The Melancholy Water

June 21st, 2015

Take of the Flowers of Gilliflowers, four handfuls, Rosemary flowers three handfuls, Damask Rose leaves, Burrage and Bugloss flowers of each one handful, of Balm leaves six handfuls, of Marigold flowers one handful, of Pinks six handfuls, of Cinamon grosly beaten, half an ounce, two Nutmegs beaten, Anniseeds beaten one ounce, three peniworth of Saffron; put them all into a Pottle of Sack, and let them stand two days, stirring them sometimes well together; then distil them in an ordinary Still, and let it drop into a Glass wherein there is two grains of Musk, and eight ounces of white Sugar Candy, and some Leaf-Gold; take of this Water three times a week fasting, two spoonfuls at a time, and ofter if you find need; distil with soft fire; this is good for Women in Child-bed if they are faint.

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

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: St John’s Wort

August 2nd, 2008

The wild Saint John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a frequent plant in our woods and hedgebanks, having leaves studded with minute translucent vesicles, which seem to perforate their structure, and which contain a terebinthinate oil of fragrant medicinal virtues.

The name Hypericum is derived from the two Greek words, huper eikon, “over an apparition,” because of its supposed power to exorcise evil spirits, or influences; whence it was also formerly called Fuga doemoniorum, “the Devil’s Scourge,” “the Grace of God,” “the Lord God’s Wonder Plant.” and some other names of a like import, probably too, because found to be of curative use against insanity. Again, it used to be entitled Hexenkraut, and “Witch’s Herb,” on account of its reputed magical powers. Matthiolus said, Scripsere quidam Hypericum adeo odisse doemones, ut ejus suffitu statim avolent, “Certain writers have said that the St. John’s Wort is so detested by evil spirits that they fly off at a whiff of its odour.”

Further names of the herb are “Amber,” “Hundred Holes,” and Sol terrestris, the “Terrestrial Sun,” because it was believed that all the spirits of darkness vanish in its presence, as at the rising of the sun.

For children troubled with incontinence of urine at night, and who wet their beds, an infusion, or tea, of the St. John’s Wort is an admirable preventive medicine, which will stop this untoward infirmity.

The title St. John’s Wort is given, either because the plant blossoms about St. John’s day, June 24th, or because the red-coloured sap which it furnishes was thought to resemble and signalise the blood of St. John the Baptist. Ancient writers certainly attributed a host of virtues to this plant, especially for the cure of hypochondriasis, and insanity. The red juice, or “red oil,” of Hypericum made effective by hanging for some months in a glass vessel exposed to the sun, is esteemed as one of the most popular and curative applications in Europe for excoriations, wounds, and bruises.

The flowers also when rubbed together between the fingers yield a red juice, so that the plant has obtained the title of Sanguis hominis, human blood. Furthermore, this herb is Medicamentum in mansâ intus sumptum, “to be chewed for its curative effects.”

And for making a medicinal infusion, an ounce of the herb should be used to a pint of boiling water. This may be given beneficially for chronic catarrhs of the lungs, the bowels, or the urinary passages, Dr. Tuthill Massy considered the St. John’s Wort, by virtue of its healing properties for injuries of the spinal cord, and its dependencies, the vulnerary “arnica” of the organic nervous system. On the doctrine of signatures, because of its perforated leaves, and because of the blood-red juice contained in the capsules which it bears, this plant was formerly deemed a most excellent specific for healing wounds, and for stopping a flow of blood:–

“Hypericon was there–the herb of war,
Pierced through with wounds, and seamed with many a scar.”

For lacerated nerves, and injuries by violence to the spinal cord, a warm lotion should be employed, made with one part of the tincture to twenty parts of water, comfortably hot. A salve compounded from the flowers, and known as St. John’s Wort Salve, is still much used and valued in English villages. And in several countries the dew which has fallen on vegetation before daybreak on St. John’s morning, is gathered with great care. It is thought to protect the eyes from all harm throughout the ensuing year, and the Venetians say it renews the roots of the hair on the baldest of heads. Peasants in the Isle of Man, are wont to think that if anyone treads on the St. John’s Wort after sunset, a fairy horse will arise from the earth, and will carry him about all night, leaving him at sunrise wherever he may chance to be.

The plant has a somewhat aromatic odour; and from the leaves and flowers, when crushed, a lemon-like scent is exhaled, whilst their taste is bitter and astringent. The flowers furnish for fabrics of silk or wool a dye of deep yellow. Those parts of the plant were alone ordered by the London Pharmacopoeia to be used for supplying in chief the medicinal, oily, resinous extractive of the plant.

The juice gives a red colour to the spirit of wine with which it is mixed, and to expressed oils, being then known as the Hypericum “red oil” mentioned above. The flowers contain tannin, and “Hypericum red.”

Moreover, this Hypericum oil made from the tops is highly useful for healing bed sores, and is commended as excellent for ulcers. A medicinal tincture (H.) is prepared with spirit of wine from the entire fresh plant, collected when flowering, or in seed, and this proves of capital service for remedying injuries to the spinal cord, both by being given internally, and by its external use. It has been employed in like manner with benefit for lock-jaw. The dose of the tincture is from five to eight drops with a spoonful of water two or three times a day.

This plant may be readily distinguished from others of the Hypericaceous order by its decidedly two edged stem. Sprigs of it are stuck at the present time in Wales over every outer door on the eve of St. John’s day; and in Scotland, milking is done on the herb to dispel the malignant enchantments which cause ropy milk.

Among the Christian saints St. John represents light; and the flowers of this plant were taken as a reminder of the beneficent sun.

Tutsan is a large flowered variety (Hypericum androsoemum) of the St. John’s Wort, named from the French toute saine, or “heal all,” because of its many curative virtues; and is common in Devon and Cornwall. It possesses the same properties as the perforate sort, but yields a stronger and more camphoraceous odour when the flowers and the seed vessels are bruised. A tincture made from this plant, as well as that made from the perforate St. John’s Wort, has been used with success to cure melancholia, and its allied forms of insanity. The seed-capsules of the Tutsan are glossy and berry-like; the leaves retain their strong resinous odour after being dried.

Tutsan is called also provincially “Woman’s Tongue,” once set g(r)owing it never stops; and by country folk in Ireland the “Rose of Sharon.” Its botanical name Androsoemum, andros aima, man’s blood, derived from the red juice and oil, probably suggested the popular title of Tutsan, “heal all,” often corrupted to “Touchen leaf.”

Gerard gives a receipt, as a great secret, for making a compound oil of Hypericum, “than which,” he says, “I know that in the world there is no better; no, not the natural balsam itself.” “The plant,” he adds, “is a singular remedy for the sciatica, provided that the patient drink water for a day or two after purging.” “The leaves laid upon broken shins and scabbed legs do heal them.”

The whole plant is of a special value for healing punctured wounds; and its leaves are diuretic. It is handsome and shrubby, growing to a height of two or three feet.

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

Ingredients: Borage

March 1st, 2008

The Borage, with its gallant blue flower, is cultivated in our gardens as a pot herb, and is associated in our minds with bees and claret cup. It grows wild in abundance on open plains where the soil is favourable, and it has a long-established reputation for cheering the spirits. Botanically, it is the Borago officinalis, this title being a corruption of cor-ago, i.e., cor, the heart, ago, I stimulate — quia cordis affectibus medetur, because it cures weak conditions of the heart. An old Latin adage says: Borago ego gaudia semper ago — “I, Borage, bring always courage”; or the name may be derived from the Celtic, Borrach, “a noble person.” This plant was the Bugloss of the older botanists, and it corresponds to our Common Bugloss, so called from the shape and bristly surface of its leaves, which resemble bous-glossa, the tongue of an ox. Chemically, the plant Borage contains potassium and calcium combined with mineral acids. The fresh juice affords thirty per cent., and the dried herb three per cent. of nitrate of potash. The stems and leaves supply much saline mucilage, which, when boiled and cooled, likewise deposits nitre and common salt. These crystals, when ignited, will burn with a succession of small sparkling explosions, to the great delight of the schoolboy. And it is to such saline qualities the wholesome, invigorating effects and the specially refreshing properties of the Borage are supposed to be mainly due. For which reason, the plant, “when taken in sallets,” as says an old herbalist, “doth exhilarate, and make the mind glad,” almost in the same way as a bracing sojourn by the seaside during an autumn holiday. The flowers possess cordial virtues which are very revivifying, and have been much commended against melancholic depression of the nervous system. Burton, in his Anatomy of Melancholy (1676), wrote with reference to the frontispiece of that book:–

“Borage and Hellebore fill two scenes,
Sovereign plants to purge the veins
Of melancholy, and cheer the heart
Of those black fumes which make it smart;
The best medicine that God e’er made
For this malady, if well assaid.”

“The sprigs of Borage,” wrote John Evelyn, “are of known virtue to revive the hypochondriac and cheer the hard student.”

According to Dioscorides and Pliny, the Borage was that famous nepenthe of Homer which Polydamas sent to Helen for a token “of such rare virtue that when taken steep’d in wine, if wife and children, father and mother, brother and sister, and all thy dearest friends should die before thy face, thou could’st not grieve, or shed a tear for them.” “The bowl of Helen had no other ingredient, as most criticks do conjecture, than this of borage.” And it was declared of the herb by another ancient author: Vinum potatum quo sit macerata buglossa moerorum cerebri dicunt auferre
periti
:–

“To enliven the sad with the joy of a joke,
Give them wine with some borage put in it to soak.”

The Romans named the Borage Euphrosynon, because when put into a cup of wine it made the drinkers of the same merry and glad.

Parkinson says, “The seed of Borage helpeth nurses to have more store of milk, for which purpose its leaves are most conducing.” Its saline constituents promote activity of the kidneys, and for this reason the plant is used in France to carry off catarrhs which are feverish. The fresh herb has a cucumber-like odour, and when compounded with lemon and sugar, added to wine and water, it makes a delicious “cool tankard,” as a summer drink. “A syrup concocted of the floures,” said Gerard, “quieteth the lunatick person, and the leaves eaten raw do engender good blood.” Of all nectar-loving insects, bees alone know how to pronounce the “open sesame” of admission to the honey pots of the Borage.

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