The Scarlet Poppy of our cornfields (Papaver Rhoeas) is one of the most brilliant and familiar of English wild flowers, being strikingly conspicuous as a weed by its blossoms rich in scarlet petals, which are black at the base. The title Papaver has been derived from pap, a soft food given to young infants, in which it was at one time customary to boil Poppy seeds for the purpose of inducing sleep. Provincially this plant bears the titles of “Cop Rose” (from its rose-like flowers, and the button-like form of its cop, or capsule) and “Canker Rose,” from its detriment to wheat crops.
The generic term Rhoeas comes from reo, to fall, because the scarlet petals have so fragile a hold on their receptacles; and the plant has been endowed with the sobriquet, “John Silver Pin, fair without and foul within.” In the Eastern counties of England any article of finery brought out only occasionally, and worn with ostentation by a person otherwise a slattern, is called “Joan Silver Pin.” After this sense the appellation has been applied to the Scarlet Poppy. Its showy flower is so attractive to the eye, whilst its inner juice is noxious, and stains the hands of those who thoughtlessly crush it with their fingers.
“And Poppies a sanguine mantle spread,
For the blood of the dragon St. Margaret shed.”
Robert Turner naively says, “The Red Poppy Flower (Papaver erraticum) resembleth at its bottom the settling of the ‘Blood in pleurisie'”; and, he adds, “how excellent is that flower in diseases of the pleurisie with similar surfeits hath been sufficiently experienced.”
It is further called Blindy Buff, Blind Eyes, Headwarke, and Headache, from the stupefying effects of smelling it. Apothecaries make a syrup of a splendid deep colour from its vividly red petals; but this does not exercise any soporific action like that concocted from the white Poppy, which is a sort of modified opiate, suitable for infants under certain conditions, when sanctioned by a doctor. Otherwise, all sedatives of a narcotic sort are to be strongly condemned for use by mothers, or nurses:–
“But a child that bids the world ‘Good-night’
In downright earnest, and cuts it quite,
(A cherub no art can copy),
‘Tis a perfect picture to see him lie,
As if he had supped on dormouse pie,
An ancient classical dish, by-the-bye,
With a sauce of syrup of Poppy.”
Petronius, in the time of Nero, A.D. 80, “delivered an odd receipt for dressing dormouse sausages, and serving them up with Poppies and honey, which must have been a very soporiferous dainty, and as good as owl pye to such as want a nap after dinner.”
The white Poppy is specially cultivated in Britain for the sake of its seed capsules, which possess attributes similar to opium, but of a weaker strength. These capsules are commonly known as Poppyheads, obtained from the druggist for use in domestic fomentations to allay pain. Also from the capsules, without their seeds, is made the customary syrup of White Poppies, which is so familiar as a sedative for childhood; but it should be always remembered that infants of tender years are highly susceptible to the influence even of this mild form of opium. The true gum opium, and laudanum, which is its tincture, are derived from Eastern Poppies (Papaver somniferum) by incisions made in the capsules at a proper season of the year. The cultivated Poppy of the garden will afford English opium in a like manner, but it is seldom used for this purpose. A milky juice exudes when the capsules of these cultivated flowers are cut, or bruised. They are familiar to most children as drumsticks, plucked in the garden after the gaudy petals of the flowers have fallen off. The leaves and stems likewise afford some of the same juice, which, when inspissated, is known as English opium. The seeds of the white Poppy yield by expression a bland nutritive oil, which may be substituted for that of olives, or sweet almonds, in cooking, and for similar uses. Dried Poppy-heads, formerly in constant request for making hot soothing stupes, or for application directly to a part in pain, are now superseded for the most part by the many modern liquid preparations of opium handy for the purpose, to be mixed with hot water, or applied in poultices.
For outward use laudanum may be safely added to stupes, hot or cold, a teaspoonful being usually sufficient for the purpose, or perhaps two, if the pain is severe; and powdered opium may be incorporated with one or another ointment for a similar object. If a decoction of Poppy capsules is still preferred, it should be made by adding to a quarter-of-a-pound of white Poppy heads (free from seeds, and broken up in a mortar) three pints of boiling water; then boil for ten or fifteen minutes, and strain off the decoction, which should measure about two pints.
Dr. Herbert Snow, resident physician at the Brompton Cancer Hospital, says (1895) he has found: “after a long experience, Opium exhibits a strong inhibitive influence on the cancer elements, retarding and checking the cell growth, which is a main feature of the disease. Even when no surgical operation has been performed, Opium is the only drug which markedly checks cancer growth: and the early employment of this medicine will usually add years of comfortable life to the otherwise shortened space of the sufferer’s existence.” Opium gets its name from the Greek apos, juice.
The seeds of the white Poppy are known us mawseed, or balewort, and are given as food to singing birds. In old Egypt these seeds were mixed with flour and honey, and made into cakes.
Pliny says: “The rustical peasants of Greece glazed the upper crust of their loaves with yolks of eggs, and then bestrewed them with Poppy seeds,” thus showing that the seeds were then considered free from narcotic properties. And in Queen Elizabeth’s time these seeds were strewn over confectionery, whilst the oil expressed from them was “delightful to be eaten when taken with bread.”
White Poppy capsules, when dried, furnish papaverine and narcotine, with some mucilage, and a little waxy matter. The seeds contained within the capsules yield Poppy seed oil, with a fixed oil, and a very small quantity of morphia–about five grains in a pound of white Poppy seeds. In some parts of Russia the seeds are put into soups.
The Poppy was cultivated by the Greeks before the time of Hippocrates. It has long been a symbol of death, because sending persons to sleep. Ovid says, concerning the Cave of Somnus:–
“Around whose entry nodding Poppies grow,
And all cool Simples that sweet rest bestow.”
The common scarlet Poppy was called by the Anglo-Saxons “Chesebolle,” “Chebole,” or “Chybolle,” from the ripe capsule resembling a round cheese.
There is a Welsh Poppy, with yellow flowers; and a horned Poppy, named after Glaucus, common on our sea coasts, with sea-green leaves, and large blossoms of golden yellow. Glaucus, a fisherman of Boeotia, observed that all the fishes which he caught received fresh vigour when laid on the ground, and were immediately able to leap back into the sea. He attributed these effects to some herb growing in the grass, and upon tasting the leaves of the Sea Poppy he found himself suddenly moved with an intense desire to live in the sea; wherefore he was made a sea-god by Oceanus and Tethys. Borlase says: “That in the Scilly Islands the root of the Sea Poppy is so much valued for removing all pains in the breast, stomach, and intestines, as well as so good for disordered lungs, whilst so much better there than in other places, that the apothecaries of Cornwall send thither for it; and some persons plant these roots in their gardens in Cornwall, and will not part with them under sixpence a root.” The scarlet petals of the wild Poppy, very abundant in English cornfields, when treated with sulphuric acid make a splendid red dye. With gorgeous tapestry cut from these crimson petals, the clever “drapery bee” (Apis papaveris) upholsters the walls of her solitary cell. Bruised leaves of the wild, or the garden Poppy, if applied to a part which has been stung by a bee or a wasp, will give prompt relief.
Source: Herbal Simples Approved for Modern Uses of Cure, William Thomas FerniesFiled under Ingredient | Tags: balewort, bee, breast, decoction, dormouse, intestine, laudanum, mawseed, mucilage, narcotic, narcotine, opium, owl, papaverine, pleurisy, poppy, rose, sedative, sting, stomach, syrup, wasp | Comment (0)
The most common Buttercup of our fields (Ranunculus bulbosis) needs no detailed description. It belongs to the order termed Ranunculaceoe, so-called from the Latin rana, a frog, because the several varieties of this genus grow in moist places where frogs abound. Under the general name of Buttercups are included the creeping Ranunculus, of moist meadows; the Ranunculus acris, Hunger Weed, or Meadow Crowfoot, so named from the shape of the leaf (each of these two being also called King Cup), and the Ranunculus bulbosus mentioned above. “King-Cob” signifies a resemblance between the unexpanded flowerbud and a stud of gold, such as a king would wear; so likewise the folded calyx is named Goldcup, Goldknob and Cuckoobud. The term Buttercup has become conferred through a mistaken notion that this flower gives butter a yellow colour through the cows feeding on it (which is not the case), or, perhaps, from the polished, oily surface of the petals. The designation really signifies “button cop,” or bouton d’or; “the batchelor’s button”; this terminal syllable, cup, being corrupted from the old English word “cop,” a head. It really means “button head.” The Buttercup generally is known in Wiltshire and the adjoining counties as Crazy, or Crazies, being reckoned by some as an insane plant calculated to produce madness; or as a corruption of Christseye (which was the medieval name of the Marigold).
A burning acridity of taste is the common characteristic of the several varieties of the Buttercup. In its fresh state the ordinary field Buttercup is so acrimonious that by merely pulling up the plant by its root, and carrying it some little distance in the hand, the palm becomes reddened and inflamed. Cows will not eat it unless very hungry, and then the mouth of the animal becomes sore and blistered. The leaves of the Buttercup, when bruised and applied to the skin, produce a blistering of the outer cuticle, with a discharge of a watery fluid, and with heat, redness, and swelling. If these leaves are masticated in the mouth they will induce pains like a stitch between the ribs at the side, with the sharp catchings of neuralgic rheumatism. A medicinal tincture is made (H.) from the bulbous Buttercup with spirit of wine, which will, as a similar, cure shingles very expeditiously, both the outbreak of small watery pimples clustered together at the side, and the accompanying sharp pains between the ribs. Also this tincture will promptly relieve neuralgic side-ache, and pleurisy which is of a passive sort. From six to eight drops of the tincture may be taken with a tablespoonful of cold water by an adult three or four times a day for either of the aforesaid purposes. In France, this plant is called “jaunet.” Buttercups are most probably the “Cuckoo Buds” immortalised by Shakespeare. The fresh leaves of the Crowfoot (Ranunculus acris) formed a part of the famous cancer cure of Mr. Plunkett in 1794. This cure comprised Crowfoot leaves, freshly gathered, and dog’s-foot fennel leaves, of each an ounce, with one drachm of white arsenic levigated, and with five scruples of flowers of sulphur, all beaten together into a paste, and dried by the sun in balls, which were then powdered, and, being mixed with yolk of egg, were applied on pieces of pig’s bladder. The juice of the common Buttercup (Bulbosus), known sometimes as “St. Anthony’s Turnip,” if applied to the nostrils, will provoke sneezing, and will relieve passive headache in this way. The leaves have been applied as a blister to the wrists in rheumatism, and when infused in boiling water as a poultice over the pit of the stomach as a counter-irritant. For sciatica the tincture of the bulbous buttercup has proved very helpful.
The Ranunculus flammata, Spearwort, has been used to produce a slight blistering effect by being put under a limpet shell against the skin of the part to be relieved, until some smarting and burning have been sensibly produced, with incipient vesication of the outermost skin.
The Ranunculus Sceleratus, Marsh Crowfoot, or Celery-leaved Buttercup, called in France “herbe sardonique,” and “grenouillette d’eau,” when made into a tincture (H.) with spirit of wine, and given in small diluted doses, proves curative of stitch in the side, and of neuralgic pains between the ribs, likewise of pleurisy without feverishness. The dose should be five drops of the third decimal tincture with a spoonful of water every three or four hours. This plant grows commonly at the sides of our pools, and in wet ditches, bearing numerous small yellow flowers, with petals scarcely longer than the calyx.
Source: Herbal Simples Approved for Modern Uses of Cure, William Thomas FernieFiled under Ingredient | Tags: buttercup, headache, madness, neuralgia, pleurisy, rheumatism, sciatica, shingles | Comment (0)