Ingredients: Pimpernel

January 17th, 2009

The “Poor Man’s Weather Glass” or “Shepherd’s Dial,” is a very well-known and favourite little flower, of brilliant scarlet hue, expanding only in bright weather, and closing its petals at two o’clock in the day. It occurs quite commonly in gardens and open fields, being the scarlet Pimpernel, or Anagallis arvensis, and belonging to the Primrose tribe of plants. Old authors called it Burnet; which is quite a distinct herb, cultivated now for kitchen use, the Pimpinella Saxifraga, of so cheery and exhilarating a quality, and so generally commended, that its excellence has passed into a proverb, “l’insolata non buon, ne betta ove non é Pimpinella.” But this Burnet Pimpinella is of a different (Umbelliferous) order, though similarly styled because its leaves are likewise bipennate.

The Scarlet Pimpernel is named Anagallis, from the Greek anagelao, to laugh; either because, as Pliny says, the plant removes obstructions of the liver, and spleen, which would engender sadness, or because of the graceful beauty of its flowers:–

“No ear hath heard, no tongue can tell
The virtues of the Pimpernell.”

The little plant has no odour, but possesses a bitter taste, which is rather astringent. Doctors used to consider the herb remedial in melancholy, and in the allied forms of mental disease, the decoction, or a tincture being employed. It was also prescribed for hydrophobia, and linen cloths saturated with a decoction were kept applied to the bitten part.

Narcotic effects were certainly produced in animals by giving considerable doses of an extract made from the herb. The flowers have been found useful in epilepsy, twenty grains dried being given four times a day. A medicinal tincture (H.) is prepared with spirit of wine. It is of approved utility for irritability of the main urinary passage, with genital congestion, erotism, and dragging of the loins, this tincture being then ordered of the third decimal strength, in doses of from five to ten drops every three or four hours, with a spoonful of water.

A decoction of the plant is held in esteem by countryfolk as checking pulmonary consumption in its early stages. Hill says there are many authenticated cases of this dire disease being absolutely cured by the herb. The infusion is best made by pouring boiling water on the fresh plant. It contains “saponin,” such as the Soapwort also specially furnishes.

In France the Pimpernel (Anagallis) is thought to be a noxious plant of drastic narcotico-acrid properties, and called Mouron–qui tue les petits oiseaux, et est un violent drastique pour l’homme, et les grands animaux; à dose tres elevée le mouron peut meme leur donner la mort. In California a fluid extract of the herb is given for rheumatism, in doses of one teaspoonful with water three times a day.

The Burnet Pimpinella is more correctly the Burnet Saxifrage, getting its first name because the leaves are brown, and the second because supposed to break up stone in the bladder. It grows abundantly in our dry chalky pastures, bearing terminal umbels of white flowers. It contains an essential oil and a bitter resin, which are useful as warmly carminative to relieve flatulent indigestion, and to promote the monthly flow in women. An infusion of the herb is made, and given in two tablespoonfuls for a dose. Cows which feed on this plant have their flow of milk increased thereby. Small bunches of the leaves and shoots when tied together and suspended in a cask of beer impart to it an agreeable aromatic flavour, and are thought to correct tart, or spoiled wines. The root, when fresh, has a hot pungent bitterish taste, and may be usefully chewed for tooth-ache, or to obviate paralysis of the tongue. In Germany a variety of this Burnet yields a blue essential oil which is used for colouring brandy. Again the herb is allied to the Anise (Pimpinella Anisum). The term Burnet was formerly applied to a brown cloth. Smaller than this Common Burnet is the Salad Burnet, Poterium sanguisorba, quod sanguineos fluxus sistat, a useful styptic, which is also cordial, and promotes perspiration. It has the smell of cucumber, and is, therefore, an ingredient of the salad bowl, or often put into a cool tankard, whereto, says Gerard, “it gives a grace in the drynkynge.” Another larger sort of the Burnet Pimpinella (Magna), which has broad upper leaves less divided, grows in our woods and shady places.

A bright blue variety of the true Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis) is less frequent, and is thought by many to be a distinct species. Gerard says, “the Pimpernel with the blue flower helpeth the fundament that is fallen down: and, contrariwise, red Pimpernel being applied bringeth it down.”

The Water Pimpernel (Anagallis aquatica) is more commonly known as Brooklime, or Beccabunga, and belongs to a different order of plants, the Scrophulariaceoe (healers of scrofula).

It grows quite commonly in brooks and ditches, as a succulent plant with smooth leaves, and small flowers of bright blue, being found in situations favourable to the growth of the watercress. It is the brok lempe of old writers, Veronica beccabunga, the syllable bec signifying a beck or brook; or perhaps the whole title comes from the Flemish beck pungen, mouth-smart, in allusion to the pungent taste of the plant.

“It is eaten,” says Gerard, “in salads, as watercresses are, and is good against that malum of such as dwell near the German seas, which we term the scurvie, or skirby, being used after the same manner that watercress and scurvy-grass is used, yet is it not of so great operation and virtue.” The leaves and stem are slightly acid and astringent, with a somewhat bitter taste, and frequently the former are mixed by sellers of water-cresses with their stock-in-trade.

A full dose of the juice of fresh Brooklime is an easy purge; and the plant has always been a popular Simple for scrofulous affections, especially of the skin. Chemically, this Water Pimpernel contains some tannin, and a special bitter principle; whilst, in common with most of the Cruciferous plants, it is endowed with a pungent volatile oil, and some sulphur. The bruised plant has been applied externally for healing ulcers, burns, whitlows, and for the mitigation of swollen piles.

The Bog Pimpernel (Anagallis tenella), is common in boggy ground, having erect rose-coloured leaves larger than those of the Poor Man’s Weather Glass.

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

Ingredients: Common Ivy

July 26th, 2008

The clergyman of fiction in the sixth chapter of Dickens’ memorable Pickwick, sings certain verses which he styles “indifferent” (the only verse, by the way, to be found in all that great writer’s stories), and which relate to the Ivy, beginning thus:–

“Oh! a dainty plant is the Ivy green,
That creepeth o’er ruins old.”

The well known common Ivy (Hedera helix), which clothes the trunks of trees and the walls of old buildings so picturesquely throughout Great Britain, gets its botanical name most probably from the Celtic word hoedra “a cord,” or from the Greek hedra “a seat,” because sitting close, and its vernacular title from iw “green,” which is also the parent of “yew.” In Latin it is termed abiga, easily corrupted to “iva”; and the Danes knew it as Winter-grunt, or Winter-green, to which appellation it may still lay a rightful claim, being so conspicuously green at the coldest times of the year when trees are of themselves bare and brown.

By the ancients the Ivy was dedicated to Bacchus, whose statues were crowned with a wreath of the plant, under the name Kissos, and whose worshippers decorated themselves with its garlands. The leaves have a peculiar faintly nauseous odour, whilst they are somewhat bitter, and rough of taste. The fresh berries are rather acid, and become bitter when dried. They are much eaten by our woodland birds in the spring.

A crown of Ivy was likewise given to the classic poets of distinction, and the Greek priests presented a wreath of the same to newly married persons. The custom of decorating houses and churches with Ivy at Christmastide, was forbidden by one of the early councils on account of its Pagan associations. Prynne wrote with reference to this decree:–

“At Christmas men do always Ivy get,
And in each corner of the house it set,
But why make use then of that Bacchus weed?
Because they purpose Bacchus-like to feed.”

The Ivy, though sending out innumerable small rootlets, like suckers, in every direction (which are really for support) is not a parasite. The plant is rooted in the soil and gets its sustenance therefrom.

Chemically, its medicinal principles depend on the special balsamic resin contained in the leaves and stems, as well as constituting the aromatic gum.

Ivy flowers have little or no scent, but their yield of nectar is particularly abundant.

When the bark of the main stems is wounded, a gum will exude, and may be collected: it possesses astringent and mildly aperient properties. This was at one time included as a medicine in the Edinburgh Pharmacopoeia, but it has now fallen out of such authoritative use. Its chemical principle is “hederin.” The gum is anti-spasmodic, and promotes the monthly flow of women.

An infusion of the berries will relieve rheumatism, and a decoction of the leaves applied externally will destroy vermin in the heads of children.

Fresh Ivy leaves will afford signal relief to corns when they shoot, and are painful. Good John Wesley, who dabbled in “domestic medicine,” and with much sagacity of observation, taught that having bathed the feet, and cut the corns, and having mashed some fresh Ivy leaves, these are to be applied: then by repeating the remedial process for fifteen days the corns will be cured.

During the Great Plague of London, Ivy berries were given with some success as possessing antiseptic virtues, and to induce perspiration, thus effecting a remission of the symptoms. Cups made from Ivywood have been employed from which to drink for disorders of the spleen, and for whooping cough, their method of use being to be kept refilled from time to time with water (cold or hot), which the patient is to constantly sip.

Ivy gum dissolved in vinegar is a good filling for a hollow tooth which is causing neuralgic toothache: and an infusion of the leaves made with cold water, will, after standing for twenty-four hours, relieve sore and smarting eyes if used rather frequently as a lotion. A decoction of the leaves and berries will mitigate a severe headache, such as that which follows hard drinking over night. And it may have come about that from some rude acquaintance with this fact the bacchanals adopted goblets carved out of Ivywood.

This plant is especially hardy, and suffers but little from the smoke and the vitiated air of a manufacturing town. Chemically, such medicinal principles as the Ivy possesses depend on the special balsamic resin contained in its leaves and stems; as well as on its particular gum. Bibulous old Bacchus was always represented in classic sculpture with a wreath of Ivy round his laughing brows; and it has been said that if the foreheads of those whose potations run deep were bound with frontlets of Ivy the nemesis of headache would be prevented thereby. But legendary lore teaches rather that the infant Bacchus was an object of vengeance to Juno, and that the nymphs of Nisa concealed him from her wrath, with trails of Ivy as he lay in his cradle.

At one time our taverns bore over their doors the sign of an Ivybush, to indicate the excellence of the liquor supplied within. From which fact arose the saying that “good wine needs no bush,” “Vinum vendibile hederâ non est opus.” And of this text Rosalind cleverly avails herself in As You Like It, “If it be true” says she, “that good wine needs no bush,” — “’tis true that a good play needs no epilogue.”

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

Ingredients: Barberry

February 13th, 2008

The Common Barberry (Berberis), which gives its name to a special order of plants, grows wild as a shrub in our English copses and hedges, particularly about Essex, being so called from Berberin, a pearl oyster, because the leaves are glossy like the inside of an oyster shell. It is remarkable for the light colour of its bark, which is yellow inside, and for its three-forked spines. Provincially it is also termed Pipperidge-bush, from “pepin,” a pip, and “rouge,” red, as descriptive of its small scarlet juiceless fruit, of which the active chemical principles, as well as of the bark, are “berberin” and “oxyacanthin.” The sparingly-produced juice of the berries is cooling and astringent. It was formerly held in high esteem by the Egyptians, when diluted as a drink, in pestilential fevers. The inner, yellow bark, which has been long believed to exercise a medicinal effect on the liver, because of its colour, is a true biliary purgative. An infusion of this bark, made with boiling water, is useful in jaundice from congestive liver, with furred tongue, lowness of spirits, and yellow complexion; also for swollen spleen from malarious exposure. A medicinal tincture (H.) is made of the root-branches and the root-bark, with spirit of wine; and if given three or four times a day in doses of five drops with one tablespoonful of cold water, it will admirably rouse the liver to healthy and more vigorous action. Conversely the tincture when of reduced strength will stay bilious diarrhoea. British farmers dislike the Barberry shrub because, when it grows in cornfields, the wheat near it is blighted, even to the distance of two or three hundred yards. This is because of a special fungus which is common to the Barberry, and being carried by the wind reproduces itself by its spores destructively on the ears of wheat, the AEcidium Berberidis, which generates Puccinia.

Clusius setteth it down as a wonderful secret which he had from a friend, “that if the yellow bark of Barberry be steeped in white wine for three hours, and be afterwards drank, it will purge one very marvellously.”

The berries upon old Barberry shrubs are often stoneless, and this is the best fruit for preserving or for making the jelly. They contain malic and citric acids; and it is from these berries that the delicious confitures d’epine vinette, for which Rouen is famous, are commonly prepared. And the same berries are chosen in England to furnish the kernel for a very nice sugar-plum. The syrup of Barberries will make with water an excellent astringent gargle for raw, irritable sore throat; likewise the jelly gives famous relief for this catarrhal affection. It is prepared by boiling the berries, when ripe, with an equal weight of sugar, and then straining. For an attack of colic because of gravel in the kidneys, five drops of the tincture on sugar every five minutes will promptly relieve, as likewise when albumen is found by analysis in the urine.

A noted modern nostrum belauds the virtues of the Barberry as specific against bile, heartburn, and the black jaundice, this being a remedy which was “discovered after infinite pains by one who had studied for thirty years by candle light for the good of his countrymen.” In Gerard’s time at the village of Ivor, near Colebrooke, most of the hedges consisted solely of Barberry bushes.

The following is a good old receipt for making Barberry jam:– Pick the fruit from the stalks, and bake it in an earthen pan; then press it through a sieve with a wooden spoon. Having mixed equal weights of the prepared fruit, and of powdered sugar, put these together in pots, and cover the mixture up, setting them in a dry place, and having sifted some powdered sugar over the top of each pot. Among the Italians the Barberry bears the name of Holy Thorn, because thought to have formed part of the crown of thorns made for our Saviour.

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

Ingredients: Apple

January 22nd, 2008

The term “Apple” was applied by the ancients indiscriminately to almost every kind of round fleshy fruit, such as the thornapple, the pineapple, and the loveapple. Paris gave to Venus a golden apple; Atalanta lost her classic race by staying to pick up an apple; the fruit of the Hesperides, guarded by a sleepless dragon, were golden apples; and through the same fruit befell “man’s first disobedience,” bringing “death into the world and all our woe” (concerning which the old Hebrew myth runs that the apple of Eden, as the first fermentable fruit known to mankind, was the beginner of intoxicating drinks, which led to the knowledge of good and evil).

Nothing need be said here about the Apple as an esculent; we have only to deal with this eminently English, and most serviceable fruit in its curative and remedial aspects. Chemically, the Apple is composed of vegetable fibre, albumen, sugar, gum, chlorophyll, malic acid, gallic acid, lime, and much water. Furthermore, German analysts say that the Apple contains a larger percentage of phosphorus than any other fruit or vegetable. This phosphorus is specially adapted for renewing the essential nervous “lethicin” of the brain and spinal cord. Old Scandinavian traditions represent the Apple as the food of the gods, who, when they felt themselves growing feeble and infirm, resorted to this fruit for renewing their powers of mind and body. Also the acids of the Apple are of signal use for men of sedentary habits, whose livers are sluggish of action; they help to eliminate from the body noxious matters, which, if retained, would make the brain heavy and dull, or produce jaundice, or skin eruptions, or other allied troubles. Some experience of this sort has led to the custom of our taking Apple sauce with roast pork, roast goose, and similar rich dishes. The malic acid of ripe Apples, raw or cooked, will neutralize the chalky matter engendered in gouty subjects, particularly from an excess of meat eating. A good, ripe, raw Apple is one of the easiest of vegetable substances for the stomach to deal with, the whole process of its digestion being completed in eighty-five minutes. Furthermore, a certain aromatic principle is possessed by the Apple, on which its peculiar flavour depends, this being a fragrant essential oil–the valerianate of amyl–in a small but appreciable quantity. It can be made artificially by the chemist, and used for imparting the flavour of apples to sweetmeats and confectionery. Gerard found that “the pulp of roasted Apples, mixed in a wine quart of faire water, and laboured together until it comes to be as Apples and ale–which we call lambswool (Celtic, ‘the day of Apple fruit’)–never faileth in certain diseases of the raines, which myself hath often proved, and gained thereby both crownes and credit.” Also, “The paring of an Apple cut somewhat thick, and the inside whereof is laid to hot, burning or running eyes at night when the party goes to bed, and is tied or bound to the same, doth help the trouble very speedily, and, contrary to expectation, an excellent secret.” A poultice made of rotten Apples is commonly used in Lincolnshire for the cure of weak, or rheumatic eyes. Likewise in the Hotel des Invalides, at Paris, an Apple poultice is employed for inflamed eyes, the apple being roasted, and its pulp applied over the eyes without any intervening substance To obviate constipation two or three Apples taken at night, whether baked or raw, are admirably efficient. It was said long ago: “They do easily and speedily pass through the belly, therefore they do mollify the belly,” and for this reason a modern maxim teaches that:–

“To eat an Apple going to bed
Will make the doctor beg his bread.”

There was concocted in Gerard’s day an ointment with the pulpe of Apples, and swine’s grease, and rosewater, which was used to beautifie the face, and to take away the roughnesse of the skin, and which was called in the shops “pomatum,” from the apples, “poma,” whereof it was prepared. As varieties of the Apple, mention is made in documents of the twelfth century, of the pearmain, and the costard, from the latter of which has come the word costardmonger, as at first a dealer in this fruit, and now applied to our costermonger. Caracioli, an Italian writer, declared that the only ripe fruit he met with in Britain was a baked apple. The juices of Apples are matured and lose their rawness by keeping the fruit a certain time. These juices, together with those of the pear, the peach, the plum, and other such fruits, if taken
without adding cane sugar, diminish acidity in the stomach rather than provoke it: they become converted chemically into alkaline carbonates, which correct sour fermentation. It is said in Devonshire that apples shrump up if picked when the moon is on the wane. From the bark of the stem and root of the apple, pear and plum trees, a glucoside is to be obtained in small crystals, which possesses the peculiar property of producing artificial diabetes in animals to whom it is given.

The juice of a sour Apple, if rubbed on warts first pared away to the quick, will serve to cure them. The wild “Scrab,” or Crab Apple, armed with thorns, grows in our fields and hedgerows, furnishing verjuice, which is rich in tannin, and a most useful application for old sprains. In the United States of America an infusion of apple tree bark is given with benefit during intermittent, remittent, and bilious fevers. We likewise prescribe Apple water as a grateful cooling drink for feverish patients. Francatelli directs that it should be made thus: “Slice up thinly three or four Apples without peeling them, and boil them in a very clean saucepan, with a quart of water and a little sugar until the slices of apple become soft; the apple water must then be strained through a piece of muslin, or clean rag, into a jug, and drank when cold.” If desired, a small piece of the yellow rind of a lemon may be added, just enough to give it a flavour.

About the year 1562 a certain rector of St. Ives, in Cornwall, the Rev. Mr. Attwell, practised physic with milk and Apples so successfully in many diseases, and so spread his reputation, that numerous sufferers came to him from all the neighbouring counties. In Germany ripe Apples are applied to warts for removing them, by reason of the earthy salts, particularly the magnesia, of the fruit. It is a fact, though not generally known, that magnesia, as occurring in ordinary Epsom salts, will cure obstinate warts, and the disposition thereto. Just a few grains, from three to six, not enough to produce any sensible medicinal effect, taken once a day for three or four weeks, will surely dispel a crop of warts. Old cheese ameliorates Apples if eaten when crude, probably by reason of the volatile alkali, or ammonia of the cheese neutralizing the acids of the Apple. Many persons make a practice of eating cheese with Apple pie. The “core” of an Apple is so named from the French word, coeur, “heart.”

The juice of the cultivated Apple made by fermentation into cider, which means literally “strong drink,” was pronounced by John Evelyn, in his Pomona, 1729, to be “in a word the most wholesome drink in Europe, as specially sovereign against the scorbute, the stone, spleen, and what not.” This beverage contains alcohol (on the average a little over five per cent.), gum, sugar, mineral matters, and several acids, among which the malic predominates. As an habitual drink, if sweet, it is apt to provoke acid fermentation with a gouty subject, and to develop rheumatism. Nevertheless, Dr. Nash, of Worcester, attributed to cider great virtues in leading to longevity; and a Herefordshire vicar bears witness to its superlative merits thus:–

“All the Gallic wines are not so boon
As hearty cider;–that strong son of wood
In fullest tides refines and purges blood;
Becomes a known Bethesda, whence arise
Full certain cures for spit tall maladies:
Death slowly can the citadel invade;
A draught of this bedulls his scythe, and spade.”

Medical testimony goes to show that in countries where cider–not of the sweet sort–is the common beverage, stone, or calculus, is unknown; and a series of enquiries among the doctors of Normandy, a great Apple country, where cider is the principal, if not the sole drink, brought to light the fact that not a single case had been met with there in forty years. Cider Apples were introduced by the Normans; and the beverage began to be brewed in 1284. The Hereford orchards were first planted “tempore” Charles I.

A chance case of stone in the bladder if admitted into a Devonshire or a Herefordshire Hospital, is regarded by the surgeons there as a sort of professional curiosity, probably imported from a distance. So that it may be fairly surmised that the habitual use of natural unsweetened cider keeps held in solution materials which are otherwise liable to be separated in a solid form by the kidneys.

Pippins are apples which have been raised from pips; a codling is an apple which requires to be “coddled,” stewed, or lightly boiled, being yet sour and unfit for eating whilst raw. The John Apple, or Apple John, ripens on St. John’s Day, December 27th. It keeps sound for two years, but becomes very shrunken. Sir John Falstaff says (Henry IV., iii. 3) “Withered like an old Apple John.” The squab pie, famous in Cornwall, contains apples and onions allied with mutton.

“Of wheaten walls erect your paste:
Let the round mass extend its breast;
Next slice your apples picked so fresh;
Let the fat sheep supply its flesh:
Then add an onion’s pungent juice–
A sprinkling–be not too profuse!
Well mixt, these nice ingredients–sure!
May gratify an epicure.”

In America, “Apple Slump” is a pie consisting of apples, molasses, and bread crumbs baked in a tin pan. This is known to New Englanders as “Pan Dowdy.” An agreeable bread was at one time made by an ingenious Frenchman which consisted of one third of apples boiled, and two-thirds of wheaten flour.

It was through the falling of an apple in the garden of Mrs. Conduitt at Woolthorpe, near Grantham, Sir Isaac Newton was led to discover the great law of gravitation which regulates the whole universe. Again, it was an apple the patriot William Tell shot from the head of his own bright boy with one arrow, whilst reserving a second for the heart of a tyrant. Dr. Prior says the word Apple took its origin from the Sanskrit, Ap,–“water,” and Phal,–“fruit,” meaning “water fruit,” or “juice fruit”; and with this the Latin name Pomum–from Poto, “to drink”–precisely agrees; if which be so, our apple must have come originally from the East long ages back.

The term “Apple-pie order” is derived from the French phrase, à plis, “in plaits,” folded in regular plaits; or, perhaps, from cap à pied, “armed from head to foot,” in perfect order. Likewise the “Apple-pie bed” is so called from the French à plis, or it may be from the Apple turnover of Devon and Cornwall, as made with the paste turned over on itself.

The botanical name of an apple tree is Pyrus Malus, of which schoolboys are wont to make ingenious uses by playing on the latter word. Malo, I had rather be; Malo, in an Apple tree; Malo, than a wicked man; Malo, in adversity. Or, again, Mea mater mala est sus, which bears the easy translation, “My mother is a wicked old sow”; but the intentional reading of which signifies “Run, mother! the sow is eating the apples.” The term “Adam’s Apple,” which is applied to the most prominent part of a person’s throat in front is based on the superstition that a piece of the forbidden fruit stuck in Adam’s throat, and caused this lump to remain.

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

The Lady Thornburgh’s Syrup of Elders

January 12th, 2008

Take Elder-berries when they be red, bruise them in a stone Mortar, strain the juice, and boil it to a consumption of almost half, scum it very clear, take it off the fire whilest it is hot, put in sugar to the thickness of a syrup; put it no more on the fire, when it is cold, put it into Glasses, not filling them to the top, for it will work like Beer.

This cleanseth the stomach and spleen, and taketh away all obstructions of the Liver, by taking the quantity of a spoonful in a morning, and fasting a short time after it.

Source: A Queen’s Delight: Or, The Art of Preserving, Conserving and Candying, Nathaniel Brooke