Europe and northern Asia, and found in woods and thickets throughout England, though rare in Scotland.
In place of the violently-acting juice of the berries of the Common Buckthorn, a fluid extract prepared from the bark of the closely allied and milder Alder Buckthorn or Black Alder (Rhamnus Frangula, Linn.) has been proved a very satisfactory substitute. Frangula bark is official both in the United States and the British Pharmacopoeia. Its use has been, however, somewhat neglected and the much advertized Cascara Sagrada (R. purshianus) has greatly taken its place, though itis a less agreeable aperient.
---Description---It is generally about the same size as the Common Buckthorn, but is distinguished from it by its less bushy and more tree-like habit, by the absence of thorns on its branches and by its larger and entire, not toothed, feather-veined leaves, which are all arranged alternately on the stem, none opposite to one another. The flowers are produced not only from the wood of the preceding year, but also on the shoots of the current year, and have a five-parted calyx, while that of the Common Buckthorn is four-cleft. They bloom in May and are of an inconspicuous green. Their fruit, which is ripe in September, is not unlike that of the Common Buckthorn, but the berry has only two, or at most three, roundish, angular seeds, instead of four. Bees are likewise constant visitors of the flowers of this species, and goats eat the leaves voraciously.
It grows as a rule in leaf-mould in woods comparatively free from lime.
The bark and leaves of the Alder Buckthorn yield a yellow dye much used in Russia; when mixed with salts of iron it turns black. The berries, when unripe, afford a good green color, readily taken by woollen stuffs; when ripe, they give various shades of blue and grey.
After removal of the bark from the stem and branches, the wood of this shrub is used for making charcoal, yielding a very light, inflammable kind, and being on that account preferred to that of almost any other tree by gunpowder makers, who name it 'Black Dogwood.' In Germany, for the same reason, it is called Pulverholz ('powder-wood').
---Cultivation---Frangula bark is usually collected from wild shrubs, but this Buckthorn can readily be cultivated. The seeds should be sown as soon as ripe, not kept till the following spring. The seedlings should be kept free from weeds, and in the autumn planted in the nursery in rows 2 feet asunder and 1 foot distant in the rows. Stock may also be increased by layers and cuttings, though propagation by seedling plants is preferable.
---Part Used Medicinally---The dried bark collected from the young trunk and moderately-sized branches in early summer and kept at least one year before being used. It is stripped from the branches and dried either on sunny days, out of doors, in halfshade, or by artificial heat, on shelves or trays, in a warm, well-ventilated room.
The dried bark varies considerably in appearance, according to the age of the branch or stem from which it has been taken. Young bark, which is to be preferred, occurs in narrow, single or double quills and is of papery texture, about 1/25 inch thick. It is of a greyish or blackish-brown color outside, with numerous small, whitish corky warts. When gently scraped, the inner layers are seen to be crimson in color. The inner surface of the bark is smooth, of a pale, yellowish brown and very finely striated. The fracture is short. Older bark is rougher externally, thicker and usually in single quills or channelled pieces.
The bark is nearly inodorous; its taste is pleasant, sweetish and slightly bitter. When masticated, it colors the saliva yellow.
---Constituents---The chemical constituents of Frangula Bark, especially those to which the laxative properties are due, are but imperfectly known. A yellow, crystalline glucoside, Frangulin has been isolated from it. Emodin is present in old bark; this principle is also present in rhubarb root; it is allied to Chrysophane, and is said to result from the glucosic fermentation of Frangulin or Frangulic acid, and to its presence the drug owes its purgative action. Possibly other glucosides are also present and contribute to the laxative action, but the evidence in favour of this assumption is not conclusive. Two resins, resinous bitter matter and a little tannic acid are likewise present in the bark.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Tonic, laxative, cathartic.
Dried seasoned bark from one to twoyears old alone should be used, as the freshlystripped bark acts as an irritant poison on the gastro-intestinal canal. The action of the bark becomes gradually less violent when kept for a length of time and more like that of rhubarb.
It is used as a gentle purgative in cases of chronic constipation and is principally given in the form of the fluid extract, in small doses, repeated three or four times daily, a decoction of 1 OZ. of the bark in 1 quart of water boiled down to a pint, may also be taken in tablespoonful doses.
---Preparation---Fluid extract, 1/2 to 2 drachms.
This milder English Buckthorn acts likewise as a tonic to the intestine and is especially useful for relieving piles.
Lozenges of the Alder Buckthorn are dispensed under the name of 'Aperient Fruit Lozenges.'
The juice of the berries, though little used, is aperient without being irritating.
Country people used to take the bark boiled in ale for jaundice.
Botanical: Rhamnus purshianus
Family: N.O. Rhamnaceae
---Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Sacred Bark. Cascara Sagrada.
The Californian Buckthorn (Rhamnus purshianus), known more commonly as Cascara Sagrada, is a nearly-allied shrub growing in the United States, from northern Idaho westward to the Pacific Ocean. The drug prepared from its bark is now more commonly employed than those prepared from the two previously described species.
The bark is collected in spring and early summer, when it is easily peeled from the wood, and is dried in the shade.
Since, as is the case with R. Frangula, it is considered that the action of the bark becomes milder and less emetic by keeping, matured bark, three years old, is preferred for pharmaceutical purposes.
---Description---As imported, the drug mostly occurs in quills or incurved pieces of varying lengths and sizes, smooth or nearly so externally, covered with a greyish-white layer, which is usually easily removed, and frequently marked with spots or patches of adherent lichens. Beneath the surface it is violet-brown, reddish-brown or brownish, and internally a pale yellowish-brown and nearly smooth. It has no marked odour, but a nauseous, bitter taste.
It is frequently also imported in flattened packets, consisting of small pieces of the bark compressed into a more or less compact mass.
The fluid extract is made by maceration and percolation with diluted alcohol and evaporation.
---Constituents---The chemical constituents of the bark are but imperfectly known. It has been proved to contain Emodin and an allied substance possibly identical with the Frangula-Emodin of Alder Buckthorn bark. Fat, starch, glucose, a volatile odorous oil, malic and tannic acids are also present. The assertion has been made that the bark contains glucosides which yield on hydrolysis Chrysophanic acid, but the evidence on this point is conflicting.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Cascara Sagrada is a mild laxative, acting principally on the large intestine. It is considered suitable for delicate and elderly persons, and may with advantage be given in chronic constipation, being generally administered in the form of the fluid extract.
It acts also as a stomachic tonic and bitter, in small doses, promoting gastric digestion and appetite.
Fluid extract, B.P., 5 drops to 1 drachm.
Fluid extract, U.S.P., 15 drops.
Fluid extract, tasteless, 1/4 to 1 drachm.
Fluid extract, aromatic, U.S.P., 15 drops.
Aromatic syrup, B.P., 1/2 to 2 drachms.
Powder extract, 2 to 10 grains.
Rhamnin, 2 to 6 grains.
In veterinary practice, Cascara Sagrada is also much used and is probably the best mild purgative remedy for dogs with chronic constipation, as the dose does not require to be increased by repetition and the tone of the bowels is improved by the drug.
Botanical: Hippophae rhamnoides
Family: N.O. Rhamnaceae
---Synonym---Sallow Thorn. The Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides), a thorny shrub with narrow willowlike leaves growing on sandhills and cliffs on the East Coast, and called also ' Sallow Thorn, ' is in no way related to these medicinally employed Buckthorns but belongs to a different natural order: Elaeagnaceae. Its fruit, an orange-colored berry, is made (in Tartary) into a pleasant jelly, because of its acid flavour, and is used in the countries bordering on the Gulf of Bothnia as an ingredient to a fish sauce. The name Hippophae has been variously derived either as meaning 'giving light to a horse,' because of a supposed power to cure equine blindness, or as signifying 'shining underneath,' an allusion to the silvery underside of the leaf. The stems, roots and foliage are said to impart a yellow dye.
Henslow relates that in some parts of Europe the berries are considered poisonous, and a story is told by Rousseau of a person who saw him eating them, and, though believing them to be poisonous, had too much respect for the great man to caution him against the supposed danger! A decoction of them is said to be useful in cutaneous eruptions. The color may be extracted by hot water and used as a dye for woollen stuffs, but it is not very brilliant when so obtained. This plant runs very much at the root, and by its long suckers often assists in binding loose sandy dunes on which it grows.
Some of the plants of this order (Elaeagnaceae) are said to possess narcotic properties.
Botanical: Polygonum fagopyrum
Family: N.O. Polygonaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Brank. Beechwheat. Le Blé noir. Sarrasin. Buchweizen. Heidekorm. French. Wheat. Saracen Corn.
---Part Used---The fruit.
---Habitat---A native of Northern or Central Asia. Largely cultivated in the United States.
---Description---The Buckwheat is not really a native plant, and when found apparently wild in this country, it is only on cultivated land, where it is grown as food for pheasants, which are very partial to it. One of its local names, 'French Wheat,' points to then recognition of the fact that it is a foreign grain.
It is a native of Central Asia, cultivated in China and other Eastern countries as a bread-corn and was first brought to Europe from Asia by the Crusaders, and hence in France is called 'Saracen Corn.'
It is a herbaceous plant, with a knotted stem a foot or two in height, round and hollow, generally green, but sometimes tinged with red, lateral branches growing out of the joints, which give off alternately from opposite sides, heart-shaped, or somewhat arrowshaped leaves, and from July to September, spreading panicles of numerous light freshcolored flowers, which are perfumed. They are dimorphic, i.e. there are two forms of flowers, one with long styles and short stamens, the other with short styles and long stamens and are very attractive to bees. It is frequently cultivated in the Middle United States of Arnerica and also in Brabant as food for bees, and an immense quantity of Buckwheat honey is also collected in Russia. It gives a particularly pleasant flavour to honey.
The nut (so-called 'seed') has a dark brown, tough rind, enclosing the kernel or seed, and is three-sided in form, with sharp angles, resembling the triangular Beech-nut, hence the name of the plant, Buckwheat, a corruption of Boek-weit, the Dutch form of the name, adopted with its culture from the Dutch, meaning 'Beech-wheat' (German Buchweizen), a translation of the Latin name Fagopyrum (Latin fagus, a beech).
By some botanists, the Buckwheat is separated from the Polygonums, receiving the name Fagopyrum esculentum (Moench).
The nut contains a floury endosperm, and though rarely employed in this country as human food is extensively cultivated for that purpose in Northern Europe, North America (where it also goes by the name of Indian Wheat) and in India and the East.
Buckwheat flour is occasionally used for bread, but more frequently employed for cakes, which when baked have an agreeable taste, with a darkish, somewhat violet color and are a national dish throughout America in the winter. They are baked on gridirons and eaten with maple syrup as breakfast cakes. The meal of Buckwheat is also baked into crumpets, which are popular among Dutch children and are said to be nutritious and easily digested.
By the Hindus, Buckwheat, which is extensively cultivated in the Himalayas, is eaten on 'bart' or fast days, being one of the lawful foods for such occasions. Polygonum cymosum (Meism.), the Chinese perennial Buckwheat, and P. Tartaricum Ge.), the Tartary or Rough Buckwheat, also constitute an important source of flour in the East. In Japan, Buckwheat is called Soba, and its flour is prepared in various ways; kneaded with hot water to make a dough, Soba-neri; a kind of macaroni, Soba-kiri; and so on. The grains, steamed and dried, are eaten boiled or made into bread or Manju, a small cake. Its young leaves are eaten as a vegetable and its stalks are used to feed cattle.
In the Russian Army, Buckwheat groats are served out as part of the soldiers' rations and cooked with butter, tallow or hemp-seed oil. In Germany it forms an ingredient in pottage, puddings and other food.
Beer may be brewed from the grain, and by distillation it yields an excellent spirit, in Danzig much used in the preparation of cordial waters.
The blossoms may be used for dyeing a brown color.
---Cultivation---It is sown in May or June and ripens rapidly, thriving in the poorest soil. The flowers appear about July and the seeds ripen in October, but so tender are the plants that a single night's frost will destroy a whole crop. As a grian, Buckwheat is chiefly cultivated in England to supply food for pheasants and to feed poultry, which devour the seeds with avidity and thrive on it - hence one of its local names: Fat Hen. Mixed with bran chaff or grain, its seeds are sometimes given to horses, either whole or broken. When used as food for cattle, the hard angular rind must first be removed. The meal is considered specially good for fattening pigs: 8 bushels of Buckwheat have been said to go as far as 12 bushels of barleymeal and a bushel of the seeds to go further than 2 bushels of oats, though all farmers do not quite agree as to the superior food value of Buckwheat. If it is given to pigs at first in too large quantities, they will show symptoms of intoxication. As compared with the principal cereal grains, it is poor in nitrogenous substances and fat, its nutritious properties are greatly inferior to wheat, though as a food it ranks much higher than rice; but the rapidity and the ease with which it can be grown renders it a fit crop for very poor, badly-tilled land which will produce scarcely anything else, its culture, compared with that of other grain, being attended with little expense.
When grown by the preservers of game as a food for pheasants, it is often left standing, as it affords both food and shelter to the birds during the winter. With some farmers it is the practice to sow Buckwheat for the purpose only of ploughing it into the ground as a manure for the land. The best time for ploughing it in is when it is in full blossom, allowing the land to rest till it decomposes.
Whilst green, it serves as food for sheep and oxen, and mixed with other provender it may also with advantage be given to horses. If sown in April, two green crops may be procured during the season.
The best mode of harvesting this grain is said to be by pulling it out of the ground like flax, stripping off the seeds with the hand and collecting these into aprons or cloths tied round the waist.
In the United States, Buckwheat is sown at the end of June or beginning of July, the amount of seed varying from 3 to 5 pecks to the acre. The crop matures rapidly and continues blooming till the frosts set in, so that at harvest, which is usually set to occur just before this period, the grain is in various stages of ripeness. There, after cutting, it is allowed to lie in swaths for a few days and then set up in shocks. Threshing is done on the field in most cases.
It grows so quickly that it will kill off any weeds.
---Constituents---The leaves have been found by Schunch to contain a crystalline coloring principle (1 part in a thousand) identical with the Rutin or Rutic acid previously discovered by Weiss in the leaves of the common Rue and probably existing in the leaves of the Holly.
The seeds contain starch, sugar, gum, and various matters soluble in alcohol. A small amount of the glucoside Indican has been found.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Astringent, acrid.
An infusion of the herb has been used in erysipelas, and a poultice made of the flour and buttermilk for restoring the flow of milk in nurses.
The breakfast cakes are very heating, and in many people cause severe itching, (The Buckwheat used in America to-day is so refined that these symptoms are not liable to occur. - EDITOR.) felt chiefly after removing the clothing at night, with an eruption of vesicles. The faeces may become so glutinous that expulsion is difficult.
The FALSE BUCKWHEAT, or Arrow-leaved Tear Thumb, is Polygonum sagittarum (Linn.), a North American plant that has become naturalized in County Kerry, Ireland.
It is an annual, with a rough stem, 6 inches to 2 feet high, bearing turned-back prickles. The leaves are oblong-ovate to arrow-shaped and the flowers white, in bloom from July to October.
It has been used with success in nephritic colic, relieving the pains caused by gravel.
The CLIMBING BUCKWHEAT, or Black Bindweed, also called Bearbind and Cornbind, is Polygonum Convolvulus (Linn.), a troublesome climbing cornfield weed, which occurs indifferently in all soils.
Its stems are 1 to 3 feet long, angular, twining or trailing, bearing leaves 1 to 3 inches long, from heart-shaped to arrowshaped. The flowers are very small, in loose axillary spikes, about four together, greenishwhite, often tinged with red, and are insectpollinated, containing nectar secreted in glands near the base of the stamens. The fruits are three-angled, bearing a resemblance to those of Buckwheat.
It is largely distributed by the seeds being sown with those of the crop among which it has grown. Spraying as for Charlock (with solutions of copper-, iron- or ammonium sulphate) will largely destroy this weed in cereals. It may be injurious to animals, owing to mechanical injury from the seeds when fed with corn, horses are said to have been killed in this way.
Botanical: Ajuga reptans (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Labiatae
Part Used Medicinally
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Carpenter's Herb. Sicklewort. Middle Comfrey.
---Habitat---It is abundantly distributed throughout Britain in damp, shady pastures and woods.
The Bugle and the Self-Heal, nearly related plants (both, with their two-lipped corollas, belonging to the important order Labiatae), for many centuries stood in equally high estimation as valuable vulneraries or wound herbs.
There are three Bugles in the British flora - the common creeping form (Ajuga reptans), the erect Bugle (A. pyramidalis), a rare Highland species, and the Yellow Bugle or Ground Pine (A. Chamaepitys), which likewise has its reputation as a curative herb.
---Description---It is a perennial, to be found in flower from the end of April to the beginning of July and well marked by its solitary, tapering flower-stalks, 6 to 9 inches high, and its creeping scions or runners. These are long shoots, sometimes a couple of feet or more long, sent out from the rootstock. At intervals upon them are pairs of leaves, and at the same point rootlets are given off below, which enter the earth. As winter approaches, the runners die, but at every point where the leaf-pairs and the rootlets were formed, there is a dormant plant waiting to develop fully in the spring, a Bugle plant thus being the centre of quite a colony of new young plants, quite independently of setting its seeds, which as a matter of fact do not always ripen, the plant propagating itself more largely by its creeping scions.
The erect flower-stalk sent up from the root-stock is square, pale green, often purplish above, with the leaves opposite in pairs, the lower leaves on stalks, the upper leaves stalkless, oblong and obtuse in form, toothed or almost entire at the margin, having manycelled hairs on both surfaces, the margins also fringed with hairs. The runners are altogether smooth, but the stems are smooth only on two sides and downy on the other two.
The flowers are of a purplish blue, crowded into a spike formed of about six or more rings of whorls, generally six flowers in a whorl. The upper leaves or bracts interspersed between the whorls are also tinged with the same color, so that ordinarily the whole of the upper portion of the plant has a bluish appearance. A white variety is sometimes found, the upper leaves then being of the normal green color.
The flowers are adapted by their lipped formation for cross-fertilization by bees, a little honey being found at the base of the long tube of the corolla. The upper lip is very short and the lower three-cleft. The stamens project. The flowers have practically no scent. After fertilization, small blackish seeds are formed, but many of the ovules do not mature.
The rather singular names of this plant - both popular and botanical - are not very easy to account for. It has been suggested that 'Bugle' is derived from bugulus, a thin, glass pipe used in embroidery, the long, thin tube of the corolla being thought to resemble this bead bugle. It is more likely to be a corruption of the Latin name Ajuga, the generic name which Linnaeus was the first to apply to this plant from a belief that this or some closely-allied species was the one referred to by Pliny and other writers by a very similar name, a name probably corrupted from Abija, in turn derived from the Latin word abigo, to drive away, because the plant was thought to drive away various forms of disease. In former days it was held to possess great curative powers. Prior, writing in the seventeenth century, tells us: 'It is put in drinkes for woundes and that is the cause why some doe commonly say that he that hath Bugle and Sanicle will scarce vouchsafe the chirugeon a bugle.' The early writers speak of the plant as the Abija, Ajuga, Abuga and Bugula, and the common English name, Bugle, is clearly a corruption of one or other of these forms.
---Part Used Medicinally---The whole herb, gathered in May and early June, when the leaves are at their best, and dried.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Bitter, astringent and aromatic.
In herbal treatment, an infusion of this plant is still considered very useful in arresting haemorrhages and is employed in coughs and spitting of blood in incipient consumption and also in some biliary disorders, a wineglassful of the infusion - made from 1 OZ. of the dried herb to 1 pint of boiling water - being given frequently.
In its action, it rather resembles digitalis, lowering the pulse and lessening its frequency, it allays irritation and cough, and equalizes the circulation and has been termed 'one of the mildest and best narcotics in the world.' It has also been considered good for the bad effects of excessive drinking.
Green (Universal Herbal, 1832) gives as his opinion that
'the leaves may be advantageously used in fluxes and disorders of that kind as they do not, like many other plants of the same value, produce costiveness, but rather operate as gentle laxatives.'
He states that a decoction of the herb has been employed for quinsy on the Continent, where the herb has been more employed as a remedy than in this country.
The roots have by some authorities been considered more astringent than the rest of the plant.
Culpepper had a great opinion of the value of the Bugle and says,
'if the virtues of it make you fall in love with it (as they will if you be wise) keep a syrup of it to take inwardly, and an ointment and plaster of it to use outwardly, always by you. The decoction of the leaves and flowers in wine dissolveth the congealed blood in those that are bruised inwardly by a fall or otherwise and is very effectual for any inward wounds, thrusts or stabs in the body or bowels; and is an especial help in wound drinks and for those that are liver-grown, as they call it. It is wonderful in curing all ulcers and sores, gangrenes and fistulas, if the leaves, bruised and applied or their juice be used to wash and bathe the place and the same made into lotion and some honey and gum added, cureth the worse sores. Being also taken inwardly or outwardly applied, it helpeth those that have broken any bone or have any member out of joint. An ointment made with the leaves of Bugle, Scabious and Sanicle bruised and boiled in hog's lard until the herbs be dry and then strained into a pot for such occasions as shall require, it is so efficacious for all sorts of hurts in the body that none should be without it.'
Botanical: Ajuga chamaepitys (SCHREB.)
Family: N.O. Lahiatae
---Synonym---European Ground Pine.
---Habitat---It is a native of many parts of Europe, the Levant and North Africa, is common in sandy and chalky fields in Kent, Surrey and Essex, but otherwise is a scarce plant in England.
---Description---Both in foliage and blossom it is very unlike its near relative, the Common Bugle, forming a bushy, herbaceous plant, 3 to 6 inches high, the four-cornered stem, hairy and viscid, generally purplish red, being much branched and densely leafy. Except the lowermost leaves, which are lanceshaped and almost undivided, each leaf is divided almost to its base into three very long, narrow segments, and the leaves being so closely packed together, the general appearance is not altogether unlike the long, needle-like foliage of the pine, hence the plant has received a second name- Ground Pine. The flowers are placed singly in the axils of leaf-like bracts and have bright yellow corollas, the lower lip spotted with red. They are in bloom during May and June.
The whole plant is very hairy, with stiff hairs, which consist of a few long joints. It has a highly aromatic and turpentiny odour and taste.
---Uses---Ground Pine has stimulant, diuretic and emmenagogue action and is considered by herbalists to form a good remedy, combined with other suitable herbs, for gout and rheumatism and also to be useful in female disorders, an infusion of 1 OZ. of the dried herb to 1 pint of boiling water being recommended, taken in tablespoonful doses, frequently repeated.
The herb was formerly regarded almost as a specific in gouty and rheumatic affections, the young tops, dried and reduced to powder being employed. It formed an ingredient of the once famous Portland Powder.
It likewise operates powerfully by urine, removing obstructions and is serviceable in dropsy, jaundice and ague, reputed great cures having been performed by its use, either in infusion, or powder.
Botanical: Lycopus Virginicus (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Labiatae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Water Bugle. Sweet Bugle. Virginian Water Horehound. Gipsyweed.
---Habitat---An American plant. It is a very common weed in North America, growing in low, damp, shady ground and flowering from July to September.
---Description---Though a Labiate, it does not actually belong to the same genus as the British Bugles, but has certain points in common. From the perennial, creeping root, the quadrangular, smooth stem rises to a height of from 6 to 24 inches, bearing pairs of opposite leaves on short stalks, those on the upper part being toothed and lance-shaped, the lower ones wedge-shaped and with entire margins. The leaves are destitute of hairs and gland-dotted beneath. The flowers are in clusters in the axils of the leaves; the calyx has four broad, blunt teeth and the corolla is four-lobed, purplish in color, with only two fertile stamens.
---Part Used---The whole herb is used. It is slightly aromatic, with a mint-like odour and is used, fresh, when in flower, for the preparation of a tincture and a fluid extract, until recent years official in the United States Pharmacopoeia. It is also used dried for making an infusion.
---Constituents---It contains a peculiar bitter principle, insoluble in ether, another soluble in ether, the two forming more than 10 per cent of the whole solid extract, also tannin and a volatile oil.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Sedative, astringent and mildly narcotic. Used in coughs, bleeding from the lungs and consumption. The infusion made from 1 OZ. of the dried herb to 1 pint of boiling water is taken in wineglassful doses, frequently, the fluid extract in doses of 10 to 30 drops, and the dry extract, Lycopin, in doses of 1 to 4 grains.
Botanical: Echium vulgare (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Boraginaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
Viper's Bugloss is a showy plant covered with prickly hairs. It grows on walls, old quarries and gravel pits, and is common on calcareous soils. The name Bugloss, which is of Greek origin, signifies an Ox's Tongue, and was applied to it from the roughness and shape of the leaves.
---Description---The stems grow from 2 to 3 feet high and are covered with bristly hairs, as are also the leaves, which are 4 or 5 inches long, lanceolate, sessile, quite entire and rough on both sides. The stem is often spotted with red and sometimes the leaves also. The root-leaves form a tuft nearly 18 inches to 2 feet across. They are petioled. The flowers are in curved spikes, numerous, those of each spike pointing one way and closely wedged together. On their first opening they are bright rose-colored and turn to a brilliant blue. They are in bloom throughout June and July, and are much visited by bees. The corollas are irregularly tubular and funnel-shaped. A variety is occasionally found with white flowers. The fruit consists of four small nutlets. The roots are biennial and descend to a great depth in the loose soil in which the plant generally grows.
Lycopsis arvenis, the Common or Small Bugloss, has small wheel-shaped flowers and wavy toothed leaves, which have also rigid hairs with a bulbous base.
Viper's Bugloss was said of old to be an expellent of poisons and venom, and to cure the bites of a viper, hence its name. Coles tells us in his Art of Simples:
'Viper's Bugloss hath its stalks all to be speckled like a snake or viper, and is a most singular remedy against poyson and the sting of scorpions.
Its seeds are also thought to resemble snake heads, thus specifying it as a cure for the bites of serpents. Its generic name Echium is derived from Echis, a viper.
Parkinson says of it:
'the water distilled in glasses or the roote itself taken is good against the passions and tremblings of the heart as also against swoonings, sadness and melancholy.'
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Diuretic, demulcent and pectoral. The leaves, especially those growing near the root, make a good cordial on infusion, which operates by perspiration and alleviates fevers, headaches and nervous complaints, relieving inflammatory pains. The infusion is made of 1 oz. of the dried leaves to a pint of boiling water, and is given in wineglassful to teacupful doses, as required.
A decoction of the seeds in wine, we are told by old writers, 'comforts the heart and drives away melancholy.'
Botanical: Prunus insititia (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Rosaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Bully-bloom (for the flowers). Bullies, Bolas, Bullions and Wild Damson (for the fruit).
---Parts Used---Fruit, wood and bark.
---Habitat---Common in England in thickets, woods and hedges, though more rare in Scotland and probably not wild north of the Forth and Clyde. Common in South-East Europe and in Northern and Central Asia.
---Description---A tall shrub, sometimes developing into a small tree about 15 feet high. Resembles the Blackthorn or Sloe (Prunus spinosa), but is less thorny and has straight, not crooked branches, covered by brown, not black bark, only a few of the old ones terminating in spines, the younger ones downy. It has also larger leaves than the Blackthorn, downy underneath, alternate, finely-toothed, on short, downy foot-stalks, and flowers, white like those of the Blackthorn, but larger, with broader petals, borne in less crowded clusters and not on the naked branches, but expanding just after the leaves have begun to unfold.
The globular, fleshy fruit, marked with a faint suture, has generally a black skin, covered with a thin bluish bloom, and is similar to the Sloe, but larger, often an inch across, and drooping from its weight, not erect as the Sloe. Occasionally yellow varieties are found.
---Constituents---The volatile oil expressed from the seeds contains benzaldehyde and hydrocyanic acid. These substances are also present in the young leaves and flowers.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The bark of the root and branches is considerably styptic. An infusion of the flowers, sweetened with sugar, has been used as a mild purgative for children.
The wood, branches, fruit and entire plant are used throughout France for the same properties as those of the Sloe, the bark of which is used as a febrifuge and the gin, prepared from the fruit on account of its astringency, as a good remedy in cases of diarrhoea.
In this country, the fruit is gathered for 'Bullace Wine,' and is also made into excellent pies and puddings and a good preserve is made by mixing the pulp with three times its weight of sugar.
There are several varieties of the Bullace in cultivation, and they frequently appear on the market as 'Damsons.' Both Bullace and Damson originate from the same source P. domestica, the only difference being that the former is round and the latter oval. All cultivated Bullaces are immense bearers; the following are the best known:
ROYAL BULLACE. Fruit large, 1 1/4 inch in diameter. Skin bright grass-green, mottled with red on the side next to the sun and becoming yellowish-green as it ripens, with a thin, grey bloom on the surface. Flesh green, separating from the stone, briskly flavoured with sufficient sweetness to make it an agreeable late fruit. Ripe in early October.
WHITE BULLACE. Fruit small, round. Skin pale yellowish-white, mottled with red next the sun. Flesh firm, juicy, sub-acid, adhering to the stone, becoming sweetish when quite ripe in end of October and beginning of November. Often sold in London as 'White Damsons .'
ESSEX BULLACE. Skin green, becoming yellowish as it ripens. Flesh juicy and not so acid as the common Bullace. Ripens end of October and beginning of November. Fruit an inch or more in diameter, larger than the common White Bullace.
Botanical: Arctium lappa (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Compositae
Parts Used Medicinally
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Lappa. Fox's Clote. Thorny Burr. Beggar's Buttons. Cockle Buttons. Love Leaves. Philanthropium. Personata. Happy Major. Clot-Bur.
---Parts Used---Root, herb and seeds (fruits).
---Habitat---It grows freely throughout England (though rarely in Scotland) on waste ground and about old buildings, by roadsides and in fairly damp places.
The Burdock, the only British member of its genus, belongs to the Thistle group of the great order, Compositae.
---Description---A stout handsome plant, with large, wavy leaves and round heads of purple flowers. It is enclosed in a globular involucre of long stiff scales with hooked tips, the scales being also often interwoven with a white, cottony substance.
The whole plant is a dull, pale green, the stem about 3 to 4 feet and branched, rising from a biennial root. The lower leaves are very large, on long, solid foot-stalks, furrowed above, frequently more than a foot long heart-shaped and of a grey color on their under surfaces from the mass of fine down with which they are covered. The upper leaves are much smaller, more egg-shaped in form and not so densely clothed beneath with the grey down.
The plant varies considerably in appearance, and by some botanists various subspecies, or even separate species, have been described, the variations being according to the size of the flower-heads and of the whole plant, the abundance of the whitish cottonlike substance that is sometimes found on the involucres, or the absence of it, the length of the flower-stalks, etc.
The flower-heads are found expanded during the latter part of the summer and well into the autumn: all the florets are tubular, the stamens dark purple and the styles whitish. The plant owes its dissemination greatly to the little hooked prickles of its involucre, which adhere to everything with which they come in contact, and by attaching themselves to coats of animals are often carried to a distance.
'They are Burs, I can tell you, they'll stick where they are thrown,'
Shakespeare makes Pandarus say in Troilus and Cressida, and in King Lear we have another direct reference to this plant:
'Crown'd with rank Fumiter and Furrow-weeds,
With Burdocks, Hemlocks, Nettles, Cuckoo-flowers.'
Also in As You Like It:
ROSALIND. How full of briers is this working-day world!
CELIA. They are but burs, cousin, thrown upon thee in holiday foolery. If we walk not in the trodden paths, our very petticoats will catch them.
The name of the genus, Arctium, is derived from the Greek arktos, a bear, in allusion to the roughness of the burs, lappa, the specific name, being derived from a word meaning 'to seize.'
Another source derives the word lappa from the Celtic llap, a hand, on account of its prehensile properties.
The plant gets its name of 'Dock' from its large leaves; the 'Bur' is supposed to be a contraction of the French bourre, from the Latin burra, a lock of wool, such is often found entangled with it when sheep have passed by the growing plants.
An old English name for the Burdock was 'Herrif,' 'Aireve,' or 'Airup,' from the Anglo-Saxon hoeg, a hedge, and reafe, a robber - or from the Anglo-Saxon verb reafian, to seize. Culpepper gives as popular names in his time: Personata, Happy Major and Clot-Bur.
Though growing in its wild state hardly any animal except the ass will browse on this plant, the stalks, cut before the flower is open and stripped of their rind, form a delicate vegetable when boiled, similar in flavour to Asparagus, and also make a pleasant salad, eaten raw with oil and vinegar. Formerly they were sometimes candied with sugar, as Angelica is now. They are slightly laxative, but perfectly wholesome.
---Cultivation---As the Burdock grows freely in waste places and hedgerows, it can be collected in the wild state, and is seldom worth cultivating.
It will grow in almost any soil, but the roots are formed best in a light well-drained soil. The seeds germinate readily and may be sown directly in the field, either in autumn or early spring, in drills 18 inches to 3 feet apart, sowing 1 inch deep in autumn, but less in spring. The young plants when well up are thinned out to 6 inches apart in the row.
Yields at the rate of 1,500 to 2,000 lb. of dry roots per acre have been obtained from plantations of Burdock.
---Parts Used Medicinally---The dried root from plants of the first year's growth forms the official drug, but the leaves and fruits (commonly, though erroneously, called seeds) are also used.
The roots are dug in July, and should be lifted with a beet-lifter or a deep-running plough. As a rule they are 12 inches or more in length and about 1 inch thick, sometimes, however, they extend 2 to 3 feet, making it necessary to dig by hand. They are fleshy, wrinkled, crowned with a tuft of whitish, soft, hairy leaf-stalks, grey-brown externally, whitish internally, with a somewhat thick bark, about a quarter of the diameter of the root, and soft wood tissues, with a radiate structure.
Burdock root has a sweetish and mucilaginous taste.
Burdock leaves, which are less used than the root, are collected in July. For drying, follow the drying of Coltsfoot leaves. They have a somewhat bitter taste.
The seeds (or fruits) are collected when ripe. They are brownish-grey, wrinkled, about 1/4 inch long and 1/16 inch in diameter. They are shaken out of the head and dried by spreading them out on paper in the sun.
---Constituents---Inulin, mucilage, sugar, a bitter, crystalline glucoside - Lappin-a little resin, fixed and volatile oils, and some tannic acid.
The roots contain starch, and the ashes of the plant, burnt when green, yield carbonate of potash abundantly, and also some nitre.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Alterative, diuretic and diaphoretic. One of the best blood purifiers. In all skin diseases, it is a certain remedy and has effected a cure in many cases of eczema, either taken alone or combined with other remedies, such as Yellow Dock and Sarsaparilla.
The root is principally employed, but the leaves and seeds are equally valuable. Both root and seeds may be taken as a decoction of 1 OZ. to 1 1/2 pint of water, boiled down to a pint, in doses of a wineglassful, three or four times a day.
The anti-scorbutic properties of the root make the decoction very useful for boils, scurvy and rheumatic affections, and by many it is considered superior to Sarsaparilla, on account of its mucilaginous, demulcent nature; it has in addition been recommended for external use as a wash for ulcers and scaly skin disorders.
An infusion of the leaves is useful to impart strength and tone to the stomach, for some forms of long-standing indigestion.
When applied externally as a poultice, the leaves are highly resolvent for tumours and gouty swellings, and relieve bruises and inflamed surfaces generally. The bruised leaves have been applied by the peasantry in many countries as cataplasms to the feet and as a remedy for hysterical disorders.
From the seeds, both a medicinal tincture and a fluid extract are prepared, of benefit in chronic skin diseases. Americans use the seeds only, considering them more efficacious and prompt in their action than the other parts of the plant. They are relaxant and demulcent, with a limited amount of tonic property. Their influence upon the skin is due largely to their being of such an oily nature: they affect both the sebaceous and sudoriferous glands, and probably owing to their oily nature restore that smoothness to the skin which is a sign of normal healthy action.
The infusion or decoction of the seeds is employed in dropsical complaints, more especially in cases where there is co-existing derangement of the nervous system, and is considered by many to be a specific for all affections of the kidneys, for which it may with advantage be taken several times a day, before meals.
---Preparations---Fluid extract, root, 1/2 to 2 drachms. Solid extract, 5 to 15 grains. Fluid extract, seed, 10 to 30 drops.
Culpepper gives the following uses for the Burdock:
'The Burdock leaves are cooling and moderately drying, wherby good for old ulcers and sores.... The leaves applied to the places troubled with the shrinking in the sinews or arteries give much ease: a juice of the leaves or rather the roots themselves given to drink with old wine, doth wonderfully help the biting of any serpents- the root beaten with a little salt and laid on the place suddenly easeth the pain thereof, and helpeth those that are bit by a mad dog:... the seed being drunk in wine 40 days together doth wonderfully help the sciatica: the leaves bruised with the white of an egg and applied to any place burnt with fire, taketh out the fire, gives sudden ease and heals it up afterwards.... The root may be preserved with sugar for consumption, stone and the lax. The seed is much commended to break the stone, and is often used with other seeds and things for that purpose.'
It was regarded as a valuable remedy for stone in the Middle Ages, and called Bardona. As a rule, the recipes for stone contained some seeds or 'fruits' of a 'stony' character, as gromel seed, ivy berries, and nearly always saxifrage, i.e. 'stone-breaker.' Even date-stones had to be pounded and taken; the idea being that what is naturally 'stony' would cure it; that 'like cures like' (Henslow).
Botanical: Sanguisorba Officinalis (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Rosaceae
Parts Used Medicinally
Medicianal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Garden Burnet. Common Burnet.
---Parts Used---Herb, root.
---Habitat---Grows in moist meadows and shady places, chiefly in mountainous districts, almost all over Europe. In Britain it is not uncommon, but is rare in Ireland.
Closely related to the Alchemillas, belonging to the same subdivision, Sanguisorbidae, of the order Rosaceae and having similar medicinal properties to Alchemilla vulgaris, are the Burnets, Sanguisorba officinalis and Poterium sanguisorba.
It is a tall and not inelegant plant, with pinnate leaves on long stalks, bearing thirteen sharply serrate leaflets and branched stems, 2 feet high or more, sparsely clothed with leaves, and oblong heads of deep purple-brown flowers, which have four-toothed, colored, membraneous calyces. The root is black and long. The plant has no odour.
It is cultivated to a considerable extent in Germany for fodder, and has been grown here with that view, but is not in esteem among English farmers. It will grow tolerably on very poor land, but is not a very valuable fodder plant.
An Italian proverb says: 'The salad is neither good nor good-looking when there is no pimpernel.' This pimpernel is our Common Burnet and must not be confused with the plant known by that name which has poisonous properties. The roots are perennial and should be divided in early spring. It likes a dry and chalky soil.
---Parts Used Medicinally---The herb and root, the herb gathered in July, and the root dug in autumn.
Culpepper says of 'The Great Wild Burnet':
'This is an herb the Sun challenges dominion over, and is a most precious herb, little inferior to Betony- the continual use of it preserves the body in health and the spirits in vigour, for if the Sun be the preserver of life under God, his herbs are the best in the world to do it by.... Two or three of the stalks, with leaves put into a cup of wine, especially claret, are known to quicken the spirits, refresh and cheer the heart, and drive away melancholy: It is a special help to defend the heart from noisome vapours, and from infection of the pestilence, the juice thereof being taken in some drink, and the party laid to sweat thereupon.'
He also recommends it for wounds, both inwardly and outwardly applied.
---Cultivation---Burnet may be cultivated. It prefers a light soil. Sow seeds in March and thin out to 9 inches apart. Propagation may also be effected by division of roots, in the autumn, that they may be well-established before the dry summer weather sets in. The flowers should be picked off when they appear, the stem and leaves only of the herb being used.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Astringent and tonic. Great Burnet was formerly in high repute as a vulnerary, hence its generic name, from sanguis, blood, and sorbeo, to staunch. Both herb and root are administered internally in all abnormal discharges: in diarrhoea, dysentery, leucorrhoea, it is of the utmost service; dried and powdered, it has been used to stop purgings.
The whole plant has astringent qualities, but the root possesses the most astringency. A decoction of the whole herb has, however, been found useful in haemorrhage and is a tonic cordial and sudorific; the herb is also largely used in Herb Beer.
Botanical: Pimpinella saxifraga (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Umbelliferae
Part Used Medicinally
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Salad Burnet. Burnet Saxifrage. Pimpinella sanguisorba.
---Parts Used---Root, herb.
---Habitat---The Salad Burnet is common in dry pastures and by the wayside, especially on chalk and limestone, but is rarer in Scotland and Ireland than in England.
The Lesser or Salad Burnet is not unlike the Great Burnet in habit, but it is much smaller and more slender. It was known by older writers as Pimpinella sanguisorba, Pimpinella being a corruption of bipennula, from the two pinnate leaves. Pimpinella is now reserved for the name of a genus belonging to the order Umbelliferae, and the Salad Burnet is assigned to the genus Poterium, which name is derived from the Greek poterion, a drinking-cup, from the use to which the leaves of the Salad Burnet were applied in the preparation of the numerous beverages with which the poterion was filled in ancient times. The leaves when bruised smell like cucumber and taste somewhat like it, and it was used to cool tankards in the same manner as Borage, and was also added to salads and cups.
Hooker places both the Great Burnet and the Salad or Lesser Burnet in the same genus, Poterium, rejecting the generic name of Sanguisorba, assigned to the former by Linnaeus.
---Description---Its leaflets are more numerous, five to ten pairs, and shorter than thoseof the Great Burnet. The flowers in each head bear crimson tufted stigmas, the lower ones thirty to forty stamens, with very long, drooping filaments. Both the flower and leafstalks are a deep-crimson color.
Turner (Newe Herball, 1551), in his description of the plant, tells us that
'it has two little leives like unto the wings of birdes, standing out as the bird setteth her wings out when she intendeth to flye. Ye Dutchmen call it Hergottes berdlen, that is God's little berde, because of the color that it hath in the topp.'
The great Burnet and the Salad Burnet both flower in June and July.
The Salad Burnet forms much of the turf on some of the chalk downs in the southern counties. It is extremely nutritious to sheep and cattle, and was formerly extensively cultivated as a fodder plant on calcareous soils but is now little grown in that way. Cattle do not seem to like it as well as clover when full grown, but when kept closely cropped sheep are fond of it. It has the advantage of keeping green all the winter in dry barren pastures, affording food for sheep when other green crops are scarce. The results of cultivation have, however, not been very satisfactory, except on poor soil, although it contains a larger amount of nutritive matter than many grasses.
In the herb gardens of older days, Salad Burnet always had its place. Bacon recommends it to be set in alleys together with wild thyme and water mint, 'to perfume the air most delightfully, being trodden on and crushed.'
---Cultivation---It is easily propagated by seeds, sown in autumn, soon after they are ripe. If the seeds be permitted to scatter, the plants will come up plentifully, and can be transplanted into an ordinary or rather poor soil, at about a foot distant each way. If kept clear from weeds, they will continue some years without further care, especially if the soil be dry. Propagation may also be effected by division of roots in spring or autumn.
When used for salad, the flower-stalks should be cut down if not required for seed. The leaves, for salad use, should be cut young, or may be tough.
---Part Used Medicinally---The whole herb, as in the Great Burnet, gathered in July and dried in the same manner.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The older herbalists held this plant in greater repute than it enjoys at the present day. Pliny recommended a decoction of the plant beaten up with honey for divers complaints.
Dodoens recommended it as a healer of wounds,
'made into powder and dronke with wine, wherin iron hath bene often quenched, and so doth the herbe alone, being but only holden in a man's hande as some have written. The leaves stiped in wine and dronken, doth comfort and rejoice the hart and are good against the trembling and shaking of the same.'
Parkinson grew Burnet in his garden and the early settlers in America introduced it from the Mother Country.
'It gives a grace in the drynkynge,' says Gerard, referring to this use of it in cool tankards. We are also told that it affords protection against infection,
'a speciall helpe to defend the heart from noysome vapours and from the infection of the Plague or Pestilence, and all other contagious diseases for which purpose it is of great effect, the juice thereof being taken in some drink.'
'it is a capital wound herb for all sorts of wounds, both of the head and body, either inward or outward, used either in juice or decoction of the herb, or by the powder of the herb or root, or the water of the distilled herb, or made into an ointment by itself or with other things to be kept.'
It is still regarded as a styptic, an infusion of the whole herb being employed as an astringent. It is also a cordial and promotes perspiration.
Turner advised the use of the herb, infused in wine or beer, for the cure of gout and rheumatism.
PARSLEY PURT (PIERT).
See (Lesser) Burnet.
Botanical: Dictamnus albus
Family: N.O. Rutaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Fraxinella. Bastard. False or White Dittany.
---Part Used---The root.
---Habitat---Germany. France. Alsace. Spain. Austria. Italy. Asia Minor.
---Description---The members of this small genus are plants about 2 feet high, bearing flowers in a long, pyramidal, loose spike, varying in color from pale purple to white. It prefers to grow in woods in warm places. The whole plant, especially when rubbed, gives out an odour like lemon-peel, and when bruised this grows more like that of a fine balsam, strongest in the pedicels of the flowers. It is due to an essential oil, which gives off an inflammable vapour in heat or in dry, cloudy weather, which also congeals as resinous wax, exuding from rusty-red glands in the flowers. This accounts for the fact that the atmosphere surrounding it will often take fire if approached by a lighted candle, without injuring the plant.
The fragrant leaves and handsome flowers cause it to be frequently cultivated in gardens.
The prepared root-bark is whitish, almost odourless, and rolled in pieces from 1 to 2 inches long.
---Constituents---The acrid and resinous principles have not been analysed.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The drug is very little used to-day, though it is an ingredient in 'Orvieton' 'Solomon's Opiate,' 'Guttète Powder,' 'Balm of Fioraventi,' 'Eau generale,' 'Hyacinth Mixture,' etc. It is recommended in nervous complaints and intermittent fevers, and used to be given in scrofulous and scorbutic diseases. It is a cordial and stomachic. The distilled water is used as a cosmetic. An infusion of the leaves is regarded as a substitute for tea. The powder is combined with that of peppermint for use in epilepsy.
---Dosage---Of powdered root, 4 to 8 grammes, or double the quantity in infusion.
Several drugs bear the name of Dictamnus,such as Dictamnus of Barbados, or Arrowroot des tilles.
The leaves of a plant growing in Crete and Candy were used by the Ancients for wounds, and it is still known as Dictamnus or Dittany of Crete, being Origanum Dictamnus of the Labiatae family.
See Agrimony, Water.
Botanical: Pedalium Murex (LINN.)
Tribulus terrestes (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Pedaliaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Description---Fruits brown, two-celled with four narrow and long seeds. Taste mucilaginous. Odourless.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Diuretic, demulcent, aphrodisiac.
Used for impotence in males, nocturnal emissions, gonorrhoea, gleet and incontinence of urine.
Infusion, 1 in 20, is taken three times daily. Fluid extract, 10 to 30 drops.
Botanical: Petasites vulgaris (DESF.)
Family: N.O. Compositae
Medicincal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Langwort. Umbrella Plant. Bog Rhubarb. Flapperdock. Blatterdock. Capdockin. Bogshorns. Butter-Dock.
The Butterbur, a plant nearly allied to the Coltsfoot - being the Tussilago petasites of Linnaeus - is found in wet ground, lowlying, marshy meadows and by riversides, but is usually local.
---Description---It has a fleshy, stout root-stock, extensively creeping, which, like the Coltsfoot, sends up the flowers before the leaves appear. The flower-heads are, however, not produced singly, on separate stalks, but in crowned clusters in a dense spike, with many bracts interspersed, at the summit of a round, thick flower-stalk, 4 inches to a little over a foot in height, which first appears at the end of February or beginning of March, and is generally of a purplish hue.
There are two kinds of flowers - the male or stamen-bearing and the female or seedproducing - as a rule on different spikes, the female flowers being in denser, longer spikes than the male flowers, which are in shorter, loose clusters. Occasionally a few female flowers are found on the male spikes, and a few male flowers on the female spikes. The corollas are pale reddish purple or fleshcolored, bell-shaped in the male flowers, and containing abundant nectar, but only threadlike in the female flowers, which contain no nectar, and are succeeded by the white feathery pappus, which crowns the seeds.
In April, as the flowers begin to decay, the leaves appear. They are on stout hollowed channelled foot-stalks, and when full grown very large - the largest leaves of any plant in Great Britain - the blade sometimes attaining 3 feet in diameter. It is roundish, heartshaped at the base, scalloped at the edges, with the portion between the projections finely toothed. The leaves are white and cobwebby with down both above and below when young, but when mature, most of the covering disappears from the upper surface though the leaves still remain grey and more or less downy beneath.
The name of the genus, Petasites, is derived from petasos, the Greek word for the felt hats worn by shepherds, and familiar to us in representations of Mercury, in reference to the large size of the leaves, which could be used as a head-covering. No other vegetation can live where these leaves grow, for they exclude light and air from all beneath, and where the plant abounds, it has been described as 'the most pernicious of all the weeds which this country produces.'
The name Butterbur is supposed to have been given it because formerly these large leaves were used to wrap butter in during hot weather. 'Lagwort' is an old name we sometimes find for it, in reference to the leaves delaying their appearance till after the flowers have faded, though once the leaf-shoots make a start, they grow with almost tropical luxuriance.
'The early flowering of this rank weed,'Hooker writes, 'induces the Swedish farmers to plant it near their beehives. Thus we see in our gardens the bees assembled on its affinities, P. alba and P. fragrans, at a season when scarcely any other flowers are expanded.'
In Germany an old name for the plant was Pestilenzenwurt, but one finds really very little either of evil or good assigned by the older writers to the Butterbur as compared with most other herbs. The old German name was given it, not as suggesting the plant was provocative of pestilence, but as an indication of its value as a remedy in time of such calamity (Henslow).
Anne Pratt says the former name of this plant was the 'plague-flower,' as it gained a successful reputation among the few remedies during the time of that malady. Lyte, in his Herbal, 1578, calls it 'a soveraigne medicine against the plague', and remarks of its leaves that 'one of them is large enough to cover a small table, as with a carpet,' and they are often 2 feet in width. Under its ample foliage, the poultry in farm meadows, shelter themselves from the rain, or find a cool retreat from the noonday sun. The Swedish farmers plant it in great quantities near their bechives, as bees are attracted by its flowers.
The seeds in some parts of the country have been used for love divination.
'The seeds of butterdock must be sowed by a young unmarried woman half an hour before sunrise on a Friday morning, in a lonesome place. She must strew the seeds gradually on the grass, saying these words:
I sow, I sow!
Then, my own dear,
Come here, come here,
And mow and mow!
The seed being scattered, she will see her future husband mowing with a scythe at a short distance from her. She must not be frightened, for if she says, "Have mercy on me," he will immediately vanish! This method is said to be infallible, but it is looked upon as a bold, desperate, and presumptuous undertaking!'
---Part Used---The rhizome, or root-stock which is blackish on the outside and whitish internally, and has a bitter and unpleasant taste, due to the resinous, bitter juice it contains.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Butterbur root is medicinally employed as a heart stimulant, acting both as a cardiac tonic and also as a diuretic. It has been in use as a remedy in fevers, asthma, colds and urinary complaints, a decoction being taken warm in wineglassful doses, frequently repeated.
Both Butterbur and Coltsfoot are specific homoeopathic remedies for severe and obstinate neuralgia in the small of the back and the loins, a medicinal tincture being prepared in each case.
Gerard writes of the Butterbur:
'The roots dried and beaten to powder and drunke in wine is a soveraigne medicine against the plague and pestilent fevers, because it provoketh sweat and driveth from the heart all venim and evill heate; it killeth worms. The powder of the roots cureth all naughty filthy ulcers, if it be strewed therein.'
'It is a great strengthener of the heart and cheerer of the vital spirits: . . . if the powder thereof be taken in wine, it also resisteth the force of any other poison . . . the decoction of the root in wine is singularly good for those that wheeze much or are shortwinded.... The powder of the root taketh away all spots and blemishes of the skin.'
Another species known as the Winter Heliotrope, or Sweet-scented Coltsfoot (P. fragrans), flourishes in warm districts like South Devon, where it is abundant. It is even more spreading and luxuriant in growth than our native Coltsfoot, but as it flowers in the poorest soil and clothes waste land with its handsome foliage, it is certainly welcome outside the garden, and is even frequently planted in shrubberies. The fragrant flowers, which have the scent of vanilla and are like Butterbur in appearance, are freely borne in the depth of winter. The leaves appear in the spring and in favourable situations remain green till the young leaves appear in the succeeding season.
Botanical: Ranunculus bulbosus (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Ranunculaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Parts used---Juice and Herb.
---Synonyms---St. Anthony's Turnip. Crowfoot. Frogsfoot. Goldcup.
The Bulbous Buttercup or Crowfoot is perhaps the commonest of the Ranunculus family, covering the meadows in May with dazzling yellow, being one of the earliest of the varieties to flower, owing to the nourishment stored up in the bulbs.
The specific name bulbosus refers to the bulb-like swelling at the base of the stem, roundish and white, flattened a little both at the top and bottom, somewhat resembling a small turnip - hence one of the popular names for this plant: St. Anthony's Turnip. It is however, not a true bulb, only 'bulb-like.'
This is the 'Cuckow buds of yellow hue' of Shakespeare, and in France it is called the jaunet from the brilliance of its blossoms. Frogs-foot (from the form of its leaves) and Goldcup, from the shape and color of its flowers, are other English names it bears.
The Bulbous Buttercup has some superficial resemblance to the Upright Crowfoot and the Creeping Crowfoot, but is distinguished not only by its bulb and by the fact that it never throws out runners, but by the fact that its sepals are turned back in the fully expanded blossom, so as to touch the stemthat supports the flower.
The stems are furrowed slightly, not merely round, as in Ranunculus acris. The upper leaves are composed of long, narrow segments, the lower ones broadened out into very distinct masses.
When once established it is not easily eradicated.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Like most of the Crowfoots, the Bulbous Buttercup possesses the property of inflaming and blistering the skin, particularly the roots, which are said to raise blisters with less pain and greater safety than Spanish Fly, and have been applied for that purpose, especially to the joints, in gout. The juice, if applied to the nostrils, provokes sneezing and cures certain cases of headache. The leaves have been used to produce blisters on the wrists in rheumatism, and when infused in boiling water, as a poultice, at the pit of the stomach.
A tincture made with spirits of wine will cure shingles very expeditiously, it is stated, both the outbreak of the small pimples and the accompanying sharp pains between the ribs, 6 to 8 drops being given three or four times daily. For sciatica, the tincture has been employed with good effect.
The roots on being kept lose their stimulating quality, and are even eatable when boiled. Pigs are remarkably fond of them, and will go long distances to get them.
The herb is too acrid to be eaten alone by cattle, but possibly mixed with grasses it may act as a stimulus.
It is recorded that two obstinate cases of nursing soremouth have been cured with an infusion made by adding 2 drachms of the recent root, cut into small pieces, to 1 pint of hot water, when cold, a tablespoonful was given three or four times a day, and the mouth was frequently washed with a much stronger infusion.
Its action as a counter-irritant is both uncertain and violent, and may cause obstinate ulcers. The beggars of Europe sometimes use it to keep open sores for the purpose of exciting sympathy.
CROWFOOT, UPRIGHT MEADOW
Botanical: Juglans cinerea (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Juglandaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---White Walnut. Oilnut.
---Part Used---Bark of the root.
---Habitat---New Brunswick and mountains of Georgia.
---Description---The leaves possess much the same properties as the Black Walnut. The inner bark of the root is the best for medicinal use and should be collected in May or June; it is generally found in quills, curved strips or chips from 1/8 to 1/2 inch thick, deep brown in color all through, outer surface smooth and a little warty, inner surface smooth and striate with fragments and thin stringy fibre, short fracture, weak and fibrous, odour slightly aromatic, taste bitter (astringent and acrid). The powdered drug is dark brown.
---Constituents---A bitter extractive, a large proportion of oily matter, a volatilizable acid and juglandic acid.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Butternut is a mild cathartic like rhubarb; it does not constipate and is often used as a habitual laxative, also for dysentery and hypatic congestions. It has been employed as a vermifuge and is recommended for syphilis and old ulcers. The expressed oil of the fruit removes tapeworm. The fruit when halfgrown is made into pickles and when matured is a valuable article of diet. The bark is used for dyeing wool a dark brown color but is inferior to that of the black walnut for this purpose. It is said to be rubefacient when applied to the skin.
---Preparations---Fluid extract, 1 to 2 drachms. Solid extract, 5 to 10 grains Juglandin, 2 to 5 grains.
THIS herb is so well known to be an inhabitant almost in every garden, that I shall not need to write any discription thereof, although its virtues, which are many, may not be omitted.
Government and virtues : It is an herb of Jupiter, and under Cancer, and strengthens nature much in all its actions. Let a syrup made with the juice of it and sugar (as you shall be taught at the latter end of this book) be kept in every gentlewoman's house to relieve the weak stomachs and sick bodies of their poor sickly neighbours; as also the herb kept dry in the house, that so with other convenient simples, you may make it into an electuary with honey, according as the disease is you shall be taught at the latter end of my book. The Arabian physicians have extolled the virtues thereof to the skies; although the Greeks thought it not worth mentioning. Seraphio says, it causes the mind and heart to become merry, and revives the heart, faintings and swoonings, especially of such who are overtaken in sleep, and drives away all troublesome cares and thoughts out of the mind, arising from melancholy or black choler; which Avicen also confirms. It is very good to help digestion, and open obstructions of the brain, and hath so much purging quality in it (saith Avicen) as to expel those melancholy vapours from the spirits and blood which are in the heart and arteries, although it cannot do so in other parts of the body. Dioscorides says, that the leaves steeped in wine, and the wine drank, and the leaves externally applied, is a remedy against the stings of a scorpion, and the bitings of mad dogs; and commends the decoction thereof for women to bathe or sit in to procure their courses; it is good to wash aching teeth therewith, and profitable for those that have the bloody flux. The leaves also, with a little nitre taken in drink, are good against the surfeit of mushrooms, helps the griping pains of belly; and being made into an electuary, it is good for them that cannot fetch their breath. Used with salt, it takes away wens, kernels, or hard swelling in the flesh or throat; it cleanses foul sores, and eases pains of the gout. It is good for the liver and spleen. A tansy or caudle made with eggs, and juice thereof while it is young, putting to it some sugar and rosewater, is good for a woman in child-birth, when the after-birth is not thoroughly voided, and for their faintings upon or in their sore travail. The herb bruised and boiled in a little wine and oil, and laid warm on a boil, will ripen it, and break it.
THE shrub is so well known by every boy or girl that has but attained to the age of seven years, that it needs no description.
Government and virtues : Mars owns the shrub, and presents it to the use of my countrymen to purge their bodies of choler. The inner rind of the Barberry-tree boiled in white wine, and a quarter of a pint drank each morning, is an excellent remedy to cleanse the body of choleric humours, and free it from such diseases as choler causes, such as scabs, itch, tetters, ringworms, yellow jaundice, boils, &c. It is excellent for hot agues, burnings, scaldings, heat of the blood, heat of the liver, bloody-flux; for the berries are as good as the bark, and more pleasing; they get a man a good stomach to his victuals, by strengthening the attractive faculty which is under Mars. The hair washed with the lye made of the tree and water, will make it turn yellow, viz. of Mars' own color. The fruit and rind of the shrub, the flowers of broom and of heath, or furz, cleanse the body of choler by sympathy, as the flowers, leaves, and bark of the peach tree do by antipathy, because these are under Mars, that under Venus.
THE continual usefulness hereof hath made all in general so acquainted herewith that it is altogether needless to describe it, several kinds hereof plentifully growing, being yearly sown in this land. The virtues thereof take as follow.
Government and virtues : It is a notable plant of Saturn: if you view diligently its effects by sympathy and antipathy, you may easily perceive a reason of them, as also why barley bread is so unwholesome for melancholy people. Barley in all the parts and compositions thereof (except malt) is more cooling than wheat, and a little cleansing. And all the preparations thereof, as barley-water and other things made thereof, give great nourishment to persons troubled with fevers, agues, and heats in the stomach. A poultice made of barley meal or flour boiled in vinegar and honey, and a few dry figs put into them, dissolves all imposthumes, and assuages inflammations, being thereto applied. And being boiled with melilot and camomile-flowers, and some linseed, fenugreek, and rue in powder, and applied warm, it eases pains in side and stomach, and windiness of the spleen. The meal of barley and fleawort boiled in water, and made a poultice with honey and oil of lilies applied warm, cures swellings under the ears, throat, neck, and such like; and a plaister made thereof with tar, with sharp vinegar into a poultice, and laid on hot, helps the leprosy; being boiled in red wine with pomegranate rinds and myrtles, stays the lask or other flux of the belly; boiled with vinegar and quince, it eases the pains of the gout; barley-flour, white salt, honey, and vinegar mingled together, takes away the itch speedily and certainly. The water distilled from the green barley in the end of May, is very good for those that have defluctions of humours fallen into their eyes, and eases the pain, being dropped into them; or white bread steeped therein, and bound on the eyes, does the same.
GARDEN BAZIL, OR SWEET BAZIL
Descript : The greater of Ordinary Bazil rises up usually with one upright stalk, diversive branching forth on all sides, with two leaves at every joint, which are somewhat broad and round, yet pointed, of a pale green color, but fresh; a little snipped about the edges, and of a strong healthy scent. The flowers are small and white, and standing at the tops of the branches, with two small leaves at the joints, in some places green, in others brown, after which come black seed. The root perishes at the approach of Winter, and therefore must be new sown every year.
Place : It grows in gardens.
Time : It must be sowed late, and flowers in the heart of Summer, being a very tender plant.
Government and virtues : This is the herb which all authors are together by the ears about, and rail at one another (like lawyers). Galen and Dioscorides hold it not fit to be taken inwardly; and Chrysippus rails at it with downright Billingsgate rhetoric; Pliny, and the Arabian physicians defend it.
For my own part, I presently found that speech true:
Non nostrium inter nos tantas componere lites
And away to Dr. Reason went I, who told me it was an herb of Mars, and under the Scorpion, and perhaps therefore called Basilicon; and it is no marvel if it carry a kind of virulent quality with it. Being applied to the place bitten by venomous beasts, or stung by a wasp or hornet, it speedily draws the poison to it, Every like draws his like. Mizaldus affirms, that, being laid to rot in horse-dung, it will breed venomous beasts. Hilarius, a French physician, affirms upon his own knowledge, that an acquaintance of his, by common smelling to it, had a scorpion bred in his brain. Something is the matter; this herb and rue will not grow together, no, nor near one another: and we know rue is as great an enemy to poison as any that grows.
To conclude; It expels both birth and after-birth; and as it helps the deficiency of Venus in one kind, so it spoils all her actions in another. I dare write no more of it.
THE BAY TREE
THIS is so well known that it needs no description: I shall therefore only write the virtues thereof, which are many.
Government and virtues : I shall but only add a word or two to what my friend has written, viz., that it is a tree of the sun, and under the celestial sign Leo, and resists witchcraft very potently, as also all the evils old Saturn can do to the body of man, and they are not a few; for it is the speech of one, and I am mistaken if it were not Mizaldus, that neither witch nor devil, thunder nor lightning, will hurt a man in the place where a Bay-tree is. Galen said, that the leaves or bark do dry and heal very much, and the berries more than the leaves; the bark of the root is less sharp and hot, but more bitter, and hath some astriction withal whereby it is effectual to break the stone, and good to open obstructions of the liver, spleen, and other inward parts, which bring the jaundice, dropsy, &c. The berries are very effectual against all poison of venomous creatures, and the sting of wasps and bees; as also against the pestilence, or other infectious diseases, and therefore put into sundry treacles for that purpose; they likwise procure women's courses, and seven of them given to women in sore travail of child-birth, do cause a speedy delivery, and expel the after-birth, and therefore not to be taken by such as have not gone out their time, lest they procure abortion, or cause labour too soon. They wonderfully help all cold and rheumatic distillations from the brain to the eyes, lungs or other parts; and being made into an electuary with honey, do help the consumption, old coughs, shortness of breath, and thin rheums; as also the megrim. They mightily expel the wind, and provoke urine; helps the mother, and kill the worms. The leaves also work the like effect. A bath of the decoction of leaves and berries, is singularly good for women to sit in, that are troubled with the mother, or the diseases thereof, or the stoppings of their courses, or for the diseases of the bladder, pains in the bowels by wind and stoppage of the urine. A decoction likewise of equal parts of Bay-berries, cummin seed, hyssop, origanum, and euphorbium, with some honey, and the head bathed therewith, wonderfully helps distillations and rheums, and settles the pallate of the mouth into its place. The oil made of the berries is very comfortable in all cold griefs of the joints, nerves, arteries, stomach, belly, or womb, and helps palsies, convulsions, cramp, aches, tremblings, and numbness in any part, weariness also, and pains that come by sore travelling. All griefs and pains proceeding from wind, either in the head, stomach, back, belly, or womb, by anointing the parts affected therewith. And pains in the ears are also cured by dropping in some of the oil, or by receiving into the ears the fume of the decoction of the berries through a funnel. The oil takes away the marks of the skin and flesh by bruises, falls, &c. and dissolves the congealed blood in them. It helps also the itch, scabs, and weals in the skin.
BOTH the garden and field beans are so well known, that it saves me the labour of writing any description of them. The virtues follow.
Government and virtues : They are plants of Venus, and the distilled water of the flower of garden beans is good to clean the face and skin from spots and wrinkles, and the meal or flour of them, or the small beans doth the same. The water distilled from the green husk, is held to be very effectual against the stone, and to provoke urine. Bean flour is used in poultices to assuage inflammations arising from wounds, and the swelling of women's breasts caused by the curdling of their milk, and represses their milk. Flour of beans and Fenugreek mixed with honey, and applied to felons, boils, bruises, or blue marks by blows, or the imposthumes in the kernels of the ears, helps them all, and with Rose leaves, Frankincense and the white of an egg, being applied to the eyes, helps them that are swollen or do water, or have received any blow upon them, if used with wine. If a bean be parted in two, the skin being taken away, and laid on the place where the leech hath been set that bleeds too much, stays the bleeding. Bean flour boiled to a poultice with wine and vinegar, and some oil put thereto, eases both pains and swelling of the privities. The husk boiled in water to the consumption of a third part thereof, stays a lask; and the ashes of the husks, made up with old hog's grease, helps the old pains, contusions, and wounds of the sinews, the sciatica and gout. The field beans have all the aforementioned virtues as the garden beans.
Beans eaten are extremely windy meat; but if after the Dutch fashion, when they are half boiled you husk them and then stew them (I cannot tell you how, for I never was a cook in all my life), they are wholesome food.
Descript : This French or kidney Bean arises at first but with one stalk, which afterwards divides itself into many arms or branches, but all so weak that if they be not sustained with sticks or poles, they will be fruitless upon the ground. At several places of these branches grow foot stalks, each with three broad round and pointed green leaves at the end of them; towards the top comes forth divers flowers made like to pease blossoms, of the same color for the most part that the fruit will be of, that is to say, white, yellow, red, blackish, or of a deep purple, but white is the most usual; after which come long and slender flat pods, some crooked, some straight, with a string running down the back thereof, wherein is flattish round fruit made like a kidney; the root long, spreads with many strings annexed to it, and perishes every year.
There is another sort of French bean commonly growing with us in this land, which is called the Scarlet flower Bean.
This rises with sundry branches as the other, but runs higher, to the length of hop-poles, about which they grow twining, but turning contrary to the sun, having footstalks with three leaves on each, as on the others; the flowers also are like the other, and of a most orient scarlet color. The Beans are larger than the ordinary kind, of a dead purple color turning black when ripe and dry; the root perishes in Winter.
Government and virtues : These also belong to Dame Venus, and being dried and beat to powder, are as great strengtheners of the kidneys as any are; neither is there a better remedy than it; a dram at a time taken in white wine to prevent the stone, or to cleanse the kidneys of gravel or stoppage. The ordinary French Beans are of an easy digestion; they move the belly, provoke urine, enlarge the breast that is straightened with shortness of breath, engender sperm, and incite to venery. And the scarlet colored Beans, in regard of the glorious beauty of their color, being set near a quick-set hedge, will much adorn the same, by climbing up thereon, so that they may be discerned a great way, not without admiration of the beholders at a distance. But they will go near to kill the quicksets by cloathing them in scarlet.
BESIDES the common name above written, it is called Cheese-Rennet, because it performs the same office, as also Gailion, Pettimugget, and Maiden-hair; and by some Wild Rosemary.
Descript : This rises up with divers small brown, and square upright stalks, a yard high or more; sometimes branches forth into divers parts, full of joints and with divers very fine small leaves at every one of them, little or nothing rough at all; at the tops of the branches grow many long tufts or branches of yellow flowers very thick set together, from the several joints which consist of four leaves apiece, which smell somewhat strong, but not unpleasant. The seed is small and black like poppy seed, two for the most part joined together. The root is reddish, with many small threads fastened to it, which take strong hold of the ground, and creep a little: and the branches leaning a little down to the ground, take root at the joints thereof, whereby it is easily increased.
There is another sort of Ladies Bedstraw growing frequently in England, which bears white flowers as the other doth yellow; but the branches of this are so weak, that unless it be sustained by the hedges, or other things near which it grows, it will lie down on the ground; the leaves a little bigger than the former, and the flowers not so plentiful as these; and the root hereof is also thready and abiding.
Place : They grow in meadow and pastures both wet and dry, and by the hedges.
Time : They flower in May for the most part, and the seed is ripe in July and August.
Government and virtues : They are both herbs of Venus, and therefore strengthening the parts both internal and external, which she rules. The decoction of the former of those being drank, is good to fret and break the stone, provoke the urine, stays inward bleeding and heals inward wounds. The herb or flower bruised and put into the nostrils, stays their bleeding likewise. The flowers and herbs being made into an oil, by being set in the sun, and changed after it has stood ten or twelve days; or into an ointment being boiled in Axunga, or sallad oil, with some wax melted therein, after it is strained; either the oil made thereof, or the ointment, do help burnings with fire, or scalding with water. The same also, or the decoction of the herb and flower, is good to bathe the feet of travellers and lacquies, whose long running causes weariness and stiffness in the sinews and joints. If the decoction be used warm, and the joints afterwards anointed with ointment, it helps the dry scab, and the itch in children; and the herb with the white flower is also very good for the sinews, arteries, and joints, to comfort and strengthen them after travel, cold, and pains.
OF Beets there are two sorts, which are best known generally, and whereof I shall principally treat at this time, viz. the white and red Beets and their virtues.
Descript : The common white beet has many great leaves next the ground, somewhat large and of a whitish green color. The stalk is great, strong, and ribbed, bearing great store of leaves upon it, almost to the very top of it. The flowers grow in very long tufts, small at the end, and turning down their heads, which are small, pale greenish-yellow buds, giving cornered prickly seed. The root is great, long, and hard, and when it has given seed is of no use at all.
The common red Beet differs not from the white, but only it is less, and the leaves and the roots are somewhat red; the leaves are differently red, some only with red stalks or veins; some of a fresh red, and others of a dark red. The root thereof is red, spungy, and not used to be eaten.
Government and virtues : The government of these two sorts of Beets are far different; the red Beet being under Saturn and the white under Jupiter; therefore take the virtues of them apart, each by itself. The white Beet much loosens the belly, and is of a cleansing, digesting quality, and provokes urine. The justice of it opens obstructions both of the liver and spleen, and is good for the headache and swimmings therein, and turnings of the brain; and is effectual also against all venomous creatures; and applied to the temples, stays inflammations of the eyes; it helps burnings, being used with oil, and with a little alum put to it, is good for St. Anthony's fire. It is good for all wheals, pushes, blisters, and blains in the skin: the herb boiled, and laid upon chilblains or kibes, helps them. The decoction thereof in water and some vinegar, heals the itch, if bathed therewith; and cleanses the head of dandruff, scurf and dry scabs, and does much good for fretting and running sores, ulcers, and cankers in the head, legs, or other parts, and is much commended against baldness and shedding the hair.
The red Beet is good to stay the bloody-flux, women's courses, and the whites, and to help the yellow jaundice; the juice of the root put into the nostrils, purges the head, helps the noise in the ears, and the tooth-ache; the juice snuffed up the nose, helps a stinking breath, if the cause lie in the nose, as many times it does, if any bruise has been there: as also want of smell coming that way.
CALLED also Brown-wort, and in Yorkshire, Bishop's-leaves.
Descript : First, of the Water Betony, which rises up with square, hard, greenish stalks, sometimes brown, set with broad dark green leaves dented about the edges with notches somewhat resembling the leaves of the Wood Betony, but much larger too, for the most part set at a joint. The flowers are many, set at the tops of the stalks and branches, being round bellied and open at the brims, and divided into two parts, the uppermost being like a hood, and the lower-most like a hip hanging down, of a dark red color, which passing, there comes in their places small round heads with small points at the ends, wherein lie small and brownish seeds; the root is a thick bush of strings and shreds, growing from the head.
Place : It grows by the ditch side, brooks and other watercourses, generally through this land, and is seldom found far from the water-side.
Time : It flowers about July, and the seed is ripe in August.
Government and virtues : Water Betony is an herb of Jupiter in Cancer, and is appropriated more to wounds and hurts in the breast than Wood Betony, which follows. It is an excellent remedy for sick hogs. It is of a cleansing quality. The leaves bruised and applied are effectual for all old and filthy ulcers; and especially if the juice of the leaves be boiled with a little honey, and dipped therein, and the sores dressed therewith; as also for bruises and hurts, whether inward or outward. The distilled water of the leaves is used for the same purpose; as also to bathe the face and hands spotted or blemished, or discolored by sun burning.
I confess I do not much fancy distilled waters, I mean such waters as are distilled cold; some virtues of the herb they may haply have (it were a strange thing else;) but this I am confident of, that being distilled in a pewter still, as the vulgar and apish fashion is, both chemical oil and salt is left behind unless you burn them, and then all is spoiled, water and all, which was good for as little as can be, by such a distillation.
Descript : Common or Wood Betony has many leaves rising from the root, which are somewhat broad and round at the end, roundly dented about the edges, standing upon long foot stalks, from among which rise up small, square, slender but upright hairy stalks, with some leaves thereon to a piece at the joints, smaller than the lower, whereon are set several spiked heads of flowers like Lavender, but thicker and shorter for the most part, and of a reddish or purple color, spotted with white spots both in the upper and lower part. The seeds being contained within the husks that hold the flowers, are blackish, somewhat long and uneven. The roots are many white thready strings: the stalk perishes, but the roots with some leaves thereon, abide all the Winter. The whole plant is somewhat small.
Place : It grows frequently in woods, and delights in shady places.
Time : And it flowers in July; after which the seed is quickly ripe, yet in its prime in May.
Government and virtues : The herb is appropriated to the planet Jupiter, and the sign Aries. Antonius Musa, physician to the Emperor Augustus Cæsar, wrote a peculiar book of the virtues of this herb; and among other virtues saith of it, that it preserves the liver and bodies of men from the danger of epidemical diseases, and from witchcraft also; it helps those that loath and cannot digest their meat, those that have weak stomachs and sour belchings, or continual rising in their stomachs, using it familiarly either green or dry; either the herb, or root, or the flowers, in broth, drink, or meat, or made into conserve, syrup, water, electuary, or powder, as every one may best frame themselves unto, or as the time and season requires; taken any of the aforesaid ways, it helps the jaundice, falling sickness, the palsy, convulsions, or shrinking of the sinews, the gout and those that are inclined to dropsy, those that have continual pains in their heads, although it turn to phrensy. The powder mixed with pure honey is no less available for all sorts of coughs or colds, wheesing, or shortness of breath, distillations of thin rheum upon the lungs, which causes consumptions. The decoction made with Mead, and a little Pennyroyal, is good for those that are troubled with putrid agues, whether quotidian, tertian, or quartan, and to draw down and evacuate the blood and humours, that by falling into the eyes, do hinder the sight; the decoction thereof made in wine and taken, kills the worms in the belly, opens obstructions both of the spleen and liver; cures stitches, and pains in the back and sides, the torments and griping pains in the bowels, and the wind cholic; and mixed with honey purges the belly, helps to bring down women's courses, and is of special use for those that are troubled with the falling down of the mother, and pains thereof, and causes an easy and speedy delivery of women in child-birth. It helps also to break and expel the stone, either in the bladder or kidneys. The decoction with wine gargled in the mouth, eases the tooth-ache. It is commended against the stinging and biting of venomous serpents, or mad dogs, being used inwardly and applied outwardly to the place. A dram of the powder of Betony taken with a little honey in some vinegar, does wonderfully refresh those that are over wearied by travelling. It stays bleeding at the mouth or nose, and helps those that void or spit blood, and those that are bursten or have a rupture, and is good for such as are bruised by any fall or otherwise. The green herb bruised, or the juice applied to any inward hurt, or outward green wound in the head or body, will quickly heal and close it up; as also any vein or sinews that are cut, and will draw forth any broken bone or splinter, thorn or other things got into the flesh. It is no less profitable for old sores or filthy ulcers, yea, tho' they be fistulous and hollow. But some do advise to put a little salt for this purpose, being applied with a little hog's lard, it helps a plague sore, and other boils and pushes. The fumes of the decoction while it is warm, received by a funnel into the ears, eases the pains of them, destroys the worms and cures the running sores in them. The juice dropped into them does the same. The root of Betony is displeasing both to the taste and stomach, whereas the leaves and flowers, by their sweet and spicy taste, are comfortable both to meat and medicine.
These are some of the many virtues Anthony Muse, an expert physician (for it was not the practice of Octavius Cesar to keep fools about him), appropriates to Betony; it is a very precious herb, that is certain, and most fitting to be kept in a man's house, both in syrup, conserve, oil, ointment and plaister. The flowers are usually conserved.
THE BEECH TREE
IN treating of this tree, you must understand, that I mean the green mast Beech, which is by way of distinction from that other small rough sort, called in Sussex the smaller Beech, but in Essex Horn-beam.
I suppose it is needless to describe it, being already too well known to my countrymen.
Place : It grows in woods amongst oaks and other trees, and in parks, forests, and chases, to feed deer; and in other places to fatten swine.
Time : It blooms in the end of April, or beginning of May, for the most part, and the fruit is ripe in September.
Government and virtues : It is a plant of Saturn, and therefore performs his qualities and proportion in these operations. The leaves of the Beech tree are cooling and binding, and therefore good to be applied to hot swellings to discuss them; the nuts do much nourish such beasts as feed thereon. The water that is found in the hollow places of decaying Beeches will cure both man and beast of any scurf, or running tetters, if they be washed therewith; you may boil the leaves into a poultice, or make an ointment of them when time of year serves.
BILBERRIES, CALLED BY SOME WHORTS, AND
Descript : Of these I shall only speak of two sorts which are common in England, viz. the black and red berries. And first of the black.
The small bush creeps along upon the ground, scarcely rising half a yard high, with divers small green leaves set in the green branches, not always one against the other, and a little dented about the edges. At the foot of the leaves come forth small, hollow, pale, bluish colored flowers, the brims ending at five points, with a reddish thread in the middle, which pass into small round berries of the bigness and color of juniper berries, but of a purple, sweetish sharp taste; the juice of them gives a purplish color in their hands and lips that eat and handle them, especially if they break them. The root grows aslope under ground, shooting forth in sundry places as it creeps. This loses its leaves in Winter.
The Red Bilberry, or Whortle-Bush, rises up like the former, having sundry hard leaves, like the Box-tree leaves, green and round pointed, standing on the several branches, at the top whereof only, and not from the sides, as in the former, come forth divers round, reddish, sappy berries, when they are ripe, of a sharp taste. The root runs in the ground, as in the former, but the leaves of this abide all Winter.
Place : The first grows in forests, on the heaths, and such like barren places: the red grows in the north parts of this land, as Lancashire, Yorkshire, &c.
Time : They flower in March and April, and the fruit of the black is ripe in July and August.
Government and virtues : They are under the dominion of Jupiter. It is a pity they are used no more in physic than they are.
The black Bilberries are good in hot agues and to cool the heat of the liver and stomach; they do somewhat bind the belly, and stay vomiting and loathings; the juice of the berries made in a syrup, or the pulp made into a conserve with sugar, is good for the purposes aforesaid, as also for an old cough, or an ulcer in the lungs, or other diseases therein. The Red Worts are more binding, and stops women's courses, spitting of blood, or any other flux of blood or humours, being used as well outwardly as inwardly.
BIFOIL OR TWOBLADE
Descript : This small herb, from a root somewhat sweet, shooting downwards many long strings, rises up a round green stalk, bare or naked next the ground for an inch, two or three to the middle thereof as it is in age or growth; as also from the middle upwards to the flowers, having only two broad Plaintain-like leaves (but whiter) set at the middle of the stalk one against another, compassing it round at the bottom of them.
Place : It is an usual inhabitant in woods, copses, and in many places in this land.
There is another sort, grows in wet grounds and marshes, which is somewhat different from the former. It is a smaller plant, and greener, having sometimes three leaves; the spike of the flowers is less than the former, and the roots of this do run or creep in the ground.
They are often used by many to good purpose for wounds, both green and old, to consolidate or knit ruptures; and well it may, being a plant of Saturn.
THE BIRCH TREE
Descript : This grows a goodly tall straight tree, fraught with many boughs, and slender branches bending downward: the old being covered with discolored chapped bark, and the younger being browner by much. The leaves at the first breaking out are crumpled, and afterwards like the beech leaves, but smaller and greener, and dented about the edges. It bears short catkins, somewhat like those of the hazelnut-tree, which abide on the branches a long time, until growing ripe, they fall on the ground and their seed with them.
Place : It usually grows in woods.
Government and virtues : It is a tree of Venus; the juice of the leaves, while they are young, or the distilled water of them, or the water that comes from the tree being bored with an auger, and distilled afterwards; any of these being drank for some days together, is available to break the stone in the kidneys and bladder, and is good also to wash sore mouths.
THIS small herb grows not above a span high with many branches spread upon the ground, set with many wings of small leaves. The flowers grow upon the branches, many small ones of a pale yellow color being set a-head together, which afterwards turn into small jointed pods, well resembling the claw of small birds, whence it took its name.
There is another sort of Bird's Foot in all things like the former, but a little larger; the flowers of a pale whitish and red color, and the pods distinct by joints like the other, but little more crooked; and the roots do carry many small white knots or kernels amongst the strings.
Place : These grow on heaths, and many open untilled places of this land.
Time : They flower and seed in the end of Summer.
Government and virtues : They belong to Saturn and are of a drying, binding quality, and thereby very good to be used in wound drinks, as also to apply outwardly for the same purpose. But the latter Bird's Foot is found by experience to break the stone in the back or kidneys, and drives them forth, if the decoction thereof be taken; and it wonderfully helps the ruptures, being taken inwardly, and outwardly applied to the place.
All sorts have best operations upon the stone, as ointments and plaisters have upon wounds: and therefore you may make a salt of this for the stone; the way how to do so may be found in my translation of the London Dispensatory; and it may be I may give you it again in plainer terms at the latter end of this book.
BESIDES the common name Bishop's-weed, it is usually known by the Greek name Ammi and Ammois; some call it Aethiopian Cummin-seed, and others Cummin-royal, as also Herb William, and Bull-wort.
Descript : Common Bishop's-weed rises up with a round straight stalk, sometimes as high as a man, but usually three or four feet, high, beset with divers small, long and somewhat broad leaves, cut in some places, and dented about the edges, growing one against another, of a dark green color, having sundry branches on them, and at the top small umbels of white flowers, which turn into small round seeds little bigger than Parsley seeds, of a quick hot scent and taste; the root is white and stringy; perishing yearly, and usually rises again on its own sowing.
Place : It grows wild in many places in England and Wales, as between Greenhithe and Gravesend.
Government and virtues : It is hot and dry in the third degree, of a bitter taste, and somewhat sharp withal; it provokes lust to purpose; I suppose Venus owns it. It digests humours, provokes unine and women's courses, dissolves wind, and being taken in wine it eases pains and griping in the bowels, and is good against the biting of serpents; it is used to good effect in those medicines which are given to hinder the poisonous operation of Cantharides, upon the passage of the urine: being mixed with honey and applied to black and blue marks, coming of blows or bruises, it takes them away; and being drank or outwardly applied, it abates a high color, and makes it pale; and the fumes thereof taken with rosin or raisins, cleanses the mother.
BISTORT, OR SNAKEWEED
IT is called Snakeweed, English Serpentary, Dragon-wort, Osterick, and Passions.
Descript : This has a thick short knobbed root, blackish without, and somewhat reddish within, a little crooked or turned together, of a hard astringent taste, with divers black threads hanging there-from, whence springs up every year divers leaves, standing upon long footstalks, being somewhat broad and long like a dock leaf, and a little pointed at the ends, but that it is of a bluish green color on the upper side, and of an ash-color grey, and a little purplish underneath, with divers veins therein, from among which rise up divers small and slender stalks, two feet high, and almost naked and without leaves, or with a very few, and narrow, bearing a spiky bush of pale-colored flowers; which being past, there abides small seed, like unto Sorrel seed, but greater.
There are other sorts of Bistort growing in this land, but smaller, both in height, root, and stalks, and especially in the leaves. The root blackish without, and somewhat whitish within; of an austere binding taste, as the former.
Place : They grow in shadowy moist woods, and at the foot of hills, but are chiefly nourished up in gardens. The narrow leafed Bistort grows in the north, in Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Cumberland.
Time : They flower about the end of May, and the seed is ripe about the beginning of July.
Government and virtues : It belongs to Saturn, and is in operation cold and dry; both the leaves and roots have a powerful faculty to resist all poison. The root, in powder, taken in drink expels the venom of the plague, the small-pox, measels, purples, or any other infectious disease, driving it out by sweating. The root in powder, the decoction thereof in wine being drank, stays all manner of inward bleeding, or spitting of blood, and any fluxes in the body of either man or woman, or vomiting. It is also very available against ruptures, or burstings, or all bruises from falls, dissolving the congealed blood, and easing the pains that happen thereupon; it also helps the jaundice.
The water, distilled from both leaves and roots, is a singular remedy to wash any place bitten or stung by any venomous creature; as also for any of the purposes before spoken of, and is very good to wash any running sores or ulcers. The decoction of the root in wine being drank, hinders abortion or miscarriage in child-bearing. The leaves also kill the worms in children, and is a great help to them that cannot keep their water; if the juice of Plaintain be added thereto, and outwardly applied, much helps the ghonorrhea, or running of the reins. A dram of the powder of the root, taken in water thereof, wherein some red hot iron or steel hath been quenched, is also an admirable help thereto, so as the body be first prepared and purged from the offensive humours. The leaves, seed or roots, are all very good in decoction, drinks, or lotions, for inward or outward wounds, or other sores. And the powder, strewed upon any cut or wound in a vein, stays the immoderate bleeding thereof. The decoction of the root in water, where unto some pomegranate peels and flowers are added, injected into the matrix, stays the immoderate flux of the courses. The root thereof, with pelitory of Spain and burnt alum, of each a little quantity, beaten small and into paste with some honey, and a little piece thereof put into a hollow tooth, or held between the teeth, if there be no hollowness in them, stays the defluction of rheum upon them which causes pains, and helps to cleanse the head, and void much offensive water. The distilled water is very effectual to wash sores or cankers in the nose, or any other part; if the powder of the root be applied thereunto afterwards. It is good also to fasten the gums, and to take away the heat and inflammations that happen in the jaws, almonds of the throat, or mouth, if the decoction of the leaves, roots, or seeds bruised, or the juice of them, be applied; but the roots are most effectual to the purposes aforesaid.
Descript : This small plant never bears more than one leaf, but only when it rises up with its stalk, which thereon bears another, and seldom more, which are of a bluish green color, broad at the bottom, and pointed with many ribs or veins like Plaintain; at the top of the stalk grows many small flowers star-fashion, smelling somewhat sweet; after which comes small reddish berries when they are ripe. The root small, of the bigness of a rush, lying and creeping under the upper crust of the earth, shooting forth in divers places.
Place : It grows in moist, shadowy grassy places of woods, in many places of this realm.
Time : It flowers about May, and the berries are ripe in June, and then quickly perishes, until the next year it springs from the same again.
Government and virtues : It is a herb of the Sun, and therefore cordial; half a dram, or a dram at most, of the root hereof in powder taken in wine and vinegar, of each a little quantity, and the party presently laid to sweat, is held to be a sovereign remedy for those that are infected with the plague, and have a sore upon them, by expelling the poison, and defending the heart and spirit from danger. It is also accounted a singular good wound herb, and therefore used with other herbs in making such balms as are necessary for curing of wounds, either green or old, and especially if the nerves be hurt.
THE BRAMBLE, OR BLACKBERRY BUSH
IT is so well known that it needs no description. The virtues thereof are as follows:
Government and virtues : It is a plant of Venus in Aries. If any ask the reason why Venus is so prickly? Tell them it is because she is in the house of Mars. The buds, leaves, and branches, while they are green, are of a good use in the ulcers and putrid sores of the mouth and throat, and of the quinsey, and likewise to heal other fresh wounds and sores; but the flowers and fruit unripe are very binding, and so profitable for the bloody flux, lasks, and are a fit remedy for spitting of blood. Either the decoction of the powder or of the root taken, is good to break or drive forth gravel and the stone in the reins and kidneys. The leaves and brambles, as well green as dry, are exceeding good lotions for sores in the mouth, or secret parts. The decoction of them, and of the dried branches, do much bind the belly and are good for too much flowing of women's courses; the berries of the flowers are a powerful remedy against the poison of the most venomous serpents; as well drank as outwardly applied, helps the sores of the fundament and the piles; the juice of the berries mixed with the juice of mulberries, do bind more effectually, and helps all fretting and eating sores and ulcers where-soever. The distilled water of the branches, leaves, and flowers, or of the fruit, is very pleasant in taste, and very effectual in fevers and hot distempers of the body, head, eyes, and other parts, and for the purposes aforesaid. The leaves boiled in lye, and the head washed therewith, heals the itch and running sores thereof, and makes the hair black. The powder of the leaves strewed on cankers and running ulcers, wonderfully helps to heal them. Some use to condensate the juice of the leaves, and some the juice of the berries, to keep for their use all the year, for the purposes aforesaid.
Descript : Of these there are two sorts commonly known, viz. white and red. The white has leaves somewhat like to Beets, but smaller, rounder and of a whitish green color, every one standing upon a small long footstalk: the stalk rises up two or three feet high, with such like leaves thereon; the flowers grow at the top in long round tufts or clusters, wherein are contained small and round seeds; the root is very full of threads or strings.
The red Blite is in all things like the white but that its leaves and tufted heads are exceeding red at first, and after turn more purple.
There are other kinds of Blites which grow different from the two former sorts but little, but only the wild are smaller in every part.
Place : They grow in gardens, and wild in many places in this land.
Time : They seed in August and September.
Government and virtues : They are all of them cooling, drying, and binding, serving to restrain the fluxes of blood in either man or woman, especially the red; which also stays the overflowing of the women's reds, as the white Blites stays the whites in women. It is an excellent secret; you cannot well fail in the use. They are all under the dominion of Venus.
There is another sort of wild Blites like the other wild kinds, but have long and spiky heads of greenish seeds, seeming by the thick setting together to be all seed.
This sort the fishers are delighted with, and it is good and usual bait; for fishes will bite fast enough at them, if you have with enough to catch them when they bite.
BORAGE AND BUGLOSS
THESE are so well known to the inhabitants in every garden that I hold it needless to describe them.
To these I may add a third sort, which is not so common, nor yet so well known, and therefore I shall give you its name and description.
It is called Langue de Bœuf; but why then should they call one herb by the name of Bugloss, and another by the name Langue de Bœuf? it is some question to me, seeing one signifies Ox-tongue in Greek, and the other signifies the same in French.
Descript : The leaves whereof are smaller than those of Bugloss but much rougher; the stalks rising up about a foot and a half high, and is most commonly of a red color; the flowers stand in scaly round heads, being composed of many small yellow flowers not much unlike to those of Dandelion, and the seed flieth away in down as that doth; you may easily know the flowers by their taste, for they are very bitter.
Place : It grows wild in many places of this land, and may be plentifully found near London, as between Rotherhithe and Deptford, by the ditch side. Its virtues are held to be the same with Borage and Bugloss, only this is somewhat hotter.
Time : They flower in June and July, and the seed is ripe shortly after.
Government and virtues : They are all three herbs of Jupiter and under Leo, all great cordials, and great strengtheners of nature. The leaves and roots are to very good purpose used in putrid and pestilential fevers, to defend the heart, and help to resist and expel the poison, or the venom of other creatures: the seed is of the like effect; and the seed and leaves are good to increase milk in women's breasts; the leaves, flowers, and seed, all or any of them, are good to expel pensiveness and melancholy; it helps to clarify the blood, and mitigate heat in fevers. The juice made into a syrup prevails much to all the purposes aforesaid, and is put, with other cooling, opening and cleansing herbs to open obstructions, and help the yellow jaundice, and mixed with Fumitory, to cool, cleanse, and temper the blood thereby; it helps the itch, ringworms and tetters, or other spreading scabs or sores. The flowers candied or made into a conserve, are helpful in the former cases, but are chiefly used as a cordial, and are good for those that are weak in long sickness, and to comfort the heart and spirits of those that are in a consumption, or troubled with often swoonings, or passions of the heart. The distilled water is no less effectual to all the purposes aforesaid, and helps the redness and inflammations of the eyes, being washed therewith; the herb dried is never used, but the green; yet the ashes thereof boiled in mead, or honied water, is available against the inflammations and ulcers in the mouth or throat, to gargle it therewith; the roots of Bugloss are effectual, being made into a licking electuary for the cough, and to condensate thick phelgm, and the rheumatic distillations upon the lungs.
IT is called Syanus, I suppose from the color of it; Hurt-sickle, because it turns the edge of the sickles that reap the corn; Blue-blow, Corn-flower, and Blue-bottle.
Descript : I shall only describe that which is commonest, and in my opinion most useful; its leaves spread upon the ground, being of a whitish green color, somewhat on the edges like those of Corn-Scabions, amongst which rises up a stalk divided into divers branches, beset with long leaves of a greenish color, either but very little indented, or not at all; the flowers are of a bluish color, from whence it took its name, consisting of an innumerable company of flowers set in a scaly head, not much unlike those of Knap-weed; the seed is smooth, bright, and shining, wrapped up in a woolly mantle; the root perishes every year.
Place : They grow in corn fields, amongst all sorts of corn (pease, beans, and tares excepted.) If you please to take them up from thence, and transplant them in your garden, especially towards the full of the moon, they will grow more double than they are, and many times change color.
Time : They flower from the beginning of May, to the end of the harvest.
Government and virtues : As they are naturally cold, dry, and binding, so they are under the dominion of Saturn. The powder or dried leaves of the Blue-bottle, or Corn-flower, is given with good success to those that are bruised by a fall, or have broken a vein inwardly, and void much blood at the mouth; being taken in the water of Plaintain, Horsetail, or the greater Confrey, it is a remedy against the poison of the Scorpion, and resists all venoms and poisons. The seed or leaves taken in wine, is very good against the plague, and all infectious diseases, and is very good in pestilential fevers. The juice put into fresh or green wounds, doth quickly solder up the lips of them together, and is very effectual to heal all ulcers and sores in the mouth. The juice dropped into the eyes takes away the heat and inflammation of them. The distilled water of this herb, has the same properties, and may be used for the effects aforesaid.
BESIDES the common name Brank-Ursine, it is also called Bear's-breach, and Acanthus, though I think our English names to be more proper; for the Greek word Acanthus, signifies any thistle whatsoever.
Descript : This thistle shoots forth very many large, thick, sad green smooth leaves on the ground, with a very thick and juicy middle rib; the leaves are parted with sundry deep gashes on the edges; the leaves remain a long time, before any stalk appears, afterwards rising up a reasonable big stalk, three or four feet high, and bravely decked with flowers from the middle of the stalk upwards; for on the lower part of the stalk, there is neither branches nor leaf. The flowers are hooded and gaping, being white in color, and standing in brownish husk, with a long small undivided leaf under each leaf; they seldom seed in our country. Its roots are many, great and thick, blackish without and whitish within, full of a clammy sap; a piece of them if you set it in the garden, and defend it from the first Winter cold will grow and flourish.
Place : They are only nursed in the gardens in England, where they will grow very well.
Time : It flowers in June and July.
Government and virtues : It is an excellent plant under the dominion of the Moon; I could wish such as are studious would labour to keep it in their gardens. The leaves being boiled and used in clysters, is excellent good to mollify the belly, and make the passage slippery. The decoction drank inwardly, is excellent and good for the bloody-flux. The leaves being bruised, or rather boiled and applied like a poultice are excellent good to unite broken bones and strengthen joints that have been put out. The decoction of either leaves or roots being drank, and the decoction of leaves applied to the place, is excellent good for the king's evil that is broken and runs; for by the influence of the moon, it revives the ends of the veins which are relaxed. There is scarce a better remedy to be applied to such places as are burnt with fire than this is, for it fetches out the fire, and heals it without a scar. This is an excellent remedy for such as are bursten, being either taken inwardly, or applied to the place. In like manner used, it helps the cramp and the gout. It is excellently good in hectic fevers, and restores radical moisture to such as are in consumptions.
BRIONY, OR WILD VINE
IT is called Wild, and Wood Vine, Tamus, or Ladies' Seal. The white is called White Vine by some; and the black, Black Vine.
Descript : The common White Briony grows ramping upon the hedges, sending forth many long, rough, very tender branches at the beginning, with many very rough, and broad leaves thereon, cut (for the most part) into five partitions, in form very like a vine leaf, but smaller, rough, and of a whitish hoary green color, spreading very far, spreading and twining with his small claspers (that come forth at the joints with the leaves) very far on whatsoever stands next to it. At the several joints also (especially towards the top of the branches) comes forth a long stalk bearing many whitish flowers together on a long tuft, consisting of five small leaves a-piece, laid open like a star, after which come the berries separated one from another, more than a cluster of grapes, green at the first, and very red when they are thorough ripe, of no good scent, but of a most loathsome taste provokes vomit. The root grows to be exceeding great, with many long twines or branches going from it, of a pale whitish color on the outside, and more white within, and of a sharp, bitter, loathsome taste.
Place : It grows on banks, or under hedges, through this land; the roots lie very deep.
Time : It flowers in July and August, some earlier, and some later than the other.
Government and virtues : They are furious martial plants. The root of Briony purges the belly with great violence, troubling the stomach and burning the liver, and therefore not rashly to be taken; but being corrected, is very profitable for the diseases of the head, as falling sickness, giddiness, and swimmings, by drawing away much phlegm and rheumatic humours that oppress the head, as also the joints and sinews; and is therefore good for palsies, convulsions, cramps, and stitches in the sides, and the dropsy, and for provoking urine; it cleanses the reins and kidneys from gravel and stone, by opening the obstructions of the spleen, and consume, the hardness and swelling thereof. The decoction of the root in wine, drank once a week at going to bed, cleanses the mother, and helps the rising thereof, expels the dead child; a dram of the root in powder taken in white wine, brings down their courses. An electuary made of the roots and honey, doth mightily cleanse the chest of rotten phlegm, and wonderfully help any old strong cough, to those that are troubled with shortness of breath, and is good for them that are bruised inwardly, to help to expel the clotted or congealed blood. The leaves, fruit, and root do cleanse old and filthy sores, are good against all fretting and running cankers, gangrenes, and tetters and therefore the berries are by some country people called tetter-berries. The root cleanses the skin wonderfully from all black and blue spots, freckles, morphew, leprosy, foul scars, or other deformity whatsoever; also all running scabs and manginess are healed by the powder of the dried root, or the juice thereof, but especially by the fine white hardened juice. The distilled water of the root works the same effects, but more weakly; the root bruised and applied of itself to any place where the bones are broken, helps to draw them forth, as also splinters and thorns in the flesh; and being applied with a little wine mixed therewith, it breaks boils, and helps whitlows on the joints.-For all these latter, beginning at sores, cancers, &c. apply it outwardly, mixing it with a little hog's grease, or other convenient ointment.
As for the former diseases where it must be taken inwardly, it purges very violently, and needs an abler hand to correct it than most country people have.
BROOK LIME, OR WATER-PIMPERNEL
Descript : This sends forth from a creeping root that shoots forth strings at every joint, as it runs, divers and sundry green stalks, round and sappy with some branches on them, somewhat broad, round, deep green, and thick leaves set by couples thereon; from the bottom whereof shoot forth long foot stalks, with sundry small blue flowers on them, that consist of five small round pointed leaves a piece.
There is another sort nothing different from the former, but that it is greater, and the flowers of a paler green color.
Place : They grow in small standing waters, and usually near Water-Cresses.
Time : And flower in June and July, giving seed the next month after.
Government and virtues : It is a hot and biting martial plant. Brook-lime and Water-Cresses are generally used together in dietdrink, with other things serving to purge the blood and body from all ill humours that would destroy health, and are helpful to the scurvy. They do all provoke urine, and help to break the stone, and pass it away; they procure women's courses, and expel the dead child. Being fried with butter and vinegar, and applied warm, it helps all manner of tumours, swellings, and inflammations.
Such drinks ought to be made of sundry herbs, according to the malady. I shall give a plain and easy rule at the latter end of this book.
IT is called Ruscus, and Bruscus, Kneeholm, Kneeholly, Kneehulver, and Pettigree.
Descript : The first shoots that sprout from the root of Butcher's Broom, are thick, whitish, and short, somewhat like those of Asparagus, but greater, they rise up to be a foot and half high, are spread into divers branches, green, and somewhat creased with the roundness, tough and flexible, whereon are set somewhat broad and almost round hard leaves and prickly, pointed at the end, of a dark green color, two at the most part set at a place, very close and near together; about the middle of the leaf, on the back and lower side from the middle rib, breaks forth a small whitish green flower, consisting of four small round pointed leaves, standing upon little or no footstalk, and in the place whereof comes a small round berry, green at the first, and red when it is ripe, wherein are two or three white, hard, round seeds contained. The root is thick, white and great at the head, and from thence sends forth divers thick, white, long, tough strings.
Place : It grows in copses, and upon heaths and waste grounds, and oftentimes under or near the holly bushes.
Time : It shoots forth its young buds in the Spring, and the berries are ripe about September, the branches of leaves abiding green all the Winter.
Government and virtues : It is a plant of Mars, being of a gallant cleansing and opening quality. The decoction of the root made with wine opens obstructions, provokes urine, helps to expel gravel and the stone, the stranguary and women's courses, also the yellow jaundice and the head-ache; and with some honey or sugar put thereunto, cleanses the breast of phlegm, and the chest of such clammy humours gathered therein. The decoction of the root drank, and a poultice made of the berries and leaves applied, are effectual in knitting and consolidating broken bones or parts out of joint. The common way of using it, is to boil the root of it, and Parsley and Fennel and Smallage in white wine, and drink the decoction, adding the like quantity of Grass-root to them: The more of the root you boil, the stronger will the decoction be; it works no ill effects, yet I hope you have wit enough to give the strongest decoction to the strongest bodies.
BROOM, AND BROOM-RAPE
To spend time in writing a description hereof is altogether needless, it being so generally used by all the good housewives almost through this land to sweep their houses with, and therefore very well known to all sorts of people.
The Broom-rape springs up in many places from the roots of the broom (but more often in fields, as by hedge-sides and on heaths). The stalk whereof is of the bigness of a finger or thumb, above two feet high, having a shew of leaves on them, and many flowers at the top, of a reddish yellow color, as also the stalks and leaves are.
Place : They grow in many places of this land commonly, and as commonly spoil all the land they grow in.
Time : They flower in the Summer months, and give their seed before Winter.
Government and virtues : The juice or decoction of the young branches or seed, or the powder of the seed taken in drink purges downwards, and draws phlegmatic and watery humours from the joints; whereby it helps the dropsy, gout, sciatica, and pains of the hips and joints; it also provokes strong vomits, and helps the pains of the sides, and swelling of the spleen, cleanses also the reins or kidneys and bladder of the stone, provokes urine abundantly, and hinders the growing again of the stone in the body. The continual use of the powder of the leaves and seed doth cure the black jaundice. The distilled water of the flowers is profitable for all the same purposes: it also helps surfeit, and alters the fit of agues, if three or four ounces thereof, with as much of the water of the lesser Centaury, and a little sugar put therein, be taken a little before the fit comes, and the party be laid down to sweat in his bed. The oil or water that is drawn from the end of the green sticks heated in the fire, helps the tooth-ache. The juice of young branches made into an ointment of old hog's grease, and anointed, or the young branches bruised and heated in oil or hog's grease, and laid to the sides pained by wind, as in stitches, or the spleen, ease them in once or twice using it. The same boiled in oil is the safest and surest medicine to kill lice in the head or body of any; and is an especial remedy for joint aches, and swollen knees, that come by the falling down of humours.
The BROOM RAPE also is not without its virtues.
The decoction thereof in wine, is thought to be as effectual to void the stone in the kidney or bladder, and to provoke urine, as the Broom itself. The juice thereof is a singular good help to cure as well green wounds, as old and filthy sores and malignant ulcers. The insolate oil, wherein there has been three or four repetitions of infusion of the top stalks, with flowers strained and cleared, cleanses the skin from all manner of spots, marks, and freckles that rise either by the heat of the sun, or the malignity of humours. As for the Broom and Broom-rape, Mars owns them, and is exceeding prejudicial to the liver, I suppose by reason of the antipathy between Jupiter and Mars; therefore if the liver be disaffected, minister none of it.
Descript : This being sown of seed, rises up at first with small, long, narrow, hairy, dark green leaves like grass, without any division or gash in them, but those that follow are gashed in on both sides the leaves into three or four gashes, and pointed at the ends, resembling the knags of a buck's horn (whereof it took its name), and being well wound round about the root upon the ground, in order one by another, thereby resembling the form of a star, from among which rise up divers hairy stalks, about a hand's breadth high, bearing every one a small, long spiky head, like to those of the common Plantain having such like bloomings and seed after them. The root is single, long and small, with divers strings at it.
Place : They grow in sandy grounds, as in Tothill-fields by Westminster, and divers other places of this land.
Time : They flower and seed in May, June, and July, and their green leaves do in a manner abide fresh all the Winter.
Government and virtues : It is under the dominion of Saturn, and is of a gallant, drying, and binding quality. This boiled in wine and drank, and some of the leaves put to the hurt place, is an excellent remedy for the biting of the viper or adder, which I take to be one and the same. The same being also drank, helps those that are troubled with the stone in the reins or kidneys, by cooling the heat of the part affected, and strengthens them; also weak stomachs that cannot retain, but cast up their meat. It stays all bleeding both at mouth or nose; bloody urine or the bloody-flux, and stops the lask of the belly and bowels. The leaves hereof bruised and laid to their sides that have an ague, suddenly ease the fits; and the leaves and roots applied to the wrists, works the same effect. The herb boiled in ale and wine, and given for some mornings and evenings together, stays the distillation of hot and sharp rheums falling into the eyes from the head, and helps all sorts of sore eyes.
IT is called Hart's-horn, Herba-stella and Herba-stellaria, Sanguinaria, Herb-Eve, Herb-Ivy, Wort-Tresses, and Swine-Cresses.
Descript : They have many small and weak straggled branches trailing here and there upon the ground. The leaves are many, small and jagged, not much unlike to those of Buck's-horn Plantain, but much smaller, and not so hairy. The flowers grow among the leaves in small, rough, whitish clusters; the seeds are smaller and brownish, of a bitter taste.
Place : They grow in dry, barren, sandy grounds.
Time : They flower and seed when the rest of the Plantains do.
Government and virtues : This is also under the dominion of Saturn; the virtues are held to be the same as Buck's-horn Plaintain, and therefore by all authors it is joined with it. The leaves bruised and applied to the place, stop bleeding. The herbs bruised and applied to warts, will make them consume and waste in a short time.
BESIDES the name Bugle, it is called Middle Confound and Middle Comfrey, Brown Bugle, and by some Sicklewort, and Herb-Carpenter; though in Essex we call another herb by that name.
Descript : This has larger leaves than those of the Self-heal, but else of the same fashion, or rather longer; in some green on the upper side, and in others more brownish, dented about the edges, somewhat hairy, as the square stalk is also which rises up to be half a yard high sometimes, with the leaves set by couples, from the middle almost, whereof upwards stand the flowers, together with many smaller and browner leaves than the rest, on the stalk below set at distance, and the stalk bare between them; among which flowers, are also small ones of a bluish and sometimes of an ash color, fashioned like the flowers of Ground-ivy, after which come small, round blackish seeds. The root is composed of many strings, and spreads upon the ground.
The white flowered Bugle differs not in form or greatness from the former, saving that the leaves and stalks are always green, and never brown, like the other, and the flowers thereof are white.
Place : They grow in woods, copses, and fields, generally throughout England, but the white flowered Bugle is not so plentiful as the former.
Time : They flower from May until July, and in the meantime perfect their seed. The roots and leaves next thereunto upon the ground abiding all the Winter.
Government and virtues : This herb belongs to Dame Venus. If the virtues of it make you fall in love with it (as they will if you be wise) keep a syrup of it to take inwardly, an ointment and plaister of it to use outwardly, always by you.
The decoction of the leaves and flowers made in wine, and taken, dissolves the congealed blood in those that are bruised inwardly by a fall, or otherwise is very effectual for any inward wounds, thrusts, or stabs in the body or bowels; and it is an especial help in all wound-drinks, and for those that are liver-grown (as they call it.) It is wonderful in curing all manner of ulcers and sores, whether new and fresh or old and inveterate; yea, gangrenes and fistulas also, if the leaves bruised and applied, or their juice be used to wash and bathe the place; and the same made into a lotion, and some honey and alum, cures all sores in the mouth and gums, be they ever so foul, or of long continuance; and works no less powerfully and effectually for such ulcers and sores as happen in the secret parts of men and women. Being also taken inwardly, or outwardly applied, it helps those that have broken any bone, or have any member out of joint. An ointment made with the leaves of Bugle, Scabious and Sanicle, bruised and boiled in hog's grease, until the herbs be dry, and then strained forth into a pot for such occasions as shall require; it is so singularly good for all sorts of hurts in the body, that none that know its usefulness will be without it.
The truth is, I have known this herb cure some diseases of Saturn, of which I thought good to quote one. Many times such as give themselves much to drinking are troubled with strange fancies, strange sights in the night time, and some with voices, as also with the disease Ephialtes, or the Mare. I take the reason of this to be (according to Fernelius) a melancholy vapour made thin by excessive drinking strong liquor, and, so flies up and disturbs the fancy, and breeds imaginations like itself, viz. fearful and troublesome. Those I have known cured by taking only two spoonfuls, of the syrup of this herb after supper two hours, when you go to bed. But whether this does it by sympathy, or antipathy, is some doubt in astrology. I know there is great antipathy between Saturn and Venus in matter of procreation, yea, such a one, that the barrenness of Saturn can be removed by none but Venus ! nor the lust of Venus be repelled by none but Saturn; but I am not of opinion this is done this way, and my reason is, because these vapours though in quality melancholy, yet by their flying upward, seem to be something aerial; therefore I rather think it is done by antipathy; Saturn being exalted in Libra, in the house of Venus.
IT is called Sanguisorbia, Pimpinella, Bipulo, Solbegrella, &c. The common garden Burnet is so well known, that it needs no description. There is another sort which is wild, the description whereof take as follows:
Descript : The great wild Burnet has winged leaves arising from the roots like the garden Burnet, but not so many; yet each of these leaves are at the least twice as large as the other, and nicked in the same manner about the edges, of a greyish color on the under side; the stalks are greater, and rise higher, with many such leaves set thereon, and greater heads at the top, of a brownish color, and out of them come small dark purple flowers, like the former, but greater. The root is black and long like the other, but greater also: it has almost neither scent nor taste therein, like the garden kind.
Place : It first grows frequently in gardens. The wild kind grows in divers counties of this land, especially in Huntingdon, in Northamptonshire, in the meadows there: as also near London, by Pancras church, and by a causeway-side in the middle of a field by Paddington.
Time : They flower about the end of June and beginning of July, and their seed is ripe in August.
Government and virtues : This is an herb the Sun challenges dominion over, and is a most precious herb, little inferior to Betony; the continual use of it preserves the body in health, and the spirits in vigour; for if the Sun be the preserver of life under God, his herbs are the best in the world to do it by. They are accounted to be both of one property, but the lesser is more effectual because quicker and more aromatic. It is a friend to the heart, liver, and other principal parts of a man's body. Two or three of the stalks, with leaves put into a cup of wine, especially claret, are known to quicken the spirits, refresh and cheer the heart, and drive away melancholy. It is a special help to defend the heart from noisome vapours, and from infection of the pestilence, the juice thereof being taken in some drink, and the party laid to sweat thereupon. They have also a drying and an astringent quality, whereby they are available in all manner of fluxes of blood or humours, to staunch bleedings inward or outward, lasks, scourings, the bloody flux, women's too abundant flux of courses, the whites, and the choleric belchings and castings of the stomach, and is a singular wound-herb for all sorts of wounds, both of the head and body, either inward or outward, for all old ulcers, running cankers, and most sores, to be used either by the juice or decoction of the herb, or by the powder of the herb or root, or the water of the distilled herb, or ointment by itself, or with other things to be kept. The seed is also no less effectual both to stop fluxes, and dry up moist sores, being taken in powder inwardly in wine, or steeled water, that is, wherein hot rods of steel have been quenched; or the powder, or the seed mixed with the ointments.
THE BUTTER-BUR, OR PETASITIS
Descript : This rises up in February, with a thick stalk about a foot high, whereon are set a few small leaves, or rather pieces, and at the top a long spiked head; flowers of a blue or deep red color, according to the soil where it grows, and before the stalk with the flowers have abiden a month above ground, it will be withered and gone, and blow away with the wind, and the leaves will begin to spring, which being full grown, are very large and broad, being somewhat thin and almost round, whose thick red foot stalks above a foot long, stand towards the middle of the leaves. The lower part being divided into two round parts, close almost one to another, and are of a pale green color; and hairy underneath. The root is long, and spreads underground, being in some places no bigger than one's finger, in others much bigger, blackish on the outside, and whitish within, of a bitter and unpleasant taste.
Place and Time : They grow in low and wet grounds by rivers and water sides. Their flower (as is said) rising and decaying in February and March, before their leaves, which appear in April.
Government and virtues : It is under the dominion of the Sun, and therefore is a great strengthener of the heart, and clearer of the vital spirit. The roots thereof are by long experience found to be very available against the plague and pestilential fevers by provoking sweat; if the powder thereof be taken in wine, it also resists the force of any other poison. The root hereof taken with Zedoary and Angelica, or without them, helps the rising of the mother. The decoction of the root in wine, is singularly good for those that wheese much, or are short-winded. It provokes urine also, and women's courses, and kills the flat and broad worms in the belly. The powder of the root doth wonderfully help to dry up the moisture of the sores that are hard to be cured, and takes away all spots and blemishes of the skin. It were well if gentlewomen would keep this root preserved, to help their poor neighbours. It is fit the rich should help the poor, for the poor cannot help themselves.
THEY are also called Personata, and Loppy-major, great Burdock and Clod-bur. It is so well known, even by the little boys, who pull off the burs to throw and stick upon each other, that I shall spare to write any description of it.
Place : They grow plentifully by ditches and water-sides, and by the highways almost everywhere through this land.
Government and virtues : Venus challenges this herb for her own, and by its leaf or seed you may draw the womb which way you please, either upwards by applying it to the crown of the head, in case it falls out; or downwards in fits of the mother, by applying it to the soles of the feet; or if you would stay it in its place, apply it to the navel, and that is one good way to stay the child in it. The Burdock leaves are cooling, moderately drying, and discussing withal, whereby it is good for old ulcers and sores. A dram of the roots taken with Pine kernels, helps them that spit foul, mattery, and bloody phlegm. The leaves applied to the places troubled with the shrinking of the sinews or arteries, gives much ease. The juice of the leaves, or rather the roots themselves, given to drink with old wine, doth wonderfully help the biting of any serpents. And the root beaten with a little salt, and laid on the place, suddenly eases the pain thereof, and helps those that are bit by a mad dog. The juice of the leaves being drank with honey, provokes urine, and remedies the pain of the bladder. The seed being drank in wine forty days together, doth wonderfully help the sciatica. The leaves bruised with the white of an egg, and applied to any place burnt with fire, takes out the fire, gives sudden ease, and heals it up afterwards. The decoction of them fomented on any fretting sore, or canker, stays the corroding quality, which must be afterwards anointed with an ointment made of the same liquor, hog's-grease, nitre, and vinegar boiled together. The roots may be preserved with sugar, and taken fasting, or at other times, for the same purposes, and for consumptions, the stone, and the lask. The seed is much commended to break the stone, and cause it to be expelled by urine, and is often used with other seeds and things to that purpose.
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