The medicinal qualities of nutmegs are worthy of considerable attention, on account of their value in the treatment of diarrhea, many cases quickly yielding to the administration of half a drachm
in milk. Sleeplessness may be effectually relieved by them when opium fails and chloral is not advisable. They are also a sedative in delirium tremens, and can be given with safety and marked benefit.
Source: Audel’s Household Helps, Hints and ReceiptsFiled under Ingredient | Tags: audel, chloral, delirium, delirium tremens, diarrhea, diarrhoea, ingredient, insomnia, milk, nutmeg, nutmegs, opium, sedative, sleep, sleeplessness | Comment (0)
- Dried leaves of foxglove, one drachm;
- Boiling water, eight ounces;
- Spirit of cinnamon, one ounce.
Macerate for four hours, and filter.
This is the infusion so highly recommended by Withering. Half an ounce, or an ounce, of it, may be taken twice a day in dropsical complaints. The spirit of cinnamon is added to improve its flavour, and to counteract its sedative effects.
Source: The Edinburgh New Dispensatory, Andrew DuncanFiled under Remedy | Tags: cinnamon, dropsy, edinburgh, foxglove, infusion, sedative | Comments (2)
The Common Primrose (Primula veris) is the most widely known of our English wild flowers, and appears in the Spring as its earliest herald.
It gets its name from the Latin primus, first, being named in old books and M.S. Pryme rolles, and in the Grete Herball, Primet, as shortened from Primprint.
In North Devon it is styled the Butter Rose, and in the Eastern counties it is named (in common with the Cowslip) Paigle, Peagle, Pegyll, and Palsy plant.
Medicinally also it possesses similar curative attributes, though in a lesser degree, to those of the Cowslip. Both the root and the flowers contain a volatile oil, and “primulin” which is identical with mannite: whilst the acrid principle is “saponin.” Alfred Austin, Poet Laureate, teaches to “make healing salve with early Primroses.”
Pliny speaks of the Primrose as almost a panacea: In aquâ potam omnibus morbis mederi tradunt. An infusion of the flowers has been always thought excellent against nervous disorders of the hysterical sort. It should be made with from five to ten parts of the petals to one hundred of water. “Primrose tea” says Gerard, “drunk in the month of May, is famous for curing the phrensie.”
The whole plant is sedative and antispasmodic, being of service by its preparations to relieve sleeplessness, nervous headache, and muscular rheumatism. The juice if sniffed up into the nostrils will provoke violent sneezing, and will induce a free flow of water from the lining membranes of the nostrils for the mitigation of passive headaches: though this should not be tried by a person of full habit with a determination of blood to the head. A teaspoonful of powdered dry Primrose root will act as an emetic. The whole herb is somewhat expectorant.
When the petals are collected and dried they become of a greenish colour: whilst fresh they have a honey-like odour, and a sweetish taste.
Within the last few years a political significance and popularity have attached themselves to the Primrose beyond every other British wild flower. It arouses the patriotism of the large Conservative party, and enlists the favour of many others who thoughtlessly follow an attractive fashion, and who love the first fruits of early Spring. Botanically the Primrose has two varieties of floral structure: one “pin-eyed,” with a tall pistil, and short stamens; the other “thrum-eyed,” showing a rosette of tall stamens, whilst the short pistil must be looked for, like the great Panjandrum himself, “with a little round button at the top,” half way down the tube. Darwin was the first to explain that this diversity of structure ensures cross fertilisation by bees and allied insects. Through advanced cultivation at the hands of the horticulturist the Primula acquires in some instances a noxious character. For instance, the Primula biconica, which is often grown in dwelling rooms as a window plant, and commonly sold as such, will provoke an crysipelatous vesicular eruption of a very troublesome and inflamed character on the hands and face of some persons who come in contact with the plant by manipulating it to take cuttings, or in other ways. A knowledge of this fact should suggest the probable usefulness of the said Primula, when made into a tincture, and given in small diluted doses thereof, to act curatively for such an eruption if attacking the sufferer from idiopathic causes.
The Latins named the Ligustrum (our Privet) Primrose. Coles says concerning it (17th century): “This herbe is called Primrose; it is good to ‘Potage.'” They also applied the epithet, “Prime rose” to a lady.
The Evening Primrose (OEnothera biennis, or odorata) is found in this country on sand banks in the West of England and Cornwall; but it is then most probably a garden scape, and an alien, its native habitat being in Canada and the United States of America. We cultivate it freely in our parterres as a brilliant, yellow, showy flower. It belongs to the natural order, Onagraceoe, so called because the food of wild asses; and was the “vini venator” of Theophrastus, 350 B.C. The name signifies having the odour of wine, oinos and theera. Pliny said: “It is an herbe good as wine to make the heart merrie. It groweth with leaves resembling those of the almond tree, and beareth flowers like unto roses. Of such virtue is this herbe that if it be given to drink to the wildest beast that is, it will tame the same and make it gentle.” The best variety of this plant is the OEnothera macrocarpa.
The bark of the Evening Primrose is mucilaginous, and a decoction made therefrom is of service for bathing the skin eruptions of infants and young children. To answer such purpose a decoction should be made from the small twigs, and from the bark of the larger branches, retaining the leaves. This has been found further of use for diarrhoea associated with an irritable stomach, and asthma. The infusion, or the liquid extract, acts as a mild but efficient sedative in nervous indigestion, from twenty to thirty drops of the latter being given for a dose. The ascertained chemical principle of the plant, OEnotherin, is a compound body. Its flowers open in the evening, and last only until the next noon; therefore this plant is called the “Evening Primrose,” or “Evening Star.”
Another of the Primrose tribe, the Cyclamen, or Sow-bread (Panis porcinus), is often grown in our gardens, and for ornamenting our rooms as a pot plant. Its name means (Greek) “a circle,” and refers to the reflected corolla, or to the spiral fruit-stalks; and again, from the tuber being the food of wild swine. Gerard said it was reported in his day to grow wild on the Welsh mountains, and on the Lincolnshire hills: but he failed to find it. Nevertheless it is now almost naturalised in some parts of the South, and East of England. As the petals die, the stalks roll up and carry the capsular berries down to the surface of the ground. A medicinal tincture is made (H.) from the fresh root when flowering. The ivy-leaved variety is found in England, with nodding fresh-coloured blossoms, and a brown intensely acrid root. Besides starch, gum, and pectin, it yields chemically, “cyclamin,” or “arthanatin,” with an action like “saponin,” whilst the juice is poisonous to fish. When applied externally as a liniment over the bowels, it causes them to be purged. Gerard quaintly and suggestively declares “It is not good for women with childe to touch, or take this herbe, or to come neere unto it, or to stride over the same where it groweth: for the natural attractive vertue therein contained is such that, without controversie, they that attempt it in manner above said, shall be delivered before their time; which danger and inconvenience to avoid, I have fastened sticks in the ground about the place in my garden where it groweth, and some other sticks also crosswaies over them, lest any woman should by lamentable experiment find my words to be true by stepping over the same. Again, the root hanged about women in their extreme travail with childe, causeth them to be delivered incontinent: and the leaves put into the place hath the like effect.” Inferentially a tincture of the plant should be good for falling and displacement of the womb. “Furthermore, Sowbread, being beaten, and made into little flat cakes, is reputed to be a good amorous medicine, to make one in love.”
In France, another Primula, the wild Pimpernel, occurs as a noxious herb, and is therefore named Mouron.
Source: Herbal Simples Approved for Modern Uses of Cure, William Thomas FerniesFiled under Ingredient | Tags: antispasmodic, asthma, cowslip, cyclamen, decoction, diarrhoea, emetic, eruption, evening primrose, expectorant, headache, hysteria, indigestion, infusion, insomnia, mucilage, nerves, nervous headache, palsy, phrensy, pimpernel, primrose, purge, rheumatism, salve, sedative, skin, sleeplessness, sowbread, stomach, tincture, womb | Comment (0)
The Scarlet Poppy of our cornfields (Papaver Rhoeas) is one of the most brilliant and familiar of English wild flowers, being strikingly conspicuous as a weed by its blossoms rich in scarlet petals, which are black at the base. The title Papaver has been derived from pap, a soft food given to young infants, in which it was at one time customary to boil Poppy seeds for the purpose of inducing sleep. Provincially this plant bears the titles of “Cop Rose” (from its rose-like flowers, and the button-like form of its cop, or capsule) and “Canker Rose,” from its detriment to wheat crops.
The generic term Rhoeas comes from reo, to fall, because the scarlet petals have so fragile a hold on their receptacles; and the plant has been endowed with the sobriquet, “John Silver Pin, fair without and foul within.” In the Eastern counties of England any article of finery brought out only occasionally, and worn with ostentation by a person otherwise a slattern, is called “Joan Silver Pin.” After this sense the appellation has been applied to the Scarlet Poppy. Its showy flower is so attractive to the eye, whilst its inner juice is noxious, and stains the hands of those who thoughtlessly crush it with their fingers.
“And Poppies a sanguine mantle spread,
For the blood of the dragon St. Margaret shed.”
Robert Turner naively says, “The Red Poppy Flower (Papaver erraticum) resembleth at its bottom the settling of the ‘Blood in pleurisie'”; and, he adds, “how excellent is that flower in diseases of the pleurisie with similar surfeits hath been sufficiently experienced.”
It is further called Blindy Buff, Blind Eyes, Headwarke, and Headache, from the stupefying effects of smelling it. Apothecaries make a syrup of a splendid deep colour from its vividly red petals; but this does not exercise any soporific action like that concocted from the white Poppy, which is a sort of modified opiate, suitable for infants under certain conditions, when sanctioned by a doctor. Otherwise, all sedatives of a narcotic sort are to be strongly condemned for use by mothers, or nurses:–
“But a child that bids the world ‘Good-night’
In downright earnest, and cuts it quite,
(A cherub no art can copy),
‘Tis a perfect picture to see him lie,
As if he had supped on dormouse pie,
An ancient classical dish, by-the-bye,
With a sauce of syrup of Poppy.”
Petronius, in the time of Nero, A.D. 80, “delivered an odd receipt for dressing dormouse sausages, and serving them up with Poppies and honey, which must have been a very soporiferous dainty, and as good as owl pye to such as want a nap after dinner.”
The white Poppy is specially cultivated in Britain for the sake of its seed capsules, which possess attributes similar to opium, but of a weaker strength. These capsules are commonly known as Poppyheads, obtained from the druggist for use in domestic fomentations to allay pain. Also from the capsules, without their seeds, is made the customary syrup of White Poppies, which is so familiar as a sedative for childhood; but it should be always remembered that infants of tender years are highly susceptible to the influence even of this mild form of opium. The true gum opium, and laudanum, which is its tincture, are derived from Eastern Poppies (Papaver somniferum) by incisions made in the capsules at a proper season of the year. The cultivated Poppy of the garden will afford English opium in a like manner, but it is seldom used for this purpose. A milky juice exudes when the capsules of these cultivated flowers are cut, or bruised. They are familiar to most children as drumsticks, plucked in the garden after the gaudy petals of the flowers have fallen off. The leaves and stems likewise afford some of the same juice, which, when inspissated, is known as English opium. The seeds of the white Poppy yield by expression a bland nutritive oil, which may be substituted for that of olives, or sweet almonds, in cooking, and for similar uses. Dried Poppy-heads, formerly in constant request for making hot soothing stupes, or for application directly to a part in pain, are now superseded for the most part by the many modern liquid preparations of opium handy for the purpose, to be mixed with hot water, or applied in poultices.
For outward use laudanum may be safely added to stupes, hot or cold, a teaspoonful being usually sufficient for the purpose, or perhaps two, if the pain is severe; and powdered opium may be incorporated with one or another ointment for a similar object. If a decoction of Poppy capsules is still preferred, it should be made by adding to a quarter-of-a-pound of white Poppy heads (free from seeds, and broken up in a mortar) three pints of boiling water; then boil for ten or fifteen minutes, and strain off the decoction, which should measure about two pints.
Dr. Herbert Snow, resident physician at the Brompton Cancer Hospital, says (1895) he has found: “after a long experience, Opium exhibits a strong inhibitive influence on the cancer elements, retarding and checking the cell growth, which is a main feature of the disease. Even when no surgical operation has been performed, Opium is the only drug which markedly checks cancer growth: and the early employment of this medicine will usually add years of comfortable life to the otherwise shortened space of the sufferer’s existence.” Opium gets its name from the Greek apos, juice.
The seeds of the white Poppy are known us mawseed, or balewort, and are given as food to singing birds. In old Egypt these seeds were mixed with flour and honey, and made into cakes.
Pliny says: “The rustical peasants of Greece glazed the upper crust of their loaves with yolks of eggs, and then bestrewed them with Poppy seeds,” thus showing that the seeds were then considered free from narcotic properties. And in Queen Elizabeth’s time these seeds were strewn over confectionery, whilst the oil expressed from them was “delightful to be eaten when taken with bread.”
White Poppy capsules, when dried, furnish papaverine and narcotine, with some mucilage, and a little waxy matter. The seeds contained within the capsules yield Poppy seed oil, with a fixed oil, and a very small quantity of morphia–about five grains in a pound of white Poppy seeds. In some parts of Russia the seeds are put into soups.
The Poppy was cultivated by the Greeks before the time of Hippocrates. It has long been a symbol of death, because sending persons to sleep. Ovid says, concerning the Cave of Somnus:–
“Around whose entry nodding Poppies grow,
And all cool Simples that sweet rest bestow.”
The common scarlet Poppy was called by the Anglo-Saxons “Chesebolle,” “Chebole,” or “Chybolle,” from the ripe capsule resembling a round cheese.
There is a Welsh Poppy, with yellow flowers; and a horned Poppy, named after Glaucus, common on our sea coasts, with sea-green leaves, and large blossoms of golden yellow. Glaucus, a fisherman of Boeotia, observed that all the fishes which he caught received fresh vigour when laid on the ground, and were immediately able to leap back into the sea. He attributed these effects to some herb growing in the grass, and upon tasting the leaves of the Sea Poppy he found himself suddenly moved with an intense desire to live in the sea; wherefore he was made a sea-god by Oceanus and Tethys. Borlase says: “That in the Scilly Islands the root of the Sea Poppy is so much valued for removing all pains in the breast, stomach, and intestines, as well as so good for disordered lungs, whilst so much better there than in other places, that the apothecaries of Cornwall send thither for it; and some persons plant these roots in their gardens in Cornwall, and will not part with them under sixpence a root.” The scarlet petals of the wild Poppy, very abundant in English cornfields, when treated with sulphuric acid make a splendid red dye. With gorgeous tapestry cut from these crimson petals, the clever “drapery bee” (Apis papaveris) upholsters the walls of her solitary cell. Bruised leaves of the wild, or the garden Poppy, if applied to a part which has been stung by a bee or a wasp, will give prompt relief.
Source: Herbal Simples Approved for Modern Uses of Cure, William Thomas FerniesFiled under Ingredient | Tags: balewort, bee, breast, decoction, dormouse, intestine, laudanum, mawseed, mucilage, narcotic, narcotine, opium, owl, papaverine, pleurisy, poppy, rose, sedative, sting, stomach, syrup, wasp | Comment (0)
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 FerniesFiled under Ingredient | Tags: burn, burns, corns, diuretic, frostbite, leprosy, potato, rheumatism, scalds, scurvy, sedative | Comment (1)
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 FernieFiled under Ingredient | Tags: ague, convulsions, epilepsy, flu, hysteric, influenza, menstruation, orange, pneumonia, scurvy, sedative | Comment (0)
Our garden Lettuce is a cultivated variety of the wild, or strong-scented Lettuce (Lactuca virosa), which grows, with prickly leaves, on banks and waysides in chalky districts throughout England and Wales. It belongs to the Composite order of plants, and contains the medicinal properties of the plant more actively than does the Lettuce produced for the kitchen. An older form of the name is Lettouce, which is still retained in Scotland.
Chemically the wild Lettuce contains lactucin, lactucopricin, asparagin, mannite, albumen, gum, and resin, together with oxalic, malic, and citric acids; thus possessing virtues for easing pain, and inducing sleep. The cultivated Lettuce which comes to our tables retains these same properties, but in a very modified degree, since the formidable principles have become as completely toned down and guileless in the garden product as were the child-like manners and the pensive smile of Bret Harte’s Heathen Chinee.
Each plant derives its name, lactuca, from its milky juice; in Latin lactis; and in Greek, galaktos (taking the genitive case). This juice, when withdrawn from the cut or incised stalks and stems of the wild Lettuce, is milky at first, and afterwards becomes brown, like opium, being then known (when dried into a kind of gum) as lactucarium. From three to eight grains of this gum, if taken at bedtime, will allay the wakefulness which follows over-excitement of brain. A similar lactucarium, got from the dried milk of the cultivated garden Lettuce, is so mild a sedative as to be suitable for restless infants; and two grains thereof may be safely given to a young child for soothing it to sleep.
The wild Lettuce is rather laxative; with which view a decoction of the leaves is sometimes taken as a drink to remedy constipation, and intestinal difficulties, as also to allay feverish pains. The plant was mentioned as acting thus in an epigram by Martial (Libr. VI., Sq.).
“Prima tibi dabitur ventro lactuca movendo
Utilis, et porris fila resecta suis.”
Gerard said: “Being in some degree laxative and aperient, the cultivated Lettuce is very proper for hot bilious dispositions;” and Parkinson adds (1640): “Lettuce eaten raw or boyled, helpeth to loosen the belly, and the boyled more than the raw.” It was known as the “Milk Plant” to Dioscorides and Theophrastus, and was much esteemed by the Romans to be eaten after a debauch of wine, or as a sedative for inducing sleep. But a prejudice against it was entertained for a time as venerem enervans, and therefore mortuorum cibi, “food for the dead.”
Apuleius says, that when the eagle desires to fly to a great height, and to get a clear view of the extensive prospect below him, he first plucks a leaf of the wild Lettuce and touches his eyes with the juice thereof, by which means he obtains the widest perspicuity of vision. “Dicunt aquilam quum in altum volare voluerit ut prospiciat rerum naturas lactucoe sylvaticoe folium evellere et succo ejus sibi oculos tangere, et maximam inde claritudinem accipere.”
After the death of Adonis, Venus is related to have thrown herself on a bed of lettuces to assuage her grief. “In lactucâ occultatum a Venere Adonin–cecinit Callimachus–quod allegoricé interpretatus Athenoeus illuc referendum putat quod in venerem hebetiores fiunt lactucas vescentes assidue.”
The Pythagoreans called this plant “the Eunuch”; and there is a saying in Surrey, “O’er much Lettuce in the garden will stop a young wife’s bearing.” During the middle ages it was thought an evil spirit lurked among the Lettuces adverse to mothers, and causing grievous ills to new-born infants.
The Romans, in the reign of Domitian, had the lettuce prepared with eggs, and served with the last course at their tables, so as to stimulate their appetites afresh. Martial wonders that it had since then become customary to take it rather at the beginning of the meal:–
“Claudere quae caenas lactuca solebat avorum
Dic mihi cur nostras inchoat illa dapes.”
Antoninus Musa cured Caesar Augustus of hypochondriasis by means of this plant.
The most common variety of the wild Lettuce, improved by frequent cultivation, is the Cabbage Lettuce, or Roman, “which is the best to boil, stew, or put into hodge-podge.” Different sorts of the Cos Lettuce follow next onwards. The Lactuca sylvatica is a variety of the wild Lettuce producing similar effects. From this a medicinal tincture (H.) is prepared, and an extract from the flowering herb is given in doses of from five to fifteen grains. No attempt was made to cultivate the Lettuce in this country until the fourth year of Elizabeth’s reign.
When bleached by gardeners the lettuce becomes tender, sweet, and succulent, being easily digested, even by dyspeptic persons, as to its crisp, leafy parts, but not its hard stalk. It now contains but little nutriment of any sort, but supplies some mineral salts, especially nitre. In the stem there still lingers a small quantity of the sleep-inducing principle, “lactucarin,” particularly when the plant is flowering. Galen, when sleepless from advanced age and infirmities, with hard study, took decoction of the Lettuce at night; and Pope says, with reference to our garden sort:–
“If you want rest,
Lettuce, and cowslip wine:–‘probatum est.'”
But if Lettuces are taken at supper with this view of promoting sleep, they should be had without any vinegar, which neutralises their soporific qualities. “Sleep,” said Sir Thomas Brown, “is so like death that I dare not trust it without my prayers.”
Some persons suppose that when artificially blanched the plant is less wholesome than if left to grow naturally in the garden, especially if its ready digestibility by those of sensitive stomachs be correctly attributed to the slightly narcotic principle. It was taken uncooked by the Hebrews with the Paschal lamb.
John Evelyn writes enthusiastically about it in his Book of Sallets: “So harmless is it that it may safely be eaten raw in fevers; it allays heat, bridles choler, extinguishes thirst, excites appetite, kindly nourishes, and, above all, represses vapours, conciliates sleep, and mitigates pain, besides the effect it has upon the morals– temperance and chastity.”
“Galen (whose beloved sallet it was) says it breeds the most laudable blood. No marvel, then, that Lettuces were by the ancients called sanoe by way of eminency, and were so highly valued by the great Augustus that, attributing to them his recovery from a dangerous sickness, it is reported he erected a statue and built an altar to this noble plant.” Likewise, “Tacitus, spending almost nothing at his frugal table in other dainties, was yet so great a friend to the Lettuce that he used to say of his prodigality in its purchase, Summi se mercari illas sumitus effusione.” Probably the Lettuce of Greece was more active than our indigenous, or cultivated plant.
By way of admonition as to care in preparing the Lettuce for table, Dr. King Chambers has said (Diet in Health and Disease), “The consumption of Lettuce by the working man with his tea is an increasing habit worthy of all encouragement. But the said working man must be warned of the importance of washing the material of his meal. This hint is given in view of the frequent occurrence of the large round worm in the labouring population of some agricultural counties, Oxfordshire for instance, where unwashed Lettuce is largely eaten.” Young Lettuces may be raised in forty-eight-hours by first steeping the seed in brandy and then sowing it in a hot-house.
The seeds of the garden Lettuce are emollient, and when rubbed up with water make a pleasant emulsion, which contains nothing of the milky, laxative bitterness furnished by the leaves and stalk. This emulsion resembles that of almonds, but is even more cooling, and therefore a better medicine in disorders arising from acrimony and irritation.
From the Lactuca virosa, or strong-scented wild Lettuce, a medicinal tincture (H.) is prepared, using the whole plant. On the principle of treating with this tincture, when diluted, such toxic effects as too large doses of the juice would bring about, a slow pulse, with a disposition to stupor, and sleepy weakness, are successfully met by its use. Also a medicinal extract is made by druggists from the wild Lettuce, and given in doses of from three to ten grains for the medicinal purposes which have been particularised, and to remove a dull, heavy headache.
“The garden Lettuce is good,” as Pliny said, “for burnings and scaldings if the leaves be laid thereon, with salt (sic), before the blisters do appear.” “By reason,” concludes Evelyn, “too, of its soporiferous quality, the Lettuce ever was, and still continues, the principal foundation of the universal tribe of Sallets, which cools and refreshes, besides its other properties, and therefore was held in such high esteem by the ancients, that divers of the Valerian family dignified and ennobled their name with that of Lactucinii.” It is botanically distinguished as the Lactuca sativa, “from the plenty of milk,” says “Adam in Eden” (W. Coles), “that it hath, and causeth.”
Lambs’ Lettuce, or Corn Salad, is a distinct plant, one of the Valerian tribe, which was formerly classed as a Lettuce, by name, Lactuca agnina, either because it appears about the time when lambs (agni) are dropped, or because it is a favourite food of lambs.
The French call this salade de Prètre, “monks’ salad,” and in reference thereto an old writer has said: “It certainly deserves a place among the penitential herbs, for the stomach that admits it is apt to cry peccavi.”
The same plant is also known by the title of the White Pot Herb, in contrast to the Olus atrum, or Black Pot Herb. It grows wild in the banks of hedges and waste cornfields, and is cultivated in our kitchen gardens as a salad herb, the Milk Grass, being called botanically the Valerianella olitoria, and having been in request as a spring medicine among country folk in former days. By genus it is a Fedia, and bears diminutive white flowers resembling glass. Gerard says: “We know the Lambs’ Lettuce as Loblollie; and it serves in winter as a salad herb, among others none of the worst.” In France it goes by the names manche and broussette. A medicinal tincture is made (H.) from the fresh root.
The black pot-herb–so called from the dark colour of its fruit–is an umbelliferous plant, (Smyrnium olusatrum) or Alexanders, often found in the vicinity of abbeys, and probably therefore held in former repute by the Monks. Its names are derived from Smyrna, myrrh, in allusion to the odour of the plant; and from Macedonicum, or the parsley of Macedon, Alexander’s country. The herb was also known as Stanmarch. It grows on waste places by rivers near the sea, having been formerly cultivated like celery, which has now supplanted it. When boiled it is eaten with avidity by sailors returning from long voyages, who happen to land at the South Western corner of Anglesea.
Source: Herbal Simples Approved for Modern Uses of Cure, William Thomas FernieFiled under Ingredient | Tags: aperient, constipation, emollient, headache, laxative, lettuce, pain, sedative | Comment (0)
“Arsenious Acid 19 grains
Bromine Water sufficient
Tribromide of Gold 14 grains
Distilled Water sufficient
Ten drops of this solution for injection, which equals one thirty-second grain of gold tribromide.” This is an active tonic, powerful sedative and destroys the appetite or cravings for alcoholic stimulants; the medicine is to be taken regularly four or five times a day for several weeks until the alcohol is out of the system even though he may appear cured. This is a good remedy, but should be given under the supervision of a doctor.
Source: Mother’s Remedies: Over One Thousand Tried and Tested Remidies from Mothers of the United States and Canada, T. J. RitterFiled under Remedy | Tags: alcohol, alcoholism, arsenic, bromide, cravings, drunkenness, gold, sedative, tonic, twitter-archive | Comment (0)
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
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 FernieFiled under Ingredient | Tags: dandruff, digestion, fever, hands, heart, itching, jaundice, lemon, menstruation, neuralgia, palpitations, scurvy, sedative, ulcer, ulcers, vermifuge, worm, worms | Comment (0)
The Asparagus, belonging to the Lily order of plants, occurs wild on the coasts of Essex, Suffolk, and Cornwall. It is there a more prickly plant than the cultivated vegetable which we grow for the sake of the tender, edible shoots. The Greeks and Romans valued it for their tables, and boiled it so quickly that velocius quam asparagi coquuntur — “faster than asparagus is cooked” — was a proverb with them, to which our “done in a jiffy” closely corresponds. The shoots, whether wild or cultivated, are succulent, and contain wax, albumen, acetate of potash, phosphate of potash, mannite, a green resin, and a fixed principle named “asparagin.” This asparagin stimulates the kidneys, and imparts a peculiar, strong smell to the urine after taking the shoots; at the same time, the green resin with which the asparagin is combined, exercises gently sedative effects on the heart, calming palpitation, or nervous excitement of that organ. Though not producing actual sugar in the urine, asparagus forms and excretes a substance therein which answers to the reactions used by physicians for detecting sugar, except the fermentation test. It may fairly be given in diabetes with a promise of useful results. In Russia it is a domestic medicine for the arrest of flooding.
Asparagin also bears the chemical name of “althein,” and occurs in crystals, which may be reduced to powder, and which may likewise be got from the roots of marsh mallow, and liquorice. One grain of this given three times a day is of service for relieving dropsy from disease of the heart. Likewise, a medicinal tincture is made (H.) from the whole plant, of which eight or ten drops given with a tablespoonful of water three times a day will also allay urinary irritation, whilst serving to do good against rheumatic gout. A syrup of asparagus is employed medicinally in France: and at Aix-les-Bains it forms part of the cure for rheumatic patients to eat Asparagus. The roots of Asparagus contain diuretic virtues more abundantly than the shoots. An infusion made from these roots will assist against jaundice, and congestive torpor of the liver. The shrubby stalks of the plant bear red, coral-like berries which, when ripe, yield grape sugar, and spargancin. Though generally thought to branch out into feathery leaves, these are only ramified stalks substituted by the plant when growing on an arid sandy soil, where no moisture could be got for the maintenance of leaves. The berries are attractive to small birds, who swallow them whole, and afterwards void the seeds, to germinate when thus scattered about. Thus there is some valid reason for the vulgar corruption of the title Asparagus into Sparrowgrass, or Grass. Botanically the plant is a lily which has seen better days. In the United States of America, Asparagus is thought to be undeniably sedative, and a palliative in all heart affections attended with excited action of the pulse. The water in which asparagus has been boiled, if drunk, though somewhat disagreeable, is beneficial against rheumatism. The cellular tissue of the plant furnishes a substance similar to sago. In Venice, the wild asparagus is served at table, but it is strong in flavour and less succulent than the cultivated sort. Mortimer Collins makes Sir Clare, one of his characters in Clarisse say: “Liebig, or some other scientist maintains that asparagin — the alkaloid in asparagus — develops form in the human brain: so, if you get hold of an artistic child, and give him plenty of asparagus, he will grow into a second Raffaelle!”
Gerard calls the plant “Sperage,” “which is easily concocted when eaten, and doth gently loose the belly.” Our name, “Asparagus,” is derived from a Greek word signifying “the tearer,” in allusion to the spikes of some species; or perhaps from the Persian “Spurgas,” a shoot.
John Evelyn, in his Book of Salads, derives the term Asparagus in easy fashion, ab asperitate, “from the sharpness of the plant.” “Nothing,” says he, “next to flesh is more nourishing; but in this country we overboil them, and dispel their volatile salts: the water should boil before they are put in.” He tells of asparagus raised at Battersea in a natural, sweet, and well-cultivated soil, sixteen of which (each one weighing about four ounces) were made a present to his wife, showing what “solum, coelum, and industry will effect.” The Asparagus first came into use as a food about 200 B.C., in the time of the elder Cato, and Augustus was very partial to it. The wild Asparagus was called Lybicum, and by the Athenians, Horminium. Roman cooks used to dry the shoots, and when required these were thrown into hot water, and boiled for a few minutes to make them look fresh and green. Gerard advises that asparagus should be sodden in flesh broth, and eaten; or boiled in fair water, seasoned with oil, pepper, and vinegar, being served up as a salad. Our ancestors in Tudor times ate the whole of the stalks with spoons. Swift’s patron, Sir William Temple, who had been British Minister at the Hague, brought the art of Asparagus culture from Holland; and when William III. visited Sir William at Moor Park, where young Jonathan was domiciled as Secretary, his Majesty is said to have taught the future Dean of St. Patrick’s how to eat asparagus in the Dutch style. Swift afterwards at his own table refused a second helping of the vegetable to a guest until the stalks had been devoured, alleging that “King William always ate his stalks.” When the large white asparagus first came into vogue, it was known as the “New Vegetable.” This was grown with lavish manure and was called Dutch Asparagus. For cooking the stalks should be cut of equal lengths, and boiled standing upwards in a deep saucepan with nearly two inches of the heads out of the water. Then the steam will suffice to cook these tender parts, whilst the hard stalky portions may be boiled long enough to become soft and succulently wholesome. Two sorts of asparagus are now grown — the one an early kind, pinkish white, cultivated in France and the Channel Islands; the other green and English. At Kynance Cove in Cornwall, there is an island called Asparagus Island, from the abundance in which the plant is found there.
In connection with this popular vegetable may be quoted the
“What killed a queen to love inclined,
What on a beggar oft we find,
Show–to ourselves if aptly joined,
A plant which we in bundles bind.”
Source: Herbal Simples Approved for Modern Uses of Cure, William Thomas FernieFiled under Ingredient | Tags: asparagus, diabetes, dropsy, heart, kidneys, palpitations, rheumatism, sedative | Comment (0)