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A Druid Sacred Herb. An ancient plant, believed by the Greeks to treat intoxication, its toxic leaves are used as a poultice to soothe neuralgia, rheumatism, and sciatica, and in a tincture for toothache and whooping cough. They reduce fevers, expel worms and in a compress, reduce cellulite. They contain saponins and in solution, darken hair, blacken silk and taffeta. Ivy leaves kill some amoebas, fungi and mollusks.
Tender ivy twigs are simmered in salves to heal sunburn; follow the standard instruction for salves. The leaves are used as a douche for vaginal infections. Externally, ivy is used in poultices to heal nerves, sinews, ulcers, enlarged glands, boils and abscesses.
Parts Used: Twig and leaf
Magical Uses: Connected with the Winter Solstice when it is used for decorating. Ivy provides protection when growing on or near a house. Ivy is equated with fidelity and is woven into marriage wreaths. Use in charms to bind luck, love, and fidelity to your person. It is paired with holly, magically. Ivy is carried by women for good luck in general, and is worn by brides for the same reason. Traditional crowns for the bride and groom are made of holly (a male plant) and ivy (a female plant). Wreaths and altar decorations are made from these as well.
See Moss, Iceland.
Botanical: Strychnos Ignatii (BERG.)
Family: N.O. Loganiaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
Preparations and Dodages
---Synonyms---Faba Ignatic. Ignatia amara (Linn.).
---Part Used---Ripe dried seeds.
---Description---A large woody climbing shrub, introduced into Cochin China, and highly esteemed there as a medicine. It attracted the attention of the Jesuits, hence its name. In commerce the beans are about one full inch long; ovate, a dull blacky brown color, very hard and horny, covered in patches with silvery adpressed hairs; endosperm translucent, enclosing an irregular cavity with an oblong embryo; no odour; taste extremely bitter. Each fruit contains about twelve to twenty seeds embedded in the pulp from which they have to be separated.
---Constituents---The beans have the same properties as Nux Vomica, but contain more strychnine, also brucine, a volatile principle extractive, gum, resin, coloring matter, a fixed oil, and bassorin; they contain no albumen or starch.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Tonic and stimulant in action like Nux Vomica, which, being cheaper, is nearly always used as a substitute. Old writers lauded these beans as a remedy against cholera. They are useful in certain forms of heart trouble, but must be used with the greatest caution, as they are a very active and powerful poison.
---Antidotes---Same as for strychnine, chloroform, belladonna, aconite, tobacco, chloral hydrate 1 drachm doses, morphia.
---Preparations and Dosages---Tincture of Ignatia, 5 to 20 minims. Alkaline Tincture of Ignatia (syn. Goute Ameres de Beaume), 5 to 20 minims.
See Hemp, Indian.
Botanical: Gillenia trifoliata (MOENCH.)
Family: N.O. Rosaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Bowman's Root. American Ipecacuanha. Gillenia. Indian Hippo. Spiraea trifoliata. Spiraea stipulata.
---Habitat---Eastern United States.
---Description---A perennial herb, indigenous to the United States, its irregular, brownish root gives rise to several stems 2 or 3 feet in height, and has depending from it many long, thin fibres. The leaves and leaflets are of various shapes, and the white, reddish-tinged flowers grow in a few loose, terminal panicles.
The dried root is reddish brown, the bark being easily removed and pulverized. Within, it is light, ligneous, and comparatively inert. The bitterness of the bark is extracted by alcohol, or by water at 212 degrees F., to which a red color is given.
It grows well in the author's garden, in slightly moist, rich soil, not in the full blaze of the mid-day sun.
---Constituents---The roots have been found to contain gum, starch, gallotannic acid, fatty matter, wax, resin, lignin, albumen, salts and coloring matter.
Gillenin was obtained by W. B. Stanhope by exhausting coarsely powdered bark with alcohol, evaporating the resulting red tincture to the consistency of an extract, dissolving this in cold water, filtering, evaporating, and finally drying on glass.
Half a grain caused nausea and retching.
Two glucosides were found, Gillein, from the ethereal extract, and Gilleenin, from the aqueous infusion.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Tonic, emetic, slightly diaphoretic, cathartic, and expectorant. The American Indians and early colonists knew the uses of the roots, the action of which resembles Ipecacuanha.
Recommended in dyspepsia, dropsy, rheumatism, chronic costiveness, and whenever an emetic is required. It is safe and reliable.
---Dosages---Of powdered root, as an emetic, 20 to 30 grains. In dyspepsia, as a tonic, 2 to 4 grains. As a sudorific, in cold water, 6 grains at intervals of two or three hours. It may be combined with opium. Frequent large doses of the infusion cause vomiting and purging.
Gillenia stipulata, taller and more bushy,with fewer flowers and roots more like those of Ipecac; grows as far west as Kansas.
It is, equally with G. trifoliata, the source of Gillenia.
Botanical: Indigofera tinctoria
Family: N.O. Leguminosae
---Part Used---The plant.
---Habitat---India; cultivated in sub-tropical countries.
---Description---A blue dyestuff is obtained from the various species of Indigofera. It does not exist ready formed, but is produced during fermentation from another agent existing in the plant. This is called Indocan, and is yellow, amorphous, of a nauseous bitter taste with an acid reaction; readily soluble in water, alcohol and ether.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Indigo was at one time much used in medicine, but now is rarely employed. It is said to produce nausea and vomiting.
It is a very well-known and highly important dye, millions of pounds being exported from India annually.
An artificial product, Indigotine, is manufactured chemically and used as a substitute.
Botanical: Baptisia tinctoria (R. BR.)
Family: N.O. Leguminosae
---Synonyms---Baptisia. Horse-fly Weed. Rattlebush. Indigo-weed. Sophora tinctoria (Linn.). Podalyria tinctoria (Michx.)
---Parts Used---Root, bark, leaves.
---Habitat---Dry hily woods from Canada to Carolia.
---Description---An herbaceous perennial which takes its name from the Greek Bapto (to dye); has a black woody root, yellowish internally with many rootlets; stem about 3 feet high smooth, glabrous, round, and branched; leaves, small, subsessile, alternate and palmately trifoliate; leaflets rounded at end; calyx four-cleft; flowers, yellow, blooming August and September, in small loose terminal racemes. Legume short, bluish-black seeds, subreniform.
---Constituents---The root is non-odorous and of a nauseous acrid taste, containing gum, albumen, starch, a yellowish resin and a crystalline substance.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Used internally in form of decoction or syrup in scarlatina, typhus, and in all cases where there is a tendency to putrescency; it is purgative, emetic, stimulant, astringent, and antiseptic, principally used for its antiseptic qualities.
---Dosage---Of the decoction, 1 tablespoonful. Fluid extract, 1/4 to 1/2 drachm. Baptisin, 1 to 3 grains.
Botanical: Psychotria Ipecacuanha (STOKES)
Family: N.O. Rubiaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
Preparations and Dosages
---Habitat---The root used in medicine under this name is that of a small, shrubby plant about a foot high, belonging to the order Rubiaceae, which is found in most parts of Brazil, growing in clumps or patches, in moist, shady woods.
The drug is chiefly collected in the interior, in the province of Matto Grosso and near the German colony of Philadelphia, north of Rio de Janeiro. It is also found in New Granada and in Bolivia.
---Description---The plant has a slender stem which grows partly underground and is often procumbent at the base, the lower portion being knotted.
Fibrous rootlets are given off from the knots, and some of them develop an abnormally thick bark, in which much starch is deposited.
The thickened rootlets alone are collected and dried for medicinal use, since the active constituents of the drug are found chiefly in the bark.
Ipecacuanha roots are collected, chiefly by the Indians, during the months of January and February, when the plant is in flower and are prepared by separation from the stem, cleaning and hanging in bundles to dry in the sun.
The drug is known in commerce as Brazilian or Rio Ipecacuanha.
---History---The name of the plant is the Portuguese form of the native word, i-pe-kaa-guéne, which is said to mean 'road-side sick-making plant.'
In an account of Brazil, written by a Portuguese friar who had resided in that country from about 1570 to 1600, mention is made of three remedies for the bloody flux, one of which is called Igpecaya, or Pigaya, which is probably this root.
Although in common use in Brazil, Ipecacuanha was not employed in Europe prior to the year 1672, when a traveller named Legros brought a quantity of the root to Paris from South America. In 1680, a merchant of Paris named Garnier became possessed of 150 lb. of Ipecacuanha, and informed his assistant and the physician Helvetius of its usefulness in treating dysentery.
Helvetius prescribed the new drug, and it formed the basis of a patent medicine for dysentery. Trials were made of the composition, and Helvetius was granted by Louis XIV the sole right of vending the remedy. A few years after, the secret was bought from him by the French Government for 1,000 louis d'or and the formula was made public in 1688.
The botanical source of Ipecacuanha was the subject of much dispute, until it was finally settled by Gomez, a physician of the Portuguese Navy, who brought authentic specimens from Brazil to Lisbon in 1800.
Ipecacuanha occurs in commerce as slender and somewhat tortuous closely annulated pieces, which seldom exceed 6 inches in length and 1/4 inch in thickness. It varies in color from very dark brown to dark red, the latter color being partly due to adhering particles of earth. Difference in color may also be due to difference of age or mode of drying. The bark is constricted at short intervals, so as to give the root the appearance of a number of discs somewhat irregularly strung together. The constrictions are sometimes quite shallow in Brazilian or Rio Ipecacuanha, though they may penetrate nearly to the wood. The root is hard and breaks with a very short fracture, the fractured surface exhibiting a thick, dark grey bark or cortex, with a horny, resinous or starchy appearance and a hard, wiry centre - small dense wood, in which no distinct pores or pith can be discerned; when examined with a lens though it is radiate.
The drug has a bitter taste, but only a slight, rather musty odour.
It is generally mixed with more or less of the slender subterranean stem, which has only a very thin bark, surrounding a ring of wood which encloses a distinct pith, and is thus easily distinguished from the root. The activity of the drug resides chiefly in the cortical portion, hence the presence of the stem diminishes its value.
The variety imported from Colombia and known as Cartagena Ipecacuanha, the product of Psychotria acuminata, differs only in its larger size and in being less conspicuously annulated, the constrictions of the bark assuming the form of narrow merging ridges.
---Substitutes---In addition to the Cartagena Ipecacuanha, various other roots have been offered as substitutes, but all differ considerably.
East Indian Ipecacuanha, from Cryptocarpus spiralis, exhibits a typically monocotyledous structure in transverse section, scattered bundles running the pith, and a white starchy bark.
The name poaya is applied in Brazil to emetic roots of several genera belonging to the natural orders Rubiaceae, Violaceae and Polygalaceae, and hence several roots have from time to time been sent over to England as Ipecacuanha, but none of them possess the ringed or annulated appearance of the true drug. Of these, the root of Ionidium Ipecacuanha, Richardsonia scabra and P. emetica are those which have most frequently been exported from Brazil or Colombia.
Undulated Ipecacuanha, from R. scabra, is only lightly annulated, the wood is porous and the starchy bark often has a violet color.
Lesser Striated Ipecacuanha from another species of Richardsonia is dark purplish brown in color, longitudinally wrinkled, not annulated, and has porous wood.
Greater Striated Ipecacuanha from P. emetica, known as Black or Peruvian Ipecacuanha, closely resembles the preceding, but contains no starch and has dense wood. It grows in Peru and New Grenada, and in earlier days was for a long time considered as the source of the new drug, but is much less active.
White Ipecacuanha, from I. Ipecacuanha is greyish-white, or yellowish in color and is also free from starch. This likewise was for long believed to be the plant which produces the genuine drug. It is a member of the order Violaceae. The root is almost insipid and inodorous and is used in Brazil as an emetic, though it has been considered doubtful whether it possesses any well-defined properties.
The roots of several species of Borreria, as B. ferruginia and B. Poaya, are also used in Brazil as substitutes for Ipecacuanha.
---Constituents---The chief constituents of Ipecacuanha root are the alkaloids Emetine, Cephaelin and Psychotrine, of which the bark may contain from 1.5 to 2 per cent, of which about 72 per cent consists of Emetine and 26 per cent of Cephaelin, while only 2 per cent consists of Psychotrine.
Emetine, to which Ipecacuanha owes its properties and which, with the exception of traces, occurs only in the cortical portion of the root, is an amorphous white powder, but it forms crystalline salts. It has a bitter taste, no odour and turns yellow when exposed to air and light.
Other constituents are a crystalline saponin- like glucoside, an amorphous, bitter glucoside, which is a modification of tannin, and is known as Ipecacuanhic acid, choline, resin, pectin, starch, sugar, calcium oxalate, odorous, fatty matter and a disagreeable-smelling volatile oil.
Cartagena Ipecacuanha contains 2 to 3 per cent more alkaloidal matter than the Brazilian drug, but a smaller proportion of Emetine, Cephaelin being the alkaloid present in largest quantities.
East Indian Ipecacuanha and White Ipecacuanha contain minute quantities of emetic principles, which differ from the alkaloids of true Ipecacuanha, but the Undulated and Striated Ipecacuanha contain Emetine.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---In large doses, Ipecacuanha root is emetic; in smaller doses, diaphoretic and expectorant, and in still smaller, stimulating to the stomach, intestines and liver, exciting appetite and facilitating digestion.
The dose of the powdered root is 1/4 to 2 grains when an expectorant action is desired (it is frequently used in the treatment of bronchitis and laryngitis, combined with other drugs, aiding in the expulsion of the morbid product), and from 15 to 30 grains when given as an emetic, which is one of its most valuable functions.
The Pharmacopoeias contain a very large number of preparations of Ipecacuanha, most of which are standardized.
Ipecacuanha has been known for more than a century to benefit amoebic (or tropical) dysentery, and is regarded as the specific treatment, but the administration of the drug by mouth was limited by its action as an emetic. Sir Leonard Rogers showed in 1912 that subcutaneous injections of the alkaloid Emetine, the chief active principle present in Ipecacuanha usually produced a rapid cure in cases of amoebic dysentery. The toxic action of Emetine on the heart must be watched. A preparation from which the Emetine has been removed, known as de-emetized Ipecacuanha, is also in use for cases of dysentery.
The great value of the drug in dysentery and its rapid increase in price from an average of 2s. 9 1/2d. per lb. in 1850 to about 8s. 9d. per lb. in 1870, led to attempts to acclimatize the plant in India, but without much commercial success, owing to the difficulty of finding suitable places for its cultivation and to its slowness of growth. It is grown to a limited extent in the Malay States, at Johore, near Singapore. In December, 1915, the Brazil root was valued at 24s. per lb. and the Johore root at 20s. per lb. At the same time, Cartagena root sold for 16s. per lb. It would probably pay to grow this plant more extensively in the British Colonies.
The diaphoretic properties are employed in the Pulvis Ipecacuanhaea compositus, or Dover's Powder, which contains 1 part of Ipecacuanha powder and 1 part of Opium in 10.
When applied to the skin, Ipecacuanha powder acts as a powerful irritant, even to the extent of causing pustulations.
When inhaled, it causes sneezing and a mild inflammation of the nasal mucous membrane.
Toxic doses cause gastro-enteritis, cardiac failure, dilation of the blood-vessels, severe bronchitis and pulmonary inflammation.
---Preparations and Dosages---Powdered root, 5 to 30 grains. Fluid extract, B.P., 2 to 20 drops. Comp. Tinct. (Dover's), U.S.P., 8 drops. Wine, B.P., 10 drops to 6 drachms. Syrup, U.S.P., 1/4 to 4 drachms. Dover's Powder, B.P., 5 to 15 grains.
Other plants possessing emetic properties to a greater or less degree, to which the name of Ipecacuanha has been popularly applied are: American Ipec., Gillenia stipulacea; Wild Ipec., Euphorbia Ipecacuanha; Guinea Ipec., Boerhavia decumbens; Venezuela Ipec., Sarcostemma glaucum; Ipecacuanha des Allemands, Vincetoxicum officinale, and the Bastard Ipecacuanha, Asclepias cuirassavica, of the West Indies. This plant is used by the negroes as an emetic and the root is purgative; the juice of the plant, made into a syrup, is said to be a powerful anthelmintic, and as such is given to children in the West Indies.
Family: N.O. Iridaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
Orris Root - Medicinal Action
The Iris belongs to a family of plants that is justly popular in this country for its many varieties of handsome garden blooms, beautifying the borders in spring and early summer.
The plant is named after the rainbow goddess, 'Iris,' from the beauty and variety of colors in the flowers of the genus.
From ancient times the stately Iris stood as a symbol of power and majesty - it was dedicated to Juno and was the origin of thesceptre, the wiccans placing it on the brow of the Sphinx and on the sceptre of their kings, the three leaves of its blossoms typifying faith, wisdom and valour.
Cultivation has produced a great number of varieties, both among the bulbous or Spanish Iris (Iris xiphium) and the herbaceous, or Flag Irises, which have fleshy, creeping rootstocks or rhizomes. Among the latter, manyhave a considerable reputation for their medicinal virtues; in all the species belonging to this genus, the roots being more or less acrid, are possessed of cathartic and emetic properties. The chief economic use of the Iris at the present time is for the production of Orris Root (Rhizoma Iridis), which is derived from I. Germanica, I. pallida and I. Florentina, collected indiscriminately in Italy from these three species, well-known and very beautiful ornamental plants, natives of the eastern Mediterranean region, extending into Northern India and Northern Africa, and largely cultivated for their rhizomes in Southern Europe, mostly on the mountain slopes.
I. pseudacorus, I. foetidissima and I. tuberosa are the European species that have been employed in medicine, though their use has much declined, but the American species, I. versicolor, produces a drug official in the United States Pharmacopoeia.
Only two of these Irises are naturally wild plants in this country, I. pseudacorus (the Yellow Flag) and I. foetidissima (the Stinking Iris). I. tuberosa (the Snakeshead Iris), which has cathartic properties, is occasionally but very rarely found in Cornwall and South Devon, but it is not native, and where it occurs it is considered a garden escape.
I. Germanica and other Flag Irises are cultivated in this country for their beautiful flowers, but no attempts have been made to supply the market with the rhizomes.
In ancient Greece and Rome, Orris Root was largely used in perfumery, and Macedonia, Elis and Corinth were famous for their unguents of Iris.
Theophrastus and Dioscorides were well acquainted with Orris Root; Dioscorides and Pliny remark that the best comes from Illyricum (the modern Dalmatia). Probably I. Germanica is the Illyrian Iris of the ancients, as it is plentiful there and I. Florentina and I. pallida do not occur. The latter were probably introduced into Northern Italy in the early Middle Ages. The ancient arms of Florence - a white Lily or Iris on a red shield - seem to indicate that the city was famed for the growth of these plants. A writer of the thirteenth century, Petrus de Crescentiro of Bologna, mentions the cultivation of the White, as well as of the Purple Iris, and states at what season the root should be collected for medicinal use.
IRIS GERMANICA (Linn.), Blue Flower de Luce, German Iris, is a handsome plant with sword-like leaves of a bluish-green color, narrow and flat, the largest of all the species. The flower-sterns are 2 to 3 feet high, the flowers, which bloom in May and June, are large and deep blue, or purplish-blue in color. The three bending petals, or falls, are of a faint purple, inclining to blue, with purple veins running lengthwise; the beard on them is yellow and the three erect petals or standards are bright blue, with faint purple stripes. The flowers have an agreeable scent, reminiscent of orange blossoms. The creeping root-stocks are thick and fleshy, spreading over the surface of the ground and of a brownish color.
---Habitat---The plant is a native of Southern Europe, very frequent in Italy, apart from its cultivation there, and is also cultivated in Morocco. In England, this German Flag or Flag Iris is by far the commonest of the family in gardens and justly deserves its popularity, for it will grow and flower well in the most unpromising situations and will bear with apparent equanimity hardships that few other plants would endure without loss of vitality. It is not moisture-loving - ordinary border soil, well cultivated, suits it well and the heavy clay soils are more or less inimical to its growth. If the best results are to be obtained, deep and rich beds should be prepared for these Irises, for they will well repay liberal treatment by the production of larger and more numerous flowers. Although they may be moved at any time of the year, April is the best month. They will not flower the same year, but they will during the summer, if attended to, become sufficiently strong to bloom freely the succeeding year. Winter is the worst time to move them, as in heavy soil, the plants often remain dormant without forming a single root-fibre until the spring. But they are easily increased in spring by dividing the root-stocks and replanting and watering into rich soil.
The German Iris, or Flag Iris of the nurseryman as it now exists, is a compound of many species and more varieties, as hybridization has been extensively carried on for many years.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The juice of the fresh roots of this Iris, bruised with wine, has been employed as a strong purge of great efficiency in dropsy, old physic writers stating that if the dropsy can be cured by the hand of man, this root will effect it. The juice is also sometimes used as a cosmetic and for the removal of freckles from the skin.
IRIS PALLIDA (Lamarck) has sweet-scented flowers of a delicate, pale blue. It is a native of the Eastern Mediterranean countries and grows very freely in Italy. It yields, with I. Germanica, the bulk of the drug.
IRIS FLORENTINA (Linn.), called by our old writers White Flower de Luce, or Flower de Luce of Florence, has large, white flowers tinged with pale lavender and a bright yellow beard on the falls. Less commonly, a purple form occurs, of smaller growth.
The fresh root, like that of I. Germanica, is a powerful cathartic, and for this reason its juice has been employed in dropsy.
It is chiefly used in the dry state, being said to be good for complaints of the lungs, for coughs and hoarseness, but is now more valued for the pleasantness of its violet-like perfume than for any other use.
Fresh roots have an earthy smell, the characteristic violet odour is gradually developed during the drying process and does not attain its maximum for at least two years, and even intensifies after that time. The essential oil may, therefore, be included in the class of socalled 'ferment-oils.'
The rhizomes of I. Germanica, I. pallida and I. Florentina so closely resemble one another that they are not easily distinguished. Contractions occur at intervals of about two inches, indicating the limit of a year's growth in each case.
When fresh, the rhizomes are extremely acrid and when chewed excite a pungent taste in the mouth, which continues some hours. This acridity is almost entirely dissipated when dried, the taste then being slightly bitter and the smell agreeable, closely approaching that of violets, though in the fresh state the rhizomes are practically odourless. The loss of acridity appears to be due to the disappearance of a volatile acrid principle on drying the rhizome.
All three species of Iris from which Orris root is derived were already cultivated in England in the time of Gerard, though not on a commercial scale.
---Collection---In Tuscany and other parts of Italy, large districts are given over to the cultivation of these three Irises . They are also cultivated, but only to a slight degree, in other parts of Europe, in Morocco and in India.
The planting of the Orris root in Tuscany - locally known as 'giaggiolo' - is a matter of great importance. When the Iris begins to grow, the ground is carefully and systematically weeded, this being chiefly done by women, who traverse the rows of the plants barefoot, hoeing up the weeds; whole families of peasants work together at this, and in the subsequent collection, trimming and drying of the roots.
The Orris plant takes two or even three years to arrive at maturity, only a somewhat sparse growth being attained during the second year: the flowers are very fine, but the roots are as yet immature. In the third year of its growth, the plant attains almost the height of a man. The full beauty of the flowers lasts during May and June, in July they fade and wither and the glory of the plantation is over.
The product of a good harvest at a large Orris plantation at San Polo, in the hilly region midway between Florence and Siena in Tuscany, is about a million kilogrammes of fresh roots (about 1,000 tons), yielding after peeling and drying, roughly 300 tons of dry root.
Orris root, in the decorticated, dried condition, is imported into England in large casks, mainly from Leghorn, Trieste and Mogador.
There are several varieties of Orris in commerce, differing chiefly in color and the care with which they have been peeled. The finest is Florentine Orris, from I. Florentina, which is carefully peeled, nearly white, plump and very fragrant, irregular in shape, bearing small marks where the rootlets have been removed. Veronese Orris, from I. Germanica, is usually somewhat compressed and elongated, less suddenly tapering than the Florentine root, less carefully peeled, yellowish in color, and somewhat wrinkled and has not the fine fragrance of the Florentine Orris.
Morocco or Mogadore Orris, also obtained from I. Germanica, bears particles of reddishbrown cork, is darker in color generally and less fragrant; the pieces are also smaller, flatter, more shrunken and often bear the shrivelled remains of leaves at the apex. This variety is sometimes bleached with sulphur dioxide. It is altogether inferior to both the foregoing varieties. Bombay Orris is also of small size, dark-colored and of inferior fragrance.
---Constituents---The chief constituent of Orris root is the oil of Orris 0.1 to 0.2 per cent), a yellowish-white to yellow mass, containing about 85 per cent of odourless myristic acid, which appears to be liberated from a fat present in the rhizome during the process of steam distillation. Oil of Orris is known commercially as Orris Butter.
Other constituents are fat, resin, a large quantity of starch, mucilage, bitter extractive and a glucoside named Iridin, which is not to be confused with the powdered extracti Iridin or Irisin, prepared from the rhizome of the American plant I. versicolor, by precipitating a tincture of the drug with water and mixing the precipitate with an equal weight of powdered liquorice root, or other absorbent powder.
The odorous constituent of oil of Orris is a liquid ketone named Irone, to which the violet-like odour is due (though it is not absolutely identical with oil of Violets obtained from the natural flower), and it is the presence of this principle in the rhizome that has long led to the employment of powdered Orris root in the preparation of Violet powders, which owe very little of their scent to the real Violet perfume. It was first isolated by the eminent chemist Tiemann and formed the basis of his researches on artificial Violet perfume, and in 1893 he succeeded in preparing an allied body, which was termed Ionone and which had an odour even more like that of Violets than had Irone, and is now largely manufactured for the perfumery trade in making toilet waters and handkerchief extracts. The discovery of Ionone, which costs about one-eighth of the natural oil of Violets, has popularized Violet perfume to an enormous extent: most of the cheaper Violet perfumes on the market contain no trace of true Violet, but are made entirely with the artificial Ionone.
Otto of Orris is a golden-yellow oily liquid, which contains the odorous principles of the concrete oil of the rhizome without the solid, fatty inodorous constituents.
The important industry of Orris root still requires the light of scientific research to be thrown upon the life history of the plant to determine the conditions under which the largest percentage of the volatile oil can be developed.
---Orris Root - Medicinal Action and Uses---Orris Root is rarely employed in medicine at the present time.
The fresh root possesses diuretic, emetic and cathartic properties. If given in large doses, it will occasion nausea, vomiting, purging and colic.
The drug was formerly employed in the treatment of bronchitis and chronic diarrhoea, and was considered a useful remedy in dropsy. The internal dose is stated to be from 5 to 15 grains.
The starch of the rhizome was formerly reckoned medicinal.
The dried powder is said to act as a good snuff, useful to excite sneezing to relieve cases of congested headache.
Pieces of the dried root are occasionally chewed for the purpose of overcoming a disagreeable breath.
The principal use of the dried root is, however, in perfumery, in sachet powders and to flavour dentifrices, toothpowders and cachous.
Oil of Orris, obtained by distilling powdered Orris root with steam, has an intense and extremely delicate odour of the fresh Violet and commands a high price. It is used commercially in the preparation of the finest scents and is also blended with artificial Violet perfumes, the odour of which it renders more subtle. Orris has the power of strengthening the odour of other fragrant bodies and is used as a fixative in perfumery.
Powdered Orris root is sometimes put into rinsing water in laundries and imparts a refreshing and fragrant scent to the linen.
Orris root, mixed with Anise, was used in England as a perfume for linen as early as 1480, under which date it is mentioned in the Wardrobe accounts of Edward IV.
One of the most interesting of the MS. still-room books of the later seventeenth century is Mary Doggett: Her Book of Receipts, 1682. In it we find 'A perfume for a sweet bagg,' as follows:
'Take half a pound of Cypress Roots, a pound of Orris, 3 quarter of a pound of Calamus, 3 Orange stick with Cloves, 2 ounces of Benjamin, 3 quarters of a pound of Rhodium, a pound of Coriander seed, and an ounce of Storax and 4 pecks of Damask Rose leaves, a peck of dryed sweet Marjerum, a pretty stick of Juniper shaved very thin, some lemon pele dryed and a stick of Brasill; let all these be powdered very grosely for ye first year and immediately put into your baggs; the next year pound and work it and it will be very good again.'
Dr. Rhind (History of the Vegetable Kingdom, 1868) states that Orris gives the peculiar flavour to artificial brandies made in this country, and the root is much used in Russia to flavour a drink made of honey and ginger which is sold in the streets.
The larger and finer roots are often turned into pretty forms to be used for ornamental purposes, rosary beads, etc., and long pieces of Verona Orris are often shaped for infants' use when teething. The less handsome rhizomes, as well as the chips, are distilled.
Lyte says 'the Iris is knowen of the clothworkers and drapers, for with these rootes they use to trimme their clothes to make them sweete and pleasant.' This was probably the 'swete clothe' so celebrated in the reign of Elizabeth.
Botanical: Iris Pseudacorus (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Iridaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Iris Aquatica. Iris lutia. Yellow Flag. Yellow Iris. Fleur de Luce. Dragon Flower. Myrtle Flower. Fliggers. Flaggon. Segg. Sheggs. Daggers. Jacob's Sword. Gladyne. Meklin. Levers. Livers. Shalder.
Of all British wild plants, none can rival in stately beauty this native representative of the Irises, one of the most distinguished plants in the marginal vegetation of watery places, not only in this country, being universally distributed in Great Britain and growing also in Ireland, but also throughout Europe, North Africa and Siberia.
It is found on river-banks, by the side of lakes, ponds, etc., in ditches and hedges, but any moist, shady place will suit it, and it is quite worthy of a place in our gardens.
Propagation is effected in autumn or spring, by division of the root-stocks. It should not, however, be allowed to grow where cattle feed.
---Description---From the thick, creeping rhizome, brownish on the outside, reddish and spongy within, which pushes through the moist ground parallel to the surface, many rootlets pass downwards. From above it, rise the broad, flat, sword-shaped, stalkless leaves, bound several together into a sheath at the base. The lower, radical leaves are 2 to 3 feet tall, the upper leaves much shorter, embracing the flower-stalk, which is round and seldom rises as high as the outer leaves. On the top of the stem are the beautiful, very conspicuous, deep yellow flowers, two or three together, the buds being very large and pointed. The mature flowers consist of three large, drooping, yellow petal-like sepals (the falls) with brownish mottled markings on their upper surfaces, inside which are the three petalloid stigmas, also yellow, which arch gracefully over the stamens, forming a rain-protecting roof for the pollen, as in all the Irises. The honey is contained in canals on the inner side, towards the base of the small, erect petals and out of these it exudes and lies round the ovary in the heart of the flower. The Yellow Iris is adapted to receive two kinds of insect visitors, the Bumble Bee (Bombus), and the Honey Bee (Apis mellifica), and also the long-tongued Hover-Fly (Rhingia rostrata), which in seeking the honey, push through the outer perianth segments and the style, the anther being between, dusting its back with the pollen.
After fertilization, the floral leaves fade and drop away from the top of the capsule, which increases in size. When ripe, the capsule opens above and allows the smooth, flattened seeds, when blown by the wind, to fall some distance away.
This Iris is in bloom from May to July.
Locally, the plant is often called 'Segg,' 'Skeggs' or 'Cegg,' all of which names come down from Anglo-Saxon days, 'Segg' being the Anglo-Saxon for a small sword, an obvious allusion to the shape of its leaves. The names 'Daggers' and 'Jacob's Sword ' have a similar allusion, and 'Yellow Saggen,' 'Seag,' 'Seggin' are variations of Seg. In the days of Chaucer, it was called Gladyne. To the popular mind in early days, the fluttering segment of the perianth suggested the waving of a flag, hence the origin of the names 'Yellow Flag,' 'Water Flag' and 'Sword Flag,' and corruptions of the name such as 'Flaggon,' 'Flaggon's' and perhaps 'Fliggers,' the latter stated to be applied to it from the motion of its leaves by the slightest breeze. The strange name 'Cheiper' is explained 'because children make a shrill noise with its leaves,' and 'Cucumbers' refers to the seedvessels, which when green resemble young cucumbers.
Culpepper calls it 'Myrtle Flag or Myrtle Grass.'
It is also called the Flower de Luce, or Fleur de Lys, being the origin of the heraldic emblem of the Kings of France. The legend is that early in the sixth century, the Frankish King Clovis, faced with defeat in battle, was induced to pray for victory to the god of his Christian wife, Clothilde. He conquered and became a Christian and thereupon replaced the three toads on his banner by three Irises, the Iris being the Virgin's flower. Six hundred years later, it was adopted by Louis VII of France as his heraldic bearings in his Crusade against the Saracens, and it is said that it then became known as Fleur de Louis, corrupted into Fleur de Luce and then into Fleur de Lys or Lis, though another theory for the name is that it was not named Fleur de Lys from Louis, but from the river Lys, on the borders of Flanders, where it was peculiarly abundant.
Its specific name, Pseudacorus, refers to its similarity to another plant, pseudo being the Greek for false, while acorus is the generic name of the Sweet Sedge (Acorus calamus), with which it is supposed to have been confused, the plants when not in flower resembling it and growing in the same situations. The Sweet Sedge, however, has an aromatic scent, while Iris Pseudacorus is odourless.
The Romans called the plant consecratix, from its being used in purifications, and Pliny mentions certain ceremonies used in digging up the plant.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The Yellow Flag rhizome was formerly much employed as a medicine, acting as a very powerful cathartic, but from its extremely acrid nature is now seldom used. An infusion of it has been found to be effective in checking diarrhoea, and it is reputed of value in dysmenorrhoea and leucorrhoea.
It was formerly held in the highest esteem, the juice of the root being considered a cure for obstinate coughs, 'evil spleens,' convulsions, dropsies and serpents' bites, and as Gerard also says, 'doth mightilie and vehementlie draw forth choler.' Gerard recommended it as a cosmetic, saying:
'The root, boiled soft, with a few drops of rosewater upon it, laid plaisterwise upon the face of man or woman, doth in two daies at the most take away the blacknesse and blewnesse of any stroke or bruise,'
though he adds as a warning that if the skin
'be very tender and delicate, it shall be needful that ye lay a piece of silke, sindall or a piece of fine lawne betweene the plaister and the skinne for otherwise in such tender bodies it often causeth heat and inflammation.'
'an oil made of the roots and flowers of the Iris, made in the same way as oil of roses and lilies. It is used to rub in the sinews and joints to strengthen them, and is good for cramp.'
Parkinson, of all the varieties, most esteems 'for his excellent beautie and raretie the great Turkie Flower de luce.'
'And for a sweet powder to lay among linnen and garments and to make sweet waters to wash hand-gloves or other things to perfume them' the roots of the sweetsmelling Flag.
The acrid juice snuffed up the nostrils excites violent sneezing, and on the authority of Dr. Thornton, 'in this way it has cured complaints of the head of long standing in a marvellous way.' The root powdered was also used as snuff.
The old authorities praised it as a cure for toothache, a slice of the rhizome rubbed against the aching tooth or held in the mouth between the teeth, being supposed to cause the pain to disappear at once.
The root was also an ingredient in an antidote to poison. Withering (Arrangement of Plants) mentions it as having cured swine bitten by a mad dog.
Culpepper (1652) says that the distilled water of the whole herb is a sovereign remedy for weak eyes, either applied on a wet bandage, or dropped into the eye, and that an ointment made of the flowers is very good for ulcers or swellings.
A French chemist, early last century, discovered that the seeds, when ripe, freed from the friable skin which envelops them, produces a beverage similar to coffee and even much superior to it in flavour, but they must be well roasted before using.
The flowers afford a beautiful yellow dye, and the root, with sulphate of iron, a good black dye.
The acrid properties are entirely dissipated by drying, after which it acts only as an astringent, so powerful from the amount of tannin contained, that it has been used in the place of Galls in the making of ink.
Botanical: Iris tenax
Family: N.O. Iridaceae
---Habitat---The hillsides of Oregon.
This is incorrectly listed as Iris Lenax, in the printed version of A Modern Herbal. As per Hortius III, p 605, the correct listing is Iris Tenax.
A tincture of the whole plant, or of the bulbous stems, is given in bilious vomiting, and is recommended for depression.
The Indians use the fibres of this plant for making ropes.
Botanical: Iris Versicolor (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Iridaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
Preparations and Dosages
---Synonyms---Blue Flag. Poison Flag. Flag Lily. Liver Lily. Snake Lily. Dragon Flower. Dagger Flower. Water Flag.
Iris Versicolor (Linn.) is a perennial herb, found abundantly in swamps and low grounds throughout eastern and central North America, common in Canada, as well as in the United States, liking a loamy or peaty soil. It is not a native of Europe.
It grows 2 to 3 feet high, with narrow, sword-shaped leaves, and from May to July produces large, handsome flowers, blue, except for the yellow and whitish markings at the base of the sepals.
---Description---Blue Flag Rhizome has annual joints, 2 or more inches long, about 3/4 inch in diameter, cylindrical in the lower half, becoming compressed towards the crown, where the cup-shaped stem-scar is seen, when dry, and numerous rings, formed of leaf scars are apparent above and scars of rootlets below. It is dark brown externally and longitudinally wrinkled. The fracture is short, purplish, the vascular bundles scattered through the central column. The rootlets are long, slender and simple. The rhizome has a very slight but peculiar odour, and a pungent, acrid and nauseous taste.
Owing to the similarity of name, and the appearance before blooming, this flag is sometimes mistaken by American children for Sweet Flag or Calamus, which grows in the same localities, often with disastrous results.
Of the 100 species of true Iris, twenty-two inhabit the United States, but only one, Iris Missouriensis, much resembles this species (the rhizome of which yields an official American drug), or has a rhizome likely to be mistaken for it.
When cultivated, the American Blue Flag succeeds best in heavy, rich, moist soil. If planted in August or September, it can be harvested at the end of October the following year. The yield per acre is 3 to 4 tons of the rhizome.
---Constituents---The rhizome contains starch, gum, tannin, volatile oil, 25 per cent of acrid, resinous matter, isophthalic acid, traces of salicylic acid and possibly an alkaloid, though a number of substances contained are still unidentified. It owes its medicinal virtues to an oleoresin.
Distilled with water, the fresh rhizome yields an opalescent distillate, from which is separated a white, camphoraceous substance with a faint odour. The oil possesses the taste and smell, but only partly the medicinal activity of the drug.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The root is an official drug of the United States Pharmacopoeia and is the source of the Iridin or Irisin of commerce, a powdered extractive, bitter, nauseous and acrid, with diuretic and aperient properties.
Iridin acts powerfully on the liver, but, from its milder action on the bowels, is preferable to podophyllin.
The fresh Iris is quite acrid and if employed internally produces nausea, vomiting, purging and colicky pains. The dried root is less acrid and is employed as an emetic, diuretic and cathartic. The oleoresin in the root is purgative to the liver, and useful in bilious sickness in small doses.
It is chiefly used for its alterative properties, being a useful purgative in disorders of the liver and duodenum, and is an ingredient of many compounds for purifying the blood. It acts as a stimulant to the liver and intestinal glands and is used in constipation and biliousness, and is believed by some to be a hepatic stimulant second only to podophyllin, but if given in full doses it may occasion considerable nausea and severe prostration.
Its chief use is for syphilis and some forms of low-grade scrofula and skin affection. It is also valuable in dropsy.
It is said to have been used by the southern North American Indians as a cathartic and emetic.
The flowers afford a fine blue infusion, which serves as a test for acids and alkalies.
---Preparations and Dosages---Powdered root, as a cathartic, 20 grains. Irisin, 1 to 3 grains. Solid extract, 10 to 15 grains. Fluid extract, 1/2 to 1 drachm. Tincture, 1 to 3 drachms.
See Moss, Irish.
See Plantain, Ispaghul.
See Virginia Creeper.
Botanical: Hedera Helix (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Araliaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Parts Used---Leaves, berries.
---Habitat---The plant is found over the greater part of Europe and Northern and Central Asia, and is said to have been particularly abundant at Nyssa, the fabled home of Bacchus in his youth. There are many varieties, but only two accepted species, i.e. Hedera Helix and the Australian species, which is confined to the southern Continent.
This well-known evergreen climber, with its dark-green, glossy, angular leaves is too familiar to need detailed description. It climbs by means of curious fibres resembling roots, which shoot out from every part of the stem, and are furnished with small disks at the end, which adapt themselves to the roughness of the bark or wall against which the plant grows and to which it clings firmly. These fibres on meeting with soil or deep crevices become true roots, obtaining nourishment for the plant, but when dilated at the extremity, they merely serve to attach the stems and do not absorb nourishment from the substance to which they adhere. The Ivy is therefore liable to injure the trees around which it twines by abstracting the juices of the stem.
When it attains the summit of a tree or wall, it grows out in a bushy form, and the leaves instead of being five-lobed and angular, as they are below, become ovate, with entire margins. Ivy only produces flowers when the branches get above their support, the flowering branches being bushy and projecting a foot or two from the climbing stems, with flowers at the end of every shoot.
Professor Henslow has an interesting note on the Ivy and its shoots, in his Floral Rambles in Highways and Byways:
'The shoots turn to the darker side, as may be seen when Ivy reaches the top of a wall, from both sides; wherever the sun may be the shoots lie flat upon the top. The roots themselves only come out from the darker side of the shoots, so that both of these acquired habits have their purposes. When the Ivy is going to flower, the shoots now turn to the light and stand out freely into the air; moreover the form of the leaf changes from a finepointed one to a much smaller oval type. As the shoot now has to support itself, if a section be made and compared with one of the same diameter which is supported by the adhesive roots, it will be found that it has put on more wood with less pith, than in that of the supported stem. It at once, so to speak, feels the strain and makes wood sufficient to meet it.'
The form of Ivy which creeps over the ground on banks and in woods, etc., never blossoms. The branches root into the soil, but they are of the ordinary kind deriving nourishment from it. On endeavouring to train this kind on a wall, it was found to have practically lost the power of climbing; for it kept continually falling away from the wall instead of adhering to it; just as cucumbers refuse to climb by their tendrils, if the stem and branches are supported artificially.
The flowers of Common Ivy are small, in clusters of nearly globular umbels and of a yellowish-green, with five broad and short petals and five stamens. They seldom open before the latter end of October, and often continue to expand till late in December. Though they have little or no scent, they yield abundance of nectar and afford food to bees late in the autumn, when they can get no other.
The berries, which do not become ripe till the following spring, provide many birds, especially wood pigeons, thrushes and blackbirds with food during severe winters. When ripe, they are about the size of a pea, black or deep purple, smooth and succulent, and contain two to five seeds. They have a bitter and nauseous taste, and when rubbed, an aromatic and slightly resinous odour.
---History---Ivy was in high esteem among the ancients. Its leaves formed the poet's crown, as well as the wreath of Bacchus, to whom the plant was dedicated, probably because of the practice of binding the brow with Ivy leaves to prevent intoxication, a quality formerly attributed to the plant. We are told by old writers that the effects of intoxication by wine are removed if a handful of Ivy leaves are bruised and gently boiled in wine and drunk.
It is the Common Ivy that is alluded to in the Idylls of Theocritus, but the Golden Ivy of Virgil is supposed to be the yellowberried variety (Hedera Chrysocarpa), now so rare.
The Greek priests presented a wreath of Ivy to newly-married persons, and the Ivy has throughout the ages been regarded as the emblem of fidelity. The custom of decorating houses and churches with Ivy at Christmas was forbidden by one of the early Councils of the Church, on account of its pagan associations, but the custom still remains.
An Ivy leaf is the badge of the Gordons.
The Roman agricultural writers much recommended Ivy leaves as cattle food, but they are not relished by cows, though sheep and deer will sometimes eat them in the winter. The broad leaves being evergreen afford shelter to birds in the winter, and many prefer Ivy to other shrubs, in which to build their nests.
The wood when it attains a sufficient size is employed by turners in Southern Europe, but being very soft is seldom used in England except for whetting the knives of leatherdressers. It is very porous, and the ancients thought it had the property of separating wine from water by filtration, an error arising from the fact that wood absorbs the color of the liquid in its passage through the pores. On the Continent it has sometimes been used in thin slices as a filter.
In former days, English taverns bore over their doors the sign of an Ivy bush, to indicate the excellence of the liquor supplied within: hence the saying 'Good wine needs no bush.'
The medicinal virtues of Ivy are little regarded nowadays. Its great value is as an ornamental covering for unsightly buildings and it is said to be the only plant which does not make walls damp. It acts as a curtain, the leaves from the way they fall, forming a sort of armour and holding and absorbing the rain and moisture.
Ivy is very hardy; not only are the leaves seldom injured by frost, but they suffer little from smoke, or from the vitiated air of manufacturing towns. The plant lives to a great age, its stems become woody and often attain a considerable size - Ivy trunks of a foot in diameter are often to be seen where the plant has for many years climbed undisturbed over rocks and ruins.
The spring months are the best times for planting.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Robinson tells us that a drachm of the flowers decocted in wine restrains dysentery, and that the yellow berries are good for those who spit blood and against the jaundice.
Culpepper says of the Ivy: 'It is an enemy to the nerves and sinews taken inwardly, but most excellent outwardly.'
To remove sunburn it is recommended to smear the face with tender Ivy twigs boiled in butter; according to the old English Leechbook of Bald.
Botanical: Glechoma Hederacea (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Labiatae
Part Used Medicinally
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Nepeta Glechoma (Benth.). Alehoof. Gill-go-over-the-Ground. Haymaids. Tun-hoof. Hedgemaids. Lizzy-run-up-the-Hedge. Gill-go-by-the-Hedge. Catsfoot. Robin-run-in-the-Hedge.
---Description---Ground Ivy is one of the commonest plants, flourishing upon sunny hedge banks and waste ground in all parts of Great Britain. The root is perennial, throwing out long, trailing, unbranched square stems, which root at intervals and bear numerous, kidney-shaped leaves of a dark green tint, somewhat downy with manycelled hairs, and having regular, rounded indentations on the margins. The leaves are stalked and opposite to one another, the undersides paler and dotted with glands.
The flowers are placed three or four together in the axils of the upper leaves, which often have a purplish tint and are two-lipped, of a bright purplish blue, with small white spots on the lower lip, or more rarely white or pink and open early in April. The plant continues in blossom through the greater part of the summer and autumn.
Its popular name is attributed to the resemblance borne by its foliage to that of the true Ivy.
It varies in size, as well as the degree of color in the flower, according to its situation and remains green not only in summer, but, like the true Ivy, at all times of the year, even throughout winter, unless the frost is very severe.
Green (Universal Herbal, 1832) tells us that Ground Ivy expels the plants which grow near it, and in consequence impoverishes pastures. Cattle seem in general to avoid it, though Linnaeus says that sheep eat it; horses are not fond of it, and goats and swine refuse it. It is thought to be injurious to those horses that eat much of it, though the expressed juice, mixed with a little wine and applied morning and evening, has been said to destroy the white specks which frequently form on their eyes.
The whole plant possesses a balsamic odour and an aromatic, bitter taste, due to its particular volatile oil, contained in the glands on the under surface of the leaves. It was one of the principal plants used by the early Saxons to clarify their beers, before hops had been introduced, the leaves being steeped in the hot liquor. Hence the names it has also borne; Alehoof and Tunhoof. It not only improved the flavour and keeping qualities of the beer, but rendered it clearer. Until the reign of Henry VIII it was in general use for this purpose.
The plant also acquired the name of Gill from the French guiller (to ferment beer), but as Gill also meant 'a girl,' it came also to be called 'Hedgemaids.'
Some hairy tumours may often be seen in the autumn on the leaves of Ground Ivy, caused by the puncture of the Cynips glechomae, from which these galls spring. They have a strong flavour of the plant and are sometimes eaten by the peasantry of France.
---Part Used Medicinally---The whole herb, gathered early in May, when most of the flowers are still quite fresh.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Diuretic, astringent, tonic and gently stimulant. Useful in kidney diseases and for indigestion.
From early days, Ground Ivy has been endowed with singular curative virtues, and is one of the most popular remedies for coughs and nervous headaches. It has even been extolled before all other vegetable medicines for the cure of consumption.
An excellent cooling beverage, known in the country as Gill Tea, is made from this plant, 1 OZ. of the herb being infused with a pint of boiling water, sweetened with honey, sugar or liquorice, and drunk when cool in wineglassful doses, three or four times a day. This used to be a favourite remedy with the poor for coughs of long standing, being much used in consumption. Ground Ivy was at one time one of the cries of London for making a tea to purify the blood. It is a wholesome drink and is still considered serviceable in pectoral complaints and in cases of weakness of the digestive organs, being stimulating and tonic, though it has long been discarded from the Materia Medica as an official plant, in favour of others of greater certainty of action. As a medicine useful in pulmonary complaints, where a tonic for the kidneys is required, it would appear to possess peculiar suitability, and is well adapted to all kidney complaints.
A fluid extract is also prepared, the dose being from 1/2 to 1 drachm. It has a bitter and acrid taste and a strong and aromatic odour.
The expressed juice of the fresh herb is diaphoretic, diuretic and somewhat astringent; snuffed up the nose, it has been considered curative of headache when all other remedies have failed. A snuff made from the dried leaves of Ground Ivy will render marked relief against a dull, congestive headache of the passive kind.
The expressed juice may also be advantageously used for bruises and 'black eyes.' It is also employed as an antiscorbutic, for which it has a long-standing reputation. Combined with Yarrow or Chamomile Flowers it is said to make an excellent poultice for abscesses, gatherings and tumours.
In America, painters used the Ground Ivy as a preventive of, and remedy for lead colic, a wineglassful of the freshly-made infusion being taken frequently.
The infusion is also used with advantage as a wash for sore and weak eyes.
'it is commended against the humming noise and ringing sound of the ears, being put into them, and for them that are hard of hearing. Matthiolus writeth that the juice being tempered with Verdergrease is good against fistulas and hollow ulcers. Dioscorides teacheth that "half a dram of the leaves being drunk in foure ounces and a half of faire water for 40 or 50 days together is a remedy against sciatica or ache in the huckle-bone."
Galen hath attributed all the virtues to the flowers. Ground Ivy, Celandine and Daisies, of each a like quantity, stamped, strained and a little sugar and rose-water put thereto, and dropt into the eyes, takes away all manner of inflammation, etc., yea, although the sight were well-nigh gone. It is proved to be the best medicine in the world. The women of our Northern parts, especially Wales and Cheshire, do turn Herbe-Ale-hoof into their ale - but the reason I know not. It also purgeth the head from rheumatic humours flowing from the brain.'
Culpepper, repeating much that Gerard has already related of the virtues of Ground Ivy, adds that it is:
'a singular herb for all inward wounds, ulcerated lungs and other parts, either by itself or boiled with other like herbs; and being drank, in a short time it easeth all griping pains, windy and choleric humours in the stomach, spleen, etc., helps the yellow jaundice by opening the stoppings of the gall and liver, and melancholy by opening the stoppings of the spleen; the decoction of it in wine drank for some time together procureth ease in sciatica or hip gout; as also the gout in the hands, knees or feet; if you put to the decoction some honey and a little burnt alum, it is excellent to gargle any sore mouth or throat, and to wash sores and ulcers; it speedily heals green wounds, being bruised and bound thereto.'
He concludes his account of the herb by saying:
'It is good to tun up with new drink, for it will clarify it in a night that it will be the fitter to be drank the next morning; or if any drink be thick with removing or any other accident, it will do the like in a few hours.'
Botanical: Rhus Toxicodendron (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Anacardiaceae
Part Used Medicinally
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Poison Oak. Poison Vine.
---Habitat---The American Poison Ivy is one of the species of Sumachs, an attractive group of plants widely distributed in Europe, Asia and North America, varying much in habit from low bushes to moderately-sized trees, and many of them familiar denizens of our gardens, for the sake of their ornamental foliage, which mostly assume beautiful tints in autumn, some of the varieties also bearing showy fruits. It grows in thickets and low grounds in North America, where it is quite common.
Its sap is of an extremely poisonous character, and in many persons the slightest contact with the leaves causes a rash of a most distressing character, the hands and arms and sometimes the whole body becoming greatly swollen from simply touching or carrying a branch of the plant, the swelling being accompanied with intolerable pain and inflammation, ending in ulceration. Some persons however, are able to handle the plant with impunity. It has been sometimes known as Ampelopsis Hoggii, and under this name has occasionally been introduced with other climbers, but it has nothing to do with the group of Vines known under the name of Ampelopsis, and its presence in our gardens should be avoided.
---Description---The root is reddish and branching; the leaves rather large, threeparted (which will readily distinguish it from the five-parted Ampelopsis). The central leaflet has a longer stalk, the lateral ones are almost stalkless. The leaflets are entire when young, but when full-grown they are variously indented, downy beneath, thin and about 4 inches long. They abound with an acrid juice, which darkens when exposed to air, and when applied to the skin produces the inflammation and swelling referred to. When dry, the leaves are papery and brittle, sometimes with black spots of exuded juice turned black on drying. The flowers are in loose, slender clusters or panicles, in the axils of the leaves and are small, some perfect, others unisexual, and are greenish or yellowish-white in color. They blossom in June, and are followed by clusters of small, globular, duncolored, berry-like fruit.
There are almost as many antidotes for the inflammation caused by Poison Ivy as for the bites of the rattlesnake. Alkaline lotions, especially carbonate of soda, alum and hyposulphite of soda, are all recommended, and the patient is advised to moisten the skin constantly with the agent in solution. A hot solution of potassium permanganate applied locally is also recommended as a cure, also solutions of lead and ammonia. Rhus venenata has similar poisonous qualities.
---Part Used Medicinally---The fresh leaves, from which a fluid extract is prepared.
---Constituents---The activity of the drug was formerly ascribed to a fixed oil, Toxicodendrol, but has been attributed more recently to a yellow resin, to which the name Toxicodendrin is applied.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Irritant, rubefacient, stimulant, narcotic.
R. Toxicodendron was introduced into England first in 1640, but not used as a medicine till 1798, when Du Fressoy, a physician at Valenciennes, had brought to his notice a young man, who had been cured of a herpetic eruption on his wrist of six years' standing on being accidentally poisoned by this plant. He thereupon commenced the use of the plant in the treatment of obstinate herpetic eruptions and in palsy, many cases yielding well to the drug. Since then it has rapidly gained a place in general practice, meeting with some success in the treatment of paralysis, acute rheumatism and articular stiffness, and in various forms of chronic and obstinate eruptive diseases.
It is not official in the British Pharmacopoeia, but was formerly official in the United States Pharmacopceia. It is in extensive use by homoeopathists for rheumatism, ringworm and other skin disorders, and is considered by them one of the most useful remedies in a great majority of cases of Nettlerash, especially if caused by some natural predisposition of constitution, in which the eruption is due to the use of some particular food.
The fluid extract, prepared from the fresh leaves, is mostly given in the form of a tincture, in doses of 5 to 30 drops. In small doses it is an excellent sedative to the nervous system, but must be given with care, as internally it may cause gastric intestinal irritation, drowsiness, stupor and delirium.
It has been recommended in cases of incontinence of urine. For this, the bark of the root of R. aromatica is also employed very successfully, an infusion of 1 OZ. to a pint of boiling water being taken in wineglassful doses.
The fluid extract of R. Toxicodendron can be used as a vesicant or blister producer, like cantharides, mezeron, and oil of Mustard.
The best preparation is a concentrated alcoholic tincture made from the green plant in the strength of 1 in 4. The dose of 25 per cent tincture is given in 1 to 5 drops three times a day. A solid extract is not used owing to the extreme volatility of the active principles of the crude drug.
Its milky juice is also used as an indelible ink for marking linen, and as an ingredient of liquid dressings or varnishes for finishing boots or shoes, though R. venenata is more extensively used for the latter purpose.
It is so well known to every child almost, to grow in woods upon the trees, and upon the stone walls of churches, houses, &c. and sometimes to grow alone of itself, though but seldom.
Time : It flowers not until July, and the berries are not ripe till Christmas, when they have felt Winter frosts.
Government and virtues : It is under the dominion of Saturn. A pugil of the flowers, which may be about a dram, (saith Dioscorides) drank twice a day in red wine, helps the lask, and bloody flux. It is an enemy to the nerves and sinews, being much taken inwardly, out very helpful to them, being outwardly applied. Pliny saith, the yellow berries are good against the jaundice; and taken before one be set to drink hard, preserves from drunkenness, and helps those that spit blood; and that the white berries being taken inwardly, or applied outwardly, kills the worms in the belly. The berries are a singular remedy to prevent the plague, as also to free them from it that have got it, by drinking the berries thereof made into a powder, for two or three days together. They being taken in wine, do certainly help to break the stone, provoke urine, and women's courses. The fresh leaves of Ivy, boiled in vinegar, and applied warm to the sides of those that are troubled with the spleen, ache, or stitch in the sides, do give much ease. The same applied with some Rosewater, and oil of Roses, to the temples and forehead, eases the head-ache, though it be of long continuance. The fresh leaves boiled in wine, and old filthy ulcers hard to be cured washed therewith, do wonderfully help to cleanse them. It also quickly heals green wounds, and is effectual to heal all burnings and scaldings, and all kinds of exulcerations coming thereby, or by salt phlegm or humours in other parts of the body. The juice of the berries or leaves snuffed up into the nose, purges the head and brain of thin rheum that makes defluxions into the eyes and nose, and curing the ulcers and stench therein; the same dropped into the ears helps the old and running sores of them; those that are troubled with the spleen shall find much ease by continual drinking out of a cup made of Ivy, so as the drink may stand some small time therein before it be drank. Cato saith, That wine put into such a cup, will soak through it, by reason of the antipathy that is between them.
There seems to be a very great antipathy between wine and Ivy; for if one hath got a surfeit by drinking of wine, his speediest cure is to drink a draught of the same wine wherein a handful of Ivy leaves, being first bruised, have been boiled
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