Ingredient: Asparagus

April 24th, 2015

Asparagus is said to strengthen and develop the artistic faculties. It also calms palpitation of the heart. It is very helpful to rheumatic patients on account of its salts of potash. It should be steamed, not boiled, otherwise part of the valuable salts are lost.

Source: Food Remedies: Facts About Foods And Their Medicinal Uses, Florence Daniel

Nervous Pill

December 28th, 2008

Alcoholic extract of the Ignatia Amara (St Ignatius bean) 30 grains; powdered gum arabic 10 grains. Make into 40 pills.

Dose: One pill to be taken an hour after breakfast, and one an hour before retiring at night. Half a pill is enough for young, or very old or very delicate persons. The pills may be easily cut if laid on a damp cloth for a few moments.

These pills will be found applicable in bad dyspepsia, nervous headache, sleeplessness, palpitation of the heart, confusion of thought, determination of blood to the head, failure of memory, and all other forms of general nervous debility, no matter of how long standing. Where a prominent advantage is discovered in two weeks from the commencement of the medicine, one a day will suffice until all are taken.

The extract is made by pulverizing the seed or bean, and putting it into alcohol from ten to fourteen days, then evaporating to the consistency for working into pill mass with the powdered gum.

Source: Dr Chase’s Recipes, or Information for Everybody, A.W. Chase

Ingredients: Lemon

August 30th, 2008

The Lemon (Citrus Limonum) is so common of use in admixing refreshing drinks, and for its fragrancy of peel, whether for culinary flavour, or as a delightful perfume, that it may well find a place among the Simples of a sagacious housewife. Moreover, the imported fruit, which abounds in our markets, as if to the manner born, is endowed with valuable medicinal properties which additionally qualify it for the domestic Herbarium. The Lemons brought to England come chiefly from Sicily, through Messina and Palermo. Flowers may be found on the lemon tree all the year round.

In making lemonade it is a mistake to pour boiling water upon sliced Lemons, because thus brewing an infusion of the peel, which is medicinal. The juice should be squeezed into cold water (previously boiled), adding to a quart of the same the juice of three lemons, a few crushed strawberries, and the cut up rind of one Lemon.

This fruit grows specially at Mentone, in the south of France; and a legend runs that Eve carried two or three Lemons with her away from Paradise, wandering about until she came to Mentone, which she found to be so like the Garden of Eden that she settled there, and planted her fruit.

The special dietetic value of Lemons consists in their potash salts, the citrate, malate, and tartrate, which are respectively antiscorbutic, and of assistance in promoting biliary digestion. Each fluid ounce of the fresh juice contains about forty-four grains of citric acid, with gum, sugar, and a residuum, which yields, when incinerated, potash, lime, and phosphoric acid. But the citric acid of the shops is not nearly so preventive or curative of scurvy as the juice itself.

The exterior rind furnishes a grateful aromatic bitter; and our word “zest” signifies really a chip of lemon peel or orange peel used for giving flavour to liquor. It comes from the Greek verb, “skizein,” to divide, or cut up.

The juice has certain sedative properties whereby it allays hysterical palpitation of the heart, and alleviates pain caused by cancerous ulceration of the tongue. Dr. Brandini, of Florence, discovered this latter property of fresh Lemon juice, through a patient who, when suffering grievously from that dire disease, found marvellous relief to the part by casually sucking a lemon to slake his feverish thirst. But it is a remarkable fact that the acid of Lemons is harmful and obnoxious to cats, rabbits, and other small animals, because it lowers the heart’s action in these creatures, and liquifies the blood; whereas, in man it does not diminish the coagulability of the blood, but proves more useful than any other agent in correcting that thin impoverished liquidity thereof which constitutes scurvy. Rapin extols lemons, or citrons, for discomfort of the heart:–

“Into an oval form the citrons rolled
Beneath thick coats their juicy pulp unfold:
From some the palate feels a poignant smart,
Which, though they wound the tongue, yet heal the heart.”

Throughout Italy, and at Rome, a decoction of fresh Lemons is extolled as a specific against intermittent fever; for which purpose a fresh unpeeled Lemon is cut into thin slices, and put into an earthenware jar with three breakfastcupfuls of cold water, and boiled down to one cupful, which is strained, the lemon being squeezed, and the decoction being given shortly before the access of fever is expected.

For a restless person of ardent temperament and active plethoric circulation, a Lemon squash (unsweetened) of not more than half a tumblerful is a capital sedative; or, a whole lemon may be made hot on the oven top, being turned from time to time, and being put presently when soft and moist into a teacup, then by stabbing it about the juice will be made to escape, and should be drunk hot. If bruised together with a sufficient quantity of sugar the pips of a fresh Lemon or Orange will serve admirably against worms in children. Cut in slices and put into the morning bath, a Lemon makes it fragrant and doubly refreshing.

Professor Wilhelm Schmole, a German doctor, has published a work of some note, in which he advances the theory that fresh Lemon juice is a kind of elixir vitae; and that if a sufficient number of Lemons be taken daily, life may be indefinitely prolonged. Lemon juice is decidedly beneficial against jaundice from passive sluggishness of the biliary functions; it will often serve to stay bleedings, when ice and astringent styptics have failed; it will prove useful when swallowed freely against immoderately active monthly fluxes in women; and when applied externally it signally relieves cutaneous itching, especially of the genitals.

Prize-fighters refresh themselves with a fresh cut Lemon between the rounds when competing in the Ring. Hence has arisen the common saying, “Take a suck of the Lemon, and at him again.”

For a relaxed sore throat, Lemon juice will help to make a serviceable gargle. By the heat of the sun it may be reduced to a solid state. For a cold in the head, if the juice of a ripe Lemon be squeezed into the palm of the hand, and strongly sniffed into the nostrils at two or three separate times, a cure will be promoted. Roast fillet of veal, with stuffing and lemon juice, was beloved by Oliver Cromwell.

For heartburn which comes on without having eaten sweet things, it is helpful to suck a thin slice of fresh Lemon dipped in salt just after each meal.

The Chinese practice of rubbing parts severely neuralgic with the wet surface of a cut Lemon is highly useful. This fruit has been sold within present recollection at half-a-crown each, and during the American war at five shillings.

The hands may be made white, soft, and supple by daily sponging them with fresh Lemon juice, which further keeps the nails in good order; and the same may be usefully applied to the roots of the hair for removing dandriff from the scalp.

The Candied Peel which we employ as a confection is got from one of the citrons (a variety of the lemon); whilst another of this tribe is esteemed for religious purposes in Jewish synagogues. These citrons are imported into England from the East; and for unblemished specimens of the latter which reach London, high prices are paid. One pound sterling is a common sum, and not infrequently as much as seventy shillings are given for a single “Citron of Law.” The fruit is used at the Feast of Tabernacles according to a command given in the Book of the Law; it is not of an edible nature, but is handed round and smelt by the worshippers as they go out, when they “thank God for all good things, and for the sweet odours He has given to men.” This citron is considered to be almost miraculously restorative, especially by those who regard it as the “tappnach,” intended in the text, “Comfort me with apples.” Ladies of the Orient, even now, carry a piece of its rind about them in a vinaigrette.

The citron which furnishes Candied Peel resembles a large juicy lemon, but without a nipple.

Virgil said of the fruit generally:–

“Media fert tristes succos, tardumque saporem
Felicis mali.”

Fresh Lemon juice will not keep because of its mucilage, which soon ferments.

Sidney Smith, in writing about Foston, his remote Country Cure in Yorkshire, said it is “twelve miles from a Lemon.”

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

Ingredients: Lavender

August 16th, 2008

The Lavender of our gardens, called also Lavender Spike, is a well-known sweet-smelling shrub, of the Labiate order. It grows wild in Spain, Piedmont, and the south of France, on waysides, mountains, and in barren places. The plant was propagated by slips, or cuttings, and has been cultivated in England since about 1568. It is produced largely for commercial purposes in Surrey, Hertfordshire, and Lincoln. The shrub is set in long rows occupying fields, and yields a profitable fragrant essential oil from the flowering tops, about one ounce of the oil from sixty terminal flowering spikes. From these tops also the popular cosmetic lavender water is distilled. They contain tannin, and a resinous camphire, which is common to most of the mints affording essential oils. If a hank of cotton is steeped in the oil of Lavender, and drained off so as to be hung dry about the neck, it will prevent bugs and other noxious insects from attacking that part. When mixed with three-fourths of spirit of turpentine, or spirit of wine, this oil makes the famous Oleum spicoe, formerly much celebrated for curing old sprains and stiff joints. Lavender oil is likewise of service when rubbed in externally, for stimulating paralysed limbs–preferring the sort distilled from the flowering tops to that which is obtained from the stalks. Internally, the essential oil, or a spirit of Lavender made therefrom, proves admirably restorative and tonic against faintness, palpitations of a nervous sort, weak giddiness, spasms, and colic. It is agreeable to the taste and smell, provokes appetite, raises the spirits, and dispels flatulence; but the infusion of Lavender tops, if taken too freely, will cause griping, and colic. In hysteria, palsy, and similar disorders of debility, and lack of nerve power, the spirit of Lavender will act as a powerful stimulant; and fomentations with Lavender in bags, applied hot, will speedily relieve local pains. “It profiteth them much,” says Gerard, “that have the palsy if they be washed with the distilled water from the Lavender flowers; or are anointed with the oil made from the flowers and olive oil, in such manner as oil of roses is used.” A dose of the oil is from one to four drops on sugar, or on a small piece of bread crumb, or in a spoonful or two of milk. And of the spirit, from half to one teaspoonful may be taken with two tablespoonfuls of water, hot or cold, or of milk. The spirit of Lavender is made with one part of the essential oil to forty-nine parts of spirit of wine. For preparing distilled Lavender water, the addition of a small quantity of musk does much to develop the strength of the Lavender’s odour and fragrance. The essential oil of Lavandula latifolia, admirably promotes the growth of the hair when weakly, or falling off.

By the Greeks the name Nardus is given to Lavender, from Naarda, a city of Syria, near the Euphrates; and many persons call the plant “Nard.” St. Mark mentions this as Spikenard, a thing of great value The woman who came to Christ having an alabaster box of ointment of Spikenard, very precious “brake the box, and poured it on His head.” In Pliny’s time blossoms of the nardus sold for a hundred Roman denarii (or £3 2s. 6d.) the pound. This Lavender or Nardus, was likewise called Asarum by the Romans, because not used in garlands or chaplets. It was formerly believed that the asp, a dangerous kind of viper, made Lavender its habitual place of abode, so that the plant had to be approached with great caution.

Conserves of Lavender were much used in the time of Gerard, and desserts may be most pleasantly brought to the table on a service of Lavender spikes. It is said, on good authority, that the lions and tigers in our Zoological gardens, are powerfully affected by the smell of Lavender-water and become docile under its influence.

The Lavender shrub takes its name from the Latin lavare, “to wash,” because the ancients employed it as a perfume. Lavender tops, when dried, and placed with linen, will preserve it from moths and other insects.

The whole plant was at one time considered indispensable in Africa, ubi lavandis corporibus Lybes eâ utuntur; nec nisi decocto ejus abluti mane domo egrediuntur, “where the Libyans make use of it for washing their bodies, nor ever leave their houses of a morning until purified by a decoction of the plant.”

In this country the sweet-smelling herb is often introduced for scenting newly washed linen when it is put by; from which custom has arisen the expression, “To be laid up in Lavender.” During the twelfth century a washerwoman was called “Lavender,” in the North of England.

A tea brewed from the flowers is an excellent remedy for headache from fatigue, or weakness. But Lavender oil is, in too large a dose, a narcotic poison, and causes death by convulsions. The tincture of red Lavender is a popular medicinal cordial; and is composed of the oils of Lavender and rosemary, with cinnamon bark, nutmeg, and red sandal wood, macerated in spirit of wine for seven days; then a teaspoonful may be given for a dose in a little water, with excellent effect, after an indigestible meal, taking the dose immediately when feeling uneasy, and repeating it after half-an-hour if needed. An old form of this compound tincture was formerly famous as “Palsy Drops,” it being made from the Lavender, with rosemary, cinnamon, nutmeg, red sandal wood, and spirit. In some cases of mental depression and delusions the oil of Lavender proves of real service; and a few drops of it rubbed on the temples will cure nervous headache.

Shakespeare makes Perdita (Winter’s Tale) class Lavender among the flowers denoting middle age:

“Here’s flowers for you,
Hot Lavender: Mints: Savory: Marjoram;
The Marigold that goes to bed with the sun,
And with him rises, weeping: these are the flowers
Of middle summer, and I think they are given
To men of middle age.”

There is a broad-leaved variety of the Lavender shrub in France, which yields three times as much of the essential oil as can be got from our narrow-leaved plant, but of a second rate quality.

The Sea Lavender, or Thrift (Statice limonium) grows near the sea, or in salt marshes. It gets its name Statice from the Greek word isteemi (to stop, or stay), because of its medicinal power to arrest bleeding. This is the marsh Rosemary, or Ink Root, which contains (if the root be dried in the air) from fourteen to fifteen per cent. of tannin. Therefore, its infusion or tincture will prove highly useful to control bleeding from the lungs or kidneys, as also against dysentery; and when made into a gargle, for curing an ulcerated sore throat.

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

Ingredients: Ferns

July 12th, 2008

Only some few of our native Ferns are known to possess medicinal virtues, though they may all be happily pronounced devoid of poisonous or deleterious properties. As curative simples, a brief consideration will be given here to the common male and female Ferns, the Royal Fern, the Hart’s Tongue, the Maidenhair, the common Polypody, the Spleenwort, and the Wall Rue. Generically, the term “fern” has been referred to the word “feather,” because of the pinnate leaves, or to farr, a bullock, from the use of the plants as litter for cattle. Ferns are termed Filices, from the Latin word filum, a thread, because of their filamentary fronds. Each of those now particularized owes its respective usefulness chiefly to its tannin; while the few more specially endowed with healing powers yield also a peculiar chemical acid “filicic,” which is fatal to worms. In an old charter, A.D. 855, the right of pasturage on the common Ferns was called “fearnleswe,” or Pascua procorum, the pasturage of swine (from fearrh, a pig). Matthiolus when writing of the ferns, male and female, says, Utriusque radice sues pinguescunt. In some parts of England Ferns at large are known as “Devil’s brushes”; and to bite off close to the ground the first Fern which appears in the Spring, is said, in Cornwall, to cure toothache, and to prevent its return during the remainder of the year.

The common Male Fern (Filix mas) or Shield Fern, grows abundantly in all parts of Great Britain, and has been known from the times of Theophrastus and Dioscorides, as a specific remedy for intestinal worms, particularly the tape worm. For medicinal purposes, the green part of the rhizome is kept and dried; this is then powdered, and its oleo-resin is extracted by ether. The green fixed oil thus obtained; which is poisonous to worms, consists of the glycerides of filocylic and filosmylic acids, with tannin, starch, gum, and sugar. The English oil of Male Fern is more reliable than that which is imported from the Continent. Twenty drops made into an emulsion with mucilage should be given every half-hour on an empty stomach, until sixty or eighty drops have been taken. It is imprudent to administer the full quantity in a single dose. The treatment should be thus pursued when the vigour of the parasite has been first reduced by a low diet for a couple of days, and is lying within the intestines free from alimentary matter; a purgative being said to assist the action of the plant, though it is, independently, quite efficacious. The knowledge of this remedy had become lost, until it was repurchased for fifteen thousand francs, in 1775, by the French king, under the advice of his principal physicians, from Madame Nouffer, a surgeon’s widow in Switzerland, who employed it as a secret mode of cure with infallible success. Her method consisted in giving from one to three drams of the powdered root, after using a clyster, and following the dose up with a purge of scammony and calomel. The rhizome should not be used medicinally if more than a year old. A medicinal tincture (H.) is now prepared from the root-stock with proof spirit, in the autumn when the fronds are dying.

The young shoots and curled leaves of the Male Fern, which is distinguished by having one main rib, are sometimes eaten like asparagus; whilst the fronds make an excellent litter for horses and cattle. The seed of this and some other species of Fern is so minute (one frond producing more than a million) as not to be visible to the naked eye. Hence, on the doctrine of signatures, the plant — like the ring of Gyges, found in a brazen horse — has been thought to confer invisibility. Thus Shakespeare says, Henry IV., Act II., Scene 1, “We have the receipt of Fern seed; we walk invisible.”

Bracken or Brakes, which grows more freely than any other of the Fern tribe throughout England, is the Filix foemina, or common Female Fern. The fronds of this are branched, whilst the male plant having only one main rib, is more powerful as an astringent, and antiseptic; “the powder thereof freely beaten healeth the galled necks of oxen and other cattell.” Bracken is also named botanically, Pteris aquilina, because the figure which appears in its succulent stem when cut obliquely across at the base, has been thought to resemble a spread eagle; and, therefore, Linnaeus termed the Fern Aquilina. Some call it, for the same reason, “King Charles in the oak tree”; and in Scotland the symbol is said to be an impression of the Devil’s foot. Again, witches are reputed to detest this Fern, since it bears on its cut root the Greek letter X, which is the initial of Christos.

In Ireland it is called the Fern of God, because of the belief that if the stem be cut into three sections, on the first of these will be seen the letter G; on the second O; and on the third D.

An old popular proverb says about this Bracken:–

“When the Fern is as high as a spoon
You may sleep an hour at noon,
When the Fern is as high as a ladle
You may sleep as long as you’re able,
When the Fern is looking red
Milk is good with faire brown bread.”

The Bracken grows almost exclusively on waste places and uncultivated ground; or, as Horace testified in Roman days, Neglectis urenda filix innascitur agris. It contains much potash; and its ashes were formerly employed in the manufacture of soap. The young tops of the plant are boiled in Hampshire for hogs’ food, and the peculiar flavour of Hampshire bacon has been attributed to this custom. The root affords much starch, and is used medicinally. “For thigh aches” [sciatica], says an old writer, “smoke the legs thoroughly with Fern braken.”

During the Seventeenth Century it was customary to set growing Brakes on fire with the belief that this would produce rain. A like custom of “firing the Bracken” still prevails to-day on the Devonshire moors. By an official letter the Earl of Pembroke admonished the High Sheriff of Stafford to forbear the burning of Ferns during a visit of Charles I., as “His Majesty desired that the country and himself may enjoy fair weather as long as he should remain in those parts.”

In northern climates a coarse kind of bread is made from the roots of the Brake Fern; whilst in the south the young shoots are often sold in bundles as a salad. (Some writers give the name of Lady Fern, not to the Bracken, but to the Asplenium filix foemina, because of its delicate and graceful foliage.) The Bracken has branched riblets, and is more viscid, mucilaginous, and diuretic, than the Male Fern.

Its ashes when burnt contain much vegetable alkali which has been used freely in making glass.

It was customary to “watch the Fern” on Midsummer eve, when the plant put forth at dusk a blue flower, and a wonderful seed at midnight, which was carefully collected, and known as “wish seed.” This gave the power to discover hidden treasures, whilst to drink the sap conferred perpetual youth.

The Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis), grows abundantly in many parts of Great Britain, and is the stateliest of Ferns in its favourite watery haunts. It heeds a soil of bog earth, and is incorrectly styled “the flowering Fern,” from its handsome spikes of fructification. One of its old English names is “Osmund, the Waterman”; and the white centre of its root has been called the heart of Osmund. This middle part boiled in some kind of liquor was supposed good for persons wounded, dry-beaten, and bruised, or that have fallen from some high place. The name “Osmund” is thought to be derived from os, the mouth, or os, bone, and mundare, to cleanse, or from gross mond kraut, the Greater Moonwort; but others refer it to Saint Osmund wading a river, whilst bearing the Christ on his shoulders. The root or rhizome has a mucilaginous slightly bitter taste. The tender sprigs of the plant at their first coming are “good to be put into balmes, oyles, and healing plasters.” Dodonoeus says, “the harte of the root of Osmonde is good against squattes, and bruises, heavie and grievous falles, and whatever hurte or dislocation soever it be.” “A conserve of these buds,” said Dr. Short of Sheffield, 1746, “is a specific in the rickets; and the roots stamped in water or gin till the liquor becometh a stiff mucilage, has cured many most deplorable pains of the back, that have confined the distracted sufferers close to bed for several weeks.” This mucilage was to be rubbed over the vertebrae of the back each night and morning for five or six days together. Also for rickets, “take of the powdered roots with the whitest sugar, and sprinkle some thereof on the child’s pap, and on all his liquid foods.” “It maketh a noble remedy,” said Dr. Bowles, “without any other medicine.” The actual curative virtues of this Fern are most probably due to the salts of lime, potash, and other earths, which it derives in solution from the bog soil, and from the water in which it grows. On July 25th it is specially dedicated to St. Christopher, its patron saint.

The Hart’s Tongue or Hind’s Tongue, is a Fern of common English growth in shady copses on moist banks, it being the Lingua cervina of the apothecaries, and its name expressing the shape of its fronds. This, the Scolopendrium vulgare, is also named “Button-hole,” “Horse tongue;” and in the Channel Islands “Godshair.” The older physicians esteemed it as a very valuable medicine; and Galen gave it for diarrhoea or dysentery. By reason of its tannin it will restrain bleedings, “being commended,” says Gerard, “against the bloody flux.” People in rural districts make an ointment from its leaves for burns and scalds. It was formerly, in company with the common Maidenhair Fern, one of the five great capillary herbs. Dr. Tuthill Massy advises the drinking, in Bright’s disease, of as much as three half-pints daily of an infusion of this Fern, whilst always taking care to gather the young shoots. Also, in combination (H.) with the American Golden Seal (Hydrastis canadensis). the Hart’s Tongue has served in not a few authenticated cases to arrest the progress of that formidable disease, diabetes mellitus. Its distilled water will quiet any palpitations of the heart, and will stay the hiccough; it will likewise help the falling of the palate (relaxed throat), or stop bleeding of the gums if the mouth be gargled therewith.

From the Ophioglossum vulgatum, “‘Adder’s tongue,’ or ‘Christ’s Spear,’ when boiled in olive oil is produced a most excellent greene oyle. Or rather a balsam for greene wounds, comparable to oyle of St. John’s Wort; if it doth not far surpasse it.” A preparation from this plant known as the “green oil of charity,” is still in request as a vulnerary, and remedy for wounds.

The true Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum capillus veneris), of exquisite foliage, and of a dark crimson colour, is a stranger in England, except in the West country. But we have in greater abundance the common Maidenhair (Asplenium trichomanes), which grows on old walls, and which will act as a laxative medicine; whilst idiots are said to have taken it remedially, so as to recover their senses. The true Maidenhair is named Adiantum, from the Greek: Quod denso imbre cadente destillans foliis tenuis non insidet humor, “Because the leaves are not wetted even by a heavily falling shower of rain.” “In vain,” saith Pliny, “do you plunge the Adiantum into water, it always remains dry.” This veracious plant doth “strengthen and embellish the hair.” It occurs but rarely with us; on damp rocks, and walls near the sea. The Maidenhair is called Polytrichon because it brings forth a multitude of hairs; Calitrichon because it produces black and faire hair; Capillus veneris because it fosters grace and love.

From its fine hairlike stems, and perhaps from its attributed virtues in toilet use, this Fern has acquired the name of “Our Lady’s Hair” and “Maria’s Fern.” “The true Maidenhair,” says Gerard, “maketh the hair of the head and beard to grow that is fallen and pulled off.” From this graceful Fern a famous elegant syrup is made in France called Capillaire; which is given as a favourite medicine in pulmonary catarrh. It is flavoured with orange flowers, and acts as a demulcent with slightly stimulating effects. One part of the plant is gently boiled with ten parts of water, and with nineteen parts of white sugar. Dr. Johnson says Boswell used to put Capillaire into his port wine. Sir John Hill instructed us that (as we cannot get the true Maidenhair fresh in England) the fine syrup made in France from their Fern in perfection, concocted with pure Narbonne honey, is not by any means to be thought a trifle, because barley water, sweetened with this, is one of the very best remedies for a violent cold. But a tea brewed from our more common Maidenhair will answer the same purpose for tedious coughs. Its leaves are sweet, mucilaginous, and expectorant, being, therefore, highly useful in many pulmonary disorders.

The common Polypody Fern, or “rheum-purging Polypody” grows plentifully in this country on old walls and stumps of trees, in shady places. In Hampshire it is called “Adder’s Tongue,” as derived from the word attor, poison; also Wall-fern, and formerly in Anglo-Saxon Ever-fern, or Boar-fern. In Germany it is said to have sprung from the Virgin’s milk, and is named Marie bregue. The fresh root has been used successfully in decoction, or powdered, for melancholia; also of late for general rheumatic swelling of the
joints. By the ancients it was employed as a purgative. Six drachms by weight of the root should be infused for two hours in a pint of boiling water, and given in two doses. This is the Oak Fern of the herbalists; not that of modern botanists (Polypodium dryopteris); it being held that such Fern plants as grew upon the roots of an oak tree were of special medicinal powers, Quod nascit super radices quercûs est efficacius. The true Oak Fern (Dryopteris) grows chiefly in mountainous districts among the mossy roots of old oak trees, and sometimes in marshy places. If its root is bruised and applied to the skin of any hairy part, whilst the person is sweating, this will cause the hair to come away. Dioscorides said, “The root of Polypody is very good for chaps between the fingers.” “It serveth,” writes Gerard, “to make the belly soluble, being boiled in the broth of an old cock, with beets or mallows, or other like things, that move to the stool by their slipperiness.” Parkinson says: “A dram or two, it need be, of the powdered dry roots taken fasting, in a cupful of honeyed water, worketh gently as a purge, being a safe medicine, fit for all persons and seasons, which daily experience confirmeth.” “Applied also to the nose it cureth the disease called polypus, which by time and sufferance stoppeth the nostrils.” The leaves of the Polypody when burnt furnish a large proportion of carbonate of Potash.

The Spleenwort (Asplenium ceterach — an Arabian term), or Scaly Fern, or Finger Fern, grows on old walls, and in the clefts of moist rocks. It is also called “Miltwaste,” because supposed to cure disorders of the milt, or spleen:–

“The Finger Fern, which being given to swine,
It makes their milt to melt away in fine.”

Very probably this reputed virtue has mainly become attributed to the plant, because the lobular milt-like shape of its leaf resembles the form of the spleen. “No herbe maie be compared therewith,” says one of the oldest Herbals, “for his singular virtue to help the sicknesse or grief of the splene.” Pliny ordered: “It should not be given to women, because it bringeth barrenness.” Vitruvius alleged that in Crete the flocks and herds were found to be without spleens, because they browsed on this fern. The plant was supposed when given medicinally to diminish the size of the enlarged spleen or “ague-cake.”

The Wall Rue (Ruta muraria) is a white Maidenhair Fern, and is named by some Salvia vitoe. It is a small herb, somewhat nearly of the colour of Garden Rue, and is likewise good for them that have a cough, or are shortwinded, or be troubled with stitches in the sides. It stayeth the falling or shedding of the hair, and causeth them to grow thick, fair, and well coloured. This plant is held by those of judgment and experience, to be as effectual a capillary herb as any whatever. Also, it helpeth ruptures in children. Matthiolus “hath known of divers holpen therein by taking the powder of the herb in drink for forty days together.” Its leaves are like those of Rue, and the Fern has been called Tentwort from its use as a specific or sovereign remedy for the cure of rickets, a disease once known as “the taint.”

The generic appellations of the several species of Ferns are derived thus: Aspidium, from aspis, a shield, because the spores are enclosed in bosses; Pteris, from pteerux, a wing, having doubly pinnate fronds; or from pteron, a feather, having feathery fronds; Scolopendrium, because the fructification is supposed to resemble the feet of Scoltpendra, a genus of mydrapods; and Polypody, many footed, by reason of the pectinate fronds.

There grows in Tartary a singular polypody Fern, of which the hairy foot is easily made to simulate in form a small sheep. It rises above the ground with excrescences resembling a head and tail, whilst having four leg-like fronds. Fabulous stories are told about this remarkable Fern root; and in China its hairy down is so highly valued as a styptic for fresh bleeding cuts and wounds, that few families will be without it. Dr. Darwin, in his Loves of the Plants, says about this curious natural production, the Polypodium Barometz:–

“Cradled in snow, and fanned by Arctic air
Shines, gentle Barometz, thy golden hair;
Rooted in earth each cloven hoof descends,
And found and round her flexile neck she bends:
Crops the green coral moss, and hoary thyme,
Or laps with rosy tongue the melting rime;
Eyes with mute tenderness her distant dam,
Or seems to bleat — a vegetable Lamb.”

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

Palpitation of the Heart, Hot Foot Bath and Camphor for

March 5th, 2008

“Place the feet in hot mustard water and give two grains camphor every two or three hours, or two drops aconite every hour. This remedy is very good and is sure to give relief.”

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

Palpitation of the Heart, Valuable Herb Tea for

February 20th, 2008

“All excitement must be avoided. Where there is organic disease, all that can be done is to mitigate the severity of the symptoms. For this take the following herb tea: One ounce each of marigold flowers, mugwort, motherworth, century dandelion root, put in, two quarts of water and boil down to three pints; pour boiling hot upon one-half ounce of valerian, and one-half ounce of skullcap. Take a wineglassful three times a day. Let the bowels be kept moderately open and live principally upon vegetable diet, with plenty of outdoor exercise.”

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

Palpitation of the Heart, Tea of Geranium Root for

February 15th, 2008

“Make an infusion of geranium root, half an ounce in pint of boiling water, strain, cool, and give wine glass full three or four times a day.” The geranium root will be found to be an excellent remedy where female weakness has caused the palpitation of the heart.

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

Ingredients: Asparagus

February 6th, 2008

The Asparagus, belonging to the Lily order of plants, occurs wild on the coasts of Essex, Suffolk, and Cornwall. It is there a more prickly plant than the cultivated vegetable which we grow for the sake of the tender, edible shoots. The Greeks and Romans valued it for their tables, and boiled it so quickly that velocius quam asparagi coquuntur — “faster than asparagus is cooked” — was a proverb with them, to which our “done in a jiffy” closely corresponds. The shoots, whether wild or cultivated, are succulent, and contain wax, albumen, acetate of potash, phosphate of potash, mannite, a green resin, and a fixed principle named “asparagin.” This asparagin stimulates the kidneys, and imparts a peculiar, strong smell to the urine after taking the shoots; at the same time, the green resin with which the asparagin is combined, exercises gently sedative effects on the heart, calming palpitation, or nervous excitement of that organ. Though not producing actual sugar in the urine, asparagus forms and excretes a substance therein which answers to the reactions used by physicians for detecting sugar, except the fermentation test. It may fairly be given in diabetes with a promise of useful results. In Russia it is a domestic medicine for the arrest of flooding.

Asparagin also bears the chemical name of “althein,” and occurs in crystals, which may be reduced to powder, and which may likewise be got from the roots of marsh mallow, and liquorice. One grain of this given three times a day is of service for relieving dropsy from disease of the heart. Likewise, a medicinal tincture is made (H.) from the whole plant, of which eight or ten drops given with a tablespoonful of water three times a day will also allay urinary irritation, whilst serving to do good against rheumatic gout. A syrup of asparagus is employed medicinally in France: and at Aix-les-Bains it forms part of the cure for rheumatic patients to eat Asparagus. The roots of Asparagus contain diuretic virtues more abundantly than the shoots. An infusion made from these roots will assist against jaundice, and congestive torpor of the liver. The shrubby stalks of the plant bear red, coral-like berries which, when ripe, yield grape sugar, and spargancin. Though generally thought to branch out into feathery leaves, these are only ramified stalks substituted by the plant when growing on an arid sandy soil, where no moisture could be got for the maintenance of leaves. The berries are attractive to small birds, who swallow them whole, and afterwards void the seeds, to germinate when thus scattered about. Thus there is some valid reason for the vulgar corruption of the title Asparagus into Sparrowgrass, or Grass. Botanically the plant is a lily which has seen better days. In the United States of America, Asparagus is thought to be undeniably sedative, and a palliative in all heart affections attended with excited action of the pulse. The water in which asparagus has been boiled, if drunk, though somewhat disagreeable, is beneficial against rheumatism. The cellular tissue of the plant furnishes a substance similar to sago. In Venice, the wild asparagus is served at table, but it is strong in flavour and less succulent than the cultivated sort. Mortimer Collins makes Sir Clare, one of his characters in Clarisse say: “Liebig, or some other scientist maintains that asparagin — the alkaloid in asparagus — develops form in the human brain: so, if you get hold of an artistic child, and give him plenty of asparagus, he will grow into a second Raffaelle!”

Gerard calls the plant “Sperage,” “which is easily concocted when eaten, and doth gently loose the belly.” Our name, “Asparagus,” is derived from a Greek word signifying “the tearer,” in allusion to the spikes of some species; or perhaps from the Persian “Spurgas,” a shoot.

John Evelyn, in his Book of Salads, derives the term Asparagus in easy fashion, ab asperitate, “from the sharpness of the plant.” “Nothing,” says he, “next to flesh is more nourishing; but in this country we overboil them, and dispel their volatile salts: the water should boil before they are put in.” He tells of asparagus raised at Battersea in a natural, sweet, and well-cultivated soil, sixteen of which (each one weighing about four ounces) were made a present to his wife, showing what “solum, coelum, and industry will effect.” The Asparagus first came into use as a food about 200 B.C., in the time of the elder Cato, and Augustus was very partial to it. The wild Asparagus was called Lybicum, and by the Athenians, Horminium. Roman cooks used to dry the shoots, and when required these were thrown into hot water, and boiled for a few minutes to make them look fresh and green. Gerard advises that asparagus should be sodden in flesh broth, and eaten; or boiled in fair water, seasoned with oil, pepper, and vinegar, being served up as a salad. Our ancestors in Tudor times ate the whole of the stalks with spoons. Swift’s patron, Sir William Temple, who had been British Minister at the Hague, brought the art of Asparagus culture from Holland; and when William III. visited Sir William at Moor Park, where young Jonathan was domiciled as Secretary, his Majesty is said to have taught the future Dean of St. Patrick’s how to eat asparagus in the Dutch style. Swift afterwards at his own table refused a second helping of the vegetable to a guest until the stalks had been devoured, alleging that “King William always ate his stalks.” When the large white asparagus first came into vogue, it was known as the “New Vegetable.” This was grown with lavish manure and was called Dutch Asparagus. For cooking the stalks should be cut of equal lengths, and boiled standing upwards in a deep saucepan with nearly two inches of the heads out of the water. Then the steam will suffice to cook these tender parts, whilst the hard stalky portions may be boiled long enough to become soft and succulently wholesome. Two sorts of asparagus are now grown — the one an early kind, pinkish white, cultivated in France and the Channel Islands; the other green and English. At Kynance Cove in Cornwall, there is an island called Asparagus Island, from the abundance in which the plant is found there.

In connection with this popular vegetable may be quoted the
following riddle:–

“What killed a queen to love inclined,
What on a beggar oft we find,
Show–to ourselves if aptly joined,
A plant which we in bundles bind.”

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