Dandelion Tea

March 18th, 2017

Infuse one ounce of dandelion in a jug with a pint of boiling water for fifteen minutes; sweeten with brown sugar or honey, and drink several tea-cupfuls during the day. The use of this tea is recommended as a safe remedy in all bilious affections; it is also an excellent beverage for persons afflicted with dropsy.

Source: A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes, C.E. Francatelli

Infusion of Foxglove

March 21st, 2016

Take of

  • Dried leaves of foxglove, one drachm;
  • Boiling water, eight ounces;
  • Spirit of cinnamon, one ounce.

Macerate for four hours, and filter.

This is the infusion so highly recommended by Withering. Half an ounce, or an ounce, of it, may be taken twice a day in dropsical complaints. The spirit of cinnamon is added to improve its flavour, and to counteract its sedative effects.

Source: The Edinburgh New Dispensatory, Andrew Duncan

To make the true Palsie-water, as it was given by that once very famous Physician Doctor Matthias

July 31st, 2015

Take Lavender Flowers stripped from the stalks, and fill a Gallon-Glass with them, and pour on them good Spirit of Sack, or perfect Aqua vitæ distilled from all Flegm, let the quantity be five quarts, then circulate them for six weeks, very close with a Bladder, that nothing may breath out; let them stand in a warm place, then distil them in an Alembeck with his Cooler, then put into the said water, of Sage, Rosemary, and Wood-Betony Flowers; of each half a handful, of Lilly of the Valley, and Burrage, Bugloss, and Cowslip Flowers, one handful of each; steep these in Spirit of Wine, Malmsie, or Aqua vitæ, every one in their Season, till all may be had; then put also to them of Balm, Motherwort, Spike-flowers, Bay leaves, the leaves of Orange trees, with the Flowers, if they may be had, of each one ounce, put them into the aforesaid distilled Wine all together, and distil it as before, having first been steeped six weeks; when you have distilled it, put into it Citron Pill, dried Piony seeds hull’d, of each five Drams, of Cinamon half an Ounce, of Nutmegs, Cardamum seeds, Cubebs[1], and yellow Saunders[2], of each half an ounce, of lignum Aloes one dram; make all these into Powder, and put them into the distilled Wine abovesaid, and put to them of Cubebs anew, a good half pound of Dates, the stones taken out, and cut them in small pieces, put all these in, and close your Vessel well with a double Bladder; let them digest six weeks, then strain it hard with a Press, and filtrate the Liquor, then put into it of prepared Pearl, Smaragdus[3], Musk and Saffron, of each half a Scruple; and of Ambergreece one Scruple, red Roses dried well, Red and Yellow Saunders, of each one ounce, hang these in a Sarsenet[4] Bag in the water, being well sewed that nothing go out.

The virtues of this Water

This Water is of exceeding virtue in all Swoundings and Weaknesses of the heart, and decaying of Spirits in all Apoplexies and Palsies, also in all pains of the Joints coming of Cold, for all Bruises outwardly bathed and dipped Clothes laid to; it strengtheneth and comforteth all animal, natural and viral Spirits, and cheareth the external Senses, strengtheneth the Memory, restoreth lost Speech, and lost Appetite, all weakness of the Stomach, being both taken inwardly, and bathed outwardly; it taketh away the Giddiness of the Head, helpeth lost Hearing, it maketh a pleasant Breath, helpeth all cold disposition of the Liver, and a beginning Dropsie; it helpeth all cold Diseases of the Mother; indeed none can express sufficiently; it is to be taken morning and evening, about half a Spoonful with Crums of Bread and Sugar.

Source: The Queen-like Closet or Rich Cabinet, Hannah Wolley

1. A type of pepper.

2. Sandalwood.

3. Emerald.

4. A type of fine silk.

Ingredient: Pellitory

March 20th, 2015

A plant belonging to the order of Nettles, the Pellitory of the Wall, or Paritory–Parietaria, from the Latin parietes, walls–is a favourite Herbal Simple in many rural districts. It grows commonly on dry walls, and is in flower all the summer. The leaves are narrow, hairy, and reddish; the stems are brittle, and the small blossoms hairy, in clusters. Their filaments are so elastic that if touched before the flower has expanded, they suddenly spring from their in curved position, and scatter the pollen broadcast.

An infusion of the plant is a popular medicine to stimulate the kidneys, and promote a large flow of watery urine. The juice of the herb acts in the same way when made into a thin syrup with sugar, and given in doses of two tablespoonfuls three times in the day. Dropsical effusions caused by an obstructed liver, or by a weak dilated heart, may be thus carried off with marked relief. The decoction of Parietaria, says Gerard, “helpeth such as are troubled with an old cough.” All parts of the plant contain nitre abundantly. The leaves may be usefully applied as poultices.

But another Pellitory, which is more widely used because of its pungent efficacy in relieving toothache, and in provoking a free flow of saliva, is a distinct plant, the Pyrethrum, or Spanish Chamomile of the shops, and not a native of Great Britain, though sometimes cultivated in our gardens. The title “Purethron” is from pur, fire, because of its burning ardent taste. Its root is scentless, but when chewed causes a pricking sensation (with heat, and some numbness) in the mouth and tongue. Then an abundant flow of saliva, and of mucus within the cheeks quickly ensues. These effects are due to “pyrethrin” contained in the plant, which is an acid fixed resin; also there are present a second resin, and a yellow, acrid oil, whilst the root contains inulin, tannin, and other substances. When sliced and applied to the skin it induces heat, tingling, and redness. A patient seeking relief from rheumatic or neuralgic affections of the head and face, or for palsy of the tongue, should chew the root of this Pyrethrum for several minutes.

The “Pelleter of Spain” (Pyrethrum Anacyclus), was so styled, not because of being brought from Spain; but because it is grown there.

A gargle of Pyrethrum infusion is prescribed for relaxed uvula, and for a partial paralysis of the tongue and lips. The tincture made from the dried root may be most helpfully applied on cotton wool to the interior of a decayed tooth which is aching, or the milder tincture of the wall Pellitory may be employed for the same purpose. To make a gargle, two or three teaspoonfuls of the tincture of Pyrethrum, which can be had from any druggist, should be mixed with a pint of cold water, and sweetened with honey, if desired. The powdered root forms a good snuff to cure chronic catarrh of the head and nostrils, and to clear the brain by exciting a free flow of nasal mucus and tears–Purgatur cerebrum mansâ radice Pyrethri.

Incidentally, as a quaint but effective remedy for carious toothache, may be mentioned the common lady bird insect, Coccinella, which when captured secretes from its legs a yellow acrid fluid having a disagreeable odour. This fluid will serve to ease the most violent toothache, if the creature be placed alive in the cavity of the hollow tooth.

Gerard says this Pyrethrurn (Pellitory of Spain, or Pelletor) “is most singular for the surgeons of the hospitals to put into their unctions contra Neapolitanum morbum, and such other diseases that are cousin germanes thereunto.” The Parietaria, or Pellitory of the wall, is named Lichwort, from growing on stones.

Sir William Roberts, of Manchester, has advised jujubes, made of gum arabic and pyrethrum, to be slowly masticated by persons who suffer from acid fermentation in the stomach, a copious flow of alkaline saliva being stimulated thereby in the mouth, which is repeatedly swallowed during the sucking of one or more of the jujubes, and which serves to neutralise the acid generated within the stomach. Distressing heartburn is thus effectively relieved without taking injurious alkalies, such as potash and soda.

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

Ingredients: Broom

October 18th, 2008

The Broom, or Link (Cytisus scoparius) is a leguminous shrub
which is well known as growing abundantly on open places in our
rural districts. The prefix “cytisus” is derived from the name of a
Greek island where Broom abounded. It formerly bore the name of
Planta Genista, and gave rise to the historic title, “Plantagenet.”
A sprig of its golden blossom was borne by Geoffrey of Anjou in
his bonnet when going into battle, making him conspicuous
throughout the strife. In the Ingoldsby Legends it is said of our
second King Henry’s headdress:–

“With a great sprig of broom, which he bore as a badge in it,
He was named from this circumstance, Henry Plantagenet.”

The stalks of the Broom, and especially the topmost young twigs,
are purgative, and act powerfully on the kidneys to increase the
flow of urine. They contain chemically an acid principle,
“scoparin,” and an alkaloid, “sparteine.” For medical purposes
these terminal twigs are used (whether fresh or dried) to make a
decoction which is of great use in dropsy from a weak heart, but it
should not be given where congestion of the lungs is present. From
half to one ounce by weight of the tops should be boiled down in a
pint of water to half this quantity, and a wineglassful may be taken
as a dose every four or six hours. For more chronic dropsy,
a compound decoction of broom may be given with much
benefit. To make this, use broom-tops and dandelion roots, of each
half an ounce, boiling them in a pint of water down to half a pint,
and towards the last adding half an ounce of bruised juniper
berries. When cold, the decoction should be strained and a
wineglassful may be had three or four times a day. “Henry the
Eighth, a prince of famous memory, was wonte to drinke the
distilled water of broome flowers against surfeits and diseases
therefrom arising.” The flower-buds, pickled in vinegar, are
sometimes used as capers; and the roasted seeds have been
substituted for coffee. Sheep become stupefied or excited when by
chance constrained to eat broom-tops.

The generic name, Scoparius, is derived from the Latin word
scopa, a besom, this signifying “a shrub to sweep with.” It has
been long represented that witches delight to ride thereon: and in
Holland, if a vessel lying in dock has a besom tied to the top of its
mast, this advertises it as in search of a new owner. Hence has
arisen the saying about a woman when seeking a second husband,
Zij steetk’t dem bezen, “She hangs out the broom.”

There is a tradition in Suffolk and Sussex:–

“If you sweep the house with Broom in May,
You’ll sweep the head of the house away.”

Allied to the Broom, and likewise belonging to the Papilionaceous
order of leguminous plants, though not affording any known
medicinal principle, the Yellow Gorse (Ulex) or Furze grows
commonly throughout England on dry exposed plains. It covers
these during the flowering season with a gorgeous sheet of yellow
blossoms, orange perfumed, and which entirely conceals the
rugged brown unsightly branches beneath. Its elastic seed vessels
burst with a crackling noise in hot weather, and scatter the
seeds on all sides. “Some,” says Parkinson, “have used the flowers
against the jaundice,” but probably only because of their yellow
colour. “The seeds,” adds Gerard, “are employed in medicines
against the stone, and the staying of the laske” (laxitas,
looseness). They are certainly astringent, and contain tannin. In
Devonshire the bush is called “Vuzz,” and in Sussex “Hawth.”

The Gorse is rare in Scotland, thriving best in our cool humid
climate. In England it is really never out of blossom, not even after
a severe frost, giving rise to the well-known saying “Love is never
out of season except when the Furze is out of bloom.” It is also
known as Fursbush, Furrs and Whins, being crushed and given as
fodder to cattle. The tender shoots are protected from being eaten
by herbivorous animals in the same way as are the thistles and the
holly, by the angles of the leaves having grown together so as to
constitute prickles.

“‘Twere to cut off an epigram’s point,
Or disfurnish a knight of his spurs,
If we foolishly tried to disjoint
Its arms from the lance-bearing Furze.”

Linnoeus “knelt before it on the sod: and for its beauty thanked his
God.”

The Butcher’s Broom, Ruscus (or Bruscus) aculeatus, or prickly,
is a plant of the Lily order, which grows chiefly in the South of
England, on heathy places and in woods. It bears sharp-pointed,
stiff leaves (each of which produces a small solitary flower on its
upper surface), and scarlet berries. The shrub is also known as
Knee Hulyer, Knee Holly (confused with the Latin cneorum),
Prickly Pettigrue and Jews’ Myrtle. Butchers make besoms of its
twigs, with which to sweep their stalls or blocks: and these
twigs are called “pungi topi,” “prickrats,” from being used to
preserve meat from rats. Jews buy the same for service during the
Feast of Tabernacles; and the boughs have been employed for
flogging chilblains. The Butcher’s Broom has been claimed by the
Earls of Sutherland as the distinguishing badge of their followers
and Clan, every Sutherland volunteer wearing a sprig of the bush
in his bonnet on field days. This shrub is highly extolled as a free
promoter of urine in dropsy and obstructions of the kidneys; a pint
of boiling water should be poured on an ounce of the fresh twigs,
or on half-an-ounce of the bruised root, to make an infusion,
which may be taken as tea. The root is at first sweet to the taste,
and afterwards bitter.

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

Ingredients: Juniper

August 23rd, 2008

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 Fernie

Dropsy, Common Herb Remedy for

July 16th, 2008

“One gallon white beech bark, after the rough bark is removed, good big handful of blackberry root, cut fine, and also of sassafras root. Cover with cold water and steep to get the strength; then strain. When cool, not cold, add one pint bakers’ yeast and one cup of sugar. Let it stand twenty-four hours in a warm place. Then strain and set in a cool place. Take a wineglassful three times a day before meals. This has been highly recommended to me by a friend in Kalkaska, Michigan.”

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

Ingredients: Fennel

June 21st, 2008

We all know the pleasant taste of Fennel sauce when eaten with boiled mackerel. This culinary condiment is made with Sweet Fennel, cultivated in our kitchen gardens, and which is a variety of the wild Fennel growing commonly in England as the Finkel, especially in Cornwall and Devon, on chalky cliffs near the sea. It is then an aromatic plant of the umbelliferous order, but differing from the rest of its tribe in producing bright yellow flowers.

Botanically, it is the Anethum foeniculum, or “small fragrant hay” of the Romans, and the Marathron of the Greeks. The whole plant has a warm carminative taste, and the old Greeks esteemed it highly for promoting the secretion of milk in nursing mothers. Macer alleged that the use of Fennel was first taught to man by serpents. His classical lines on the subject when translated run thus:–

“By eating herb of Fennel, for the eyes
A cure for blindness had the serpent wise;
Man tried the plant; and, trusting that his sight
Might thus be healed, rejoiced to find him right.”

“Hac mansâ serpens oculos caligine purgat;
Indeque compertum est humanis posse mederi
Illum hominibus: atque experiendo probatum est.”

Pliny also asserts that the ophidia, when they cast their skins, have recourse to this plant for restoring their sight. Others have averred that serpents wax young again by eating of the herb; “Wherefore the use of it is very meet for aged folk.”

Fennel powder may be employed for making an eyewash: half-a-teaspoonful infused in a wineglassful of cold water, and decanted when clear. A former physician to the Emperor of Germany saw a monk cured by his tutor in nine days of a cataract by only applying the roots of Fennel with the decoction to his eyes.

In the Elizabethan age the herb was quoted as an emblem of flattery; and Lily wrote, “Little things catch light minds; and fancie is a worm that feedeth first upon Fennel.” Again, Milton says, in Paradise Lost, Book XI:–

“The savoury odour blown,
Grateful to appetite, more pleased my sense
Than smell of sweetest Fennel.”

Shakespeare makes the sister of Laertes say to the King, in Hamlet, when wishing to prick the royal conscience, “There’s Fennel for you.” And Falstaff commends Poins thus, in Henry the Fourth, “He plays at quoits well, and eats conger, and Fennel.”

The Italians take blanched stalks of the cultivated Fennel (which they call Cartucci) as a salad; and in Germany its seeds are added to bread as a condiment, much as we put caraways in some of our cakes. The leaves are eaten raw with pickled fish to correct its oily indigestibility. Evelyn says the peeled stalks, soft and white, when “dressed like salery,” exercise a pleasant action conducive to sleep. Roman bakers put the herb under their loaves in the oven to make the bread taste agreeably.

Chemically, the cultivated Fennel plant furnishes a volatile aromatic oil, a fixed fatty principle, sugar, and some in the root; also a bitter resinous extract. It is an admirable corrective of flatulence; and yields an essential oil, of which from two to four drops taken on a lump of sugar will promptly relieve griping of the bowels with distension. Likewise a hot infusion, made by pouring half-a-pint of boiling water on a teaspoonful of the bruised seeds will comfort belly ache in the infant, if given in teaspoonful doses sweetened with sugar, and will prove an active remedy in promoting female monthly regularity, if taken at the periodical times, in doses of a wineglassful three times in the day. Gerard says, “The green leaves of the Fennel eaten, or the seed made into a ptisan, and drunk, do fill women’s brestes with milk; also the seed if drunk asswageath the wambling of the stomacke, and breaketh the winde.” The essential oil corresponds in composition to that of anise, but contains a special camphoraceous body of its own; whilst its vapour will cause the tears and the saliva to flow. A syrup prepared from the expressed juice was formerly given for chronic coughs.

W. Coles teaches in Nature’s Paradise, that “both the leaves, seeds, and roots, are much used in drinks and broths for those that are grown fat, to abate their unwieldinesse, and make them more gaunt and lank.” The ancient Greek name of the herb, Marathron, from maraino, to grow thin, probably embodied the same notion. “In warm climates,” said Matthiolus, “the stems are cut, and there exudes a resinous liquid, which is collected under the name of fennel gum.”

The Edinburgh Pharmacopoeia orders “Sweet Fennel seeds, combined with juniper berries and caraway seeds, for making with spirit of wine, the ‘compound spirit of juniper,’ which is noted for promoting a copious flow of urine in dropsy.” The bruised plant, if applied externally, will speedily relieve toothache or earache. This likewise proves of service as a poultice to resolve chronic swellings. Powdered Fennel is an ingredient in the modern laxative “compound liquorice powder” with senna. The flower, surrounded by its four leaves, is called in the South of England, “Devil in a bush.” An old proverb of ours, which is still believed in New England, says, that “Sowing Fennel is sowing sorrow.” A modern distilled water is now obtained from the cultivated plant, and dispensed by the druggist. The whole herb has been supposed to confer longevity, strength and courage. Longfellow wrote a poem about it to this effect.

The fine-leaved Hemlock Water Dropwort (Oenanthe Phellandrium), is the Water Fennel.

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

Ingredients: Elder

May 24th, 2008

“‘Arn,’ or the common Elder,” says Gerard, “groweth everywhere; and it is planted about cony burrows, for the shadow of the conies.” Formerly it was much cultivated near our English cottages, because supposed to afford protection against witches. Hence it is that the Elder tree may be so often seen immediately near old village houses. It acquired its name from the Saxon word eller or kindler, because its hollow branches were made into tubes to blow through for brightening up a dull fire. By the Greeks it was called Aktee. The botanical name of the Elder is Sambucus nigra, from sambukee, a sackbut, because the young branches, with their pith removed, were brought into requisition for making the pipes of this, and other musical instruments.

It was probably introduced as a medicinal plant at the time of the Monasteries. The adjective term nigra refers to the colour of the berries. These are without odour, rather acid, and sweetish to the taste. The French put layers of the flowers among apples, to which they impart, an agreeable odour and flavour like muscatel. A tract on Elder and Juniper Berries, showing how useful they may be in our Coffee Houses, is published with the Natural History of Coffee, 1682. Elder flowers are fatal to turkeys.

Hippocrates gave the bark as a purgative; and from his time the whole tree has possessed a medicinal celebrity, whilst its fame in the hands of the herbalist is immemorial. German writers have declared it contains within itself a magazine of physic, and a complete chest of medicaments.

The leaves when bruised, if worn in the hat, or rubbed on the face, will prevent flies from settling on the person. Likewise turnips, cabbages, fruit trees, or corn, if whipped with the branches and green leaves of Elder, will gain an immunity from all depredations of blight; but moths are fond of the blossom.

Dried Elder flowers have a dull yellow colour, being shrivelled, and possessing a sweet faint smell, unlike the repulsive odour of the fresh leaves and bark. They have a somewhat bitter, gummy taste, and are sold in entire cymes, with the stalks. An open space now seen in Malvern Chase was formerly called Eldersfield, from the abundance of Elder trees which grew there. “The flowers were noted,” says Mr. Symonds, “for eye ointments, and the berries for honey rob and black pigments. Mary of Eldersfield, the daughter of Bolingbroke, was famous for her knowledge of herb pharmacy, and for the efficacy of her nostrums.”

Chemically the flowers contain a yellow, odorous, buttery oil, with tannin, and malates of potash and lime, whilst the berries furnish viburnic acid. On expression they yield a fine purple juice, which proves a useful laxative, and a resolvent in recent colds. Anointed on the hair they make it black.

A medicinal tincture (H.) is made from the fresh inner bark of the young branches. This, when given in toxical quantities, will induce profuse sweating, and will cause asthmatic symptoms to present themselves. When used in a diluted form it is highly beneficial for relieving the same symptoms, if they come on as an attack of illness, particularly for the spurious croup of children, which wakes them at night with a suffocative cough and wheezing. A dose of four or five drops, if given at once, and perhaps repeated in fifteen minutes, will straightway prove of singular service.

Sir Thomas Browne said that in his day the Elder had become a famous medicine for quinsies, sore throats, and strangulations.

The inspissated juice or “rob” extracted from the crushed berries, and simmered with white sugar, is cordial, aperient, and diuretic. This has long been a popular English remedy, taken hot at bed-time, when a cold is caught. One or two tablespoonfuls are mixed with a tumblerful of very hot water. It promotes perspiration, and is demulcent to the chest. Five pounds of the fresh berries are to be used with one pound of loaf sugar, and the juice should be evaporated to the thickness of honey.

“The recent rob of the Elder spread thick upon a slice of bread and eaten before other dishes,” says Dr. Blochwich, 1760, “is our wives’ domestic medicine, which they use likewise in their infants and children whose bellies are stop’t longer than ordinary; for this juice is most pleasant and familiar to children; or to loosen the belly drink a draught of the wine at your breakfast, or use the conserve of the buds.”

Also a capital wine, which may well pass for Frontignac, is commonly made from the fresh berries, with raisins, sugar, and spices. When well brewed, and three years’ old, it constitutes English port. “A cup of mulled Elder wine, served with nutmeg and sippets of toast, just before going to bed on a cold wintry night, is a thing,” as Cobbet said, “to be run for.” The juice of Elder root, if taken in a dose of one or two tablespoonfuls when fasting, acts as a strong aperient, being “the most excellent purger of watery humours in the world, and very singular against dropsy, if taken once in the week.”

John Evelyn, in his Sylva (1729), said of the Elder: “If the medicinal properties of its leaves, bark, and berries, were fully known, I cannot tell what our countrymen could ail, for which he might not fetch a remedy from every hedge, either for sickness or wounds.” “The buds boiled in water gruel have effected wonders in a fever,” “and an extract composed of the berries greatly assists longevity. Indeed,” — so famous is the story of Neander — “this is a catholicum against all infirmities whatever.” “The leaves, though somewhat rank of smell, are otherwise, as indeed is the entire shrub, of a very sovereign virtue. The springbuds are excellently wholesome in pottage; and small ale, in which Elder flowers have been infused, are esteemed by many so salubrious, that this is to be had in most of the eating houses about our town.”

“It were likewise profitable for the scabby if they made a sallet of those young buds, who in the beginning of the spring doe bud forth together with those outbreakings and pustules of the skin, which by the singular favour of nature is contemporaneous; these being sometimes macerated a little in hot water, together with oyle, salt, and vinegar, and sometimes eaten. It purgeth the belly, and freeth the blood from salt and serous humours” (1760). Further, “there be nothing more excellent to ease the pains of the haemorrhoids than a fomentation made of the flowers of the Elder and Verbusie, or Honeysuckle, in water or milk, for in a short time it easeth the greatest pain.”

If the green leaves are warmed between two hot tiles, and applied to the forehead, they will promptly relieve nervous headache. In Germany the Elder is regarded with much respect. From its leaves a fever drink is made; from its berries a sour preserve, and a wonder-working electuary; whilst the moon-shaped clusters of its aromatic flowers, being somewhat narcotic, are of service in baking small cakes.

The Romans made use of the black Elder juice as a hair dye. From the flowers a fragrant water is now distilled as a perfume; and a gently stimulating ointment is prepared with lard for dressing burns and scalds. Another ointment, concocted from the green berries, with camphor and lard, is ordered by the London College as curative of piles. “The leaves of Elder boiled soft, and with a little linseed oil added thereto, if then laid upon a piece of scarlet or red cloth, and applied to piles as hot as this can be suffered, being removed when cold, and replaced by one such cloth after another upon the diseased part by the space of an hour, and in the end some bound to the place, and the patient put warm to bed. This hath not yet failed at the first dressing to cure the disease, but if the patient be dressed twice, it must needs cure them if the first fail.”

The Elder was named Eldrun and Burtre by the Anglo-Saxons. It is now called Bourtree in Scotland, from the central pith in the younger branches which children bore out so as to make pop guns:–

“Bour tree–Bour tree: crooked rung,
Never straight, and never strong;
Ever bush, and never tree
Since our Lord was nailed on thee.”

The Elder is specially abundant in Kent around Folkestone. By the Gauls it was called “Scovies,” and by the Britons “Iscaw.”

This is the tree upon which the legend represents Judas as having hanged himself, or of which the cross was made at the crucifixion. In Pier’s Plowman’s Vision it is said:–

“Judas he japed with Jewen silver,
And sithen an eller hanged hymselve.”

Gerard says “the gelly of the Elder, otherwise called Jew’s ear, taketh away inflammations of the mouth and throat if they be washed therewith, and doth in like Manner help the uvula.” He refers here to a fungus which grows often from the trunk of the Elder, and the shape of which resembles the human ear. Alluding to this fungus, and to the supposed fact that the berries of the Elder are poisonous to peacocks, a quaint old rhyme runs thus:–

“For the coughe take Judas’ eare,
With the paring of a peare,
And drynke them without feare
If you will have remedy.”

“Three syppes for the hycocke,
And six more for the chycocke:
Thus will my pretty pycocke
Recover bye and bye.”

Various superstitions have attached themselves in England to the Elder bush. The Tree-Mother has been thought to inhabit it; and it has been long believed that refuge may be safely taken under an Elder tree in a thunderstorm, because the cross was made therefrom, and so the lightning never strikes it. Elder was formerly buried with a corpse to protect it from witches, and even now at a funeral the driver of the hearse commonly has his whip handle made of Elder wood. Lord Bacon commended the rubbing of warts with a green Elder stick, and then burying the stick to rot in the mud. Brand says it is thought in some parts that beating with an Elder rod will check the growth of boys. A cross made of the wood if affixed to cow-houses and stables was supposed to protect cattle from all possible harm.

Belonging to the order of Caprifoliaceous (with leaves eaten by goats) plants, the Elder bush grows to the size of a small tree, bearing many white flowers in large flat umbels at the ends of the branches. It gives off an unpleasant soporific smell, which is said to prove harmful to those that sleep under its shade. Our summer is not here until the Elder is fully in flower, and it ends when the berries are ripe. When taken together with the berries of Herb Paris (four-leaved Paris) they have been found very useful in epilepsy. “Mark by the way,” says Anatomie of the Elder (1760), “the berries of Herb Paris, called by some Bear, or Wolfe Grapes, is held by certain matrons as a great secret against epilepsie; and they give them ever in an unequal number, as three, five, seven, or nine, in the water of Linden tree flowers. Others also do hang a cross made of the Elder and Sallow, mutually inwrapping one another, about the children’s neck as anti-epileptick.” “I learned the certainty of this experiment (Dr. Blochwich) from a friend in Leipsick, who no sooner erred in diet but he was seized on by this disease; yet after he used the Elder wood as an amulet cut into little pieces, and sewn in a knot against him, he was free.” Sheep suffering from the foot-rot, if able to get at the bark and young shoots of an Elder tree, will thereby cure themselves of this affection. The great Boerhaave always took off his hat when passing an Elder bush. Douglas Jerrold once, at a well-known tavern, ordered a bottle of port wine, which should be “old, but not Elder.”

The Dwarf Elder (Sambucus ebulus) is quite a different shrub, which grows not infrequently in hedges and bushy places, with a herbaceous stem from two to three feet high. It possesses a smell which is less aromatic than that of the true Elder, and it seldom brings its fruit to ripeness. A rob made therefrom is actively purgative; one tablespoonful for a dose. The root, which has a nauseous bitter taste, was formerly used in dropsies. A decoction made from it, as well as from the inner bark, purges, and promotes free urination.

The leaves made into a poultice will resolve swellings and relieve contusions. The odour of the green leaves will drive away mice from granaries. To the Dwarf Elder have been given the names Danewort, Danesweed, and Danesblood, probably because it brings about a loss of blood called the “Danes,” or perhaps as a corruption of its stated use contra quotidianam. The plant is also known as Walewort, from wal — slaughter. It grows in great plenty about Slaughterford, Wilts, where there was a noted fight with the Danes; and a patch of it thrives on ground in Worcestershire, where the first blood was drawn in the civil war between the Parliament and the Royalists. Rumour says it will only prosper where blood has been shed either in battle, or in murder.

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

Dropsy, Very Effective Remedy for

May 6th, 2008

“Make a decoction of fresh dandelion root slices, one ounce to one pint of water boiled down to one-half pint, strain, adding two drams of cream of tartar. Dose: A wine glassful two or three times a day.”

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