Ingredients: House Leek

November 29th, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ingredient: Roses

November 22nd, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shingles, Herb Remedy for

May 14th, 2008

“Make a solution of yerba rheuma, one ounce to a pint of boiling water, and apply freely to the part several times a day.” The yerba rheuma has an astringent action and contracts the tissues, relieving the inflammation of the skin. It also relieves the itching.

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

Ingredients: Buttercup

March 3rd, 2008

The most common Buttercup of our fields (Ranunculus bulbosis) needs no detailed description. It belongs to the order termed Ranunculaceoe, so-called from the Latin rana, a frog, because the several varieties of this genus grow in moist places where frogs abound. Under the general name of Buttercups are included the creeping Ranunculus, of moist meadows; the Ranunculus acris, Hunger Weed, or Meadow Crowfoot, so named from the shape of the leaf (each of these two being also called King Cup), and the Ranunculus bulbosus mentioned above. “King-Cob” signifies a resemblance between the unexpanded flowerbud and a stud of gold, such as a king would wear; so likewise the folded calyx is named Goldcup, Goldknob and Cuckoobud. The term Buttercup has become conferred through a mistaken notion that this flower gives butter a yellow colour through the cows feeding on it (which is not the case), or, perhaps, from the polished, oily surface of the petals. The designation really signifies “button cop,” or bouton d’or; “the batchelor’s button”; this terminal syllable, cup, being corrupted from the old English word “cop,” a head. It really means “button head.” The Buttercup generally is known in Wiltshire and the adjoining counties as Crazy, or Crazies, being reckoned by some as an insane plant calculated to produce madness; or as a corruption of Christseye (which was the medieval name of the Marigold).

A burning acridity of taste is the common characteristic of the several varieties of the Buttercup. In its fresh state the ordinary field Buttercup is so acrimonious that by merely pulling up the plant by its root, and carrying it some little distance in the hand, the palm becomes reddened and inflamed. Cows will not eat it unless very hungry, and then the mouth of the animal becomes sore and blistered. The leaves of the Buttercup, when bruised and applied to the skin, produce a blistering of the outer cuticle, with a discharge of a watery fluid, and with heat, redness, and swelling. If these leaves are masticated in the mouth they will induce pains like a stitch between the ribs at the side, with the sharp catchings of neuralgic rheumatism. A medicinal tincture is made (H.) from the bulbous Buttercup with spirit of wine, which will, as a similar, cure shingles very expeditiously, both the outbreak of small watery pimples clustered together at the side, and the accompanying sharp pains between the ribs. Also this tincture will promptly relieve neuralgic side-ache, and pleurisy which is of a passive sort. From six to eight drops of the tincture may be taken with a tablespoonful of cold water by an adult three or four times a day for either of the aforesaid purposes. In France, this plant is called “jaunet.” Buttercups are most probably the “Cuckoo Buds” immortalised by Shakespeare. The fresh leaves of the Crowfoot (Ranunculus acris) formed a part of the famous cancer cure of Mr. Plunkett in 1794. This cure comprised Crowfoot leaves, freshly gathered, and dog’s-foot fennel leaves, of each an ounce, with one drachm of white arsenic levigated, and with five scruples of flowers of sulphur, all beaten together into a paste, and dried by the sun in balls, which were then powdered, and, being mixed with yolk of egg, were applied on pieces of pig’s bladder. The juice of the common Buttercup (Bulbosus), known sometimes as “St. Anthony’s Turnip,” if applied to the nostrils, will provoke sneezing, and will relieve passive headache in this way. The leaves have been applied as a blister to the wrists in rheumatism, and when infused in boiling water as a poultice over the pit of the stomach as a counter-irritant. For sciatica the tincture of the bulbous buttercup has proved very helpful.

The Ranunculus flammata, Spearwort, has been used to produce a slight blistering effect by being put under a limpet shell against the skin of the part to be relieved, until some smarting and burning have been sensibly produced, with incipient vesication of the outermost skin.

The Ranunculus Sceleratus, Marsh Crowfoot, or Celery-leaved Buttercup, called in France “herbe sardonique,” and “grenouillette d’eau,” when made into a tincture (H.) with spirit of wine, and given in small diluted doses, proves curative of stitch in the side, and of neuralgic pains between the ribs, likewise of pleurisy without feverishness. The dose should be five drops of the third decimal tincture with a spoonful of water every three or four hours. This plant grows commonly at the sides of our pools, and in wet ditches, bearing numerous small yellow flowers, with petals scarcely longer than the calyx.

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