Epileptic Pills

April 22nd, 2015

Take sulphate of zinc, sixty grains; rhubarb and ipecac, each thirty grains; cayenne, sixty grains. Make into sixty pills with extract of hyoscyamus. Dose: One pill night and morning for one week, then leave off for a week, and then resume again, and so on every other week. An important remedy, and has cured many cases of epileptic fits when taken in the early stages.

Source: The Ladies’ Book Of Useful Information

Ingredients: Pimpernel

January 17th, 2009

The “Poor Man’s Weather Glass” or “Shepherd’s Dial,” is a very well-known and favourite little flower, of brilliant scarlet hue, expanding only in bright weather, and closing its petals at two o’clock in the day. It occurs quite commonly in gardens and open fields, being the scarlet Pimpernel, or Anagallis arvensis, and belonging to the Primrose tribe of plants. Old authors called it Burnet; which is quite a distinct herb, cultivated now for kitchen use, the Pimpinella Saxifraga, of so cheery and exhilarating a quality, and so generally commended, that its excellence has passed into a proverb, “l’insolata non buon, ne betta ove non é Pimpinella.” But this Burnet Pimpinella is of a different (Umbelliferous) order, though similarly styled because its leaves are likewise bipennate.

The Scarlet Pimpernel is named Anagallis, from the Greek anagelao, to laugh; either because, as Pliny says, the plant removes obstructions of the liver, and spleen, which would engender sadness, or because of the graceful beauty of its flowers:–

“No ear hath heard, no tongue can tell
The virtues of the Pimpernell.”

The little plant has no odour, but possesses a bitter taste, which is rather astringent. Doctors used to consider the herb remedial in melancholy, and in the allied forms of mental disease, the decoction, or a tincture being employed. It was also prescribed for hydrophobia, and linen cloths saturated with a decoction were kept applied to the bitten part.

Narcotic effects were certainly produced in animals by giving considerable doses of an extract made from the herb. The flowers have been found useful in epilepsy, twenty grains dried being given four times a day. A medicinal tincture (H.) is prepared with spirit of wine. It is of approved utility for irritability of the main urinary passage, with genital congestion, erotism, and dragging of the loins, this tincture being then ordered of the third decimal strength, in doses of from five to ten drops every three or four hours, with a spoonful of water.

A decoction of the plant is held in esteem by countryfolk as checking pulmonary consumption in its early stages. Hill says there are many authenticated cases of this dire disease being absolutely cured by the herb. The infusion is best made by pouring boiling water on the fresh plant. It contains “saponin,” such as the Soapwort also specially furnishes.

In France the Pimpernel (Anagallis) is thought to be a noxious plant of drastic narcotico-acrid properties, and called Mouron–qui tue les petits oiseaux, et est un violent drastique pour l’homme, et les grands animaux; à dose tres elevée le mouron peut meme leur donner la mort. In California a fluid extract of the herb is given for rheumatism, in doses of one teaspoonful with water three times a day.

The Burnet Pimpinella is more correctly the Burnet Saxifrage, getting its first name because the leaves are brown, and the second because supposed to break up stone in the bladder. It grows abundantly in our dry chalky pastures, bearing terminal umbels of white flowers. It contains an essential oil and a bitter resin, which are useful as warmly carminative to relieve flatulent indigestion, and to promote the monthly flow in women. An infusion of the herb is made, and given in two tablespoonfuls for a dose. Cows which feed on this plant have their flow of milk increased thereby. Small bunches of the leaves and shoots when tied together and suspended in a cask of beer impart to it an agreeable aromatic flavour, and are thought to correct tart, or spoiled wines. The root, when fresh, has a hot pungent bitterish taste, and may be usefully chewed for tooth-ache, or to obviate paralysis of the tongue. In Germany a variety of this Burnet yields a blue essential oil which is used for colouring brandy. Again the herb is allied to the Anise (Pimpinella Anisum). The term Burnet was formerly applied to a brown cloth. Smaller than this Common Burnet is the Salad Burnet, Poterium sanguisorba, quod sanguineos fluxus sistat, a useful styptic, which is also cordial, and promotes perspiration. It has the smell of cucumber, and is, therefore, an ingredient of the salad bowl, or often put into a cool tankard, whereto, says Gerard, “it gives a grace in the drynkynge.” Another larger sort of the Burnet Pimpinella (Magna), which has broad upper leaves less divided, grows in our woods and shady places.

A bright blue variety of the true Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis) is less frequent, and is thought by many to be a distinct species. Gerard says, “the Pimpernel with the blue flower helpeth the fundament that is fallen down: and, contrariwise, red Pimpernel being applied bringeth it down.”

The Water Pimpernel (Anagallis aquatica) is more commonly known as Brooklime, or Beccabunga, and belongs to a different order of plants, the Scrophulariaceoe (healers of scrofula).

It grows quite commonly in brooks and ditches, as a succulent plant with smooth leaves, and small flowers of bright blue, being found in situations favourable to the growth of the watercress. It is the brok lempe of old writers, Veronica beccabunga, the syllable bec signifying a beck or brook; or perhaps the whole title comes from the Flemish beck pungen, mouth-smart, in allusion to the pungent taste of the plant.

“It is eaten,” says Gerard, “in salads, as watercresses are, and is good against that malum of such as dwell near the German seas, which we term the scurvie, or skirby, being used after the same manner that watercress and scurvy-grass is used, yet is it not of so great operation and virtue.” The leaves and stem are slightly acid and astringent, with a somewhat bitter taste, and frequently the former are mixed by sellers of water-cresses with their stock-in-trade.

A full dose of the juice of fresh Brooklime is an easy purge; and the plant has always been a popular Simple for scrofulous affections, especially of the skin. Chemically, this Water Pimpernel contains some tannin, and a special bitter principle; whilst, in common with most of the Cruciferous plants, it is endowed with a pungent volatile oil, and some sulphur. The bruised plant has been applied externally for healing ulcers, burns, whitlows, and for the mitigation of swollen piles.

The Bog Pimpernel (Anagallis tenella), is common in boggy ground, having erect rose-coloured leaves larger than those of the Poor Man’s Weather Glass.

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

Ingredients: Orange

December 27th, 2008

Though not of native British growth, except by way of a luxury in the gardens of the wealthy, yet the Orange is of such common use amongst all classes of our people as a dietetic fruit, when of the sweet China sort, and for tonic medicinal purposes when of the bitter Seville kind, that some consideration may be fairly accorded to it as a Curative Simple in these pages.

The Citrus aurantium, or popular Orange, came originally from India, and got its distinctive title of Aurantium, either (ab aureo colore corticis) from the golden colour of its peel, or (ab oppido Achoeioe Arantium) from Arantium, a town of Achaia. It now comes to us chiefly from Portugal and Spain. This fruit is essentially a product of cultivation extending over many years. It began in Hindustan as a small bitter berry with seeds; then about the eighth century it was imported into Persia, though held somewhat accursed. During the tenth century it bore the name “Bigarade,” and became better known. But not until the sixteenth century was it freely grown by the Spaniards, and brought into Mexico. Even at that time the legend still prevailed that whoever partook of the luscious juice was compelled to embrace the faith of the prophet. Spenser and Milton tell of the orange as the veritable golden apple presented by Jupiter to Juno on the day of their nuptials: and hence perhaps arose its more modern association with marriage rites.

Of the varieties the China Orange is the most juicy, being now grown in the South of Europe; whilst the St. Michael Orange (a descendant of the China sort, first produced in Syria), is now got abundantly from the Azores, whence it derives its name.

John Evelyn says the first China Orange which appeared in Europe, was sent as a present to the old Condé Mellor; then Prime Minister to the King of Portugal, when only one plant escaped sound and useful of the whole case which reached Lisbon, and this became the parent of all the Orange trees cultivated by our gardeners, though not without greatly degenerating.

The Seville Orange is that which contains the medicinal properties, more especially in its leaves, flowers, and fruit, though the China sort possesses the same virtues in a minor degree. The leaves and the flowers have been esteemed as beneficial against epilepsy, and other convulsive disorders; and a tea is infused from the former for hysterical sufferers.

Two delicious perfumes are distilled from the flowers–oil of neroli, and napha water,–of which the chemical hydro-carbon “hesperidin,” is mainly the active principle. This is secreted also as an aromatic attribute of the leaves through their minute glands, causing them to emit a fragrant odour when bruised. A scented water is largely prepared in France from the flowers, l’eau de fleur d’oranger, which is frequently taken by ladies as a gentle sedative at night, when sufficiently diluted with sugared water. Thousands of gallons are drunk in this way every year. As a pleasant and safely effective help towards wooing sleep, from one to two teaspoonfuls of the French Eau de fleur d’oranger, if taken at bedtime in a teacupful of hot water, are to be highly commended for a nervous, or excitably wakeful person.

Orange buds are picked green from the trees in the gardens of the Riviera, and when dried they retain the sweet smell of the flowers. A teaspoonful of these buds is ordered to be infused in a teacupful of quite hot water, and the liquid to be drunk shortly, before going to bed. The effect is to induce a refreshing sleep, without any subsequent headache or nausea. The dried berries may be had from an English druggist.

A peeled Orange contains, some citric acid, with citrate of potash; also albumen, cellulose, water, and about eight per cent. of sugar. The white lining pith of the peel possesses likewise the crystalline principle “hesperidin.” Dr. Cullen showed that the acid juice of oranges, by uniting with the bile, diminishes the bitterness of that secretion; and hence it is that this fruit is of particular service in illnesses which arise from a redundancy of bile, chiefly in dark persons of a fibrous, or bilious temperament. But if the acids of the Orange are greater in quantity than can be properly corrected by the bile (as in persons with a small liver, and feeble digestive powers), they seem, by some prejudicial union with that liquid, to acquire a purgative quality, and to provoke diarrhoea, with colicky pains.

The rind or peel of the Seville Orange is darker in colour, and more bitter of taste than that of the sweet China fruit. It affords a considerable quantity of fragrant, aromatic oil, which partakes of the characters exercised by the leaves and the flowers as affecting the nervous system. Pereira records the death of a child which resulted from eating the rind of a sweet China Orange.

The small green fruits (windfalls) from the Orange trees of each sort, which become blown off, or shaken down during the heats of the summer, are collected and dried, forming the “orange berries” of the shops. They are used for flavouring curacoa, and for making issue peas. These berries furnish a fragrant oil, the essence de petit grain, and contain citrates, and malates of lime and potash, with “hesperidin,” sulphur, and mineral salts. The Orange flowers yield a volatile, odorous oil, acetic acid, and acetate of lime. The juice of the Orange consists of citric and malic acids, with sugar; citrate of lime, and water. The peel furnishes hesperidin, a volatile oil, gallic acid, and a bitter principle.

By druggists, a confection of bitter orange peel is sold; also a syrup of this orange peel, and a tincture of the same, made with spirit of wine, to be given in doses of from one to two teaspoonfuls with water, as an agreeable stomachic bitter. Eau de Cologne contains oil of neroli, oil of citron, and oil of orange.

The fresh juice of Oranges is antiseptic, and will prevent scurvy if taken in moderation daily. Common Oranges cut through the middle while green, and dried in the air, being afterwards steeped for forty days in oil, are used by the Arabs for preparing an essence famous among their old women because it will restore a fresh dark, or black colour to grey hair. The custom of a bride wearing Orange blossoms, is probably due to the fact that flowers and fruit appear together on the tree, in token of a wish that the bride may retain the graces of maidenhood amid the cares of married life. This custom has been derived from the Saracens, and was originally suggested also by the fertility of the Orange tree.

The rind of the Seville Orange has proved curative of ague, and powerfully remedial to restrain the monthly flux of women when in excess. Its infusion is of service also against flatulency. A drachm of the powdered leaves may be given for a dose in nervous and hysterical ailments. Finally, “the Orange,” adds John Evelyn, “sharpens appetite, exceedingly refreshes, and resists putrefaction.”

With respect to the fruit, it is said that workpeople engaged in the orange trade enjoy a special immunity from influenza, whilst a free partaking of the juice given largely, has been found preventive of pneumonia as complicating this epidemic. The benefit is said to occur through lessening the fibrin of the blood.

In the time of Shakespeare, it was the fashion to carry “pomanders,” these being oranges from which all the pulp had been scooped out, whilst a circular hole was made at the top. Then after the peel had become dry, the fruit was filled with spices, so as to make a sort of scent-box. Orange lilies, Orangemen, and William of Orange, are all more or less associated with this fruit. The Dutch Government had no love for the House of Orange: and many a grave burgomaster went so far as to banish from his garden the Orange lily, and Marigold; also the sale of Oranges and Carrots was prohibited in the markets on account of their aristocratic colour.

There exists at Brighton a curious custom of bowling or throwing Oranges along the high road on Boxing day. He whose Orange is hit by that of another, forfeits the fruit to the successful hitter.

In Henry the Eighth’s reign Oranges were made into pies, or the juice was squeezed out, and mixed with wine. This fruit when peeled, and torn into sections, after removing the white pith, and the pips, and sprinkling over it two or three spoonfuls of powdered loaf sugar, makes a most wholesome salad. A few candied orange-flower petals will impart a fine flavour to tea when infused with it.

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

Ingredient: Roses

November 22nd, 2008

Certain curative properties are possessed both by the Briar, or wild Dog Rose of our country hedges, and by the cultivated varieties of this queen of flowers in our Roseries. The word Rose means red, from the Greek rodon, connected also with rota, a wheel, which resembles the outline of a Rose. The name Briar is from the Latin bruarium, the waste land on which it grows. The first Rose of a dark red colour, is held to have sprung from the blood of Adonis. The fruit of the wild Rose, which is so familiar to every admirer of our hedgerows in the summer, and which is the common progenitor of all Roses, is named Hips. “Heps maketh,” says Gerard, “most pleasant meats or banquetting dishes, as tarts and such like, the concoction whereof I commit to the cunning cook, and teeth to eat them in the rich man’s mouth.”

Hips, derived from the old Saxon, hiupa, jupe, signifies the Briar rather than its fruit. They are called in some parts, “choops,” or “hoops.” The woolly down which surrounds the seeds within the Hips serves admirably for dispelling round worms, on which it acts mechanically without irritating the mucous membrane which lines the bowels.

When fully ripe and softened by frost, the Hips, after removal of their hard seeds, and when plenty of sugar is added, make a very nice confection, which the Swiss and Germans eat at dessert, and which forms an agreeable substitute for tomato sauce. Apothecaries employ this conserve in the preparing of electuaries, and as a basis for pills. They also officinally use the petals of the Cabbage Rose (Centifolia) for making Rose water, and the petals of the Red Rose (Gallica) for a cooling infusion, the brilliant colour of which is much improved by adding some diluted sulphuric acid; and of these petals they further direct a syrup to be concocted.

Next in development to the Dog Rose, or Hound’s Rose, comes the Sweetbriar (Eglantine), with a delicate perfume contained under its glandular leaves. “Fragrantia ejus olei omnia alia odoramenta superest.” This (Rosa rubiginosa) grows chiefly on chalk as a bushy shrub. Its poetic title, Eglantine, is a corruption of the Latin aculeius, prickly. A legend tells that Christ’s crown of thorns was made from the Rose-briar, about which it has been beautifully said:–

“Men sow the thorns on Jesus’ brow,
But Angels saw the Roses.”

Pliny tells a remarkable story of a soldier of the Praetorian guard, who was cured of hydrophobia, against all hope, by taking an extract of the root of the Kunoroddon, Dog Rose, in obedience to the prayer of his mother, to whom the remedy was revealed in a dream; and he says further, that it likewise restored whoever tried it afterwards. Hence came the title Canina. “Parceque elle a longtemps été en vogue pour guerir de la rage.”

But the term, Dog Rose, is generally thought to merely signify a flower of lower quality than the nobler Roses of garden culture.

The five graceful fringed leaflets which form the special beauty of the Eglantine flower and bud, have given rise to the following Latin enigma (translated):–

“Of us five brothers at the same time born,
Two from our birthday always beards have worn:
On other two none ever have appeared,
While our fifth brother wears but half a beard.”

From Roses the Romans prepared wine and confections, also subtle scents, sweet-smelling oil, and medicines. The petals of the crimson French Rose, which is grown freely in our gardens, have been esteemed of signal efficacy in consumption of the lungs since the time of Avicenna, A.D. 1020, who states that he cured many patients by prescribing as much of the conserve as they could manage to swallow daily. It was combined with milk, or with some other light nutriment; and generally from thirty to forty pounds of this medicine had to be consumed before the cure was complete. Julius Caesar hid his baldness at the age of thirty with Roman Roses.

“Take,” says an old MS. recipe of Lady Somerset’s, “Red Rose buds, and clyp of the tops, and put them in a mortar with ye waight of double refined sugar; beat them very small together, then put it up; must rest three full months, stirring onces a day. This is good against the falling sickness.”

It is remarkable that while the blossoms of the Rose Order present various shades of yellow, white, and red, blue is altogether foreign to them, and unknown among them.

As the Thistle is symbolical of Scotland, the Leek of Wales, and the Shamrock of Ireland: so the sweet, pure, simple, honest Rose of our woods is the apt-chosen emblem of Saint George, and the frank, bonny, blushing badge of Merrie England.

The petals of the Cabbage Rose (Centifolia), which are closely folded over each other like the leaves of a cabbage, have a slight laxative action, and are used for making Rose-water by distillation, whether when fresh, or after being preserved by admixture with common salt. This perfumed water has long enjoyed a reputation for the cure of inflamed eyes, more commonly when combined with zinc, or with sugar of lead. Hahnemann quotes the same established practice as a tacit avowal that there exists in the leaves of the Rose some healing power for certain diseased conditions of the eyes, which virtue is really founded on the homoeopathic property possessed by the Rose, of exciting a species of ophthalmia in healthy persons; as was observed by Echtius, Ledelius, and Rau.

It is recorded also in his Organon of Medicine, that persons are sometimes found to faint at the smell of Roses (or, as Pope puts it, to “die of a rose in aromatic pain”); whereas the Princess Maria, cured her brother, the Emperor Alexius, who suffered from faintings, by sprinkling him with Rose-water, in the presence of his aunt Eudoxia.

The wealthy Greeks and Romans strewed Roses on the tombs of departed friends, whilst poorer persona could only afford a tablet at the grave bearing the prayer:

“Sparge, precor, rosas super mea busta, viator.”

“Scatter Roses, I beseech you, over my ashes, O pitiful passer-by.”

But nowadays many persons have an aversion to throwing a Rose into a grave, or even letting one fall in.

Roses and reticence of speech have been linked together since the time of Harpocrates, whom Cupid bribed to silence by the gift of a golden Rose-bud; and therefore it became customary at Roman feasts to suspend over the table a flower of this kind as a hint that the convivial sayings which were then interchanged wore not to be talked of outside. What was spoken “sub vino” was not to be published “sub divo”:

“Est rosa flos veneris, cujus quo facta laterent
Harpocrati, matris dona, dicavit amor:
Inde rosam mensis hospes suspendid amicis,
Conviva ut sub eâ dicta tacenda sciat.”

For the same reason the Rose is found sculptured on the ceilings of banqueting rooms; and in 1526 it began to be placed over Confessionals. Thus it has come about that the Rose is held to be the symbol of secrecy, as well as the flower of love, and the emblem of beauty: so that the significant phrase “sub rosa,”–under the Rose,– conveys a recognised meaning, understood, and respected by everyone. The bed of Roses is not altogether a poetic fiction. In old days the Sybarites slept upon mattresses which were stuffed with Rose petals: and the like are now made for persons of rank on the Nile.

A memorial brass over the tomb of Abbot Kirton, in Westminster Abbey, bears testimony to the high value he attached during life to Roses curatively:–

“Sis, Rosa, flos florum, morbis medicina meoium.”

Many country persons believe, that if Roses and Violets are plentiful in the autumn, some epidemic may be expected presently. But this conclusion must be founded like that which says, “a green winter makes a fat churchyard,” on the fact that humid warmth continued on late in the year tends to engender putrid ferments, and to weaken the bodily vigour.

Attar of Roses is a costly product, because consisting of the comparatively few oil globules found floating on the surface of a considerable volume of Rose water thrice distilled. It takes five hundredweight of Rose petals to produce one drachm by weight of the finest Attar, which is preserved in small bottles made of rock crystal. The scent of the minutest particle of the genuine essence is very powerful and enduring:–

“You may break, you may ruin, the vase if you will,
But the scent of the Roses will hang round it still.”

The inscription, Rosamundi, non Rosa munda, was graven on the tomb of fair Rosamund, the inamorata of Henry the Seventh:–

“Hic jacet in tombâ Rosa Mundi, non Rosa munda;
Non redolet, sed olet quae redolere solet.”

“Here Rose the graced, not Rose the chaste, reposes;
The smell that rises is no smell of Roses.”

In Sussex, the peculiar excrescence which is often found on the Briar, as caused by the puncture of an insect, and which is known as the canker, or “robin redbreast’s cushion,” is frequently worn round the neck as a protective amulet against whooping cough. This was called in the old Pharmacopeias “Bedeguar,” and was famous for its astringent properties. Hans Andersen names it the “Rose King’s beard.”

The Rosary was introduced by St. Dominick to commemorate his having been shown a chaplet of Roses by the Blessed Virgin. It consisted formerly of a string of beads made of Rose leaves tightly pressed into round moulds and strung together, when real Roses could not be had. The use of a chaplet of beads for recording the number of prayers recited is of Eastern origin from the time of the Egyptian Anchorites.

The Rock Rose (a Cistus), grows commonly in our hilly pastures on a soil of chalk, or gravel, bearing clusters of large, bright, yellow flowers, from a small branching shrub. These flowers expand only in the sunshine, and have stamens which, if lightly touched, spread out, and lie down on the petals. The plant proves medicinally useful, particularly if grown in a soil containing magnesia. A tincture is prepared (H.) from the whole plant, English or Canadian, which is useful for curing shingles, on the principle of its producing, when taken by healthy provers in doses of various potencies, a cutaneous outbreak on the trunk of the body closely resembling the characteristic symptoms of shingles, whilst attended with nervous distress, and with much burning of the affected skin. The plant has likewise a popular reputation for healing scrofula, and its tincture is beneficial for reducing enlarged glands, as of the neck and throat; also for strumous swelling of the knee joint, as well as of other joints. It is a “helianthemum” of the Sunflower tribe.

The Canadian Rock Rose is called Frostwort and Frostweed, because crystals of ice shoot from the cracked bark below the stem during freezing weather in the autumn.

A decoction of our plant has proved useful in prurigo (itching), and as a gargle for the sore throat of scarlet fever. For shingles, from five to ten drops of the tincture, third decimal strength, should be given with a spoonful of water three times a day.

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

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