Infusion of Rhubarb

April 18th, 2016

Take of

  • Rhubarb, half an ounce ;
  • Boiling water, eight ounces ;
  • Spirit of cinnamon, one ounce.

Macerate the rhubarb in a close vessel with the water, for twelve hours ; then having added the spirit, strain the liquor.

This appears to be one of the best preparations of rhubarb, when designed as a purgative; water extracting its virtue more effectually than either vinous or spiritous menstrua.

Source: The Edinburgh New Dispensatory, Andrew Duncan

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

Infusion of Catechu, commonly called Japonic Infusion

March 3rd, 2016

Take of

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

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

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

Source: The Edinburgh New Dispensatory, Andrew Duncan

Wash to Perfume the Breath

January 15th, 2016

Cloves, bruised in a mortar, three teaspoonfuls; boiling water, one pint. Infuse for an hour in a covered vessel — exactly as in making tea — when cold, decant, or filter through coarse muslin. Wash the mouth with it as often as may seem necessary.

Source: Audel’s Household Helps, Hints and Receipts

Ingredient: Angustura Bark

May 13th, 2015

Angustura bark (Cusparia) is a valuable tonic, especially in cases of dyspepsia, with diarrhoea and loss of appetite. It may be given in powder in doses of ten grains, twice or thrice a-day; or in infusion, or decoction. In cases of flatulency of the stomach, attended by nausea, five grains, with the same weight of rhubarb, taken an hour before dinner, will often effectually restore the appetite and digestion.

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

Ingredient: Primrose

March 9th, 2015

The Common Primrose (Primula veris) is the most widely known of our English wild flowers, and appears in the Spring as its earliest herald.

It gets its name from the Latin primus, first, being named in old books and M.S. Pryme rolles, and in the Grete Herball, Primet, as shortened from Primprint.

In North Devon it is styled the Butter Rose, and in the Eastern counties it is named (in common with the Cowslip) Paigle, Peagle, Pegyll, and Palsy plant.

Medicinally also it possesses similar curative attributes, though in a lesser degree, to those of the Cowslip. Both the root and the flowers contain a volatile oil, and “primulin” which is identical with mannite: whilst the acrid principle is “saponin.” Alfred Austin, Poet Laureate, teaches to “make healing salve with early Primroses.”

Pliny speaks of the Primrose as almost a panacea: In aquâ potam omnibus morbis mederi tradunt. An infusion of the flowers has been always thought excellent against nervous disorders of the hysterical sort. It should be made with from five to ten parts of the petals to one hundred of water. “Primrose tea” says Gerard, “drunk in the month of May, is famous for curing the phrensie.”

The whole plant is sedative and antispasmodic, being of service by its preparations to relieve sleeplessness, nervous headache, and muscular rheumatism. The juice if sniffed up into the nostrils will provoke violent sneezing, and will induce a free flow of water from the lining membranes of the nostrils for the mitigation of passive headaches: though this should not be tried by a person of full habit with a determination of blood to the head. A teaspoonful of powdered dry Primrose root will act as an emetic. The whole herb is somewhat expectorant.

When the petals are collected and dried they become of a greenish colour: whilst fresh they have a honey-like odour, and a sweetish taste.

Within the last few years a political significance and popularity have attached themselves to the Primrose beyond every other British wild flower. It arouses the patriotism of the large Conservative party, and enlists the favour of many others who thoughtlessly follow an attractive fashion, and who love the first fruits of early Spring. Botanically the Primrose has two varieties of floral structure: one “pin-eyed,” with a tall pistil, and short stamens; the other “thrum-eyed,” showing a rosette of tall stamens, whilst the short pistil must be looked for, like the great Panjandrum himself, “with a little round button at the top,” half way down the tube. Darwin was the first to explain that this diversity of structure ensures cross fertilisation by bees and allied insects. Through advanced cultivation at the hands of the horticulturist the Primula acquires in some instances a noxious character. For instance, the Primula biconica, which is often grown in dwelling rooms as a window plant, and commonly sold as such, will provoke an crysipelatous vesicular eruption of a very troublesome and inflamed character on the hands and face of some persons who come in contact with the plant by manipulating it to take cuttings, or in other ways. A knowledge of this fact should suggest the probable usefulness of the said Primula, when made into a tincture, and given in small diluted doses thereof, to act curatively for such an eruption if attacking the sufferer from idiopathic causes.

The Latins named the Ligustrum (our Privet) Primrose. Coles says concerning it (17th century): “This herbe is called Primrose; it is good to ‘Potage.'” They also applied the epithet, “Prime rose” to a lady.

The Evening Primrose (OEnothera biennis, or odorata) is found in this country on sand banks in the West of England and Cornwall; but it is then most probably a garden scape, and an alien, its native habitat being in Canada and the United States of America. We cultivate it freely in our parterres as a brilliant, yellow, showy flower. It belongs to the natural order, Onagraceoe, so called because the food of wild asses; and was the “vini venator” of Theophrastus, 350 B.C. The name signifies having the odour of wine, oinos and theera. Pliny said: “It is an herbe good as wine to make the heart merrie. It groweth with leaves resembling those of the almond tree, and beareth flowers like unto roses. Of such virtue is this herbe that if it be given to drink to the wildest beast that is, it will tame the same and make it gentle.” The best variety of this plant is the OEnothera macrocarpa.

The bark of the Evening Primrose is mucilaginous, and a decoction made therefrom is of service for bathing the skin eruptions of infants and young children. To answer such purpose a decoction should be made from the small twigs, and from the bark of the larger branches, retaining the leaves. This has been found further of use for diarrhoea associated with an irritable stomach, and asthma. The infusion, or the liquid extract, acts as a mild but efficient sedative in nervous indigestion, from twenty to thirty drops of the latter being given for a dose. The ascertained chemical principle of the plant, OEnotherin, is a compound body. Its flowers open in the evening, and last only until the next noon; therefore this plant is called the “Evening Primrose,” or “Evening Star.”

Another of the Primrose tribe, the Cyclamen, or Sow-bread (Panis porcinus), is often grown in our gardens, and for ornamenting our rooms as a pot plant. Its name means (Greek) “a circle,” and refers to the reflected corolla, or to the spiral fruit-stalks; and again, from the tuber being the food of wild swine. Gerard said it was reported in his day to grow wild on the Welsh mountains, and on the Lincolnshire hills: but he failed to find it. Nevertheless it is now almost naturalised in some parts of the South, and East of England. As the petals die, the stalks roll up and carry the capsular berries down to the surface of the ground. A medicinal tincture is made (H.) from the fresh root when flowering. The ivy-leaved variety is found in England, with nodding fresh-coloured blossoms, and a brown intensely acrid root. Besides starch, gum, and pectin, it yields chemically, “cyclamin,” or “arthanatin,” with an action like “saponin,” whilst the juice is poisonous to fish. When applied externally as a liniment over the bowels, it causes them to be purged. Gerard quaintly and suggestively declares “It is not good for women with childe to touch, or take this herbe, or to come neere unto it, or to stride over the same where it groweth: for the natural attractive vertue therein contained is such that, without controversie, they that attempt it in manner above said, shall be delivered before their time; which danger and inconvenience to avoid, I have fastened sticks in the ground about the place in my garden where it groweth, and some other sticks also crosswaies over them, lest any woman should by lamentable experiment find my words to be true by stepping over the same. Again, the root hanged about women in their extreme travail with childe, causeth them to be delivered incontinent: and the leaves put into the place hath the like effect.” Inferentially a tincture of the plant should be good for falling and displacement of the womb. “Furthermore, Sowbread, being beaten, and made into little flat cakes, is reputed to be a good amorous medicine, to make one in love.”

In France, another Primula, the wild Pimpernel, occurs as a noxious herb, and is therefore named Mouron.

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

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

Ague and Fever, Dogwood Good for

January 24th, 2008

“Take one ounce of dogwood root and one quart of water. Make an infusion by boiling down to one-half pint. Strain and give one-half wineglassful every two or three hours.”

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

Techniques: Filtering

January 11th, 2008

Filtering is frequently required for the purpose of obtaining clear fluids, such as infusions, eye-washes, and other medicines; and it is, therefore, highly important to know how to perform this simple operation. First of all take a square piece of white blotting paper, and double it over so as to form an angular cup. Open out this filter paper very carefully, and having placed it in a funnel, moisten it with a little water. Then place the funnel in the neck of the bottle, and pour the liquid gently down the side of the paper, otherwise the fluid is apt to burst the paper.

Source: Enquire Within Upon Everything.

Sore Throat

January 9th, 2008

Those subject to sore throat will find the following preparation simple, cheap and highly efficacious when used in the early stage. Pour a pint of boiling water upon twenty-five or thirty leaves of common sage; let the infusion stand for half an hour. Add vinegar sufficient to make it moderately acid, and honey according to the taste. This combination of the astringent and the emollient principle seldom fails to produce the desired effect. The infusion must be used as a gargle several times a day. It is pleasant to the taste and if swallowed contains nothing to render it dangerous in any way.

Chlorate of potash pellets are very effective, and may be had from any chemist.

Source: Enquire Within Upon Everything.