The Burning of Sponge, Burnt Sponge

March 13th, 2016

Cut the sponge in pieces, and bruise it, so as to free it from small stones; burn it in a close iron vessel, until it becomes black and friable; afterwards reduce it to a very fine powder.

This medicine has been in use for a considerable time, and employed against scrofulous disorders and cutaneous foulnesses, in doses of a scruple and upwards. Its virtues probably depend on the presence of a little alkali. It also contains charcoal; and its use may be entirely superseded by these substances, which may be obtained in other manners, at a much cheaper rate.

Source: The Edinburgh New Dispensatory, Andrew Duncan

Hemlock Poultice

November 18th, 2015

Two drachms of dried hemlock; two pints of water boiled down to one; add sufficient linseed meal to make it of a proper consistency. Excellent for cancerous and scrofulous ulcers, and malignant sores.

Source: The Unrivalled Cook-Book and Housekeeper’s Guide, Mrs Washington

Scrofulous Syrup

March 31st, 2015

Take yellow dock root, two pounds; stillingia root and bark of bittersweet root, of each one pound. Boil slowly in three or four gallons of water down to three quarts; strain, and add six pounds of white sugar. Dose: Half a wineglass three times a day. A valuable remedy for scrofula, and all scrofulous skin diseases, as tetter, herpes, leprosy, and the like; also a valuable alterative in all constitutional diseases.

Source: The Ladies’ Book of Useful Information

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: Parsnip

December 20th, 2008

The Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) grows on the borders of ploughed fields and about hedgerows, being generally hairy, whilst the Garden Parsnip is smooth, with taller stems, and leaves of a yellowish-green colour. This cultivated Parsnip has been produced as a vegetable since Roman times. The roots furnish a good deal of starch, and are very nutritious for warming and fattening, but when long in the ground they are called in some places “Madnip,” and are said to cause insanity.

Chemically, they contain also albumen, sugar, pectose, dextrin, fat, cellulose, mineral matters, and water, but less sugar than turnips or carrots. The volatile oil with which the cultivated root is furnished causes it to disagree with persons of delicate stomach; otherwise it is highly nutritive, and makes a capital supplement to salt fish, in Lent. The seeds of the wild Parsnip (quite a common plant) are aromatic, and are kept by druggists. They have been found curative in ague, and for intermittent fever, by their volatile oil, or by its essence given as a medicine. But the seeds of the garden Parsnip, which are easier to get, though not nearly so efficacious, are often substituted at the shops. A decoction of the wild root is good for a sluggish liver, and in passive jaundice.

In Gerard’s time, Parsnips were known as Mypes. Marmalade made with the roots, and a small quantity of sugar, will improve the appetite, and serve as a restorative to invalids.

From the mashed roots of the wild Parsnip in some parts of Ireland, when boiled with hops, the peasants brew a beer. In Scotland a good dish is prepared from Parsnips and potatoes, cooked and beaten together, with butter. Parsnip wine, when properly concocted, is particularly exhilarating and refreshing.

The Water Parsnip (spelt also in old Herbals, Pasnep, and Pastnip, and called Sium) is an umbelliferous plant, common by the sides of rivers, lakes, and ditches, with tender leaves which are “a sovereign remedy against gravel in the kidney, and stone in the bladder.” It is known also as Apium nodiflorum, from apon, water, and contains “pastinacina,” in common with the wild Parsnip. This is a volatile alkaloid which is not poisonous, and is thought to be almost identical with ammonia. The fresh juice, in doses of one, two, or three tablespoonfuls, twice a day, is of curative effect for scrofulous eruptions on the face, neck, and other parts of children. Dr. Withering tells of a child, aged six years, who was thus cured of an obstinate and otherwise intractable skin disease. The juice may be readily mixed with milk, and does not disagree in any way.

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

Ingredients: Parsley

December 13th, 2008

[ed: Also, for some reason, a digression about snails.]

Parsley is found in this country only as a cultivated plant, having been introduced into England from Sardinia in the sixteenth century. It is an umbelliferous herb, which has been long of garden growth for kitchen uses. The name was formerly spelt “Percely,” and the herb was known as March, or Merich (in Anglo-Saxon, Merici). Its adjective title, Petroselinum, signifies “growing on a rock.” The Greeks held Parsley in high esteem, making therewith the victor’s crown of dried and withered Parsley, at their Isthmian games, and the wreath for adorning the tombs of their dead. Hence the proverb, Deeisthai selinon (to need only Parsley) was applied to persons dangerously ill, and not expected to live. The herb was never brought to table of old, being held sacred to oblivion and the defunct.

It is reputed to have sprung from the blood of a Greek hero, Archemorus, the fore-runner of death; and Homer relates that chariot horses were fed by warriors with this herb. Greek gardens were often bordered with Parsley and Rue: and hence arose the saying when an undertaking was in contemplation but not yet commenced, “Oh! we are only at the Parsley and Rue.”

Garden Parsley was not cultivated in England until the second year of Edward the Sixth’s reign, 1548. In our modern times the domestic herb is associated rather with those who come into the world than with those who go out of it. Proverbially the Parsley-bed is propounded to our little people who ask awkward questions, as the fruitful source of new-born brothers and sisters when suddenly appearing within the limits of the family circle. In Suffolk there is an old belief that to ensure the herb coming up “double,” Parsley seed must be sown on Good Friday.

The root is faintly aromatic, and has a sweetish taste. It contains a chemical principle, “apiin,” sugar, starch, and a volatile oil. Likewise the fruit furnishes the same volatile oil in larger abundance, this oil comprising parsley-camphor, and “apiol,” the true essential oil of parsley, which may be now had from all leading druggists. Apiol exercises all the virtues of the entire plant, and is especially beneficial for women who are irregular as to their monthly courses because of ovarian debility. From three to six drops should be given on sugar, or in milk (or as a prepared capsule) twice or three times in the day for some days together, at the times indicated, beginning early at the expected date of each period. If too large a dose of apiol be taken it will cause headache, giddiness, staggering, and deafness; and if going still further, it will induce epileptiform convulsions. For which reason, in small diluted doses, the same medicament will curatively meet this train of symptoms when occurring as a morbid state. And it is most likely on such account Parsley has been popularly said to be “poison to men, and salvation to women.” Apiol was first obtained in 1849, by Drs. Joret and Homolle, of Brittany, and proved an excellent remedy there for a prevailing ague. It exercises a singular influence on the great nervous centres within the head and spine. Bruised Parsley seeds make a decoction which is likewise beneficial against ague and intermittent fever. They have gained a reputation in America as having a special tendency to regulate the reproductive functions in either sex. Country folk in many places think it unlucky to sow Parsley, or to move its roots; and a rustic adage runs thus: “Fried parsley brings a man to his saddle, and a Woman to her grave.” Taking Parsley in excess at table will impair the eyesight, especially the tall Parsley; for which reason it was forbidden by Chrysippus and Dionysius.

The root acts more readily on the kidneys than other parts of the herb; therefore its decoction is useful when the urine becomes difficult through a chill, or because of gravel. The bruised leaves applied externally will serve to soften hard breasts early in lactation, and to resolve the glands in nursing, when they become knotty and painful, with a threatened abscess. Sheep are fond of the plant, which protects them from foot-rot; but it acts as a deadly poison to parrots.

In France a rustic application to scrofulous swellings is successfully used, which consists of Parsley and snails pounded together in a mortar to the thickness of an ointment. This is spread on coarse linen and applied freely every day. Also on the Continent, and in some parts of England, snails as well as slugs are thought to be efficacious medicinally in consumption of the lungs, even more so than cod-liver oil. The Helix pomatia (or Apple Snail) is specially used in France, being kept for the purpose in a snaillery, or boarded-in space of which the floor is covered half-a-foot deep with herbs.

The Romans were very partial to these Apple Snails, and fattened them for the table with bran soaked in wine until the creatures attained almost a fabulous size. Even in this country shells of Apple Snails have been found which would hold a pound’s worth of silver. The large Snail was brought to England in the sixteenth century, to the South downs of Surrey, and Sussex, and to Box Hill by an Earl of Arundel for his Countess, who had them dressed, and ate them because of her consumptive disease. Likewise in Pliny’s time Snails beaten up with warm water were commended for the cure of coughs. Gipsies are great Snail eaters, but they first starve the creatures, which are given to devour the deadly Night Shade, and other poisonous plants. It is certain, that Snails retain the flavour and odour of the vegetables which they consume.

The chalky downs of the South of England are literally covered with small snails, and many persons suppose that the superior flavour of South Down mutton is due to the thousands of these snails which the sheep consume together with the pasture on which they feed. In 1854 a medical writer set forth the curative virtues of Helicin, a glutinous constituent principle derived from the Snail, and to be given in broth as a remedy for pulmonary consumption. In France the Apple Snail is known as the “great Escargot”; and the Snail gardens in which the gasteropods are fattened, and reared, go by the name of “Escargotoires.” Throughout the winter the creatures hybernate, shutting themselves up by their operculum whilst lying among dead leaves, or having fixed themselves by their glutinous secretion to a wall or tree. They are only taken for use whilst in this state. According to a gipsy, the common English Snail is quite as good to be eaten, and quite as beneficial as an Apple Snail, but there is less of him. In Wiltshire, when collected whilst hybernating, snails are soaked in salted water, and then grilled on the bars of the grate. About France the Escargots are dried, and prepared as a lozenge for coughs. Our common garden Snail is the Helix aspersa. On the Continent for many years past the large Apple Snail, together with a reddish-brown slug, the Arion Rufus, has been employed in medicine for colds, sore throats, and a tendency to consumption of the lungs. These contain “limacine,” and eight per cent. of emollient mucilage, together with “helicin,” and uric acid just under the shell. Many quarts of cooked garden snails are sold every week to the labouring classes in Bristol; and an annual Feast of Snails is held in the neighbourhood of Newcastle. Mrs. Delaney in 1708, recommended that “two or three snails should be boiled in the barley-water which Mary takes who coughs at night. She must know nothing of it; they give no manner of taste. Six or eight boiled in water, and strained off, and put in a bottle would be a good way of adding a spoonful of the same to every liquid thing she takes. They must be fresh done every two or three days, otherwise they grow too thick.” The London Gazette, of March 23rd, 1739, tells that Mrs. Joanna Stephens received from the Government five thousand pounds for revealing the secret of her famous cure against stone in the bladder, and gravel. This consisted chiefly of eggshells, and snails, mixed with soap, honey and herbs. It was given in powders, decoctions, and pills. To help weak eyes in South Hampshire, snails and bread crust are made into a poultice.

A moderate dose of Parsley oil when taken in health, induces a sense of warmth at the pit of the stomach, and of general well-being. The powdered seeds may be taken in doses of from ten to fifteen grains. The bruised leaves have successfully resolved tumours of hard (scirrhous) cancer when cicuta, and mercury had failed.

Though used so commonly at table, facts have proved that the herb, especially when uncooked, may bring on epilepsy in certain constitutions, or at least aggravate the fits in those who are subject to them. Alston says: “I have observed after eating plentifully of raw Parsley, a fulness of the vessels about the head, and a tenderness of the eyes (somewhat inflamed) and face, as if the cravat were too tight.”

The victors at the old Grecian games were crowned with chaplets of Parsley leaves; and it is more than probable our present custom of encircling a joint, and garnishing a dish with the herb had its origin in this practice. The Romans named Parsley Apium, either because their bee (apis) was specially fond of the herb, or from apex, the head of a conqueror, who was crowned with it. The tincture has a decided action on the lining membrane of the urinary passages, and may be given usefully when this is inflamed, or congested through catarrh, in doses of from five to ten drops three times in the day with a spoonful or two of cold water.

Wild Parsley is probably identical with our garden herb. It is called in the Western counties Eltrot, perhaps because associated with the gambols of the elves.

The Fool’s Parsley (oethusa cynapium) is a very common wayside weed, and grows wild in our gardens. It differs botanically from all other parsleys in having no bracts, but three narrow leaves at the base of each umbel. This is a more or less poisonous herb, producing, when eaten in a harmful quantity, convulsive and epileptic symptoms; also an inflamed state of the eyelids, just such as is seen in the scrofulous ophthalmia of children, the condition being accompanied with swelling of glands and eruptions on the skin. Therefore the tincture which is made (H.) of Fool’s Parsley, when given in small doses, and diluted, proves very useful for such ophthalmia, and for obviating the convulsive attacks of young children, especially if connected with derangement of the digestive organs. Also as a medicine it has done much good in some cases of mental imbecility. And this tincture will correct the Summer diarrhoea of infants, when the stools are watery, greenish, and without smell. From three to ten drops of the tincture diluted to the third decimal strength, should be given as a dose, and repeated at intervals, for the symptoms just recited.

This variety is named oethusa, because of its acridity, from the Greek verb aitho (to burn). “It has faculties,” says Gerard, “answerable to the common Hemlock,” the poisonous effects being inflamed stomach and bowels, giddiness, delirium, convulsions, and insensibility. It is called also “Dog’s Parsley” and “Kicks.”

The leaves of the Fool’s Parsley are glossy beneath, with lanceolate lobes, whereas the leaflets of other parsleys are woolly below. Gerard calls it Dog’s Parsley, and says: “The whole plant is of a naughty smell.” It contains a peculiar alkaloid “cynapina.” The tincture, third decimal strength, in half-drop doses, with a teaspoonful of water, will prevent an infant from vomiting the breast milk in thick curds.

Another variety which grows in chalky districts, the Stone Parsley, Sison, or breakstone, was formerly known as the “Hone-wort,” from curing a “hone,” or boil, on the cheek. It was believed at one time to break a glass goblet or tumbler if rubbed against this article.

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

Ingredients: House Leek

November 29th, 2008

The House Leek (Sempervivum tectorum), or “never dying” flower of our cottage roofs, which is commonly known also as Stone-crop, grows plentifully on walls and the tops of small buildings throughout Great Britain, in all country districts. It is distinguished by its compact rose-shaped arrangement of seagreen succulent leaves lying sessile in a somewhat flattened manner, and by its popularity among country folk on account of these bland juicy leaves, and its reputed protective virtues. It possesses a remarkable tenacity of life, quem sempervivam dicunt quoniam omni tempore viret, this being in allusion to its prolonged vitality; for which reason it is likewise called Ayegreen, and Sengreen (semper, green).

History relates that a botanist tried hard for eighteen months to dry a plant of the House Leek for his herbarium, but failed in this object. He afterwards restored it to its first site when it grew again as if nothing had interfered with its ordinary life.

The plant was dedicated of old to Thor, or Jupiter, and sometimes to the Devil. It bore the titles of Thor’s beard, Jupiter’s eye, Joubarb, and Jupiter’s beard, from its massive inflorescence which resembles the sculptured beard of Jove; though a more recent designation is St. George’s beard.

“Quem sempervivam dicunt quoniam viret omni
Tempore–‘Barba Jovis’ vulgari more vocatur,
Esse refert similem predictoe Plinius istam.”
Macer.

The Romans took great pleasure in the House Leek, and grew it in vases set before the windows of their houses. They termed it Buphthalmon, Zoophthalmon, and Stergethron, as one of the love medicines; it being further called Hypogeson, from growing under the eaves; likewise Ambrosia and Ameramnos. The plant is indigenous to the Greek Islands, being sometimes spoken of as “Imbreke” and “Home Wort.”

It has been largely planted about the roofs of small houses throughout the country, particularly in Scotland, because supposed to guard against lightning and thunderstorms; likewise as protective against the enchantments of sorcerers; and, in a more utilitarian spirit, as preservative against decay. Hence the House Leek is known as Thunderbeard, and in Germany Donnersbart or Donderbloem, from “Jupiter the thunderer.”

The English name House Leek denotes leac (Anglo-Saxon) a plant growing on the house; and another appellation of its genus, sedum, comes from the Latin sedare, to soothe, and subdue inflammations, etc.

The thick leaves contain an abundant acidulous astringent juice, which is mucilaginous, and affords malic acid, identical with that of the Apple. This juice, in a dose of from one to three drams, has proved useful in dysentery, and in some convulsive diseases. Galen extolled it as a capital application for erysipelas and shingles. Dioscorides praised it for weak and inflamed eyes, but in large doses it is emetic and purgative.

In rural districts the bruised leaves of the fresh plant or its juice are often applied to burns, scalds, contusions, and sore legs, or to scrofulous ulcers; as likewise for chronic skin diseases, and enlarged or cancerous lymphatic glands. By the Dutch the leaves are cultivated with a dietetic purpose for mixing in their salads.

With honey the juice assuages the soreness and ulcerated condition within the mouth in thrush. Gerard says: “The juice being gently rubbed on any place stung by nettles, or bees, or bitten by any venomous creature, doth presently take away the pain. Being applied to the temples and forehead it easeth also the headache and distempered heat of the brain through want of sleep.”

The juice, moreover, is excellently helpful for curing corns and warts, if applied from day to day after they have been scraped. As Parkinson teaches, “the juice takes away cornes from the toes and feet if they be bathed therewith every day, and at night emplastered as it were with the skin of the same House Leek.”

The plant may be readily made to cover all the roof of a building by sticking on the offsets with a little moist earth, or cowdung. It bears purple flowers, and its leaves are fringed at their edges, being succulent and pulpy. Thus the erect gay-looking blossoms, in contrast to the light green foliage arranged in the form of full blown double roses, lend a picturesque appearance to the roof of even a cow-byre, or a hovel.

The House Leek (Sedum majus), and the Persicaria Water-pepper (Arsmart), if their juices be boiled together, will cure a diarrhoea, however obstinate, or inveterate. The famous empirical anti-Canceroso nostrum of Count Mattaei is authoritatively said to consist of the Sedum acre (Betony stone-crop), the Sempervivum tectorum (House Leek), Sedum telephium (Livelong), the Matricaria (Feverfew), and the Nasturtium Sisymbrium (Water-cress).

The Sedum Telephium (Livelong, or Orpine), called also Roseroot and Midsummer Men, is the largest British species of Stone-crop. Being a plant of augury its leaves are laid out in pairs on St. John’s Eve, these being named after courting couples. When the leaves are freshly assorted those which keep together promise well for their namesakes, and those which fall apart, the reverse.

The special virtues of this Sedum are supposed to have been discovered by Telephus, the son of Hercules. Napoleon, at St. Helena, was aware of its anti-cancerous reputation, which was firmly believed in Corsica. The plant contains lime, sulphur, ammonia, and (perhaps) mercury. It remains long alive when hung up in a room. The designation Orpine has become perversely applied to this plant which bears pink blossoms, the word having been derived from Orpin, gold pigment, a yellow sulphuret of the metal arsenic, and it should appertain exclusively to yellow flowers. The Livelong Sedum was formerly named Life Everlasting. It serves to keep away moths.

Doctors have found that the expulsive vomiting provoked by doses of the Sedum acre (Betony stone-crop), will serve in diphtheria to remove such false membrane clinging in patches to the throat and tonsils, as threatens suffocation: and after this release afforded by copious vomiting, the diphtheritic foci are prevented from forming again.

The Sedum Acre (or Biting Stone-crop) is also named Pepper crop, being a cyme, or head of flowers, which furnishes a pungent taste like that of pepper. This further bears the names of Ginger (in Norfolk), Jack of the Buttery, Gold Dust, Creeping Tom, Wall Pepper, Pricket or Prick Madam, Gold Chain, and Biting Mouse Tail. It was formerly said “the savages of Caledonia use this plant for removing the sloughs of cancer.”

The herb serves admirably to make a gargle for scurvy of the gums, and a lotion for scrofulous, or syphilitic ulcers. The leaves are thick and very acrid, being crowded together. This and the Sedums album and reflexum were ingredients in a famous worm-expelling medicine, or theriac (treacle), which conferred the title “Jack of the Buttery,” as a corruption of “Bot. theriaque.”

The several Stone-crops are so named from crop, a top, or bunch of flowers, these plants being found chiefly in tufts upon walls or roofs. From their close growth originally on their native rocks they have acquired the generic title of Sedum, from sedere (to sit).

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

Ingredient: Roses

November 22nd, 2008

Certain curative properties are possessed both by the Briar, or wild Dog Rose of our country hedges, and by the cultivated varieties of this queen of flowers in our Roseries. The word Rose means red, from the Greek rodon, connected also with rota, a wheel, which resembles the outline of a Rose. The name Briar is from the Latin bruarium, the waste land on which it grows. The first Rose of a dark red colour, is held to have sprung from the blood of Adonis. The fruit of the wild Rose, which is so familiar to every admirer of our hedgerows in the summer, and which is the common progenitor of all Roses, is named Hips. “Heps maketh,” says Gerard, “most pleasant meats or banquetting dishes, as tarts and such like, the concoction whereof I commit to the cunning cook, and teeth to eat them in the rich man’s mouth.”

Hips, derived from the old Saxon, hiupa, jupe, signifies the Briar rather than its fruit. They are called in some parts, “choops,” or “hoops.” The woolly down which surrounds the seeds within the Hips serves admirably for dispelling round worms, on which it acts mechanically without irritating the mucous membrane which lines the bowels.

When fully ripe and softened by frost, the Hips, after removal of their hard seeds, and when plenty of sugar is added, make a very nice confection, which the Swiss and Germans eat at dessert, and which forms an agreeable substitute for tomato sauce. Apothecaries employ this conserve in the preparing of electuaries, and as a basis for pills. They also officinally use the petals of the Cabbage Rose (Centifolia) for making Rose water, and the petals of the Red Rose (Gallica) for a cooling infusion, the brilliant colour of which is much improved by adding some diluted sulphuric acid; and of these petals they further direct a syrup to be concocted.

Next in development to the Dog Rose, or Hound’s Rose, comes the Sweetbriar (Eglantine), with a delicate perfume contained under its glandular leaves. “Fragrantia ejus olei omnia alia odoramenta superest.” This (Rosa rubiginosa) grows chiefly on chalk as a bushy shrub. Its poetic title, Eglantine, is a corruption of the Latin aculeius, prickly. A legend tells that Christ’s crown of thorns was made from the Rose-briar, about which it has been beautifully said:–

“Men sow the thorns on Jesus’ brow,
But Angels saw the Roses.”

Pliny tells a remarkable story of a soldier of the Praetorian guard, who was cured of hydrophobia, against all hope, by taking an extract of the root of the Kunoroddon, Dog Rose, in obedience to the prayer of his mother, to whom the remedy was revealed in a dream; and he says further, that it likewise restored whoever tried it afterwards. Hence came the title Canina. “Parceque elle a longtemps été en vogue pour guerir de la rage.”

But the term, Dog Rose, is generally thought to merely signify a flower of lower quality than the nobler Roses of garden culture.

The five graceful fringed leaflets which form the special beauty of the Eglantine flower and bud, have given rise to the following Latin enigma (translated):–

“Of us five brothers at the same time born,
Two from our birthday always beards have worn:
On other two none ever have appeared,
While our fifth brother wears but half a beard.”

From Roses the Romans prepared wine and confections, also subtle scents, sweet-smelling oil, and medicines. The petals of the crimson French Rose, which is grown freely in our gardens, have been esteemed of signal efficacy in consumption of the lungs since the time of Avicenna, A.D. 1020, who states that he cured many patients by prescribing as much of the conserve as they could manage to swallow daily. It was combined with milk, or with some other light nutriment; and generally from thirty to forty pounds of this medicine had to be consumed before the cure was complete. Julius Caesar hid his baldness at the age of thirty with Roman Roses.

“Take,” says an old MS. recipe of Lady Somerset’s, “Red Rose buds, and clyp of the tops, and put them in a mortar with ye waight of double refined sugar; beat them very small together, then put it up; must rest three full months, stirring onces a day. This is good against the falling sickness.”

It is remarkable that while the blossoms of the Rose Order present various shades of yellow, white, and red, blue is altogether foreign to them, and unknown among them.

As the Thistle is symbolical of Scotland, the Leek of Wales, and the Shamrock of Ireland: so the sweet, pure, simple, honest Rose of our woods is the apt-chosen emblem of Saint George, and the frank, bonny, blushing badge of Merrie England.

The petals of the Cabbage Rose (Centifolia), which are closely folded over each other like the leaves of a cabbage, have a slight laxative action, and are used for making Rose-water by distillation, whether when fresh, or after being preserved by admixture with common salt. This perfumed water has long enjoyed a reputation for the cure of inflamed eyes, more commonly when combined with zinc, or with sugar of lead. Hahnemann quotes the same established practice as a tacit avowal that there exists in the leaves of the Rose some healing power for certain diseased conditions of the eyes, which virtue is really founded on the homoeopathic property possessed by the Rose, of exciting a species of ophthalmia in healthy persons; as was observed by Echtius, Ledelius, and Rau.

It is recorded also in his Organon of Medicine, that persons are sometimes found to faint at the smell of Roses (or, as Pope puts it, to “die of a rose in aromatic pain”); whereas the Princess Maria, cured her brother, the Emperor Alexius, who suffered from faintings, by sprinkling him with Rose-water, in the presence of his aunt Eudoxia.

The wealthy Greeks and Romans strewed Roses on the tombs of departed friends, whilst poorer persona could only afford a tablet at the grave bearing the prayer:

“Sparge, precor, rosas super mea busta, viator.”

“Scatter Roses, I beseech you, over my ashes, O pitiful passer-by.”

But nowadays many persons have an aversion to throwing a Rose into a grave, or even letting one fall in.

Roses and reticence of speech have been linked together since the time of Harpocrates, whom Cupid bribed to silence by the gift of a golden Rose-bud; and therefore it became customary at Roman feasts to suspend over the table a flower of this kind as a hint that the convivial sayings which were then interchanged wore not to be talked of outside. What was spoken “sub vino” was not to be published “sub divo”:

“Est rosa flos veneris, cujus quo facta laterent
Harpocrati, matris dona, dicavit amor:
Inde rosam mensis hospes suspendid amicis,
Conviva ut sub eâ dicta tacenda sciat.”

For the same reason the Rose is found sculptured on the ceilings of banqueting rooms; and in 1526 it began to be placed over Confessionals. Thus it has come about that the Rose is held to be the symbol of secrecy, as well as the flower of love, and the emblem of beauty: so that the significant phrase “sub rosa,”–under the Rose,– conveys a recognised meaning, understood, and respected by everyone. The bed of Roses is not altogether a poetic fiction. In old days the Sybarites slept upon mattresses which were stuffed with Rose petals: and the like are now made for persons of rank on the Nile.

A memorial brass over the tomb of Abbot Kirton, in Westminster Abbey, bears testimony to the high value he attached during life to Roses curatively:–

“Sis, Rosa, flos florum, morbis medicina meoium.”

Many country persons believe, that if Roses and Violets are plentiful in the autumn, some epidemic may be expected presently. But this conclusion must be founded like that which says, “a green winter makes a fat churchyard,” on the fact that humid warmth continued on late in the year tends to engender putrid ferments, and to weaken the bodily vigour.

Attar of Roses is a costly product, because consisting of the comparatively few oil globules found floating on the surface of a considerable volume of Rose water thrice distilled. It takes five hundredweight of Rose petals to produce one drachm by weight of the finest Attar, which is preserved in small bottles made of rock crystal. The scent of the minutest particle of the genuine essence is very powerful and enduring:–

“You may break, you may ruin, the vase if you will,
But the scent of the Roses will hang round it still.”

The inscription, Rosamundi, non Rosa munda, was graven on the tomb of fair Rosamund, the inamorata of Henry the Seventh:–

“Hic jacet in tombâ Rosa Mundi, non Rosa munda;
Non redolet, sed olet quae redolere solet.”

“Here Rose the graced, not Rose the chaste, reposes;
The smell that rises is no smell of Roses.”

In Sussex, the peculiar excrescence which is often found on the Briar, as caused by the puncture of an insect, and which is known as the canker, or “robin redbreast’s cushion,” is frequently worn round the neck as a protective amulet against whooping cough. This was called in the old Pharmacopeias “Bedeguar,” and was famous for its astringent properties. Hans Andersen names it the “Rose King’s beard.”

The Rosary was introduced by St. Dominick to commemorate his having been shown a chaplet of Roses by the Blessed Virgin. It consisted formerly of a string of beads made of Rose leaves tightly pressed into round moulds and strung together, when real Roses could not be had. The use of a chaplet of beads for recording the number of prayers recited is of Eastern origin from the time of the Egyptian Anchorites.

The Rock Rose (a Cistus), grows commonly in our hilly pastures on a soil of chalk, or gravel, bearing clusters of large, bright, yellow flowers, from a small branching shrub. These flowers expand only in the sunshine, and have stamens which, if lightly touched, spread out, and lie down on the petals. The plant proves medicinally useful, particularly if grown in a soil containing magnesia. A tincture is prepared (H.) from the whole plant, English or Canadian, which is useful for curing shingles, on the principle of its producing, when taken by healthy provers in doses of various potencies, a cutaneous outbreak on the trunk of the body closely resembling the characteristic symptoms of shingles, whilst attended with nervous distress, and with much burning of the affected skin. The plant has likewise a popular reputation for healing scrofula, and its tincture is beneficial for reducing enlarged glands, as of the neck and throat; also for strumous swelling of the knee joint, as well as of other joints. It is a “helianthemum” of the Sunflower tribe.

The Canadian Rock Rose is called Frostwort and Frostweed, because crystals of ice shoot from the cracked bark below the stem during freezing weather in the autumn.

A decoction of our plant has proved useful in prurigo (itching), and as a gargle for the sore throat of scarlet fever. For shingles, from five to ten drops of the tincture, third decimal strength, should be given with a spoonful of water three times a day.

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

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

Scrofulous Difficulties, a Good Remedy for

June 20th, 2008

“A tea made of ripe dried whortleberries and drank in place of water is an excellent remedy.”

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