Ingredients: Daisy

October 11th, 2008

Our English Daisy is a composite flower which is called in the glossaries “gowan,” or Yellow flower. Botanically it is named Bellis perennis, probably from bellis, “in fields of battle,” because of its fame in healing the wounds of soldiers; and perennis as implying that though “the rose has but a summer reign, the daisy never dies,” The flower is likewise known as “Bainwort,” “beloved by children,” and “the lesser Consound.” The whole plant has been carefully and exhaustively proved for curative purposes; and a medicinal tincture (H.) is now made from it with spirit of wine. Gerard says: “Daisies do mitigate all kinds of pain, especially in the joints, and gout proceeding from a hot humour, if stamped with new butter and applied upon the pained place.” And, “The leaves of Daisies used among pot herbs do make the belly soluble.” Pliny tells us the Daisy was used in his time with Mugwort as a resolvent to scrofulous tumours.

The leaves are acrid and pungent, being ungrateful to cattle, and even rejected by geese. These and the flowers, when chewed experimentally, have provoked giddiness and pains in the arms as if from coming boils: also a development of boils, “dark, fiery, and very sore,” on the back of the neck, and outside the jaws. For preventing, or aborting these same distressing formations when they begin to occur spontaneously, the tincture of Daisies should be taken in doses of five drops three times a day in water. Likewise this medicine should be given curatively on the principle of affinity between it and the symptoms induced in provers who have taken the same in material toxic doses, “when the brain is muddled, the sight dim, the spirits soon depressed, the temper irritable, the skin pimply, the heart apt to flutter, and the whole aspect careworn; as if from early excesses.” Then the infusion of the plant in tablespoonful doses, or the diluted tincture, will answer admirably to renovate and re-establish the health and strength of the sufferer.

The flowers and leaves are found to afford a considerable quantity of oil and of ammoniacal salts. The root was named Consolida minima by older physicians. Fabricius speaks of its efficacy in curing wounds and contusions. A decoction of the leaves and flowers was given internally, and the bruised herb blended with lard was applied outside. “The leaves stamped do take away bruises and swellings, whereupon, it was called in old time Bruisewort.” If eaten as a spring salad, or boiled like spinach, the leaves are pungent, and slightly laxative.

Being a diminutive plant with roots to correspond, the Daisy, on the doctrine of signatures, was formerly thought to arrest the bodily growth if taken with this view. Therefore its roots boiled in broth were given to young puppies so as to keep them of a small size. For the same reason the fairy Milkah fed her foster child on this plant, “that his height might not exceed that of a pigmy”:–

“She robbed dwarf elders of their fragrant fruit,
And fed him early with the daisy-root,
Whence through his veins the powerful juices ran,
And formed the beauteous miniature of man.”

“Daisy-roots and cream” were prescribed by the fairy godmothers of our childhood to stay the stature of those gawky youngsters who were shooting up into an ungainly development like “ill weeds growing apace.”

Daisies were said of old to be under the dominion of Venus, and later on they were dedicated to St. Margaret of Cortona. Therefore they were reputed good for the special-illnesses of females. It is remarkable there is no Greek word for this plant, or flower. Ossian the Gaelic poet feigns that the Daisy, whose white investments figure innocence, was first “sown above a baby’s grave by the dimpled hands of infantine angels.”

During mediaeval times the Daisy was worn by knights at a tournament as an emblem of fidelity. In his poem the Flower and the Leaf, Chaucer, who was ever loud in his praises of the “Eye of Day”–“empresse and floure of floures all,” thus pursues his theme:–

“And at the laste there began anon
A lady for to sing right womanly
A bargaret in praising the Daisie:
For–as methought among her notes sweet,
She said, ‘Si doucet est la Margarete.'”

The French name Marguerite is derived from a supposed resemblance of the Daisy to a pearl; and in Germany this flower is known as the Meadow Pearl. Likewise the Greek word for a pearl is Margaritos.

A saying goes that it is not Spring until a person can put his foot on twelve of these flowers. In the cultivated red Daisies used for bordering our gardens, the yellow central boss of each compound flower has given place to strap-shaped florets like the outer rays, and without pollen, so that the entire flower consists of this purple inflorescence. But such aristocratic culture has made the blossom unproductive of seed. Like many a proud and belted Earl, each of the pampered and richly coloured Daisies pays the penalty of its privileged luxuriance by a disability from perpetuating its species.

The Moon Daisy, or Oxeye Daisy (Leucanthemum Orysanthemum), St. John’s flower, belonging to the same tribe of plants, grows commonly with an erect stem about two feet high, in dry pastures and roads, bearing large solitary flowers which are balsamic and make a useful infusion for relieving chronic coughs, and for bronchial catarrhs. Boiled with some of the leaves and stalks they form, if sweetened with honey, or barley sugar, an excellent posset drink for the same purpose. In America the root is employed successfully for checking the night sweats of pulmonary consumption, a fluid extract thereof being made for this object, the dose of which is from fifteen to sixty drops in water.

The Moon Daisy is named Maudlin-wort from St. Mary Magdalene, and bears its lunar name from the Grecian goddess of the moon, Artemis, who particularly governed the female health. Similarly, our bright little Daisy, “the constellated flower that never sets,” owns the name Herb Margaret. The Moon Daisy is also called Bull Daisy, Gipsies’ Daisy, Goldings, Midsummer Daisy, Mace Flinwort, and Espilawn. Its young leaves are sometimes used as a flavouring in soups and stews. The flower was compared to the representation of a full moon, and was formerly dedicated to the Isis of the Egyptians. Tom Hood wrote of a traveller estranged far from his native shores, and walking despondently in a distant land:–

“When lo! he starts with glad surprise,
Home thoughts come rushing o’er him,
For, modest, wee, and crimson-tipped
A flower he sees before him.
With eager haste he stoops him down,
His eyes with moisture hazy;
And as he plucks the simple bloom
He murmurs, ‘Lawk, a Daisy'”!

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

Ingredients: Buckthorn

October 4th, 2008

The common Buckthorn grows in our woods and thickets, and used to be popularly known because of the purgative syrup made from its juice and berries. It bears dense branches of small green flowers, followed by the black berries, which purge violently. If gathered before they are ripe they furnish a yellow dye. When ripe, if mixed with gum arabic and lime water, they form the pigment called “Bladder Green.” Until late in the present century– O dura ilia messorum!–English rustics, when requiring an aperient dose for themselves or their children, had recourse to the syrup of Buckthorn. But its action was so severe, and attended with such painful gripings, that as time went on the medicine was discarded, and it is now employed in this respect almost exclusively by the cattle doctor. Dodoeus taught about Buckthorn berries: “They be not meet to be administered but to young and lusty people of the country, which do set more store of their money than their lives.” The shrub grows chiefly on chalk, and near brooks. The name Buckthorn is from the German buxdorn, boxthorn, hartshorn. In Anglo-Saxon it was Heorot-bremble. It is also known as Waythorn, Rainberry Thorn, Highway Thorn and Rhineberries. Each of the berries contains four seeds: and the flesh of birds which eat thereof is said to be purgative. When the juice is given medicinally it causes a bad stomach-ache, with much dryness of the throat: for which reason Sydenham always ordered a basin of soup to be given after it. Chemically the active principle of the Buckthorn is “rhamno-cathartine.” Likewise a milder kind of Buckthorn, which is much more useful as a Simple, grows freely in England, the Rhamnus frangula or so-called “black berry-bearing Alder,” though this appellation is a mistake, because botanically the Alder never bears any berries. This black Buckthorn is a slender shrub, which occurs in our woods and thickets. The juice of its berries is aperient, without being irritating, and is well suited as a laxative for persons of delicate constitution. It possesses the merit of continuing to answer in smaller doses after the patient has become habituated to its use. The berry of the Rhamnus frangula may be known by its containing only two seeds. Country people give the bark boiled in ale for jaundice; and this bark is the black dogwood of gunpowder makers. Lately a certain aperient medicine has become highly popular with both doctors and patients in this country, the same being known as Cascara Sagrada. It is really an American Buckthorn, the Rhamnus Persiana, and it possesses no true advantage over our black Alder Buckthorn, though the bark of this latter must be used a year old, or it will cause griping. A fluid extract of the English mild Buckthorn, or of the American Cascara, is made by our leading druggists, of which from half to one teaspoonful may be given for a dose. This is likewise a tonic to the intestines, and is especially useful for relieving piles. Lozenges also of the Alder Buckthorn are dispensed under the name of “Aperient Fruit Lozenges;” one, or perhaps two, being taken for a dose as required.

There is a Sea Buckthorn, Hippophoe, which belongs to a different natural order, Eloeagnaceoe, a low shrubby tree, growing on sandhills and cliffs, and called also Sallowthorn. The fruit is made (in Tartary) into a pleasant jelly, because of its acid flavour, and used in the Gulf of Bothnia for concocting a fish sauce.

The name signifies “giving light to a horse,” being conferred because of a supposed power to cure equine blindness; or it may mean “shining underneath,” in allusion to the silvery underside of the leaf.

The old-fashioned Cathartic Buckthorn of our hedges and woods has spinous thorny branchlets, from which its name, Rhamnus, is thought to be derived, because the shrub is set with thorns like as the ram. At one time this Buckthorn was a botanical puzzle, even to Royalty, as the following lines assure us:–

“Hicum, peridicum; all clothed in green;
The King could not tell it, no more could the Queen;
So they sent to consult wise men from the East.
Who said it had horns, though it was not a beast.”

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

Ingredients: Lettuce

September 27th, 2008

LETTUCE.

Our garden Lettuce is a cultivated variety of the wild, or strong-scented Lettuce (Lactuca virosa), which grows, with prickly leaves, on banks and waysides in chalky districts throughout England and Wales. It belongs to the Composite order of plants, and contains the medicinal properties of the plant more actively than does the Lettuce produced for the kitchen. An older form of the name is Lettouce, which is still retained in Scotland.

Chemically the wild Lettuce contains lactucin, lactucopricin, asparagin, mannite, albumen, gum, and resin, together with oxalic, malic, and citric acids; thus possessing virtues for easing pain, and inducing sleep. The cultivated Lettuce which comes to our tables retains these same properties, but in a very modified degree, since the formidable principles have become as completely toned down and guileless in the garden product as were the child-like manners and the pensive smile of Bret Harte’s Heathen Chinee.

Each plant derives its name, lactuca, from its milky juice; in Latin lactis; and in Greek, galaktos (taking the genitive case). This juice, when withdrawn from the cut or incised stalks and stems of the wild Lettuce, is milky at first, and afterwards becomes brown, like opium, being then known (when dried into a kind of gum) as lactucarium. From three to eight grains of this gum, if taken at bedtime, will allay the wakefulness which follows over-excitement of brain. A similar lactucarium, got from the dried milk of the cultivated garden Lettuce, is so mild a sedative as to be suitable for restless infants; and two grains thereof may be safely given to a young child for soothing it to sleep.

The wild Lettuce is rather laxative; with which view a decoction of the leaves is sometimes taken as a drink to remedy constipation, and intestinal difficulties, as also to allay feverish pains. The plant was mentioned as acting thus in an epigram by Martial (Libr. VI., Sq.).

“Prima tibi dabitur ventro lactuca movendo
Utilis, et porris fila resecta suis.”

Gerard said: “Being in some degree laxative and aperient, the cultivated Lettuce is very proper for hot bilious dispositions;” and Parkinson adds (1640): “Lettuce eaten raw or boyled, helpeth to loosen the belly, and the boyled more than the raw.” It was known as the “Milk Plant” to Dioscorides and Theophrastus, and was much esteemed by the Romans to be eaten after a debauch of wine, or as a sedative for inducing sleep. But a prejudice against it was entertained for a time as venerem enervans, and therefore mortuorum cibi, “food for the dead.”

Apuleius says, that when the eagle desires to fly to a great height, and to get a clear view of the extensive prospect below him, he first plucks a leaf of the wild Lettuce and touches his eyes with the juice thereof, by which means he obtains the widest perspicuity of vision. “Dicunt aquilam quum in altum volare voluerit ut prospiciat rerum naturas lactucoe sylvaticoe folium evellere et succo ejus sibi oculos tangere, et maximam inde claritudinem accipere.”

After the death of Adonis, Venus is related to have thrown herself on a bed of lettuces to assuage her grief. “In lactucâ occultatum a Venere Adonin–cecinit Callimachus–quod allegoricé interpretatus Athenoeus illuc referendum putat quod in venerem hebetiores fiunt lactucas vescentes assidue.”

The Pythagoreans called this plant “the Eunuch”; and there is a saying in Surrey, “O’er much Lettuce in the garden will stop a young wife’s bearing.” During the middle ages it was thought an evil spirit lurked among the Lettuces adverse to mothers, and causing grievous ills to new-born infants.

The Romans, in the reign of Domitian, had the lettuce prepared with eggs, and served with the last course at their tables, so as to stimulate their appetites afresh. Martial wonders that it had since then become customary to take it rather at the beginning of the meal:–

“Claudere quae caenas lactuca solebat avorum
Dic mihi cur nostras inchoat illa dapes.”

Antoninus Musa cured Caesar Augustus of hypochondriasis by means of this plant.

The most common variety of the wild Lettuce, improved by frequent cultivation, is the Cabbage Lettuce, or Roman, “which is the best to boil, stew, or put into hodge-podge.” Different sorts of the Cos Lettuce follow next onwards. The Lactuca sylvatica is a variety of the wild Lettuce producing similar effects. From this a medicinal tincture (H.) is prepared, and an extract from the flowering herb is given in doses of from five to fifteen grains. No attempt was made to cultivate the Lettuce in this country until the fourth year of Elizabeth’s reign.

When bleached by gardeners the lettuce becomes tender, sweet, and succulent, being easily digested, even by dyspeptic persons, as to its crisp, leafy parts, but not its hard stalk. It now contains but little nutriment of any sort, but supplies some mineral salts, especially nitre. In the stem there still lingers a small quantity of the sleep-inducing principle, “lactucarin,” particularly when the plant is flowering. Galen, when sleepless from advanced age and infirmities, with hard study, took decoction of the Lettuce at night; and Pope says, with reference to our garden sort:–

“If you want rest,
Lettuce, and cowslip wine:–‘probatum est.'”

But if Lettuces are taken at supper with this view of promoting sleep, they should be had without any vinegar, which neutralises their soporific qualities. “Sleep,” said Sir Thomas Brown, “is so like death that I dare not trust it without my prayers.”

Some persons suppose that when artificially blanched the plant is less wholesome than if left to grow naturally in the garden, especially if its ready digestibility by those of sensitive stomachs be correctly attributed to the slightly narcotic principle. It was taken uncooked by the Hebrews with the Paschal lamb.

John Evelyn writes enthusiastically about it in his Book of Sallets: “So harmless is it that it may safely be eaten raw in fevers; it allays heat, bridles choler, extinguishes thirst, excites appetite, kindly nourishes, and, above all, represses vapours, conciliates sleep, and mitigates pain, besides the effect it has upon the morals– temperance and chastity.”

“Galen (whose beloved sallet it was) says it breeds the most laudable blood. No marvel, then, that Lettuces were by the ancients called sanoe by way of eminency, and were so highly valued by the great Augustus that, attributing to them his recovery from a dangerous sickness, it is reported he erected a statue and built an altar to this noble plant.” Likewise, “Tacitus, spending almost nothing at his frugal table in other dainties, was yet so great a friend to the Lettuce that he used to say of his prodigality in its purchase, Summi se mercari illas sumitus effusione.” Probably the Lettuce of Greece was more active than our indigenous, or cultivated plant.

By way of admonition as to care in preparing the Lettuce for table, Dr. King Chambers has said (Diet in Health and Disease), “The consumption of Lettuce by the working man with his tea is an increasing habit worthy of all encouragement. But the said working man must be warned of the importance of washing the material of his meal. This hint is given in view of the frequent occurrence of the large round worm in the labouring population of some agricultural counties, Oxfordshire for instance, where unwashed Lettuce is largely eaten.” Young Lettuces may be raised in forty-eight-hours by first steeping the seed in brandy and then sowing it in a hot-house.

The seeds of the garden Lettuce are emollient, and when rubbed up with water make a pleasant emulsion, which contains nothing of the milky, laxative bitterness furnished by the leaves and stalk. This emulsion resembles that of almonds, but is even more cooling, and therefore a better medicine in disorders arising from acrimony and irritation.

From the Lactuca virosa, or strong-scented wild Lettuce, a medicinal tincture (H.) is prepared, using the whole plant. On the principle of treating with this tincture, when diluted, such toxic effects as too large doses of the juice would bring about, a slow pulse, with a disposition to stupor, and sleepy weakness, are successfully met by its use. Also a medicinal extract is made by druggists from the wild Lettuce, and given in doses of from three to ten grains for the medicinal purposes which have been particularised, and to remove a dull, heavy headache.

“The garden Lettuce is good,” as Pliny said, “for burnings and scaldings if the leaves be laid thereon, with salt (sic), before the blisters do appear.” “By reason,” concludes Evelyn, “too, of its soporiferous quality, the Lettuce ever was, and still continues, the principal foundation of the universal tribe of Sallets, which cools and refreshes, besides its other properties, and therefore was held in such high esteem by the ancients, that divers of the Valerian family dignified and ennobled their name with that of Lactucinii.” It is botanically distinguished as the Lactuca sativa, “from the plenty of milk,” says “Adam in Eden” (W. Coles), “that it hath, and causeth.”

Lambs’ Lettuce, or Corn Salad, is a distinct plant, one of the Valerian tribe, which was formerly classed as a Lettuce, by name, Lactuca agnina, either because it appears about the time when lambs (agni) are dropped, or because it is a favourite food of lambs.

The French call this salade de Prètre, “monks’ salad,” and in reference thereto an old writer has said: “It certainly deserves a place among the penitential herbs, for the stomach that admits it is apt to cry peccavi.”

The same plant is also known by the title of the White Pot Herb, in contrast to the Olus atrum, or Black Pot Herb. It grows wild in the banks of hedges and waste cornfields, and is cultivated in our kitchen gardens as a salad herb, the Milk Grass, being called botanically the Valerianella olitoria, and having been in request as a spring medicine among country folk in former days. By genus it is a Fedia, and bears diminutive white flowers resembling glass. Gerard says: “We know the Lambs’ Lettuce as Loblollie; and it serves in winter as a salad herb, among others none of the worst.” In France it goes by the names manche and broussette. A medicinal tincture is made (H.) from the fresh root.

The black pot-herb–so called from the dark colour of its fruit–is an umbelliferous plant, (Smyrnium olusatrum) or Alexanders, often found in the vicinity of abbeys, and probably therefore held in former repute by the Monks. Its names are derived from Smyrna, myrrh, in allusion to the odour of the plant; and from Macedonicum, or the parsley of Macedon, Alexander’s country. The herb was also known as Stanmarch. It grows on waste places by rivers near the sea, having been formerly cultivated like celery, which has now supplanted it. When boiled it is eaten with avidity by sailors returning from long voyages, who happen to land at the South Western corner of Anglesea.

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

Liver Complaint. Mandrake Root for

March 27th, 2008

“Dry and powder the mandrake root (often called may-apple) and take about one teaspoonful.” This dose may be repeated two or three times a day, according to the requirements of the case. This is a stimulant, a tonic and a laxative, and is especially good when the liver is in a torpid and inactive condition.

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

Ingredients: Cabbage

March 26th, 2008

“The time has come,” as the walrus said in Alice and the Looking Glass, “to talk of many things” —

“Of shoes, and ships, and sealing-wax; of Cabbages, and
kings.”

The Cabbage, which is fabled to have sprung from the tears of the Spartan lawgiver, Lycurgus, began as the Colewort, and was for six hundred years, according to Pliny and Cato, the only internal remedy used by the Romans. The Ionians had such a veneration for Cabbages that they swore by them, just as the Egyptians did by the onion. With ourselves, the wild Cabbage, growing on our English sea cliffs, is the true Collet, or Colewort, from which have sprung all our varieties of Cabbage — cauliflower, greens, broccoli, etc. No vegetables were grown for the table in England before the time of Henry the Eighth. In the thirteenth century it was the custom to salt vegetables because they were so scarce; and in the sixteenth century a Cabbage from Holland was deemed a choice present.

The whole tribe of Cabbages is named botanically Brassicaceoe — apo tou brassein — because they heat, or ferment.

By natural order they are cruciferous plants; and all contain much nitrogen, or vegetable albumen, with a considerable quantity of sulphur; hence they tend strongly to putrefaction, and when decomposed their odour is very offensive. Being cut into pieces, and pressed close in a tub with aromatic herbs and salt, so as to undergo an acescent fermentation (which is arrested at that stage), Cabbages form the German Saurkraut, which is strongly recommended against scurvy. The white Cabbage is most putrescible; the red most emollient and pectoral. The juice of the red cabbage made into syrup, without any condiments, is useful in chronic coughs, and in bronchial asthma. The leaves of the common white Cabbage, when gently bruised and applied to a blistered surface, will promote a free discharge, as also when laid next the skin in dropsy of the ankles. All the Coleworts are called “Crambe,” from krambos, dry, because they dispel drunkenness.

“There is,” says an old author, “a natural enmitie between the Colewort and the vine, which is such that the vine, if growing near unto it, withereth and perisheth; yea, if wine be poured into the Colewort while it is boiling, it will not be any more boiled, and the colour thereof will be quite altered.” The generic term Colewort is derived from caulis, a stalk, and wourte, as applied to all kinds of herbs that “do serve for the potte.” “Good worts,” exclaimed Falstaff, catching at Evans’ faulty pronunciation of words, — “good worts,” — “good cabbages.” An Irish cure for sore throat is to tie Cabbage leaves round it; and the same remedy is applied in England with hot Cabbage leaves for a swollen face. In the Island of Jersey coarse Cabbages are grown abundantly on patches of roadside ground, and in corners of fields, the stalks of which attain the height of eight, ten, or more feet, and are used for making walking sticks or cannes en tiges de choux. These are in great demand on the island, and are largely exported. It may be that a specially tall cabbage of this sort gave rise to the Fairy tale of “Jack and the bean stalk.” The word Cabbage bears reference to caba (caput), a head, as signifying a Colewort which forms a round head. Kohl rabi, from caulo-rapum, cabbage turnip, is a name given to the Brassica oleracea. In 1595 the sum of twenty shillings was paid for six Cabbages and a few carrots, at the port of Hull, by the purveyor to the Clifford family.

The red Cabbage is thought in France to be highly anti-scorbutic; and a syrup is made from it with this purpose in view. The juice of white Cabbage leaves will cure warts.

The Brassica oleracea is one of the plants used in Count Mattaei’s vaunted nostrum, “anti-scrofuloso.” This, the sea Cabbage, with its pale clusters of handsome yellow flowers, is very ornamental to our cliffs. Its leaves, which are conspicuously purple, have a bitter taste when uncooked, but become palatable for boiling if first repeatedly washed; and they are sold at Dover as a market vegetable. These should be boiled in two waters, of which the first will be made laxative, and the second, or thicker decoction, astringent, which fact was known to Hippocrates, who said “jus caulis solvit cujus substantia stringit.”

Sir Anthony Ashley brought the Cabbage into English cultivation. It is said a Cabbage is sculptured at his feet on his monument in Wimbourne Minster, Dorset. He imported the Cabbage (Cale) from Cadiz (Cales), where he held a command, and grew rich by seizing other men’s possessions, notably by appropriating some jewels entrusted to his care by a lady. Hence he is said to have got more by Cales (Cadiz) than by Cale (Cabbage); and this is, perhaps, the origin of our term “to cabbage.” Among tailors, this phrase “to cabbage” is a cant saying which means to filch the cloth when cutting out for a customer. Arbuthnot writes “Your tailor, instead of shreds, cabbages whole yards of cloth.” Perhaps the word comes from the French cabasser, to put into a basket.

From the seed of the wild Cabbage (Rape, or Navew) rape-seed oil is extracted, and the residue is called rape-cake, or oil-cake.

Some years ago it was customary to bake bread-rolls wrapped in Cabbage leaves, for imparting what was considered an agreeable flavour. John Evelyn said: “In general, Cabbages are thought to allay fumes, and to prevent intoxication; but some will have them noxious to the sight.” After all it must be confessed the Cabbage is greatly to be accused for lying undigested in the stomach, and for provoking eructations; which makes one wonder at the veneration the ancients had for it, calling the tribe divine, and swearing per brassicam, which was for six hundred years held by the Romans a panacea: though “Dis crambee thanatos” — “Death by twice Cabbage” — was a Greek proverb. Gerard says the Greeks called the Cabbage Amethustos, “not only because it driveth away drunkennesse; but also for that it is like in colour to the pretious stone called the amethyst.” The Cabbage was Pompey’s best beloved dish. To make a winter salad it is customary in America to choose a firm white Cabbage, and to shred it very fine, serving it with a dressing of plain oil and vinegar. This goes by the name of “slaw,” which has a Dutch origin.

The free presence of hydrogen and sulphur causes a very strong and unpleasant smell to pervade the house during the cooking of Cabbages. Nevertheless, this sulphur is a very salutary constituent of the vegetable, most useful in scurvy and scrofula. Partridge and Cabbage suit the patrician table; bacon and Cabbage better please the taste and the requirements of the proletarian. The nitrogen of this and other cruciferous plants serves to make them emit offensive stinks when they lie out of doors and rot.

For the purulent scrofulous ophthalmic inflammation of infants, by cleansing the eyes thoroughly every half-hour with warm water, and then packing the sockets each time with fresh Cabbage leaves cleaned and bruised to a soft pulp, the flow of matter will be increased for a few days, but a cure will be soon effected. Pliny commended the juice of the raw Cabbage with a little honey for sore and inflamed eyes which were moist and weeping, but not for those which were dry and dull.

In Kent and Sussex, when a Cabbage is cut and the stalk left in the ground to produce “greens” for the table, a cottager will carve an x on the top flat surface of the upright stalk, and thus protect it against mischievous garden sprites and demons.

Some half a century ago medical apprentices were taught the art of blood-letting by practising with a lancet on the prominent veins of a Cabbage leaf.

Carlyle said “of all plants the Cabbage grows fastest to completion.” His parable of the oak and the Cabbage conveys the lesson that those things which are most richly endowed when they come to perfection, are the slowest in their production and development.

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

Round and Pin Worms, Peach Leaf Tea for

February 1st, 2008

“Half an ounce of dried peach leaves may be infused in a pint of boiling water and a tablespoonful given for a dose three times a day.” They are laxative and exert a sedative influence over the nervous system. They have been frequently used for worms with reported success. An infusion is highly recommended in irritability of the bladder, in sick stomach and in whooping cough.

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