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

Eczema, Gasoline for

June 19th, 2008

“Bathe the affected parts in gasoline; be careful not to use the liquid where there is fire or lamps.”

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

Eczema, Potato and Camphor for

April 29th, 2008

“Make a poultice of a cold potato with a small quantity of camphor. This is very good and relieves the trouble very soon.”

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

Eczema, Lemon or Vinegar for

April 27th, 2008

“Rub the spots with sliced lemon. This will sometimes relieve the itching. Bathing with vinegar water is better for some as it destroys the germs.” The bowels should be kept open, and then constitutional faults removed as the eruption of the skin is but a local manifestation of a functional fault.

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

The Ear

February 22nd, 2008

The structure of the outer ear has much to do in the making or marring of beauty. Small and finely formed ears are a sign of good breeding, but are comparatively rare, many of the ears we see having a distinctly animal appearance.

The duty of the outer ear is to collect sound, and in the lower animals, whose hearing is far more acute than that of man, the ear is larger, more simply formed, and is mobile. In some human beings it still retains these characteristics, but we cannot admire them, because the aristocratic type is in reality the highest outcome of evolution.

The air is collected and strikes upon the drum, making it vibrate. Its vibrations are conveyed by a tiny chain of bones to the nerve endings, which may be compared to the keys of a piano and which, when set in motion, convert air vibrations into nerve impressions, which we recognise as sound.

Deformities of the outer ear are often due to carelessness of nurses, the child being put to sleep with its ear doubled under it, or the bonnet or hat may be put on in such a way as to keep the outer ear in a bad position. In young children great care should be taken to see that the ear is in its proper place, and the hands may be placed on either side of the baby’s head, so as to hold the ears in position, several times during the day, if there is any tendency for them to fall forward. In older children, a cap specially constructed to keep the ears in place may be worn, and this, in some cases, has even been found serviceable for adults.

Deafness is becoming more and more common, and it is chiefly due, I think, to the carelessness of persons who expose the ears to strong currents of air, or remove wax from them by means of a hair-pin or other instrument. The drum of the ear, and, in fact, the whole auditory apparatus, is so extremely delicate as to be seriously injured by slight causes. The practice of cleaning out the ears with a fluffy towel after washing, or of wearing pieces of cotton wool in the ear, is also injurious, and apt to set up irritation.

The commonest cause of deafness is a mass of hardened wax which forms in the outer passage of the ear, and may even cause great pain by pressing upon the drum. This wax, in small quantities, is normally secreted and beneficial, but in old age it is apt to form a hard mass and also in cases where the ear is tampered with, or the person sits in a draught, deafness may often arise from its hardening. If there is deafness and a feeling of stoppage in the ear, there is no objection to remove the wax in the following way:–

Take–

Boracic acid — 2 drachms
Glycerine — 3 ounces
Water — 3 ounces

Warm some of this and drop it into the ear from a teaspoon, leave it there for a quarter of an hour by holding the head on the pillow on the opposite side, then repeat the treatment with the other ear. This should be done for three or four days following, and then if properly syringed the wax comes away. Use a rubber enema syringe with a tube at both ends, and the best vessel to use for the purpose is a large-sized baking dish, divided down the middle, with clean water on one side, the water after use to run from the ear in to the other side. The patient’s head should be held close over this, and the dish be held either by the patient herself or an assistant. The water should first be allowed to run from the syringe into the hollow of the outer ear, so that the patient may judge of the temperature, as it would be dangerous to use it too hot. It should then be injected in a steady stream into the canal, and the syringing may be continued for half an hour or more. The wax sometimes comes away in small pieces, or in a large plug ; if the latter, of course it is not necessary to syringe any more. There is often a feeling of deafness for some little time after the syringing, but this goes off, and leaves the hearing very much better next day.

It is necessary to perfect hearing that there should be a constant supply of air into the drum chamber of the ear. The drum or fine membrane shuts off the internal ear entirely from the external air, and on the inner side of this membrane air is
required. This is supplied through a little tube from one and a half to two inches long, which is situated at the side and back of the upper part of the throat, and opens into the portion of the throat that is called the pharynx or back of the mouth. It is called the Eustachian tube. During swallowing, this opening into the throat is fur a moment closed, and when the throat is swollen by inflammation or from cold, it is found that the hearing is much impaired.

When the hearing is impaired by trouble with the Eustachian tube, it may very often be improved by forcing air up the tube. This is done by doctors by means of what is called “Politzer’s bag,” but may be done by any person if a very deep breath be drawn, the mouth firmly closed, and the nostrils closed with the fingers. Then an effort should be made to breathe out, and as the nose and mouth are closed some of the air is forced up the tube. This may be repeated several times during the day, and it is notable that the hearing is better afterwards.

Any Discharge From The Ear should be the signal for a visit to an aurist or good medical man. It is a great mistake to attempt to stop discharges from the ear by using astringents or other means. A quack once used to advertise that he would stop discharge from the ear, and did so by means of wax plugs. By this means, many patients suffered severely, and one or two died of brain disease caused by an abscess burrowing into the brain.

Every care should be taken to free the ear from any discharge, which should be done by gently syringing with warm water containing a little glycerine. Plugs of wool should not be worn in the ear to stop discharge, which they would only retain and render more objectionable.

When there is discharge from the ear, there is generally rupture of the drum and impaired hearing. It most commonly takes place after scarlet fever, but sometimes the drum is ruptured through diving or other accident.

Ear-Ache May Be Soothed by the following application:–

Tincture of laudanum — 2 drachms
Olive oil — 2 drachms

Warm a little of this and moisten a piece of cotton wool with it, putting it gently into the ear.

Eczema of the Ear.—Sometimes there is a slight discharge in the external ear not due to abscess, but to eczema, and there may be cracks both in the auricle itself and behind the ear. For this the following application is most useful:–

Tar — 1/2 drachm
Carbonate of zinc — 1/2 drachm
Lanoline — 1/2 ounce

To be applied to the surface of the ear.

If the smell of the tar is offensive, the following application may be used instead:—

Beta-napthol — 5 grains
Oil of camomile — 5 drops
Oxide of zinc ointment — 1/2 ounce

In the case of widows who wear crape strings to their bonnets, I have known eczema to appear just behind the ears. In such cases, the strings should at once be given up, and white silk ribbon or lawn used instead. It is the dye of the crape which does the mischief.

Source: Home Notes, 1895

Chafing and Redness

February 19th, 2008

Chafing and Redness, which so often occurs in the folds of children’s soft little bodies, should be treated by absolute cleanliness, with the use of a non-irritating soap, and a simple dusting powder to keep it dry. A little absorbent cotton wool may be laid between the folds with the following powder well applied over it: Thymol, one grain; powdered oxide of zinc, one ounce. Or the following application may be used to protect the parts from irritating discharges: Salicylic acid, ten grains; sub-nitrate of bismuth and powdered starch, of each, three drachms; cold cream, a sufficiency to one ounce. Mix, and smear over the surface.

For still more severe cases and mild cases of eczema the following is useful: Powdered tragacanth, fifteen grains; glycerine, twenty-four drops; water to one ounce. To which add: Oxide of zinc, one drachm; carbolic acid, one grain.

Source: Home Notes, January 1895.