Infusion of Catechu, commonly called Japonic Infusion

March 3rd, 2016

Take of

  • Extract of catechu, two drachms and a half;
  • Cinnamon, half a drachm;
  • Boiling water, seven ounces;
  • Simple syrup, one ounce.

Macerate the extract and cinnamon in the hot water, in a covered vessel, for two hours, then strain it, and add the syrup.

Extract of catechu is almost pure tan[n]in. This infusion is therefore a powerfully astringent solution. The cinnamon and syrup render it a very agreeable medicine, which will be found serviceable in fluxes proceeding from a laxity of the intestines. Its dose is a spoonful or two every other hour. As this preparation will not keep above a day or two, it must always be made extemporaneously. The two hours maceration, therefore, becomes very often extremely inconvenient; but it may be prepared in a few minutes by boiling, without in the least impairing the virtues of the medicine.

Source: The Edinburgh New Dispensatory, Andrew Duncan

For the Bloody Flux

May 18th, 2015

This powder will be found exceedingly useful in abating the irritation and giving retentive power to the intestines, when the evacuations from the bowels are frequent, have a frothy appearance, and are tinged with blood. The best mode of taking this medicine is the following:—

Take of the Astringent Powder, one scruple;
Aromatic Confection, one scruple;
Powdered Rhubarb, five grains;
Cinnamon Water, one ounce and a half.

Mix, and make a draught, which may be taken every four hours, if required. Four or five drops of laudanum may be added to each draught, if the evacuations are attended with pain.

Source: A Companion To The Medicine Chest, John Savory.

Ingredient: Periwinkle

March 24th, 2015

There are two British Periwinkles growing wild; the one Vinca major, or greater, a doubtful native, and found only in the neighbourhood of dwelling-houses; the other Vinca minor lesser, abounding in English woods, particularly in the Western counties, and often entirely covering the ground with its prostrate evergreen leaves. The common name of each is derived from vincio, to bind, as it were by its stems resembling cord; or because bound in olden times into festive garlands and funeral chaplets. Their title used also to be Pervinca, and Pervinkle, Pervenkle, and Pucellage (or virgin flower).

This generic name has been derived either from pervincire, to bind closely, or from pervincere, to overcome. Lord Bacon observes that it was common in his time for persons to wear bands of green Periwinkle about the calf of the leg to prevent cramp. Now-a-days we use for the same purpose a garter of small new corks strung on worsted. In Germany this plant is the emblem of immortality. It bears the name “Pennywinkles” in Hampshire, probably by an inland confusion with the shell fish “winkles.”

Each of the two kinds possesses acrid astringent properties, but the lesser Periwinkle, Vinca minor or Winter-green, is the Herbal Simple best known of the pair, for its medicinal virtues in domestic use. The Periwinkle order is called Apocynaceoe, from the Greek apo, against, and kunos, a dog; or dog’s bane.

The flowers of the greater Periwinkle are gently purgative, but lose their effect by drying. If gathered in the Spring, and made into a syrup, they will impart all their virtues, and this is excellent to keep the bowels of children gently open, as well as to overcome habitual constipation in grown persons. But the leaves are astringent, contracting and strengthening the genitals if applied thereto either as a decoction, or as the bruised leaves themselves. An infusion of the greater Periwinkle, one part of the fresh plant to ten of water, may be used for staying female fluxes, by giving a wine-glassful thereof when cool, frequently; or of the liquid extract, half a teaspoonful for a dose in water. On account of its striking colour, and its use for magical purposes, the plant, when in bloom, has been named the Sorcerer’s Violet, and in some parts of Devon the flowers are known as Cut Finger or Blue Buttons. The Italians use it in making garlands for their dead infants, and so call it Death’s flower.

Simon Fraser, whose father was a faithful adherent of Sir William Wallace, when on his way to be executed (in 1306) was crowned in mockery with the Periwinkle, as he passed through the City of London, with his legs tied under the horse’s belly. In Gloucestershire, the flowers of the greater Periwinkle are called Cockles.

The lesser Periwinkle is perennial, and is sometimes cultivated in gardens, where it has acquired variegated leaves. It has no odour, but gives a bitterish taste which lasts in the mouth. Its leaves are strongly astringent, and therefore very useful to be applied for staying bleedings. If bruised and put into the nostrils, they will arrest fluxes from the nose, and a decoction made from them is of service for the diarrhoea of a weak subject, as well as for chronic looseness of the bowels; likewise for bleeding piles, by being applied externally, and by being taken internally. Again, the decoction makes a capital gargle for relaxed sore throat, and for sponginess of the mouth, of the tonsils, and the gums.

This plant was also a noted Simple for increasing the milk of wet nurses, and was advised for such purpose by physicians of repute. Culpeper gravely says: “The leaves of the lesser Periwinkle, if eaten by man and wife together, will cause love between them.”

A tincture is made (H.) from the said plant, the Vinca minor, with spirit of wine. It is given medicinally for the milk-crust of infants, as well as for internal haemorrhages, the dose being from two to ten drops three or four times in the day, with a spoonful of water.

Source: Herbal Simples Approved for Modern Uses of Cure, William Thomas Fernies.

Inflammation of Eyes, Milk Curd Relieves

October 9th, 2008

“Make a curd of sweet milk; that is, set it on the stove till it forms a curd; then add quite a little alum and wash eyes.” The milk is very soothing and the alum acts as an astringent. Care should be taken in using this remedy that none of the mixture gets into the eyes.

Source: Mother’s Remedies: Over One Thousand Tried and Tested Remidies from Mothers of the United States and Canada, T. J. Ritter

Ingredients: Blackberry

September 20th, 2008

This is the well-known fruit of the Common Bramble (Rubus fructicosus), which grows in every English hedgerow, and which belongs to the Rose order of plants. It has long been esteemed for its bark and leaves as a capital astringent, these containing much tannin; also for its fruit, which is supplied with malic and citric acids, pectin, and albumen. Blackberries go often by the name of “bumblekites,” from “bumble,” the cry of the bittern, and kyte, a Scotch word for belly; the name bumblekite being applied, says Dr. Prior, “from the rumbling and bumbling caused in the bellies of children who eat the fruit too greedily.” “Rubus” is from the Latin ruber, red.

The blackberry has likewise acquired the name of scaldberry, from producing, as some say, the eruption known as scaldhead in children who eat the fruit to excess; or, as others suppose, from the curative effects of the leaves and berries in this malady of the scalp; or, again, from the remedial effects of the leaves when applied externally to scalds.

It has been said that the young shoots, eaten as a salad, will fasten loose teeth. If the leaves are gathered in the Spring and dried, then, when required, a handful of them may be infused in a pint of boiling water, and the infusion, when cool, may be taken, a teacupful at a time, to stay diarrhoea, and for some bleedings. Similarly, if an ounce of the bruised root is boiled in three half-pints of water, down to a pint, a teacupful of this may be given every three or four hours. The decoction is also useful against whooping-cough in its spasmodic stage. The bark contains tannin; and if an ounce of the same be boiled in a pint and a half of water, or of milk, down to a pint, half a teacupful of the decoction may be given every hour or two for staying relaxed bowels. Likewise the fruit, if desiccated in a moderately hot oven, and afterwards reduced to powder (which should be kept in a well corked bottle) will prove an efficacious remedy for dysentery.

Gerard says: “Bramble leaves heal the eyes that hang out, and stay the haemorrhoides [piles] if they can be laid thereunto.” The London Pharmacopoeia (1696) declared the ripe berries of the bramble to be a great cordial, and to contain a notable restorative spirit. In Cruso’s Treasury of Easy Medicines (1771), it is directed for old inveterate ulcers: “Take a decoction of blackberry leaves made in wine, and foment the ulcers with this whilst hot each night and morning, which will heal them, however difficult to be cured.” The name of the bush is derived from brambel, or brymbyll, signifying prickly; its blossom as well as the fruit, ripe and unripe, in all stages, may be seen on the bush at the same time. With the ancient Greeks Blackberries were a popular remedy for gout.

As soon as blackberries are over-ripe, they become quite indigestible. Country folk say in Somersetshire and Sussex: “The devil goes round on Old Michaelmas Day, October 11th, to spite the Saint, and spits on the blackberries, so that they who eat them after that date fall sick, or have trouble before the year is out.” Blackberry wine and blackberry jam are taken for sore throats in many rustic homes. Blackberry jelly is useful for dropsy from feeble ineffective circulation. To make “blackberry cordial,” the juice should be expressed from the fresh ripe fruit, adding half a pound of white sugar to each quart thereof, together with half an ounce of both nutmeg and cloves; then boil these together for a short time, and add a little brandy to the mixture when cold.

In Devonshire the peasantry still think that if anyone is troubled with “blackheads,” i.e., small pimples, or boils, he may be cured by creeping from East to West on the hands and knees nine times beneath an arched bramble bush. This is evidently a relic of an old Dryad superstition when the angry deities who inhabited particular trees had to be appeased before the special diseases which they inflicted could be cured. It is worthy of remark that the Bramble forms the subject of the oldest known apologue. When Jonathan upbraided the men of Shechem for their base ingratitude to his father’s house, he related to them the parable of the trees choosing a king, by whom the Bramble was finally elected, after the olive, the fig tree, and the vine had excused themselves from accepting this dignity.

In the Roxburghe Ballad of “The Children in the Wood,” occurs the verse–

“Their pretty lips with Blackberries
Were all besmeared and dyed;
And when they saw the darksome night
They sat them down, and cryed.”

The French name for blackberries is mûres sauvages, also mûres de haie; and in some of our provincial districts they are known as “winterpicks,” growing on the Blag.

Blackberry wine, which is a trustworthy cordial astringent remedy for looseness of the bowels, may be made thus: Measure your berries, and bruise them, and to every gallon of the fruit add a quart of boiling water. Let the mixture stand for twenty-four hours, occasionally stirring; then strain off the liquid, adding to every gallon a couple of pounds of refined sugar, and keep it in a cask tightly corked till the following October, when it will be ripe and rich.

A noted hair-dye is said to be made by boiling the leaves of the bramble in strong lye, which then imparts permanently to the hair a soft, black colour. Tom Hood, in his humorous way, described a negro funeral as “going a black burying.” An American poet graphically tell us:–

“Earth’s full of Heaven,
And every common bush afire with God!
But only they who see take off their shoes;
The rest sit round it, and–pluck blackberries.”

Source: Herbal Simples Approved for Modern Uses of Cure, William Thomas Fernie

Ingredients: Ivy (Ground)

September 13th, 2008

This common, and very familiar little herb, with its small Ivy-like aromatic leaves, and its striking whorls of dark blue blossoms conspicuous in early spring time, comes into flower pretty punctually about the third or fourth of April, however late or early the season may be. Its name is attributed to the resemblance borne by its foliage to that of the true Ivy (Hedera helix). The whole plant possesses a balsamic odour, and an aromatic taste, due to its particular volatile oil, and its characteristic resin, as a fragrant labiate herb. It remaineth green not only in summer, but also in winter, at all times of the year.

From the earliest days it has been thought endowed with singular curative virtues chiefly against nervous headaches, and for the relief of chronic bronchitis. Ray tells of a remarkable instance in the person of a Mr. Oldacre who was cured of an obstinate chronic headache by using the juice or the powdered leaves of the Ground Ivy as snuff: Succus hujus plantoe naribus attractus cephalalgiam etiam vehementissimam et inveteratam non lenit tantum, sed et penitus aufert; and he adds in further praise of the herb: Medicamentum hoc non satis potest laudari; si res ex usu oestimarentur, auro oequiparandum. An infusion of the fresh herb, or, if made in winter, from its dried leaves, and drank under the name of Gill tea, is a favourite remedy with the poor for coughs of long standing, accompanied with much phlegm. One ounce of the herb should be infused in a pint of boiling water, and a wineglassful of this when cool is to be taken three or four times in the day. The botanical name of the plant is Nepeta glechoma, from Nepet, in Tuscany, and the Greek gleechon, a mint.

Resembling Ivy in miniature, the leaves have been used in weaving chaplets for the dead, as well as for adorning the Alestake erected as a sign at taverns. For this reason, and because formerly in vogue for clearing the ale drank by our Saxon ancestors, the herb acquired the names of Ale hoof, and Tun hoof (“tun” signifying a garden, and “hoof” or “hufe” a coronal or chaplet), or Hove, “because,” says Parkinson, “it spreadeth as a garland upon the ground.” Other titles which have a like meaning are borne by the herb, such as “Gill go by the ground,” and Haymaids, or Hedgemaids; the word “gill” not only relating to the fermentation of beer, but meaning also a maid. This is shown in the saying, “Every Jack should have his Gill, or Jill”; and the same notion was conveyed by the sobriquet “haymaids.” Again in some districts the Ground Ivy is called “Lizzy run up the hedge,” “Cat’s-foot” (from the soft flower heads), “Devil’s candlesticks,” “Aller,” and in Germltny “Thundervine,” also in the old English manuscripts “Hayhouse,” “Halehouse,” and “Horshone.” The whole plant was employed by our Saxon progenitors to clarify their so-called beer, before hops had been introduced for this purpose; and the place of refreshment where the beverage was sold bore the name of a “Gill house.”

In A Thousand Notable Things, it is stated, “The juice of Ground Ivy sniffed up into the nostrils out of a spoon, or a saucer, purgeth the head marvellously, and taketh away the greatest and oldest pain thereof that is: the medicine is worth gold, though it is very cheap.”

Small hairy tumours may often be seen in the autumn on the leaves of the Ground Ivy occasioned (says Miss Pratt) by the punctures of the cynips glechomoe from which these galls spring. They have a strong flavour of the plant, and are sometimes eaten by the peasantry of France. The volatile oil on which the special virtues of the Ground Ivy depend exudes from small glandular dots on the under surface of the leaves. This is the active ingredient of Gill tea made by country persons, and sweetened with honey, sugar, or liquorice. Also the expressed juice of the herb is equally effectual, being diaphoretic, diuretic, and somewhat astringent against bleedings.

Gerard says that in his day “the Ground Ivy was commended against the humming sound, and ringing noises of the ears by being put into them, and for those that are hard of hearing. Also boiled in mutton broth it helpeth weak and aching backs.” Dr. Thornton tells us in his Herbal (1810) that “Ground Ivy was at one time amongst the ‘cries’ of London, for making a tea to purify the blood,” and Dr. Pitcairn extolled this plant before all other vegetable medicines for the cure of consumption. Perhaps the name Ground Ivy was transferred at first to the Nepeta from the Periwinkle, about which we read in an old distich of Stockholm:–

“Parvenke is an erbe green of colour,
In time of May he bereth blo flour,
His stalkes are so feynt and feye
That nevermore groweth he heye:
On the grounde he rynneth and growe
As doth the erbe that hyth tunhowe;
The lef is thicke, schinende and styf
As is the grene Ivy leef:
Uniche brod, and nerhand rownde;
Men call it the Ivy of the grounde.”

In the Organic Materia Medica of Detroit, U.S.A., 1890, it is stated, “Painters use the Ground Ivy (Nepeta glechoma) as a remedy for, and a preventive of lead colic.” An infusion is given (the ounce to a pint of boiling water)–one wineglassful for a dose repeatedly. In the relief which it affords as a snuff made from the dried leaves to congestive headache of a passive continued sort, this benefit is most probably due partly to the special titillating aroma of the plant, and partly to the copious defluxion of mucus and tears from the nasal passages, and the eyes.

Source: Herbal Simples Approved for Modern Uses of Cure, William Thomas Fernie

Ingredients: Common Ivy

July 26th, 2008

The clergyman of fiction in the sixth chapter of Dickens’ memorable Pickwick, sings certain verses which he styles “indifferent” (the only verse, by the way, to be found in all that great writer’s stories), and which relate to the Ivy, beginning thus:–

“Oh! a dainty plant is the Ivy green,
That creepeth o’er ruins old.”

The well known common Ivy (Hedera helix), which clothes the trunks of trees and the walls of old buildings so picturesquely throughout Great Britain, gets its botanical name most probably from the Celtic word hoedra “a cord,” or from the Greek hedra “a seat,” because sitting close, and its vernacular title from iw “green,” which is also the parent of “yew.” In Latin it is termed abiga, easily corrupted to “iva”; and the Danes knew it as Winter-grunt, or Winter-green, to which appellation it may still lay a rightful claim, being so conspicuously green at the coldest times of the year when trees are of themselves bare and brown.

By the ancients the Ivy was dedicated to Bacchus, whose statues were crowned with a wreath of the plant, under the name Kissos, and whose worshippers decorated themselves with its garlands. The leaves have a peculiar faintly nauseous odour, whilst they are somewhat bitter, and rough of taste. The fresh berries are rather acid, and become bitter when dried. They are much eaten by our woodland birds in the spring.

A crown of Ivy was likewise given to the classic poets of distinction, and the Greek priests presented a wreath of the same to newly married persons. The custom of decorating houses and churches with Ivy at Christmastide, was forbidden by one of the early councils on account of its Pagan associations. Prynne wrote with reference to this decree:–

“At Christmas men do always Ivy get,
And in each corner of the house it set,
But why make use then of that Bacchus weed?
Because they purpose Bacchus-like to feed.”

The Ivy, though sending out innumerable small rootlets, like suckers, in every direction (which are really for support) is not a parasite. The plant is rooted in the soil and gets its sustenance therefrom.

Chemically, its medicinal principles depend on the special balsamic resin contained in the leaves and stems, as well as constituting the aromatic gum.

Ivy flowers have little or no scent, but their yield of nectar is particularly abundant.

When the bark of the main stems is wounded, a gum will exude, and may be collected: it possesses astringent and mildly aperient properties. This was at one time included as a medicine in the Edinburgh Pharmacopoeia, but it has now fallen out of such authoritative use. Its chemical principle is “hederin.” The gum is anti-spasmodic, and promotes the monthly flow of women.

An infusion of the berries will relieve rheumatism, and a decoction of the leaves applied externally will destroy vermin in the heads of children.

Fresh Ivy leaves will afford signal relief to corns when they shoot, and are painful. Good John Wesley, who dabbled in “domestic medicine,” and with much sagacity of observation, taught that having bathed the feet, and cut the corns, and having mashed some fresh Ivy leaves, these are to be applied: then by repeating the remedial process for fifteen days the corns will be cured.

During the Great Plague of London, Ivy berries were given with some success as possessing antiseptic virtues, and to induce perspiration, thus effecting a remission of the symptoms. Cups made from Ivywood have been employed from which to drink for disorders of the spleen, and for whooping cough, their method of use being to be kept refilled from time to time with water (cold or hot), which the patient is to constantly sip.

Ivy gum dissolved in vinegar is a good filling for a hollow tooth which is causing neuralgic toothache: and an infusion of the leaves made with cold water, will, after standing for twenty-four hours, relieve sore and smarting eyes if used rather frequently as a lotion. A decoction of the leaves and berries will mitigate a severe headache, such as that which follows hard drinking over night. And it may have come about that from some rude acquaintance with this fact the bacchanals adopted goblets carved out of Ivywood.

This plant is especially hardy, and suffers but little from the smoke and the vitiated air of a manufacturing town. Chemically, such medicinal principles as the Ivy possesses depend on the special balsamic resin contained in its leaves and stems; as well as on its particular gum. Bibulous old Bacchus was always represented in classic sculpture with a wreath of Ivy round his laughing brows; and it has been said that if the foreheads of those whose potations run deep were bound with frontlets of Ivy the nemesis of headache would be prevented thereby. But legendary lore teaches rather that the infant Bacchus was an object of vengeance to Juno, and that the nymphs of Nisa concealed him from her wrath, with trails of Ivy as he lay in his cradle.

At one time our taverns bore over their doors the sign of an Ivybush, to indicate the excellence of the liquor supplied within. From which fact arose the saying that “good wine needs no bush,” “Vinum vendibile hederâ non est opus.” And of this text Rosalind cleverly avails herself in As You Like It, “If it be true” says she, “that good wine needs no bush,” — “’tis true that a good play needs no epilogue.”

Source: Herbal Simples Approved for Modern Uses of Cure, William Thomas Fernie

Ingredients: Ferns

July 12th, 2008

Only some few of our native Ferns are known to possess medicinal virtues, though they may all be happily pronounced devoid of poisonous or deleterious properties. As curative simples, a brief consideration will be given here to the common male and female Ferns, the Royal Fern, the Hart’s Tongue, the Maidenhair, the common Polypody, the Spleenwort, and the Wall Rue. Generically, the term “fern” has been referred to the word “feather,” because of the pinnate leaves, or to farr, a bullock, from the use of the plants as litter for cattle. Ferns are termed Filices, from the Latin word filum, a thread, because of their filamentary fronds. Each of those now particularized owes its respective usefulness chiefly to its tannin; while the few more specially endowed with healing powers yield also a peculiar chemical acid “filicic,” which is fatal to worms. In an old charter, A.D. 855, the right of pasturage on the common Ferns was called “fearnleswe,” or Pascua procorum, the pasturage of swine (from fearrh, a pig). Matthiolus when writing of the ferns, male and female, says, Utriusque radice sues pinguescunt. In some parts of England Ferns at large are known as “Devil’s brushes”; and to bite off close to the ground the first Fern which appears in the Spring, is said, in Cornwall, to cure toothache, and to prevent its return during the remainder of the year.

The common Male Fern (Filix mas) or Shield Fern, grows abundantly in all parts of Great Britain, and has been known from the times of Theophrastus and Dioscorides, as a specific remedy for intestinal worms, particularly the tape worm. For medicinal purposes, the green part of the rhizome is kept and dried; this is then powdered, and its oleo-resin is extracted by ether. The green fixed oil thus obtained; which is poisonous to worms, consists of the glycerides of filocylic and filosmylic acids, with tannin, starch, gum, and sugar. The English oil of Male Fern is more reliable than that which is imported from the Continent. Twenty drops made into an emulsion with mucilage should be given every half-hour on an empty stomach, until sixty or eighty drops have been taken. It is imprudent to administer the full quantity in a single dose. The treatment should be thus pursued when the vigour of the parasite has been first reduced by a low diet for a couple of days, and is lying within the intestines free from alimentary matter; a purgative being said to assist the action of the plant, though it is, independently, quite efficacious. The knowledge of this remedy had become lost, until it was repurchased for fifteen thousand francs, in 1775, by the French king, under the advice of his principal physicians, from Madame Nouffer, a surgeon’s widow in Switzerland, who employed it as a secret mode of cure with infallible success. Her method consisted in giving from one to three drams of the powdered root, after using a clyster, and following the dose up with a purge of scammony and calomel. The rhizome should not be used medicinally if more than a year old. A medicinal tincture (H.) is now prepared from the root-stock with proof spirit, in the autumn when the fronds are dying.

The young shoots and curled leaves of the Male Fern, which is distinguished by having one main rib, are sometimes eaten like asparagus; whilst the fronds make an excellent litter for horses and cattle. The seed of this and some other species of Fern is so minute (one frond producing more than a million) as not to be visible to the naked eye. Hence, on the doctrine of signatures, the plant — like the ring of Gyges, found in a brazen horse — has been thought to confer invisibility. Thus Shakespeare says, Henry IV., Act II., Scene 1, “We have the receipt of Fern seed; we walk invisible.”

Bracken or Brakes, which grows more freely than any other of the Fern tribe throughout England, is the Filix foemina, or common Female Fern. The fronds of this are branched, whilst the male plant having only one main rib, is more powerful as an astringent, and antiseptic; “the powder thereof freely beaten healeth the galled necks of oxen and other cattell.” Bracken is also named botanically, Pteris aquilina, because the figure which appears in its succulent stem when cut obliquely across at the base, has been thought to resemble a spread eagle; and, therefore, Linnaeus termed the Fern Aquilina. Some call it, for the same reason, “King Charles in the oak tree”; and in Scotland the symbol is said to be an impression of the Devil’s foot. Again, witches are reputed to detest this Fern, since it bears on its cut root the Greek letter X, which is the initial of Christos.

In Ireland it is called the Fern of God, because of the belief that if the stem be cut into three sections, on the first of these will be seen the letter G; on the second O; and on the third D.

An old popular proverb says about this Bracken:–

“When the Fern is as high as a spoon
You may sleep an hour at noon,
When the Fern is as high as a ladle
You may sleep as long as you’re able,
When the Fern is looking red
Milk is good with faire brown bread.”

The Bracken grows almost exclusively on waste places and uncultivated ground; or, as Horace testified in Roman days, Neglectis urenda filix innascitur agris. It contains much potash; and its ashes were formerly employed in the manufacture of soap. The young tops of the plant are boiled in Hampshire for hogs’ food, and the peculiar flavour of Hampshire bacon has been attributed to this custom. The root affords much starch, and is used medicinally. “For thigh aches” [sciatica], says an old writer, “smoke the legs thoroughly with Fern braken.”

During the Seventeenth Century it was customary to set growing Brakes on fire with the belief that this would produce rain. A like custom of “firing the Bracken” still prevails to-day on the Devonshire moors. By an official letter the Earl of Pembroke admonished the High Sheriff of Stafford to forbear the burning of Ferns during a visit of Charles I., as “His Majesty desired that the country and himself may enjoy fair weather as long as he should remain in those parts.”

In northern climates a coarse kind of bread is made from the roots of the Brake Fern; whilst in the south the young shoots are often sold in bundles as a salad. (Some writers give the name of Lady Fern, not to the Bracken, but to the Asplenium filix foemina, because of its delicate and graceful foliage.) The Bracken has branched riblets, and is more viscid, mucilaginous, and diuretic, than the Male Fern.

Its ashes when burnt contain much vegetable alkali which has been used freely in making glass.

It was customary to “watch the Fern” on Midsummer eve, when the plant put forth at dusk a blue flower, and a wonderful seed at midnight, which was carefully collected, and known as “wish seed.” This gave the power to discover hidden treasures, whilst to drink the sap conferred perpetual youth.

The Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis), grows abundantly in many parts of Great Britain, and is the stateliest of Ferns in its favourite watery haunts. It heeds a soil of bog earth, and is incorrectly styled “the flowering Fern,” from its handsome spikes of fructification. One of its old English names is “Osmund, the Waterman”; and the white centre of its root has been called the heart of Osmund. This middle part boiled in some kind of liquor was supposed good for persons wounded, dry-beaten, and bruised, or that have fallen from some high place. The name “Osmund” is thought to be derived from os, the mouth, or os, bone, and mundare, to cleanse, or from gross mond kraut, the Greater Moonwort; but others refer it to Saint Osmund wading a river, whilst bearing the Christ on his shoulders. The root or rhizome has a mucilaginous slightly bitter taste. The tender sprigs of the plant at their first coming are “good to be put into balmes, oyles, and healing plasters.” Dodonoeus says, “the harte of the root of Osmonde is good against squattes, and bruises, heavie and grievous falles, and whatever hurte or dislocation soever it be.” “A conserve of these buds,” said Dr. Short of Sheffield, 1746, “is a specific in the rickets; and the roots stamped in water or gin till the liquor becometh a stiff mucilage, has cured many most deplorable pains of the back, that have confined the distracted sufferers close to bed for several weeks.” This mucilage was to be rubbed over the vertebrae of the back each night and morning for five or six days together. Also for rickets, “take of the powdered roots with the whitest sugar, and sprinkle some thereof on the child’s pap, and on all his liquid foods.” “It maketh a noble remedy,” said Dr. Bowles, “without any other medicine.” The actual curative virtues of this Fern are most probably due to the salts of lime, potash, and other earths, which it derives in solution from the bog soil, and from the water in which it grows. On July 25th it is specially dedicated to St. Christopher, its patron saint.

The Hart’s Tongue or Hind’s Tongue, is a Fern of common English growth in shady copses on moist banks, it being the Lingua cervina of the apothecaries, and its name expressing the shape of its fronds. This, the Scolopendrium vulgare, is also named “Button-hole,” “Horse tongue;” and in the Channel Islands “Godshair.” The older physicians esteemed it as a very valuable medicine; and Galen gave it for diarrhoea or dysentery. By reason of its tannin it will restrain bleedings, “being commended,” says Gerard, “against the bloody flux.” People in rural districts make an ointment from its leaves for burns and scalds. It was formerly, in company with the common Maidenhair Fern, one of the five great capillary herbs. Dr. Tuthill Massy advises the drinking, in Bright’s disease, of as much as three half-pints daily of an infusion of this Fern, whilst always taking care to gather the young shoots. Also, in combination (H.) with the American Golden Seal (Hydrastis canadensis). the Hart’s Tongue has served in not a few authenticated cases to arrest the progress of that formidable disease, diabetes mellitus. Its distilled water will quiet any palpitations of the heart, and will stay the hiccough; it will likewise help the falling of the palate (relaxed throat), or stop bleeding of the gums if the mouth be gargled therewith.

From the Ophioglossum vulgatum, “‘Adder’s tongue,’ or ‘Christ’s Spear,’ when boiled in olive oil is produced a most excellent greene oyle. Or rather a balsam for greene wounds, comparable to oyle of St. John’s Wort; if it doth not far surpasse it.” A preparation from this plant known as the “green oil of charity,” is still in request as a vulnerary, and remedy for wounds.

The true Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum capillus veneris), of exquisite foliage, and of a dark crimson colour, is a stranger in England, except in the West country. But we have in greater abundance the common Maidenhair (Asplenium trichomanes), which grows on old walls, and which will act as a laxative medicine; whilst idiots are said to have taken it remedially, so as to recover their senses. The true Maidenhair is named Adiantum, from the Greek: Quod denso imbre cadente destillans foliis tenuis non insidet humor, “Because the leaves are not wetted even by a heavily falling shower of rain.” “In vain,” saith Pliny, “do you plunge the Adiantum into water, it always remains dry.” This veracious plant doth “strengthen and embellish the hair.” It occurs but rarely with us; on damp rocks, and walls near the sea. The Maidenhair is called Polytrichon because it brings forth a multitude of hairs; Calitrichon because it produces black and faire hair; Capillus veneris because it fosters grace and love.

From its fine hairlike stems, and perhaps from its attributed virtues in toilet use, this Fern has acquired the name of “Our Lady’s Hair” and “Maria’s Fern.” “The true Maidenhair,” says Gerard, “maketh the hair of the head and beard to grow that is fallen and pulled off.” From this graceful Fern a famous elegant syrup is made in France called Capillaire; which is given as a favourite medicine in pulmonary catarrh. It is flavoured with orange flowers, and acts as a demulcent with slightly stimulating effects. One part of the plant is gently boiled with ten parts of water, and with nineteen parts of white sugar. Dr. Johnson says Boswell used to put Capillaire into his port wine. Sir John Hill instructed us that (as we cannot get the true Maidenhair fresh in England) the fine syrup made in France from their Fern in perfection, concocted with pure Narbonne honey, is not by any means to be thought a trifle, because barley water, sweetened with this, is one of the very best remedies for a violent cold. But a tea brewed from our more common Maidenhair will answer the same purpose for tedious coughs. Its leaves are sweet, mucilaginous, and expectorant, being, therefore, highly useful in many pulmonary disorders.

The common Polypody Fern, or “rheum-purging Polypody” grows plentifully in this country on old walls and stumps of trees, in shady places. In Hampshire it is called “Adder’s Tongue,” as derived from the word attor, poison; also Wall-fern, and formerly in Anglo-Saxon Ever-fern, or Boar-fern. In Germany it is said to have sprung from the Virgin’s milk, and is named Marie bregue. The fresh root has been used successfully in decoction, or powdered, for melancholia; also of late for general rheumatic swelling of the
joints. By the ancients it was employed as a purgative. Six drachms by weight of the root should be infused for two hours in a pint of boiling water, and given in two doses. This is the Oak Fern of the herbalists; not that of modern botanists (Polypodium dryopteris); it being held that such Fern plants as grew upon the roots of an oak tree were of special medicinal powers, Quod nascit super radices quercûs est efficacius. The true Oak Fern (Dryopteris) grows chiefly in mountainous districts among the mossy roots of old oak trees, and sometimes in marshy places. If its root is bruised and applied to the skin of any hairy part, whilst the person is sweating, this will cause the hair to come away. Dioscorides said, “The root of Polypody is very good for chaps between the fingers.” “It serveth,” writes Gerard, “to make the belly soluble, being boiled in the broth of an old cock, with beets or mallows, or other like things, that move to the stool by their slipperiness.” Parkinson says: “A dram or two, it need be, of the powdered dry roots taken fasting, in a cupful of honeyed water, worketh gently as a purge, being a safe medicine, fit for all persons and seasons, which daily experience confirmeth.” “Applied also to the nose it cureth the disease called polypus, which by time and sufferance stoppeth the nostrils.” The leaves of the Polypody when burnt furnish a large proportion of carbonate of Potash.

The Spleenwort (Asplenium ceterach — an Arabian term), or Scaly Fern, or Finger Fern, grows on old walls, and in the clefts of moist rocks. It is also called “Miltwaste,” because supposed to cure disorders of the milt, or spleen:–

“The Finger Fern, which being given to swine,
It makes their milt to melt away in fine.”

Very probably this reputed virtue has mainly become attributed to the plant, because the lobular milt-like shape of its leaf resembles the form of the spleen. “No herbe maie be compared therewith,” says one of the oldest Herbals, “for his singular virtue to help the sicknesse or grief of the splene.” Pliny ordered: “It should not be given to women, because it bringeth barrenness.” Vitruvius alleged that in Crete the flocks and herds were found to be without spleens, because they browsed on this fern. The plant was supposed when given medicinally to diminish the size of the enlarged spleen or “ague-cake.”

The Wall Rue (Ruta muraria) is a white Maidenhair Fern, and is named by some Salvia vitoe. It is a small herb, somewhat nearly of the colour of Garden Rue, and is likewise good for them that have a cough, or are shortwinded, or be troubled with stitches in the sides. It stayeth the falling or shedding of the hair, and causeth them to grow thick, fair, and well coloured. This plant is held by those of judgment and experience, to be as effectual a capillary herb as any whatever. Also, it helpeth ruptures in children. Matthiolus “hath known of divers holpen therein by taking the powder of the herb in drink for forty days together.” Its leaves are like those of Rue, and the Fern has been called Tentwort from its use as a specific or sovereign remedy for the cure of rickets, a disease once known as “the taint.”

The generic appellations of the several species of Ferns are derived thus: Aspidium, from aspis, a shield, because the spores are enclosed in bosses; Pteris, from pteerux, a wing, having doubly pinnate fronds; or from pteron, a feather, having feathery fronds; Scolopendrium, because the fructification is supposed to resemble the feet of Scoltpendra, a genus of mydrapods; and Polypody, many footed, by reason of the pectinate fronds.

There grows in Tartary a singular polypody Fern, of which the hairy foot is easily made to simulate in form a small sheep. It rises above the ground with excrescences resembling a head and tail, whilst having four leg-like fronds. Fabulous stories are told about this remarkable Fern root; and in China its hairy down is so highly valued as a styptic for fresh bleeding cuts and wounds, that few families will be without it. Dr. Darwin, in his Loves of the Plants, says about this curious natural production, the Polypodium Barometz:–

“Cradled in snow, and fanned by Arctic air
Shines, gentle Barometz, thy golden hair;
Rooted in earth each cloven hoof descends,
And found and round her flexile neck she bends:
Crops the green coral moss, and hoary thyme,
Or laps with rosy tongue the melting rime;
Eyes with mute tenderness her distant dam,
Or seems to bleat — a vegetable Lamb.”

Source: Herbal Simples Approved for Modern Uses of Cure, William Thomas Fernie

Shingles, Herb Remedy for

May 14th, 2008

“Make a solution of yerba rheuma, one ounce to a pint of boiling water, and apply freely to the part several times a day.” The yerba rheuma has an astringent action and contracts the tissues, relieving the inflammation of the skin. It also relieves the itching.

Source: Mother’s Remedies: Over One Thousand Tried and Tested Remidies from Mothers of the United States and Canada, T. J. Ritter

Ingredients: Bilberry

May 4th, 2008

(Also known as Whortleberry, or Whinberry).

This fruit, which belongs to the Cranberry order of plants, grows abundantly throughout England in heathy and mountainous districts. The small-branched shrub bears globular, wax-like flowers, and black berries, which are covered, when quite fresh, with a grey bloom. In the West of England they are popularly called “whorts,” and they ripen about the time of St. James’ Feast, July 25th. Other names for the fruit are Blueberry, Bulberry, Hurtleberry, and Huckleberry. The title Whinberry has been acquired from its growing on Whins, or Heaths; and Bilberry signifies dark coloured; whence likewise comes Blackwort as distinguished in its aspect from the Cowberry and the Cranberry. By a corruption the original word Myrtleberry has suffered change of its initial M into W. (Whortlebery.) In the middle ages the Myrtleberry was used in medicine and cookery, to which berry the Whortleberry bears a strong resemblance. It is agreeable to the taste, and may be made into tarts, but proves mawkish unless mixed with some more acid fruit.

The Bilberry (Vaccinium Myrtillus) is an admirable astringent, and should be included as such among the domestic medicines of the housewife. If some good brandy be poured over two handfuls of the fruit in a bottle, this will make an extract which continually improves by being kept. Obstinate diarrhoea may be cured by giving doses of a tablespoonful of this extract taken with a wineglassful of warm water, and repeated at intervals of two hours whilst needed, even for the more severe cases of dysenteric diarrhoea. The berries contain chemically much tannin. Their stain on the lips may be quickly effaced by sucking at a lemon. In Devonshire they are eaten at table with cream. The Irish call them “frawns.” If the first tender leaves are properly gathered and dried, they can scarcely be distinguished from good tea. Moor game live on these berries in the autumn. Their juice will stain paper or
linen purple:–

“Sanguineo splendore rosas vaccinia nigro,
Induit, et dulci violas ferrugine pingit.”
CLAUDIAN.

They are also called in some counties, Blaeberries, Truckleberries, and Blackhearts.

The extract of Bilberry is found to be a very useful application for curing such skin diseases as scaly eczema, and other eczema which is not moist or pustulous; also for burns and scalds. Some of the extract is to be laid thickly on the cleansed skin with a camel hairbrush, and a thin layer of cotton wool to be spread over it, the whole being fastened with a calico or gauze bandage. This should be changed gently once a day.

Another Vaccinium (oxycoccos), the Marsh Whortleberry, or Cranberry, or Fenberry — from growing in fens — is found in peat bogs, chiefly in the North. This is a low plant with straggling wiry stems, and solitary terminal bright red flowers, of which the segments are bent back in a singular manner. Its fruit likewise makes excellent tarts, and forms a considerable article of commerce at Langtown, on the borders of Cumberland. The fruit stalks are crooked at the top, and before the blossom expands they resemble the head and neck of a crane.

Source: Herbal Simples Approved for Modern Uses of Cure, William Thomas Fernie