Ingredient: Pellitory

March 20th, 2015

A plant belonging to the order of Nettles, the Pellitory of the Wall, or Paritory–Parietaria, from the Latin parietes, walls–is a favourite Herbal Simple in many rural districts. It grows commonly on dry walls, and is in flower all the summer. The leaves are narrow, hairy, and reddish; the stems are brittle, and the small blossoms hairy, in clusters. Their filaments are so elastic that if touched before the flower has expanded, they suddenly spring from their in curved position, and scatter the pollen broadcast.

An infusion of the plant is a popular medicine to stimulate the kidneys, and promote a large flow of watery urine. The juice of the herb acts in the same way when made into a thin syrup with sugar, and given in doses of two tablespoonfuls three times in the day. Dropsical effusions caused by an obstructed liver, or by a weak dilated heart, may be thus carried off with marked relief. The decoction of Parietaria, says Gerard, “helpeth such as are troubled with an old cough.” All parts of the plant contain nitre abundantly. The leaves may be usefully applied as poultices.

But another Pellitory, which is more widely used because of its pungent efficacy in relieving toothache, and in provoking a free flow of saliva, is a distinct plant, the Pyrethrum, or Spanish Chamomile of the shops, and not a native of Great Britain, though sometimes cultivated in our gardens. The title “Purethron” is from pur, fire, because of its burning ardent taste. Its root is scentless, but when chewed causes a pricking sensation (with heat, and some numbness) in the mouth and tongue. Then an abundant flow of saliva, and of mucus within the cheeks quickly ensues. These effects are due to “pyrethrin” contained in the plant, which is an acid fixed resin; also there are present a second resin, and a yellow, acrid oil, whilst the root contains inulin, tannin, and other substances. When sliced and applied to the skin it induces heat, tingling, and redness. A patient seeking relief from rheumatic or neuralgic affections of the head and face, or for palsy of the tongue, should chew the root of this Pyrethrum for several minutes.

The “Pelleter of Spain” (Pyrethrum Anacyclus), was so styled, not because of being brought from Spain; but because it is grown there.

A gargle of Pyrethrum infusion is prescribed for relaxed uvula, and for a partial paralysis of the tongue and lips. The tincture made from the dried root may be most helpfully applied on cotton wool to the interior of a decayed tooth which is aching, or the milder tincture of the wall Pellitory may be employed for the same purpose. To make a gargle, two or three teaspoonfuls of the tincture of Pyrethrum, which can be had from any druggist, should be mixed with a pint of cold water, and sweetened with honey, if desired. The powdered root forms a good snuff to cure chronic catarrh of the head and nostrils, and to clear the brain by exciting a free flow of nasal mucus and tears–Purgatur cerebrum mansâ radice Pyrethri.

Incidentally, as a quaint but effective remedy for carious toothache, may be mentioned the common lady bird insect, Coccinella, which when captured secretes from its legs a yellow acrid fluid having a disagreeable odour. This fluid will serve to ease the most violent toothache, if the creature be placed alive in the cavity of the hollow tooth.

Gerard says this Pyrethrurn (Pellitory of Spain, or Pelletor) “is most singular for the surgeons of the hospitals to put into their unctions contra Neapolitanum morbum, and such other diseases that are cousin germanes thereunto.” The Parietaria, or Pellitory of the wall, is named Lichwort, from growing on stones.

Sir William Roberts, of Manchester, has advised jujubes, made of gum arabic and pyrethrum, to be slowly masticated by persons who suffer from acid fermentation in the stomach, a copious flow of alkaline saliva being stimulated thereby in the mouth, which is repeatedly swallowed during the sucking of one or more of the jujubes, and which serves to neutralise the acid generated within the stomach. Distressing heartburn is thus effectively relieved without taking injurious alkalies, such as potash and soda.

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

Ingredients: Eyebright

June 14th, 2008

Found in abundance in summer time on our heaths, and on mountains near the sea, this delicate little plant, the Euphrasia officinalis, has been famous from earliest times for restoring and preserving the eyesight. The Greeks named the herb originally from the linnet, which first made use of the leaf for clearing its vision, and which passed on the knowledge to mankind. The Greek word, euphrosunee, signifies joy and gladness. The elegant little herb grows from two to six inches high, with deeply-cut leaves, and numerous white or purplish tiny flowers variegated with yellow; being partially a parasite, and preying on the roots of other plants. It belongs to the order of scrofula-curing plants; and, as proved by positive experiment (H.), the Eyebright has been recently found to possess a distinct sphere of curative operation, within which it manifests virtues which are as unvarying as they are truly potential. It acts specifically on the mucous lining of the eyes and nose, and the uppermost throat to the top of the windpipe, causing, when given so largely as to be injurious, a profuse secretion from these parts; and, if given of reduced strength, it cures the same troublesome symptoms when due to catarrh.

An attack of cold in the head, with copious running from the eyes and nose, may be aborted straightway by giving a dose of the infusion (made with an ounce of the herb to a pint of boiling water) every two hours; as, likewise, for hay fever. A medicinal tincture (H.) is prepared from the whole plant with spirit of wine, of which an admirably useful lotion may be made together with rose water for simple inflammation of the eyes, with a bloodshot condition of their outer coats. Thirty drops of the tincture should be mixed with a wineglassful of rosewater for making this lotion, which may be used several times in the day.

What precise chemical constituents occur in the Eyebright beyond tannin, mannite, and glucose, are not yet recorded. In Iceland its expressed juice is put into requisition for most ailments of the eyes. Likewise, in Scotland, the Highlanders infuse the herb in milk, and employ this for bathing weak, or inflamed eyes. In France, the plant is named Casse lunettes; and in Germany, Augen trost, or, consolation of the eye.

Surely the same little herb must have been growing freely in the hedge made famous by ancient nursery tradition:–

“Thessalus acer erat sapiens proe civibus unus
Qui medium insiluit spinets per horrida sepem.
Effoditque oculos sibi crudelissimus ambos.
Cum vero effosos orbes sine lumine vidit
Viribus enisum totis illum altera sepes
Accipit, et raptos oculos cito reddit egenti.”

“There was a man of Thessuly, and he was wondrous wise;
He jumped into a quick set hedge, and scratched out both his eyes;
Then, when he found his eyes were out, with all his might and main
He jumped into the quick set hedge, and scratched them in again.”

Old herbals pronounced it “cephalic, ophthalmic, and good for a weak memory.” Hildamus relates that it restored the sight of many persons at the age of seventy or eighty years. “Eyebright made into a powder, and then into an electuary with sugar, hath,” says Culpeper, “powerful effect to help and to restore the sight decayed through years; and if the herb were but as much used as it is neglected, it would have spoilt the trade of the maker.”

On the whole it is probable that the Eyebright will succeed best for eyes weakened by long-continued straining, and for those which are dim and watery from old age. Shenstone declared, “Famed Euphrasy may not be left unsung, which grants dim eyes to wander leagues around”; and Milton has told us in Paradise Lost, Book XI:–

“To nobler sights
Michael from Adam’s eyes the film removed,
Then purged with Euphrasy and rue
The visual nerve, for he had much to see.”

The Arabians knew the herb Eyebright under the name Adhil, It now makes an ingredient in British herbal tobacco, which is smoked most usefully for chronic bronchial colds. Some sceptics do not hesitate to say that the Eyebright owes its reputation solely to the fact that the tiny flower bears in its centre a yellow spot, which is darker towards the middle, and gives a close resemblance to the human eye; wherefore, on the doctrine of signatures, it was pronounced curative of ocular derangements. The present Poet Laureate speaks of the herb as:–

“The Eyebright this.
Whereof when steeped in wine I now must eat
Because it strengthens mindfulness.”

Grandmother Cooper, a gipsy of note for skill in healing, practised the cure of inflamed and scrofulous eyes, by anointing them with clay, rubbed up with her spittle, which proved highly successful. Outside was applied a piece of rag kept wet with water in which a cabbage had been boiled. As confirmatory of this cure, we read reverently in the Gospel of St. John about the man “which was blind from his birth,” and for whose restoration to sight our Saviour “spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay.” More than one eminent oculist has similarly advised that weak, ailing eyes should be daily wetted on waking with the fasting saliva. And it is well known that “mothers’ marks” of a superficial character, but even of a considerable size, become dissipated by a daily licking with the mother’s tongue. Old Mizaldus taught that “the fasting spittle of a whole and sound person both quite taketh away all scurviness, or redness of the face, ringworms, tetters, and all kinds of pustules, by smearing or rubbing the infected place therewith; and likewise it clean puts away thereby all painful swelling by the means of any venomous thing as hornets, spiders, toads, and such like.” Healthy saliva is slightly alkaline, and contains sulphocyanate of potassium.

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