Our invaluable Potato, which enters so largely into the dietary of all classes, belongs to the Nightshade tribe of dangerous plants, though termed “solanaceous” as a natural order because of the sedative properties which its several genera exercise to lull pain.
This Potato, the Solanum tuberosum, is so universally known as a plant that it needs no particular description. It is a native of Peru, and was imported in 1586 by Thomas Heriot, mathematician and colonist, being afterwards taken to Ireland from Virginia by Sir Walter Raleigh, and passing from thence over into Lancashire. He knew so little of its use that he tried to eat the fruit, or poisonous berries, of the plant. These of course proved noxious, and he ordered the new comers to be rooted out. The gardener obeyed, and in doing so first learnt the value of their underground wholesome tubers. But not until the middle of the eighteenth century, were they common in this country as an edible vegetable. “During 1629,” says Parkinson, “the Potato from Virginia was roasted under the embers, peeled and sliced: the tubers were put into sack with a little sugar, or were baked with cream, marrow, sugar, spice, etc., in pies, or preserved and candied by the comfit makers.” But he most probably refers here to the Batatas, or sweet Potato, a Convolvulus, which was a popular esculent vegetable at that date, of tropical origin, and to which our Potato has since been thought to bear a resemblance.
This Batatas, or sweet Potato, had the reputation, like Eringo root, of being able to restore decayed vigour, and so Falstaff is made by Shakespeare to say: “Let the sky rain potatoes, hail kissing comfits, and snow eringoes.” For a considerable while after their introduction the Potato tubers were grown only by men of fortune as a delicacy; and the general cultivation of this vegetable was strongly opposed by the public, chiefly by the Puritans, because no mention of it could be found in the Bible.
Also in France great opposition was offered to the recognised use of Potatoes: and it is said that Louis the Fifteenth, in order to bring the plant into favour, wore a bunch of its flowers in the button hole of his coat on a high festival. Later on during the Revolution quite a mania prevailed for Potatoes. Crowds perambulated the streets of Paris shouting for “la liberté, et des Batatas”; and when Louis the Sixteenth had been dethroned the gardens of the Tuileries were planted with Potatoes. Cobbett, in this country, exclaimed virulently against the tuber as “hogs’ food,” and hated it as fiercely as he hated tea. The stalks, leaves, and green berries of the plant share the narcotic and poisonous attributes of the nightshades to which it belongs; and the part which we eat, though often thought to be a root, is really only an underground stem, which has not been acted on by light so as to develop any poisonous tendencies, and in which starch is stored up for the future use of the plant.
The stalks, leaves, and unripe fruit yield an active principle apparently very powerful, which has not yet been fully investigated. There are two sorts of tubers, the red and the white. A roasted Potato takes two hours to digest; a boiled one three hours and a half. “After the Potato,” says an old proverb, “cheese.”
Chemically the Potato contains citric acid, like that of the lemon, which is admirable against scurvy: also potash, which is equally antiscorbutic, and phosphoric acid, yielding phosphorus in a quantity less only than that afforded by the apple, and by wheat. It is of the first importance that the potash salts should be retained by the potato during cooking: and the tubers should therefore be steamed with their coats on; else if peeled, and then steamed, they lose respectively seven and five per cent. of potash, and phosphoric acid.
If boiled after peeling they lose as much as thirty-three per cent. of potash, and twenty-three per cent. of phosphoric acid. “The roots,” says Gerard, “were forbidden in Burgundy, for that they were persuaded the too frequent use of them causeth the leprosie.” Nevertheless it is now believed that the Potato has had much to do with expelling leprosy from England. The affliction has become confined to countries where the Potato is not grown.
Boiled or steamed Potatoes should turn out floury, or mealy, by reason of the starch granules swelling up and filling the cellular tissue, whilst absorbing the albuminous contents of its cells. Then the albumen coagulates, and forms irregular fibres between the starch grains. The most active part of the tuber lies just beneath the skin, as may be shown by pouring some tincture of guaiacum over the cut surface of a Potato, when a ring of blue forms close to the skin, and is darkest there while extending over the whole cut surface. Abroad there is a belief the Potato thrives best if planted on Maundy Thursday. Rustic names for it are: Taiders, Taities, Leather Coats, Leather Jackets, Lapstones, Pinks, No Eyes, Flukes, Blue Eyes, Red Eyes, and Murphies; in Lancashire Potatoes are called Spruds, and small Potatoes, Sprots.
The peel or rind of the tuber contains a poisonous substance called “solanin,” which is dissipated and rendered inert when the whole Potato is boiled, or steamed. Stupes of hot Potato water are very serviceable in some forms of rheumatism. To make the decoction for this purpose, boil one pound of Potatoes (not peeled, and divided into quarters.) in two pints of water slowly down to one pint; then foment the swollen and painful parts with this as hot as it can be borne. Similarly some of the fresh stalks of the plant, and its unripe berries, as well as the unpeeled tubers cut up as described, if infused for some hours in cold water, will make a liquor in which the folded linen of a compress may be loosely rung out, and applied most serviceably under waterproof tissue, or a double layer of dry flannel. The carriage of a small raw Potato in the trousers’ pocket has been often found preventive of rheumatism in a person predisposed thereto, probably by reason of the sulphur, and the narcotic principles contained in the peel. Ladies in former times had their dresses supplied with special bags, or pockets, in which to carry one or more small raw Potatoes about their person for avoiding rheumatism.
If peeled and pounded in a mortar, uncooked Potatoes applied cold make a very soothing cataplasm to parts that have been scalded, or burnt. In Derbyshire a hot boiled Potato is used against corns; and for frost-bites the mealy flour of baked potatoes, when mixed with sweet oil and applied, is very healing.
The skin of the tuber contains corky wood which swells in boiling with the jackets on, and which thus serves to keep in all the juices so that the digestibility of the Potato is increased; at the same time water is prevented from entering and spoiling the flavour of the vegetable. The proportion of muscle-forming food (nitrogen) in the Potato is very small, and it takes ten and a half pounds of the tubers to equal one pound of butcher’s meat in nutritive value.
The Potato is composed mainly of starch, which affords animal heat and promotes fatness, The Irish think that these tubers foster fertility; they prefer them with the jackets on, and somewhat hard in the middle–“with the bones in.” A potato pie is believed to invigorate the sexual functions.
New Potatoes contain as yet no citric acid, and are hard of digestion, like sour crude apples; their nutriment, as Gerard says, “is sadly windy,” the starch being immature, and not readily acted on by the saliva during mastication. “The longer I live,” said shrewd Sidney Smith, “the more I am convinced that half the unhappiness in the world proceeds from a vexed stomach, or vicious bile: from small stoppages, or from food pressing in the wrong place. Old friendships may be destroyed by toasted cheese; and tough salted meat has led a man not infrequently to suicide.”
A mature Potato yields enough citric acid even for commercial purposes; and there is no better cleaner of silks, cottons, and woollens, than ripe Potato juice. But even of ripe Potatoes those that break into a watery meal in the boiling are always found to prove greatly diuretic, and to much increase the quantity of urine.
By fermentation mature Potatoes, through their starch and sugar, yield a wine from which may be distilled a Potato spirit, and from it a volatile oil can be extracted, called by the Germans, Fuselöl. This is nauseous, and causes a heavy headache, with indigestion, and biliary disorders together with nervous tremors. Chemically it is amylic ether.
Also when boiled with weak sulphuric acid, the Potato starch is changed into glucose, or grape sugar, which by fermentation yields alcohol: and this spirit is often sold under the name of British brandy.
A luminosity strong enough to enable a bystander to read by its light issues from the common Potato when in a state of putrefaction. In Cumberland, to have “taities and point to dinner,” is a figurative expression which implies scanty fare. At a time when the duty on salt made the condiment so dear that it was scarce in a household, the persons at table were fain to point their Potatoes at the salt cellar, and thus to cheat their imaginations. Carlyle asks in Sartor Resartus about “an unknown condiment named ‘point,’ into the meaning of which I have vainly enquired; the victuals potato and point not appearing in any European cookery book whatever.”
German ladies, at their five o’clock tea, indulge in Potato talk (Kartoffel gesprach) about table dainties, and the methods of cooking them. Men likewise, from the four quarters of the globe, in the days of our childhood, were given to hold similar domestic conclaves, when:–
“Mr. East made a feast,
Mr. North laid the cloth,
Mr. West brought his best,
Mr. South burnt his mouth
Eating a cold Potato.”
With pleasant skill of poetic alliteration, Sidney Smith wrote in ordering how to mix a sallet:–
“Two large Potatoes passed through kitchen sieve,
Unwonted softness to a salad give.”
And Sir Thomas Overbury wittily said about a dolt who took credit for the merits of his ancestors: “Like the Potato, all that was good about him was underground.”
Source: Herbal Simples Approved for Modern Uses of Cure, William Thomas FerniesFiled under Ingredient | Tags: burn, burns, corns, diuretic, frostbite, leprosy, potato, rheumatism, scalds, scurvy, sedative | Comment (1)
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 FernieFiled under Ingredient | Tags: astringent, back, blood, bronchitis, colic, consumption, deafness, diuretic, ears, ground ivy, headache, ivy, nervous headache, phlegm, tinnitus | Comment (0)
The Juniper shrub (Arkenthos of the ancients), which is widely distributed about the world, grows not uncommonly in England as a stiff evergreen conifer on heathy ground, and bears bluish purple berries. These have a sweet, juicy, and, presently, bitter, brown pulp, containing three seeds, and they do not ripen until the second year. The flowers blossom in May and June. Probably the shrub gets its name from the Celtic jeneprus, “rude or rough.” Gerard notes that “it grows most commonly very low, like unto our ground furzes.” Gum Sandarach, or Pounce, is the product of this tree.
Medicinally, the berries and the fragrant tops are employed. They contain “juniperin,” sugar, resins, wax, fat, formic and acetic acids, and malates. The fresh tops have a balsamic odour, and a carminative, bitterish taste. The berries afford a yellow aromatic oil, which acts on the kidneys, and gives cordial warmth to the stomach. Forty berries should yield an ounce of the oil. Steeped in alcohol the berries make a capital ratafia; they are used in several confections, as well as for flavouring gin, being put into a spirit more common than the true geneva of Holland. The French obtain from these berries the Genièvre (Anglice “geneva”), from which we have taken our English word “gin.” In France, Savoy, and Italy, the berries are largely collected, and are sometimes eaten as such, fifteen or twenty at a time, to stimulate the kidneys; or they are taken in powder for the same purpose. Being fragrant of smell, they have a warm, sweet, pungent flavour, which becomes bitter on further mastication.
Our British Pharmacopoeia orders a spirit of Juniper to be made for producing the like diuretic action in some forms of dropsy, so as to carry off the effused fluid by the kidneys. A teaspoonful of this spirit may be taken, well diluted with water, several times in the day. Of the essential oil the dose is from two to three drops on sugar, or with a tablespoonful of milk. These remedies are of service also in catarrh of the urinary passages; and if applied externally to painful local swellings, whether rheumatic, or neuralgic, the bruised berries afford prompt and lasting relief.
An infusion or decoction of the Juniper wood is sometimes given for the same affections, but less usefully, because the volatile oil becomes dissipated by the boiling heat. A “rob,” or inspissated juice of the berries, is likewise often employed. Gerard said: “A decoction thereof is singular against an old cough.” Gin is an ordinary malt spirit distilled a second time, with the addition of some Juniper berries. Formerly these berries were added to the malt in grinding, so that the spirit obtained therefrom was flavoured with the berries from the first, and surpassed all that could be made by any other method. At present gin is cheaply manufactured by leaving out the berries altogether, and giving the spirit a flavour by distilling it with a proportion of oil of turpentine, which resembles the Juniper berries in taste; and as this sophistication is less practised in Holland than elsewhere, it is best to order “Hollands,” with water, as a drink for dropsical persons. By the use of Juniper berries Dr. Mayern cured some patients who were deplorably ill with epilepsy when all other remedies had failed. “Let the patient carry a bag of these berries about with him, and eat from ten to twenty every morning for a month or more, whilst fasting. Similarly for flatulent indigestion the berries may be most usefully given; on the first day, four berries; on the second, five; on the third, six; on the fourth, seven; and so on until twelve days, and fifteen berries are reached; after this the daily dose should be reduced by one berry until only five are taken in the day; which makes an admirable ‘berry-cure.'” The berries are to be well masticated, and the husks may be afterwards either rejected or swallowed.
Juniper oil, used officinally, is distilled from the full-grown, unripe, green fruit. The Laplanders almost adore the tree, and they make a decoction of its ripe berries, when dried, to be drunk as tea, or coffee; whilst the Swedish peasantry prepare from the fresh berries a fermented beverage, which they drink cold, and an extract, which they eat with their bread for breakfast as we do butter.
Simon Pauli assures us these berries have performed wonders in curing the stone, he having personally treated cases thus, with incredible success. Schroder knew a nobleman of Germany, who freed himself from the intolerable symptoms of stone, by a constant use of these berries. Evelyn called them the “Forester’s Panacea,” “one of the most universal remedies in the world to our crazy Forester.” Astrological botanists advise to pull the berries when the sun is in Virgo.
We read in an old tract (London, 1682) on The use of Juniper and Elder berries in our Publick Houses: “The simple decoction of these berries, sweetened with a little sugar candy, will afford liquors so pleasant to the eye, so grateful to the palate, and so beneficial to the body, that the wonder is they have not been courted and ushered into our Publick Houses, so great are the extraordinary beauty and vertues of these berries.” “One ounce, well cleansed, bruised, and mashed, will be enough for almost a pint of water. When they are boiled together the vessel must be carefully stopt, and after the boiling is over one tablespoonful of sugar candy must be put in.”
From rifts which occur spontaneously in the bark of the shrubs in warm countries issues a gum resembling frankincense. This gum, as Gerard teaches, “drieth ulcers which are hollow, and filleth them with flesh if they be cast thereon.” “Being mixed with oil of roses, it healeth chaps of the hands and feet.” Bergius said “the lignum (wood) of Juniper is diureticum, sudorificum, mundificans; the bacca (berry), diuretica, nutriens, diaphoretica.” In Germany the berries are added to sauerkraut for flavouring it.
Virgil thought the odour exhaled by the Juniper tree noxious, and he speaks of the Juniperis gravis umbra:–
“Surgamus! solet esse gravis cantantibus umbra; Juniperis gravis umbra; nocent et frugibus umbrae.” Eclog. X. v. 75.
But it is more scientific to suppose that the growth of Juniper trees should be encouraged near dwellings, because of the balsamic and antiseptic odours which they constantly exhale. The smoke of the leaves and wood was formerly believed to drive away “all infection and corruption of the aire which bringeth the plague, and such like contagious diseases.”
Sprays of Juniper are frequently strewn over floors of apartments, so as to give out when trodden down, their agreeable odour which is supposed to promote sleep. Queen Elizabeth’s bedchamber was sweetened with their fumes. In the French hospitals it is customary to burn Juniper berries with Rosemary for correcting vitiated air, and to prevent infection.
On the Continent the Juniper is regarded with much veneration, because it is thought to have saved the life of the Madonna, and of the infant Jesus, whom she hid under a Juniper bush when flying into Egypt from the assassins of Herod.
Virgil alludes to the Juniper as Cedar:–
“Disce et odoratam stabulis accendere cedrum.” Georgic.
“But learn to burn within your sheltering rooms Sweet Juniper.”
Its powerful odour is thought to defeat the keen scent of the hound; and a hunted hare when put to extremities will seek a safe retreat under cover of its branches. Elijah was sheltered from the persecutions of King Ahab by the Juniper tree; since which time it has been always regarded as an asylum, and a symbol of succour.
From the wood of the Juniperus oxycoedrus; an empyreumatic oil resembling liquid pitch, is obtained by dry distillation, this being named officinally, Huile de cade, or Oleum cadinum, otherwise “Juniper tar.” It is found to be most useful as an external stimulant for curing psoriasis and chronic eczema of the skin. A recognised ointment is made with this and yellow wax, Unguentum olei cadini.
In Italy stables are popularly thought to be protected by a sprig of Juniper from demons and thunderbolts, just as we suppose the magic horseshoe to be protective to our houses and offices.
Source: Herbal Simples Approved for Modern Uses of Cure, William Thomas FernieFiled under Ingredient | Tags: cough, decoction, diuretic, dropsy, eczema, epilepsy, gin, infusion, inspissated, juniper, kidneys, psoriasis, stomach, stone | Comment (0)
The wild Saint John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a frequent plant in our woods and hedgebanks, having leaves studded with minute translucent vesicles, which seem to perforate their structure, and which contain a terebinthinate oil of fragrant medicinal virtues.
The name Hypericum is derived from the two Greek words, huper eikon, “over an apparition,” because of its supposed power to exorcise evil spirits, or influences; whence it was also formerly called Fuga doemoniorum, “the Devil’s Scourge,” “the Grace of God,” “the Lord God’s Wonder Plant.” and some other names of a like import, probably too, because found to be of curative use against insanity. Again, it used to be entitled Hexenkraut, and “Witch’s Herb,” on account of its reputed magical powers. Matthiolus said, Scripsere quidam Hypericum adeo odisse doemones, ut ejus suffitu statim avolent, “Certain writers have said that the St. John’s Wort is so detested by evil spirits that they fly off at a whiff of its odour.”
Further names of the herb are “Amber,” “Hundred Holes,” and Sol terrestris, the “Terrestrial Sun,” because it was believed that all the spirits of darkness vanish in its presence, as at the rising of the sun.
For children troubled with incontinence of urine at night, and who wet their beds, an infusion, or tea, of the St. John’s Wort is an admirable preventive medicine, which will stop this untoward infirmity.
The title St. John’s Wort is given, either because the plant blossoms about St. John’s day, June 24th, or because the red-coloured sap which it furnishes was thought to resemble and signalise the blood of St. John the Baptist. Ancient writers certainly attributed a host of virtues to this plant, especially for the cure of hypochondriasis, and insanity. The red juice, or “red oil,” of Hypericum made effective by hanging for some months in a glass vessel exposed to the sun, is esteemed as one of the most popular and curative applications in Europe for excoriations, wounds, and bruises.
The flowers also when rubbed together between the fingers yield a red juice, so that the plant has obtained the title of Sanguis hominis, human blood. Furthermore, this herb is Medicamentum in mansâ intus sumptum, “to be chewed for its curative effects.”
And for making a medicinal infusion, an ounce of the herb should be used to a pint of boiling water. This may be given beneficially for chronic catarrhs of the lungs, the bowels, or the urinary passages, Dr. Tuthill Massy considered the St. John’s Wort, by virtue of its healing properties for injuries of the spinal cord, and its dependencies, the vulnerary “arnica” of the organic nervous system. On the doctrine of signatures, because of its perforated leaves, and because of the blood-red juice contained in the capsules which it bears, this plant was formerly deemed a most excellent specific for healing wounds, and for stopping a flow of blood:–
“Hypericon was there–the herb of war,
Pierced through with wounds, and seamed with many a scar.”
For lacerated nerves, and injuries by violence to the spinal cord, a warm lotion should be employed, made with one part of the tincture to twenty parts of water, comfortably hot. A salve compounded from the flowers, and known as St. John’s Wort Salve, is still much used and valued in English villages. And in several countries the dew which has fallen on vegetation before daybreak on St. John’s morning, is gathered with great care. It is thought to protect the eyes from all harm throughout the ensuing year, and the Venetians say it renews the roots of the hair on the baldest of heads. Peasants in the Isle of Man, are wont to think that if anyone treads on the St. John’s Wort after sunset, a fairy horse will arise from the earth, and will carry him about all night, leaving him at sunrise wherever he may chance to be.
The plant has a somewhat aromatic odour; and from the leaves and flowers, when crushed, a lemon-like scent is exhaled, whilst their taste is bitter and astringent. The flowers furnish for fabrics of silk or wool a dye of deep yellow. Those parts of the plant were alone ordered by the London Pharmacopoeia to be used for supplying in chief the medicinal, oily, resinous extractive of the plant.
The juice gives a red colour to the spirit of wine with which it is mixed, and to expressed oils, being then known as the Hypericum “red oil” mentioned above. The flowers contain tannin, and “Hypericum red.”
Moreover, this Hypericum oil made from the tops is highly useful for healing bed sores, and is commended as excellent for ulcers. A medicinal tincture (H.) is prepared with spirit of wine from the entire fresh plant, collected when flowering, or in seed, and this proves of capital service for remedying injuries to the spinal cord, both by being given internally, and by its external use. It has been employed in like manner with benefit for lock-jaw. The dose of the tincture is from five to eight drops with a spoonful of water two or three times a day.
This plant may be readily distinguished from others of the Hypericaceous order by its decidedly two edged stem. Sprigs of it are stuck at the present time in Wales over every outer door on the eve of St. John’s day; and in Scotland, milking is done on the herb to dispel the malignant enchantments which cause ropy milk.
Among the Christian saints St. John represents light; and the flowers of this plant were taken as a reminder of the beneficent sun.
Tutsan is a large flowered variety (Hypericum androsoemum) of the St. John’s Wort, named from the French toute saine, or “heal all,” because of its many curative virtues; and is common in Devon and Cornwall. It possesses the same properties as the perforate sort, but yields a stronger and more camphoraceous odour when the flowers and the seed vessels are bruised. A tincture made from this plant, as well as that made from the perforate St. John’s Wort, has been used with success to cure melancholia, and its allied forms of insanity. The seed-capsules of the Tutsan are glossy and berry-like; the leaves retain their strong resinous odour after being dried.
Tutsan is called also provincially “Woman’s Tongue,” once set g(r)owing it never stops; and by country folk in Ireland the “Rose of Sharon.” Its botanical name Androsoemum, andros aima, man’s blood, derived from the red juice and oil, probably suggested the popular title of Tutsan, “heal all,” often corrupted to “Touchen leaf.”
Gerard gives a receipt, as a great secret, for making a compound oil of Hypericum, “than which,” he says, “I know that in the world there is no better; no, not the natural balsam itself.” “The plant,” he adds, “is a singular remedy for the sciatica, provided that the patient drink water for a day or two after purging.” “The leaves laid upon broken shins and scabbed legs do heal them.”
The whole plant is of a special value for healing punctured wounds; and its leaves are diuretic. It is handsome and shrubby, growing to a height of two or three feet.
Source: Herbal Simples Approved for Modern Uses of Cure, William Thomas FernieFiled under Ingredient | Tags: diuretic, hypochondria, incontinence, insanity, john's wort, lockjaw, melancholy, spine, st john's wort., tetanus, ulcer, ulcers, urine, wound | Comment (0)