Scurvy

March 1st, 2016

Scurvy is a disease accompanied by a depraved state of the blood, attributed to improper diet, assisted by bad air and mental depression. It is generally cured by a good mixed and fresh diet. Sound potatoes, and other vegetables containing salts of potash, are said to prevent it; but as a substitute for these, lemon juice, when much salt food is used, has been found very efficacious, and it is therefore always provided for the use of the Royal Navy, which, though once dreadfully afflicted with this disease, is now nearly exempt from it ; a result mainly attributable to a great and general improvement in discipline, ventilation, and diet.

This disease was very prevalent and destructive in England before the general cultivation of the potato, and it became again a common disease among the poor in several parts of the country, when the extensive potato-blight occurred in 1846. At that time Dr. Baly remarked, that the military prisoners at Millbank, dieted like the other prisoners, except that they had no potatoes, were alone attacked by scurvy on that occasion, and when potatoes were supplied to them the disease ceased. It is probable that the citric and tartaric acids existing in the potato are combined with the nutriment in such a manner as to be peculiarly adapted to the blood, since the potato is found even more advantageous in many cases of scurvy than lemons and oranges. I dwell on this point because it proves that small variations in diet are capable of producing vast effects on health, and that but for a fair and full distribution of the fruits of the earth, disease would be far more destructive than at present; and by neglect of small points in the diet of the poor, maladies from depraved blood would be now as rife and terrible as in the darker ages. The method by which potatoes are dried, so as to be fit to form part of ship-store, is an important invention, and highly valuable to sailors, since they may thus obtain in any climate a dish of mash-potatoes with the help of a little warm water.

Observing the benefit resulting from the use of phosphate of soda in certain depraved conditions of the blood, I think it probable that this salt would be of great service in scurvy. The proper dose would be from ten to thirty grains a day. As scurvy arises from salted meat in the absence of fresh meat and vegetables, the theory of its cause and cure almost resolves itself into a chemical problem. All animals need salt, since it furnishes ingredients for the blood, and is essential to digestion and secretion. How, then, is salted meat injurious? Simply from the circumstance that, in salting meat, the common salt takes the place of the soluble phosphates of the flesh, while these phosphates, so requisite for the production of healthy blood and sound flesh, are almost entirely removed from the flesh into the brine. It becomes then important to discover some better plan of preserving meat. By the exclusion of air, as by filling tin cases with meat, and then soldering them, meat may be preserved for years. The best plan is to make a real concentration of the animal juices, as in portable soup. What is generally sold under this name, is but a gelatinous mass of very little value as nourishment. The following is the method of preparing this soup, or extract of meat, abridged from Liebig:— Chop very fine one pound of lean beef; mix it well with an equal weight of cold water; slowly heat the mixture to boiling; after boiling briskly a minute or two, strain through coarse linen. Salt and flavour according to taste, and tinge it with roasted onion or burnt sugar. This, when concentrated by slow evaporation, is a dark soft mass, half an ounce of which in a pint of water, makes a strong well-flavoured soup.

Source: Health, Disease and Remedy, George Moore

Ingredients: Potato

January 24th, 2009

Our invaluable Potato, which enters so largely into the dietary of all classes, belongs to the Nightshade tribe of dangerous plants, though termed “solanaceous” as a natural order because of the sedative properties which its several genera exercise to lull pain.

This Potato, the Solanum tuberosum, is so universally known as a plant that it needs no particular description. It is a native of Peru, and was imported in 1586 by Thomas Heriot, mathematician and colonist, being afterwards taken to Ireland from Virginia by Sir Walter Raleigh, and passing from thence over into Lancashire. He knew so little of its use that he tried to eat the fruit, or poisonous berries, of the plant. These of course proved noxious, and he ordered the new comers to be rooted out. The gardener obeyed, and in doing so first learnt the value of their underground wholesome tubers. But not until the middle of the eighteenth century, were they common in this country as an edible vegetable. “During 1629,” says Parkinson, “the Potato from Virginia was roasted under the embers, peeled and sliced: the tubers were put into sack with a little sugar, or were baked with cream, marrow, sugar, spice, etc., in pies, or preserved and candied by the comfit makers.” But he most probably refers here to the Batatas, or sweet Potato, a Convolvulus, which was a popular esculent vegetable at that date, of tropical origin, and to which our Potato has since been thought to bear a resemblance.

This Batatas, or sweet Potato, had the reputation, like Eringo root, of being able to restore decayed vigour, and so Falstaff is made by Shakespeare to say: “Let the sky rain potatoes, hail kissing comfits, and snow eringoes.” For a considerable while after their introduction the Potato tubers were grown only by men of fortune as a delicacy; and the general cultivation of this vegetable was strongly opposed by the public, chiefly by the Puritans, because no mention of it could be found in the Bible.

Also in France great opposition was offered to the recognised use of Potatoes: and it is said that Louis the Fifteenth, in order to bring the plant into favour, wore a bunch of its flowers in the button hole of his coat on a high festival. Later on during the Revolution quite a mania prevailed for Potatoes. Crowds perambulated the streets of Paris shouting for “la liberté, et des Batatas”; and when Louis the Sixteenth had been dethroned the gardens of the Tuileries were planted with Potatoes. Cobbett, in this country, exclaimed virulently against the tuber as “hogs’ food,” and hated it as fiercely as he hated tea. The stalks, leaves, and green berries of the plant share the narcotic and poisonous attributes of the nightshades to which it belongs; and the part which we eat, though often thought to be a root, is really only an underground stem, which has not been acted on by light so as to develop any poisonous tendencies, and in which starch is stored up for the future use of the plant.

The stalks, leaves, and unripe fruit yield an active principle apparently very powerful, which has not yet been fully investigated. There are two sorts of tubers, the red and the white. A roasted Potato takes two hours to digest; a boiled one three hours and a half. “After the Potato,” says an old proverb, “cheese.”

Chemically the Potato contains citric acid, like that of the lemon, which is admirable against scurvy: also potash, which is equally antiscorbutic, and phosphoric acid, yielding phosphorus in a quantity less only than that afforded by the apple, and by wheat. It is of the first importance that the potash salts should be retained by the potato during cooking: and the tubers should therefore be steamed with their coats on; else if peeled, and then steamed, they lose respectively seven and five per cent. of potash, and phosphoric acid.

If boiled after peeling they lose as much as thirty-three per cent. of potash, and twenty-three per cent. of phosphoric acid. “The roots,” says Gerard, “were forbidden in Burgundy, for that they were persuaded the too frequent use of them causeth the leprosie.” Nevertheless it is now believed that the Potato has had much to do with expelling leprosy from England. The affliction has become confined to countries where the Potato is not grown.

Boiled or steamed Potatoes should turn out floury, or mealy, by reason of the starch granules swelling up and filling the cellular tissue, whilst absorbing the albuminous contents of its cells. Then the albumen coagulates, and forms irregular fibres between the starch grains. The most active part of the tuber lies just beneath the skin, as may be shown by pouring some tincture of guaiacum over the cut surface of a Potato, when a ring of blue forms close to the skin, and is darkest there while extending over the whole cut surface. Abroad there is a belief the Potato thrives best if planted on Maundy Thursday. Rustic names for it are: Taiders, Taities, Leather Coats, Leather Jackets, Lapstones, Pinks, No Eyes, Flukes, Blue Eyes, Red Eyes, and Murphies; in Lancashire Potatoes are called Spruds, and small Potatoes, Sprots.

The peel or rind of the tuber contains a poisonous substance called “solanin,” which is dissipated and rendered inert when the whole Potato is boiled, or steamed. Stupes of hot Potato water are very serviceable in some forms of rheumatism. To make the decoction for this purpose, boil one pound of Potatoes (not peeled, and divided into quarters.) in two pints of water slowly down to one pint; then foment the swollen and painful parts with this as hot as it can be borne. Similarly some of the fresh stalks of the plant, and its unripe berries, as well as the unpeeled tubers cut up as described, if infused for some hours in cold water, will make a liquor in which the folded linen of a compress may be loosely rung out, and applied most serviceably under waterproof tissue, or a double layer of dry flannel. The carriage of a small raw Potato in the trousers’ pocket has been often found preventive of rheumatism in a person predisposed thereto, probably by reason of the sulphur, and the narcotic principles contained in the peel. Ladies in former times had their dresses supplied with special bags, or pockets, in which to carry one or more small raw Potatoes about their person for avoiding rheumatism.

If peeled and pounded in a mortar, uncooked Potatoes applied cold make a very soothing cataplasm to parts that have been scalded, or burnt. In Derbyshire a hot boiled Potato is used against corns; and for frost-bites the mealy flour of baked potatoes, when mixed with sweet oil and applied, is very healing.

The skin of the tuber contains corky wood which swells in boiling with the jackets on, and which thus serves to keep in all the juices so that the digestibility of the Potato is increased; at the same time water is prevented from entering and spoiling the flavour of the vegetable. The proportion of muscle-forming food (nitrogen) in the Potato is very small, and it takes ten and a half pounds of the tubers to equal one pound of butcher’s meat in nutritive value.

The Potato is composed mainly of starch, which affords animal heat and promotes fatness, The Irish think that these tubers foster fertility; they prefer them with the jackets on, and somewhat hard in the middle–“with the bones in.” A potato pie is believed to invigorate the sexual functions.

New Potatoes contain as yet no citric acid, and are hard of digestion, like sour crude apples; their nutriment, as Gerard says, “is sadly windy,” the starch being immature, and not readily acted on by the saliva during mastication. “The longer I live,” said shrewd Sidney Smith, “the more I am convinced that half the unhappiness in the world proceeds from a vexed stomach, or vicious bile: from small stoppages, or from food pressing in the wrong place. Old friendships may be destroyed by toasted cheese; and tough salted meat has led a man not infrequently to suicide.”

A mature Potato yields enough citric acid even for commercial purposes; and there is no better cleaner of silks, cottons, and woollens, than ripe Potato juice. But even of ripe Potatoes those that break into a watery meal in the boiling are always found to prove greatly diuretic, and to much increase the quantity of urine.

By fermentation mature Potatoes, through their starch and sugar, yield a wine from which may be distilled a Potato spirit, and from it a volatile oil can be extracted, called by the Germans, Fuselöl. This is nauseous, and causes a heavy headache, with indigestion, and biliary disorders together with nervous tremors. Chemically it is amylic ether.

Also when boiled with weak sulphuric acid, the Potato starch is changed into glucose, or grape sugar, which by fermentation yields alcohol: and this spirit is often sold under the name of British brandy.

A luminosity strong enough to enable a bystander to read by its light issues from the common Potato when in a state of putrefaction. In Cumberland, to have “taities and point to dinner,” is a figurative expression which implies scanty fare. At a time when the duty on salt made the condiment so dear that it was scarce in a household, the persons at table were fain to point their Potatoes at the salt cellar, and thus to cheat their imaginations. Carlyle asks in Sartor Resartus about “an unknown condiment named ‘point,’ into the meaning of which I have vainly enquired; the victuals potato and point not appearing in any European cookery book whatever.”

German ladies, at their five o’clock tea, indulge in Potato talk (Kartoffel gesprach) about table dainties, and the methods of cooking them. Men likewise, from the four quarters of the globe, in the days of our childhood, were given to hold similar domestic conclaves, when:–

“Mr. East made a feast,
Mr. North laid the cloth,
Mr. West brought his best,
Mr. South burnt his mouth
Eating a cold Potato.”

With pleasant skill of poetic alliteration, Sidney Smith wrote in ordering how to mix a sallet:–

“Two large Potatoes passed through kitchen sieve,
Unwonted softness to a salad give.”

And Sir Thomas Overbury wittily said about a dolt who took credit for the merits of his ancestors: “Like the Potato, all that was good about him was underground.”

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

Ingredients: Orange

December 27th, 2008

Though not of native British growth, except by way of a luxury in the gardens of the wealthy, yet the Orange is of such common use amongst all classes of our people as a dietetic fruit, when of the sweet China sort, and for tonic medicinal purposes when of the bitter Seville kind, that some consideration may be fairly accorded to it as a Curative Simple in these pages.

The Citrus aurantium, or popular Orange, came originally from India, and got its distinctive title of Aurantium, either (ab aureo colore corticis) from the golden colour of its peel, or (ab oppido Achoeioe Arantium) from Arantium, a town of Achaia. It now comes to us chiefly from Portugal and Spain. This fruit is essentially a product of cultivation extending over many years. It began in Hindustan as a small bitter berry with seeds; then about the eighth century it was imported into Persia, though held somewhat accursed. During the tenth century it bore the name “Bigarade,” and became better known. But not until the sixteenth century was it freely grown by the Spaniards, and brought into Mexico. Even at that time the legend still prevailed that whoever partook of the luscious juice was compelled to embrace the faith of the prophet. Spenser and Milton tell of the orange as the veritable golden apple presented by Jupiter to Juno on the day of their nuptials: and hence perhaps arose its more modern association with marriage rites.

Of the varieties the China Orange is the most juicy, being now grown in the South of Europe; whilst the St. Michael Orange (a descendant of the China sort, first produced in Syria), is now got abundantly from the Azores, whence it derives its name.

John Evelyn says the first China Orange which appeared in Europe, was sent as a present to the old Condé Mellor; then Prime Minister to the King of Portugal, when only one plant escaped sound and useful of the whole case which reached Lisbon, and this became the parent of all the Orange trees cultivated by our gardeners, though not without greatly degenerating.

The Seville Orange is that which contains the medicinal properties, more especially in its leaves, flowers, and fruit, though the China sort possesses the same virtues in a minor degree. The leaves and the flowers have been esteemed as beneficial against epilepsy, and other convulsive disorders; and a tea is infused from the former for hysterical sufferers.

Two delicious perfumes are distilled from the flowers–oil of neroli, and napha water,–of which the chemical hydro-carbon “hesperidin,” is mainly the active principle. This is secreted also as an aromatic attribute of the leaves through their minute glands, causing them to emit a fragrant odour when bruised. A scented water is largely prepared in France from the flowers, l’eau de fleur d’oranger, which is frequently taken by ladies as a gentle sedative at night, when sufficiently diluted with sugared water. Thousands of gallons are drunk in this way every year. As a pleasant and safely effective help towards wooing sleep, from one to two teaspoonfuls of the French Eau de fleur d’oranger, if taken at bedtime in a teacupful of hot water, are to be highly commended for a nervous, or excitably wakeful person.

Orange buds are picked green from the trees in the gardens of the Riviera, and when dried they retain the sweet smell of the flowers. A teaspoonful of these buds is ordered to be infused in a teacupful of quite hot water, and the liquid to be drunk shortly, before going to bed. The effect is to induce a refreshing sleep, without any subsequent headache or nausea. The dried berries may be had from an English druggist.

A peeled Orange contains, some citric acid, with citrate of potash; also albumen, cellulose, water, and about eight per cent. of sugar. The white lining pith of the peel possesses likewise the crystalline principle “hesperidin.” Dr. Cullen showed that the acid juice of oranges, by uniting with the bile, diminishes the bitterness of that secretion; and hence it is that this fruit is of particular service in illnesses which arise from a redundancy of bile, chiefly in dark persons of a fibrous, or bilious temperament. But if the acids of the Orange are greater in quantity than can be properly corrected by the bile (as in persons with a small liver, and feeble digestive powers), they seem, by some prejudicial union with that liquid, to acquire a purgative quality, and to provoke diarrhoea, with colicky pains.

The rind or peel of the Seville Orange is darker in colour, and more bitter of taste than that of the sweet China fruit. It affords a considerable quantity of fragrant, aromatic oil, which partakes of the characters exercised by the leaves and the flowers as affecting the nervous system. Pereira records the death of a child which resulted from eating the rind of a sweet China Orange.

The small green fruits (windfalls) from the Orange trees of each sort, which become blown off, or shaken down during the heats of the summer, are collected and dried, forming the “orange berries” of the shops. They are used for flavouring curacoa, and for making issue peas. These berries furnish a fragrant oil, the essence de petit grain, and contain citrates, and malates of lime and potash, with “hesperidin,” sulphur, and mineral salts. The Orange flowers yield a volatile, odorous oil, acetic acid, and acetate of lime. The juice of the Orange consists of citric and malic acids, with sugar; citrate of lime, and water. The peel furnishes hesperidin, a volatile oil, gallic acid, and a bitter principle.

By druggists, a confection of bitter orange peel is sold; also a syrup of this orange peel, and a tincture of the same, made with spirit of wine, to be given in doses of from one to two teaspoonfuls with water, as an agreeable stomachic bitter. Eau de Cologne contains oil of neroli, oil of citron, and oil of orange.

The fresh juice of Oranges is antiseptic, and will prevent scurvy if taken in moderation daily. Common Oranges cut through the middle while green, and dried in the air, being afterwards steeped for forty days in oil, are used by the Arabs for preparing an essence famous among their old women because it will restore a fresh dark, or black colour to grey hair. The custom of a bride wearing Orange blossoms, is probably due to the fact that flowers and fruit appear together on the tree, in token of a wish that the bride may retain the graces of maidenhood amid the cares of married life. This custom has been derived from the Saracens, and was originally suggested also by the fertility of the Orange tree.

The rind of the Seville Orange has proved curative of ague, and powerfully remedial to restrain the monthly flux of women when in excess. Its infusion is of service also against flatulency. A drachm of the powdered leaves may be given for a dose in nervous and hysterical ailments. Finally, “the Orange,” adds John Evelyn, “sharpens appetite, exceedingly refreshes, and resists putrefaction.”

With respect to the fruit, it is said that workpeople engaged in the orange trade enjoy a special immunity from influenza, whilst a free partaking of the juice given largely, has been found preventive of pneumonia as complicating this epidemic. The benefit is said to occur through lessening the fibrin of the blood.

In the time of Shakespeare, it was the fashion to carry “pomanders,” these being oranges from which all the pulp had been scooped out, whilst a circular hole was made at the top. Then after the peel had become dry, the fruit was filled with spices, so as to make a sort of scent-box. Orange lilies, Orangemen, and William of Orange, are all more or less associated with this fruit. The Dutch Government had no love for the House of Orange: and many a grave burgomaster went so far as to banish from his garden the Orange lily, and Marigold; also the sale of Oranges and Carrots was prohibited in the markets on account of their aristocratic colour.

There exists at Brighton a curious custom of bowling or throwing Oranges along the high road on Boxing day. He whose Orange is hit by that of another, forfeits the fruit to the successful hitter.

In Henry the Eighth’s reign Oranges were made into pies, or the juice was squeezed out, and mixed with wine. This fruit when peeled, and torn into sections, after removing the white pith, and the pips, and sprinkling over it two or three spoonfuls of powdered loaf sugar, makes a most wholesome salad. A few candied orange-flower petals will impart a fine flavour to tea when infused with it.

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

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: Horse Radish

June 28th, 2008

The Horse Radish of our gardens is a cultivated cruciferous plant of which the fresh root is eaten, when scraped, as a condiment to correct the richness of our national roast beef. This plant grows wild in many parts of the country, particularly about rubbish, and the sides of ditches; yet it is probably an introduction, and not a native. Its botanical name, Cochlearia armoracia_, implies a resemblance between its leaves and an old-fashioned spoon, cochleare; also that the most common place of its growth is ar, near, mor, the sea.

Our English vernacular styles the plant “a coarse root,” or a “Horse radish,” as distinguished from the eatable radish (root), the Raphanus sativus. Formerly it was named Mountain Radish, and Great Raifort. This is said to be one of the five bitter herbs ordered to be eaten by the Jews during the Feast of the Passover, the other four being Coriander, Horehound, Lettuce, and Nettle.

Not a few fatal cases have occurred of persons being poisoned by taking Aconite root in mistake for a stick of Horse radish, and eating it when scraped. But the two roots differ materially in shape, colour, and taste, so as to be easily discriminated: furthermore the leaves of the Aconite — supposing them to be attached to the root — are not to be mistaken for those of any other plant, being completely divided to their base into five wedge-shaped lobes, which are again sub-divided into three. Squire says it seems incredible that the Aconite Root should be mistaken for Horse Radish unless we remember that country folk are in the habit of putting back again into the ground Horse Radish which has been scraped, until there remain only the crown and a remnant of the root vanishing to a point, these bearing resemblance to the tap root of Aconite.

The fresh root of the Horse radish is a powerful stimulant by reason of its ardent and pungent volatile principle, whether it be taken as a medicament, or be applied externally to any part of the body. When scraped it exhales a nose-provoking odour, and possesses a hot biting taste, combined with a certain sweetness: but on exposure to the air it quickly turns colour, and loses its volatile strength; likewise, it becomes vapid, and inert by being boiled. The root is expectorant, antiscorbutic, and, if taken at all freely, emetic. It contains a somewhat large proportion of sulphur, as shown by the black colour assumed by metals with which it comes into touch. Hence it promises to be of signal use for relieving chronic rheumatism, and for remedying scurvy.

Taken in sauce with oily fish or rich fatty viands, scraped Horse radish acts as a corrective spur to complete digestion, and at the same time it will benefit a relaxed sore throat, by contact during the swallowing. In facial neuralgia scraped Horse radish applied as a poultice, proves usefully beneficial: and for the same purpose some of the fresh scrapings may be profitably held in the hand of the affected side, which hand will become in a short time bloodlessly benumbed, and white.

When sliced across with a knife the root of the Horse radish will exude some drops of a sweet juice which may be rubbed with advantage on rheumatic, or palsied limbs. Also an infusion of the sliced root in milk, almost boiling, and allowed to cool, makes an excellent and safe cosmetic; or the root may be infused for a longer time in cold milk, if preferred, for use with a like purpose in view. Towards the end of the last century Horse radish was known in England as Red cole, and in the previous century it was eaten habitually at table, sliced, with vinegar.

Infused in wine the root stimulates the whole nervous system, and promotes perspiration, whilst acting likewise as a diuretic. For rheumatic neuralgia it is almost a specific, and for palsy it has often proved of service. Our druggists prepare a “compound spirit of Horse radish,” made with the sliced fresh root, orange peel, nutmeg, and spirit of wine. This proves of effective use in strengthless, languid indigestion, as well as for chronic rheumatism; it stimulates the stomach, and promotes the digestive secretions. From one to two teaspoonfuls may be taken two or three times in the day, with half a wineglassful of water, at the end of a principal meal, or a few minutes after the meal. An infusion of the root made with boiling water and taken hot readily proves a stimulating emetic. Until cut or bruised the root is inodorous; but fermentation then begins, and develops from the essential oil an ammoniacal odour and a pungent hot bitter taste which were not pre-existing.

Chemically the Horse radish contains a volatile oil, identical with that of mustard, being highly diffusible and pungent by reason of its “myrosin.” One drop of this volatile oil will suffice to odorise the atmosphere of a whole room, and, if swallowed with any freedom, it excites vomiting. Other constituents of the root are a bitter resin, sugar, starch, gum, albumen, and acetates.

A mixture of the fresh juice, with vinegar, if applied externally, will prove generally of service for removing freckles.

Bergius alleges that by cutting the root into very small pieces without bruising it, and then swallowing a tablespoonful of these fragments every morning without chewing them, for a month, a cure has been effected in chronic rheumatism, which had seemed otherwise intractable.

For loss of the voice and relaxed sore throat the infusion of Horse radish makes an excellent gargle; or it may be concentrated in the form of a syrup, and mixed for the same use — a teaspoonful, with a wine-glassful of cold water.

Gerard said of the root: “If bruised and laid to the part grieved with the sciatica, gout, joyntache, or the hard swellings of the spleen and liver, it doth wonderfully help them all.” If the scraped root be macerated in vinegar, it will form a mixture (which may be sweetened with glycerine to the taste) very effective against whooping cough. In pimply acne of the skin, to touch each papula with some of the Compound Spirit of Horse Radish now and again will soon effect a general cure of the ailment.

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

Ingredients: Cabbage

March 26th, 2008

“The time has come,” as the walrus said in Alice and the Looking Glass, “to talk of many things” —

“Of shoes, and ships, and sealing-wax; of Cabbages, and
kings.”

The Cabbage, which is fabled to have sprung from the tears of the Spartan lawgiver, Lycurgus, began as the Colewort, and was for six hundred years, according to Pliny and Cato, the only internal remedy used by the Romans. The Ionians had such a veneration for Cabbages that they swore by them, just as the Egyptians did by the onion. With ourselves, the wild Cabbage, growing on our English sea cliffs, is the true Collet, or Colewort, from which have sprung all our varieties of Cabbage — cauliflower, greens, broccoli, etc. No vegetables were grown for the table in England before the time of Henry the Eighth. In the thirteenth century it was the custom to salt vegetables because they were so scarce; and in the sixteenth century a Cabbage from Holland was deemed a choice present.

The whole tribe of Cabbages is named botanically Brassicaceoe — apo tou brassein — because they heat, or ferment.

By natural order they are cruciferous plants; and all contain much nitrogen, or vegetable albumen, with a considerable quantity of sulphur; hence they tend strongly to putrefaction, and when decomposed their odour is very offensive. Being cut into pieces, and pressed close in a tub with aromatic herbs and salt, so as to undergo an acescent fermentation (which is arrested at that stage), Cabbages form the German Saurkraut, which is strongly recommended against scurvy. The white Cabbage is most putrescible; the red most emollient and pectoral. The juice of the red cabbage made into syrup, without any condiments, is useful in chronic coughs, and in bronchial asthma. The leaves of the common white Cabbage, when gently bruised and applied to a blistered surface, will promote a free discharge, as also when laid next the skin in dropsy of the ankles. All the Coleworts are called “Crambe,” from krambos, dry, because they dispel drunkenness.

“There is,” says an old author, “a natural enmitie between the Colewort and the vine, which is such that the vine, if growing near unto it, withereth and perisheth; yea, if wine be poured into the Colewort while it is boiling, it will not be any more boiled, and the colour thereof will be quite altered.” The generic term Colewort is derived from caulis, a stalk, and wourte, as applied to all kinds of herbs that “do serve for the potte.” “Good worts,” exclaimed Falstaff, catching at Evans’ faulty pronunciation of words, — “good worts,” — “good cabbages.” An Irish cure for sore throat is to tie Cabbage leaves round it; and the same remedy is applied in England with hot Cabbage leaves for a swollen face. In the Island of Jersey coarse Cabbages are grown abundantly on patches of roadside ground, and in corners of fields, the stalks of which attain the height of eight, ten, or more feet, and are used for making walking sticks or cannes en tiges de choux. These are in great demand on the island, and are largely exported. It may be that a specially tall cabbage of this sort gave rise to the Fairy tale of “Jack and the bean stalk.” The word Cabbage bears reference to caba (caput), a head, as signifying a Colewort which forms a round head. Kohl rabi, from caulo-rapum, cabbage turnip, is a name given to the Brassica oleracea. In 1595 the sum of twenty shillings was paid for six Cabbages and a few carrots, at the port of Hull, by the purveyor to the Clifford family.

The red Cabbage is thought in France to be highly anti-scorbutic; and a syrup is made from it with this purpose in view. The juice of white Cabbage leaves will cure warts.

The Brassica oleracea is one of the plants used in Count Mattaei’s vaunted nostrum, “anti-scrofuloso.” This, the sea Cabbage, with its pale clusters of handsome yellow flowers, is very ornamental to our cliffs. Its leaves, which are conspicuously purple, have a bitter taste when uncooked, but become palatable for boiling if first repeatedly washed; and they are sold at Dover as a market vegetable. These should be boiled in two waters, of which the first will be made laxative, and the second, or thicker decoction, astringent, which fact was known to Hippocrates, who said “jus caulis solvit cujus substantia stringit.”

Sir Anthony Ashley brought the Cabbage into English cultivation. It is said a Cabbage is sculptured at his feet on his monument in Wimbourne Minster, Dorset. He imported the Cabbage (Cale) from Cadiz (Cales), where he held a command, and grew rich by seizing other men’s possessions, notably by appropriating some jewels entrusted to his care by a lady. Hence he is said to have got more by Cales (Cadiz) than by Cale (Cabbage); and this is, perhaps, the origin of our term “to cabbage.” Among tailors, this phrase “to cabbage” is a cant saying which means to filch the cloth when cutting out for a customer. Arbuthnot writes “Your tailor, instead of shreds, cabbages whole yards of cloth.” Perhaps the word comes from the French cabasser, to put into a basket.

From the seed of the wild Cabbage (Rape, or Navew) rape-seed oil is extracted, and the residue is called rape-cake, or oil-cake.

Some years ago it was customary to bake bread-rolls wrapped in Cabbage leaves, for imparting what was considered an agreeable flavour. John Evelyn said: “In general, Cabbages are thought to allay fumes, and to prevent intoxication; but some will have them noxious to the sight.” After all it must be confessed the Cabbage is greatly to be accused for lying undigested in the stomach, and for provoking eructations; which makes one wonder at the veneration the ancients had for it, calling the tribe divine, and swearing per brassicam, which was for six hundred years held by the Romans a panacea: though “Dis crambee thanatos” — “Death by twice Cabbage” — was a Greek proverb. Gerard says the Greeks called the Cabbage Amethustos, “not only because it driveth away drunkennesse; but also for that it is like in colour to the pretious stone called the amethyst.” The Cabbage was Pompey’s best beloved dish. To make a winter salad it is customary in America to choose a firm white Cabbage, and to shred it very fine, serving it with a dressing of plain oil and vinegar. This goes by the name of “slaw,” which has a Dutch origin.

The free presence of hydrogen and sulphur causes a very strong and unpleasant smell to pervade the house during the cooking of Cabbages. Nevertheless, this sulphur is a very salutary constituent of the vegetable, most useful in scurvy and scrofula. Partridge and Cabbage suit the patrician table; bacon and Cabbage better please the taste and the requirements of the proletarian. The nitrogen of this and other cruciferous plants serves to make them emit offensive stinks when they lie out of doors and rot.

For the purulent scrofulous ophthalmic inflammation of infants, by cleansing the eyes thoroughly every half-hour with warm water, and then packing the sockets each time with fresh Cabbage leaves cleaned and bruised to a soft pulp, the flow of matter will be increased for a few days, but a cure will be soon effected. Pliny commended the juice of the raw Cabbage with a little honey for sore and inflamed eyes which were moist and weeping, but not for those which were dry and dull.

In Kent and Sussex, when a Cabbage is cut and the stalk left in the ground to produce “greens” for the table, a cottager will carve an x on the top flat surface of the upright stalk, and thus protect it against mischievous garden sprites and demons.

Some half a century ago medical apprentices were taught the art of blood-letting by practising with a lancet on the prominent veins of a Cabbage leaf.

Carlyle said “of all plants the Cabbage grows fastest to completion.” His parable of the oak and the Cabbage conveys the lesson that those things which are most richly endowed when they come to perfection, are the slowest in their production and development.

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

Definition: Scorbutic

January 1st, 2008

Scorbutic: pertaining to scurvy.