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Herbs & Oils
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Sacred to the God. This biennial or perennial herb has finely cut feathery foliage, umbels of midsummer flowers, curved, ribbed seeds and a thick root, all with a fresh anise seed flavor. The seeds are chewed to allay hunger and ease indigestion. They are brewed for constipation, to increase breast milk and regulate menstruation; with root extract, they are detoxifying and diuretic. Research indicates Fennel helps repair the liver after alcohol damage. Seed and leaf steam aids deep skin cleansing, and the essential oil is used in a muscle-toning massage. Fennel oil should not be used by epileptics or young children.
To help with indigestion and gas, pour boiling water over crushed fennel seeds (one teaspoon seed to a pint of water). The seeds are simmered in syrups for coughs, shortness of breath and wheezing. Powdered fennel seeds repel fleas from pets' sleeping quarters. Place fennel inside a fish when you cook it to make it more digestible. The seeds and root help clean the liver, spleen, gall bladder, and blood. The leaves and seeds when boiled with barley increase breast milk. The tea and broth of this herb are said to help in weight loss programs. Fennel is eaten in salads, soups, and breads. Fennel oil mixed with honey can be taken for coughs, and the tea is used as a gargle. The oil is eaten with honey to allay gas and it is applied externally to rheumatic swellings. The seeds are boiled to make an eye wash: use one half teaspoon of seed per cup of water, three times a day, and be sure to strain carefully before use.
Parts Used: Leaf, root and seeds
Magical Uses: Hang over doors with St. John's Wort at Litha to repel evil spirits. Carry fennel to influence others to trust your words. Use for: Protection; Healing; Health; Purification.
Aromatherapy Uses: Bruises; Dull, Oily, Mature Complexions; Cellulitis; Obesity; Edema; Rheumatism; Asthma; Bronchitis; Anorexia; Colic; Constipation; Dyspepsia; Flatulence; Hiccoughs; Nausea; Menopausal Problems; Insufficient Milk in Nursing Mothers. Key Qualities: Stimulating; Balancing; Restorative; Revitalizing; Purifying; Cleansing.
Especially Male Fern, Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum), Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum), Lady Fern, Polypody, or Oak Fern (Polypodium vulgare). The Druids classified ferns as sacred trees. Uncurled fronds of Male fern were gathered at Midsummer, dried and carried for good luck. The mysterious regeneration of ferns led to the ancient belief that their seed could confer invisibility. The root was added to love potions and the fronds eaten by those embarking on love quests.
Male Fern: The fall gathered root is a remedy for tapeworm. A few hours after it has been ingested, a purgative is given. Begin the vermifuge process by eating fresh garlic. Take one to four teaspoons of the liquid extract of the root, or of the powdered root, on an empty stomach and follow several hours later with castor oil. Caution: do not ingest alcohol while taking this herb. Overdose can result in blindness and death.
The roots are added to healing salves for wounds and rubbed into the limbs of children with rickets.
Parts Used: Leaf and root
Magical Uses: Fern "seeds" are said to render on invisible if gathered on Midsummer's Eve. Ferns are also said to be an herb of immortality. Moonwort (Botrychium lunaria) is especially effective if gathered by moonlight. This fern aids in opening locks and breaking charms, is used in love spells and has the alchemical reputation of being an herb to convert quicksilver into silver. Use it to conjure money. Burned indoors, dried male fern fronds produce a very strong wall of protection. Burned outdoors they produce rain. Use for: Luck; Love; Banishing; Releasing; Exorcism; Defense.
Also known as Featherfoil or Flirtwort. Semievergreen Feverfew has pungent, divided, medium to yellow-green leaves and white daisy flowers appearing in summer. The leaves add a bitter tang to food and are found in digestive apéritifs. They relax blood vessels, reduce inflammation and are mildly sedative. Feverfew's importance lies in its success in reducing some migraines. Chewed daily its accumulative effect is to reduce headache pains and inhibit the secretion of a compound implicated in migraine and arthritis; infused flowering tops are applied to ease headaches and arthritic swellings. A tea is taken for tinnitus and irregular periods. Warning: Fresh leaves can irritate the mouth.
Parts Used: Leaf, flower, essential oil
Magical Uses: Travelers carries it as a ward against sickness or accidents during their journeys. Protection; Purification; Defense; Cleansing.
Also known as Birth Tree. A Druid sacred tree. The Silver Fir grows to a height of 180 feet. This was the original Christmas tree from central Europe, chosen for its long lasting, aromatic needles. The bark resin is distilled to make Strassburg turpentine. The buds and leaves are distilled to make the expectorant and antiseptic Silver Pine needle oil, which is used in cough drops and asthma inhalations, and to give pine scent to toiletries.
Parts Used: Leaf tips, bark, wood, seeds, and sap
Magical Uses: The needles are burned at childbirth to bless and protect the mother and baby. Burn for Happiness; Harmony; Peace; Inspiration; and Wisdom.
Also called Linseed. Annual Flax has slender stems with linear green leaves, beautiful, flat blue flowers, and oily brown seeds.
A teaspoon of the seed is placed in a quart of water and gently simmered down to one-half quart. The resulting liquid is given for constipation, for ulcerated sore throat, and as an exectorant for bronchitis in one-fourth cup doses throughout the day. To pass a gallstone, take one and a half to two tablespoons of linseed oil and lie on your left sied for a half hour. The whole seeds (about two tablespoons) can be taken with plenty of water to relieve constipation. Follow with stewed prunes or prune juice. The cooked seeds are added to fresh grated carrots, and the mix is warmed to make a poultice to rheumatism and swellings.
Parts Used: Seed
Magical Uses: the chld who runs or dances in a flax field at the age of seven is assured of growing up to be attractive. Newborn babies are placed in a flax field to sleep for similar reasons. The blue flowers are worn as a preservative against sorcery. Sprinkle the altar with flax seeds while performing healing rituals or include it in healing mixtures. Use for: Protection; Psychic Awareness; Money.
Also known as Fairy Gloves, Fairy Fingers, or Dead Men's Bells. A Druid sacred herb associated with the "little people".
Caution: This plant is poisonous and should be used by qualified personnel only.
Magical Uses: Grow in a garden for protection of house and yard.
A small tree or shrub, with pinnate leaves, and white or pale pink flowers. It yields a natural oleo-resin gum, which is used to make a healing incense, which induces a meditative state. Frankincense essential oil is also useful in promoting spirituality and meditative states. Dilute before applying to the skin as it may be irritating. Pliny claimed that Frankincense was an antidote to hemlock poisoning. Avicenna advocated its use for tumors, fevers, vomiting, and dysentary. Chinese herbalists use it in powder form and in teas for rheumatism and menstrual pain, and externally as a wash for sores and bruises. The dose is three to six grains in a glass of wine; or twenty drops of the tincture. Frankincense is highly antiseptic and the scent is said to calm and clear the mind.
Caution: Prolonged use of resins can damage the kidneys.
Parts Used: Resin
Magical Uses: Sacred to the Sun God Ra, frankincense is buned in rites of exorcism, purification, and protection. It is said to accelerate spiritual growth. Rosemary may be used as a substitute. (Oil)Anoint tools, sachets or the body. Use for spirituality, exorcism, purification, luck and protection rites. (Resin)burn for protection, exorcism, spirituality, love, consecration, blessing, energy, strength, visions, healing, meditation, power and courage.
Aromatherapy Uses: (Oil) Blemishes; Dry and Mature Complexions; Scars; Wounds; Wrinkles; Asthma; Bronchitis; Colds; Coughs; Flu; Laryngitis; Cystitis; Anxiety; Nervous Tension; Stress-related Conditions. Frankincense has the ability to slow down, and deepen the breath - very conducive to prayer and meditation.
Botanical: Foeniculum vulgare (GÆRT.)
Family: N.O. Umbelliferae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Fenkel. Sweet Fennel. Wild Fennel.
---Parts Used---Seeds, leaves, roots.
---Habitat---Fennel, a hardy, perennial, umbelliferous herb, with yellow flowers and feathery leaves, grows wild in most parts of temperate Europe, but is generally considered indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean, whence it spreads eastwards to India. It has followed civilization, especially where Italians have colonized, and may be found growing wild in many parts of the world upon dry soils near the sea-coast and upon river-banks. It flourishes particularly on limestone soils and is now naturalized in some parts of this country, being found from North Wales southward and eastward to Kent, being most frequent in Devon and Cornwall and on chalk cliffs near the sea. It is often found in chalky districts inland in a semi-wild state.
For the medicinal use of its fruits, commonly called seeds, Fennel is largely cultivated in the south of France, Saxony, Galicia, and Russia, as well as in India and Persia.
This plant was attached by Linnaeus to the genus Anethum, but was separated from it by De Candolle and placed with three or four others in a new genus styled Foeniculum, which has been generally adopted by botanists. (Foeniculum was the name given to this plant by the Romans, and is derived from the Latin word, foenum = hay).
This was corrupted in the Middle Ages into Fanculum, and this gave birth to its alternative popular name, 'fenkel.'
The Anethum Foeniculum of Linnaeus embraced two varieties, the Common or Wild Fennel and the Sweet Fennel. These are considered by De Candolle as distinct species named respectively F. vulgare (Gaertn.) - the garden form of which is often named F. Capillaceum (Gilibert) - and F. dulce.
---History---Fennel was well known to the Ancients and was cultivated by the ancient Romans for its aromatic fruits and succulent, edible shoots. Pliny had much faith in its medicinal properties, according no less than twenty-two remedies to it, observing also that serpents eat it 'when they cast their old skins, and they sharpen their sight with the juice by rubbing against the plant.' A very old English rhyming Herbal, preserved at Stockholm, gives the following description of the virtue of the plant:
'Whaune the heddere (adder) is hurt in eye
Ye red fenel is hys prey,
And yif he mowe it fynde
Wonderly he doth hys kynde.
He schall it chow wonderly,
And leyn it to hys eye kindlely,
Ye jows shall sang and hely ye eye
Yat beforn was sicke et feye.'
Many of the older herbalists uphold this theory of the peculiarly strengthening effect of this herb on the sight.
Longfellow alludes to this virtue in the plant:
'Above the lower plants it towers,
The Fennel with its yellow flowers;
And in an earlier age than ours
Was gifted with the wondrous powers
Lost vision to restore.'
In mediaeval times, Fennel was employed, together with St. John's Wort and other herbs, as a preventative of witchcraft and other evil influences, being hung over doors on Midsummer's Eve to warn off evil spirits. It was likewise eaten as a condiment to the salt fish so much consumed by our forefathers during Lent. Like several other umbelliferae, it is carminative.
Though the Romans valued the young shoots as a vegetable, it is not certain whether it was cultivated in northern Europe at that time, but it is frequently mentioned in Anglo-Saxon cookery and medical recipes prior to the Norman Conquest. Fennel shoots, Fennel water and Fennel seed are all mentioned in an ancient record of Spanish agriculture dating A.D. 961. The diffusion of the plant in Central Europe was stimulated by Charlemagne, who enjoined its cultivation on the imperial farms.
It is mentioned in Gerard (1597), and Parkinson (Theatricum Botanicum, 1640) tells us that its culinary use was derived from Italy, for he says:
'The leaves, seede and rootes are both for meate and medicine; the Italians especially doe much delight in the use thereof, and therefore transplant and whiten it, to make it more tender to please the taste, which being sweete and somewhat hot helpeth to digest the crude qualitie of fish and other viscous meats. We use it to lay upon fish or to boyle it therewith and with divers other things, as also the seeds in bread and other things.'
William Coles, in Nature's Paradise (1650) affirms that -
'both the seeds, leaves and root of ourGarden Fennel are much used in drinks and broths for those that are grown fat, to abate their unwieldiness and cause them to grow more gaunt and lank.'
The ancient Greek name of the herb, Marathron, from maraino, to grow thin, probably refers to this property.
It was said to convey longevity, and to give strength and courage.
There are many references to Fennel in poetry. Milton, in Paradise Lost alludes to the aroma of the plant:
'A savoury odour blown,
Grateful to appetite, more pleased my sense
Than smell of sweetest Fennel.'
---Description---Fennel is a beautiful plant. It has a thick, perennial root-stock, stout stems, 4 to 5 feet or more in height, erect and cylindrical, bright green and so smooth as to seem polished, much branched bearing leaves cut into the very finest of segments. The bright golden flowers, produced in large, flat terminal umbels, with from thirteen to twenty rays, are in bloom in July and August.
In the kitchen garden this naturally ornamental, graceful plant, generally has its stems cut down to secure a constant crop of green leaves for flavouring and garnishing, so that the plant is seldom seen in the same perfection as in the wild state. In the original wild condition, it is variable as to size, habit, shape and color of leaf, number of rays in the flower-head or umbel, and shape of fruit, but it has been under cultivation for so long that there are now several well-marked species. The Common Garden Fennel (F. Capillaceum or officinale) is distinguished from its wild relative (F. vulgare) by having much stouter, taller, tubular and larger stems, and less divided leaves, but the chief distinction is that the leaf-stalks form a curved sheath around the stem, often even as far as the base of the leaf above. The flower-stalks, or pedicels, of the umbels are also sturdier, and the fruits, 1/4 to 1/2 inch long, are double the size of the wild ones.
---Cultivation---Fennel will thrive anywhere, and a plantation will last for years. It is easily propagated by seeds, sown early in April in ordinary soil. It likes plenty of sun and is adapted to dry and sunny situations, not needing heavily manured ground, though it will yield more on rich stiff soil. From 4 1/2 to 5 lb. of seed are sown per acre, either in drills, 15 inches apart, lightly, just covered with soil and the plants afterwards thinned to a similar distance, or sewn thinly in a bed and transplanted when large enough. The fruit is heavy and a crop of 15 cwt. per acre is an average yield.
The roots of Fennel were formerly employed in medicine, but are generally inferior in virtues to the fruit, which is now the only portion recognized by any of the Pharmacopoeias.
The cessation of the supply of Fennel fruits from the Continent during the War led to its being grown more extensively here, any crop produced being almost certain to sell well.
There are several varieties of Fennel fruit known in commerce - sweet or Roman Fennel, German or Saxon Fennel, wild or bitter Fennel, Galician Russian and Roumanian Fennel, Indian, Persian and Japanese. The fruits vary very much in length, breadth, taste and other characters, and are of very different commercial value.
The most esteemed Fennel fruit vary from three to five lines in length, are elliptical, slightly curved, somewhat obtuse at the ends and pale greyish green in color. Wild fruits are short, dark colored and blunt at their ends, and have a less agreeable flavour and odour than those of sweet Fennel - they are not official.
Fennel fruits are frequently distinguished into 'shorts' and 'longs' in commerce, the latter being the most valued.
The odour of Fennel seed is fragrant, its taste, warm, sweet and agreeably aromatic. It yields its virtues to hot water, but more freely to alcohol. The essential oil may be separated by distillation with water.
For medicinal use, the fruits of the cultivated Fennel, especially those grown in Saxony, are alone official, as they yield the most volatile oil. Saxon fruits are greenish to yellowish-brown in color, oblong, smaller and straighter than the French or Sweet Fennel (F. dulce). This French Fennel, known also as Roman Fennel, is distinguished by its greater length, more oblong form, yellowish-green color and sweet taste; its anise-like odour is also stronger. It is cultivated in the neighbourhood of Nimes, in the south of France, but yields comparatively little oil, which has no value medicinally.
Indian Fennel is brownish, usually smaller, straighter and not quite so rounded at the ends with a sweet anise taste. Persian and Japanese fennel, pale greenish brown in color, are the smallest and have a sweeter, still more strongly anise taste and an odour intermediate between that of French and Saxon.
The Saxon, Galician, Roumanian and Russian varieties all yield 4 to 5 per cent of volatile oil, and these varieties are alone suitable for pharmaceutical use. In the ordinary way they furnish some of the best Fennel crops, and from their fruit a large portion of the oil of commerce is derived.
For family use, 1/2 oz. of seed will produce an ample supply of plants and for several years, either from the established roots, or by re-seeding. Unless seed is needed for household or sowing purposes, the flower stems should be cut as soon as they appear.
----Adulteration---Commercial Fennel varies greatly in quality, this being either due to lack of care in harvesting, or deliberate adulteration. It may contain so much sand, dirt, stem tissues, weed seeds or other material, that it amounts to adulteration and is unfit for medicinal use, or it may have had some of its oil removed by distillation.
Fruits exhausted by water or steam are darker, contain less oil and sink at once in water, but those exhausted by alcohol still retain 1 to 2 per cent, and are but little altered in appearance, they acquire, however, a peculiar fusel oil odour.
Exhausted, or otherwise inferior fennel is occasionally improved in appearance by the use of a factitious coloring, but old exhausted fruits that have been re-colored may be detected by rubbing the fruit between the hands, when the color will come off.
---Constituents---As found in commerce, oil Fennel is not uniform.
The best varieties of Fennel yield from 4 to 5 per cent of volatile oil (sp. gr. 0.960 to 0.930), the principal constituents of which are Anethol (50 to 60 per cent) and Fenchone (18 to 22 per cent). Anethol is also the chief constituent of Anise oil.
Fenchone is a colorless liquid possessing a pungent, camphoraceous odour and taste, and when present gives the disagreeable bitter taste to many of the commercial oils. It probably contributes materially to the medicinal properties of the oil, hence only such varieties of Fennel as contain a good proportion of fenchone are suitable for medicinal use.
There are also present in oil of Fennel, d-pinene, phellandrine, anisic acid and anisic aldehyde. Schimmel mentions limonene as also at times present as a constituent.
There is reason to believe that much of the commercial oil is adulterated with oil from which the anethol or crystalline constituent has been separated. Good oil will contain as much as 60 per cent.
Saxon Fennel yields 4.7 per cent of volatile oil, containing 22 per cent of fenchone.
Russian, Galician and Roumanian, which closely resembles one another, yield 4 to 5 per cent of volatile oil, of which about 18 per cent is fenchone. They have a camphoraceous taste.
French sweet or Roman Fennel yields only 2.1 per cent. of oil, containing much less anethol and with a milder and sweeter taste, probably due to the entire absence of the bitter fenchone.
French bitter Fennel oil differs considerably, anethol being only present in traces. The oil (Essence de Fenouil amer) is distilled from the entire herb, collected in the south of France, where the plant grows without cultivation.
Indian Fennel yields only 0.72 per cent of oil, containing only 6.7 per cent of fenchone.
Japanese Fennel yields 2.7 per cent of oil, containing 10.2 of fenchone and 75 per cent of anethol.
Sicilian Fennel oil is yielded from F. piperitum.
It was formerly the practice to boil Fennel with all fish, and it was mainly cultivated in kitchen gardens for this purpose. Its leaves are served nowadays with salmon, to correct its oily indigestibility, and are also put into sauce, in the same way as parsley, to be eaten with boiled mackerel.
The seeds are also used for flavouring and the carminative oil that is distilled from them, which has a sweetish aromatic odour and flavour, is employed in the making of cordials and liqueurs, and is also used in perfumery and for scenting soaps. A pound of oil is the usual yield of 500 lb. of the seed.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---On account of its aromatic and carminative properties, Fennel fruit is chiefly used medicinally with purgatives to allay their tendency to griping and for this purpose forms one of the ingredients of the well-known compound Liquorice Powder. Fennel water has properties similar to those of anise and dill water: mixed with sodium bicarbonate and syrup, these waters constitute the domestic 'Gripe Water,' used to correct the flatulence of infants. Volatile oil of Fennel has these properties in concentration.
Fennel tea, formerly also employed as a carminative, is made by pouring half a pint of boiling water on a teaspoonful of bruised Fennel seeds.
Syrup prepared from Fennel juice was formerly given for chronic coughs.
Fennel is also largely used for cattle condiments.
It is one of the plants which is said to be disliked by fleas, and powdered Fennel has the effect of driving away fleas from kennels and stables. The plant gives off ozone most readily.
'One good old custom is not yet left off, viz., to boil fennel with fish, for it consumes the phlegmatic humour which fish most plentifully afford and annoy the body with, though few that use it know wherefore they do it. It benefits this way, because it is a herb of Mercury, and under Virgo, and therefore bears antipathy to Pisces. Fennel expels wind, provokes urine, and eases the pains of the stone, and helps to break it. The leaves or seed boiled in barley water and drunk, are good for nurses, to increase their milk and make it more wholesome for the child. The leaves, or rather the seeds, boiled in water, stayeth the hiccup and taketh away nausea or inclination to sickness. The seed and the roots much more help to open obstructions of the liver, spleen, and gall, and thereby relieve the painful and windy swellings of the spleen, and the yellow jaundice, as also the gout and cramp. The seed is of good use in medicines for shortness of breath and wheezing, by stoppings of the lungs. The roots are of most use in physic, drinks and broths, that are taken to cleanse the blood, to open obstructions of the liver, to provoke urine, and amend the ill color of the face after sickness, and to cause a good habit through the body; both leaves, seeds, and roots thereof, are much used in drink, or broth, to make people more lean that are too fat. A decoction of the leaves and root is good for serpent bites, and to neutralize vegetable poison, as mushrooms, etc.'
'In warm climates,' says Mattiolus, 'the stems are cut and there exudes a resinous liquid, which is collected under the name of Fennel Gum.'
In Italy and France, the tender leaves areoften used for garnishes and to add flavour to salads, and are also added, finely chopped, to sauces served with puddings. Roman bakers are said to put the herb under their loaves in the oven to make the bread taste agreeably.
The tender stems are employed in soups in Italy, though are more frequently eaten raw as a salad. John Evelyn, in his Acetaria (1680), held that the peeled stalks, soft and white, of the cultivated garden Fennel, when dressed like celery exercised a pleasant action conducive to sleep. The Italians eat these peeled stems, which they call 'Cartucci' as a salad, cutting them when the plant is about to bloom and serving with a dressing of vinegar and pepper.
Formerly poor people used to eat Fennel to satisfy the cravings of hunger on fast days and make unsavoury food palatable; it was also used in large quantities in the households of the rich, as may be seen by the record in the accounts of Edward I.'s household, 8 1/2 lb. of Fennel were bought for one month's supply.
---Preparations---Fluid extract, 5 to 30 drops. Oil, 1 to 5 drops. Water, B.P. and U.S.P., 4 drachms.
Botanical: Foeniculum dulce
Family: N.O. Umbelliferae
---Parts Used---Seeds, herb.
Finnochio or Florence Fennel is a native of Italy, and bears a general resemblance to Foeniculum vulgare, but is an annual and a much smaller plant, being as a rule little more than a foot high. It is a very thick-set plant, the stem joints are very close together and their bases much swollen. The large, finely-cut leaves are borne on very broad, pale green, or almost whitish stalks, which overlap at their bases somewhat like celery, swelling at maturity to form a sort of head or irregular ball - often as big as a man's head and resembling a tuber. The flowers appear earlier than those of common Fennel, and the number of flowers in the umbel is only six to eight.
---Cultivation---The cultivation is much the same as for common Fennel though it requires richer soil, and owing to the dwarf nature of the plant, the rows and the plants may be placed closer together, the seedlings only 6 to 8 inches apart. They are very thirsty and require watering frequently in dry weather. When the 'tubers' swell and attain the size of an egg, draw the soil slightly around them, half covering them. Cutting may begin about ten days later. The flowerheads should be removed as they appear.
Florence Fennel should be cooked in vegetarian or meat stock and served with either a rich butter sauce or cream dressing. It suggests celery in flavour, but is sweeter, and very pleasantly fragrant. In ordinary times, it can be bought from Italian greengrocers in London. In Italy it is one of the commonest and most popular of vegetables.
It is grown in this country at Hitchin.
Botanical: Nigella sativa (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Ranunculaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Roman Coriander. Nutmeg Flower.
(French) Faux cumin. (Quatre épices. Toute épice.
---Parts Used---Seeds, herb.
Fennel Flower, or Nutmeg Flower, is a small Asiatic annual, native to Syria, not in any way related to the Fennel, but belonging to the buttercup order of plants and grown to a limited extent in southern Europe and occasionally in other parts of the world.
Among the Romans it was esteemed in cooking, hence one of its common names, Roman Coriander.
French cooks employ the seeds of this plant under the name of quatre épices or toute épice. They were formerly used as a substitute for pepper.
---Description---The plant has a rather stiff, erect, branching stem, bears deeply-cut greyish-green leaves and terminal greyishblue flowers, followed by odd, toothed seedvessels, filled with small somewhat compressed seeds, usually three-cornered, with two sides flat and one convex, black or brown externally, white and oleaginous within, of a strong, agreeable aromatic odour, like that of nutmegs, and a spicy, pungent taste.
---Cultivation---The seed is sown in spring, after the ground gets warm. The drills may be 15 to 18 inches apart and the plants thinned to 10 to 12 inches asunder. No special attention is necessary until mid-summer when the seeds ripen. They are easily threshed and cleaned. After drying, they should be carefully stored in a cool, dry place.
---Constituents---The chief constituents of the seeds are a volatile oil and a fixed oil (1.3 per cent of the former and 35 per cent of the latter), and an amorphous, glucoside Melanthin, which is decomposed by diluted hydrochloric acid into Melanthigenin and sugar. Rochebrune, Toxicol Africaine, has found a powerful paralysing alkaloid, to which he gives the name of Nigelline. Melanthin is stated to exhibit the typical physiological action of the most poisonous saponines.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---In India, the seeds are considered as stimulant, diaphoretic and emmenagogue, and are believed to increase the secretion of milk. They are also used as a condiment and as a corrigent or adjuvant of purgative and tonic medicines.
In Eastern countries they are commonly used for seasoning curries and other dishes, and the wiccans spread them on bread or put them on cakes like comfits, believing them to be fattening. They are also used in India for putting among linen to keep away insects- and the native doctors employ them medicinally as a carminative in indigestion and bowel complaints.
Botanical: Peucedanum palustre (LINN.), Peucedanum officinale (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Compositae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Sow Fennel. Sulphurwort. Chucklusa. Hoar Strange. Hoar Strong. Brimstonewort. Milk Parsley. Marsh Parsley. Marsh Smallage.
(French) Persil des Marais.
The Hog's Fennel, a native of Great Britain, though not commonly met with, is more closely allied to the dill than to the true Fennel, belonging to the same genus as the former.
The ordinary Hog's Fennel (Peucedanum officinale, Linn.) occurs, though somewhat rarely, in salt marshes on the eastern coast of England. It seems to have been less rare in the days of Culpepper, who states that it grows plentifully in the salt marshes near Faversham.
---Description---It grows to a height of 3 or 4 feet, and is remarkable for its large umbels of yellow flowers, which are in bloom from July to September. Its leaves are cut into long narrow segments, hence perhaps its popular name of Hog's Fennel.
The thick root has a strong odour of sulphur - hence one of the other popular names of the plant, Sulphurwort, and when wounded in the spring, yields a considerable quantity of a yellowish-green juice, which dries into a gummy resin and retains the strong scent of the root.
This plant is now naturalized in North America, where in addition to the name of Sulphurwort, it is called Chucklusa.
---Constituents---The active constituent of the root is Peucedanin, a very active crystalline principle, stated to be diuretic and emmenagogue.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Culpepper gives Hog's Fennel the name of Hoar Strange, Hoar Strong, Brimstonewort and Sulphurwort, and tells us, on the authority of Dioscorides and Galen, that -
'the juice used with vinegar and rose-water, or with a little Euphorbium put to the nose benefits those that are troubled with the lethargy, frenzy or giddiness of the head, the falling sickness, long and inveterate headache, the palsy, sciatica and the cramp, and generally all the diseases of the sinews, used with oil and vinegar. The juice dissolved in wine and put into an egg is good for a cough or shortness of breath, and for those that are troubled with wind. It also purgeth gently and softens hardness of the spleen.... A little of the juice dissolved in wine and dropped into the ears or into a hollow tooth easeth the pains thereof. The root is less effectual to all the aforesaid disorders, yet the powder of the root cleanseth foul ulcers, and taketh out splinters of broken bones or other things in the flesh and healeth them perfectly; it is of admirable virtue in all green wounds and prevents gangrene.'
P. palustre, the Marsh Hog's Fennel, is also a rare plant, found in marshes in Yorks and Lincoln and a few other districts.
Its grooved stem grows 4 to 5 feet high, bears white flowers and abounds in a milky juice which dries to a brown resin. The root is, when dried, of a brown color externally, having a strong aromatic odour and an acrid, pungent, aromatic taste.
The resin in it has been found, by Peschier, to contain a volatile oil, a fixed oil and a peculiar acid which he named Selinic. It has been used as a substitute for ginger in Russia and has been employed in that country as a remedy for epilepsy, having the same stimulating qualities as the former species, the dose given being from 20 to 30 grains thrice daily, rapidly increased to four times the amount.
See Dropwort (Water).
Botanical: Foenum-graecum (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Leguminosae
---Synonyms---Bird's Foot. Greek Hay-seed.
---Habitat---Indigenous to the countries on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean. Cultivated in India, Africa, Egypt, Morocco, and occasionally in England.
---Description---The name comes from Foenum-graecum, meaning Greek Hay, the plant being used to scent inferior hay. The name of the genus, Trigonella, is derived from the old Greek name, denoting 'three-angled,' from the form of its corolla. The seeds of Fenugreek have been used medicinally all through the ages and were held in high repute among the wiccans, Greeks and Romans for medicinal and culinary purposes.
Fenugreek is an erect annual herb, growing about 2 feet high, similar in habit to Lucerne. The seeds are brownish, about 1/8 inch long, oblong, rhomboidal, with a deep furrow dividing them into two unequal lobes. They are contained, ten to twenty together, in long, narrow, sickle-like pods.
Taste, bitter and peculiar, not unlike lovage or celery. Odour, similar.
---Constituents---About 28 per cent mucilage; 5 per cent of a stronger-smelling, bitter fixed oil, which can be extracted by ether; 22 per cent proteids; a volatile oil; two alkaloids, Trigonelline and Choline, and a yellow coloring substance. The chemical composition resembles that of cod-liver oil, as it is rich in phosphates, lecithin and nucleoalbumin, containing also considerable quantities of iron in an organic form, which can be readily absorbed. Reutter has noted the presence of trimethylamine, neurin and betain; like the alkaloids in cod-liver oil, these substances stimulate the appetite by their action on the nervous system, or produce a diuretic or ureo-poietic effect.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---In Cairo it is used under the name of Helba. This is an wiccan preparation, made by soaking the seeds in water till they swell into a thick paste. Said to be equal to quinine in preventing fevers; is comforting to the stomach and has been utilized for diabetes. The seeds are soaked in water, then allowed to sprout, and when grown about 2 or 3 inches high, the green eaten raw with the seeds.
The seeds yield the whole of their odour and taste to alcohol and are employed in the preparation of emollient cataplasms, ointments and plasters.
They give a strong mucilage, which is emollient and a decoction of 1 OZ. seeds to 1 pint water is used internally in inflamed conditions of the stomach and intestines. Externally it is used as a poultice for abscesses, boils, carbuncles, etc. It can be employed as a substitute for cod-liver oil in scrofula, rickets, anaemia, debility following infectious diseases. For neurasthenia, gout and diabetes it can be combined with insulin. It possesses the advantage of being cheap and readily taken by children, if its bitter taste is disguised: 1 or 2 teaspoonful of the powder is taken daily in jam, etc.
The ground seeds are used also to give a maple-flavouring to confectionery and nearly all cattle like the flavour of Fenugreek in their forage. The powder is also employed as a spice in curry. At the present day, the ground seeds are utilized to an enormous extent in the manufactures of condition powders for horses and cattle; Funugreek is the principal ingredient in most of the quack nostrums which find so much favour among grooms and horsekeepers. It has a powerful odour of coumarin and is largely used for flavouring cattle foods and to make damaged hay palatable.
In India the fresh plant is employed as an esculent.
Trigonella purpurascens, a British species,with small pinky-white flowers, one to three together, and straight, six- to eight-seeded pods, twice as long as the calyx.
Botanical: Garrya fremonti (TORR.)
Family: N.O. Cornaceae
---Synonyms---Skunk Bush. Californian Feverbush.
---Habitat---California, Oregon, Mexico, Cuba, Jamaica.
---Description---This is a small evergreen bush. The leaves are broad, leathery, grey green on the upperside; on the underside mealy and lighter grey green. It has grown in the Author's garden, but needs care in the winter. The leaves are intensely bitter, and are largely used in California as an antiperiodic and tonic. A new alkaloid has been found in it called garryine. It is best administered as a fluid extract.
---Dosages---Powder, 10 to 30 grains - leaves. Fluid extract, 10 to 30 minims - leaves.
Botanical: Chrysanthemum Parthenium (BERNH.)
Family: N.O. Compositae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Pyrethrum Parthenium (Sm.). Featherfew. Featherfoil. Flirtwort. Bachelor's Buttons.
---Description---Feverfew (a corruption of Febrifuge, from its tonic and fever-dispelling properties) is a composite plant growing in every hedgerow, with numerous, small, daisy-like heads of yellow flowers with outer white rays, the central yellow florets being arranged on a nearly flat receptacle, not conical as in the chamomiles. The stem is finely furrowed and hairy, about 2 feet high; the leaves alternate, downy with short hairs, or nearly smooth-about 4 1/2 inches long and 2 inches broad - bipinnatifid, with serrate margins, the leaf-stalk being flattened above and convex beneath. It is not to be confounded with other wild chamomile-like allied species, which mostly have more feathery leaves and somewhat large flowers; the stem also is upright, whereas that of the true garden Chamomile is procumbent. The delicate green leaves are conspicuous even in mild winter. The whole plant has a strong and bitter smell, and is particularly disliked by bees. A double variety is cultivated in gardens for ornamental purposes, and its flower-heads are sometimes substituted for the double Chamomile.
Country people have long been accustomed to make curative uses of this herb, which grows abundantly throughout England. Gerard tells us that it may be used both in drinks, and bound on the wrists is of singular virtue against the ague.
Pyrethrum is derived from the Greek pur (fire), in allusion to the hot taste of the root.
---Cultivation---Feverfew is a perennial, and herbaceous in habit. When once planted it gives year after year an abundant supply of blossoms with only the merest degree of attention. Planting may be done in autumn, but the best time is about the end of April. Any ordinary good soil is suitable, but better results are obtained when well-drained, and of a stiff, loamy character, enriched with good manure. Weeding should be done by hand, the plants when first put out being small might be injured by hoeing.
There are three methods of propagation: by seed, by division of roots and by cuttings. If grown by seed, it should be sown in February or March, thinned out to 2 to 3 inches between the plants, and planted out early in June to permanent quarters, allowing a foot or more between the plants and 2 feet between the rows, selecting, if possible, a showery day for the operation. They will establish themselves quickly. To propagate by division, lift the plants in March, or whenever the roots are in an active condition, and with a sharp spade, divide them into three or five fairly large pieces. Cuttings should be made from the young shoots that start from the base of the plant, and should be taken with a heel of the old plant attached, which will greatly assist their rooting. They may be inserted at any time from October to May. The foliage must be shortened to about 3 inches, when the cuttings will be ready for insertion in a bed of light, sandy soil, in the open. Plant very firmly, surface the bed with sand, and water in well. Shade is necessary while the cuttings are rooting.
Keep a good watch at all times for snails, slugs and black fly. For the latter pest, try peppering the plants; for the others use soot, ashes or lime. Toads will keep a garden free of slugs.
'A few pots placed on their sides may be dotted about the garden, and it will be found that the toads will sit in these when they are not hunting around for their prey. The creatures are not at all likely to leave the garden, seeing that if the supply of slugs runs short they will turn their attention to all kinds of insects.' (S. L. B.)
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Aperient, carminative, bitter. As a stimulant it is usefulas an emmenagogue. Is also employed in hysterical complaints, nervousness and lowness of spirits, and is a general tonic. The cold infusion is made from 1 OZ. of the herb to a pint of boiling water, allowed to cool, and taken frequently in doses of half a teacupful.
A decoction with sugar or honey is said to be good for coughs, wheezing and difficult breathing. The herb, bruised and heated, or fried with a little wine and oil, has been employed as a warm external application for wind and colic.
A tincture made from Feverfew and applied locally immediately relieves the pain and swelling caused by bites of insects and vermin. It is said that if two teaspoonfuls of tincture are mixed with 1/2 pint of cold water, and all parts of the body likely to be exposed to the bites of insects are freely sponged with it, they will remain unassailable. A tincture of the leaves of the true Chamomile and of the German Chamomile will have the same effect.
Planted round dwellings, it is said to purify the atmosphere and ward off disease.
An infusion of the flowers, made with boiling water and allowed to become cold, will allay any distressing sensitiveness to pain in a highly nervous subject, and will afford relief to the face-ache or earache of a dyspeptic or rheumatic person.
---Preparations---Fluid extract: dose, 1 to 2 drachms.
See CHAMOMILE, PELLITORY, PYRETHRUM.
SWEET FEVERFEW (Chrysanthemum Suaveolens) and C. maritima, found by the seashore, especially in the north, with leaves broader, more fleshy, succulent and smaller flowerheads than the Common Feverfew.
Botanical: Ficus Carica (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Urticaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Habitat---The Common Fig-tree provides the succulent fruit that in its fresh and dried state has been valued from the earliest days. It is indigenous to Persia, Asia Minor and Syria, but now is wild in most of the Mediterranean countries. It is cultivated in most warm and temperate climates and has been celebrated from the earliest times for the beauty of its foliage and for its 'sweetness and good fruit' (Judges ix. 2), there being frequent allusions to it in the Scriptures. The Greeks are said to have received it from Caria in Asia Minor - hence the specific name. Under Hellenic culture it was improved and Attic figs became celebrated in the East. It was one of the principal articles of sustenance among the Greeks, being largely used by the Spartans at their public table; and athletes fed almost entirely on figs, considering that they increased their strength and swiftness. To such an extent, indeed, were figs a part of the staple food of the people in ancient Greece that there was a law forbidding the exportation of the best fruit from their trees.
Figs were early introduced into Italy. Pliny gives details of no less than twentynine kinds known in his day, and specially praises those of Tarant and Caria and also those of Herculaneum. Dried Figs have been found in Pompeii in our days and in the wall-paintings of the buried city Figs are represented together with other fruits. Pliny states that homegrown Figs formed a large portion of the food of slaves, especially in the fresh state for agricultural workers.
The Fig plays an important part in Latin mythology. It was dedicated to Bacchus and employed in religious ceremonies. The wolf that suckled Romulus and Remus rested under a Fig tree, which was therefore held sacred by the Romans, and Ovid states that among the celebrations of the first day of the year by Romans, Figs were offered as presents. The inhabitants of Cyrene crowned themselves with wreaths of Figs when sacrificing to Saturn, holding him to be the discoverer of the fruit. Pliny speaks also of the Wild Fig, which is mentioned also in Homer, and further classical references to the Fig are to be found in Theophrastus, Dioscorides, Varro and Columella.
---Description---Ficus Carica is a bush or small tree, rarely more than 18 to 20 feet high, with broad, rough, deciduous, deeply-lobed leaves in the cultivated varieties, though in wild forms the leaves are often almost entire.
Considered botanically, the Fig, as we eat it, is a very remarkable form of fruit. It is actually neither fruit nor flower, though partaking of both, being really a hollow, fleshy receptacle, enclosing a multitude of flowers, which never see the light, yet come to full perfection and ripen their seeds - a contrary method from the strawberry, in which the minute pistils are scattered over the exterior of the enlarged succulent receptacle. In the Fig, the inflorescence, or position of the flowers is concealed within the body of the 'fruit.' The Fig stands alone in this peculiar arrangement of its flowers. The edge of the pear-shaped receptacle curves inwards, so as to form a nearlyclosed cavity, bearing the numerous fertile and sterile flowers mingled on its surface, the male flowers mostly in the upper part of the cavity and generally few in number. As it ripens, the receptacle enlarges greatly and the numerous one-seeded fruits become embedded in it. The fruit of the wild kind never attains the succulence of the cultivated kinds. The Figs are borne in the axils of the leaves, singly.
---Cultivation---The Fig is grown for its fresh fruit in all the milder parts of Europe, being cultivated in the Mediterranean countries, and in the United States of America. With protection in winter, it succeeds as far north as Pennsylvania. (Prof. Nancy Traill, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada points out.. "In some parts of Pennsylvania, people bury the trees. In Philadelphia, a mulch is necessary, and the fig is a "die-back" shrub. Ficus carica varieties have been grown in Southern Ontario for many years. Though by no means very much north of Pennsylvania, it is still further north. The figs need mulching, as in Philadelphia, and are die-back shrubs but they do produce very sweet fruit. Some that I have seen will grow back to about 10 or more feet in height, others about 6 or 7 feet, in a season. Some years the crop is quite heavy. People who bury their trees, as some still do, or give them the shelter of a house wall and some insulation, often have small trees, and these bear quite heavily.") It is said to have been introduced into England by the Romans, but was probably introduced from Italy early in the sixteenth century, when the Fig tree still growing in Lambeth Palace garden is said to have been planted.
The trees live to a great age, and along the southern coast of England bear fruit abundantly as standard trees, though in Scotland and many parts of England a south wall is indispensable for their successful cultivation out of doors. Old quarries are good situations for them. The roots are free from stagnant water and they are sheltered from cold, while exposed to a hot sun, which ripens the fruit perfectly. The trees also succeed well planted in a paved court against a building with a south aspect.
The best soil for a Fig border is a friable loam, not too rich, but well-drained; a chalky subsoil is congenial to the tree. To correct the tendency to over-luxuriance of growth, the roots should be confined within spaces surrounded by a wall enclosing an area of about a square yard. Grown as a standard, the tree needs very little pruning. When against a wall, a single stem should be trained to a height of a foot and a shoot be trained to either side - one to the right and the other to the left.
The principal part needing protection in the winter is the main stem, which is more tender than the young wood.
Fig trees are propagated by cuttings, which should be put into pots and placed in a gentle hot-bed. They may be obtained more speedily from layers, and these when rooted will form plants ready to bear fruit the first or second year after planting.
There are numerous varieties of Fig in cultivation, bearing fruit of various colors, from deep purple to yellow or nearly white.
The Fig produces naturally two sets of shoots and two crops of fruit in the season. The first shoots generally show young Figs in July and August but those in England rarely ripen and should therefore be rubbed off. The late midsummer shoots also put forth fruit buds which, however, do not develop till the following spring, ripening in late September and October, and these form the only crop of Figs on which the English gardener can depend.
There is sometimes a failure in the Fig crop, many immature receptacles dropping off in consequence of the pistils of the florets not having been duly fertilized by the pollen of the stamens. It is supposed that fertilization is caused naturally by the entry of insects through the very small orifice which remains open in the flowering Fig. Fig growers therefore adopt an artificial means of ensuring fertilization: a small feather is inserted and turned round in the internal cavity, the pollen thus being brushed against the pistils. This process is called 'Caprification,' from the Latin caprificus (a wild Fig), as the same result was originally obtained in the countries where the Fig grows wild, by placing branches of the Wild Fig in flower over the cultivated bushes, so that the pollen might be shaken out over the orifices of their receptacles, thus ensuring the development of the young fruit.
Most of our supplies of dried Figs come from Asia Minor, Spain, Malta and the South of France. When the fruits are ripe, they are collected and dried in the sun. 'Natural' Figs are those which are packed loose and retain to some extent their original shape. 'Pulled' Figs have been kneaded and pulled to make them supple; they are usually packed for exportation in small square or circular boxes the latter being termed 'drums' - and are considered to be the best variety. A few bay leaves are put upon the top of each box, to keep the fruit from being injured by a gnat which feeds on it and is very destructive. 'Pressed' Figs have been closely packed into boxes so that they are compressed into discs. Maltese Figs are very good, but those from Smyrna, which are thin-skinned and soft (the best kind known as 'Elemi'), are most valued. Greek Figs are thicker skinned, tougher and have less pulp.
---Constituents---The chief constituent of Figs is dextrose, of which they contain about 50 per cent.
---Uses---Figs have long been employed for their nutritive value and in both their fresh and dried state form a large part of the food of the natives of both Western Asia and Southern Europe.
A sort of cake made by mashing up inferior Figs serves in parts of the Greek Archipelago as a substitute for bread.
Alcohol is obtained from fermented Figs in some southern countries, and a kind of wine, still made from the ripe fruit, was known to the Ancients and is mentioned by Pliny under the name of Sycites.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Figs are used for their mild, laxative action, and are employed in the preparation of laxative confections and syrups, usually with senna and carminatives. It is considered that the laxative property resides in the saccharine juice of the fresh fruit and in the dried fruit is probably due to the indigestible seeds and skin. The three preparations of Fig of the British Pharmacopoeia are Syrup of Figs, a mild laxative, suitable for administration to children; Aromatie Syrup of Figs, Elixir of Figs, or Sweet Essence of Figs, an excellent laxative for children and delicate persons, is compounded of compound tincture of rhubarb, liquid extract of senna, compound spirit of orange, liquid extract of cascara and Syrup of Figs. The Compound Syrup of Figs is a stronger preparation, composed of liquid extract of senna, syrup of rhubarb and Syrup of Figs, and is more suitable for adults.
Figs are demulcent as well as nutritive. Demulcent decoctions are prepared from them and employed in the treatment of catarrhal affections of the nose and throat.
Roasted and split into two portions, the soft pulpy interior of Figs may be applied as emolient poultices to gumboils, dental abscesses and other circumscribed maturating tumours. They were used by Hezekiah as a remedy for boils 2,400 years ago (Isaiah xxxviii. 21).
The milky juice of the freshly-broken stalk of a Fig has been found to remove warts on the body. When applied, a slightly inflamed area appears round the wart, which then shrivels and falls off. The milky juice of the stems and leaves is very acrid and has been used in some countries for raising blisters.
The wood of the tree is porous and of little value, though a piece, saturated with oil and spread with emery, is in France a common substitute for a hone.
Green Fig Jam is excellent. Choose very juicy Figs. Take off the stalks, but do not peel them. Make a syrup of 1/2 lb. of sugar and a glass of water (1/2 pint) for each pound of fruit. Put the Figs into it and cook them till the syrup pearls. Boil a stick of cinnamon with them and remove it before pouring the jam into pots.
The Sycamore Fig (Ficus Sycamorus) is a tree of large size, with heart-shaped, somewhat mulberry-like leaves. It is a favourite tree in Egypt and Syria, being often planted along roads, deep shade being cast by its spreading branches. It bears a sweet, edible fruit, somewhat like that of the Common Fig, but produced in racemes, on the older branches. The Ancients, after soaking it in water, preserved it like the Common Fig. The porous wood is only fit for fuel.
Our northern Sycamore tree is in no way related to this Sycamore Fig, but has wrongly acquired its name, Prior says, through a mistake of the botanist Ruellius, who transferred the Greek name, Sycamoros, properly the name of the Wild Fig, to the great Maple.
'This mistake,' says Prior, 'arose perhaps from this tree, the great maple, being on account of the density of its foliage, used in the sacred dramas of the Middle Ages to represent the Fig tree into which Zaccheus climbed and that in which the Virgin Mary on her journey into Egypt had hidden herself and the infant Jesus to avoid the fury of Herod; a legend quoted by Stapel on Theophrastus and by Thevenot in his Voyage de Levant: "At Mathave is a large sycamore or Pharaoh's Fig, very old, but which bears fruit every year. They say that upon the Virgin passing that way with her son Jesus and being pursued by the people, this Fig tree opened to receive her and closed her in again, until the people had passed by and then opened again. The tree is still shown to travellers." ' (See Cowper's Apocryphal Gospels.)
See INDIARUBBER TREE. (note, no reference)
Botanical: Scrophularia nodosa
Family: N.O. Scrophulariaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
Preparation and Dosage
---Synonyms---Throatwort. Carpenter's Square. Kernelwort.
(Welsh) Deilen Ddu.
(Irish) Rose Noble.
(French) Herbe du Siège.
The Knotted Figwort, common throughout England, is similar in general habit to the Water Figwort, but differs both in the form of its root and in having more acutely heartshaped leaves. The stem, too, is without the projections or wings at its angles, and the lobes of the calyx have only a very narrow membraneous margin. The plant, also, though found in rather moist, bushy places, either in cultivated or waste ground, and in damp woods, is not distinctly an aquatic, like the Water Figwort.
The flowers, which resemble in appearance and character the Water Figwort, are in bloom during July and are specially visited by wasps.
During the thirteen months' siege of Rochelle by the army of Richelieu in 1628, the tuberous roots of this Figwort yielded support to the garrison for a considerable period, from which circumstance the French still call it Herbe du siège. The taste and smell of the tubers are unpleasant, and they would never be resorted to for food except in times of famine.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---It has been called the Scrofula Plant, on account of its value in all cutaneous eruptions, abscesses, wounds, etc., the name of the genus being derived from that of the disease for which it was formerly considered a specific.
It has diuretic and anodyne properties.
The whole herb is used, collected in June and July and dried. A decoction is made of it for external use and the fresh leaves are also made into an ointment.
Of the different kinds of Figwort used, this species is most employed, principally as a fomentation for sprains, swellings, inflammations, wounds and diseased parts, especially in scrofulous sores and gangrene.
The leaves simply bruised are employed by the peasantry in some districts as an application to burns and swellings.
The Welsh so highly esteem the plant that they call it Deilen Ddu ('good leaf'). In Ireland, it is known as Rose Noble and as Kernelwort. Gerard tells us, referring to what he evidently considered an exaggerated estimate of its worth: 'Divers do rashly teach that if it be hanged about the necke or else carried about one, it keepeth a man in health.'
The herb was said to be curative of hydrophobia, by taking
'every morning while fasting a slice of bread and butter on which the powdered knots of the roots had been spread and eating it up with two tumblers of fresh spring water. Then let the patient be well clad in woollen garments and made to take a long, fast walk until in a profuse perspiration, the treatment being continued for seven days.'
A decoction of the herb has been successfully used as a cure for the scab in swine. Cattle, as a rule, will refuse to eat the leaves, as they are bitter, acrid and nauseating, producing purging and vomiting if chewed.
---Preparation and Dosage---Fluid extract, 1/2 to 1 drachm.
BALM-LEAVED FIGWORT (Scrophularia Scorodoma), found only in Cornwall, and at Tralee, in Ireland; it is distinguished by its downy, wrinkled leaves.
YELLOW FIGWORT (S. vernalis) is a plant of local occurrence and is well distinguished by its remarkably bright green foliage and yellow flowers. It appears early in spring and is the only British species which can be called ornamental.
Gerard speaks of the 'yellow-flowered Figwort' as growing in his time 'in the moist medowes as you go from London to Hornsey.' He also speaks of the 'rare whiteflowered Betony.'
Botanical: Scrophularia aquatica (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Scrophulariaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Water Betony. Fiddlewood. Fiddler. Crowdy Kit. Brownwort. Bishops' Leaves.
The Water Figwort has obtained the name of Water Betony from a certain resemblance of its leaves to those of the Wood Betony, but it differs entirely from that plant in every other respect, not being even closely related to it, and nowadays is more generally called the Water Figwort, the name Figwort being derived from the form of the root in another member of the genus Scrophularia, the Knotted Figwort (S. nodosa), a fairly common plant.
---Description---The root of the Water Figwort is perennial and throws out numerouslarge fibres. The plant is to be found only in damp ground, generally by the banks of rivers and ponds. It varies much in size, but on an average, the stems grow to a height of 5 feet. The general character of the stem is upright, though small lateral branches are thrown out from the rigid, straight, main stem, which is smooth and quadrangular, the angles being winged. The stems are often more or less reddish-purple in color; though hollow and succulent, they become rigid when dead, and prove very troublesome to anglers owing to their lines becoming tangled in the withered capsules. The Figwort is named in Somersetshire, 'Crowdy Kit' (the word kit meaning a fiddle), or 'Fiddlewood,' because if two of the stalks are rubbed together, they make a noise like the scraping of the bow on violin strings, owing no doubt to the winged angles. In Devonshire, also, the plant is known as 'Fiddler.'
The leaves are placed in pairs on the stem, each pair at right angles to the pair below it; all are on footstalks, the pairs generally rather distant from one another on the stem. The leaves are oblong and somewhat heartshaped; smooth, with very conspicuous veining. The flowers grow at the top of the stems, arranged in loose panicles, under each little branch of which is a little floral leaf, or bract. They are in bloom during July and August. The calyx has five conspicuous lobes, fringed by a somewhat ragged-looking, brown, membraneous border. The dark, greenish-purple, sometimes almost brown corolla is almost globular; the lobes at its mouth are very short and broad, the two upper ones stand boldly out from the flower, the two side ones taking the same direction, but are much shorter, and the fifth lobe turned sharply downward. The result is that the flowers look like so many little helmets. There are four anther-bearing stamens, and generally a fifth barren one beneath the upper lip of the corolla. The seed vessel when ripe is a roundish capsule opening with two valves, the edges of which are turned in, and contains numerous small brown seeds.
Wasps and bees are very fond of the flowers, from which they collect much honey.
The leaves are used, collected in June and July, when in best condition, just coming into flower, and used both fresh and dried.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---This plant has vulnerary and detergent properties, and has enjoyed some fame as a vulnerary, both when used externally and when taken in decoction.
In modern herbal medicine, the leaves are employed externally as a poultice, or boiled in lard as an ointment for ulcers, piles, scrofulous glands in the neck, sores and wounds. It is said to have been one of the ingredients in Count Matthei's noted remedy, 'AntiScrofuloso.'
In former days this herb was relied on for the cure of toothache and for expelling nightmare. It has also a reputation as a cosmetic, old herbalists telling us that:
'the juice or distilled water of the leaves is good for bruises, whether inward or outward, as also to bathe the face and hands spotted or blemished or discolored by sun burning.'
Botanical: Erechtites hieracifolia (LINN. and RAFIN.), Cineraria Canadensis (WALTER.)
Family: N.O. Compositae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Senecio hieracifolius (Linn.).
---Parts Used---Herb, oil.
---Habitat---Newfoundland and Canada, southward to South America.
---Description---This coarse, homely American weed is an annual and derives its name from its habit of growing freely in moist open woods and clearings, and in greatest luxuriance on newly-burnt fallows. It has composite flowers, blooming from July to September.
Lactuca Canadensis, the wild Lettuce or Trumpet Weed, and Hieracium Canadense, are also given the designation of 'Fireweed' in America from their habit of growing on newly-burnt fallow, but Erechtites hieracifolia (Rafin.) may be called the true Fireweed, as it is the plant which commonly goes by that name.
Senecio is derived from Senex (an old man), in reference to the hoary pappus, which in this order represents the calyx; Erechtites comes from the ancient name of some troublesome Groundsel.
Fireweed is a rank, slightly hairy plant, growing from 1 to 7 feet high. The thick, somewhat fleshy stem is virgate, sulcate, leafy to the top, branching above, the branches erect. The leaves are alternate, delicate and thin, very variable in size and form, lanceovate to linear, apex-pointed, margins irregular, sharply toothed, or divided right down to the midrib into leaflets, which are sometimes then bipinnatifid, the lower, very short-stalked and becoming sessile as they grow up the stem. The flowers are white or yellow, a corymbose panicle. The little fruits are oblong, slender, tapering at the end, striate and crowned with a very fine copious silky pappus, white or violet. The whole plant is succulent, the odour rank and slightly aromatic, with a bitterish and somewhat acrid and disagreeable taste.
In the United States Fireweed is a very troublesome weed; the fields often get infested with it, and when growing among Peppermint, it is definitely destructive, as it gets mingled with the plant in distilling and causes great deterioration of the oil.
---Constituents---A peculiar volatile oil - oil of Erechtites - transparent and yellow, obtained by distilling the plant with water, taste bitter and burning, odour foetid, slightly aromatic, somewhat resembling oil of Erigeron, but not soluble as that is in an equal volume of alcohol. The specific gravity of the oil is variously given as 0.927 and 0.838-0.855, and its rotation 1 to 2. According to Bielstein and Wiegand, it consists almost wholly of terpenes boiling between 175 and 310 degrees F.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Astringent, alterative, tonic, cathartic, emetic. Much used among the aborigines of North America in various forms of eczema, muco-sanguineous diarrhoea, and haemorrhages, also for relaxed throat and sore throat, and in the United States Eclectic Dispensatory in the form of oil and as an infusion, both herb and oil being beneficial for piles and dysentery. For its anti-spasmodic properties, it has been found useful for colic, spasms and hiccough. Applied externally, it gives great relief in the pains of gout, rheumatism and sciatica.
---Dosage---(Internally) 5 to 10 drops on sugar, in capsules or in emulsion.
The homoeopathic tincture is made from the whole fresh flowering plant. It is chopped, pounded to a pulp and weighed. Then two parts by weight of alcohol are taken, the pulp mixed thoroughly with one-sixth part of it and the rest of the alcohol added. After having stirred the whole, it is poured into a well-stoppered bottle and allowed to stand for eight days in a dark, cool place.
The resulting tincture has a clear, beautiful, reddish-orange color by transmitted light; a sourish odour, resembling that of claret, a taste at first sourish, then astringent and bitter, and an acid reaction.
Pine, American Ground
Fleur De Luce
See Roadflax (not listed).
Botanical: Potentilla reptans (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Rosaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
Preparations and Dosage
---Synonyms---Cinquefoil. Five Fingers. Five-Finger Blossom. Sunkfield. Synkefoyle.
---Parts Used---Herb, root.
Five-leaf Grass is a creeping plant with large yellow flowers like the Silverweed, each one growing on its own long stalk, which springs from the point at which the leaf joins the stem.
---Description---The rootstock branches at the top from several crowns, from which arise the long-stalked root-leaves and thread-like, creeping stems, which bear stalked leaves and solitary flowers. These stem-runners root at intervals and as they often attain a length of 5 feet, the plant is rapidly propagated, spreading over a wide area. It grows freely in meadows, pastures and by the wayside.
The name Five-leaved or Five Fingers refers to the leaves being divided into five leaflets. Each of these is about 1 1/2 inch long, with scattered hairs on the veins and margin, the veins being prominent below. The margins of the leaflets are much serrated. In rich soils the leaflets are often six or seven. Out of a hundred blossoms once picked as a test, eighty had the parts of the corolla, calyx and epicalyx in fives, and the remaining twenty were in sixes.
Although the flowers much resemble those of the Silverweed, the two plants can readily be distinguished by the difference in their leaves. The flowers secrete honey on a ringlike ridge surrounding the base of the stamens. Insects alighting on the petals dust themselves with the pollen, but do not touch the stigmas, as the honey ring extends beyond. If they alight in the middle of the next flower, they dust the pollen against the stigma and cross-pollinate it. But the flower is often self-pollinated. The flowers close up in part in dull weather and completely at night, and it is then that the anthers touch the stigmas.
Bacon says that frogs have a predilection for sitting on this herb: 'The toad will be much under Sage, frogs will be in Cinquefoil.'
It was an ingredient in many spells in the Middle Ages, and was particularly used as a magic herb in love divinations. It was one of the ingredients of a special bait for fishing nets, which was held to ensure a heavy catch. This concoction consisted of corn boiled in thyme and marjoram water, mixed with nettles, cinquefoil and the juice of houseleek.
In an old recipe called 'Witches' Ointment' the juice of Five-leaf Grass, smallage and wolfsbane is mixed with the fat of children dug up from their graves and added to fine wheat flour.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---stringent, febrifuge. The roots have a bitterish, styptic, slightly sweetish taste and have been employed medicinally since the time of Hippocrates and Dioscorides.
They were used to cure the intermittent fevers which prevailed in marshy, ill-drained lands, and especially ague.
Dioscorides stated that one leaf cured a quotidian, three a tertian, and four a quarten ague.
'It is an especial herb used in all inflammations and fevers, whether infectious or pestilential or, among other herbs, to cool and temper the blood and humours in the body; as also for all lotions, gargles and infections; for sore mouths, ulcers, cancers, fistulas and other foul or running sores.
'The juice drank, about four ounces at a time, for certain days together, cureth the quinsey and yellow jaundice, and taken for 30 days cureth the falling sickness. The roots boiled in vinegar and the decoction held in the mouth easeth toothache.
'The juice or decoction taken with a little honey removes hoarseness and is very good for coughs.
'The root boiled in vinegar, being applied, heals inflammations, painful sores and the shingles. The same also, boiled in wine, and applied to any joint full of pain, ache or the gout in the hands, or feet or the hip-joint, called the sciatica, and the decoction thereof drank the while, doth cure them and easeth much pain in the bowels.
'The roots are also effectual to reduce ruptures, being used with other things available to that purpose, taken either inwardly or outwardly, or both; as also bruises or hurts by blows, falls or the like, and to stay the bleeding of wounds in any part, inward or outward.'
Robinson's Herbal directs that the roots are to be dug up in April and the outer bark taken off and dried, the rest not being used.
To make the decoction, it is directed that 1 1/2 OZ. of the root be boiled in a quart of water down to a pint. This decoction is recommended not only as a remedy for diarrhoea, and of avail to stop bleeding of the lungs or bronchial tubes and bleeding at the nose, but as a good eyewash, as well as a gargle in relaxed sore throat.
The juice of the root, mixed with wheat bread, boiled first, is recommended as a good styptic.
A scruple of the powder in wine is the dose prescribed to cure the ague.
In modern Herbal Medicine, the dried herb is more generally now employed, for its astringent and febrifuge properties.
An infusion of 1 OZ. of the herb to a pint of boiling water is used in wineglassful doses for diarrhoea and looseness of the bowels, and for other complaints for which astringents are usually prescribed, and it is employed externally as an astringent lotion and as a gargle for sore throat.
---Preparation and Dosage---Fluid extract, 1/2 to 2 drachms.
FIVE-LEAF GRASS (AMERICAN)
Botanical: Linum usitatissimum (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Linaceae
Cultivation and Preparation for Market
Parts Used Medicinally
Medicinal Action and Uses
---History---Flax is one of the English-grown medicinal herbs, the products of which are included in the British Pharmacopoeia, its seed known as Linseed, being much employed in medicine.
Its cultivation reaches back to the remotest periods of history, Flax seeds as well as the woven cloth having been found in wiccan tombs. It has been cultivated in all temperate and tropical regions for so many centuries that its geographical origin cannot be identified, for it readily escapes from cultivation and is found in a semi-wild condition in all the countries where it is grown.
The 'fine linen' mentioned in the Bible has been satisfactorily proved to have been spun from Flax; it was the plant to which the plague of hail proved so disastrous (Exodus ix. 31). Joseph was arrayed in this product (Genesis xii. 42), and it also furnished the garments of the Jewish High-Priests (Exodus xxviii.) as well as the curtains of the Tabernacle (Exodus xxvi. 1). We learn that the knowledge of spinning this linen was known to the Canaanites (see Joshua ii. 6), and in New Testament times it formed the clothing of the Saviour in the tomb where Joseph of Arimathaea laid Him.
It was used for cord and sail-cloth ('white sails' are mentioned by Homer in the Odyssey), and it was used for lamp-wicks (Isaiah xlii. 3).
The seed-vessels with their five-celled capsules are referred to in the Bible as 'bolls,' and the expression 'the flax was bolled' (Exodus ix. 31) means that it had arrived at a state of maturity. When the bolls are ripe, the Flax is pulled and tied in bundles, and in order to assist the separation of the fibre from the stalks, the bundles are placed in water for several weeks, and then spread out to dry. This custom is alluded to in Joshua ii. 6.
'What department is there to be found of active life in which flax is not employed? And in what production of the Earth are there greater marvels to us than in this? To think that here is a plant which brings Egypt to close proximity to Italy! - so much so, in fact, that Galerius and Balbillus, both of them prefects of Egypt, made the passage to Alexandria from the Straits of Sicily, the one in six days, the other in five! . . . What audacity in man! What criminal perverseness! Thus to sow a thing in the ground for the purpose of catching the winds and tempests; it being not enough for him, forsooth, to be borne upon the waves alone!'
Bartholomew the mediaeval herbalist, refers to the making of linen from the soaking of Flax in water till it is dried and turned in the sun and then bound in 'praty bundels' and afterwards 'knockyd, beten and brayd and carflyd, rodded and gnodded; ribbyd and heklyd, and at the last sponne'; of the bleaching, and finally of its many uses for making clothing, and for sails, and fish-nets, and thread and ropes, and strings ('for bows'), and measuring lines, and sheets ('to reste in'), and 'sackes and bagges, and purses (to put and to kepe thynges in').
Of the making of tow 'uneven and full of knobs' used for stuffing into the cracks in ships, and 'for bonds and byndynges and matches for candelles, for it is full drye and taketh sone fyre and brenneth.' 'And so,' he concludes somewhat breathlessly, 'none herbe is so needfull to so many dyurrse uses to mankynde as is the flexe.'
Darwin studied several species of Linum, and found that some like the primrose had flowers with two forms of stamens and pistil. His object was to test the relative degrees of fertility of the long and short-styled pistils. L. perenne, for instance, is dimorphic:
'Of the flowers on the long-styled plants he found that twelve were fertilized with their own form pollen, but from a different plant. A seed capsule was only set when pollinated from anthers of the same height as the stigmas.'
So Darwin concluded:
'We have the clearest evidence that the stigmas of each form require for full fertility that pollen from the stamens of a corresponding height, belonging to the opposite form, should be brought to them.' (Forms of Flowers, p. 92.)
This plant is visited by bees, who perform the function Darwin describes.
The Flax is a graceful little plant with turquoise blue blossoms, a tall, erect annual, 1 to 2 feet high, the stems usually solitary quite smooth, with alternate, linear, sessile leaves, 3/4 to 1 inch long.
Many traditions are associated with this useful plant. Flax flowers were believed in the Middle Ages to be a protection against sorcery. The Bohemians have a belief that if seven-year-old children dance among Flax, they will become beautiful, and the whole plant was supposed to be under the protection of the goddess Hulda, who, in Teuton mythology, was held to have first taught mortals the art of growing Flax, of spinning, and of weaving it.
---Cultivation and Preparation for Market---Linseed requires ground as rich as for wheat, and if cultivated for seed is not of much use for Flax.
Its cultivation in this country could only pay on a large scale. The very exhausting nature of the crop has prevented its extensive cultivation in England, and the area under cultivation has declined in consequence. This peculiarity was well known to the Ancients, and Pliny asserted that it scorched the ground. Its culture requires care and suitable soil to secure a good crop. It has been grown in large quantities in the alluvial soils of Lincolnshire and in the eastern counties, and flourishes well in Ireland. It succeeds best in deep, moist loams such as contain a large proportion of vegetable matter, in good condition, firm, not loose. Strong clays do not answer well, nor poor soils, nor such as are of a gravelly or sandy nature, nor should the soil be freshly manured.
It is best treated as a farm crop. Being quickly grown and quickly harvested, it can be grown after a winter root crop, being over and reaped in time to secure a catch crop for the following season. The seed, which must be kept dry, as damp injures it, is sown in March or April, in drills, 70 lb. to the acre, on land carefully prepared and freed from weeds by ploughing. The crop itself must be handweeded, or the roots, being surface rooted, will be injured. It should be reaped in August, before the seed is fully ripe. The fibres of the plant, when grown for Flax, are found to be softer and stronger when the blossom has just fallen and the stalk begins to turn yellow before the leaves fall, than if left standing till the seeds are quite mature. The seeds, however, will ripen after the plant is gathered, if they be allowed to remain on the plant for a time. The Dutch avail themselves of this fact with regard to their Flax crops. After pulling the plants they stack them. The seeds by this means ripen, while the fibres are collected at the most favourable period of their growth. They thus obtain both of the valuable products of the plant.
---Parts Used Medicinally---The fruit is a globular capsule, about the size of a small pea, containing in separate cells ten seeds, which are brown (white within), oval-oblong and flattened, pointed at one end, shining and polished on the surface, 1/6 to 1/4 inch long. They are inodorous except when powdered, but the taste is mucilaginous and slightly unpleasant.
Linseed varies much in size and tint - a yellowish variety occurring in India. Holland, Russia, the United States, Canada, the Argentine and India furnish the principal supplies. The Russian seed or Dutch-grown of Russian origin, though small, is preferred for Flax-growing, as it is hardier than the large southern seed from the Mediterranean and India. For medicinal purposes, English and Dutch seeds are preferred, on account of their freedom from weed-seeds and dirt. If containing more than 4 per cent of weedseeds, linseed may be said to be adulterated. Of English and Dutch seeds about twelve weigh 1 grain, but some of the Indian and Mediterranean varieties are twice as large and heavy.
---Constituents---The envelope or testa of the seed contains about 15 per cent of mucilage. The seeds themselves contain in the cotyledons and endosperm from 30 to 40 per cent of a fixed oil, of a light yellow color, and about 25 per cent proteids, together with wax, resin, sugar, phosphates, acetic acid, and a small quantity of the glucoside Linamarin. On incineration, linseed should not yield more than 5 per cent of ash.
The oil is obtained by expression, with little or no heat. The cake which remains after expressing the oil, and which contains the farinaceous and mucilaginous part of the seed, is familiarly known as oil-cake, and is largely used as a fattening food for cattle. It is also used as a manure. When ground up, it is known as linseed meal, which is employed for making poultices. The meal is sold in two forms, crushed linseed and linseed meal. Formerly linseed meal was always obtained by grinding English oil-cake to powder and contained little oil, but now the crushed seeds, containing all the oil, are official. Crushed linseed of good quality usually contains from 30 to 35 per cent of oil.
Linseed oil rapidly absorbs oxygen from the air and forms, when laid on in thin layers, a hard, transparent varnish. It is largely used in the arts for its properties as a drying oil. It is a viscid, yellow liquid, its chief constituent being Linolein. It also contains palmitin, stearin and myristin, with glyceride of linoleic acid. Boiled oil, produced by heating raw linseed oil to a temperature of 150 degrees C., together with a small proportion of a metallic drier, possesses the drying properties of linseed oil to an enhanced degree. It becomes of a brown color and dries much more rapidly, and in this state is used in the manufacture of printer's ink.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Emollient, demulcent, pectoral. The crushed seeds or linseed meal make a very useful poultice, either alone or with mustard. In ulceration and superficial or deep-seated inflammation a linseed poultice allays irritation and pain and promotes suppuration. The addition of a little lobelia seed makes it of greater value in cases of boils. It is commonly used for abscesses and other local affections.
Linseed is largely employed as an addition to cough medicines. As a domestic remedy for colds, coughs and irritation of the urinary organs, linseed tea is most valuable. A little honey and lemon juice makes it very agreeable and more efficacious. This demulcent infusion contains a large quantity of mucilage, and is made from 1 OZ. of the ground or entire seeds to 1 pint of boiling water. It is taken in wineglassful doses, which may be repeated ad libitum.
Linseed oil, mixed with an equal quantity of lime water, known then as Carron Oil, is an excellent application for burns and scalds.
Internally, the oil is sometimes given as a laxative; in cases of gravel and stone it is excellent, and has been administered in pleurisy with great success. It may also be used as an injection in constipation. Mixed with honey, linseed oil has been used as a cosmetic for removing spots from the face.
The oil enters into veterinary pharmacy as a purgative for sheep and horses, and a jelly formed by boiling the seeds is often given to calves.
Linseed is often employed, with other seeds, as food for small birds.
Plantain seeds, also a favourite food of small birds, can, it is said, be used instead of linseed in making poultices, as they contain much mucilage, though not so much oil.
Linseed has occasionally been employed as human food - we hear of the seeds being mixed with corn by the ancient Greeks and Romans for making bread - but it affords little actual nourishment and is apparently unwholesome, being difficult of digestion and provoking flatulence.
The meal has sometimes been used fraudulently for adulterating pepper.
Botanical: Linum catharticum (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Linaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Purging Flax. Dwarf Flax. Fairy Flax. Mill Mountain.
---Part Used---Whole Herb.
Mountain Flax is a pretty little herb, which grows profusely in hilly pastures.
---Description---It is an annual, with a small, thready root, which sends up several slender, smooth, straight stems, which rise to a height of 6 to 8 inches, and are sometimes branched towards the upper part. The leaves are small, linear-oblong and obtuse, the lower ones opposite, and the upper alternate. The flowers, 1/3 to 1/4 of an inch in diameter, are white. The plant at first glance much resembles chickweed, being glaucous and glabrous.
---Part Used---The whole herb is used mediinally, both fresh and dried, collected in July, when in flower, in the wild state.
---Constituents---A green, bitter resin and a neutral, colorless, crystalline principle of a persistently bitter taste, called Linin, to which the herb owes its activity.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---This herb was highly extolled by Gerard as a purgative. It operates chiefly as a gentle cathartic, and is useful in all cases where a brisk purgative is required. As a laxative, it is preferred to senna, though the action is very similar. It is generally taken combined with a carminative, such as peppermint.
The dried herb has been found very useful in muscular rheumatism and catarrhal affections, the infusion of 1 oz. in a pint of boiling water being taken in wineglassful doses. In liver complaints and jaundice, it has been employed with benefit.
Botanical: Linum perenne
Family: N.O. Linaceae
---Preparations and Dosage---Fluid extract, 10 to 30 drops.
A tincture is also made from the entire fresh plant, 2 or 3 drops in water being given every hour or two for diarrhoea.
Country people boil the fresh herb and take it for rheumatic pains, colds, coughs and dropsy.
The Perennial Flax is a native plant not uncommon in some parts of the country upon calcareous soils. It grows about 2 feet in height and is readily distinguished from the annual kind by its paler flowers and narrower leaves. The rootstock usually throws up many stems. It flowers in July.
This species has been recommended for cultivation as a fibre plant, but it has been little adopted, the fibre being coarser and the seeds smaller than those of the Common Flax.
As the plant will last several years and yields an abundant crop of stems, it might be advantageously grown for paper making.
The seeds contain the same kind of oil as the ordinary species.
The All-Seed or Flax-Seed (Radiola linoides) belongs to the Flax family also; it is a minute annual with very fine, repeatedly forked branches. The leaves are opposite. Flowers in clusters very small, and seeding abundantly. It occurs inland on gravelly and sandy places, but is not common, from the Orkneys to Cornwall, e.g., near St. Ives, on the hills, and in the New Forest, near Lyndhurst.
Culpepper mentions remedies which include 'Lin-seed,' more than once - usually in the form of 'mussilage of Lin-seed'; in one he mentions 'the seeds of Flax' and (later in the same prescription) 'Linseed.' He says it 'heats and moistens, helps pains of the breast, coming cold and pleurises, old aches, and stitches, and softens hard swellings.'
Botanical: Erigeron Canadense (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Compositae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Fleawort. Coltstail. Prideweed.
---Parts Used---Herb, seeds.
---Habitat---This species of Fleabane is an American annual, common in Northern and Middle States as well as in Canada, growing in fields and meadows and by roadsides, and closely allied to the Common Fleabane.
---History---It was introduced into Europe in the seventeenth century. Parkinson, in his Theatrum Botanicum (1640), mentions it as having been brought to Europe, but describes it as an American species, not yet growing in England. In 1653 we hear of it growing in the Botanic Gardens of Paris, and soon after it had become a weed about Paris. We first hear of it in England in 1669, and since its introduction it has often been found in the neighbourhood of London and in the Thames Valley, where it appears to have naturalized itself here and there, though it is very rare in the rest of England. Green (Universal Herbal, 1832) stated that it was to be found on cultivated ground in Glamorganshire and also on rubbish heaps.
The name Erigeron denotes 'soon becoming old,' and is most appropriate, for in many of the species the plant, even when in flower, has a worn-out appearance, giving the idea of a weed which has passed its prime.
Parkinson says Fleabane 'bound to the forehead is a great helpe to cure one of the frensie.'
Culpepper says 'Flea-wort' (Fleabane) obtained its name 'because the seeds are so like Fleas'!
---Description---It has an unbranched stem, with lance-shaped leaves, the lower ones with short stalks and with five teeth, the upper ones with uncut edges and narrower, 1 to 2 inches long. The stem is bristly and grows several feet high, bearing composite heads of flowers, small, white and very numerous, blossoming from June to September.
---Part Used---The whole herb is gathered when in bloom and dried in bunches. The seeds are also used.
---Constituents---The herb contains a bitter extractive, tannic and gallic acids and a volatile oil, to which its virtues are due
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Astringent, diuretic, tonic. It is considered useful in gravel, diabetes, dropsy and many kidney diseases, and is employed in diarrhoea and dysentery.
Oil of Erigeron resembles in its action Oil of Turpentine, but is less irritating. It has been used to arrest haemorrhage from the lungs or alimentary tract, but this property is not assigned to it in modern medicine.
It is said to be a valuable remedy for inflamed tonsils and ulceration and inflammation of the throat generally.
The drug has a feeble odour and an astringent, aromatic and bitter taste. It is given in infusion (dose, wineglassful to a teacupful), oil (dose, 2 to 5 drops) on sugar. Fluid extract, 1/2 to 1 drachm.
Botanial: Inula dysenterica (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Compositae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Pulicaria dysenterica (Gaertn.). Middle Fleabane.
---Parts Used---Herb, root.
---Habitat---This species is a native of most parts of Europe, in moist meadows, watery places, by the sides of ditches, brooks and rivers, growing in masses and frequently overrunning large tracts of land on account of its creeping underground stems. In Scotland, however, it is rare, though common in Ireland.
The Common Fleabane is nearly related to elecampane and other species of Inula, and by Linnaeus, whom Hooker follows, is assigned to the same genus, although placed, with a smaller variety, in a separate genus, Pulicaria, by the botanist Gaertner.
This plant has medicinal properties, and though in England it has never had much reputation as a curative agent it has ranked high in the estimation of herbalists abroad. It was formerly used in dysentery, and on this account received its specific name from Linnaeus, who in his Flora Suecia says that he had been informed by General Keit, of the Russian Army, that his soldiers, in one of their expeditions against Persia, were cured of dysentery by means of this plant. Our old authors call it 'Middle Fleabane' - Ploughman's Spikenard being the Great Fleabane; both names being derived from the fact that, if burnt, the smoke from them drives away fleas and other insects. The generic name, Pulicaria, refers to this property, the Latin name for the flea being Pulex.
By the Arabians, it is called Rarajeub, or Job's Tears, from a tradition that Job used a decoction of this herb to cure his ulcers. It was formerly recommended for the itch and other cutaneous disorders.
---Description---It is a rough-looking plant, well marked by its soft, hoary foliage, and large terminal flat heads of bright yellow flowers, single, or one or two together, about an inch across, large in proportion to the size of the plant, the ray florets very numerous, long and narrow, somewhat paler than the florets in the centre or disk.
The creeping rootstock is perennial, and sends up at intervals stems reaching a height of 1 to 2 feet. These stems are woolly, branched above and very leafy, the leaves oblong, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches long, heart or arrowshaped at the base, embracing the stem, irregularly waved and toothed. Like the stem, the leaves are more or less covered with a woolly substance, varying a good deal in different plants. The under surface is ordinarily more woolly than the upper, and though the general effect of the foliage varies according to its degree of woolliness, it is at best a somewhat dull and greyish green.
The plant is in bloom from the latter part of July to September. The fruit is silky and crowned by a few short, unequal hairs of a dirty-white, with an outer ring of very short bristles or scales, a characteristic which distinguishes it from Elecampane and other members of the genus Inula, whose pappus consists of a single row of hairs this being the differing point which has led to its being assigned to a distinct genus, Pulicaria.
Another English plant bears the name of Fleabane (Erigeron acris), a member of the same order. For the sake of distinction, it is commonly known as the Blue Fleabane, its flowerheads having a yellow centre, and being surrounded by purplish rays. It is a smaller, far less striking plant, growing in dry situations.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The leaves when bruised have a somewhat soap-like smell. The sap that lies in the tissues is bitter, astringent and saltish, so that animals will not eat the plant, and this astringent character, to which no doubt the medicinal properties are to be ascribed, is imparted to decoctions and infusions of the dried herb.
The following is taken from Miss E. S. Rohde's Old English Herbals: 'Fleabane bound to the forehead is a great helpe to cure one of the frensie.'
'Fleabane on the lintel of the door I have hung,
S. John's wort, caper and wheatears
With a halter as a roving ass
Thy body I restrain.
O evil spirit, get thee hence!
Depart, O evil Demon.'
.......(Trans. of Utukke Limnûte Tablet 'B.' R. C. Thompson, Devils and Evil Spirits of Babylonians).
See Spikenard (Ploughman's).
Botanical: Myosotis symphytifolia
Family: N.O. Boraginaceae
This plant has a strong affinity for the respiratory organs, especially the left lower lung. On the Continent it is sometimes made into a syrup and given for pulmonary affections. There is a tradition that a decoction or juice of the plant hardens steel.
Steadman Shorter's Medical Dictionary, Poisons & Antidotes: Digitalis
Botanical: Digitalis purpurea (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Scrophulariaceae
Preparation for Market
Preparations and Dosages
---Synonyms---Witches' Gloves. Dead Men's Bells. Fairy's Glove. Gloves of Our Lady. Bloody Fingers. Virgin's Glove. Fairy Caps. Folk's Glove. Fairy Thimbles.
---Habitat---The Common Foxglove of the woods (Digitalis purpurea), perhaps the handsomest of our indigenous plants, is widely distributed throughout Europe and is common as a wild-flower in Great Britain, growing freely in woods and lanes, particularly in South Devon, ranging from Cornwall and Kent to Orkney, but not occurring in Shetland, or in some of the eastern counties of England. It flourishes best in siliceous soil and grows well in loam, but is entirely absent from some calcareous districts, such as the chain of the Jura, and is also not found in the Swiss Alps. It occurs in Madeira and the Azores, but is, perhaps, introduced there. The genus contains only this one indigenous species, though several are found on the Continent.
Needing little soil, it is found often in the crevices of granite walls, as well as in dry hilly pastures, rocky places and by roadsides. Seedling Foxgloves spring up rapidly from recently-turned earth. Turner (1548), says that it grows round rabbitholes freely.
---Description---The normal life of a Foxglove plant is two seasons, but sometimes the roots, which are formed of numerous, long, thick fibres, persist and throw up flowers for several seasons.
In the first year a rosette of leaves, but no stem, is sent up. In the second year, one or more flowering stems are thrown up, which are from 3 to 4 feet high, though even sometimes more, and bear long spikes of drooping flowers, which bloom in the early summer, though the time of flowering differs much, according to the locality. As a rule the flowers are in perfection in July. As the blossoms on the main stem gradually fall away, smaller lateral shoots are often thrown out from its lower parts, which remain in flower after the principal stem has shed its blossoms. These are also promptly developed if by mischance the central stem sustains any serious injury.
The radical leaves are often a foot or more long, contracted at the base into a long, winged footstalk, the wings formed by the lower veins running down into it some distance. They have slightly indented margins and sloping lateral veins, which are a very prominent feature. The flowering stems give off a few leaves, that gradually diminish in size from below upwards. All the leaves are covered with small, simple, unbranched hairs.
The flowers are bell-shaped and tubular, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches long, flattened above, inflated beneath, crimson outside above and paler beneath, the lower lip furnished with long hairs inside and marked with numerous dark crimson spots, each surrounded with a white border. The shade of the flowers varies much, especially under cultivation, sometimes the corollas being found perfectly white.
In cultivated plants there frequently occurs a malformation, whereby one or two of the uppermost flowers become united, and form an erect, regular, cup-shaped flower, through the centre of which the upper extremity of the stem is more or less prolonged.
The Foxglove is a favourite flower of the honey-bee, and is entirely developed by the visits of this insect. For that reason, its tall and stately spikes of flowers are at their best in those sunny, midsummer days when the bees are busiest. The projecting lower lip of the corolla forms an alighting platform for the bee, and as he pushes his way up the bell, to get at the honey which lies in a ring round the seed vessel at the top of the flower, the anthers of the stamens which lie flat on the corolla above him, are rubbed against his back. Going from flower to flower up the spike, he rubs pollen thus from one blossom on to the cleft stigma of another blossom, and thus the flower is fertilized and seeds are able to be produced. The life of each flower, from the time the bud opens till the time it slips off its corolla, is about six days. An almost incredible number of seeds are produced, a single Foxglove plant providing from one to two million seeds to ensure its propagation.
It is noteworthy that although the flower is such a favourite with bees and is much visited by other smaller insects, who may be seen taking refuge from cold and wet in its drooping blossoms on chilly evenings, yet no animals will browse upon the plant, perhaps instinctively recognizing its poisonous character.
The Foxglove derives its common name from the shape of the flowers resembling the finger of a glove. It was originally Folksglove - the glove of the 'good folk' or fairies, whose favourite haunts were supposed to be in the deep hollows and woody dells, where the Foxglove delights to grow. Folksglove is one of its oldest names, and is mentioned in a list of plants in the time of Edward III. Its Norwegian name, Revbielde (Foxbell), is the only foreign one that alludes to the Fox, though there is a northern legend that bad fairies gave these blossoms to the fox that he might put them on his toes to soften his tread when he prowled among the roosts.
The earliest known form of the word is the Anglo-Saxon foxes glofa (the glove of the fox).
The mottlings of the blossoms of the Foxglove and the Cowslip, like the spots on butterfly wings and on the tails of peacocks and pheasants, were said to mark where the elves had placed their fingers, and one legend ran that the marks on the Foxglove were a warning sign of the baneful juices secreted by the plant, which in Ireland gain it the popular name of 'Dead Man's Thimbles.' In Scotland, it forms the badge of the Farquharsons, as the Thistle does of the Stuarts. The German name Fingerhut (thimble) suggested to Leonhard Fuchs (the well-known German herbalist of the sixteenth century, after whom the Fuchsia has been named) the employment of the Latin adjective Digitalis (from Digitabulum, a thimble) as a designation for the plant, which, as he remarked, up to the time when he thus named it, in 1542, had had no name in either Greek or Latin.
The Foxglove was employed by the old herbalists for various purposes in medicine, most of them wholly without reference to those valuable properties which render it useful as a remedy in the hands of modern physicians. Gerard recommends it to those 'who have fallen from high places,' and Parkinson speaks highly of the bruised herb or of its expressed juice for scrofulous swellings, when applied outwardly in the form of an ointment, and the bruised leaves for cleansing for old sores and ulcers. Dodoens (1554) prescribed it boiled in wine as an expectorant, and it seems to have been in frequent use in cases in which the practitioners of the present day would consider it highly dangerous. Culpepper says it is of: 'a gentle, cleansing nature and withal very friendly to nature. The Herb is familiarly and frequently used by the Italians to heal any fresh or green wound, the leaves being but bruised and bound thereon and the juice thereof is also used in old sores, to cleanse, dry and heal them. It has been found by experience to be available for the King's evil, the herb bruised and applied, or an ointment made with the juice thereof, and so used.... I am confident that an ointment of it is one of the best remedies for a scabby head that is.' Strangely enough, the Foxglove, so handsome and striking in our landscape, is not mentioned by Shakespeare, or by any of the old English poets. The earliest known descriptions of it are those given about the middle of the sixteenth century by Fuchs and Tragus in their Herbals. According to an old manuscript, the Welsh physicians of the thirteenth century appear to have frequently made use of it in the preparation of external medicines. Gerard and Parkinson advocate its use for a number of complaints, and later Salmon, in the New London Dispensatory, praised the plant. It was introduced into the London Pharmacopoeia in 1650, though it did not come into frequent use until a century later, and was first brought prominently under the notice of the medical profession by Dr. W. Withering, who in his Acount of the Foxglove, 1785, gave details of upwards of 200 cases, chiefly dropsical, in which it was used.
A domestic use of the Foxglove was general throughout North Wales at one time, when the leaves were used to darken the lines engraved on the stone floors which were fashionable then. This gave them a mosaiclike appearance.
The plant is both cultivated and collected in quantities for commercial purposes in the Harz Mountains and the Thuringian Forest.
---Cultivation---The Foxglove is cultivated by a few growers in this country in order to provide a drug of uniform activity from a true type of Digitalis purpurea. It is absolutely necessary to have the true medicinal seeds to supply the drug market: crops must be obtained from carefully selected wild seed and all variations from the new type struck out.
The plant will flourish best in welldrained loose soil, preferably of siliceous origin, with some slight shade. The plants growing in sunny situations possess the active qualities of the herb in a much greater degree than those shaded by trees, and it has been proved that those grown on a hot, sunny bank, protected by a wood, give the best results.
It grows best when allowed to seed itself, but if it is desired to raise it by sown seed, 2 lb. of seed to the acre are required. As the seeds are so small and light, they should be mixed with fine sand in order to ensure even distribution. They should be thinly covered with soil. The seeds are uncertain in germination, but the seedlings may be readily and safely transplanted in damp weather, and should be pricked out to 6 to 9 inches apart. Sown in spring, the plant will not blossom till the following year. Seeds must be gathered as soon as ripe. The flowers of the true medicinal type must be pure, dull pink or magenta, not pale-colored, white or spotted externally.
It is estimated that one acre of good soil will grow at least two tons of the Foxglove foliage, producing about 1/2 ton of the dried leaves.
---Preparation for Market---The leaves alone are now used for the extraction of the drug, although formerly the seeds were also official.
No leaves are to be used for medicinal purposes that are not taken from the twoyear-old plants, picked when the bloom spike has run up and about two-thirds of the flowers are expanded, because at this time, before the ripening of the seeds, the leaves are in the most active state. They may be collected as long as they are in good condition: only green, perfect leaves being picked, all those that are insect-eaten or diseased, or tinged with purple or otherwise discolored, must be discarded. Leaves from seedlings are valueless, and they must also not be collected in the spring, before the plant flowers, or in the autumn, when it has seeded, as the activity of the alkaloids is in each case too low.
If the fresh leaves are sent to the manufacturing druggists for Extract-making, they should be in 1/2 cwt. bundles, packed in aircovered railway cattle-trucks, or if in an open truck, must be covered with tarpaulin. The fresh crop should, if possible, be delivered to the wholesale buyer the same day as cut, but if this is impossible, on account of distance, they should be picked before the dew falls in the late afternoon and despatched the same evening, packed loosely in wicker baskets, lined with an open kind of muslin. Consignments by rail should be labelled: 'Urgent, Medicinal Herbs,' to ensure quick delivery. The weather for picking must be absolutely dry - no damp or rain in the air and the leaves must be kept out of the sun and not packed too closely, or they may heat and turn yellow.
The odour of the fresh leaves is unpleasant, and the taste of both fresh and dried leaves is disagreeably bitter.
Foxglove leaves have in some places been recklessly gathered by over-zealous and thoughtless collectors without due regard to the future supply of the plants. The plant should not be roughly treated and never cut off just above the root, but the bottom leaves should in all cases be left to nourish the flower-spikes, in order that the seed may be ripened. In patches where Foxgloves grow thickly, the collection and redistribution of seed in likely places is much to be recommended.
The dried leaves as imported have occasionally been found adulterated with the leaves of various other plants. The chief of these are Inula Conyza (Ploughman's Spikenard), which may be distinguished by their greater roughness, the less-divided margins, the teeth of which have horny points, and odour when rubbed; I. Helenium (Elecampane), the leaves of which resemble Foxglove leaves, though they are less pointed, and the lower lateral veins do not form a 'wing' as in the Foxglove, the leaves of Symphytum officinale (Comfrey), which, however, may be recognized by the isolated stiff hairs they bear, and Verbascum Thapsus (Great Mullein), the leaves of which, unlike those of the Foxglove, have woolly upper and under surfaces, and the hairs of which, examined under a lens, are seen to be branched. Primrose leaves are also sometimes mingled with the drug, though they are much smaller than the average Foxglove leaf, and may be readily distinguished by the straight, lateral veins, which divide near the margins of the leaves. Foxglove leaves are easy to distinguish by their veins running down the leaf.
There is no reason why Foxglove leaves, properly prepared, should not become a national export.
Digitalis has lately been grown in Government Cinchona plantations in the Nilgiris, Madras, India. The leaves are coarser and rather darker in color than British or German-grown leaves, wild or cultivated, but tests show that the tincture prepared from them contains glucosides of more than average value.
---Constituents---Digitalis contains four important glucosides of which three arecardiac stimulants. The most powerful is Digitoxin, an extremely poisonous and cumulative drug, insoluble in water, Digitalin, which is crystalline and also insoluble in water; Digitalein, amorphous, but readily soluble in water, rendering it, therefore, capable of being administered subcutaneously, in doses so minute as rarely to exceed of a grain; Digitonin, which is a cardiac depressant, containing none of the physiological action peculiar to Digitalis, and is identical with Saponin, the chief constituent of Senega root. Other constituents are volatile oil, fatty matter, starch, gum, sugar, etc.
The amount and character of the active constituents vary according to season and soil: 100 parts of dried leaves yield about 1.25 of Digitalin, which is generally found in a larger proportion in the wild than in the cultivated plants.
The active constituents of Digitalis are not yet sufficiently explored to render a chemical assay effective in standardizing for therapeutic activity. The different glucosides contained varying from each other in their physiological action, it is impossible to assay the leaves by determining one only of these, such as Digitoxin. No method of determining Digitalin is known. Hence the chemical means of assay fail, and the drug is usually standardized by a physiological test. One of our oldest firms of manufacturing druggists standardizes preparations of this extremely powerful and important drug by testing their action upon frogs.
---Preparations---The preparations of Foxglove on the market vary considerably in composition and strength. Powdered Digitalis leaf is administered in pill form. The pharmacopoeial tincture, which is the preparation in commonest use, is given in doses of 5.15 minims, and the infusion is the unusually small dose of 2 to 4 drachms, the dose of other infusions being an ounce or more. The tincture contains a fair proportion of both Digitalin and Digitoxin.
The following note from the Chemist and Druggist (December 30, 1922) is of interest here:
'Cultivation of Digitalis
'As is well known, for many years prior to the War digitalis was successfully cultivated on a large scale in various parts of the former Austro-Hungarian monarchy, and indeed the Government actively promoted the cultivation of this as well as of other medicinal plants. B. Pater, of Klausenburg, gives a résumé of his experiences in this direction (Pharmazeutische Monatshefte, 7, 1922), dealing not only with the best methods for cultivating digitalis from the seeds of this plant, but also with his investigations into certain differences and abnormalities peculiar to Digitalis purpurea. Apart from the fact that, occasionally, some plants bear flowers already in the first year of growth, the observation was made that the color of the flowers showed a wide scale of variation, ranging from the well-known distinctive purple shade through dark rose, light rose, to white. These variations in color of the flowers of cultivated digitalis plants induced the author to undertake a study of the activity of the several varieties, based on the digitoxin content of the stem leaves collected from flowering plants. In the case of Digitalis purpurea with normal purple flowers, the content of purified digitoxin, ascertained by Keller's method, averaged 0.17 per cent, while the leaves of plants bearing white flowers showed a slightly lower content, i.e. an average of 0.155 per cent of purified digitoxin. On the other hand, the plants with rose-colored flowers were found to possess a very low content of digitoxin, averaging only 0.059 per cent. In the course of these investigations the fact was confirmed that the upper stem leaves are more active than the lower leaves.'
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Digitalis has been used from early times in heart cases. It increases the activity of all forms of muscle tissue, but more especially that of the heart and arterioles, the all-important property of the drug being its action on the circulation. The first consequence of its absorption is a contraction of the heart and arteries, causing a very high rise in the blood pressure.
After the taking of a moderate dose, the pulse is markedly slowed. Digitalis also causes an irregular pulse to become regular. Added to the greater force of cardiac contraction is a permanent tonic contraction of the organ, so that its internal capacity is reduced, which is a beneficial effect in cases of cardiac dilatation, and it improves the nutrition of the heart by increasing the amount of blood.
In ordinary conditions it takes about twelve hours or more before its effects on the heart muscle is appreciated, and it must thus always be combined with other remedies to tide the patient over this period and never prescribed in large doses at first, as some patients are unable to take it, the drug being apt to cause considerable digestive disturbances, varying in different cases. This action is probably due to the Digitonin, an undesirable constituent.
The action of the drug on the kidneys is of importance only second to its action on the circulation. In small or moderate doses, it is a powerful diuretic and a valuable remedy in dropsy, especially when this is connected with affections of the heart.
It has also been employed in the treatment of internal haemorrhage, in inflammatory diseases, in delirium tremens, in epilepsy, in acute mania and various other diseases, with real or supposed benefits.
The action of Digitalis in all the forms in which it is administered should be carefully watched, and when given over a prolonged period it should be employed with caution, as it is liable to accumulate in the system and to manifest its presence all at once by its poisonous action, indicated by the pulse becoming irregular, the blood-pressure low and gastro-intestinal irritation setting in. The constant use of Digitalis, also, by increasing the activity of the heart, leads to hypertrophy of that organ.
Digitalis is an excellent antidote in Aconite poisoning, given as a hypodermic injection.
When Digitalis fails to act on the heart as desired, Lily-of-the-Valley may be substituted and will often be found of service.
In large doses, the action of Digitalis on the circulation will cause various cerebral symptoms, such as seeing all objects blue, and various other disturbances of the special senses. In cases of poisoning by Digitalis, with a very slow and irregular pulse, the administration of Atropine is generally all that is necessary. In the more severe cases, with the very rapid heart-beat, the stomach pump must be used, and drugs may be used which depress and diminish the irritability of the heart, such as chloral and chloroform.
Preparations of Digitalis come under Table II of the Poison Schedule.
---Preparations and Dosages---Tincture, B.P., 5 to 15 drops. Infusion, B.P., 2 to 4 drachms. Powdered leaves, 1/2 to 2 grains. Fluid extract, 1 to 3 drops. Solid extract, U.S.P., 1/8 grain.
A method of preparing the drug in a noninJurious manner is given in the Chemist and Druggist (December 30, 1922):
'On preparing an infusion of digitalis leaves in the usual manner, one of the active principles, gitalin, is destroyed by the action of the boiling water. To obviate the possibility of destroying any of the active principles in the leaves, Th. Koch (Süddeutsche Apotheker-Zeitung, 63, 1922) has for some years past adopted the following procedure: 20 gm. powdered standardized digitalis leaves, 1000 gm. chloroform water (7.1000) and 40 drops of 10 per cent. Solution of Sodium Carbonate are shaken for four hours. The liquid is then passed through a flannel cloth, and, after standing for some time, filtered in the ordinary way, taking the precaution to cover the filter with a glass plate. The use of chloroform water as the solvent serves a threefold purpose: It promotes the solution of the gitalin present in the leaves, ensures the stability and keeping properties of the maceration, and prevents the occurrence of gastric troubles. The presence of Sodium Carbonate prevents the plant acid from reacting with the chloroform to produce hydrochloric acid. In this maceration no digitoxin is present, the principle which is assumed to exert a deleterious action on the heart as well as a cumulative effect.'
Botanical: Boswellia Thurifera
Family: N.O Burseraceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Part Used---The gum resin.
---Description---Obtained from the leafy forest tree Boswellia Thurifera, with leaves deciduous, alternate towards the tops of branches, unequally pinnated; leaflets in about ten pairs with an odd one opposite, oblong, obtuse, serrated, pubescent, sometimes alternate; petioles short. Flowers, white or pale rose on short pedicels in single axillary racemes shorter than the leaves. Calyx, small five-toothed, persistent; corolla with five obovate-oblong, very patent petals, acute at the base, inserted under the margin of the disk, acstivation slightly imbricative. Stamens, ten, inserted under the disk, alternately shorter; filaments subulate, persistent. Anthers, caducous, oblong. Torus a cupshaped disk, fleshy, larger than calyx, crenulated margin. Ovary, oblong, sessile. Style, one caducous, the length of the stamens; stigma capitate, three-lobed. Fruit capsular, three-angled three-celled, three-valved, septicidal, valves hard. Seeds, solitary in each cell surrounded by a broad membranaceous wing. Cotyledons intricately folded multifid.
The trees on the Somali coast grow, without soil, out of polished marble rocks, to which they are attached by a thick oval mass of substances resembling a mixture of lime and mortar. The young trees furnish the most valuable gum, the older yielding merely a clear, glutinous fluid, resembling coral varnish.
To obtain the Frankincense, a deep, longitudinal incision is made in the trunk of the tree and below it a narrow strip of bark 5 inches in length is peeled off. When the milk-like juice which exudes has hardened by exposure to the air, the incision is deepened. In about three months the resin has attained the required degree of consistency, hardening into yellowish 'tears.' The large, clear globules are scraped off into baskets and the inferior quality that has run down the tree is collected separately. The season for gathering lasts from May till the middle of September, when the first shower of rain puts a close to the gathering for that year.
The coast of Southern Arabia is yearly visited by parties of Somalis, who pay the Arabs for the privilege of collecting Frankincense, and in the interior of the country, about the plain of Dhofar, during the southwest Monsoon, Frankincense and other gums are gathered by the Bedouins. (The incense of Dhofar is alluded to by the Portuguese poet, Camoens.)
---Constituents---Resins 65 per cent, volatile oil 6 per cent, water-soluble gum 20 per cent, bassorin 6 to 8 per cent, plant residue 2 to 4 per cent; the resins are composed of boswellic acid and alibanoresin.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---It is stimulant, but seldom used now internally, though formerly was in great repute . Pliny mentions it as an antidote to hemlock. Avicenna (tenth century) recommends it for tumours, ulcers, vomiting, dysentery and fevers. In China it is used for leprosy.
Its principal use now is in the manufacture of incense and pastilles. It is also used in plasters and might be substituted for Balsam of Peru or Balsam or Tolu. The inhalation of steam laden with the volatile portion of the drug is said to relieve bronchitis and laryngitis.
The ceremonial incense of the Jews was compounded of four 'sweet scents,' of which pure Frankincense was one, pounded together in equal proportion. It is frequently mentioned in the Pentateuch. Pure Frankincense formed part of the meet offering and was also presented with the shew-bread every Sabbath day. With other spices, it was stored in a great chamber of the House of God at Jerusalem.
According to Herodotus, Frankincense to the amount of 1,000 talents weight was offered every year, during the feast of Bel, on the great altar of his temple in Babylon. The religious use of incense was as common in ancient Persia as in Babylon and Assyria. Herodotus states that the Arabs brought every year to Darius as tribute 1,000 talents of Frankincense, and the modern Parsis of Western India still preserve the ritual of incense.
Frankincense, though the most common, never became the only kind of incense offered to the gods among the Greeks. According to Pliny, it was not sacrificially employed in Trojan times. Among the Romans, the use of Frankincense (alluded to as mascula thura by Virgil in the Eclogues) was not confined to religious ceremonials. It was also used on state occasions, and in domestic life.
The kohl, or black powder with which the wiccan women paint their eyelids, is made of charred Frankincense, or other odoriferous resin mixed with Frankincense. Frankincense is also melted to make a depilatory, and it is made into a paste with other ingredients to perfume the hands. A similar practice is described by Herodotus as having been practiced by the women of Scythia and is alluded to in Judith x. 3 and 4. In cold weather, the wiccans warm their rooms with a brazier whereon incense is burnt, Frankincense, Benzoin and Aloe wood being chiefly used for the purpose.
The word 'incense,' meaning originally the aroma given off with the smoke of any odoriferous substance when burnt, has been gradually restricted almost exclusively to Frankincense, which has always been obtainable in Europe in greater quantity than any other of the aromatics imported from the East.
There is no fixed formula for the incense now used in the Christian churches of Europe, but it is recommended that Frankincense should enter as largely as possible intoits composition. In Rome, Olibanum alone is employed: in the Russian church, Benzoin is chiefly employed.
The following is a formula for an incense used in the Roman Church: Olibanum, 10 OZ. Benzoin, 4 oz. Storax, 1 OZ. Break into small pieces and mix.
Botanical: Chionanthus virginica (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Oleaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Old Man's Beard. Fringe Tree Bark. Chionathus. Snowdrop Tree. Poison Ash.
---Part Used---The dried bark of the root.
---Habitat---The United States, from Pennsylvania to Tennessee.
---Description---A small tree, bearing in June white flowers like snowdrops, and with large leaves like those of Magnolia, it presents a charming appearance. The root-bark is found in single, transversely-curved pieces, often heavy enough (though small) to sink in water. The outside is reddish or greyish-brown, with root scars and whiter patches. The inner surface is a yellowishbrown. The fracture is short, coarsely granular, and yellowish-white. It is almost odourless, but very bitter in taste. The powder is light brown in color.
---Constituents---It is said that both saponin and a glucoside have been found, but neither appears to have been officially confirmed.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Aperient, diuretic. Some authorities regard it as tonic and slightly narcotic. It is used in typhoid, intermittent, or bilious fevers, and externally, as a poultice, for inflammations or wounds. Is useful in liver complaints.
---Dosage---Of fluid extract, 1/2 to 1 fluid drachm two or three times a day. Of infusion, 1/2 to 2 fluid ounces two or three times a day. Chiomanthin, 1 to 3 grains.
Botanical: Fritillaria Meleagris (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Liliaceae
---Synonyms---Lilium variegatum. Chequered Daffodil. Narcissus Caparonius. Turkey Hen. Ginny Flower.
Fritillaria Meleagris (Linn.), the Snake's Head Fritillary, is a native of Great Britain, found in meadows and pastures in the southern and eastern counties of England, chiefly in Oxfordshire. It is not common and does not occur farther north than Norfolk, or farther west than Somerset.
It has a tiny, solid bulb, not larger than a good-sized black currant, with two or three long, narrow leaves, on a stem about a foot high, which bears a single, drooping flower of a dull red color, marked curiously with pink and dark purple, in quaint squares and blotches. The petals are only overlapping and not joined together in any way, although the flowers look bell-like. Though the open flower is pendulous the bud stands erect, and so does the capsule. The plant is in bloom in April and May, in mild seasons in March.
The botanical name, meleagris, is derived from a Greek term applied to a guinea-hen, and many of the popular English names have a similar allusion to the markings of the flower, viz. Guinea-hen flower, Turkey-hen flower, Pheasant Lily, Leopards Lily, Chequered Lily, Chequered Daffodil and Lazarus Bell.
Bees visit the flower for the nectar secreted largely at the base of the perianth.
Many garden varieties are now cultivated. The best mode of propagation is by offsets, but also by seed, which ripens readily. Rabbits are very fond of this plant and will destroy it wholesale.
The bulb is poisonous and very distasteful to the palate and is said to have no medicinal value, though from its presence on the elaborate allegorical frontispiece of the old Herbal of Clusius, Rariorum Plantarum Historia, published in 1601, it bore at that time a reputation as a herb of healing.
See LILY (CROWN IMPERIAL).
Botanical: Helianthemum Canadense (MISCH.)
Family: N.O. Cistaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Cistus. Frostweed. Frostplant. Rock Rose. Canadisches Sonnenroschen. Helianthemum Ramultoflorum. Helianthemum Rosmarinifolium. Helianthemum michauxii. Helianthemum Corymbosum. Cistus Canadensis. Lechea Major. Heterameris Canadensis.
---Part Used---The dried herb.
---Habitat---Eastern United States.
---Description---The official name comes from the Greek helios (the sun) and anthemon (a flower). The genus differs from the Cistus in having imperfectly three-celled instead of five or ten-celled capsules. Two distinct varieties of the species are known, the early and late flowering forms. They grow in sandy soil, from 6 to 12 inches high, with upright stems, branching or almost without branches, leaves light or dark green, small and lanceolate, and flat, yellow flowers, solitary or in terminal clusters. The popular names spring from the peculiarity of thin, curved, ice-crystals projecting in early winter from fissures in the bark near the root. The taste is astringent, slightly aromatic and bitter. It has no odour.
---Constituents---A volatile oil, wax, tannin, fatty oil, and a glucoside that will crystallize into white needles. Chlorophyll, gum and inorganic salts were also found in Helianthemum Corymbosum.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Antiscro fulous, astringent, alterative and tonic. It has for long been used in secondary syphilis, diarrhoea, ulcerations, ophthalmia, and any conditions arising from a scrofulous constitution. Locally it is useful as a wash in prurigo and as a gargle in scarlatina, and in poultice form for scrofulous tumours and ulcers.
It is said that an oil helpful in cancer has been obtained from it.
It may be combined with Corydalis Formosa and Stillingia, in secondary syphilis, and the infusion may be used in chronic diarrhcea and dysentery.
An overdose may produce nausea and vomiting.
---Dosage---Of extract, 2 grains. Of fluid extract, 1 fluid drachm as an alternative and astringent.
H. Corymbosum may be used indiscriminately as officinal.
Cistus Creticus, or European Rock Rose, the only other plant of the order used in medicine, yields the gum resin Ladanum or Labdanum, a natural exudation valued as a stimulant expectorant and emmenagogue. It has been used in plasters, and formerly in catarrh and dysentery. An oil with the odour of ambergris has been obtained from the resin.
Labdanum is found in masses weighing up to several pounds, enclosed in bladders. It softens in the hand when broken, becoming adhesive and balsamic. It burns with a clear flame. An adulterated kind is in contorted, hard pieces, mixed with sand and earth.
C. Landaniferous, C. Ledon and C. Laurifolius are said to yield the same substance, most of which comes from the Grecian Islands.
All these Cistus and Helianthenums grow in the author's garden at Chalfont St. Peters.
See Willow Herbs.
Botanical: Fumaria officinalis (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Fumariaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
Old Recipes and Prescriptions
---Synonyms---Earth Smoke. Beggary. Fumus. Vapor. Nidor. Fumus Terrae. Fumiterry, Scheiteregi. Taubenkropp. Kaphnos. Wax Dolls.
---Habitat---Europe and America. Parts of Asia, Australia and South Africa.
---Description---A small annual plant, a common weed in many parts of Europe, including Britain, and naturalized in the United States.
The Fumitories, of which Corydalis and Fumaria are the only two fully British genera, are distinguished in the Order of Fumariaceae by having one of the petals swollen or spurred at the base, and a oneseeded capsule which does not open. The name is said to be derived either from the fact that its whitish, blue-green color gives it the appearance of smoke rising from the ground, or, according to Pliny, because the juice of the plant brings on such a flow of tears that the sight becomes dim as with smoke, and hence its reputed use in affections of the eye. According to the ancient exorcists, when the plant is burned, its smoke has the power of expelling evil spirits, it having been used for this purpose in the famous geometrical gardens of St. Gall. There is a legend that the plant was produced, not from seed, but from vapours arising out of the earth.
The herb is small and slender, with weak, straggling, or climbing stems, decompound leaves, and clusters or spikes of small flowers of a pinkish hue, topped with purple, or more rarely, white. The leaves have no odour, but taste bitter and saline. The plant flowers almost throughout the summer in fields, gardens, and on banks, and in ditches, spreading with great rapidity. At Mudgee, in New South Wales, it was reported to have smothered a wheat crop. Shakespeare makes several references to the herb. An interesting peculiarity is that it is very seldom visited by insects. It is self-fertile, and sets every seed.
The flowers are used to make a yellow dye for wool.
---Constituents---The leaves yield by expression a juice which has medicinal properties. An extract, prepared by evaporating the expressed juice, or a decoction of the leaves, throws out upon its surface a copious saline efflorescence. Fumaric acid was early identified as present, and its isomerism with maleic acid was established later. The alkaloid Fumarine has been believed to be identical with corydaline, but it differs both in formula and in its reaction to sulphuric and nitric acids. It occurs in colorless, tasteless crystals, freely soluble in chloroform, less so in benzine, still less so in alcohol and ether, sparingly soluble in water.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---A weak tonic, slightly diaphoretic, diuretic, and aperient; valuable in all visceral obstructions, particularly those of the liver, in scorbutic affections, and in troublesome eruptive diseases, even those of the leprous order. A decoction makes a curative lotion for milk-crust on the scalp of an infant. Physicians and writers from Dioscorides to Chaucer, and from the fourteenth century to Cullen and to modern times value its purifying power. The Japanese make a tonic from it. Cows and sheep eat it, and the latter are said to derive great benefit from it. The leaves, in decoction or extract, may be used in almost any doses. The inspissated juice has also been employed, also a syrup, powder, cataplasm, distilled water, and several tinctures.
French and German physicians still preferit to most other medicines as a purifier of the blood; while sometimes the dried leaves are smoked in the manner of tobacco, for disorders of the head. Dr. Cullen, among its good effects in cutaneous disorders, mentions the following:
'There is a disorder of the skin, which, though not attended with any alarming symptoms of danger to the life of the patient, is thought to place the empire of beauty in great jeopardy; the complaint is frequently brought on by neglecting to use a parasol, and may be known by sandy spots, vulgarly known as freckles, scattered over the face. Now, be it known to all whom it may concern, that the infusion of the leaves of the abovedescribed plant is said to be an excellent specific for removing these freckles and clearing the skin; and ought, we think, to be chiefly employed by those who have previously removed those moral blemishes which deform the mind, or degrade the dignity of a reasonable and an immortal being.'
---Dosage---Of Fumarine, 1/3 or 1/4 of a grain is moderately excitant; 3 grains are first irritant, then sedative. Of the expressed juice, 2 fluid ounces or more, twice a day. Of fluid extract, 1/2 to 1 drachm.
For dyspepsia, 2 oz. of the flowers and tops may be macerated in 3 pints of Madeira wine, and taken twice a day in doses of 2 to 4 fluid ounces.
Fluid extract 1/2 to 1 drachm.
---Old Recipes and Prescriptions---
The Liquid Juice four or five spoonfuls in themorning, fasting, with a glass of white Port wine. It purges a little downwards, but more especially if mixed with an infusion of Senna in wine. It purifies the blood from salt, choleric, or viscous humours, and strengthens all the Viscera, not leaving any evil quality behind it.
The Essence has all the virtues of the former, but is more efficacious. A safe remedy also against adult choler and melancholy or obstructions which are the cause of choleric and putrid fevers, jaundice, Strangury of Urine through Gravel, Sand, or Viscous Matter, all of which it expels in abundance.
Dose 5 or 6 spoonfuls in white wine or clarified whey.
The Syrup Whether made of the juice or greenherb, has all the virtue, but is weaker in operation, and therefore ought to be given mixed with the Syrup of Damask Roses or Peach Blossoms, or Tincture of Senna. Very effectual against Jaundice, Dropsy, and Gout, and is a most singular thing against hypochondriack melancholy in any person whatsoever.
The Decoction in Water or Wine Weaker than the above, and 6 to 8 oz. may be given in the morning, fasting.
The Power of the Dried Herb. A drachm, with half a drachm of Powder of Esula Root, and given in 5 or 6 spoonsful of the essence of juice, causes vomiting and cleanses the stomach and bowels, effectual against Dropsy, Scurvy, Jaundice, Gout and Rheumatism, but because it stirs up much wind, should be corrected with a few drops of oil of Anise or Fennel Seed, or with the Powder of the same.
The Collurium. 3 ounces of Juice or Essence of Fumitory, mixed with one ounce each of distilled Water of Fumitory, and honey. An excellent thing against sores, inflamed, running and watery Eyes. Also a healing Gargle. Drops in the Eyes clear the sight and take away redness. If the Juice be mixed with equal parts of Juice of Sharp-pointed Docks and Wine Vinegar, and a contaminated Skin be washed therewith, it cures it of Scabs, Itch, Wheals, Pimples, Scurf, etc.
The Distilled Water has the virtues of the Juice, but is much weaker, and may be used as a Vehicle for any of the other Preparations. Taken with good Venice Treacle, it is good against Plague, driving forth the Malignity by sweat.
The Spirituous Tincture is good against Plague, Fevers, Colic, and Griping of the Guts, whether in Young or Old.
Dose, 2 to 3 drachms in Canary or other fit vehicle.
The Acid Tincture is an excellent Antiscorbutick, good against Vapors and Tumors which cause fiery Eruptions. Causes a good Appetite and a strong Digestion. To be given in all the patient drinks, so many drops as may give the Liquor a grateful or pleasant acidity, and to be continued for some time.
The Saline Tincture cures Scabs, Pimples, Leprosy, etc., by bathing or well washing the parts affected therewith, as hot as can be endured, and continuing for some considerable time.
The Powder of the Seed. Stronger than the Powder of the Herb, prevalent against the Dropsy, being given daily with 10 to 12 grains of Scammony. A drachm of the simple powder, morning and night, especially in an infusion of Senna, may do wonders in Melancholy.
American Fumitory (Fumaria Indica, or Codder Indian) of Virginia and Canada has the virtues of Common Fumitory, but is more bitter and more powerful. The tuberous American or Indian Fumitory is much weaker.
Bulbous Fumitory, so-called, is Adoxa Meschatellina, and belongs to the Octandria class.
The Lyre Flower of Japan and Siberia (Dicentra or F. spectabilis) belongs to the Fumitory Order.
F. cucullaria (Naked- talked Fumitory) is a native of Canada.
F. fungosa (Spongy-flowered Fumitory) is a native of North America.
F. mobilis (Great-flowered Fumitory) is a native of Siberia.
F. sempervirens (Glaucous Fumitory) is a native of North America.
F. lutea (Yellow Fumitory) is a native of Barbary.
F. Sibirica (Siberian Fumitory) is a native of Siberia.
F. capnoides (White-flowered Fumitory) is a native of South Europe.
F. enneaphylla (White-flowered Fumitory) is a native of Spain and Italy.
F. capreolata (Ramping Fumitory) is a native of Provence, Silesia and Britain.
F. spicula (Narrow-leaved Fumitory) is a native of Spain, Portugal, Italy, and France.
F. claviculata (Climbing Fumitory) is a native of Southern Europe and Britain.
F. vesicaria (Bladdered Fumitory) is a native of the Cape of Good Hope.
F. parviflora (Small-flowered Fumitory) is a native of hot countries. Rare in Britain.
F. densiflora is a native of Southern Europe and Britain.
Some of these differences may merely be clue to situation.
In ancient history they are all inclucled among medicinal species.
Uses of Fungi
Discrimination between Edible and Poisonous Fungi
Fungi are those plants which are colorless; they have no green chlorophyll within them, and it is this green substance which enables the higher plants to build up, under the influence of sunlight, the starches and sugars which ultimately form our food. Having no chlorophyll, fungi cannot use the energy of the sun and must therefore adopt another method of life. They either live as parasites on other living plants or animals, or they live on decaying matter. In either case they derive their energy by breaking up highly complex substances and, when these are broken up in the living plant, the living plant suffers. Many Fungi, such as the bacteria, are microscopic; others form visible growths, from moulds and mildews to the familiar mushroom and toadstools they in crease in size and conspicuousness.
Fungi differ from flowering plants in theirchemical influence upon the air. They absorb oxygen and exhale carbonic acid, performing the same office in this respect as animals, which they most resemble in chemical composition. The odours they emit in decay are more like putrescent animal than vegetable matter. Some species, e.g., the Stinkhorns, emit a most intolerably offensive stench; others, on the contrary, are very agreeable to the smell and some 'toadstools' acquire in drying a fine aroma. They are quite as variable to the taste.
Numerically, Fungi rank next to flowering plants and in many portions of the globe far exceed them. In Great Britain, indeed, we have just over 5,000 species of Fungi, which number exceeds that of our flowering plants, ferns, mosses, lichens and algae all added together.
---Uses of Fungi---The uses of Fungi are various. Their office in the organized world is to check exuberance of growth, to facilitate decomposition, to regulate the balance of the component elements of the atmosphere, to promote fertility and to nourish myriads of the smaller members of the animal kingdom. As disease producers, both in plants and animals, not excluding man himself, they are responsible for much damage; nor do they leave alone the works of man. The subject of Mycology (Fungology) is of growing importance and is attracting the attention of scientific research, especially in America, as to the action of Fungi in human diseases. The fact is recognized in medical science that more than 20 per cent of tropical diseases, in the strict sense, are caused by Fungi and that the diseases due to Fungi are also not at all rare in temperate climates.
Certain of the species represent a danger to our existing food supply; the parasites on wheat and on potato plants have of recent years been the object of study by scientific agriculturists. The Imperial Bureau of Entomology, which grapples with injurious insects, has its counterpart in the Imperial Bureau of Mycology, which was inaugurated in 1920, and is equally effective in helping to control the fungus pests of our Colonies.
Yet all members of this great division of flowerless and chlorophyll-free plants are not harmful. Many of them perform useful and even beneficent functions, playing an important part in the welfare of humanity. Yeast, for instance, converts sugary solution into alcohol. Yeasts are everywhere and the various vintage wines are to some extent due to the particular yeast which is found amongst the grapes. Other Fungi (bacteria) help one to digest. As food plants, Fungi deserve more attention than they have received, at least in this country, although it has been estimated that we possess at least 200 edible forms. In ancient times the eating of Fungi was a common practice. The Romans especially favoured the Boleti, while Celsus makes allusion to the use of certain of the edible varieties. Throughout Europe and the East, Fungi are much more widely used as food than in Great Britain. In France, Germany, Italy and Japan the mushroom trade is officially recognized: in France, the prefecture de police has established a centre of inspection for mushrooms at the 'Halles' of Paris. Not only are all consignments of mushrooms entering this market inspected and passed before being put up for sale, but all amateur gatherers of Fungi may also have their spoil classified by the inspector free of charge, whereas a most useful addition to our food resources in this country is almost entirely neglected.
Formerly it was stated by enthusiastic fungus-eaters that Fungi contained more nitrogenous material than beef, but recent chemical analysis proves that the amount of nitrogenous matter that can be assimilated or used as food is actually but small and that Fungi practically contain no more fleshforming material than does a cabbage. Notwithstanding this, Fungi have their special flavours, often combined with a very pleasant aroma, and in this way serve a purpose, like condiments, rendering more palatable other essential foods and often aiding their digestion and assimilation.
A considerable number of Fungi have been employed in medicine, and although Ergot alone represents these plants in the Pharmacopoeia, yet the medicinal properties attributed by tradition to certain species of Fungi (as a writer in the Lancet pointed out, September 26, 1925) may possibly represent an untapped source of therapeutic value.
Up to the present time, no less than 64,000 species of Fungi have been described. They are divided into two great classes, the Sporifera, or spore-bearing, in which the spores are naked or exposed, and the Sporidifera, in which the spores are contained in bags or sacs called asci. The sporiferous division is by far the larger: in its family Hymenomycetes, which includes all the mushrooms and toadstools, the hymenium, or spore-bearing surface, is distributed over gills, tubes, pores or fissures. It is the most important group, both from the view of the toxicologist and the epicure, and comprises about 14,000 species.
The Agaricaceae order of gill-bearing Fungi comprises about 4,600 species. Some members are poisonous, as the Amanitas (Fly and Deadly Agarics), whereas others, as Agaricus, Cantharellus, etc., are among the best edible varieties.
The name Agaricum (as it stands in Pliny) was applied by Dioscorides to a peculiar drug supplied by the Polyporus of the Larch, which was obtained principally, if not solely, from Agraria, a region in Sarmatia and which was formerly of considerable repute and is still to be had from herbalists. Other Polypori were often substituted for that of the larch, and the name Agaricus became to a certain extent generic for Polyporus, but was applied by Linnaeus erroneously to the Toadstool class of Fungi bearing gills, and from that time adopted, though the earlier herbalists applied the name rightly to the corky tree Fungi, as Agaric of the Oak, etc.
---Discrimination between Edible and Poisonous Fungi----Of the 1,100 species of gill-bearing Fungi of the Mushroom type which are native to Great Britain, less than one hundred are known to be poisonous, though unfortunately these are mostly very virulent; and so it is essential, before attempting to enjoy the novelty of a dish of Fungi, to well study descriptions and figures of both edible and poisonous species, and not attempt to experiment on any unknown kind, as some of the really good and edible Fungi unfortunately superficially resemble extremely poisonous species.
There are no absolute general rules by which good or harmless Fungi can be distinguished, but there should be no difficulty in recognizing all the best kinds by means of ordinary care. In the Mushrooms and Toadstools, the gill-bearing Fungi, the color of the gills and spores they contain are, for instance, of considerable importance and must be taken into account in determining a fungus. Hairs, scales, wool and gluten are found on the stem and cap of some species and present important data for identification. It must be noted, also, whether the stem is hollow or solid.
Many of the old statements as to the methods of distinguishing between edible and poisonous Fungi are quite valueless. It is quite an erroneous notion that only those Fungi are good to eat which grow in open places, and also that if the skin of the cap cannot be peeled off, as in the common Mushroom, a fungus is unfit for food, for many good species grow in woods (though comparatively few of these actually grow on trees), and in many excellent species which are constantly eaten there is no separable cuticle, whereas in numerous deadly species, it is as readily peeled off as in the Mushroom. Equally without foundation is the statement that if a silver spoon placed among Fungi that are cooking turns black, it is a proof that such Fungi are poisonous.
Good Fungi have usually a pleasant mushroomy odour, some have a smell of new meal, others a faint anise-like scent or no particular odour at all. Evil-smelling Fungi are always to be regarded with distrust. It is a suspicious sign of dangerous qualities, if a fungus on being cut or bruised quickly turns deep blue or greenish, also if it is noticed that a small piece broken from a freshly-gathered fungus when tasted leaves, instead of an agreeable, nutty flavour, a sharp tingling on the tongue, or is in any way bitter. All such should be avoided. It is as well, also, not to eat any Fungi which contain a milky juice which exudes freely on being cut, without carefully identifying the species first, as some of these, belonging to the genus Lactarius, are dangerous, though one of them, distinguished by a reddish juice, ranks as oneof the best.
The majority are acrid and dangerous, producing severe or even fatal gastric enteritis, due to the presence of an irritant resin. As, however, most species are used, when pickled, in considerable quantities almost indiscriminately by the Russians, it would seem that the dangerous properties are neutralized by the acid.
The Amanita genus of the large order Agaricaceae was formerly included in the genus Agaricus, but is now generally recognized to be quite distinct. It is remarkable for including two closely-allied species which are respectively one of the best of our edible species, Amanita rubescens, the Blusher Toadstool, and certainly our most poisonous species: A. phalloides, the Deadly Agaric or Death Cap.
Species of Amanita are usually of large size, grown on the ground and speedily decay after maturity. In the most highly evolved species, the entire plant when young is enclosed in a universal veil, which remains intact until the stem, cap and gills are completely differentiated, when by increase in length of the stem and the expansion of the cap, it is ruptured, leaving a more or less loose sheath round the base of the stem called the volva. The upper part of the universal veil remains on the surface of the cap, where by the gradual expansion of the same, it is broken up into irregular patches, which in most cases remain throughout the life of the fungus, hence one of the popular names Wart Caps. After the universal veil has been ruptured and the cap has commenced to expand, the secondary veil, or velum, may be seen as a firm, felted or interwoven membrane stretched between the upper part of the stem and the edge or margin of the cap. This secondary veil serves to protect the gills until the spores are formed, when by the gradual growth and straightening out of the edge of the cap it breaks away from the edge of the cap and remains as a ring or collar round the stem. After these phases of development have passed, the cap expands to its full size, the stem attains its full length, the spores mature and are dispersed and the entire fungus rapidly decays. No other Agarics have a complete volva and ring present. Although one species of Amanita and various other Fungi possessing a volva are edible, yet the safest plan for those not familiar to them is to avoid all species possessing this organ.
The Amanitas may also be distinguished from the mushrooms by their white lamellae or gills and the relatively thin edge of the cap. The poisonous Amanitas should not be very liable to be mistaken for the mushroom, since the top of the cap is usually colored, from yellow through shades of orange to red or occasionally olive brown. A. phalloides, though generally of a pale primrose yellow, is, however, frequently white, in which case its other characters must be depended on for recognition. The species, the Death Cap, is the most fatally poisonous of all Fungi, though it has a pleasant taste and smell and looks perfectly harmless. Its volva is partly a ragged, edged, basal cup, partly in scales upon the top of the cap, one or the other position predominating in different cases. It has a well-developed, partly drooping, white veil. It is one of the commonest found in our woods, liking damp spots.
A. muscaria, the 'Fly Agaric,' is one of our most handsome toadstools. The cap is large (4 to 6 inches) and spreads out quite horizontally. It is a brilliant scarlet, studded with scattered white scales, fragments of the volva in which it was wrapped when young. The white stem is thick and provided with a prominent ring. The skin of the cap is viscid, so that d‚bris, such as pine-needles, stick to it. The gills underneath the cap are white, It is intensely poisonous and should be handled with great care. Poison extracted from it was once used for the destruction of flies and other insects - hence its name. Throughout the autumn, it may frequently be found, solitary and in groups, in birch and pine woods, in damp parts. Although justly considered injurious, it is used as a means of intoxication by the natives of Kamschatka. A. pantherina is used in Japan for like purposes.
This fungus is used in Homoeopathy as Agaricus or Aga. Hahnemann, naming it 'Bug Agaric,' described it as 'surmounted with a scarlet-colored top with white excrescences and white leaflets.'
Hahnemann's and his students' proving was published in Stapf's Archives in 1830, with some toxic symptoms, and Aga was included in Hahnemann's second edition of his Chronic Diseases as one of the antipsorics, and present-day homoeeopaths assert that its powers over such chronic affections as chorea and chilblains proves its right to the title. C. T. Allen (Hom. Rec., March, 1913) has recorded the power of Aga to clear up certain cataracts. In this he used sometimes the ordinary preparations of Aga at other times Agaricin, or Agaric Acid.
A. Ceasarea (Caesar's Mushroom), largely consumed in Southern Europe, is closely allied to the poisonous species and shares their general appearance, and it is in seeking for this that most of the recorded fatal mistakes are made. Its stem, veil and gills are yellow, and it has a white volva in the form of a cup.
The nature of Amanita toxin from A. phalloides is not yet determined, but poisons of a similar nature appear to be widespread throughout the whole genus.
Poisonous principles in Fungi
The poisonous principles in Fungi may be divided into:
(1) Those acting purely upon the nerves, as muscarine and fungus-atropine.
(2) Those that produce local irritation, as various species of Lactarius and Russula.
(3) Those acting primarily upon the blood, as helvellic acid and phallin.
The most important constituents are the alkaloid Muscarine, especially in A. muscaria and the albuminoid Phallin, especially in A. phalloides, which appears to be related to serpent venom, though differing in its greater activity when absorbed through the stomach. The action of A. muscaria depends principally upon the alkaloid Muscarine, which prolongs the diastolic action of the heart and acts as a decided depressant upon the vaso-motor system and the respiratory centre. Muscarine has been employed as a remedy for epilepsy, but is probably of little value. It has also been used in the treatment of the nightsweats of phthisis: the reports as to its effect vary. When poisonous doses are taken, large doses of atropine should be injected by hypodermic syringe, external heat applied and the stomach pump or emetics promptly employed. Purgatives such as castor oil should be freely given as early as possible.
The symptoms produced by poisoning from eating A. phalloides are usually delayed for nearly twenty-four hours - they consist of great respiratory and circulatory depression; a cold heavy sweat breaks out, accompanied by severe headache and delirium often sets in. Jaundice may occur and a high temperature is frequent. Sometimes convulsions precede collapse. If Fly Agaric (A. muscaria) has been eaten, Muscarine poisoning is added to these symptoms, viz. profuse salivation, contracted pupils and slowing of pulse. Treatment consists in the administration of stimulants and the emptying of the alimentary canal by means of promptly-acting emetics and purges to prevent absorption. Atropine is to be freely used as an antidote.
The Polyporaceae order of Tube-bearing Fungi includes about 2,000 species, many of which are parasites on trees and destructive to timber. Some are edible, as Boletus edulis, whereas others are poisonous, as B. satanus.
The genus Polyporus, which has its pores so closely packed and united together that they are not easily separable, is a very large one, containing very varied forms, some succulent, others very hard and dense, form and color being as varied as the texture. In most cases there is no stem, and when present it is often lateral.
P. officinalis was once a celebrated drug, known as White Agaric, or Larch Agaric, but it is now little used, though it is still to be obtained in the herbalists' shops. The term 'Agaric' is, of course, more properly applied to the Fungi of the genus Agaricus (see above), but in medicine it has long been applied to this species of fungus, P. officinalis (Fries), syn. B. laricis (Jacqui.), B. purgans (Person), which is found upon the old trunks of the European Larch, and Larix siberica (Ledebour) of Asia. The same species is found upon various coniferous trees in some of the western United States and in British Columbia. It is stemless, of various sizes, from that of the fist to that of a child's head or even larger, hard and spongy, externally brown or reddish, but as found in commerce, deprived of its outer coat, it consists of a light, white, spongy somewhat farinaceous mass, which though capable of being rubbed into powder upon a sieve, is not easily pulverized in the ordinary way, as it flattens under the pestle. The best is considered to be that from Siberia, but it is probably produced wherever the European Larch grows. It is collected in the autumn, chiefly in the larch forests of Archangel, then dried, deprived of its firm, upper rind, and exported to Hamburg.
The powdered drug has a faint odour and a sweetish taste, which is afterwards bitter. It yields to boiling alcohol not less than 50 per cent of a resinous extract, and when burnt yields not more than 2 per cent of a white ash, rich in phosphates. White Agaric owes its medicinal virtues to Agaric acid, which is also called Laricic and Agaricinic acid. It contains a small amount of soft resin and from 4 to 6 per cent of a fatty body. Sodium, Lithium and Bismuth Agaricinates have been prepared and introduced into medicine.
In moderate doses, Agaric acid is stated to have no effect upon the system except to paralyse the nerves of the sweat glands. Large doses act as an irritant to the stomach and intestines. The most important use of Agaric is in the treatment of sweats in wasting conditions such as phthisis. Its value in checking these profuse sweats has been confirmed by clinical experience. It is used inthe preparation of Tincture antiperiodica. When Agaric acid is applied to abraded surfaces or mucous membrane, it acts as a distinct counter-irritant.
An Agaric growing on the L. leptolepsis, used in Japan as a sacred medicine, under the name of Toboshi or Eburiko, has been found to contain Agaric acid.
Under the name of Agaricin are marketed preparations containing the active Agaric acid with larger or smaller amount of impurities. The dose of the pure principle is from 1/6 to 1/2 of a grain.
P. suaveolens (on willows), P. annosus (on birches), P. squamosus and other species have apparently a similar composition and similar properties. P. anthelminticus (Chu-tau of the Chinese) is used as a worm-dispeller. P. hirsutus, or 'Pugak,' and P. tinctorius yield dye-stuffs.
B. chirurgorum (SURGEON'S AGARIC, OAK AGARIC, PUNK, TOUCHWOOD) is the product of P. fomentarius, which is found upon the oak and beech trees of Europe and is a very different substance, its uses being mechanical, as tinder, and to staunch bleeding.
It is shaped somewhat like the horse's foot, with a diameter of from 6 to 10 inches. It is soft like velvet when young, but afterwards becomes hard and ligneous. It usually rests immediately upon the bark of the tree, without any supporting foot-stalk. On the upper surface, it is smooth, but marked with circular ridges of different colors, more or less brown or blackish. On the under surface, it is whitish or yellowish and full of small pores; internally, it is fibrous, tough and of a tawny brown color. It is composed of short, tubular fibres, compactly arranged in layers, one of which is added every year.
It is collected in Central and Southern Europe, in August and September, chiefly from oak and beech, the best being from oak and prepared for use by removing the exterior rind and cutting the inner part into thin slices, which are washed first in weak alkali, then in water and then beaten with a hammer and worked until they become soft, pliable and easily torn by the fingers. In this state, it was formerly much used by surgeons for arresting haemorrhage, being applied with pressure. When it is steeped in a solution of nitre and afterwards dried, it constitutes 'Spunk,' 'punk' or tinder, the Amadou of the French, which occurs in flat pieces, of a consistence somewhat like that of very soft, rotten buckskin leather, of a brownishyellow color, capable of absorbing liquids and inflammable by the slightest spark. Though as a styptic, it has now gone out of use, as tinder it is still an article of commerce and in Northern Europe has been much used by smokers, manufactured also into fusees, and used to be found here in tobacconists' shops under the name of Amadou or German tinder.
Among its constituents are extractive, resin (in very similar proportion), nitrogenous matter, also in small quantity, potassium chloride and calcium sulphate, and in its ashes are found iron and calcium and magnesium phosphate.
Similar but harder products are yielded by P. igniarius and P. marginatus, the former internally rust-brown, or dark cinnamonbrown, the latter yellowish, but P. fomentarius is considered to supply the best Amadou.
P. squamosus, one of the large fan-shaped species with a lateral stem, that grows mostly on decayed oak trees and becomes very tough, has often, when carefully dried and cut, been used as a razor strop, P. betulina, a stemless variety found on birch trees, serving a like purpose. When quite young, they have been recommended as esculents, but cannot be said to be excellent.
Many trees, especially beeches, often bear a number of overlapping sulphur-colored fungus tufts of the consistency of mellow cheese. This is P. sulphureus. When wounded, quantities of yellow juice exude, which has been used for dyeing. When dry, the fungus becomes covered with beautiful crystals of oxalate of potash and during decomposition, it is luminous. It is absolutely unfit for food.
The STRIPED STUMP FLAP (Polystictus versicolor), one of our commonest and most beautiful Fungi, is also poisonous. It has no stalk, but grows out horizontally in a bracketlike way, layer upon layer, from trunks and tree-stumps and branches.
The TINDER BRACKET (Fomes fomentarius) is one of the large Fungi which cause much destruction in beech forests. This species causes the condition of timber known as white rot. After doing serious damage to the interior wood, a dark, hoof-shaped knob bursts through the bark and spreads horizontally into an inverted bracket, a foot across, with a white layer of spore-bearing tubes on its flat underside.
A much larger beech fungus is the GIANT POLYPORE (P. giganteus), the largest of our Bracket Fungi, which attacks the roots and base of the trunks, demoralizing the foundations, so that a huge beech that appears to have the solidity of a lighthouse, is snapped across in the first severe gale. The external manifestation of the fungus is made in autumn, when about twenty handsome, overlapping, fleshy fans, a foot across, and of a pale brown tint, with darker zones, make their appearance at the base of the trunk. The pallid underside of the flaps becomes dark at once when bruised. Its esculent qualities are appreciated on the Continent.
The JEW'S EAR (Hirneola auricula-Judae) has never been regarded here as an edible fungus, but in some parts of the world has that reputation. It is a somewhat gelatinous, flabby thin, expanded saucer-like fungus of a brownish color when fresh, more or less folded, the fructifying surface uppermost, spread all over the inequalities of the fungus. It is smooth in the inside and veined or plaited, having some resemblance to the human ear; minutely velvety outside and greyish olive in color. It is thin and elastic when moist, rigid when dry. It varies in size from 1 to 3 inches across and is attached to the tree-bark by a point at the back, rather on one side.
Our native species had at one time a reputation for medicinal qualities and was on that account included in most of the old Herbals; for its astringent properties it was considered a cure for sore throats, and because of its faculty of absorbing and holding water like a sponge, was also used as a medium for applying eye-water and for similar purposes, but its virtues are no longer recognized, nor is it here regarded as an article of food, though it is in all probability edible, but a very closely allied species, H. polytricha, not uncommon in tropical and sub-tropical countries, is esteemed as a dainty by the Chinese, under the name of Mu-esh, and is one of the species of Fungi cultivated in China, where it grows wild on the bark of the wild cherry, but is cultivated on rotten poles of the China oak. It is of great commercial importance, the quantity annually produced being very large. It is largely used by the Chinese in soups with farinaceous seeds and also as a medicine, being highly valued. The demand for it is so large that much is imported into China from the small Pacific islands and especially from New Zealand, and its collection and exportation to China adds to the revenue of this part of the British Empire.
A fungus growing on the Elder, Fungus sambuci, has been used as a local application in conjunctivitis: according to Steckel, it is capable of taking up from nine to twelve times its weight of water. (N.R. Pharm., XIII, 476, 1864.)
In the PUFF-BALLS (Lycoperdon, Bovista, etc.), belonging to the family Gasteromycetes, the hymenium remains completely enclosed in a continuous wall of peridium (Gr. perideo, I wrap round) until the spores are fully formed, when the peridium is ruptured and the spore-producing portion of the fungus is enabled to liberate its spores. In the Puffballs there is a specialized opening or mouth in the wall of the peridium through which the spores can escape into the air. There are also present, mixed with the dry mass of spores, certain very fine, elongated threads or hyphae. This mass of thread is termed the capillitium, and is considered to assist in the expulsion of the spores.
The Puff-balls are distinctive enough to be readily recognized. Although generally wantonly kicked to pieces when found, they can be used as food, being excellent eating when young. Two species of Bovista are very common in pastures, resembling small balls, white when young, which when ripe discharge their dust-like spores from openings in the top of the peridium. In the GIANT PUFF-BALL (L. gigantea), instead of there being a well-defined opening at the apex, the upper part of the wall breaks away in irregular patches. This giant Puff-ball is often not larger than a moderately-sized turnip, but the size is very variable, ranging from 4 inches to a foot in diameter, and specimens are said to have been met with a yard in diameter. It is usually found singly, or only two or three together, among grass in pastures, meadows, etc. It forms a globose, white mass, depressed a little at the top, often puckered at the base, the wall thick, somewhat downy, becoming smooth and fragile, breaking away above and leaving a wide, irregular opening. The base is spongy. The mass of spores is yellow, then olive, finally brownish olive, the interspersed threads or capillitium, dark colored, long and intertwining.
Young Puff-balls in nearly all European countries but our own are used as food. Cut in slices, about 1/2 inch thick, the outer skin peeled off, and dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and fried in butter, with salt and pepper, they are quite palatable and digestible.
But it is only in the immature condition, whilst the interior remains fleshy and perfectly white, that they are edible, and on no account should any Puff-ball be cooked after the flesh has commenced discoloration, as poisonous properties are apt to be developed when old, even before decomposition sets in, so that it is essential they should be eaten only before the development of the spores. Gradually the flesh assumes a faint yellow tinge, deepening to canary yellow and in the dry, powdery condition to a brownish-olive color. It is juicy and good about the end of July or in August, reaching the powdery state in September. The Giant Puff-ball is said to have been an article of diet among the North American Indians.
The smaller Puff-balls are not made use of, probably only on account of their small size, as they are not considered to be harmful, but the Giant Puff-balls, besides being edible, have been employed also in other ways.
The Puff-ball has a reputation in country districts for arresting haemorrhage. In former times, it was not unusual among cottagers to find the woolly interior mass, with its profusion of minute, snuff-colored spores, considered an excellent remedy to apply for the staunching of blood in wounds, pieces of Puff-ball being kept year after year for use in case of emergency, being bound over the wound and allowed to remain until healed. The smoke from the burning plant has been employed for the purpose of stupefying bees in order that their honey may be collected without difficulty. It was formerly thought to contain a narcotic principle, but it has been determined that the stupefying effect of the smoke is due to the presence of carbon dioxide. If inhaled in large amount, it causes anaesthesia and excessive quantities cause death by respiratory failure. A 25 per cent tincture has been recommended in 1 drachm doses as a sedative in the treatment of nervous affections, but the drug is now considered of little importance in internal medicine. There is a tradition that in the days of flint and steel, housewives employed the dried substance of Puff-balls as tinder, Gerard remarking that 'In divers parts of England, where people dwell farre from neighbours, they carry them kindled with fire, which lasteth long.'
The spores prove very irritating to the nose and eyes if blown into the face when dry and powdery.
In the family Ascomycetes the spores are produced inside special cells or asci. The great majority of the species are minute and come under the definition of microscopic Fungi, and many of these are parasitic, and in many instances prove very destructive to cultivated plants: among such are the species causing Apple Scab, Potato Disease, American Gooseberry Mildew. Though none areknown to be distinctly poisonous, except the fungus called ERGOT and a few others, very few are edible, those best known in this country being the large, fleshy MORELS and the subterranean TRUFFLES.
Under the name of Lycoperdon Nuts, HART S TRUFFLE, or Deer Balls, a species closely allied to the Truffles, Elophomyces granulatus, had formerly some medicinal reputation, the drug being termed in old Herbals B. cervinus, though it has nothing to do with the modern genus Boletus, belonging to the tube-bearing order Polyporaceae. This old-fashioned drug was a few years ago offered in the London market, but it met with no sale. In the time of Dr. Pereira (middle of last century) it was stated by him that it was no longer used in medicine officially, but that he met with it in the stock of a London herbalist, and it was sold in Covent Garden as Lycoperdon nuts, so it could not long have gone out of use. It was formerly used by apothecaries for the preparation of Balsamus apoplecticus, and great power was ascribed to it in promoting parturition and the secretion of milk. Parkinson (Theatrum Botanicum, 1640) says the dose of it is 1 1/2 drachms in powder, taken in sweet wine. An analysis by Biltz is given by Pereira, from which it appears to contain a bitter substance in the coat; sugar, inuline, and various salts of lime and ammonia, and some proteid substances. An excellent illustration is given of the drug in Pereira's Materia Medica, Vol. II, Part I, 1850. According to Volg, Phamacognisie, 1892, it is still used in Central Europe in veterinary medicine, and Ludwig and Busse (1869) found it to contain mannite, mycose, pectin, mycogum, mycodextrin and mycoinulin. The fungus is found in woods under pine-trees from June to October, and it may usually be detected by the presence of orange-yellow branched threads or hyphae in the decayed leaf-mould where it occurs. It is brown and warty, about as large as a walnut, and purplish-brown internally.
Claviceps, or ERGOT, is one of the few species of Fungi that has sustained its reputation as a medicine, its value having been proved to be so considerable that it is official in all Pharmacopoeias. It is the winter resting stage of Claviceps purpurea, parasitic on wheat, rye and various other grasses. The stigmas of the flower of a grass becomes infected by the spores of the fungus brought by some insect visiting the flower. The spore germinates on the stigma and the mycelium grows down into the ovary, where it appropriates the food intended to nourish the grain or seed that should normally develop there. Instead of this, the fungus grows out as a long, black, slightly curved body, the sclerotium (a mass of cells compacted into a solid body), which bears minute conidia on its surface. These conidia are carried by insects to other grasses which in turn become infected. When the grass is ripe, the black sclerotia fall to the ground, where they remain in an unaltered condition until the following spring, when they give origin to one or more sub-globose ascophores, or heads supported on slender stems. Spores produced by these ascophores escape and are carried by wind, etc., on to the stigmas of grasses and cereals, and the course of development commences anew.
The firm dark-colored sclerotium which when mature stands out conspicuously from the glumes of the ears of rye, constitutes the drug known as Ergot. It has attained its full development when the ears of rye have ripened, and is then collected by hand or separated from the grain, after it has been threshed, by specially designed machinery. After collection, it is carefully dried, and is then ready for use.
The drying of Ergot has to be carefully performed. Its quality is injuriously affected by too great drying, wherefore the official requirement that it be 'only moderately dried,' whereas incomplete drying subjects it to danger of mouldiness. Its oil is subject to rancidity, and insects are very liable to destroy it. The Pharmacopoeia therefore directs it to be preserved in a close vessel and a few drops of chloroform added from time to time, and that it be not used after being kept longer than a year. It is very prone to chemical change if kept in a damp place.
The chief commercial varieties of the drug are the Russian, Spanish and German; but Austrian, Swiss, Norwegian and Swedish Ergots also come into the market occasionally. The Spanish drug is generally largest and of the finest appearance, but it contains much starch and is less active than Russian Ergot. The drug is dark violet-black, tapering towards both ends, longitudinally furrowed, especially on the concave side, breaks with a short fracture and is whitish within. The odour and taste are characteristic and disagreeable.
---Constituents---According to the most recent investigations, Ergot owes its activity to specific complex alkaloids, Ergotoxine and Ergotamine; in good Ergots the alkaloidal content may be 0.02. A large number of other substances have been isolated from Ergot, the most important (quantitatively) is a fatty oil, which occurs to the extent of 30 to 35 per cent. A red coloring matter, Sclererythrin, is extracted by alcohol and by alkalis and serves for the recognition of Ergot in flour. The drug also contains mannitol, partly combined as a glucoside, and the sugar trehalose. About 3 per cent of ash is yielded.
---Uses---Ergot stimulates plain muscle, directly and indirectly throughout the body; its action on the uterus is like that on other plain muscle, and it is employed almost entirely to excite uterine contraction in the final stages of parturition. It is also employed, though rarely, to arrest internal haemorrhage, but its use should be restricted to cases of uterine haemorrhage, as it has been found to raise blood pressure in pulmonary and cerebral haemorrhage.
It has a strongly sedative action on the central nervous system and has proved a useful remedy in delirium tremens and spinal congestion and has been employed in certain forms of asthma, hysteria, amenorrhoea and in menstrual disorders. It increases the secretion of milk and is used to check the night-sweats of phthisis.
It is usually administered in the form of extract (Ergotin), liquid extract, infusion or ammoniated tincture.
Ergot is scheduled under Part I of the Poisons Act. Its long-continued use is dangerous, resulting sometimes in gangrene, and it should only be used in the hands of fully qualified practitioners.
Sometimes a fatal gangrenous disease, known as Ergotism, has spread over large districts on the Continent, as if it were a visitation of the plague, as the result of eating bread made with grain which has been contaminated by Ergot.
Ergot was in olden times written argot in French, and there is little doubt that this is the origin of our name, the old French signification being 'a cock's spur,' to which Ergot has a marked similarity of form.
The earliest reference to Ergot is found in Loneer's 1582 edition of Rhodion's Kreutterbuch, where the occurrence of Ergot on rye and its obstetric virtues are mentioned. Camerarius about the same time stated that it was a popular remedy for accelerating parturition, and in France and Italy it was in quite general use for the same purpose for many years before it was employed by professional physicians. A Dutch physician used it for obstetric work in 1747; but the first to give it extended trials and to bring it under the notice of the profession in France was Dr. J. B. Desgranges of Lyons, in 1777. But it was not until Dr. J. Stearns, of New York, published his Account of the 'Pulvis Parturiens (Secale cornutum),' a remedy for quickening childbirth in 1805 that the knowledge of its value became general among English-speaking practitioners, and it was not until 1836 that it appeared in the London Pharmacopoeia, as Ergota: Acinula Clavus (Fries).
In regard to the botanical history of Ergot, it was for a long time regarded merely as a malformation of the rye, due to luxuriance of sap or to insect bite. Its fungoid nature was first recognized by Baron Otto von Munchhausen in a work on Rural Economy, dated 1764. He placed it between the genera Clavaria and Lycoperdon. De Candolle definitely classified it as a fungus under the name of Sclerotium clavus, and Tulasne worked out its life-history and named it Claviceps purpurea.
Chemical investigations of Ergot go back to the eighteenth century, but the first of any importance was due to Vauquelin (Ann. Chim. Phys. 1816), and was doubtless suggested by the introduction of Ergot into scientific medicine.
Its purely vegetable origin was, however, still disputed, for Rennie, in the fourth edition (1837) of his New Supplement, after referring to De Candolle and Fries, adds that he has himself 'ascertained beyond doubt' that it is 'an exudation caused by the puncture of an insect - namely, Aphis graminis.'
Ergot can also be obtained from wheat and grasses, but that on Rye is alone official and is distinguished by its size, attaining a length often double that on other cereals, in which the sclerotium may not project at all.
Descript : Of this there are two kinds principally to be treated of, viz. the Male and Female. The Female grows higher than the Male, but the leaves thereof are smaller, and more divided and dented, and of as strong a smell as the male; the virtue of them are both alike, and therefore I shall not trouble you with any description or distinction of them.
Place : They grow both in heaths and in shady places near the hedge-sides in all counties of this land.
Time : They flower and give their seed at Midsummer.
The Female Fern is that plant which is in Sussex, called Brakes, the seed of which some authors hold to be so rare. Such a thing there is I know, and may be easily had upon Midsummer Eve, and for ought I know, two or three days after it, if not more.
Government and virtues : It is under the dominion of Mercury, both Male and Female. The roots of both these sorts of Fern being bruised and boiled in Mead, or honeyed water, and drank, kills both the broad and long worms in the body, and abates the swelling and hardness of the spleen. The green leaves eaten, purge the belly of choleric and waterish humours that trouble the stomach. They are dangerous for women with child to meddle with, by reason they cause abortions. The roots bruised and boiled in oil, or hog's grease, make a very profitable ointment to heal wounds, or pricks gotten in the flesh. The powder of them used in foul ulcers, dries up their malignant moisture, and causes their speedier healing. Fern being burned, the smoke thereof drives away serpents, gnats, and other noisome creatures, which in fenny countries do in the night time, trouble and molest people lying in their beds with their faces uncovered; it causes barrenness.
OSMOND ROYAL, OR WATER FERN
Descript : This shoots forth in Spring time (for in the Winter the leaves perish) divers rough hard stalks, half round, and yellowish, or flat on the other side, two feet high, having divers branches of winged yellowish green leaves on all sides, set one against another, longer, narrower, and not nicked on the edges as the former. From the top of some of these stalks grow forth a long bush of small and more yellow, green, scaly aglets, set in the same manner on the stalks as the leaves are, which are accounted the flowers and seeds. The root is rough, thick and scabby: with a white pith in the middle, which is called the heart thereof.
Place : It grows on moors, bogs, and watery places, in many parts of this land.
Time : It is green all the summer, and the root only abides in winter.
Government and virtues : Saturn owns the plant. This has all the virtues mentioned in the former Ferns, and is much more effectual than they, both for inward and outward griefs, and is accounted singularly good in wounds, bruises, or the like. The decoction to be drank, or boiled into an ointment of oil, as a balsam or balm, and so it is singularly good against bruises, and bones broken, or out of joint, and gives much ease to the cholic and splenetic diseases: as also for ruptures or burstings. The decoction of the root in white wine, provokes urine exceedingly, and cleanses the bladder and passages of urine.
FEVERFEW OR FEATHERFEW
Descript : Common Featherfew has large, fresh, green leaves, much torn or cut on the edges. The stalks are hard and round, set with many such like leaves, but smaller, and at the tops stand many single flowers, upon small foot stalks, consisting of many small white leaves standing round about a yellow thrum in the middle. The root is somewhat hard and short, with many strong fibres about it. The scent of the whole plant is very strong, and the taste is very bitter.
Place : This grows wild in many places of the land, but is for the most part nourished in gardens.
Time : It flowers in the months of June and July.
Government and virtues : Venus commands this herb, and has commended it to succour her sisters (women) and to be a general strengthener of their wombs, and remedy such infirmities as a careless midwife hath there caused; if they will but be pleased to make use of her herb boiled in white wine, and drink the decoction; it cleanses the womb, expels the after-birth, and doth a woman all the good she can desire of an herb. And if any grumble because they cannot get the herb in winter, tell them, if they please, they may make a syrup of it in summer; it is chiefly used for the disease of the mother, whether it be the strangling or rising of the mother, or hardness, or inflammation of the same, applied outwardly there-unto. Or a decoction of the flowers in wine, with a little Nutmeg or Mace put therein, and drank often in a day, is an approved remedy to bring down women's courses speedily, and helps to expel the dead birth and after-birth. For a woman to sit over the hot fumes of the decoction of the herb made in water or wine, is effectual for the same; and in some cases to apply the boiled herb warm to the privy parts. The decoction thereof made with some sugar, or honey put thereto, is used by many with good success to help the cough and stuffing of the chest, by colds, as also to cleanse the reins and bladder, and helps to expel the stone in them. The powder of the herb taken in wine, with some Oxymel, purges both choler and phlegm, and is available for those that are short winded, and are troubled with melancholy and heaviness, or sadness of spirits. It is very effectual for all pains in the head coming of a cold cause, the herb being bruised and applied to the crown of the head. As also for the vertigo, that is a running or swimming in the head. The decoction thereof drank warm, and the herb bruised with a few corns of Bay salt, and applied to the wrists before the coming of the ague fits, doth take them away. The distilled water takes away freckles, and other spots and deformities in the face. The herb bruised and heated on a tile, with some wine to moisten it, or fried with a little wine and oil in a frying-pan, and applied warm out-wardly to the places, helps the wind and cholic in the lower part of the belly. It is an especial remedy against opium taken too liberally.
Every garden affords this so plentifully, that it needs no description.
Government and virtues : One good old fashion is not yet left off, viz. to boil Fennel with fish; for it consumes that phlegmatic humour, which fish most plentifully afford and annoy the body with, though few that use it know wherefore they do it. I suppose the reason of its benefit this way is because it is an herb of Mercury, and under Virgo, and therefore bears antipathy to Pisces. Fennel is good to break wind, to provoke urine, and ease the pains of the stone, and helps to break it. The leaves or seed, boiled in barley water and drank are good for nurses, to increase their milk, and make it more wholesome for the child. The leaves, or rather the seeds, boiled in water, stays the hiccough, and takes away the loathings which oftentimes happen to the stomachs of sick and feverish persons, and allays the heat thereof. The seed boiled in wine and drank, is good for those that are bitten with serpents, or have eaten poisonous herbs, or mushrooms. The seed and the roots much more, help to open obstructions of the liver, spleen, and gall, and thereby help the painful and windy swellings of the spleen, and the yellow jaundice; as also the gout and cramps. The seed is of good use in medicines to help shortness of breath and wheezing by stopping of the lungs. It helps also to bring down the courses, and to cleanse the parts after delivery. The roots are of most use in physic drinks, and broth that are taken to cleanse the blood, to open obstructions of the liver, so provoke urine, and amend the ill color in the face after sickness, and to cause a good habit through the body. Both leaves, seeds, and roots thereof are much used in drink or broth, to make people more lean that are too fat. The distilled water of the whole herb, or the condensate juice dissolved, but especially the natural juice, that in some counties issues out hereof of its own accord, dropped into the eyes, cleanses them from mists and films that hinder the sight. The sweet Fennel is much weaker in physical uses than the common Fennel. The wild Fennel is stronger and hotter than the tame, and therefore most powerful against the stone, but not so effectual to encrease milk, because of its dryness.
SOW-FENNEL, OR HOG'S-FENNEL
Besides the common name in English, Hog's Fennel, and the Latin name Peucidanum, is called Hoar-strange, and Hoar-strong, Sulphur-wort, and Brimstone-wort.
Descript : The common Sow-Fennel has divers branched stalks of thick and somewhat long leaves, three for the most part joined together at a place, among which arises a crested straight stalk, less than Fennel, with some joints thereon, and leaves growing thereat, and towards the tops some branches issuing from thence; likewise on the tops of the stalks and branches stand divers tufts of yellow flowers, whereafter grows somewhat flat, thin, and yellowish seed, bigger than Fennel seed. The roots grow great and deep, with many other parts and fibres about them of a strong scent like hot brimstone, and yield forth a yellowish milk, or clammy juice, almost like a gum.
Place : It grows plentifully in the salt low marshes near Faversham in Kent.
Time : It flowers plentifully in July and August.
Government and virtues : This is also an herb of Mercury. The juice of Sow-Fennel (saith Dioscorides, and Galen,) used with vinegar and rose water, or the juice with a little Euphorbium put to the nose, helps those that are troubled with the lethargy, frenzy, giddiness of the head, the falling sickness, long and inveterate head-aches, the palsy, sciatica, and the cramp, and generally all the diseases of the sinews, used with oil and vinegar. The juice dissolved in wine, or put into an egg, is good for a cough, or shortness of breath, and for those that are troubled with wind in the body. It purges the belly gently, expels the hardness of the spleen, gives ease to women that have sore travail in child-birth, and eases the pains of the reins and bladder, and also the womb. A little of the juice dissolved in wine, and dropped into the ears, eases much of the pains in them, and put into a hollow tooth, eases the pain thereof. The root is less effectual to all the aforesaid disorders; yet the powder of the root cleanses foul ulcers, being put into them, and takes out splinters of broken bones, or other things in the flesh, and heals them up perfectly: as also, dries up old and inveterate running sores, and is of admirable virtue in all green wounds.
FIG-WORT, OR THROAT-WORT
Descript : Common great Fig-wort sends divers great, strong, hard, square brown stalks, three or four feet high, whereon grow large, hard, and dark green leaves, two at a joint, harder and larger than Nettle leaves, but not stinking; at the tops of the stalks stand many purple flowers set in husks, which are sometimes gaping and open, somewhat like those of Water Betony; after which come hard round heads, with a small point in the middle, wherein lie small brownish seed. The root is great, white, and thick, with many branches at it, growing aslope under the upper crust of the ground, which abides many years, but keeps not his green leaves in Winter.
Place : It grows frequently in moist and shadowy woods, and in the lower parts of the fields and meadows.
Time : It flowers about July, and the seed will be ripe about a month after the flowers are fallen.
Government and virtues : Some Latin authors call it Cervicaria, because it is appropriated to the neck; and we Throat-wort, because it is appropriated to the throat. Venus owns the herb, and the Celestial Bull will not deny it; therefore a better remedy cannot be for the king's evil, because the Moon that rules the disease, is exalted there. The decoction of the herb taken inwardly, and the bruised herb applied outwardly, dissolves clotted and congealed blood within the body, coming by any wounds, bruise or fall; and is no less effectual for the king's evil, or any other knobs, kernel, bunches, or wens growing in the flesh wheresoever; and for the hæmorrhoids, or piles. An ointment made hereof may be used at all times when the fresh herb is not to be had. The distilled water of the whole plant, roots and all, is used for the same purposes, and dries up the superfluous, virulent moisture of hollow and corroding ulcers; it takes away all redness, spots, and freckles in the face, as also the scurf, and any foul deformity therein, and the leprosy likewise.
FILIPENDULA, OR DROP-WORT
Descript : This sends forth many leaves, some larger, some smaller, set on each side of a middle rib, and each of them dented about the edges, somewhat resembling wild Tansy, or rather Agrimony, but harder in handling; among which rise up one or more stalks, two or three feet high, with the leaves growing thereon, and sometimes also divided into other branches spreading at the top into many white, sweet-smelling flowers, consisting of five leaves a-piece, with some threads in the middle of them, standing together in a pith or umble, each upon a small foot stalk, which after they have been blown upon a good while, do fall away, and in their places appear small, round, chaffy heads like buttons, wherein are the chaffy seeds set and placed. The root consists of many small, black, tuberous pieces, fastened together by many small, long, blackish strings, which run from one to another.
Place : It grows in many places of this land, in the corners of dry fields and meadows, and the hedge sides.
Time : They flower in June and July, and their seed is ripe in August.
Government and virtues : It is under the dominion of Venus. It effectually opens the passages of the urine, helps the stranguary; the stone in the kidneys or bladder, the gravel, and all other pains of the bladder and reins, by taking the roots in powder, or a decoction of them in white wine, with a little honey. The roots made into powder, and mixed with honey in the form of an electuary, doth much help them whose stomachs are swollen, dissolving and breaking the wind which was the cause thereof; and is also very effectual for all the diseases of the lungs, as shortness of breath, wheezing, hoarseness of the throat, and the cough; and to expectorate tough phlegm, or any other parts thereabout.
To give a description of a tree so well known to every body that keep it in his garden, were needless. They prosper very well in our English gardens, yet are fitter for medicine than for any other profit which is gotten by the fruit of them.
Government and virtues : The tree is under the dominion of Jupiter. The milk that issues out from the leaves or branches where they are broken off, being dropped upon warts, takes them away. The decoction of the leaves is excellently good to wash sore heads with: and there is scarcely a better remedy for the leprosy than it is. It clears the face also of morphew, and the body of white scurf, scabs, and running sores. If it be dropped into old fretting ulcers, it cleanses out the moisture, and brings up the flesh; because you cannot have the leaves green all the year, you may make an ointment of them whilst you can. A decoction of the leaves being drank inwardly, or rather a syrup made of them, dissolves congealed blood caused by bruises or falls, and helps the bloody flux. The ashes of the wood made into an ointment with hog's grease, helps kibes and chilblains. The juice being put into an hollow tooth, eases pain: as also pain and noise in the ears, being dropped into them; and deafness. An ointment made of the juice and hog's grease, is an excellent remedy for the bitten of mad dogs, or other venomous beasts as most are. A syrup made of the leaves, or green fruit, is excellently good for coughs, hoarseness, or shortness of breath, and all diseases of the breast and lungs; it is also extremely good for the dropsy and falling sickness. They say that the Fig Tree, as well as the Bay Tree, is never hurt by lightning; as also, if you tie a bull, be he ever so mad, to a Fig Tree, he will quickly become tame and gentle. As for such figs as come from beyond sea, I have little to say, because I write not of exoticks.
THE YELLOW WATER-FLAG, OR FLOWER-DE-LUCE
Descript : This grows like the Flower-de-luce, but it has much longer and narrower sad green leaves, joined together in that fashion; the stalk also growing oftentimes as high, bearing small yellow flowers shaped like the Flower-de-luce, with three falling leaves, and other three arched that cover their bottoms; but instead of the three upright leaves, as the Flower-de-luce has, this has only three short pieces standing in their places, after which succeed thick and long three square heads, containing in each part somewhat big and flat seed, like those of the Flower-de-luce. The root is long and slender, of a pale brownish color on the outside, and of a horse-flesh color on the inside, with many hard fibres thereat, and very harsh in taste.
Place : It usually grows in watery ditches, ponds, lakes, and moor sides, which are always overflowed with water.
Time : It flowers in July, and the seed is ripe in August.
Government and virtues : It is under the dominion of the Moon. The root of this Water-flag is very astringent, cooling, and drying; and thereby helps all lasks and fluxes, whether of blood or humours, as bleeding at the mouth, nose, or other parts, bloody flux, and the immoderate flux of women's courses. The distilled water of the whole herb, flowers and roots, is a sovereign good remedy for watering eyes, both to be dropped into them, and to have cloths or sponges wetted therein, and applied to the forehead. It also helps the spots and blemishes that happen in and about the eyes, or in any other parts. The said water fomented on swellings and hot inflammations of women's breasts, upon cancers also, and those spreading ulcers called Noli me tangere, do much good. It helps also foul ulcers in the privities of man or woman; but an ointment made of the flowers is better for those external applications.
FLAX-WEED, OR TOAD-FLAX
Descript : Our common Flax-weed has divers stalks full fraught with long and narrow ash-colored leaves, and from the middle of them almost upward, stored with a number of pale yellow flowers, of a strong unpleasant scent, with deeper yellow mouths, and blackish flat seed in round heads. The root is somewhat woody and white, especially the main downright one, with many fibres, abiding many years, shooting forth roots every way round about, and new branches every year.
Place : This grows throughout this land, both by the way sides and in meadows, as also by hedge-sides, and upon the sides of banks, and borders of fields.
Time : It flowers in Summer, and the seed is ripe usually before the end of August.
Government and virtues : Mars owns the herb. In Sussex we call it Gallwort, and lay it in our chicken's water to cure them of the gall; it relieves them when they are drooping. This is frequently used to spend the abundance of those watery humours by urine which cause the dropsy. The decoction of the herb, both leaves and flowers, in wine, taken and drank, doth somewhat move the belly downwards, opens obstructions of the liver, and helps the yellow jaundice; expels poison, provokes women's courses, drives forth the dead child, and after-birth. The distilled water of the herb and flowers is effectual for all the same purposes; being drank with a dram of the powder of the seeds of bark or the roots of Wall-wort, and a little Cinnamon, for certain days together, it is held a singular remedy for the dropsy. The juice of the herb, or the distilled water, dropped into the eyes, is a certain remedy for all heat, inflammation, and redness in them. The juice or water put into foul ulcers, whether they be cancerous or fistulous, with tents rolled therein, or parts washed and injected therewith, cleanses them thoroughly from the bottom, and heals them up safely. The same juice or water also cleanses the skin wonderfully of all sorts of deformity, as leprosy, morphew, scurf, wheals, pimples, or spots, applied of itself, or used with some powder of Lupines.
Descript : Ordinary Flea-wort rises up with a stalk two feet high or more, full of joints and branches on every side up to the top, and at every joint two small, long and narrow whitish green leaves somewhat hairy. At the top of every branch stand divers small, short scaly, or chaffy heads out of which come forth small whitish yellow threads, like to those of the Plantain herbs, which are the bloomings of flowers. The seed enclosed in these heads is small and shining while it is fresh, very like unto fleas both for color and bigness, but turning black when it grows old. The root is not long, but white, hard and woody, perishing every year, and rising again of its own seed for divers years, if it be suffered to shed. The whole plant is somewhat whitish and hairy, smelling somewhat like rosin.
There is another sort hereof, differing not from the former in the manner of growing, but only that the stalk and branches being somewhat greater, do a little more bow down to the ground. The leaves are somewhat greater, the heads somewhat less, the seed alike; and the root and leaves abide all winter, and perish not as the former.
Place : The first grows only in gardens, the second plentifully in fields that are near the sea.
Time : They flower in July or thereabouts.
Government and virtues : The herb is cold, and dry, and saturnine. I suppose it obtained the name of Flea-wort, because the seeds are so like Fleas. The seeds fried, and taken, stays the flux or lask of the belly, and the corrosions that come by reason of hot choleric, or sharp and malignant humours, or by too much purging of any violent medicine, as Scammony, or the like. The mucilage of the seed made with Rose-water, and a little sugar-candy put thereto, is very good in all hot agues and burning fevers, and other inflammations, to cool the thirst, and lenify the dryness and roughness of the tongue and throat. It helps also hoarseness of the voice, and diseases of the breast and lungs, caused by heat, or sharp salt humours, and the pleurisy also. The mucilage of the seed made with Plantain water, whereunto the yoke of an egg or two, and a little Populeon are put, is a most safe and sure remedy to ease the sharpness, pricking, and pains of the hæmorrhoids or piles, if it be laid on cloth, and bound thereto. It helps all inflammations in any part of the body, and the pains that come thereby, as the headache and megrims, and all hot imposthumes, swellings, or breaking out of the skin, as blains, wheals, pushes, purples, and the like, as also the joints of those that are out of joint, the pains of the gout and sciatica, the burstings of young children, and the swellings of the navel, applied with oil of roses and vinegar. It is also good to heal the nipples and sore breasts of women, being often applied there-unto. The juice of the herb with a little honey put into the ears helps the running of them, and the worms breeding in them. The same also mixed with hog's grease, and applied to corrupt and filthy ulcers, cleanses them and heals them.
Descript : It rises up with a round upright hard stalk, four or five feet high, spread into sundry branches, whereon grow many greyish green leaves, very finely cut and severed into a number of short and almost round parts. The flowers are very small and yellow, growing spike fashion, after which come small long pods, with small yellowish seed in them. The root is long and woody, perishing every year.
There is another sort, differing in nothing, save only it has somewhat broad leaves; they have a strong evil savour, being smelled unto, and are of a drying taste.
Place : They flower wild in the fields by hedge-sides and highways, and among rubbish and other places.
Time : They flower and seed quickly after, namely in June and July.
Government and virtues : This herb is saturnine also. Both the herb and seed of Flux-weed is of excellent use to stay the flux or lask of the belly, being drank in water wherein gads of steel heated have been often quenched; and is no less effectual for the same purpose than Plantain or Comfrey, and to restrain any other flux of blood in man or woman, as also to consoladate bones broken or out of joint. The juice thereof drank in wine, or the decoction of the herb drank, doth kill the worms in the stomach or belly, or the worms that grow in putrid and filthy ulcers, and made into a salve doth quickly heal all old sores, how foul or malignant soever they be. The distilled water of the herb works the same effect, although somewhat weaker, yet it is a fair medicine, and more acceptable to be taken. It is called Flux-weed because it cures the flux, and for its uniting broken bones, &c. Paracelsus extol it to the skies. It is uniting broken bones, &c. Paracelsus extol it to the skies. It is fitting that syrup, ointment, and plaisters of it were kept in your house.
It is so well known, being nourished up in most gardens, that I shall not need to spend time in writing a description thereof.
Time : The flaggy kinds thereof have the most physical uses; the dwarf kinds thereof flowers in April, the greater sorts in May.
Government and virtues : The herb is Luner. The juice or decoction of the green root of the flaggy kind of Flower-de-luce, with a little drank, doth purge and cleanse the stomach of gross and tough phlegm, and choler therein; it helps the jaundice and the dropsy, evacuating those humours both upwards and downwards; and because it somewhat hurts the stomach, is not to be taken without honey and spikenard. The same being drank, doth ease the pains and torments of the belly and sides, the shaking of agues, the diseases of the liver and spleen, the worms of the belly, the stone in the reins, convulsions and cramps that come of old humours; it also helps those whose seed passes from them unawares. It is a remedy against the bitings and stingings of venomous creatures being boiled in water and vinegar and drank. Boiled in water and drank, it provokes urine, helps the cholic, brings down women's courses; and made up into a pessary with honey, and put up into the body, draws forth the dead child. It is much commended against the cough, to expectorate rough phlegm. It much eases pains in the head, and procures sleep; being put into the nostrils it procures sneezing, and thereby purges the head of phlegm. The juice of the root applied to the piles or hæmorrhoids, gives much ease. The decoction of the roots gargled in the mouth, eases the tooth-ache, and helps the stinking breath. Oil called Oleum Irinum, if it be rightly made of the great broad flag Flower-de-luce and not of the great bulbous blue Flower-de-luce, (as is used by some apothecaries) and roots of the same, of the flaggy kinds, is very effectual to warm and comfort all cold joints and sinews, as also the gout and sciatica, and mollifies, dissolves and consumes tumours and swellings in any part of the body, as also of the matrix; it helps the cramp, or convulsions of the sinews. The head and temples anointed therewith, helps the catarrh or thin rheum distilled from thence; and used upon the breast or stomach, helps to extenuate the cold tough phlegm; it helps also the pains and noise in the ears, and the stench of the nostrils. The root itself, either green or in powder, helps to cleanse, heal, and incarnate wounds, and to cover the naked bones with flesh again, that ulcers have made bare; and is also very good to cleanse and heal up fistulas and cankers that are hard to be cured.
FLUELLIN, OR LLUELLIN
Descript : It shoots forth many long branches partly lying upon the ground, and partly standing upright, set with almost red leaves, yet a little pointed, and sometimes more long than round, without order thereon, somewhat hairy, and of an evil greenish white color; at the joints all along the stalks, and with the leaves come forth small flowers, one at a place, upon a very small short foot-stalk, gaping somewhat like Snapdragons, or rather like Toad-flax, with the upper jaw of a yellow color, and the lower of a purplish, with a small heel or spur behind; after which come forth small round heads, containing small black seed. The root is small and thready, dying every year, and rises itself again of its own sowing.
There is another sort of Lluellin which has longer branches wholly trailing upon the ground, two or three feet long, and somewhat more thin, set with leaves thereon, upon small foot-stalks. The leaves are a little larger, and somewhat round, and cornered sometimes in some places on the edges; but the lower part of them being the broadest, hath on each side a small point, making it seem as if they were ears, sometimes hairy, but not hoary, and of a better green color than the former. The flowers come forth like the former, but the colors therein are more white than yellow, and the purple not so far. It is a large flower, and so are the seed and seedvessels. The root is like the other, and perishes every year.
Place : They grow in divers corn fields, and in borders about them, and in other fertile grounds about Southfleet in Kent abundantly; at Buchrite, Hamerton, and Rickmanworth in Huntingdonshire, and in divers other places.
Time : They are in flower about June and July, and the whole plant is dry and withered before August be done.
Government and virtues : It is a Lunar herb. The leaves bruised and applied with barley meal to watering eyes that are hot and inflamed by defluxions from the head, do very much help them, as also the fluxes of blood or humours, as the lask, bloody flux, women's courses, and stays all manner of bleeding at the nose, mouth, or any other place, or that comes by any bruise or hurt, or bursting a vein; it wonderfully helps all those inward parts that need consolidating or strengthening, and is no less effectual both to heal and close green wounds, than to cleanse and heal all foul or old ulcers, fretting or spreading cankers or the like. This herb is of a fine cooling, drying quality, and an ointment or plaister of it might do a man a courtesy that hath any hot virulent sores. 'Tis admirable for the ulcers of the French pox; if taken inwardly, may cure the desease.
Descript : It has many long and broad leaves lying upon the ground dented upon the edges, a little soft or woolly, and of a hoary green color, among which rise up sometimes sundry stalks, but one very often, bearing such leaves thereon from the bottom to the middle, from whence to the top it is stored with large and long hollow reddish purple flowers, a little more long and eminent at the lower edge, with some white spots within them, one above another with small green leaves at every one, but all of them turning their heads one way, and hanging downwards, having some threads also in the middle, from whence rise round heads, pointed sharp at the ends, wherein small brown seed lies. The roots are so many small fibres, and some greater strings among them; the flowers have no scent, but the leaves have a bitter hot taste.
Place : It grows on dry sandy ground for the most part, and as well on the higher as the lower places under hedge-sides in almost every county of this land.
Time : It seldom flowers before July, and the seed is ripe in August.
Government and virtues : The plant is under the dominion of Venus, being of a gentle cleansing nature, and withal very friendly to nature. The herb is familiarly and frequently used by the Italians to heal any fresh or green wound, the leaves being but bruised and bound thereon; and the juice thereof is also used in old sores, to cleanse, dry, and heal them. The decoction hereof made up with some sugar or honey, is available to cleanse and purge the body both upwards and downwards, sometimes of tough phlegm and clammy humours, and to open obstructions of the liver and spleen. It has been found by experience to be available for the king's evil, the herb bruised and applied, or an ointment made with the juice thereof, and so used; and a decoction of two handfuls thereof, with four ounces of Polipody in ale, has been found by late experience to cure divers of the falling sickness, that have been troubled with it above twenty years. I am confident that an ointment of it is one of the best remedies for scabby head that is.
Descript : Our common Fumitory is a tender sappy herb, sends forth from one square, a slender weak stalk, and leaning downwards on all sides, many branches two or three feet long, with finely cut and jagged leaves of a whitish or rather bluish sea green color. At the tops of the branches stand many small flowers, as it were in a long spike one above another, made like little birds, of a reddish purple color, with whitish bellies, after which come small round husks, containing small black seeds. The root is yellow, small, and not very long, full of juice while it is green, but quickly perishes with the ripe seed. In the corn fields in Cornwall, it bears white flowers.
Place : It grows in corn fields almost every where, as well as in gardens.
Time : It flowers in May, for the most part, and the seed ripens shortly after.
Government and virtues : Saturn owns the herb, and presents it to the world as a cure for his own disease, and a strengthener of the parts of the body he rules. If by my astrological judgment of diseases, from the decumbiture, you find Saturn author of the disease, or if by direction from a nativity you fear a saturnine disease approaching, you may by this herb prevent it in the one, and cure it in the other, and therefore it is fit you keep a syrup of it always by you. The juice or syrup made thereof, or the decoction made in whey by itself, with some other purging or opening herbs and roots to cause it to work the better (itself being but weak) is very effectual for the liver and spleen, opening the obstructions thereof, and clarifying the blood from saltish, choleric, and adust humours, which cause leprosy, scabs, tetters, and itches, and such like breakings-out of the skin, and after the purgings doth strengthen all the inward parts. It is also good against the yellow-jaundice, and spends it by urine, which it procures in abundance. The powder of the dried herb given for some time together, cures melancholy, but the seed is strongest in operation for all the former diseases. The distilled water of the herb is also of good effect in the former diseases, and conduces much against the plague and pestilence, being taken with good treacle. The distilled water also, with a little water and honey of roses, helps all sores of the mouth or throat, being gargled often therewith. The juice dropped into the eyes, clears the sight and takes away redness and other defects in them, although it procure some pain for the present, and cause tears. Dioscorides saith it hinders any fresh springing of hairs on the eye-lids (after they are pulled away) if the eye-lids be anointed with the juice hereof, with Gum Arabic dissolved therein. The juice of the Fumitory and Docks mingled with vinegar, and the places gently washed therewith, cures all sorts of scabs, pimples, blotches, wheals, and pushes which arise on the face or hands or any other parts of the body.
THE FURZE BUSH
It is as well known by this name, as it is in some counties by the name of Gorz or Whins, that I shall not need to write any description thereof, my intent being to teach my countrymen what they know not, rather than to tell them again of that which is general known before.
Place : They are known to grow on dry barren heaths, and other waste, gravelly or sandy grounds, in all counties of this land.
Time : They also flower in the Summer months.
Government and virtues : Mars owns the herb. They are hot and dry, and open obstructions of the liver and spleen. A decoction made with the flowers thereof hath been found effectual against the jaundice, as also to provoke urine, and cleanse the kidneys from gravel or stone ingendered in them. Mars doth also this by sympathy.
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