Herbs & Oils
~ B ~
basilicum) The warm, spicy taste of this popular herb's leaf
combines well with garlic, tomatoes, eggplant, and Italian dishes;
Basil flavors vinegar, pesto sauce, and oil. The essential oil
flavors condiments and liqueurs, and scents soaps and perfumes.
Inhaling the essential oil refreshes the mind and stimulates a
sense of smell dulled by viral infection. The infusion relieves gas
and stomach pains. Reputadly abortive, it can help expel the
placenta. A warming herb, it is used for colds and flu,
constipation, vomiting, headaches, and menstrual cramps. Steep two
teaspoons per cup of water for twenty minutes; take up to one and a
half cups per day.
Parts Used: Leaf and
Magical Uses: Burn basil to
exorcise negativity from the home. To do a really thorough
cleansing and protection of yourself and your home, also sprinkle a
little basil in each corner of each room in the house and add to
your bathwater. Basil is used to mend lovers' quarrels and brings
good luck to a new home. The scent of basil causes sympathy between
two people and so is worn to avoid major clashes. Basil Use it in
rites of exorcism and in the ritual bath. Sprinkle to powder over
the ara of your heart to promote fidelity. The scent brings
happiness to the home and will protect you in crowds.
Bronchitis; Fatigue; Colds; Loss of Concentration; Migraine; Gout;
Aches and Pains; Insect bites; Insect Repellent; Coughs; Migraine;
Insomnia; Anxiety; Depression; Infectious Disease. Key Qualities:
Restorative; Tonic; Antidepressant; Refreshing; Uplifting;
Fortifying; Purifying; Clearing; Warming; Cephalic; Stupefying in
BAY LAUREL: (Laurus
nobilis) The culinary leaves may be slightly narcotic, and aid
digestion when added to Bouquet garni, marinades, pâte,
soups and stews. The wood is used to give an aromatic tang to
smoked foods, and oil of Bay, from the fruit, flavors some
liqueurs. A leaf decoction added to bath water will relieve aching
limbs, and diluted leaf essential oil can treat sprains and
rheumatic joints but may irritate the skin. The leaf and berry are
used in salves for itching, sprains, bruises, skin irritations, and
rheumatic pain. The fruit and leaf are simmered until soft and made
into a poultice with honey for chest colds. Bay leaf and berry tea
makes a bath additive that helps the bladder, bowel, and female
reproductive organs. Use two tablespoons per cup and steep for
forty-five minutes; add to bath water.
Parts Used: Leaf and
Magical Uses: Bay leaves
were used by the Delphic priestesses. The incense and the leaf are
said to produce a phrophetic trance. Burn for psychic powers,
purification, wish magic, exorcism, healing/health, protection,
divination, visions, clairvoyance, energy, power, strength,
inspiration, wisdom, meditation, defense, creative word. Put the
leaves under your pillow to give inspiration and visions. An herb
of the sun, bay brings the light of summer into the darkest time of
the year. Carry the leaf or place in the home to ward off illness
Aromatherapy Uses: Sprains;
Colds; Flu; Insomnia; Rheumatism.
benzoin) Benzoin is a shrubby tree with gray bark, simple
leaves, and short racemes of small, fragrant, bell-shaped white
flowers. The scented yellowish resin is thought to be created in
response to injury, so it is tapped by making hatchet incisions in
the trunk. The resin, called benzoin or gum benjamin, is used as
incense, a fixative in perfumes, and is added to cosmetics to
prevent fats turning rancid. The tree resin is used externally,
diluted with water, as an antiseptic skin wash. Taken internally,
it relieves intestinal gas and is antiseptic to the urinary tract.
Take ten to twenty drops in water or tea four times a day. Put it
in vaporizers or use it an an inhalant for bronchitis, and
laryngitis. A simple method is to place it, along with a few drops
of the oils of peppermint and eucalyptus, in a bowl of boiling hot
water. Put your face as close to the bowl as you can and cover your
head, and the bowl, with a towel. Inhale the steam. Tincture of
bensoin is often added to salves as a preservative; (one ound of
benzoin to about one and a half quarts of salve.) Benzoin is used
in Aromatherapy but may cause allergic reactions.
Magical Uses: An herb of
purification, burned in incense to sanctify an area. The scent is
also used to attract business when combined with basil, peony or
cinnamon. Dilute the essential oil and rub onto the body to
increase your personal power. It awakens the conscious mind as
Burn to purify, protect, for prosperity,
for astral projection or to increase mental powers.
Aromatherapy Uses: Asthma;
Bronchitis; Laryngitis; Chills; Flu; Colic; Coughs; Itching;
Arthritis; Colds; As a Sedative. Benzoin has been found to help
retain skin elasticity. It is valuable in treating dry, cracked
skin and is believed to be anti-depressant. Key Qualities: Warming;
Energizing; Uplifting; Comforitn; Purifying; Elevating; Stimulant;
bergamia) Bergamot has aromatic flowers and fruits. The thin,
smooth peel yields Bergamot oil for "true" eau de Cologne and Earl
Parts Used: Flower and
Magical Uses: Use for money
and protective rituals. Add the distilled bouquet to your bathwater
for these purposes. Synthesized versions of the oil abound but
should not be used.
Aromatherapy Uses: Boils;
Cold Sores; Insect Bites; Spots; Varicose Ulcers; Colds; Flu;
Fevers; Acne, Tension, Wounds; Coughs; Stress; as an
Antidepressant; as an Insect Repellent; Depression; Cystitis;
Infectious Diseases; Tonsilitis; Halitosis, Flatulence; Loss of
appetite. Key Qualities: Reviving; Refreshing; Calming; Soothing;
Uplifitin; Sedative; Regulating; balancing;
BERGAMOT MINT: (Mentha x
piperita 'citrata') This herb is sometimes confused with the
Citrus of the same name. Bee Balm is also called bergamot at times.
This is a bairless mint with thin smooth leaves and purple runners,
it has purplish flowers. In full sun it develops a strong citrus
scent and the whole plant is tinged purple. In shade the color is
more coppery. Use it as an aromatic herb in potpourri or to make a
honey-sweetened drink. The flavor is not so good for cooking. Also
called Eau De Cologne Mint.
Parts Used: Leaf and
Magical Uses: The leaves of
bergamot mint are slipped into wallets and purses to attract money.
Fresh leaves are also rubbed onto money before spending it to
ensure it's return. Also used in "success" rituals and
officonalis or Stachys betonica or Betonica officionalis) Also
known as Bishopwort, Wood Betony or Purple Betony. Wood betony has
fairly pungent, scalloped, hairy leaves and spikes of pale magenta
summer flowers. A Druid sacred herb. The arial parts provide a tea
substitute and are added to tonics and herbal cigarettes. An
infusion is mildly sedative and cleansing and is a nerve and
circulation tonic for migraine, anxiety, indigestion, drunkenness,
and difficult labor. Wood Betony was an Anglo-Saxon protective
Parts Used: Leaf, flower,
stem and root
Magical Uses: This was a
very powerful herb to the Druids as it has the power to expel evil
spirits, nightmares and despair. It was burned at Midsummer
Solstice for purification and protection. Sprinkle around or near
al doors and windows to form a protective barrier. If troubled by
nightmares fill a small cloth pillow and place it under your
pillow. Betony is added to purification and protection mixtures and
BIRCH: (Betula alba)
A Druid sacred tree. Also known as Lady of the Woods, Paper Birch
or White Birch. The antibacterial leaves give a diuretic tea used
to treat gout and rheumatism, to dissolve kidney and bladder tones
and to lower cholesterol. Steep two teaspons of leaf per cup of
water for twenty minutes. The dose is one to one a half cups over a
day. Birch twigs and leaves are simmered and added to the bath for
itchy skin conditions and falling hair. Taken before bed, the tea
is sedative. The young shoots and leaves make a tonic laxitive. The
inner bark is simmered and used in fevers. Twigs and bark are
simmered using two teaspoons of plant per cup of water for twenty
minutes. The dose is one-fourth cup four times a day. The twigs of
B. lutea (Yellow birch) and B. lenta (black birch)
are gathered in spring and simmered gently for twenty minutes to
make a delicious beverage. Please note: the leaves must be used
fresh, and not after Midsummer, as they will then contain natural
insecticides. The white birch has no real flavor and does not make
a good beverage tea. The bark and bud oil are used in medicated
Parts Used: Leaf, bark and
Magical Uses: The
traditional broom of witches is made of birch twigs. Protection,
purification, wards negativity, love, new beginnings, changes.
Birch is a feminine tree and an embodiment of the Great Mother.
Cradles are often made of her wood as a protection for the
Aromatherapy Uses: Gout;
Rheumatism; Eczema; Ulcers.
villosus) A Blackberry leaf decoction is a blood and skin
tonic, and a poultice treats eczema. The juicy purple-black fruit
are rich in fiber and Vitamin C. The root is a classic remedy for
diarrhea and is reputed to clean the kidneys and urinary tract of
stones and gravel. Simmer two teaspoons for the root per cup of
water for twenty minutes, and take a quarter cup four times a day.
The buds and leaves are used fresh in poultices for wounds, burns,
mouth sores, and sore throats. Chew the leaves or make a poultice.
The berries are slightly binding (as is blackberry wine) and are
useful in diarrhea, as are the leaves.
Parts Used: Root, leaf, bud,
Magical Uses: Sacred to
Brighid, the leaves and berries are used to attract wealth or
healing. This is a Goddess herb, belonging to the planetary spere
of Venus. Protection, health, prosperity, pie for Lughnassadh, to
commemorate the harvest.
spinosa)Also know as Sloe, Mother of the Wood, or Wishing
Thorn. This tree has small, serrated, oval leaves on dark, thorny
branches with purple blooms and black fruit. The leaves yield a
mouthwash. The astringent fruits make Sloe gin. Traditionally, the
wood was used to make clubs.
Parts Used: Leaf, twig,
Magical Uses: Returns evil
to sender. The thorns are used for sticking into black figure
candles or poppets of enemies that will not leave you alone. Hung
over doorways or carried, the sloe wards off evil and calamity,
banishes demons and negative vibrations.
officionalis) The flowers decorate salads and cakes and are
frozen in ice cubes. The cooling, mineral-rich leaves flavor
drinks, dips, and salt-free diets. A leaf and flower infusion is an
adrenaline tonic taken for stress, depression, or cortisone and
steroid treatment. It reduces fevers, dry coughs, and dry skin
rashes. Pressed seed oil can be used like Evening Primrose for
menstrual and irritable bowel problems, eczema, blood pressure,
arthritis and hangovers.
Parts Used: Flower, leaf,
stem and seeds
Magical Uses: Tea aids
psychic power. Carry the leaves for protection. Carry the fresh
blossoms to strengthen your courage. Use in money and business
BRIAR ROSE: (Rosa
rubiginosa) Also known as Wild Rose, Sweet Briar, Hop Fruit, or
Briar. Regular scented roses may be substituted. See also
Parts Used: Flower and
Magical Uses: For
clairvoyant dreams, steep two teaspoons fresh or dried rose petals
in one cup of boiling water. Cover and let stand five minutes.
Drink at bedtime. Burn the petals with love incense to strengthen
love spells. Rose essential oil is used in formulas designed to
attract love, confer peace, stimulate sexual desires and enhance
beauty. Healing; Creativity; Love Luck; Prophetic Dreams;
Protection; Psychic Awareness; Divination; Clairvoyance; Anointing;
Aromatherapy Uses: Anxiety;
Depression; Circulatory Problems; menopausal Problems; as an
Antiseptic and Tonic; Menstrual Disorders; Stress; Tension; as a
scoparius syn. Cytisus scoparius and Sarothamnus
scoparious) Also known as Scotch Broom, and Irish broom. A
Druid Sacred Tree, it is a many-branched erect shrub with simple or
trifoliate leaves, and golden "sweet-pea" flowers. A flowering
sprig of Broom was a heraldic battle device of Henry II of England
who is said to have taken the family name Plantagenet from this
medieval "planta genista".
Flowering broom tips are gathered in
spring (before Midsummer) and are later used fresh or dry. The
seeds are as useful as the tops. Both are soluble in water and
alchohol. The infusion is used to tread cardiac edema. Simmer one
teaspoon of the herb or seeds per cup of water for twenty minutes.
The dose is one-half cup a day in one-fourth cup doses. Broom is
combined with dandelion root, uva ursi, and juniper berries to
treat bladder and kidney ailments. Take one part broom, one half
oart uva ursi, and one half part dandelion root. Simmer until the
liquid is reduced to half the original quantity. Add one-half part
juniper berry and cool. A pinch of cayenne is sprinkled into each
one-eighth cup dose. Caution: Acute kidney problems
contraindicate this herb. Broom is a heart tonic. Use one
teaspoon of the herb per cup of water, and do not exceed more
than one-half cup per day. One to ten drops of tincture may be
given as a dose.
Parts Used: Flowering twig
Magical Uses: Broom flowers
bound with colored ribbons are carried at weddings. Couples may
choose to "jump the broom" as they make their transition to a new
station of life. Broom can be substituted for furze(gorse) at
Spring Equinox. The Irish called it the "Physician's Power" because
of its diuretic shoots. Sweep your outside ritual areas with it to
purify and protect. Burning the blooms and shoots calms the wind.
Hang indoors for protection and purification. Toss in the air or
bury it to raise or calm winds.
Melissa officinalis (LINN.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Sweet Balm. Lemon Balm.
---Habitat---A native of South Europe, especially in
mountainous situations, but is naturalized in the south of England,
and was introduced into our gardens at a very early
root-stock is short, the stem square and branching, grows 1 to 2
feet high, and has at each joint pairs of broadly ovate or
heart-shaped, crenate or toothed leaves which emit a fragrant lemon
odour when bruised. They also have a distinct lemon taste. The
flowers, white or yellowish, are in loose, small bunches from the
axils of the leaves and bloom from June to October. The plant dies
down in winter, but the root is perennial.
Melissa is widely diffused, having representatives in Europe,
Middle Asia and North America. The name is from the Greek word
signifying 'bee,' indicative of the attraction the flowers have for
those insects, on account of the honey they produce.
word Balm is an abbreviation of Balsam, the chief of sweet-smelling
oils. It is so called from its honeyed sweetness It was highly
esteemed by Paracelsus, who believed it would completely revivify a
man. It was formerly esteemed of great use in all complaints
supposed to proceed from a disordered state of the nervous system.
The London Dispensary (1696) says: 'An essence of Balm, given in
Canary wine, every morning will renew youth, strengthen the brain,
relieve languishing nature and prevent baldness.' John Evelyn
wrote: 'Balm is sovereign for the brain, strengthening the memory
and powerfully chasing away melancholy.' Balm steeped in wine we
are told again, 'comforts the heart and driveth away melancholy and
sadness.' Formerly a spirit of Balm, combined with lemon-peel,
nutmeg and angelica root, enjoyed a great reputation under the name
of Carmelite water, being deemed highly useful against nervous
headache and neuralgic affections.
virtues were formerly ascribed to this plant. Gerard says: 'It is
profitably planted where bees are kept. The hives of bees being
rubbed with the leaves of bawme, causeth the bees to keep together,
and causeth others to come with them.' And again quoting Pliny,
'When they are strayed away, they do find their way home by it.'
Pliny says: 'It is of so great virtue that though it be but tied to
his sword that hath given the wound it stauncheth the blood.'
Gerard also tells us: 'The juice of Balm glueth together greene
wounds,' and gives the opinion of Pliny and Dioscorides that 'Balm,
being leaves steeped in wine, and the wine drunk, and the leaves
applied externally, were considered to be a certain cure for the
bites of venomous beasts and the stings of scorpions. It is now
recognized as a scientific fact that the balsamic oils of aromatic
plants make excellent surgical dressings: they give off ozone and
thus exercise anti-putrescent effects. Being chemical hydrocarbons,
they contain so little oxygen that in wounds dressed with the fixed
balsamic herbal oils, the atomic germs of disease are starved out,
and the resinous parts of these balsamic oils, as they dry upon the
sore or wound, seal it up and effectually exclude all noxious
---Cultivation---Balm grows freely in any soil and can be
propagated by seeds, cuttings or division of roots in spring or
autumn. If in autumn, preferably not later than October, so that
the offsets may be established before the frosts come on. The roots
may be divided into small pieces, with three or four buds to each,
and planted 2 feet apart in ordinary garden soil. The only culture
required is to keep them clean from weeds and to cut off the
decayed stalks in autumn, and then to stir the ground between the
and Uses---Carminative, diaphoretic and febrifuge. It induces a
mild perspiration and makes a pleasant and cooling tea for feverish
patients in cases of catarrh and influenza. To make the tea, pour 1
pint of boiling water upon 1 oz. of herb, infuse 15 minutes, allow
to cool, then strain and drink freely. If sugar and a little
lemonpeel or juice be added it makes a refreshing summer
Balm is a
useful herb, either alone or in combination with others. It is
excellent in colds attended with fever, as it promotes perspiration
salt, it was formerly applied for the purpose of taking away wens,
and had the reputation of cleansing sores and easing the pains of
Hussey, of Sydenham, who lived to the age of 116, breakfasted for
fifty years on Balm tea sweetened with honey, and herb teas were
the usual breakfasts of Llewelyn Prince of Glamorgan, who died in
his 108th year. Carmelite water, of which Balm was the chief
ingredient, was drunk daily by the Emperor Charles V.
oil of Balm is not a pure distillate, but is probably oil of Lemon
distilled over Balm. The oil is used in perfumery.
Balm is frequently used as one of the
ingredients of pot-pourri. Mrs. Bardswell, in The Herb Garden,
mentions Balm as one of the bushy herbs that are invaluable for the
permanence of their leaf-odours, which,
'though ready when sought, do not force
themselves upon us, but have to be coaxed out by touching, bruising
or pressing. Balm with its delicious lemon scent, is by common
consent one of the most sweetly smelling of all the herbs in the
garden. Balm-wine was made of it and a tea which is good for
feverish colds. The fresh leaves make better tea than the
---Refreshing Drink in Fever---
sprigs of Balm, and a little woodsorrel, into a stone-jug, having
first washed and dried them; peel thin a small lemon, and clear
from the white; slice it and put a bit of peel in, then pour in 3
pints of boiling water, sweeten and cover it close.'
Cup. One bottle of claret, one pint bottle of German Seltzer-water,
a small bunch of Balm, ditto of burrage, one orange cut in slices,
half a cucumber sliced thick, a liqueurglass of Cognac, and one
ounce of bruised sugar-candy.
Place these ingredients in a covered jug well immersed in rough
ice, stir all together with a silver spoon, and when the cup has
been iced for about an hour, strain or decanter it off free from
the herbs, etc.' (Francatelli's Cook's Guide.)
A bunch of
Balm improves nearly all cups.
See Balsam of Gilead.
Chelone Glabra (LINN.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Chelone. Snake-head. Turtle-head. Turtle-bloom.
Shellflower. Salt-rheum Weed. Bitter Herb. Chelone Obliqua. Glatte.
White Chelone. The Hummingbird Tree.
Used---The whole fresh herb.
---Habitat---Eastern United States and Canada.
---Description---This erect little plant, from 2 to 4 feet
high, grows sparingly on the margins of swamps, wet woods, and
rivers. It is a perennial, smooth herb, bearing opposite, oblong
leaves, and short, dense, terminal spikes of two-lipped, white or
purplish, cream or rose flowers, the lower lip bearded in the
throat and the heart-shaped anthers and filaments woolly. The
leaves have a slight somewhat tea-like odour and a markedly bitter
taste. They should be planted in pots to prevent the roots from
creeping too far.
of the genus Chelone comes from the Greek word meaning a tortoise,
from the resemblance of the corolla to a tortoise-head. The whole,
fresh plant is chopped, pounded to a pulp, and weighed, and a
tincture is prepared with alcohol. The decoction is made with 2 oz.
of the fresh herb to a pint.
---Constituents---The bitter leaves communicate their
properties to both water and alcohol. Chelonin is an eclectic
medicine prepared from Chelone, and is a brown, bitter powder given
as a tonic laxative.
and Uses---The leaves have anti-bilious, anthelmintic, tonic and
detergent properties, with a peculiar action on the liver, and are
used largely in consumption, dyspepsia, debility and jaundice, in
diseases of the liver, and for worms in children for which the
powder or decoction may be used internally or in injection. As an
ointment it is recommended for inflamed tumours, irritable ulcers,
inflamed breasts, piles, etc.
it has been a favourite tonic, laxative and purgative among the
aborigines of North America, though their doses render its tonic
decoction, 1 to 2 fluid ounces. Of fluid extract, 1/2 to 1 drachm.
Of the powder, 1 drachm. Of the tincture, 1 to 2 fluid drachms. Of
Chelonin, 1 to 2 grains.
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Balsamum Meccae var. Judiacum. Balsamum
Gileadense. Baume de la Mecque. Balsamodendrum Opobalsamum.
Balessan. Bechan. Balsam Tree. Amyris Gileadensis. Amyris
Opobalsamum. Balsumodendron Gileadensis. Protium Gileadense.
Used---The resinous juice.
---Habitat---The countries on both sides of the Red
---Description---This small tree, the source of the genuine
Balm of Gilead around which so many mystical associations have
gathered stands from 10 to 12 feet high, with wandlike, spreading
branches. The bark is of a rich brown colour, the leaves,
trifoliate, are small and scanty, the flowers unisexual small, and
reddish in colour, while the seeds are solitary, yellow, and
grooved down one side. It is both rare, and difficult to rear, and
is so much valued by the Turks that its importation is prohibited.
They have grown the trees in guarded gardens at Matarie, near
Cairo, from the days of Prosper Alpin, who wrote the Dialogue of
Balm, and the balsam is valued as a cosmetic by the royal ladies.
In the Bible, and in the works of Bruce Theophrastes, Galen, and
Dioscorides, it is lauded.
Baulm or Bawm, contracted from Balsam, may be derived from the
Hebrew bot smin, 'chief of oils,' or bâsâm, 'balm,' and besem, 'a
sweet smell.' Opobalsamum is used by Dioscorides to mean 'the juice
flowing from the balsam-tree.'
states that the tree was first brought to Rome by the generals of
Vespasian, while Josephus relates that it was taken from Arabia to
Judea by the Queen of Sheba as a present to Solomon. There, being
cultivated for its juice, particularly on Mount Gilead, it acquired
its popular name. Later, it was called Opobalsamum, its dried twigs
Xylobalsamum, and its dried fruit Carpobalsamum.
rarity, combined with the magic of its name, have caused the latter
to be adopted for several other species.
Abd-Allatif, a Damascan physician of the twelfth century, noted
that it had two barks the outer reddish and thin, the inner green
and thick, and a very aromatic odour.
exudes spontaneously during the heat of summer, in resinous drops,
the process being helped by incisions in the bark. The more humid
the air, the greater the quantity collected. When the oil is
separated, it is prepared with great secrecy, and taken to the
stores of the ruler, where it is carefully guarded. The quantity of
oil obtained is roughly one-tenth the amount of juice. It is
probable that an inferior kind of oil is obtained after boiling the
leaves and wood with water.
is found in small pieces, several kinds being known commercially,
but it rapidly loses its odour.
is reddish grey, and the size of a small pea, with an agreeable and
and America it is so seldom found in a pure state that its use is
entirely discontinued .
---Constituents---The liquid balm is turbid whitish, thick,
grey and odorous, and becomes solid by exposure. It contains a
resin soluble in alcohol, and a principle resembling
and Uses---It has been used in diseases of the urinary tracts, but
is said to possess no medicinal properties not found in other
Balsamea, Balm of Gilead Fir, orAmerican Silver Fir. The name is
applied to this Canadian species, in Europe, because of the
supposed resemblance of its product, an oleoresinous fluid obtained
from punctured blisters in the bark, which is really a true
turpentine, known as Canada Balsam or Canada Turpentine. Its odour
distinguishes it from Strassburg Turpentine, which is sometimes
substituted for it. It is diuretic, and stimulates mucous tissues
in small doses. In large doses it is purgative, and may cause
Candicans is called Balm of Gilead in America. The buds are used,
and called Balm of Gilead Buds, as are those of P. Nigra and P.
balsamifera, the product of the last being imported into Europe
under the name of Tacomahaca. They are covered with a fragrant,
resinous matter, which may be separated in boiling water, the odour
being like incense, and the taste bitter and rather unpleasant.
They are stimulant, tonic, diuretic, and antiscorbutic. A tincture
of them is useful for complaints of the chest, stomach, and
kidneys, and for rheumatism and scurvy. With lard or oil they are
useful as an external application in bruises, swellings, and some
cutaneous diseases. In ointments they are a little inferior to
paraffin as a preventive of rancidity.
of P. balsamifera is tonic and cathartic.
solid extract, 5 to 10 grains. Of tincture, 1 to 4 fluid drachms.
Of fluid extract, 1 to 2 drachms. Of extract of the bark, 5 to 15
Dracocephalum Canariense or Cedronella Triphylla is known as a
garden plant something like Salvia, and called Balm of Gilead for
no better reason than that its leaves are fragrant. It is a native
of America and the Canaries.
Myroxylon Pereiræ (KLOTSCH)
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Toluifera Pereira. Myrosperum
---Habitat---Central America in the forests of San
large and beautiful tree with a valuable wood like mahogany, and a
straight smooth trunk; the last is coarse grey, compact, heavy
granulated and a pale straw colour, containing a resin which
changes from citron to dark brown; smell and taste balsamic and
aromatic. Leaves alternately, abruptly pinnate, leaflets two pairs
mostly opposite, ovate, lanceolate with the end blunt emarginate;
every part of the tree including the leaves abounds in a resinous
juice. The mesocarp of the fruit is fibrous, and the balsamic juice
which is abundant is contained in two distinct receptacles, one on
each side. The beans contain Coumarin, the husks an extremely acrid
bitter resin, and a volatile oil; a gum resin, quite distinct from
the proper balsam, exudes from the trunk of the tree and contains
gum resin and a volatile oil; the tree commences to be productive
after five or six years, and continues to yield for thirty years;
the flower has a fragrance which can be smelt a hundred yards
process of extraction produces three grades of balsam; the title
'Balsam of Peru' is derived from the fact of its being shipped from
Peru. There are several fictitious Peruvian balsams found in
commerce, but they do not contain the same properties. A white
balsam is made from the fruit of Myroxylon Peruviatta or Pereiræ,
which has a peculiar resinous body and none of the chemical
constituents of Balsam of Peru; this is termed Myroxocarpin.
Another substance obtained from the same tree and much used in
Central America is termed Balsamito, it is an alcoholic extract of
the young fruit. This is used as a stimulant, diuretic,
anthelmintic and external application to gangrenous ulcers and to
remove freckles. Balsam of Peru is warm and aromatic, much hotter
and more stimulating than Balsam of Copaiba and is used for similar
complaints. It is specially useful for rheumatic pains and chronic
colourless, aromatic, oily liquid, termed cinnamein, dark resin
peruviol, small quantity of vanillin and cinnamic
and Uses---Stimulant, expectorant, parasiticide. Used in scabies
and skin diseases; it destroys the itch acarus and its eggs, and is
much to be preferred to sulphur ointment, also of value in prurigo,
pruritis and in later stages of acute eczema. It is a good
antiseptic expectorant and a stimulant to the heart, increasing
blood pressure; its action resembles benzoic acid. It is applied
externally to sore nipples and discharges from the ear. Given
internally, it lessens mucous secretions, and is of value in
bronchorrhoea gleet, leucorrhoea and chronic bronchitis, and
asthma. It is also used in soap manufacturing, for its fragrance,
and because it makes a soft creamy lather, useful for chapped
hands. Balsam of Peru can be applied alone or as an ointment made
by melting it with an equal weight of tallow.
---Dose---10 to 30
drops, best given in syrup, with the yolk of an egg added, or with
---Adulterations---Castor oil, Copaiba, Canada turpentine,
The pod is
used in the island as a carminative, and externally in the form of
a tincture. As a lotion for rheumatic pains, the stems yield a
is used in powder and in decoction for wounds and ulcers, and the
dried concrete juice of the trunk of the tree IS very similar to
Balsam of Peru.
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Balsamum Tolutanum. Tolutanischer Balsam.
is still some obscurity about the origin of the different South
American balsam-yielding trees. The appearance of the above variety
is said to differ but slightly from the Peruvian, but the method of
gathering the balsam is quite different. V-shaped cuts are made in
the tree, and the liquid is received into calabash cups placed at
an angle; these are emptied into flasks of raw hide, conveyed by
donkeys to the depôts, and finally shipped in tin or earthen
vessels, which occasionally contain large pieces of red brick. On
arrival the balsam is soft and sticky, but exposure to the air
makes it hard and brittle, more like resin, with a crystalline
appearance. In colour it is pale, yellowish red or brown. It has a
sweet, aromatic, resinous taste - becoming soft again when chewed -
with an odour resembling vanilla or benzoin, especially fragrant
when the balsam is burned, but completely changing and resembling
the clove-pink if dissolved in a minute portion of liquor
balsam solidifies, its odour becomes more feeble, but the quantity
of cinnamic acid increases, and it thus becomes valuable to
perfumers as a fixative, an ounce added to a pound of volatile
perfume making it much more permanent.
Balsam is frequently adulterated with turpentines, styrax,
colophony, etc., and may be tested by heating it in sulphuric acid.
If pure, it will yield a cherry-red liquid, and will dissolve
without any appearance of sulphurous acid.
---Constituents---About 80 per cent amorphous resin, with
cinnamic acid, a volatile oil, and a little vanillin, benzyl
benzoate and benzyl cinnamate. It is freely soluble in chloroform,
glacial acetic acid, acetone, ether, alcohol and liquor potassa,
scarcely soluble in petroleum-benzine and benzol.
distinguish it from Balsam of Peru it can be tested with sulphuric
acid and water, yielding a grey mass instead of the lovely violet
colour of the genuine Peruvian Balsam.
and Uses---Stimulant and expectorant, much used as the basis of
cough mixtures. The vapour from the balsam dissolved in ether when
inhaled, is beneficial in chronic catarrh and other noninflammatory
chest complaints. The best form is that of an emulsion, made by
titurating the balsam with mucilage and loaf sugar, and adding
of Tolu, 3 of Almond oil, 4 of gum-arabic, and 16 of Rose-water,
make an excellent liniment for excoriated nipples.
---Preparations---Tincture, B.P. and U.S.P., 1/2 to 1 drachm.
Syrup, B.P. and U.S.P., 1/2 to 1 drachm. Lozenges, incense and
pastilles are also prepared.
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Indian Posy. Sweet-scented Life Everlasting. Old
Field Balsam. Gnaphalium Obtusifolium or Blunt-leaved Everlasting.
Gnaphalium Connoideum. Fragrant Everlasting. None-so-Pretty.
Catsfoot. Silver Leaf.
Used---Herb, leaves, flowers.
---Habitat---Virginia, Pennsylvania and New
---Description---Leaves lanceolate; stalk tomentose, panicled;
flowers tubular, yellow, glomerate, conical, terminating; stems
single, 9 inches high. Corollas yellow, flowering July to August.
Leaves have a pleasant aromatic smell and an aromatic, slightly
bitter, astringent, agreeable taste. The Antennaria Margaritacea or
Gnaphalium Margaritacea, or Pearl-flowered Life Everlasting, has
the same properties as White Balsam.
and Uses---Astringent. Beneficial for ulcerations of the throat and
mouth; warm infusions used to produce diaphoresis; also of service
in quinsy, pulmonary complaints, leucorrhoea. Can be used
internally and as a local application, likewise used as
fomentations to bruises, indolent tumours. An infusion given in
diseases of the bowels - haemorrhages etc. The fresh juice is
reputed anti-venereal and anti-aphrodisiac; the cold infusion
vermifugal; the dried flowers are used as a sedative filling for
the pillows of consumptives. A tincture is made from whole
Aralia nudicaulis (LINN.)
Medicinal Action and Uses Dosage
---Synonyms---Wild Sarsaparilla. Shot Bush. Wild
indigenous perennial in shady rocky woods, very common in rich
soil, rhizome horizontal, creeping several feet in length and more
or less twisted; of a yellowish-brown colour externally and about
1/4 inch in diameter, has a fragrant odour and a warm, aromatic,
---Constituents---Contains 3.05 per cent of resin, 0.33 per
cent of oil tannin, an acid albumen, mucilage and
and Uses and Dosage---As Sarsaparilla.
Actaea spicata (LINN.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Herb Christopher. Bugbane. Toadroot.
---Habitat---It is to be found in copses on limestone in
Yorkshire and the Lake District, but is so uncommon as to be
regarded by some botanists as almost a doubtful
Baneberry, or Herb Christopher, is a rather rare British plant
belonging (like the Paeony) to the Buttercup order, but
distinguished from all other species in the order by its berry-like
fruit. It is considered to have similar anti-spasmodic properties
to the Paeony.
black, creeping root-stock is perennial, sending up each year erect
stems, growing 1 to 2 feet high, which are triangular and either
not branched, or very sparingly so. The foot-stalks of the leaves
are long and arise from the root. These divide into three smaller
foot-stalks, and are so divided or re-divided that each leaf is
composed of eighteen, or even twenty-seven, lobes or
flower-stem arises from the roots and has leaves of the same form,
but smaller. The flowers grow in spikes and are of a pure
plant is dark green and glabrous (without hairs), or only very
slightly downy. It flowers in June and in autumn ripens its fruits,
which are egg-shaped berries, 1/2 inch long, black and shining,
many-seeded and very poisonous, well justifying the popular name of
is of an acrid, poisonous nature throughout, and though the root
has been used in some nervous cases, and is said to be a remedy for
catarrh, it must be administered with great caution.
and Uses---Antispasmodic. The juice of the berries, mixed with
alum, yields a black dye.
two varieties of this species, one of British origin, only
distinguished from the rest of the species by its berries being
red, instead of black and the other an American plant (Actaea alba,
or White Cohosh) with white berries. Both varieties grow in the
American species is considered by the natives a valuable remedy
against snake-bite, especially of the rattlesnake, hence it is -
with several other plants - sometimes known as one of the
It is said
the name 'Herb Christopher' was also formerly applied to the
flowering fern, Osmunda regalis.
of the genus is from the Greek acte, the elder, which these plants
resemble as regards the leaves and berries.
to be attracted by the smell of the Baneberry, which causes it also
to be termed Toadroot, the name arising possibly also from its
preference for the damp shady situations in which the toad is
It is also
called Bugbane, because of its offensive smell, which is said to
drive away vermin.
allied to this plant, and at one time assigned to the same genus,
is the plant known as Black Cohosh.
See (BLACK) COHOSH.
See PLANTAIN (FRUIT).
Berberis vulgaris (LINN.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Berbery. Pipperidge Bush. Berberis
---Habitat---The Common Barberry, a well-known, bushy shrub,
with pale-green deciduous leaves, is found in copses and hedges in
some parts of England, though a doubtful native in Scotland and
Ireland. It is generally distributed over the greater part of
Europe, Northern Africa and temperate Asia. As an ornamental shrub,
it is fairly common in gardens.
stems are woody, 8 to 10 feet high, upright and branched, smooth,
slightly grooved, brittle, with a white pith and covered with an
of the barren shoots of the year are alternate, 1 to 1 1/2 inch
long, shortly petioled, presenting various gradations from leaves
into spines, into which they become transformed in the succeeding
year. The primary leaves on the woody shoots are reduced to
three-forked spines, with an enlarged base. The secondary leaves
are in fascicles from the axil of these spines and are simple,
oval, tapering at the base into a short foot-stalk, the margins
finely serrate, with the teeth terminating in small
flowers are small, pale yellow, arranged in pendulous racemes,
produced from the fascicles of leaves, towards the ends of the
branches. Their scent is not altogether agreeable when near, but by
no means offensive at a distance. Their stamens show remarkable
sensibility when touched springing and taking a position closely
applied to the pistil. Insects of various kinds are exceedingly
fond of the Barberry flower. Linnaeus observed that when bees in
search of honey touch the filaments, they spring from the petal and
strike the anther against the stigma, thereby exploding the pollen.
In the original position of the stamens, Iying in the concavity of
the petals, they are sheltered from rain, and there remain till
some insect unavoidably touches them. As it is chiefly in fine,
sunny weather that insects are on the wing, the pollen is also in
such weather most fit for the purpose of impregnation, hence this
curious contrivance of nature for fertilizing the seeds at the most
berries are about 1/2 inch long, oblong and slightly curved; when
ripe, of a fine, red colour and pleasantly acidulous.
are also acid, and have sometimes been employed for the same
purposes as the fruit. Gerard recommends the leaves 'to season meat
with and instead of a salad.'
sheep and goats are said to eat the shrub, horses and swine to
refuse it, and birds, also, seldom touch the fruit, on account of
its acidity; in this respect it approaches the
parts of Europe, farmers have asserted that wheat planted within
three or four hundred yards of a Barberry bush became infected with
rust or mildew, but this belief has not been substantiated by
Professor Henslow (Floral Rambles in
Highways and Byways) writes:
'It was thought by farmers in the middle
of the last century that the Barberry blighted wheat if it grew
near the hedge. Botanists then ridiculed the idea; but in a sense
the farmers were right! What they observed was that if a Barberry
bush grew, say, at the corner of a wheatfield the leaves of the
wheat became "rusty," i.e. they were streaked with a red colour
when close to the bush; and that this "red rust" extended steadily
across the field till the whole was rusted. The interpretation was
at that time unknown. A fungus attacks the leaves of the Barberry,
making orange-coloured spots. It throws off minute spores which do
attack the wheat. These develop parasitic threads within the leaf,
from which arise the red rust-spores: subsequently dark brown or
black spores, consisting of two cells, called wheat-mildew, appear.
After a time these throw off red, onecelled spores which attack the
Barbarry; and so a cycle is completed. Though it was not really the
bush which blighted the wheat, the latter suffered through its
agency as the primary host plant.'
Barberry used to be cultivated for the sake of the fruit, which was
pickled and used for garnishing dishes. The ripe berries can be
made into an agreeable, refreshing jelly by boiling them with an
equal weight of fine sugar to a proper consistence and then
straining it. They were formerly used as a sweetmeat, and in
sugar-plums, or comfits. It is from these berries that the
delicious confitures d'epine vinette, for which Rouen is famous,
are commonly prepared.
boiled in Iye, will dye wool yellow, and in Poland they dye leather
of a beautiful yellow colour with the bark of the root. The inner
bark of the stems will also dye linen of a fine yellow, with the
assistance of alum.
Provincially, the plant is also termed Pipperidge Bush, from
'pepon,' a pip, and 'rouge,' red, as descriptive of the scarlet,
is the Arabic name of the fruit, signifying a shell, and many
authors believe the name is derived from this word, because the
leaves are glossy, like the inside of an oyster-shell.
Italians, the Barberry bears the name of Holy Thorn, because it is
thought to have formed part of the crown of thorns made for our
is generally propagated by suckers, which are put out in plenty
from the roots, but these plants are subject to send out suckers in
greater plenty than those which are propagated by layers, therefore
the latter method should be preferred.
time for laying down the branches is in autumn (October), and the
young shoots of the same year are the best- these will be well
rooted by the next autumn, when they may be taken off and planted
where they are designed to remain.
may also be propagated by ripened cuttings, taken also in autumn
and planted in sandy soil, in a cold frame, or by seeds, sown in
spring, or preferably in autumn, 1 inch deep in a sheltered border
when, if fresh from the pulp, or berry, they will germinate in the
open in the following spring.
Used---Stem-bark and root-bark. The stem-bark is collected by
shaving and is dried spread out in trays in the sun, or on shelves
in a well-ventilated greenhouse or in an airy attic or loft, warmed
either by sun or by the artificial heat of a stove, the door and
window being left open by day to ensure a warm current of air. The
bark may be also strung on threads and hung across the
dried, the pieces of bark are in small irregular portions, about 2
inches long and 1/2 inch wide, and of a dark-yellowish grey colour
externally, and marked with shallow longitudinal furrows. It
frequently bears the minute, black 'fruits' of lichen. The bark is
dark yellowish brown on the inner surface separating in layers of
has a slight odour and a bitter taste, and colours the saliva
yellow when chewed.
root-bark is greyish brown externally and is dried in a similar
manner after being peeled off. When dry, it breaks with a short
fracture. It contains the same constituents as the stem-bark and
possesses similar qualities.
---Constituents---The chief constituent of Barberry bark is
Berberine, a yellow crystalline, bitter alkaloid, one of the few
that occurs in plants belonging to several different natural
orders. Other constituents are oxyacanthine, berbamine, other
alkaloidal matter, a little tannin, also wax, resin, fat, albumin,
gum and starch.
and Uses---Tonic, purgative, antiseptic. It is used in the form of
a liquid extract, given as decoction, infusion or tincture, but
generally a salt of the alkaloid Berberine is
bitter stomachic tonic, it proves an excellent remedy for dyspepsia
and functional derangement of the liver, regulating the digestive
powers, and if given in larger doses, acting as a mild purgative
and removing constipation.
It is used
in all cases of jaundice, general debility and biliousness, and for
---Preparations---Powdered bark, 1/4 teaspoonful several times
daily. Fluid extract, 1/2 to 1 drachm. Solid extract, 5 to 10
possesses febrifuge powers and is used as a remedy for intermittent
fevers. It also forms an excellent gargle for a sore
lotion for application to cutaneous eruptions has also been made
berries contain citric and malic acids, and possess astringent and
anti-scorbutic properties. They are useful in inflammatory fevers,
especially typhus, also in bilious disorders and scurvy, and in the
form of a jelly are very refreshing in irritable sore throat, for
which also a syrup of Barberries made with water, proves an
excellent astringent gargle.
Egyptians are said still to employ a diluted juice of the berries
in pestilential fevers, and Simon Paulli relates that he was cured
of a malignant fever by drinking an infusion of the berries
sweetened with sugar and syrup of roses.
tops must be cut off; then roast the fruit before the fire till
soft enough to pulp with a silver spoon through a sieve into a
china basin; then set the basin in a sauce pan of water, the top of
which will just fitit, or on a hot hearth, and stir it till it
grows thick. When cold, put to every pint 1 1/2 lb. of sugar, the
finest double-refined, pounded and sifted through a lawn sieve,
which must be covered with a fine linen to prevent its wasting
while sifting. Beat the sugar and juice together 3 1/2 hours if a
large quantity, but 2 1/2 for less; then drop it on sheets of
white, thick paper, the size of the drops sold in the shops. Some
fruit is not so sour and then less sugar is necessary. To know if
there be enough, mix till well incorporated and then drop; if it
runs, there is not enough sugar, and if there is too much it will
be rough. A dry room will suffice to dry them. No metal must touch
the juice but the point of a knife, just to take the drop off the
end of the wooden spoon, and then as little as
Barberries for Tartlets---
Barberries that have no stones, from the stalks, and to every pound
weigh 3/4 lb. of lump sugar; put the fruit into a stone jar, and
either set it on a hot hearth or in a saucepan of water, and let
them simmer very slowly till soft; put them and the sugar into a
preserving-pan, and boil them gently 15 minutes. Use no metal but
bits of flat white wood, 3 inches long and 1/4 inch wide. Tie the
stalks of the fruit on the stick from within an inch of one end to
beyond the other, so as to make them look handsome. Simmer them in
some syrup two successive days, covering them each time with it
when cold. When they look clear they are simmered enough. The third
day do them like other candy fruit.
Mrs. Beeton (an old edition)
'Barberries are also used as a dry
sweetmeat, and in sugar-plums or comfits; are pickled with vinegar
and are used for various culinary purposes. They are well
calculated to allay heat and thirst in persons afflicted with
fevers. The berries arranged on bunches of nice curled parsley,
make an exceedingly pretty garnish for supper-dishes, particularly
for white meats, like boiled fowl à la Béchamel; the three colours,
scarlet, green and white contrasting so well, and producing a very
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Ophthalmic Barberry. Darlahad.
---Habitat---A shrub indigenous to India and
known as 'Darlahad,' under which names are included the dried stems
of Berberis Iycium and B. asiatica, but only the stem of B.
aristata is official in the Indian and Colonial Addendum for use in
India and the Eastern Colonies, in intermittent
and Uses---A bitter tonic antiperiodic and diaphoretic. The chief
constituents are those of common Berberiabark, the bitter principle
being the alkaloid Berberine, which is present in considerable
quantity, together with tannin, resin, gum, starch and other
alkaloidal matter. When dried, it occurs in undulating, cylindrical
pieces, 1 to 2 inches in diameter. The drug has a faint odour and a
root-bark is light coloured, corky, almost inodorous, with a
bitter, mucilaginous taste. It contains much Berberine, and a
dark-brown extract is made from it employed in India under the name
of 'Rusot.' This extract is sometimes prepared from the wood or
roots of different species of Barberry. It has the consistency of
opium and a bitter, astringent taste.
Berberis aquifolium, see (MOUNTAIN)
Hordeum distichon (LINN.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
Dosage and Preparation
---Synonyms---Pearl Barley. Perlatum.
---Description---Pearl Barley is the grain without its skin;
rounded and polished; this is the official variety. Taste and odour
farinaceous. The Scotch, milled, or pot barley isthe grain with
husks only partly removed. Patent Barley is the ground decorticated
---Constituents---Pearl Barley contains about 80 per cent of
starch and about 6 per cent of proteins, cellulose,
and Uses---Pearl Barley is used for the preparation of a decoction
which is a nutritive and demulcent drink in febrile conditions and
in catarrhal affections of the respiratory and urinary organs:
barley water is used to dilute cows' milk for young infants, it
prevents the formation of hard masses of curd in the stomach. Malt
is produced from barley by a process of steeping and drying which
develop a ferment 'diatase' needed for the production of alcoholic
malt liquors, but in the form of Malt Extract it is largely used in
medicine. Vinegar is an acid liquid produced by oxidation of
fermented malt wort. Malt vinegar is the only vinegar that should
be used medicinally.
Preparation---Barley water. Pearl Barley washed 10 parts, water to
100 parts, boil for 20 minutes, strain. Dose, 1 to 4
---Adulterants---Pearl Barley is sometimes treated with french
chalk and starch to whiten it and increase the weight.
common little plant, which has no old popular name, is an abundant
weed in cornfields and by the roadside. It is not very attractive
in appearance, its narrow, tapering leaves being of a dingy
purplish green and the flowers of a dull rose colour, small and in
onesided spikes, which usually droop at the ends.
common species, Bartsia viscosa, is found in marshes and damp
places- the flowers are yellow, and might be mistaken for Yellow
Rattle, from which it may be easily distinguished by its solitary,
unspiked, yellowflowers, and by being covered with clammy down. It
grows to a height of 6 to 12 inches, and is very common in many
parts of Devon and Cornwall, where it sometimes grows 2 feet
annual with reddish stems, leaves and flowers; partly parasitic on
the roots of grasses.
Part Used Medicinally
Medicinal Action and Uses
(Ocymum minumum) is a low, bushy plant, seldom above 6 inches in
height, much smaller than Sweet Basil.
are ovate, quite entire, the white flowers in whorls towards the
top of the branches, smaller than those of Sweet Basil, and seldom
succeeded by ripe seeds in England.
two varieties, one with black-purple leaves and the other with
and Garden Basil are natives of India, from whence it was
introduced in 1573. Bush Basil may occasionally live through the
winter in this country, though Sweet Basil never does.
varieties flower in July and August.
tops of Bush Basil are used in the same manner as the Sweet Basil
for seasoning and in salads. t
of O. viride, a native of Western Africa, possess febrifugal
properties; and at Sierra Leone, where it bears the name of
'Fever-plant,' a decoction of them, drunk as tea, is used as a
remedy for the fevers so prevalent there.
of O. canum, and O. gratissimum in India, and of O. crispum in
Japan, all sweet-scented varieties, are prescribed as a remedy for
teniflorum is regarded as an aromatic stimulant in Java; and 0.
guineense is much employed by the negroes as a medicine in cases of
plants are all free of any deleterious secretions; for the most
part they are fragrant and aromatic, and hence they have not only
been used as tonics, but are also valuable as kitchen
and Malaysia Basil is planted on graves, and in Egypt women scatter
the flowers on the resting-places of those belonging to
observances are entirely at variance with the idea prevailing among
the ancient Greeks that it represented hate and misfortune. They
painted poverty as a ragged woman with a Basil at her side, and
thought the plant would not grow unless railing and abuse were
poured forth at the time of sowing. The Romans, in like manner,
believed that the more it was abused, the better it would
The physicians of old were quite unable to
agree as to its medicinal value, some declaring that it was a
poison, and others a precious simple. Culpepper tells
'Galen and Dioscorides hold it is not
fitting to be taken inwardly and Chrysippusrails at it. Pliny and
the Arabians defend it. Something is the matter, this herb and rue
will not grow together, no, nor near one another, and we know rue
is as great an enemy to poison as any that grows.'
But it was
said to cause sympathy between human beings and a tradition in
Moldavia still exists that a youth will love any maiden from whose
hand he accepts a sprig of this plant. In Crete it symbolizes 'love
washed with tears,' and in some parts of Italy it is a
Boccaccio's story of Isabella and the Pot
of Basil, immortalized by Keats, keeps the plant in our memory,
though it is now rarely cultivated in this country. It was formerly
grown in English herb gardens. Tusser includes it among the
Strewing herbs and Drayton places it first in his poem
'With Basil then I will begin
Whose scent is wondrous
In Tudor days, little pots of Basil were
often given as graceful compliments by farmers' wives to visitors.
'The ordinary Basill is in a manner wholly
spent to make sweete or washing waters among other sweet herbs, yet
sometimes it is put into nosegays. The Physicall properties are to
procure a cheerfull and merry hearte whereunto the seeds is chiefly
used in powder.'
---Cultivation---Basil dies down every year in this country, so
that the seeds have to be sown annually. If in a very warm
sheltered spot, seeds may be sown in the open, about the last week
in April, but they are a long time coming up, and it is preferable
to sow in a hot bed, about the end of March, and remove to a warm
border in May, planting 10 inches to a foot apart.
flourishes best in a rich soil.
Medicinally---The whole herb, both fresh and dried, gathered in
and Uses---Aromatic and carminative. Though generally employed in
cooking as a flavouring, Basil has been occasionally used for mild
nervous disorders and for the alleviation of wandering rheumatic
pains- the dried leaves, in the form of snuff, are said to be a
cure for nervous headaches.
infusion of the green herb in boiling water is good for all
obstructions of the internal organs, arrests vomiting and allays
have been reckoned efficacious against the poison of serpents, both
taken internally and laid upon the wound. They are also said to
with other labiates, Basil, both the wild and the sweet, furnishes
an aromatic, volatile, camphoraceous oil, and on this account is
much employed in France for flavouring soups, especially turtle
soup. They also use it in ragoûts and sauces. The leafy tops are a
great improvement to salads and cups.
it is now comparatively little used in England for culinary
purposes, this herb was one of our favourite pot-herbs in older
days, and gave the distinctive flavour that once made Fetter Lane
Recipe for Aromatic Seasoning---
nutmegs and mace one ounce each, of cloves and peppercorns two
ounces of each, one ounce of dried bay-leaves, three ounces of
basil, the same of marjoram, two ounces of winter savory, and three
ounces of thyme, half an ounce of cayenne-pepper, the same of
grated lemon-peel, and two cloves of garlic; all these ingredients
must be well pulverized in a mortar and sifted through a fine wire
sieve, and put away in dry corked bottles for use.' (Francatelli's
Americanum. First recorded in 1789 as found in the West
'Ocymum' is said by Mathiolus to be derived from the Greek word 'To
smell,' because of the powerful aromatic and pungent scent
characterizing most of the plants of this genus. Decoctions made
from 0. Americanum are used in cases of chest trouble and
dysentery; and an essential oil is also extracted from the
akin to the above-named is the O. gratissimum cultivated in China
as a culinary herb.
is used as a tincture made from the leaves in
Ocymum basilium (LINN.)
---Description---Common or Sweet Basil which is used in
medicine and also for culinary purposes, especially in France, is a
hairy, labiate plant, growing about 3 feet high. The stem is
obtusely quadrangular, the labiate flowers are white, in whorls in
the axils of the leaves, the calyx with the upper lobe rounded and
spreading. The leaves, greyish-green beneath and dotted with dark
oil cells, are opposite, 1 inch long and 1/3 inch broad, stalked
and peculiarly smooth, soft and cool to the touch, and if slightly
bruised exale a delightful scent of cloves.
several varieties, differing in the size, shape, odour and colour
of the leaves. The Common Basil has very dark green leaves, the
curled-leaved has short spikes of flowers, the narrow-leaved smells
like Fennel, another has a scent of citron and another a tarragon
scent, one species has leaves of three colours, and another
derivation of the name Basil is uncertain. Some authorities say it
comes from the Greek basileus, a king, because, as Parkinson says,
'the smell thereof is so excellent that it is fit for a king's
house,' or it may have been termed royal, because it was used in
some regal unguent or medicine. One rather unlikely theory is that
it is shortened from basilisk, a fabulous creature that could kill
with a look. This theory may be based on a strange old superstition
that connected the plant with scorpions. Parkinson tells us that
'being gently handled it gave a pleasant smell but being hardly
wrung and bruised would breed scorpions. It is also observed that
scorpions doe much rest and abide under these pots and vessells
wherein Basil is planted.' It was generally believed that if a
sprig of Basil were left under a pot it would in time turn to a
scorpion. Superstition went so far as to affirm that even smelling
the plant might bring a scorpion into the brain.
'Being applied to the place bitten by
venomous beasts, or stung by a wasp or hornet, it speedily draws
the poison to it. - Every like draws its like. Mizaldus affirms,
that being laid to rot in horse-dung, it will breed venomous
beasts. Hilarius, a French physician, affirms upon his own
knowledge, that an acquaintance of his, by common smelling to it,
had a scorpion breed in his brain.'
the Basil plant is sacred to both Krishna and Vishnu, and is
cherished in every Hindu house. Probably on account of its virtues,
in disinfecting, and vivifying malarious air, it first became
inseparable from Hindu houses in India as the protecting spirit of
aromatic scent of the leaves is very much like cloves.
Hindu goes to his rest with a Basil leaf on his breast. This is his
passport to Paradise.
---Synonyms---Hedge Basil. Hedge Calamint.
---Habitat---The plant is widely distributed throughout the
North Temperate Zone, and is common in England and Scotland in dry
hedges and the borders of copses, mostly in high situations. In
Ireland it is somewhat rare.
Basil, or Hedge Basil (Calamintha Clinopodium) (sometimes called
Hedge Calamint), is a straggling plant with somewhat weak-looking,
though erect stems, rising to a height of a foot or 18 inches, and
thickly covered with soft hairs.
shortly - stalked, egg shaped leaves, 1 to 2 inches long, are
placedopposite to one another on the four-angled stem, the pairs
being some distance apart. They are only slightly toothed at their
edges and like the stem are downy with soft hairs.
flowers, with tubular, lipped corollas of a pinkish colour, are
arranged on the stem in several crowded, bristly rings or whorls,
at the points from which the leaf-stalks spring, and are in bloom
from July to September.
herb is aromatic and fragrant, with a faint Thyme-like odour, and
like Calamint has been used to make an infusion for similar
of the species, Clinopodium, signifies 'bedfoot.' An old writer
says 'the tufts of the plant are like the knobs at the feet of a
bed,' but the comparison is not very obvious. By some botanists the
plant has been described under the name of C. vulgare, but it is
now assigned to the genus, Calamintha.
Myrica cerifera (LINN.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Wax Myrtle. Myrica. Candle Berry. Arbre à suif.
Myricae Cortex. Tallow Shrub. Wachsgagle.
Used---The dried bark of the root. The wax.
---Habitat---Eastern North America.
only species of a useful family that is regarded as official,
Myrica cerifera grows in thickets near swamps and marshes in the
sand-belt near the Atlantic coast and on the shores of Lake Erie.
Its height is from 3 to 8 feet, its leaves lanceolate, shining or
resinous, dotted on both sides, its flowers unisexual without calyx
or corolla, and its fruit small groups of globular berries, having
numerous black grains crusted with greenish-white wax. These are
persistent for two or three years. The leaves are very fragrant
as found in commerce is in curved pieces from 1 to 7 inches long,
covered with a thin, mottled layer, the cork beneath being smooth
and red-brown. The fracture is reddish, granular, and slightly
fibrous. The odour is aromatic, and the taste astringent, bitter,
and very acrid. It should be separated from the fresh root by
pounding, in late autumn, thoroughly dried, and when powdered, kept
in darkened, well-closed vessels.
was first introduced into medicinal use by Alexandre in 1722. It is
removed from the berries by boiling them in water, on the top of
which it floats. It melts at 47 to 49 C. (116.6 to 120.2 F.). It is
harder and more brittle than beeswax. Candles made from it are
aromatic, smokeless after snuffing, and very brittle. It makes a
useful body for surgeon's soap plasters, and an aromatic and
softening shaving lather. It has also been used for making
sealing-wax. Four-fifths of this wax is soluble in hot alcohol, and
boiling ether dissolves more than a quarter of its weight. Four
pounds of berries yield about one pound of wax.
---Constituents---There has been found in the bark of stem and
root volatile oil, starch, lignin, gum, albumen, extractive, tannic
and gallic acids, acrid and astringent resins, a red colouring
substance, and an acid resembling saponin.
(Myrtle Wax) consists of glycerides of stearic, palmitic and
myristic acids, and a small quantity of oleaic acid.
and Uses---Astringent and stimulant. In large doses emetic. It is
useful in diarrhoea, jaundice, scrofula, etc. Externally, the
powdered bark is used as a stimulant to indolent ulcers, though in
poultices it should be combined with elm. The decoction is good as
a gargle and injection in chronic inflammation of the throat,
leucorrhoea, uterine haemorrhage, etc. It is an excellent wash for
is strongly sternutatory and excites coughing. Water in which the
wax has been 'tried,' when boiled to an extract, is regarded as a
certain cure for dysentery, and the wax itself, being astringent
and slightly narcotic, is valuable in severe dysentery and internal
powder, 20 to 30 grains. Of decoction, 1 to 2 fluid ounces. Of
alcoholic extract, or Myricin, 5 grains.
Species---MURICA GALE, SWEET GALE, ENGLISEI BOGMYRTLE, or DUTCH
MYRTLE, the badge of the Campbells. The leaves of this species have
been used in France as an emmenagogue and abortifacient, being
formerly official under the name of Herba Myrti Rabantini, and
containing a poisonous, volatile oil. The plant is bitter and
astringent, and has been employed in the northern counties as a
substitute for hops, and also mingled with bark for tanning, and
dyeing wool yellow. The dried berries are put in broth and used as
spices. Formerly it was much used in cottage practice, its
properties being similar to those of M. cerifera. It is covered
with a golden, aromatic dust, and is thus used to drive away
insects. The leaves are infused like tea, especially in China, as a
stomachic and cordial. See GALE
M. nagi. A
glucoside, Myricitrin, resembling quercitrin, has been separated
from the yellow colouring matter, or myricetin.
cordifolia, of the Cape of Good Hope, yields a wax which is said to
be eaten by Hottentots.
Pensylvanica has roots with emetic properties.
Brazilian species yields a waxy-resinous product called Tabocas
combicurdo, which is used as a 'pick-me-up.'
is a synonym for the Wild Cinnamon or Pimenta acris of the West
Indies and South America, which yields Bay Rum and oil of
Medicinal Action and Uses
Used---Dried ripe seeds.
---Habitat---Native of Indies; cultivated all over Europe; also
said to be found in ancient tombs in Peru.
well-known plant has been cultivated from remote times. Because of
the seeds close resemblance to the male testicle, the Egyptians
made it an object of sacred worship and forbad its use as food. In
Italy at the present day beans are distributed among the poor, on
the anniversary of a death. The Jewish high priest is forbidden to
eat beans on the day of Atonement.
---Constituents---Starch and starchy fibrous matter,
phaseoline, extractive albumen mucilage, pectic acid, legumin fatty
matter, earthy salts, uncrystallizable sugar, inosite,
and Uses---When bruised and boiled with garlic Beans have cured
otherwise uncurable coughs. If eaten raw they cause painful severe
frontal headache, soreness and itching of the eyeball and pains in
the epigastrium. The roots are dangerously narcotic.
Parts Used Medicinally
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Arbutus Uva-Ursi. Uva-Ursi.
---Habitat---The Bearberry (Arctostaphylos Uva-Ursi, Sprengel),
a small shrub, with decumbent, much branched, irregular stems and
evergreen leaves, is distributed over the greater part of the
Northern Hemisphere, being found in the northern latitudes and high
mountains of Europe, Asia and America. In the British Isles, it is
common in Scotland, on heaths and barren places in hilly districts,
especially in the Highlands, and extends south as far as Yorkshire;
it grows also on the hills of the north-west of Ireland. In America
it is distributed throughout Canada and the United States as far
south as New Jersey and Wisconsin.
It is very
nearly related to the Arbutus, and was formerly assigned to the
same genus - in Green's Universal Herbal, 1832, it will be found
under the name Arbutus Uva- Ursi - but it differs from Arbutus in
having a smooth berry with five one-seeded stones, whereas the
Arbutus has a rough fruit, each cell of the ovary being four to
other British species assigned to the genus, Arctostaphylos, the
Black Bearberry (A. alpina), with black berries, found on barren
mountains in northern Scotland, and not at all in England, is the
badge of the clan of Ross.
generic name, derived from the Greek, and the Latin specific name,
UvaUrsi, mean the same: the Bear's grape, and may have been given
to the plant, either from the notion that bears eat the fruit with
relish, or from its very rough, unpleasant flavour, which might
have been considered only fit for bears.
much-branched trailing stems are short and woody, covered with a
pale brown bark, scaling off in patches, and form thick masses, 1
to 2 feet long. The long shoots rise obliquely upward from the
stems for a few inches and are covered with soft hairs
evergreen leaves are of a leathery texture, from 1/2 inch to an
inch long, like a spatula in form, being rounded at the apex and
tapering gradually towards the base to a very short stalk or
petiole. The margin is entire and slightly rolled back and the
young leaves fringed with short hairs. The upper surface of the
leaf is dark, shining green, the veins deeply impressed, the lower
side is of a paler green, with the veins prominent and forming a
coarse network. The leaves have no distinctive odour, but they have
a very astringent and somewhat bitter taste.
waxy-looking flowers are in small, closely-crowded, drooping
clusters, three to fifteen flowers together, at the ends of the
branches of the preceding year, appearing in early summer, May -
June, before the young leaves. The corolla, about two-thirds inch
across, is urn-shaped, reddish white or white with a red lip,
transparent at the base, contracted at the mouth, which is divided
into four to five short reflexed, blunt teeth, which are hairy
within. There are ten stamens, with chocolate-brown, awned anthers.
The berry, which ripens in autumn, is about the size of a small
currant, very bright red, smooth and glossy, with a tough skin
enclosing an insipid mealy pulp, with five one-seeded
Medicinally---The dried leaves are the only part of the plant used
in medicine. The British Pharmacopceia directs that the leaves
should be obtained only from indigenous plants. They should be
collected in September and October, only green leaves being
selected and dried by exposure to gentle heat.
must be gathered only in fine weather, in the morning, after the
dew has dried, any stained and insect-eaten leaves being rejected.
Drying may be done in warm, sunny weather out-of-doors, but in
half-shade, as leaves dried in the shade retain their colour better
than those dried in direct sun. They may be placed on wire sieves,
or frames covered with wire or garden netting, at a height of 3 or
4 feet from the ground to ensure a current of air, and must be
taken indoors to a dry room, or shed, before there is any risk of
damp from dew or showers. The leaves should be spread in a single
layer, preferably not touching, and may be turned during
sun, which in the case of leaves collected like the Bearberry in
September and October cannot be relied on, any ordinary shed,
fitted with racks and shelves can be used, provided it is
ventilated near the roof and has a warm current of air, caused by a
coke or anthracite stove. Empty glasshouses can readily be adapted
into dryingsheds, especially if heated by pipes and the glass is
shaded; ventilation is essential, and there must be no open tank in
the house to cause steaming. For drying indoors, a warm sunny attic
or loft may be employed, the window being left open by day, so that
there is a current of air and the moist, hot air may escape: the
door may also be left open. The leaves can be placed on coarse
butter-cloth stented, i.e. if hooks are placed beneath the window
and on the opposite wall, the buttercloth can be attached by rings
sewn on each side of it, and hooked on so that it is stretched
taut. The drying temperature should be from 70 to 100 degrees
leaves should be packed away at once in wooden or tin boxes, in a
dry place as otherwise they re-absorb moisture from the
Bearberry leaves are usually quite smooth, and entirely free from
the hairs that are present on the margins of the growing leaves and
on the foot-stalks, which drop off during the drying
commercial drug frequently consists of the entire plants, and
therefore contains a large quantity of stems, but the latter should
not be present, according to the official definition of the United
States Pharmacopoeia, in greater amount than 5 per
of other plants have been mistaken for Bearberry leaves, notably
those of the Cowberry (Vaccinium Vitis-idaea) and of the Box (Buxus
sempervirens), and have occasionally been used to adulterate the
drug, but Bearberry leaves are readily distinguished by the
characteristics given, viz. the spatulate outline, entire margin
and rounded apex. Those of the Box have a notch cut out at the apex
(emarginate) and have the epidermis loose and separable on the
under surface of the leaf, and are, moreover, quite devoid of
astringency. The leaves of the Cowberry may be distinguished by the
glandular brown dots scattered over their under surface and the
minute teeth on their margins. They have only a very slight
---Constituents---The chief constituent of Bearberry leaves is
a crystallizable glucoside named Arbutin. Other constituents are
methyl-arbutin, ericolin (an ill-defined glucoside), ursone (a
crystalline substance of resinous character), gallic acid, ellagic
acid, a yellow colouring principle resembling quercetin, and
probably also myricetin. Tannin is present to the extent of 6 to 7
per cent. On incineration, the leaves yield about 3 per cent. of
and Uses---In consequence of the powerful astringency of theleaves,
Uva-Ursi has a place not only in all the old herbals, but also in
the modern Pharmacopoeias. There are records that it was used in
the thirteenth century by the Welsh 'Physicians of Myddfai.' It was
described by Clusius in 1601, and recommended for medicinal use in
1763 by Gerhard of Berlin and others. It had a place in the London
Pharmacopoeia for the first time in 1788, though was probably in
use long before. It is official in nearly all Pharmacopceias, some
of which use the name Arbutus.
form of administration is in the form of an infusion, which has a
soothing as well as an astringent effect and marked diuretic
action. Of great value in diseases of the bladder and kidneys,
strengthening and imparting tone to the urinary passages. The
diuretic action is due to the glucoside Arbutin, which is largely
absorbed unchanged and is excreted by the kidneys. During its
excretion, Arbutin exercises an antiseptic effect on the urinary
mucous membrane: Bearberry leaves are, therefore, used in
inflammatory diseases of the urinary tract, urethritis, cystisis,
the simple infusion (1 OZ. of the leaves to 1 pint of boiling
water), the combination of 1/2 oz. each of Uva-Ursi, Poplar Bark
and Marshmallow root, infused in 1 pint of water for 20 minutes is
used with advantage.
in the leaves is so abundant that they have been used for tanning
leather in Sweden and Russia.
ash-coloured dye is said to be obtained from the plant in
berries are only of use as food for grouse. Cattle, however, avoid
Species---Manzanita, the leaves of A. glauca from California, are
employed like Uva-Ursi.
of A. polifolia from Mexico and A. tomentosa (madrona) are also
used in medicine.
Polymnia uvedalia (LINN.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
Dosage and Preparation
---Synonyms---Uvedalia. Leaf Cup. Yellow Leaf Cup.
---Habitat---New York to Missouri and southward.
tall branching plant found growing in very rich soil the root is
greyish brown in colour and furrowed, bark thin, brittle and easily
scales off, odourless, taste salty and slightly
and Uses---Anodyne laxative and stimulant, valuable in malarial
enlargements of the spleen, swollen glands and dyspepsia caused by
the spleen. Of great use applied externally in stimulating the
growth of the hair, and is an ingredient of many American hair
ointments and lotions.
Preparation---Fluid extract, dose, 15 to 60 minims.
Galium verum (LINN.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Our Lady's Bedstraw. Yellow Bedstraw. Maid's
Hair. Petty Mugget. Cheese Renning. Cheese Rennet.
---Habitat---Yellow Bedstraw is abundant on dry banks, chiefly
near the sea. Its small, bright yellow flowers are closely
clustered together in dense panicles at the tops of the wiry,
square, upright stems, which are I to 3 feet high, and bear
numerous very narrow, almost thread-like leaves, placed six to
eight together in whorls. The flowers are in bloom in July and
is inodorous, but has an astringent, acidulous and bitterish
English name of this plant, 'Our Lady's Bedstraw,' is derived from
its use in former days, even by ladies of rank, for stuffing beds.
(The origin of the name is more probably from the Christian legend
that this was one of the 'Cradle Herbs,' i.e. was in the hay in the
manger at Bethlehem. - EDITOR)
tells us that because of its bright yellow blossoms, this herb is
also named 'Maid's Hair,' for in Henry VIII's reign 'maydens did
wear silken callis to keep in order their hayre made yellow with
dye.' It has also been known as 'Petty Mugget,' from the French
petit muguet, a little dandy.
has the property of curdling milk, hence another of its popular
names ' Cheese Rennet.' It was called ' Cheese Renning' in the
sixteenth century, and Gerard says (quoting from Matthiolus, a
famous commentator of Dioscorides), 'the people of Thuscane do use
it to turne their milks and the cheese, which they make of sheepes
and goates milke, might be the sweeter and more pleasant to taste.
The people in Cheshire especially about Nantwich, where the best
cheese is made, do use it in their rennet, esteeming greatly of
that cheese above other made without it.' The rich colour of this
cheese was probably originally derived from this plant, though it
is now obtained from annatto.
Highlanders also made special use of Yellow Bedstraw to curdle milk
and colour their cheese, and it has been used in Gloucestershire
for the same purpose, either aloneor with the juice of the
of this genus, Galium, from the Greek word gala, milk, is supposed
to have been given from this property of the plants which is shared
more or less by most of the group.
and Uses---Galium verum contains the same chemical principles as G.
still used to a limited degree as a popular remedy in gravel, stone
and urinary diseases.
It was formerly highly esteemed as a
remedy in epilepsy and hysteria, and was applied externally in
cutaneous eruptions, in the form either of the recently expressed
juice, or of a decoction from the fresh plant.
'An ointment,' says Gerard, 'is prepared
which is good for anointing the weary traveller.'
recommends the decoction to stop inward bleeding and bleeding at
the nose, and to heal all inward wounds generally.
flowering tips, distilled with water, are stated to yield an acid
liquor which forms a pleasant summer drink.
flowers of this species and still more those of G. elatum, an
allied non-British species, are considered in France a remedy for
Bedstraw can furnish a red dye, like its ally, the Madder of the
Continent, Rubia tinctorum. It has been cultivated for the purpose,
but with little or no profit, as the roots are too small, though it
has been used in the Hebrides for dyeing woollen stuffs red. When
attempts have been made to cultivate it, the produce per acre has
occasionally exceeded 12 cwt., which is considered an average crop
for Madder, but the roots do not yield as much in proportion, and
its cultivation has never been undertaken on a very large scale,
the crops having been found too small to pay under ordinary
circumstances. The same cultivation is necessary as for Madder, the
plant requiring a deep, light, but rich loam to succeed well, and
the land must be well trenched an manured before planting. The
running roots are to be planted, though it may be raised from seed,
a plan that has also sometimes been adopted with
and leaves of this Galium yield good yellow dye, which has been
used to great extent in Ireland.
other species of this genus have roots capable of yielding red or
yellow dye but none of them have been practical applied, their
produce being too small to admit of their successful cultivation as
See (Black) Hellebore (Helleborus
molllgo, the Hedge Bedstraw, another closely allied species, with
white flowers, very common in this country, has much the same
properties as Lady's Bedstraw.
American species, G. tinctorum (Linn.), is closely allied in
properties to G. verum. It is said to be useful in cutaneous
diseases, and the root is employed by the Indians for staining
their feathers and other ornaments red.
the above, there are also four other British species, i.e. G.
palustré (Water Bedstraw), common in watery places; G. uliginosum
(Rough Marsh Bedstraw), smaller than the first-mentioned, the stem
being rarely more than a foot high, slender and brittle; G.
saxatile (Heath Bedstraw), a small species with dense panicles of
white flowers; G. tricorué which is tolerably common in some of the
English counties and in the Isle of Wight. The stems of this
species are about a foot long and rough, as well as the leaves,
with prickles pointing backwards, the flowers grow in threes and
the first is reflexed. About seven or eight other species have been
described by British botanists; they are, however, of rare
---Synonyms---Buche. Buke. Boke. Bog. Bok. Buk. Hetre. Faggio.
Faya. Haya. Fagos.
Used---The oil of the nuts.
---Habitat---Europe, including Britain. (Indigenous only in
England.) Armenia, Palestine, Asia Minor Tanan.
common name of the Beech tree, found in varying forms throughout
the Teutonic dialects, means, with difference of gender, either 'a
book' or 'a beech,' the Runic tablets, or early books, having been
made of this wood. Fagus is from a Greek word meaning 'to eat,'
referring to the edible character of the Beechmast.
is one of the largest British trees, especially on chalky and sandy
soil. In England it may grow to 140 feet in height, or spread to
130 feet in diameter, with a trunk 21 feet in girth. As the wood is
brittle and short-grained, it is not well suited for purposes where
strength and durability are required. One of the principal
objections to it is that it is liable to be perforated by a small
beetle. Its chief uses are for panels for carriages, carpenter's
planes, stonemason's mallets wooden bowls, granary shovels,
boot-lasts, sabots, and for chair-making, small articles in
turnery, also for making charcoal for colour manufacturers, and
gunpowder. On the Continent Beech is used for parquet flooring,
wood pavement and bentwood furniture, and very extensively as fuel
for domestic heating, as its heating power surpasses that of most
the capacity of its root system for assisting in the circulation of
air throughout the soil, and by the amount of potash in the leaves,
Beech trees conserve the productive capacity of the soil better
than any other kind of tree, and improve the growth of other trees
when planted with them.
young Beech trees may be employed with advantage in flower gardens,
as their leaves generally remain on the branches during the winter
and screen the young plants .
of Beech, called 'mast,' are chiefly used in England as food for
park deer. In other countries they are valued for feeding farm
animals: in France for feeding swine and fattening domestic
poultry, especially turkeys, and pigs which are turned into Beech
woods to utilize the fallen mast. Beech mast has even been used as
human food in time of distress or famine. Horses, however, should
not be fed on it.
Well-ripened mast yields from 17 to 20 per cent. of a
non-drying oil - similar to hazel and Cotton-seed oils - and is
used in European countries for cooking, as well as for burning, and
in Silesia as a substitute for butter. The cake left when the oil
has been pressed out may be used as a cattle food.
War an attempt was made in Germany to use Beech leaves as a
substitute for tobacco, and a mixture was served to the army, but
proved a failure.
---Constituents---The wood ash of the Beech affords a large
proportion of potash. The oil of the nuts occupies a position in
the fixed oils between the vegetable non-drying and the true drying
oils. Like the Cotton-seed oils, it forms more or less elaidin on
treatment with nitrous acid or mercuric nitrate, but does not
become wholly solidified. Beech tar is completely soluble in 95 per
cent. acetic acid. Turpentine oil, chloroform and absolute ether do
not entirely dissolve it. The petroleum ether is not coloured by
copper acetate solution. Choline is present in the
Uses---The tar is stimulating and antiseptic, used internally as a
stimulating expectorant in chronic bronchitis, or externally as an
application in various skin diseases.
The oil is
used in the same ways as the other fixed oils of its
Species---BEECH DROPS (OROBANCHE VIRGINIANA,EPIFAGUS VIRGINIANA,
BROOM RAPE, CANCER ROOT), a parasite on Beech tree roots, has a
bitter, nauseous, astringent taste, diminished by drying. It is
given internally in bowel affections, and is reputed to cure
cancer, though this is doubtful As a local application to wounds or
ulcers it will arrest gangrene. It appears to act upon the
capillary system like the tincture of muriate of iron.
BEECH DROPS (Pterospora Andromeda) is a rare plant of North America
valuable as a sedative diaphoretic in typhus, pleurisy and
COPPER-BEECH (F. sylvatica var. purpurea). The leaves of this
species may be used like those of the Red-leaved Hazel for the
extraction of anthocyan pigment.
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Spinach Beet. Sea Beet. Garden Beet. White Beet.
---Description---Beta vulgaris (Linn.) is a native of South
Europe, extensively cultivated as an article of food and especially
for the production of sugar, and presents many
derived from the Sea Beet (B. maritima, Linn.), which grows wild on
the coasts of Europe, North Africa and Asia, as far as India, and
is found in muddy maritime marshes in many parts of England, a
tall, succulent plant, about 2 feet high, with large, fleshy,
glossy leaves, angular stems and numerous leafy spikes of green
flowers, much like those of the Stinking Goosefoot.
leaves, when boiled, are quite equal in taste to Spinach, and the
leaf-stalks and midrib of a cultivated form, the Spinach Beet (B.
vulgaris, var. cicla), are sometimes stewed, under the name of
Swiss Chard (being the Poirée à Carde of the French, with whom it
is served as Sea Kale or Asparagus). This white-rooted Beet is also
cultivated for its leaves, which are put into soups, or used as
spinach, and in France are often mixed with sorrel, to lessen its
acidity. It is also largely used as a decorative plant for its
large handsome leaves, blood red or variegated in colour. Its root,
thoughcontaining almost as much sugar as the red Garden Beet,
neither looks so appetizing nor tastes so well.
Wurzel, or Mangold, also a variety of the Beet, too coarse for
table use, is good for cattle, who thrive excellently upon this
diet, both its leaves and roots affording an abundance of valuable
and nutritious food.
uncultivated form, the root of the Sea Beet is coarse and unfit for
food, nor has any use been made of the plant medicinally, but the
Garden Beet has been cultivated from very remote times as a salad
plant and for general use as a vegetable. It was so appreciated by
the ancients, that it is recorded that it was offered on silver to
Apollo in his temple at Delphi.
---Constituents---The root contains about a tenth portion of
pure sugar, which is one of the glucoses or fruit sugars and is
very wholesome. It is softer than cane sugar and does not
crystallize as well as the latter. There is a treacle principle in
it, but this renders it all the more nutritious. Canesugar has to
be converted by the digestive juices into fruit sugar, before the
body can absorb it, but the sugar present in the Beetroot is
already in the more easily assimilated form, thus making the Beet a
valuable food. Its sugar is a force-giver and an energy creator, a
source of vitality to the human body. Besides its tenth portion of
pure sugar, Beetroot has as much as a third of its weight in starch
makes an appetizing vegetable, plain boiled, stewed, or baked and a
good pickle, and in Russia forms an appetizing soup - called
Bortsch - the red root in this case being made to exude all its
juice into a rich, white stock.
wine can be made from the roots and an equally good domestic ale
has also been brewed from Mangolds. A considerable amount of
alcohol can be obtained by distillation.
modern medicine disregards the Beet, of old it was considered to
have distinct remedial properties.
and Uses---The juice of the White Beet was stated to be 'of a
cleansing, digestive quality,' to open obstructions of the liver
and spleen, and, says Culpepper, 'good for the headache and
swimmings therein and all affections of the brain.'
'effectual against all venomous creatures
and applied upon the temples, it stayeth inflammations in the eyes,
it helpeth burnings, being used without oil and with a little alum
put to it is good for St. Anthonys Fire. It is good for all weals,
pushes, blisters and blains in the skin: the decoction in water and
vinegar healeth the itch if bathed therewith and cleanseth the head
of dandriff, scurf and dry scabs and relieves running sores and
ulcers and is much commended against baldness and shedding the
of the Red Beetroot was recommended 'to stay the bloody flux' and
'to help the yellow jaundice,' also the juice 'put into the
nostrils, purgeth the head, helpeth the noise in the ears and the
Beet, or White Beet, is a selected form of the ordinary red-rooted
Garden Beet and is now the chief source of our sugar; as food for
animals, it has been preferred to turnips and carrots.
1760, the Berlin apothecary Marggraff obtained in his laboratory by
means of alcohol, 6.2 per cent. of sugar from a white variety of
Beet and 4.5 per cent. from a red variety. At the present day, as a
result of careful study of many years, improvement of cultivation,
careful selection of seed and suitable manuring, especially with
nitrate of soda, the average Beet worked up contains 7 per cent. of
fibre and 92 per cent. of juice. The average yield of its weight in
sugar was stated in 1910 to be 12.79 per cent. in Germany and 11.6
per cent. in France.
Britain, the cultivation of Beet for sugar was first seriously
undertaken in Essex in 1910, as the result of careful consideration
during several years and since the War. The Beet Sugar Industry,
aided by Government subsidy, can now be regarded as on a permanent
basis. In 1926-7, no less than fourteen factories were handling the
Beet crops, mostly in Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and
Nottinghamshire, producing large quantities of white refined
See (DEADLY) NIGHTSHADE.
Sesamum Indicum (LINN.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Habitat---America, Southern States, and India. Cultivated in
Africa and Asia.
annual plant with branching stem 4 or 5 feet high, leaves opposite,
petiolate, shape varies; flower reddish white, single, on short
peduncles in axils of leaves; fruit an oblong capsule with small
oval yellowish seeds. The genus Sesamum comprises ten or twelve
species. In India two species occur wild, it is cultivated in the
U.S.A. and in the West Indies; it grows as far north as
---Constituents---The seeds by expression yield a fixed oil
consisting essentially of the glycerides of oleic and linoleic
acids with small preparations of stearin, palmitin and myristin.
Sesamin, another constituent of the oil, may be obtained in long
crystalline needles melting at 118 degrees F., insoluble in water,
light petroleum, ether alkaloids and mineral acids, easily soluble
in chloroform, benzine, and glacial acetic acid. Liquid fatty acids
are present to about 70 per cent., solid fatty acids 12 to 14 per
and Uses---Sesame oil is used in the preparation of Iodinol and
Brominol, which are employed for external internal or subcutaneous
use. The best qualities of the oil are largely used in the
manufacture of margarine. Sesame oil may be used as a substitute
for Olive oil in making the official liniments, ointments and
plasters in India and the African, Eastern, and North America
Colonies. The negroes use the seed as food, boiling them for broth
and making them into puddings and other dishes. The leaves which
abound in gummy matter when mixed with water form a rich bland
mucilage used in infantile cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, catarrh
and bladder troubles, acute cystitis and strangury. The oil is said
to be laxative and to promote menstruation.
---Dosage---1 or 2
full-sized leaves stirred in 1/2 pint of cold water, or in hot
water if the dried leaves are used.
Styrax benzoin (DRY.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
Dosages and Preparations
---Synonyms---Gum Benzoin. Gun Benjamin. Siam Benzoin. Sumatra
---Habitat---Siam, Sumatra and Java.
---Description---Benzoin is a balsamic resin. Normally the
trees do not produce it or any substance analogous to it, but the
infliction of a wound sufficiently severe to injure the cambium
results in the formation of numerous oleoresin ducts in which the
secretion is produced, it is, therefore, a pathological product.
The trunk of the tree is hacked with an axe, and after a time the
liquid Benzoin either accumulates beneath the bark or exudes from
the incisions. When it has sufficiently hardened it is collected
and exported, either in the form of loose pieces (tears) or in
masses packed in oblong boxes or in tins; several varieties are
known, but Siam and Sumatra Benzoins are the most important. The
incisions are made when the tree is seven years old, and in Sumatra
each tree yields about 3 lb. annually for ten or twelve years. The
first three years' collections give the finest Benzoin; after that
the runnings are known as the 'belly,' and finally the tree is cut
down and the resin scraped out, this being termed the 'foot.' Siam
Benzoin externally is reddish yellow, internally milky white, has
an agreeable odour, recalling vanilla, contains benzoic acid but
not cinnamic acid. Sumatra Benzoin is always in blocks of a dull
reddish or greyish-brown colour. Fine qualities have a strong
storax-like odour, quite distinct from the vanilla odour of the
Siamese variety. Sumatra Benzoin contains cinnamic
---Constituents---The chief constituent of Siam Benzoin is
benzoic acid (up to 38 per cent.), partly free and partly combined
with benzoresinol and siaresinotannol; it also contains vanillin
and an oily aromatic liquid. When quite pure it should be entirely
soluble in alcohol and yield only traces of ash. Sumatra benzoin
contains 18 per cent. or more of benzoic acid and about 20 per
cent. of cinnamic acid the latter partly free and partly combined
with benzoresinol and sumarisinotannol; it also contains 1 per
cent. of vanillin, styrol, styracin, phenyl-prophyl cinnamate and
benzaldehyde, all of which combine to produce its characteristic
and Uses---It is used externally in the form of a tincture, diluted
with water as a mild stimulant and antiseptic in irritable
conditions of the skin. It acts as a carminative when taken
internally is rapidly absorbed, and mildly expectorant diuretic and
antiseptic to the urinary passages. In the form of Compound
Tincture of Benzoin, it is used as an inhalant with steam in
laryngitis and bronchitis. It is a preservative of fats, and is
used for that purpose in Adips Benzoatus.
Preparations---Benzoic Acid B.P., 5 to 15 grains. Compound Tincture
of Benzoin, B.P. and U.S.P., 1/2 to 1 drachm. Compound Tincture of
Camphor, B.P. (paregoric) poison, 1/2 to 1 drachm. Tincture of
Benzoin, B.P.C. 1/2 to 1 drachm. Tincture of Benzoin, U.S.P., 15
---Synonyms---Scarlet Monarda. Oswego Tea. Bee
Monarda punctata is considered the only plant indigenous to North
America which can be looked upon as a fruitful source of Thymol,
though another American swamp plant, closely allied to it, M.
didyma, the Scarlet Monarda, is said to yield an oil of similar
composition, though not to the same degree.
---Description---This species, on account of its aromatic
odour, has become a favourite in our gardens. It has showy, scarlet
flowers in large heads or whorls at the top of the stem, supported
by leafy bracts, the leaflets of which are of a pale-green colour
tinged with red. Its square, grooved and hard stems rise about 2
feet high, and the leaves which it bears in pairs are rather rough
on both surfaces.
plant is strongly impregnated with a delightful fragrance; even
after the darkly-coloured leaves have died away, the surface
rootlets give off the pleasant smell by which the plant has earned
its common name 'Bergamot,' it being reminiscent of the aroma of
the Bergamot Orange.
known in America as 'Oswego Tea,' because an infusion of its young
leaves used to form a common beverage in many parts of the United
It is also
sometimes called 'Bee Balm,' as bees are fond of its blossoms,
which secrete much nectar.
delights in a moist, light soil, and in a situation where the
plants have only the morning sun, where they will continue in
flower longer than those which are exposed to the full sun. It is a
very ornamental plant and readily propagated by its creeping roots
and by slips or cuttings, which, if planted in a shady corner in
May, will take root in the same manner as the other
Piper betel (LINN.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Chavica Betel. Artanthe Hixagona.
---Habitat---India, Malaya and Java.
Betel plant is indigenous throughout the Indian Malay region and
also cultivated in Madagascar, Bourbon and the West Indies. It is a
climbing shrub and is trained on poles or trellis in a hot but
shady situation. The leaves are pressed together and dried,
sometimes being sewn up together in packets for
---Constituents---The chief constituent of the leaves is a
volatile oil varying in the leaves from different countries and
known as Betel oil. It contains two phenols, betel-phenol
(chavibetol) and chavicol. Cadinene has also been found. The best
oil is a clear yellow colour obtained from the fresh leaves. The
Indians use the leaves as a masticatory (the taste being warm,
aromatic and bitter), together with scraped areca nut and
and Uses---The leaves are stimulant antiseptic and sialogogue; the
oil is an active local stimulant used in the treatment of
respiratory catarrhs as a local application or gargle, also as an
inhalant in diphtheria. In India the leaves are used as a
counter-irritant to suppress the secretion of milk in mammary
abscesses. The juice of 4 leaves is equivalent in power to one drop
of the oil.
oil, 1 to 2 minims.
Trillium pendulum (WILLD.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Indian Shamrock. Birthroot. Lamb's Quarters.
Wake-Robin. Indian Balm. Ground Lily.
Used---The dried root and rhizome. The leaves.
---Habitat---Middle and Western United States.
the seventeen species of the genus are North American plants,
distinguished by their possession of three green, persistent sepals
and three larger withering petals, of varying colour.
erectum or T. pendulum, perennial, smooth herb, has an erect stem
of from 10 to 15 inches in height, bearing three leaves, broad,
almost rhomboid, and drooping white flowers, terminal and solitary.
Grows in the rich soil of damp and shady woodlands, flowering in
May and June.
official description of the rhizome is 'oblique, globular, oblong
or obconical, truncate below., terminated by a small bud surrounded
by a sheath of scarious leaf bases annulated by leaf scars and
fissured by stem scars. It is from 0.6 to 5 cm. in length, and from
0.6 to 3.5 cm. in width, more or less compressed laterally, rootlet
scars in several concentrie rows on the underside in the upper
portions. Externally yellowish to reddish brown; internally of a
pale yellow; fracture somewhat uneven with a more or less spongy
appearance. Odour distinct; taste bitter and acrid, with a
sensation of warmth in the throat, and when chewed causing an
increased flow of saliva. Trillium yields not more than 5 per cent.
is one of those prepared by the Shakers.
have been found in it volatile and fixed oils, tannic acid,
saponin, a glucoside resembling convallamarin, an acid crystalline
principle coloured brown tinged with purple by sulphuric acid, and
light green with sulphuric acid and potassium dichromate, gum,
resin, and much starch.
The fluid extract is an ingredient in Compound Elixir of
Professor E. S. Wayne isolated the active principle, calling it
Trilline, but the preparation sold under that name has no medicinal
value, while the Trilline of Professor Wayne has not been
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Is said to have been in
use among the aborigines and early settlers of North America. It is
antiseptic, astringent and tonic expectorant, being used
principally in haemorrhages, to promote parturition, and
externally, usually in the form of a poultice, as a local irritant
in skin diseases, or to restrain gangrene.
The leaves, boiled in lard, are sometimes applied to
ulcers and tumours.
The roots may be boiled in milk, when they are helpful in
diarrhoea and dysentery.
---Dosages---Of powdered root, a drachm three times a
day. Of fluid extract, 30 minims, as astringent and tonic
expectorant. Trilline, 2 to 4 grains.
---Other Species---Most of the genus Trillium
have medicinal properties, especially T. erythrocarpum, T.
grandiflorum, T. sessile, and T. nivale.
The acrid species are useful in fevers and chronic affections
of the air-passages. Merely smelling the freshly-exposed surface of
the red Beth roots will check bleeding from the nose.
Botanical: Stachys Betonica (BENTH.), Betonica officinalis
Family N.O. Labiatae
Part Used Medicinally
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Habitat---It is a pretty woodland plant, met with
frequently throughout England, but by no means common in Scotland.
Though generally growing in woods and copses, it is occasionally to
be found in more open situations, and amongst the tangled growths
on heaths and moors.
There are five species of Stachys growing wild in this
country - the once much-valued Betony (S. Betonica); the
Marsh Stachys, or Clown's Woundwort (S. palustris); the true
Woundwort (S. Germanica), a doubtful native, occurring
occasionally on limestone soils in England, but very common on the
Continent, where the dense covering of its leaves was at one time
in rustic surgery employed in the place of lint for dressing
wounds, the low-creeping Field Stachys (S. arvensis); and
the Hedge Stachys, or Hedge Woundwort (S. sylvatica),
perhaps the commonest of them all.
---History---The Wood Betony (S. Betonica
according to present-day nomenclature, though nemed Betonica
officinalis, by Linnaeus) was held in high repute not only in
the Middle Ages, but also by the Greeks who extolled its qualities.
An old Italian proverb, ' Sell your coat and buy Betony, ' and 'He
has as many virtues as Betony,' a saying of the Spaniards, show
what value was placed on its remedial properties. Antonius Musa,
chief physician to the Emperor Augustus, wrote a long treatise,
showing it was a certain cure for no less than fortyseven
Throughout the centuries, faith in its virtues as a panacea for
all ills was thoroughly ingrained in the popular estimation. It was
largely cultivated in the physic gardens, both of the apothecaries
and the monasteries, and may still be found growing about the sites
of these ancient buildings. Robert Turner, a physician writing in
the latter half of the seventeenth century, recounts nearly thirty
complaints for which Betony was considered efficacious, and adds,
'I shall conclude with the words I have found in an old manuscript
under the virtues of it: "More than all this have been proved of
In addition to its medicinal
virtues, Betony was endowed with power against evil spirits. On
this account, it was carefully planted in churchyards and hung
about the neck as an amulet or charm, sanctifying, as Erasmus tells
us, 'those that carried it about them,' and being also 'good
against fearful visions' and an efficacious means of 'driving away
devils and despair.' An old writer, Apelius, says:
'It is good whether for the
man's soul or for his body; it shields him against visions and
dreams, and the wort is very wholesome, and thus thou shalt gather
it, in the month of August without the use of iron; and when thou
hast gathered it, shake the mold till nought of it cleave thereon,
and then dry it in the shade very thoroughly, and with its root
altogether reduce it to dust: then use it and take of it when thou
Many extravagant superstitions grew up round Betony, one, of
very ancient date, was that serpents would fight and kill each
other if placed within a ring composed of it; and others declared
that even wild beasts recognized its efficacy and used it if
wounded, and that stags, if wounded with a dart, would search out
Betony, and, eating it, be cured.
---Description---It comes up year after year from a
thickish, woody root. The stems rise to a height of from 1 to 2
feet, and are slender, square and furrowed. They bear at wide
intervals a few pairs of oblong, stalkless leaves, 2 to 3 inches
long, and about 3/4 to 1 inch broad, with roughly indented margins
in other plants of this group, the pairs of leaves arise on
alternate sides of the stem. The majority of the leaves, however,
spring from the root and these are larger, on long stalks and of a
drawn-out, heart shape. All the leaves are rough to the touch and
are also fringed with short, fine hairs; their whole surface is
dotted with glands containing a bitter, aromatic oil.
At the top of the stem are the two-lipped flowers of a very
rich purplish-red, arranged in dense rings or whorls, which
together form short spikes. Then there is a break and a piece of
bare stem, with two or four oblong, stalkless leaves and then more
flowers, the whole forming what is termed an interrupted spike, a
characteristic peculiarity by which Wood Betony is known from all
other labiate flowers. The cup or calyx of each flower is crowned
by five sharp points, each representing a sepal. The corolla is a
long tube ending in two lips, the upper lip slightly arched, the
lower one flat, of three equal lobes. The four stamens lie in two
pairs within the arch of the upper lip, one pair longer than the
other, and shed their pollen on to the back of bee visitors who
come to drink the honey in the tube, and thus unconsciously effect
the fertilization of the next flower they visit, by carrying to it
this pollen that has been dusted upon them. After fertilization,
four brown, smooth three-cornered nutlets are developed. The
flowers are in bloom during July and August.
The common name of this plant is said by Pliny to have been
first Vettonica, from the Vettones a people of Spain, but modern
authors resolve the word into the primitive or Celtic form of
bew (a head) and ton (good), it being good for
complaints in the head. It has sometimes, also, been called
Bishopswort, the reason for which is not evident. The name of the
genus, Stachys, is a Greek word, signifying a spike, from
the mode of flowering.
---Part Used Medicinally---The whole herb, collected
from wild plants in July, when at their best, and
Collect only on a fine day, in the morning, but after the dew
has been dried by the sun, Cut off the stems shortly above the root
(which is no longer used, as in olden days); strip off all
discoloured or insect-eaten leaves, and as the stems are fairly
firm, tie them up in bunches of about six stalks together, spread
out fanwise, so that the air can penetrate to them all, and hang
them over strings to dry, either in half-shade, in the open air, or
in the drying room. The bunches should be of uniform sizes to
facilitate packing when dry. If dried out-of-doors, take in before
there is any risk of becoming damp from dew or showers. For drying
indoors, a warm, sunny attic or loft may be employed, the window
being left open by day, so that there is a current of air, and the
moist, hot air may escape: the door may also be left open. The
temperature should be from 70 to 100 degrees F. Failing sun any
ordinary shed, fitted with racks and shelves, can be used as a
drying room, provided it is ventilated near the roof and has a warm
current of air, caused by an ordinary coke or anthracite stove. The
important point in drying is rapidity and the avoidance of
steaming: the quicker the process of drying, the more even the
colour obtained, making the product more saleable.
All dried leaves and herbs should be packed away at once in
wooden boxes or tins in a dry place, as otherwise they re-absorb
about 12 per cent. of moisture from the air, and are liable to
become mouldy. The herbs should not be pressed down heavily when
packing, or they will tend to crumble.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Betony was once the
sovereign remedy for all maladies of the head, and its properties
as a nervine and tonic are still acknowledged, though it is more
frequently employed in combination with other nervines than alone.
It is useful in hysteria, palpitations pain in the head and face,
neuralgia and all nervous affections. In the Medicina
Britannica (1666) we read: 'I have known the most obstinate
headaches cured by daily breakfasting for a month or six weeks on a
decoction of Betony made with new milk and strained.'
As an aromatic, it has also astringent and alterative action,
and combined with other remedies is used as a tonic in dyspepsia
and as an alterative in rheumatism, scrofula and impurities of the
The weak infusion forms a very acceptable substitute for tea,
and in this way is extensively used in many localities. It has
somewhat the taste of tea and all the good qualities of it, without
the bad ones. To make Betony tea, pour a pint of boiling water on
an ounce of the dried herb. A wineglassful of this decoction three
times a dayproves a benefit against languid nervous
The dried herb may also be smoked as tobacco, combined with
Eyebright and Coltsfoot, for relieving headache.
A pinch of the powdered herb will provoke violent sneezing. The
dried leaves formed an ingredient in Rowley's British Herb Snuff,
which was at one time quite famous for headaches.
The fresh leaves are said to have an intoxicating effect. They
have been used to dye wool a fine yellow.
Gerard tells us, among other
uses, that Betony,
'preserveth the lives and
bodies of men from the danger of epidemical diseases. It helpeth
those that loathe and cannot digest their food. It is used either
dry or green either the root or herb - or the flowers, drunk in
broth or meat or made into conserve syrup, water, electuary or
powder - as everyone may best frame themselves, or as time or
He proceeds to say that the
herb cures the jaundice, falling sickness, palsy, convulsions,
gout, dropsy and head troubles, and that 'the powder mixed with
honey is no less available for all sorts of colds or cough,
wheezing, of shortness of breath and consumption,' also that 'the
decoction made with mead and Pennyroyal is good for putrid agues,'
and made in wine is good as a vermifuge, 'and also removes
obstructions of the spleen and liver.' Again,
'the decoction with wine
gargled in the mouth easeth the toothache.... It is a cure for the
bites of mad dogs.... A dram of the powder taken with a little
honey in some vinegar is good for refreshing those that are wearied
by travel. It stayeth bleeding at the nose and mouth, and helpeth
those that spit blood, and is good for those that have a rupture
and are bruised. The green herb bruised, or the juice, applied to
any inward hurt, or outward wound in body or head will quickly heal
and close it up. It will draw forth any broken bone or splinter,
thorn or other thing gotten into the flesh, also healeth old sores
or ulcers and boils. The root is displeasing both to taste and
stomach, whereas the leaves and flowers by their sweet and spicy
taste, comfort both in meat and medicine.'
Botanical: Vaccinium myrtillus (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Vacciniaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Whortleberry. Black Whortles. Whinberry.
Trackleberry. Huckleberry. Hurts. Bleaberry. Hurtleberry. Airelle.
Vaccinium Frondosum. Blueberries.
---Parts Used---The ripe fruit. The leaves.
---Habitat---Europe, including Britain, Siberia and
---Description---V. myrtillus grows abundantly in
our heathy and mountainous districts, a small branched shrub, with
wiry angular branches, rarely over a foot high, bearing globular
wax-like flowers and black berries, which are covered when quite
ripe with a delicate grey bloom, hence its name in Scotland,
'Blea-berry,' from an old North Countryword, 'blae,' meaning livid
or bluish. The name Bilberry (by some old writers 'Bulberry') is
derived from the Danish 'bollebar,' meaning dark berry.
There is a variety with white fruits.
The leathery leaves (in form somewhat like those of the myrtle,
hence its specific name) are at first rosy, then yellowish-green,
and in autumn turn red and are very ornamental. They have been
utilized to adulterate tea.
Bilberries flourish best on high grounds, being therefore more
abundant in the north and west than in the south and east of
England: they are absent from the low-lying Cambridgeshire and
Suffolk, but on the Surrey hills, where they are called 'Hurts,'
cover the ground for miles.
The fruit is globular, with a flat top, about the size of a
black currant. When eaten raw, they have a slightly acid flavour.
When cooked, however, with sugar, they make an excellent preserve.
Gerard tells us that 'the people of Cheshire do eate the black
whortles in creame and milke as in these southern parts we eate
strawberries.' On the Continent, they are often employed for
Stewed with a little sugar and lemon peel in an open tart,
Bilberries make a very enjoyable dish. Before the War, immense
quantities of them were imported annually from Holland, Germany and
Scandinavia. They were used mainly by pastrycooks and
Owing to its rich juice, the Bilberry can be used with the
least quantity of sugar in making jam: half a pound of sugar to the
pound of berries is sufficient if the preserve is to be eaten soon.
The minuteness of the seeds makes them more suitable for jam than
---Constituents---Quinic acid is found in the leaves,
and a little tannin. Triturated with water they yield a liquid
which, filtered and assayed with sulphate of iron, becomes a
beautiful green, first of all transparent, then giving a green
The fruits contain sugar, etc.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The leaves can be
used in the same way as those of UvaUrsi. The fruits
are astringent, and are especially valuable in diarrhoea and
dysentery, in the form of syrup. The ancients used them largely,
and Dioscorides spoke highly of them. They are also used for
discharges, and as antigalactagogues. A decoction of the leaves or
bark of the root may be used as a local application to ulcers, and
in ulceration of the mouth and throat.
The fruit is helpful in scurvy and urinary complaints, and when
bruised with the roots and steeped in gin has diuretic properties
valuable in dropsy and gravel. A tea made of the leaves is also a
remedy for diabetes if taken for a prolonged period.
---Dosages---Of powder of the berries, 4 grammes. Of
syrup, 60 grammes to a litre of water. Of fluid extract, 1/2 to 2
---Other Species---V. arboreum, or Farkleberry.
This is the most astringent variety, and both berries and root-bark
may be used internally for diarrhoea, chronic dysentery, etc. The
infusion is valuable as a local application in sore throat, chronic
ophthalmia, leucorrhoea, etc.
V. resinosum, V. damusum, and V. gorymbosum have
properties resembling those of V. myrtillus.
The Bog Bilberry ( V. uliginosum) is a smaller, less
erect plant, with round stems and untoothed leaves, greyish green
beneath. Both flowers and berries are smaller than those of the
common Bilberry. This kind is quite absent in the south and only to
be found in mountain bogs and moist copses, in Scotland, Durham and
The berries of both species are a favourite food of
The 'Huckleberry' of North America, so widely appreciated
there, is our Bilberry - the name being an obvious corruption of
---Recipe for Bilberry Jam---
Put 3 lb. of clean, fresh fruit in a preserving pan with 1 1/2
lb. of sugar and about 1 cupful of water and bring to the boil.
Then boil rapidly for 40 minutes. Apple juice made from windfalls
and peelings, instead of the water, improves this jam. To make
apple juice, cover the apples with water, stew down, and strain the
juice through thick muslin. Blackberries may also be added to this
If the jam is to be kept long it must be bottled hot in
screw-top jars, or, if tied down in the ordinary way, more sugar
must be added.
Bilberry juice yields a clear, dark-blue or purple dye that has
been much used in the dyeing of wool and the picking of berries for
this purpose, as well as for food, constitutes a summer industry in
the 'Hurts' districts. Owing to the shortage of the aniline
dyestuffs formerly imported from Germany, Bilberries were eagerly
bought up at high prices by dye manufacturers during the War, so
that in 1917 and 1918 a large proportion of the Bilberry crop was
not available for jam-making, as the dyers were scouring the
country for the little blue-black berries.
Family: N.O. Convolvulaciae
---Uses---All the Convolvulus family have purgative
properties in a greater or less degree. Convolvulus
Scammonia is used in homoeopathy. A tincture is made from the
gum resin. The drugs known as Jalap and Scammony are produced from
the Jalap Bindweed and the C. Scammonia.
There are three kinds of Convolvulus or Bindweed in our native
flora: the Field, Hedge, and the Sea Convolvulus. We have also many
southern species growing in our gardens, chief among which are the
handsome Morning Glory (Ipomea purpurea Linn.), C.
purpureus, a native of Asia and America, with large purple
flowers, and the pretty little annual, C. minor, a native of
southern Europe, its cheerful flowers a combination of blue, yellow
Botanical: Convolvulus sepium
---Synonyms---Hedge Convolvulus. Old Man's Night Cap.
Hooded Bindweed. Bearbind.
---Habitat---The Greater Bindweed, or Hedge Convolvulus
(C. sepium), is a hedge plant found abundantly throughout
England and Scotland, but only of local occurrence in Scotland.
Like the Field Convolvulus, it is, in spite of the beauty of its
flowers, regarded as a pest by both the farmer and the gardener,
its roots being long and penetrating in a dense mass that exhausts
the soil, and its twining stems extending in masses over all other
plants near, and strangling them to a still greater degree than its
---Description---The leaves of this Bindweed are
arrow-shaped and large, somewhat thin and delicate in texture. They
are arranged singly on alternate sides of the stem, as is the case
with all species of Convolvulus and from their axils spring the
flower-stalks, which are square and in every case bear only one
large blossom, conspicuous for its snowy whiteness. The flowers are
among the largest which this country produces. The calyx is
entirely hidden by the two large bracts that enclose it, and which
completely hide the flower while in bud, a feature that has gained
it also the name of 'Hooded Bindweed,' and has led some botanists
to place it in a different genus, Calystegia, the name being
derived from two Greek words signifying 'beautiful covering.' The
specific name, sepium, is derived from the Latin
sepes, a hedge, andrefers to its place of
The flowers are in bloom from July to September, and like all
the other species expand during sunshine and remain closed during
dull weather. They do not, however, like those of the Field
Convolvulus, close during a shower.
Anne Pratt (Flowers and their Associations) notices the
fact that while some twining plants follow the apparent course of
the sun and turn round the supporting stem from left to right,
others, like the large White Bindweed or Convolvulus, twine
contrary to the sun, from right to left, and never otherwise; even
if the gardener turn it in another direction, the plant, if unable
to disengage itself and assume its natural bias, will eventually
Botanical: Convolvulus Jalapa (LINN.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Habitat---The Jalap Bindweed (C. Jalapa,
Linn.), but more often called Ipomea Jalapa or purga,
is a native of South America and Mexico. It derives its name from
Xalapa, in Mexico, where it is very abundant. It is freely grown
out of doors, however, in the southern countries of Europe, and
plants have been grown here in the garden of the Society of
Apothecaries and also in Norfolk and Hampshire.
---Description---It is a handsome climbing
convolvulaceous plant with crimson flowers and a tuberous root,
which is of officinal value. The tubers, varying in size from a
walnut to an orange, are dark, umber-brown in colour and much
wrinkled. They are imported either whole or sliced.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The drug Jalap is
prepared from a resin which abounds in the roots. It has a slight
smoky odour and the taste is unpleasant, followed by pungent
acridity. It has strong cathartic and purgative action, and is used
in constipation, pain and colic in the bowels and general
intestinal torpor, being combined, in compound powder, with other
laxatives, and with carminatives such as ginger, cloves, etc. It
accelerates the action of rhubarb.
Jalap forms a safe purge for children, being given in sugar or
jam to disguise the taste, and has been used thus with calomel or
wormwood as a vermifuge. It proves an excellent purge in
---Preparations---Powdered root, 3 to 20 grains.
Tincture, B.P., 1/2 to 1 drachm. Powdered resin, 2 to 5 grains.
Compound powder, B.P., 1 to 2 drachms. Jalapin, 1 to 3
Other members of this Convolvulus family have economic uses.
C. dissectus, an American species abounds in prussic acid,
the liquor known as Noyau being prepared from it with the
aid of alcohol, and the oil of Rodium, which is so attractive to
rats as to cause them to swarm to it without fear, even if held in
the hand of a rat-catcher, is the produce of another Convolvulus,
known as C. Rhodorhiza.
One of the most important members of the order economically is
C. Batatas, the tuberous-rooted Bindweed, or SWEET POTATO,
the roots of which abound in starch and sugar and form a nourishing
food, very valuable in the tropics, where it is largely cultivated.
The roots are somewhat in shape like an oblong and ugly potato,
often club-shaped, and are of a reddish colour. When cooked, they
are excessively sweet, not unlike liquorice, and not attractive in
appearance. They are usually of greater size and weight than
Before the introduction of the Potato into Europe, the Sweet
Potato was regularly imported as a wholesome article of diet, and
was grown in Spain and Portugal, to which it had been brought from
the West Indies. The Potato which Shakespeare mentions twice - in
the Merry Wives of Windsor and in Troilus and Cressida - is the
Sweet Potato, and not the more familiar tuber of our
Botanical: Convolvulus Soldanella
---Habitat---The Sea Bindweed (C. Soldanella) is
a very beautiful species growing only on sandy sea-shores,
decorating the sloping sides of sand-hills with its large, pale
rosecoloured flowers striped with red.
---Description---Its stems are not climbing being
usually buried beneath the sand, the flowers and leaves merely
rising above the surface. The leaves are fleshy, roundish or
kidney-shaped, about the size of the Lesser Celandine, placed
singly on alternate sides of the stem on long foot-stalks. The
flowers are produced singly at each side of the stem, on
four-sided, winged stalks, and blossom in July, being succeeded by
round capsules. The bracts are large, egg-shaped and close to the
flower, which is nearly as large as the Great Bindweed, and expands
in the morning and in bright weather, closing before night. This
species is also frequently assigned to the genus
Botanical: Convolvulus Scammonia
Medicinal Action and Uses
Morning Glory (Convolvulus Duartinus)
---Habitat---The Syrian Bindweed, or Scammony (C.
Scammonia), can be grown here and will thrive well on dry soil, but
we import from Smyrna and Aleppo what is needed for medicinal
---Description---It has flowers of a very delicate tint
of sulphur yellow and leaves of a similar shape to our native
The roots are 3 to 4 feet long and from 9 to 12 inches in
circumference; tapering, covered with a light grey bark and
containing a milky juice. Scammony is a gummy resin, obtained from
this milky juice of the root by clearing away the earth from the
upper part of the root and cutting off the top obliquely, about 2
inches below where the stalks spring. Then a vessel is fixed in
such a position as to receive the exuding juice, which gradually
hardens and becomes the Scammony of commerce. The best Scammony is
black, resinous and shining when in the lump, but of a whitish-ash
colour when powdered, with a strong cheesy smell and a somewhat
acrid taste, turning milky when touched by the tongue. It occurs in
commerce in irregular pieces 1 to 2 inches or more in
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Scammony is a drastic
cathartic, closely allied in its operation to Jalap; though not so
nauseous, it is more active and irritating, and in inflammatory
conditions of the alimentary canal should not be used.
The root itself is seldom used: the resin prepared from it is
generally combined with other cathartics to diminish its action and
---Preparations---Powdered root, 3 to 12 grains.
Powdered resin, B.P., 3 to 8 grains. Compound Powder, B.P., 10 to
It appears to have been well known to the Greek and Arabian
physicians, who used it for various other purposes as well as for a
purgative. The dose is generally from 3 to 12 grains. Seven grains
of Scammony resin gradually rubbed well up with 3 oz. milk forms a
safe purgative, to which a taste of ginger can be added. It is used
as a smart purge for children, especially for those with worms, on
account of the smallness of the dose necessary to produce its
effect, the slight taste and the energy of its
It is useful as a hydragogue in dropsies. Meyrick considered it
a rough and powerful, but very useful purgative of great service in
rheumatic and other chronic disorders, reaching the seat of many
sources of trouble that an ordinary purge does not
The leaves of the Sea Bindweed abound with a milky juice which
has been employed as a purge - in 1/2 oz. doses. Applied
externally, the leaves are reputed to diminish dropsical swelling
of the feet. The whole plant used to be gathered fresh, when about
to Hower, and boiled in ale, with nutmegs and cloves, and the
decoction given as a strong purge, which was said to be best
adapted to robust constitutions, being very violent in its action.
The juice oozing from the stalks and root of the Sea Bindweed
hardens into a kind of resin, which is also used as a purge in the
same way as Scammony - a closelyrelated plant of foreign origin,
which is much imported for this purpose.
Both the preceding species of Convolvulus also possess the
virtues of Scammony. The smallness of their roots prevents the
juice being collected in the same way as the foreign species, but
an extract made from the expressed juice of the roots or any
preparation of them has the same purgative quality, only in less
degree. Meyrick states that the root of C. arvensis is a rough
purgative, and to such constitutions as can bear it, will prove
serviceable in jaundice, dropsy and other disorders arising from
obstructions of the viscera, the best method of administering it
being to bruise the roots and give their expressed juice in strong
beer. The juice of theGreater Bindweed, taken in doses of 20 to 30
grains is also a powerful drastic purge, and country people often
boil its freshly-gathered roots in ale in the same manner as the
Field Bindweed. Though for those of a strong constitution there is
no better purge, on account of the nausea which it tends to
produce, it is not considered fit for the delicate.
Botanical: Convolvulus Duartinus
Common: MORNING GLORY
A tincture of the flowers is used for headaches, rheumatism and
Botanical: Betula alba (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Betulaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---White Birch. Bouleau. Berke. Bereza.
Monoecia triandria. B. pubescens. B. verrucosa.
---Parts Used---The bark and the leaves.
---Habitat---Europe, from Sicily to Iceland. Northern
---History---The name is a very ancient one, probably
derived from the Sanscrit bhurga, 'a tree whose bark is used
for writing upon.' From its uses in boat-building and roofing it is
also connected with the A.S. beorgan, 'to protect or
Coleridge speaks of it as the 'Lady of the Woods.' It is
remarkable for its lightness, grace, and elegance, and after rain
it has a fragrant odour.
The young branches are of a rich red brown or orange brown, and
the trunks usually white, especially in the second species of B.
alba, B. verrucosa. B. pubescens is darker, and has downy
instead of warted twigs.
The wood is soft and not very durable, but being cheap, and the
tree being able to thrive in any situation and soil, growing all
over Europe, is used for many humble purposes, such as bobbins for
thread mills, herring-barrel staves, broom handles, and various
fancy articles. In country districts the Birch has very many uses,
the lighter twigs being employed for thatching and wattles. The
twigs are also used in broom making and in the manufacture of
cloth. The tree has also been one of the sources from which
asphyxiating gases have been manufactured, and its charcoal is much
used for gunpowder.
The white epidermis of the bark is separable into thin layers,
which may be employed as a substitute for oiled paper and applied
to various economical uses. It yields oil of Birch Tar, and the
peculiar, well-known odour of russia leather is due to the use of
this oil in the process of dressing. It likewise imparts durability
to leather, and it isowing to its presence that books bound in
russia leather are not liable to become mouldy. The production of
Birch Tar oil is a Russian industry of considerable importance. It
is also distilled in Holland and Germany, but these oils are
appreciably different from the Russian oil. It has the property of
keeping away insects and preventing gnatbites when smeared on the
hands. It is likewise employed in photography.
When the stem of the tree is wounded, a saccharine juice flows
out which is susceptible, with yeast, of vinous fermentation. A
beer, wine, spirit and vinegar are prepared from it in some parts
of Europe. Birch Wine, concocted from this thin, sugary sap of the
tree, collected from incisions made in the trees in March, honey,
cloves and lemon peel being added and then the whole fermented with
yeast, makes a very pleasant cordial, formerly much appreciated.
From 16 to 18 gallons of sap may be drawn from one large tree, and
a moderate tapping does no harm.
---Constituents---Birch bark only contains about
3 per cent. of tannic acid, but is extensively used for tanning,
wherever there are large birch forests, throughout Northern Europe.
As it gives a pale colour to the skin, it is used for the
preliminary and the final stages of tanning. It contains betulin
and betuls camphor.
The leaves contain betulorentic acid.
By destructive distillation, the white epidermis of the bark
yields an empyreumatic oil, known variously in commerce as oil of
Birch Tar, Oleum Rusci, Oleum Betulinum or Dagget. This is a thick,
bituminous, brownish-black liquid, with a pungent, balsamic odour.
It contains a high percentage of methylsalicylate, and also creosol
and guaiacol. The Rectified Oil (Oleum Rusci Rectificatum)
is sometimes substituted for oil of Cade.
Birch Tar oil is almost identical with Wintergreen oil. It is
not completely soluble in 95 per cent. acetic acid, nor in aniline,
but Turpentine oil dissolves it completely.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Various parts of the tree
have been applied to medicinal uses. The young shoots and
leaves secrete a resinous substance having acid properties,
which, combined with alkalies, is said to be a tonic laxative. The
leaves have a peculiar, aromatic, agreeable odour and a
bitter taste, and have been employed in the form of infusion (Birch
Tea) in gout, rheumatism and dropsy, and recommended as a reliable
solvent of stone in the kidneys. With the bark they resolve
and resist putrefaction. A decoction of them is good for bathing
skin eruptions, and is serviceable in dropsy.
The oil is astringent, and is mainly employed for its
curative effects in skin affections, especially eczema, but is also
used for some Internal maladies.
The inner bark is bitter and astringent, and has been
used in intermittent fevers.
The vernal sap is diuretic.
Moxa is made from the yellow, fungous excrescences of
the wood, which sometimes swell out from the fissures.
---Dosage---Of alcoholic extract of the leaves, 25 to 30
B. benta (Cherry Birch, Black Birch, Sweet Birch,
Mahogany Birch, or Mountain Mahogany) is an American variety, with
richlymarked wood suitable for the use of cabinet and pianoforte
makers. The liquor is used in Kamschatka without previous
fermentation. The cambium, or the layer between the wood and the
bast, is eaten in the spring, cut into strips like vermicelli, and
the bark is stimulant, diaphoretic, and astringent, in a warm
infusion. In decoction or syrup it forms an excellent tonic for
dysentery, and is said to be useful in gravel and female
B. trophylla is a syn. of Rhus Aromatica, or
B. papyracea, or Paper Birch, is largely used for
canoe-making in America.
B. nana, or Smooth Dwarf Birch, rarely grows above 3
feet in height. The leaves are said to dye a better yellow than the
Common Birch; the seeds are a principal food of ptarmigan in
Lapland; Moxa is prepared from it and regarded as an effective
remedy in all painful diseases.
Botanical: Aristolochia longa (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Aristolochiaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Part Used---The root.
---Habitat---Southern Europe and Japan.
---Description---There are several species of the
Aristolochias used by herbalists in India. The root is
spindle-shaped from 5 cm. to 3 dm. in length, about 2 cm. in
thickness, fleshy, very brittle, greyish externally,
brownish-yellow inside, bitter and of a strong disagreeable odour
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Said to be useful as an
aromatic stimulant in rheumatism and gout and for removing
obstructions, etc., after childbirth. Dose, 1/2 to 1 drachm of the
Aristolochia, cymbifera from Brazil and Mexico is said
to have medicinal properties similar to the official species. Butte
affirms it is a depressant to the sensory nerve centres and is
useful in neuralgia and pruritis; it was formerly considered
alexiteric, antiparalytic, antiperiodic and
A. Argentina root is used in that republic as a diuretic
and diaphoretic, especially for rheumatism.
A. Indica is used as an emmenagogue, antiarthritic,
stomachic, purgative and vermifuge, and in the East Indies is used
for similar purposes as the American and European
A. Sempervirens is said to be used by the Arabians as a
remedy against the poisonous effects of snake-bite.
A. Foetida in Mexico is used as a stimulant to foul
A. serpentaria used in bilious, typhoid and typhus
fevers, smallpox, pneumonia, amenorrhoea and fevers of a
septicaemic type. It is often given in combination with Peruvian
Bark, rendering it more active and preventing ill effects on the
stomach. It is also used in North America, as are several other
varieties of the species, as an alexiteric and for the bites of mad
Botanical: Polygonurn Bistorta (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Polygonaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Osterick. Oderwort. Snakeweed. Easter
Mangiant. Adderwort. Twice Writhen.
---Part Used---The root-stock, gathered in March, when
the leaves begin to shoot, and dried.
---Habitat---A native of many parts of Northern Europe,
occurring in Siberia and in Japan and in Western Asia to the
Himalayas. It is common in the north of England and in southern
Scotland, growing in moist meadows, though only of local
occurrence; in Ireland, it is very rare.
---History---In many places, it can only be regarded as
an escape from cultivation, its leaves and young shoots having
formerly been widely used in the spring as a vegetable, being
still, indeed, in the north of England an ingredient in Herb
Pudding, under the name of 'Easter-mangiant,' the latter word a
corruption of mangeant, i.e. a plant to be eaten at Easter,
'Easter Giant' and 'Easter Ledges' being variations of this name In
Lancashire and Cumberland, the leaves and young shoots were eaten
as a green vegetable under the name of Patience Dock and Passions.
The roots and leaves had also a great reputation as a remedy for
wounds, so that the plant was generally cultivated for medicinal
use, as well as for employment as a vegetable.
The name Bistort (Latin bis = twice, torta =
twisted) bears reference to the twice-twisted character of the
root-stock, an old local name, 'Twice-Writhen,' being a literal
translation of the Latin. Its twisted, creeping nature is also the
origin of the names Snakeroot, Adderwort and Snakeweed. It was at
one time called Serpentaria, Columbrina, Dracunculus and Serpentary
Dragonwort, and has been thought to be the Oxylanathum
Britannicum and Limonium of the ancients.
Externally, the root-stock is black, but internally is coloured
red and is rich in tannic and gallic acids, which makes it a
powerful astringent and has enabled it to be used in tanning
leather, when procurable in sufficient quantity.
The root-stock, as it appears in commerce, is about 2 inches
long and 3/5 inch broad, twice bent, as in the letter S, more or
less annulate, bearing a few slender roots, otherwise smooth,
reddish brown internally, dark purplish or blackish brown
externally, depressed or channelled on the upper surface, convex
and with depressed root-scars below with a thick bark surrounding a
ring of small woody wedges, which encloses a pith equal in
thickness to the bark.
The drug has an astringent and starchy taste, but no
Besides being one of the strongest vegetable astringents among
our native plants, the roots contain much starch, and after being
steeped in water and subsequently roasted have been largely
consumed in Russia, Siberia and Iceland in time of scarcity and are
said after such preparation to be nutritious and a useful article
of food, bread having been made of the root-flour of this and
another Siberian species of Polygonum.
Where established, the Bistort becomes often a noxious weed in
low-lying pastures, frequently forming large patches difficult to
extirpate on account of its creeping root-stock.
---Description---A number of tuberous roots are produced
from the S-shaped root-stock from the upper side of which spring
directly large oval leaves, with heart-shaped bases, of a
bluish-green colour on the upper side and ash-grey, tinged with
purple, underneath, both leaf-stalks and blades being about 6
inches long. The upper part of the leafstalk is winged. The
flower-stalk, 12 to 18 inches high, is very erect, slender,
unbranched, and bears leaves smaller than the root-leaves and few
in number, broader at their base and on very short stalks. The
stems terminate in a dense, cylindrical spike of striking
flesh-coloured flowers, which consist of five coloured sepals,
eight stamens and an ovary with two to three styles. The flowers
are grouped in twos, one flower complete, the other with normal
stamens, but only a rudimentary ovary. The styles of the complete
flower do not mature and become receptive of pollen from visiting
insects, till their stamens have shed their pollen and fallen,
cross-fertilization thus being ensured. The flowers are produced in
May and June and again in September and October. The fruit is
three-seeded, the ripe seeds are small, brown and shining. Birds
commonly feed upon the seeds, which can be employed to fatten
---Cultivation---The plant may be propagated by division
of the root-stock, in early autumn or spring. Bistort is sometimes
used to ornament moist parts of the rockery and shady border. When
grown in bold masses, it is a handsome and attractive
When it has a corner in the kitchen garden, it is well to pluck
it now and then, even when it is not immediately required for
culinary purposes, as the plant has a strong tendency to
---Constituents---Bistort root has never been carefully
analysed, but it is known to contain about 20 per cent. of tannin
and a large amount of starch, as well as some gallic acid and gum.
Its virtues are extracted by water and its decoction becomes inky
black on the addition of a persalt of iron and with gelatine it
forms a precipitate. Red colouring matter is also
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Bistort root is one of
the strongest astringent medicines in the vegetable kingdom and
highly styptic and may be used to advantage for all bleedings,
whether external or internal and wherever astringency is required.
Although its use has greatly been superseded by other astringents
of foreign origin, it is of proved excellence in diarrhoea,
dysentery, cholera and all bowel complaints and in haemorrhages
from the lungs and stomach, and is a most effectual remedy for
bleeding from the nose and exceedingly useful in dealing with
haemorrhoids. It is used - as a medicine, injection and gargle - in
mucous discharges, as well as for haemorrhages.
A teaspoonful of the powdered root, in a cupful of boiling
water, may be drunk freely as required.
The decoction, often also used, is made from 1 OZ. of the
bruised root boiled in 1 pint of water. One tablespoonful of this
is given every two hours in passive bleedings and for simple
diarrhoea. The decoction is also useful as an injection in profuse
menstruation and in leucorrhoea and is a useful wash in ulcerated
mouth and gums, and as a gargle. It is also used as a lotion to
ulcers attended with a discharge.
Bistort is considered valuable for diabetes, given in
conjunction with tonics, and has itself tonic action.
The older herbalists considered both the leaves and roots to
have 'a powerful faculty to resist poison.' Combined with the
bitter flag root (calamus), the root was used to cure
intermittent fever and ague. Green (Universal Herbal, 1832)
cites its frequent use in intermittent fever, both alone and with
gentian, 3 drachms daily being administered.
It was used, dried, and powdered on cuts and wounds to stop
bleeding. The decoction in wine, made from the powder, was drunk
freely 'to stay internal bleedings and fluxes,' and was considered
'available against ruptures, burstings and bluises from falls and
blows'- also to 'help jaundice, expel the venom of the plague,
smallpox, measles or other infectious disease, driving it out by
sweating.' A distilled water of the leaves and roots was used to
wash any part stung or bitten by a venomous creature, or to wash
running sores or ulcers; also as a gargle in sore throat and to
harden spongy gums, attended with looseness of teeth and soreness
of the mouth. Gerard stated that the root would have this effect,
'being holden in the mouth for a certaine space and at sundry
times.' He also states that 'the juice of Bistort put into the nose
prevaileth much against the disease called Polybus.'
The root was also employed externally as a
The powdered leaves were employed to kill worms in
In Salmon's Herbal the following preparations are given, with
1. A liquid juice of the whole plant.
2. A distilled water of the roots and leaves.
3. A powder of the leaves (good to killworms and for other
4. A powder of the root. (Prevails against malignity of measles
and small-pox and expels the poyson of the Plague or Pestilence or
of any other infectious disease, driving it out by
5. A compound powder of the root (made of equal quantities of
Bistort, Pellitory of Spain and burnt Allum made into a paste with
a little honey and put in hollow of a tooth or at the side, eases
their pain and stops the defluxion of rheum on the part cleanses
the head and brain and causes evacuation of abundance of rheumatic
6. A decoction of the root in wine or water.
7. A decoction compound of the root. (6 oz. Bistort root, 4 oz.
Angelica, 4 oz. of Zedoary, 1 oz. of Winter's Cinnamon, all being
bruised, infuse in red port wine or Canary, 5 quarts, for 6 hours,
then giving it 2 or 3 boils, take it from the fire, strain out the
wine from the ingredients, which let settle, then decant the clear
from the rest sweeten with syrup of lemons or syrup of vinegar.
This is a notable medicament against Measles, Small-Pox Calenture,
Spotted Fever and even the Plague. It also prevails against any
vegetable poison, which is taken inwardly, if timely
8. The diet drink, made of the roots, leaves and
9. The spiritous tincture.
10. The acid tincture.
11. The oily tincture.
12. The saline tincture.
13. The fixed salt (resists putrefaction).
14. The essence.
---Dosage---The root is generally administered in
powder, the dose being from 1/4 to 1/2drachm in
A fluid extract is also prepared from the root, the dose being
1/2 to 1 drachm.
A decoction is also much employed.
SOME MODERN HERBAL RECIPES IN WHICH BISTORT IS AN
---Infants' Diarrhcea Syrup---
1 OZ. Bistort root, 1/4 oz. Cloves, 1/2 oz. Marshmallow root,
1/4 oz. Angelica powder, 1/4 oz. best Ginger powder.
Bruise the root and cloves small. Add 1 1/2 pint boiling water
and simmer down to a pint. Then pour boiling mixture upon the
powder, mix well and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Allow to get
cold, strain and add lump sugar, sufficient to form a syrup, boil
up again, skim, and when cold bottle for use.
This may be given to children in a little Raspberry Leaf Tea, 3
to 6 teaspoonfuls daily, according to age of child. If bleeding
from bowels, or flux, a tea of Cranesbill is recommended instead of
Raspberry Tea. (SKELTON) .
1/2 OZ. Marshmallow root powder, 1/2 oz. Bistort root powder,
1/2 oz. Cranesbill root powder.
Mix the powders thoroughly and then form into a stiff paste
with treacle. Preserve in a jar and take a small quantity (about
the size of a bean) three times a day. When constipation is
present, 1/4 oz. Turkey rhubarb powder may be added to the other
powdered roots. For the blind piles, 1/2 oz. Barberry bark should
Pile Ointment should be applied at the same time, made
as follows: 1/2 oz. Bistort root, 1/2 oz. Cranesbill herb, cut up
Simmer gently for an hour with 2 OZ. lard and 2 OZ. mutton
suet. Strain through a coarse cloth and squeeze out as much
strength as possible. Add 1 OZ. Olive oil and mix well. Allow to
cool gradually. This is equally good for Chapped Hands, Sore Lips,
---Decoction for Piles---
1 OZ. Marshmallow root, 1 oz. Bistort root, 1 oz. Comfrey root,
1 OZ. White Poplar bark, 1 OZ. Cranesbill, 1 OZ. Yarrow, drachms
each Cloves and Cinnamon.
Bruise the roots, add 2 quarts of water and boil 20 minutes,
then add the herbs, Cloves and Cinnamon and boil 10 minutes longer.
Strain and sweeten with brown sugar.
Dose, a wineglassful four times a day. Also use Celandine
(Pilewort) Ointment. (Medical Herbalist.)
---Gargle for Ulcerated Tonsils---
2 drachms Tincture of Bistort root, 2 drachms Tincture of
Bloodroot. Add 2 tablespoonsful of warm water.
Use as gargle, or spray the throat.
---Compound Bistort Wash---
1 drachm Tincture of Bistort, 1/2 oz. Bayberry
Infuse the powder in 8 oz. of boiling water let it remain until
cold, strain the liquid off clear, add the tincture and use freely
morning, noon and night.
In inflamed mucous discharges from the ears, nose, vagina,
urethra or any other part, this wash is exceedingly useful.
(National Botanic Pharmacopoeia.)
Fluid Extract Bistort, Jambul Seed, Pinus Can, Rhus Aromat.,
Potentilla Tormentilla of each 2 drachms. The same quantity of
Tincture of Hydrastis.
Put the whole into a 12-OZ, bottle and fill with distilled
water. Dose, 1 tablespoonful every four hours after meals.
---Recipe for Bistort Pudding---
The Herb Pudding still eaten in Cumberland and Westmorland,
where Bistort is common in moist meadows and is also cultivated, is
a very wholesome dish and very suitable in May, when ordinary green
vegetables used to be scarce.
The chief constituents are Bistort shoots and Nettles, and the
younger and fresher these greens are the more satisfactory is the
resultant food. Allow about 1 1/2 lb. of Bistort to 1 lb. of
Nettles. A few leaves of Black Currant and Yellow Dock may be added
and a sprig of Parsley. Wash the vegetables thoroughly (in salt and
water in the last rinsing), then chop them fairly fine. Place them
in a bowl and mix in about a teacupful of barley (washed and
soaked), half a teacupful of oatmeal, salt and pepper to flavour,
and if liked, a bunch of chives mixed. Boil the whole in a bag for
about 2 1/2 hours, to allow the barley to get thoroughly cooked.
The bag should be tied firmly, for while the greens shrink, the
barley swells. Turn out into a very hot bowl, add a lump of butter
and a beaten egg: the heat of the turned-out pudding is sufficient
to cook the egg.
---Other Species---About forty species of
Polygonum are recorded as having been medicinally employed.
A number of species yield blue or yellow dyestuffs.
Botanical: Apocynum androsaemifolium (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Apocynacae
Medicinal Action and Uses
Poisons and Antidotes
---Synonyms---Milkweed. Dogsbane. Fly-Trap.
---Parts Used---The dried rhizome, roots.
---Description---The genus Apocynum contains only
four species, two of which Apocynum androsaemifolium and
A. cannabinum, or Black Indian Hemp, resemble each other
very closely, the roots being distinguished by the thick-walled
stone cells, which in the former are found in an interrupted circle
near the middle of the bark, and in the latter are
A. androsaemifolium is a perennial herb, 5 or 6 feet in
height, branching, and, in common with the other three members of
the genus, yielding on incision a milky juice resembling
indiarubber when dry.
The leaves are dark green above, paler and downy beneath,
ovate, and from 2 to 3 inches long. The flowers are white, tinged
with red, having five scales in the throat of the corolla which
secrete a sweet liquid, attractive to flies. These scales are very
sensitive, and when touched bend inward, imprisoning the
The tough, fibrous bark of all four species is used by the
Indians of California as a substitute for hemp, in making twine,
bags, fishing-nets and lines, and linen.
The milky root is found in commerce in cylindrical, branched
pieces, about a quarter of an inch thick, reddish or greyish brown
outside, longitudinally wrinkled, and having a short fracture and
small pith. There is scarcely any odour, and the taste is starchy,
afterwards bitter and acrid.
---Constituents---The nature of the active principle is
uncertain. A glucoside, Apocynamarin, was separated, but the
activity is thought to be due not to the glucoside, but to an
intensely bitter principle, Cymarin.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---One of the digitalis
group of cardiac tonics, apocynum, is the most powerful in slowing
the pulse, and its action on the vaso-motor system is also very
strong. Being rather irritant to mucous membranes, it may cause
nausea and catharsis, so that some cannot tolerate it. It is a
powerful hydragogue, helpful in dropsies due to heart-failure, and
in the ascites of hepatic cirrhosts has been called the 'vegetable
It is used as an alterative in rheumatism, syphilis and
---Dosage---5 to 15 grains.
---Poisons and Antidotes---The absorption in the
gastro-intestinal tract being very irregular, the dosage and
patient must be carefully watched and guarded.
A. cannabinum, or Black Indian Hemp, Canadian Hemp,
American Hemp, Amyroot, Bowman's Root, Indian Physic Bitter Root,
Rheumatism Weed, Milkweed, Wild Cotton, Choctaw Root, is diuretic,
expectorant, diaphoretic, emetic, and cathartic. It should not be
substituted for A. androsaemifolium or vice
It is not the Indian Hemp (Cannabis Indica) which
A. hypericifolium bears some resemblance to the
A. venetum contains an alkaloid, Apocynteine, said to be
a cardiac sedative.
BITTER ROOT is also a common name of Gentiana lutea, or
Yellow Gentian, the wellknown bitter, and of Lewisia
rediviva or Spathulum, with a starchy, edible
MILKWEED is also a common name of
DOG'S BANE is also a common name of Aconitum
Botanical: Rubus fructicosus
Family: N.O. Rosacea
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Bramble. Bumble-Kite. Bramble-Kite. Bly.
Brummel. Brameberry. Scaldhead. Brambleberry.
---Parts Used---Root, leaves.
---Habitat---In Australia, the Blackberry grows more
luxuriantly than in any other part of the world, though it is
The Blackberry, or Bramble, growing in every English hedge-row,
is too well known to need description. Its blossoms, as well as its
fruits, both green and ripe, may be seen on the bush: at the same
time, a somewhat unusual feature, not often met with in other
---History---The name of the bush is derived from
brambel, or brymbyl, signifying prickly. We read of
it as far back as the days of Jonathan, when he upbraided the men
of Shechem for their ingratitude to his father's house, relating to
them the parable of the trees choosing a king, the humble bramble
being finally elected, after the olive, fig-tree and vine had
refused the dignity. The ancient Greeks knew Blackberries well, and
considered them a remedy for gout.
Opinions differ as to whether there is one true Blackberry with
many aberrant forms; or many distinct types. Professor Babington
divides the British Rubi into forty-one species, or
Rubus rhamnifolius and R. coryfolius furnish the
Blackberries of the hedges, in which the calyx of the fruit is
reflexed; has also a reflexed calyx, but the leaves are hoary
underneath. R. coesius furnishes Dewberries, distinguished
by the large size of the grains, which are covered with bloom and
few in number, the whole being closely clasped by the calyx. R.
saxatilis, the Roebuck-berry, and the badge of the McNabs, is
an herbaceous species found in mountainous places in the North, and
distinguished by its ternate leaves and fruit of few red large
R. chamaenorus, the Cloudberry, and badge of the
McFarlanes, is also herbaceous, with an erect stem, 6 to 8 inches
high, lobed leaves and a single flower which is succeeded by a
large orange-red fruit of an agreeable flavour. The
double-flowering Rubus of gardens is a variety of R.
fructicosus. R. lancinatus, of which the native country is
unknown, is a rampant species with deeplycut leaves and large black
fruit, which are highly ornamental in autumn.
R. odoratus, the American Bramble, is an erect,
unbranched shrub, with large fivelobed leaves and rose-coloured
R. occidentalis, the Virginian raspberry, has pinnate
and ternate leaves, white flowers and black fruit. It is well known
that the barren shoots of most of our British Rubi from
being too flexile to keep upright, bend downwards even from the
hedges and thickets, and root their ends in the soil, thus
following that mode of increase which in the strawberry is effected
by the scion. The loop thus formed was formerly an object of
occasional search, being reputed in some counties (and we have
known it so in Gloucestershire) as capable of curing hernia or
rupture when used aright, to which end the afflicted child is
passed backwards and forwards through the arching bramble. The
origin of this custom is difficult to trace; but quoting from
Notes and Queries, the passing of children through holes in
the earth, rocks, and trees, once an established rite, is still
practised in various parts of Cornwall. Children affected with
hernia are still passed through a slit in an ash sapling before
sunrise, fasting; after which the slit portions are bound up, and
as they unite so the malady is cured.
It would appear that in Cornwall the bramble-cure is only
employed for boils, the sufferer being either dragged or made to
crawl beneath the rooted shoot. We have heard of cows that
were said to be 'mousecrope,' or to have been walked over by a
shrew-mouse (an ancient way of accounting for paralysis), being
dragged through the bramble-loop, in which case, if the creature
could wait the time of finding a loop large enough, and suffer the
dragging process at the end, we should say the case would not be so
hopeless as that of our friend's fat pig, who, when she was ailing,
'had a mind to kill her to make sure on her!' (LINDLEY S
Treasury of Botany.)
The Blackberry is known in some parts of the country as
'Scaldhead,' either from producing the eruption known as scaldhead
in children who eat the fruit to excess - the over-ripe fruit being
indigestible - or from the curative effects of the leaves and
berries in this malady of the scalp, or from the remedial effects
of the leaves, when applied externally to scalds. The leaves are
said to be still in use in England as a remedy for burns and
scalds; formerly their operation was helped by a spoken charm.
Creeping under a Bramble-bush was itself a charm against
rheumatism, boils, blackheads, etc. Blackberries were in olden days
supposed to give protection against all 'evil runes,' if gathered
at the right time of the moon. The whole plant had once a
considerable popular reputation both as a medicine and as a charm
for various disorders. The flowers and fruit were from very ancient
times used to remedy venomous bites; the young shoots, eaten as a
salad, were thought - though Gerard cautiously suggests the
addition of a little alum - to fasten loose teeth. Gerard and other
herbalists regard the bramble as a valuable astringent, whether
eaten or applied: its leaves 'heal the eies that hang out,' and are
a most useful application for piles, its fruit stops looseness of
the bowels and is good for stone, and for soreness in mouth and
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The bark of the root and
the leaves contain much tannin, and have long been esteemed as a
capital astringent and tonic, proving a valuable remedy for
dysentery and diarrhoea, etc. The root is the more
---Preparations---Fluid extract, 1/2 to 1 drachm. Fluid
extract, root, U.S.P., 15 drops. Syrup, U.S.P., 1
The fruit contains malic and citric acids, pectin and albumen.
If desiccated in a moderately hot oven and then reduced to a
powder, it is a reliable remedy for dysentery.
The root-bark, as used medicinally, should appear in thin
tough, flexible bands, inodorous, strongly astringent and somewhat
bitter. It should be peeled off the root and dried by artificial
heat or in strong sun. One ounce, boiled in 1 1/2 pint water or
milk down to a pint, makes a good decoction. Half a teacupful
should be taken every hour or two for diarrhoea. One ounce of the
bruised root, likewise boiled in water, may also be used, the dose
being larger, however. The same decoction is said to be useful
against whooping-cough in the spasmodic stage.
The leaves are also employed for the same purpose. One ounce of
the dried leaves, infused in one pint of boiling water, and the
infusion taken cold, a teacupful at a time, makes a serviceable
remedy for dysentery, etc.
---Blackberry Wine---Blackberry jelly has been used with
good effects in cases of dropsy caused by feeble, ineffective
circulation, and the London Pharmacopoeia (1696) declared the ripe
berries of the bramble to be a great cordial, and to contain a
notable restorative spirit. Blackberry wine is made by crushing the
fruit and adding one quart of boiling water to each gallon of the
fruit, allowing to stand for 24 hours, stirring occasionally, and
then straining off the liquid. 2 lb. of white sugar are then added
to every gallon, and it is kept in a tightly corked cask till the
following October. This makes a trustworthy cordial astringent,
used in looseness of the bowels. Another delicious cordial is made
from pressing out the juice from the ripe Blackberries, adding 2
lb. of sugar to each quart and 1/2 oz. of nutmegs and cloves. Boil
all together for a short time, allow to get cold and then add a
In Crusoe's Treasury of Easy Medicines (1771) a
decoction of Blackberry leaves is recommended as a fomentation for
longstanding ulcers. There is also a popular country notion that
the young shoots, eaten as a salad, will fasten loose teeth. A
noted hair-dye has been made by boiling the leaves in strong lye,
which imparts to the hair a permanent soft black
---Blackberry Vinegar---is a wholesome drink that is
easily made and can with advantage have its place in the store
cupboard for use in winter, being a fine cordial for a feverish
Gather the berries on a fine day, stalk them, put into an
earthenware vessel and cover with malt vinegar. Let them stand
three days to draw out the juice. Strain through a sieve, drain
thoroughly, leaving them to drip through all day. Measure the juice
and allow a pound of sugar to each pint. Put into a preserving pan,
boil gently for 5 minutes, removing scum as it rises, set aside to
cool, and when cold, bottle and cork well.
A teaspoonful of this, mixed with water will often quench
thirst when other beverages fail and makes a delicious drink in
Botanical: Rubus villosus (AIT.)
Family: N.O. Rosaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Brombeere. Bramble, or Fingerberry. Or.
Nigrobaccus, and R. Cuneifolius.
---Parts Used---Leaves, root, bark.
---Habitat---Cultivated in United States of America from
a Eurobean species.
---Description---It is prepared in thin tough flexible
bands, outer surface blackish or blackish grey, inner surface, pale
brownish, sometimes striped, with whitish tasteless wood adhering.
It is inodorous, very astringent (root more so than the leaves) and
---Constituents---Tannic acid is abundant in it up to 10
per cent, and can be extracted readily by boiling water or dilute
---Medicinal Action and Uses---An astringent tonic for
diarrhoea, dysentery, etc. It is very similar in action to the wild
---Preparations---Fluid extract of dried bark of root
Rubus, U.S.P., 15 minims.
Syrup of Rubus, U.S.P., 1 fluid drachm.
---Other Species---Of the genus Rubus a large
number are indigenous in the United States, where they are called
Blackberry, Dewberry, Cloudberry. Most of them are shrubby or
suffruticose briers, with astringent roots and edible berries, some
have annual stems without prickles, these are called
Botanical: Leptandra Virginica (NUTT.)
Family: N.O. Scrophulariaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Veronica Virginica. Veronica purpurea.
Paederota Virginica. Eustachya purpurea and Eustachya alba.
Culveris Root. Culver's Physic. Physic Root.
---Parts Used---The dried rhizome, roots.
---Habitat---Eastern United States.
---Description---This tall, herbaceous perennial was
included by Linnaeus in the genus Veronica, but was later
assigned by Nuttall to the genus Leptandra, a nomenclature
followed by present-day botanists. It has a simple, erect stem, 3
or 4 feet high or more, smooth and downy, furnished with leaves in
whorls and terminating in a long spike of white flowers, 6 to 10
inches long. The leaves, of which there are from four to seven in
each whorl, are lanceolate, pointed and minutely serrate, and stand
on short footstalks. A variety with purple flowers has been
described as a distinct species under the name of Leptandra
purpurea. The plant flowers in July and August. It grows
throughout the United States, in the south mostly in mountain
meadows - in the north in rich woods, and is not unfrequently
cultivated. It will grow readily in Britain. The rhizome and roots
are nearly odourless, the taste bitter and rather acrid, and are
generally used dried. The rhizome is of horizontal growth, nearly
cylindrical, somewhat branched, externally dark brown to purplish
brown, smooth and faintly longitudinally wrinkled, and showing stem
bases at intervals of 1/2 to 1 1/2 inch. The rootlets, rising from
the under portion, are wiry and brittle when dry.
---Constituents---The roots contain volatile oil,
extractive, tannic acid, gum, resin, a crystalline principle, a
saccharine principle resembling mannite, and a glucoside resembling
senegin. Both the crystalline principle and the impure resin
obtained by precipitating with water a tincture of the root have
been called Leptandrin and is said to be the active principle. The
properties are extracted by both water and alcohol.
An ester of p-methoxycinnamic acid, a phytosterol
verosterol, and some dimethoxycinnamic acid are also
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The fresh root is a
violent cathartic and may also be emetic. The dried root is milder
and less certain. Leptandrin excites the liver gently and promotes
the secretion of bile without irritating the bowels or purging. As
it is also a tonic for the stomach, it is very useful in diarrhoea,
chronic dysentery, cholera infantum, and torpidity of the
The accounts of its use are conflicting, perhaps owing to the
difference in the action of the root in its dry and fresh states.
There appears to be a risk of the fresh root producing bloody
stools and possibly abortion, though a decoction may be useful in
intermittent fever. It has been stated that the dried root has been
employed with success in leprosy and cachetic diseases, and in
combination with cream of tartar, in dropsy.
---Dosages---15 to 60 grains. Of the impure resin, 2 to
4 grains. Of the powdered extract, U.S.P., 4 grains. Of the fluid
extract, 15 minims as a laxative. Leptandrin, 1/4 to 2
Botanical: Fucus vesiculosis (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Fucaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Fucus. Sea-Wrack. Kelp-Ware. Black-Tang.
Quercus marina. Cutweed. Bladder Fucus. Fucus (Varech) vesiculeux.
Blasentang. Seetang. Meeriche.
---Parts Used---The dried mass of root, stem and leaves.
---Habitat---North Atlantic Ocean.
---Description---Almost all the more solid Algae
were formerly described by the name of Fucus, but now it is
applied to one genus of Fucaceae, most of the species of
which are found only in the northern seas, many being more or less
exposed at low water. Fucus vesiculosis is found on
submerged rocks on both coasts of North America, and in Europe
north of the Mediterranean, where it drifts in from time to time
through the Strait of Gibraltar.
The perennial frond or thallus is coarse, light yellow or
brownish-green in colour, erect, and from 2 to 3 feet in height. It
attaches itself to the rocks by branched, rootlike, discoid, woody
extremities, developed from the base of the stalk. The frond is
almost fan-shaped, narrow and strap-shaped at the base, the rest
flat and leaf-like in form, wavy, many times divided into two with
erect divisions having a very strong, broad, compressed midrib
running to the apex. The margin is entire, the texture tough and
leathery, mainly olive brown in colour, the younger portion
yellower, shining. Air vesicles developed in the substance of the
frond, usually in pairs, one on either side of the midrib and often
one at the fork of the divisions, broadly oval, or spherical,
attaining when fully grown half an inch in diameter, are the
characteristics of this species which have suggested both the
English and Latin names.
The fructification is contained in small globose conceptacles
with a firm wall lined with numerous jointed hairs and sunk in the
surface of large ovoid-oblong or narrower pointed or blunt, swollen
receptacles, filled with a transparent mucous. These attain an inch
in length and are situated at the ends of the divisions of the
The entire living plant is gathered from the rocks about the
end of June and dried rapidly in the sun, when it becomes brittle
and may be easily reduced to a coarse powder. Care should be taken
to turn it frequently, to avoid the development of a putrid odour.
If dried by artificial heat, it retains its hygroscopic qualities
and does not become brittle. It is in perfect condition only during
early and middle summer, and should not be collected when too fully
matured, as it quickly undergoes decomposition. When thrown up on
the shore by the sea, the seaweed is not suitable for medicinal
purposes, as the soaking of the detached plants in sea-water causes
the loss of important constituents by diffusion from cells
containing protoplasm which has lost its vitality.
As found in commerce, the drug Fucus is hard and
brittle, forming a much wrinkled mass, blackish or with more or
less of a whitish efflorescence or incrustation, but it acquires a
cartilaginous consistency when slightly moistened. It has a strong,
sea-weedlike odour and a nauseous, saline and mucilaginous taste.
Occasionally, from some unexplained cause, it is very astringent.
The powder is reddish brown, with numerous fragments of epidermal
tissue, with polygonal cells from 0.012 to 0.025 mm. in
Bladderwrack is a valuable manure for potatoes and other
crops and is gathered for this purpose all along the British coast.
It is largely used in the Channel Islands, where it is called
Vraic, the early potatoes from Jersey being grown by seaweed
manure. Fresh seaweed contains 20 to 40 lb. of potash to the ton,
and dried seaweed 60 to 230, so that its collection and use were
strongly recommended to farmers while the War caused a shortage of
artificial fertilizers. It may be spread on the land and left for
some time before ploughing in, but should not be left in heaps, as
rotting liberates the potash which may be wasted. The seaweed may
be dried and burnt to ashes, then sprinkled on the ground as
The early broccoli from Cornwall is fertilized with wrack, and
on the west coast of Ireland, driftweed is almost the only manure
used for raising potatoes. In the Channel Islands it is used for
producing the smoke for drying bacon and fish, while in the
Hebrides, cheeses while drying are covered with the salty ashes,
and horses, cattle and sheep have been fed with it.
During the War the French Ministry of War experimented with
regard to the value of seaweed as food for horses. A batch of
twenty fed on the usual ration of oats and fodder gained eleven
kilogrammes less in two months than a similar number fed on
the same weight of seaweed. Another trial resulted in the cure of
some sick horses fed on seaweed, while others fed on oats remained
out of health.
In Denmark, a few years ago, the possibility of making
paper from seaweed was mooted, but the cost of collecting
probably proved too serious an obstacle.
It is also possible that considerable quantities of
alcohol might be obtained from various species.
Many attempts have been made to make kelp-burning successful by
finding a use for by-products from destructive distillation in
retorts, but the cost of collection, drying and fuel prevents such
experiments being financially profitable. There were at one time
flourishing kelp industries in the Hebrides, and Lord Leverhulme,
the owner of Lewis Isle, sent experts to report on the
possibilities, but his death and lack of official support caused
the matter to be dropped.
Kelp is prepared from several species of Fucus
(including Black Wrack, F. serratus and Knobbed Wrack, F.
nodosus, and on the coast of France about a dozen other species)
and from the deep-sea tangle, Laminaria species, especially
L. digitata. The latter yield 'drift-wood kelp,' obtainable
only when cast up on the shore by gales or other causes. These
contain ten times as much iodine as the Fuci and are
practically now the only kelps used in making iodine. The species
of Fucus growing within the tidal range and cut at low water
are called 'cut-weeds.'
F. vesiculosis is the badge of the
---Constituents---Bladderwrack contains about 0.1 per
cent. of a volatile oil, cellulose, mucilage, mannite, colouring
and bitter principles, soda and iodine, and bromine compounds of
sodium and potassium. These saline ingredients constitute 14 to 20
per cent. of its ashes, which the dry plant yields in the
proportion of 2.5 to 4 per cent., and also remain in the charcoal
resulting from its exposure to heat in closed vessels. The
proportions, especially of iodine, vary according to both locality
and season. They are most abundant at the end of June. It has been
stated that 0.8 per cent. of a sugar named Fucose exists in dried
seaweed, and that this yields an alcohol, Fucitol. The air in the
vesicles consists of a considerably higher percentage of Oxygen and
a lower percentage of Nitrogen than in the outer atmosphere. Its
value as a fertilizer is due to its potash.
One hundred pounds of red wrack, dried to a moisture content of
10 per cent., when heated for a short time with weak sulphuric acid
and the acidity still further reduced after cooling, may be
fermented with brewers' yeast and is then capable of yielding about
6 litres of alcohol on distillation. It is alleged that under
industrial conditions this amount might be increased.
Kelp, or dried seaweed, was the original source of
iodine, being discovered as such by Courtois in 1812, when
investigating the products obtained from the mother-liquors
prepared by lixiviating burnt seaweed. Iodine does not occur in
nature in the uncombined condition, but is widely, though sparingly
distributed in the form of iodides and iodates,
chiefly of sodium and potassium, in seawater, some seaweeds, and
various mineral and medicinal springs.
Kelp-burning as a source of iodine is a dead industry, owing to
a cheaper process of obtaining it from the mother-liquors obtained
in the purification of Chile saltpetre, and the use of kelp - an
impure carbonate of soda, containing sulphate and chloride of
sodium and a little charcoal - as a source of alkalies for soap and
glass manufacture has been rendered obsolete by the modern process
of obtaining carbonate of soda cheaply from common salt. Unless
very recently discontinued, however, the preparation of iodine from
kelp is still carried on at Glasgow.
Several methods were employed: (1) the weeds being dried in the
sun, burned until formed into a confused mass, and sprinkled with
water to break it up into pieces which were treated at chemical
works; or (2) the seaweed was heated in large retorts, whereby
tarry and ammoniacal liquors pass over and a very porous residue of
kelp remained; or (3) the weeds were boiled with sodium carbonate,
the liquid filtered and hydrochloric acid added to the filtrate,
when alginic acid is precipitated; this is filtered off, the
filtrate neutralized by caustic soda and the whole evaporated to
dryness and carbonized.
The resulting kelp was then lixiviated with water, which
extracts the soluble salts, and the liquid concentrated to
crystallize the less soluble salts for removal. The addition of
sulphuric acid set chemical processes in action, which finally
liberated the iodine from its compounds.
Three tons of Tangle (Laminaria) give a ton of kelp, or 20 tons
of cut-weed, or Fucus.
Good drift may yield as much as 10 to 15 lb. of iodine per ton,
and cut-weed kelp only 3 to 4 lb. Other constituents vary from 2 to
10 per cent. in different samples.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Bladderwrack is not
largely used at present, any virtues it may have being due to the
iodine contained in it. It has alterative properties, has been used
in scrofula, and is thought by some authorities to reduce obesity
through stimulating the thyroid gland.
The charcoal derived from Kelp has been used in the treatment
of goitre and scrofulous swellings under the name of Æthiops
vegetabilis or vegetable ethiops, introduced by Dr.
Russell in 1750, who also used a jelly for similar purposes, both
internally and externally. He was also successful in dispersing
scrofulous tumours by rubbing in the mucus of the vesicles of
Bladderwrack, afterwards washing the parts with sea-water. The
charcoal was also helpful in goitre. The iodine from other sources
led to the neglect of kelp products.
In 1862 Dr. Duchesne-Duparc found while experimenting in cases
of chronic psoriasis, that weight was reduced without injuring
health, and used the drug with success for the latter purpose. Dr.
Godfroy experimented on himself, losing five and a quarter pounds
in a week after taking before three meals a day an extract made
into pills containing 25 grams (3.75 grains). The bromine and
iodine stimulated the absorbent glands to increased activity,
without causing an atrophied wasting of the glands. Later
experiments of Hunt and Seidell indicated that the result is
brought about by stimulation of the thyroid gland.
Sea-pod liniment, is the expressed juice and decoction
of fresh seaweed as dispensed by sea-side chemists for rheumatism,
and the extract, taken continuously in pills or fluid form is
reputed to relieve rheumatic pains as well as to diminish fat
Sea-pod essence is good for rubbing into sprains and
bruises, or for applying on wet lint under oiled silk, as a
compress, changed as often as hot or dry. It may be preceded by
fomentations of the hot decoction.
Embrocation for strengthening the limbs of rickety
children can be made from the glutinous substance of the vesicles,
bottled in rum.
Fucus or Seaweed wine, from grapes and dried Fucus, has
been praised as a remedy in diseases of the hip and other joints
and bones in children.
For external application to enlarged or hardened glands, the
bruised weed may be applied as a cold poultice.
---Dosage---Of charcoal, 10 grains to 2
Of extract, 3 to 10 grains, in pills, massed with powdered
Liquorice or Marshmallow roots, to reduce swelling and
Of liquid extract, 1 to 2 fluid drachms. It is the basis of
many advertised nostrums. Sodium and potassium iodides are often
added to supplement the small proportion of iodine. It is used in
mixture form, generally with alkali iodides and sometimes in
combination with Liquor Thyroidei.
Of decoction, 2 fluid ounces, three times daily.
Of infusion, 1 wineglassful.
Solid extract may be dissolved in diluted alcohol and mixed
(All doses for combating obesity are gradually
Of fluid extract, 10 minims.
The Alginic acid obtained from seaweed is used to form an
organic compound with iron, which is sold under the trade name of
Algiron or Alginoid Iron. It contains about 11 per
cent. of iron and is given in doses of 2 to 10 decigrams (3 to 15
Fucol is a trade name for a cod-liver oil substitute,
said to be obtained from roasted Bladderwrack with a bland oil. It
is green in colour, and resembles coffee in odour and
Fucusin tablets are recommended in obesity.
F. nodosus the Knobbed Wrack, has anarrower thallus,
without a midrib and single vesicles.
F. serratus, the Black Wrack, has a veined and serrate
frond, without vesicles . Both contain the same constituents as
F. serratus has been much used in Norway for feeding
cattle, being called there 'cowweed.' Linnaeus stated that in
Gothland the inhabitants boiled it with water, mixed it with a
little coarse meal or flour, and fed their hogs with it, for which
reason they called the plant 'Swine-tang.' In Sweden the poor
people covered their cottages with it and sometimes used it for
F. siliquosus has a very narrow frond, with short
branches and articulated vesicles of a pod-like
This and the two preceding species are permitted by the French
Codex to be employed in the place of F.
F. natans (Sargassum bacciferum) is the Gulf-weed
of the Atlantic Ocean and is often found in immense masses floating
in the sea.
The frond is terrate and has linear and serrate branches and
globular vesicles of the size of a pea.
F. vesiculosis was reputed to be the
Antipolyscarcique nostrum of Count Mattei.
F. canaliculatus is remarkable for its amphibious
habits, growing on large boulders and recovering after being baked
by the sun into hard brown masses.
F. amylaceus, or Ceylon Moss, abounding in starch and
vegetable jelly, is used like carrageen, or Irish
F. Helminthocorton (Corsican Moss or Gigartina
Helminthocorton) is regarded in Europe as an anthelmintic and
febrifuge. It is an ingredient in the trade mixture called Corsican
Moss, used in decoction of from 4 to 6 drachms to a pint, the dose
being 1 wineglassful three times a day.
Another seaweed, Agar-agar, of the East Indies, is sent
to China in large quantities for making jellies and for a size used
in stiffening silks. An aperient medicine is known by its name.
Laminaria digitata, sea-girdles or tangles, of Scotland,
gives a good substance for bougies. The stems are strong and
tenacious, from 2 to 12 inches long and an inch or more wide,
drying easily with much shrinkage and becoming firm, only slightly
softer than horn, and yet elastic. It may be kept thus for years,
and will absorb moisture at any time and swell to the original
size, thus being valuable for dilating bougies and
The Laminariaceae species are very remarkable in many ways.
L. digitata, L. stenophylla, and L. saccharina are
the principal ones associated with the kelp industry.
F. crispus is a name of Chondrus crispus or
Gigartina mamillosa (Irish Moss or Carrageen) of European
coasts, well known as a demulcent. Dosage, 4 drachms.
Family: N.O. Chenopodiaceae
---Habitat---They grow only on seashores, or in saline
plains and other places where the soil is impregnated with salt,
and are almost exclusively confined to the temperate and tropical
regions of the Northern Hemisphere, very few being found in the
The Sea-blites are members of the genus Suaeda, the name
derived from the Greek word for soda, in which the plants
They are smooth or downy herbaceous, or more frequently
shrubby, plants, with alternate, somewhat tapering, fleshy,
stalkless leaves, bearing solitary or clustered stalkless or
short-stalked, usually perfect flowers in their axils. Their
fruits, utricles, are enclosed in the slightly enlarged or inflated
berry- like calyx, but do not adhere to it.
Botanical: Sueada fruticosa
---Synonym---Shrubby Sea Blite
The Shrubby Sea-Blite is one of our rarer British species. It
grows on sandy and shingly beaches, mostly on the east coast, but
it is very common in the warmer parts of Europe and also in
Northern Africa and Western Asia.
It is a shrubby, erect, branching, evergreen, perennial plant,
2 to 5 feet high, with thick and succulent, semi-cylindrical,
bluntish, pale-green leaves, and small stalkless flowers, either
solitary, or two or three together.
It is one of the plants burned in Southern Europe for the
manufacture of barilla.
Blite, Annual Sea
Botanical: Suaeda maritima
Suaeda maritima (Linn.), the Annual Sea-Blite, is our
other British species and is common on muddy seashores. It is a low
straggling plant, smooth, glaucous and reddish in winter, with
slender branches rising 1 to 2 feet; acute, semi-cylindrical, short
fleshy leaves; flowers, 1 to 5 together, styles two. It is in
flower from July to October.
Culpepper tells us there
'two sorts, the white and the
red. The white hath leaves somewhat like unto beets but smaller,
rounder and of a whitish-green colour. The red is in all things
like the white, but that its leaves and tufted heads are
exceedingly red at first and after turn more purplish.... They are
all of them cooling, drying and binding and useful in fluxes of
blood, especially the red.'
He also mentions
'another sort of wild Blites,
like the other wild kinds, but having long and spiky heads of
greenish seeds, seeming by the thick setting together to be all
seed. This sort fishes are delighted with, and it is a good and
usual bait, for fishes will bite fast enough at them, if you have
but wit enough to catch them when they bite.'
The name Blite has also been applied to several of the
Botanical: Amaranthus blitus
---Synonyms---Strawberry Spinach. Berry-bearing
The Strawberry Blite belongs to the closely allied order
Amaranthacece, and is not strictly a native of Britain, only
occasionally appearing on rubbish heaps. It is an inconspicuous
weed, and to the casual observer would be regarded as an Orache or
Goosefoot. Its trailing stems are a foot or so in length, bearing
more or less oval leaves and numerous green flowers clustered in
the leaf axils. The flowers are unisexual and without petals, both
kinds of flowers being borne, however, on the same plant. The
female flower develops into a juicy crimson capsule, full of purple
juice, having somewhat the appearance of a Wood Strawberry, hence
the popular name of the plant. Was formerly much used for colouring
in cookery. It flowers in August.
Botanical: Sanguinaria Candensis (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Papaveraceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
Preparations and Dosages
---Synonyms---Indian Paint. Tetterwort. Red Pucoon. Red
Root. Paucon. Coon Root. Snakebite. Sweet Slumber.
---Parts Used---Root, whole plant.
---Habitat---United States of America and Canada, found
in rich open woods from Canada, south to Florida and west to
Arkansas. and Nebraska.
---Description---A perennial plant, one of the earliest
and most beautiful spring flowers. In England it will grow freely
if cultivated carefully, it has even grown in the open in gravelly
dry soil in the author's garden. It has a lovely white flower and
produces only a single leaf and a flowering scape about 6 inches
high. When the leaf first appears it is wrapped round the flower
bud and is a greyish-green colour covered with a downy bloom -
Leaves palmate five to nine lobed, 6 to 10 inches long. After
flowering the leaves increase in size, the underside paler showing
prominent veins. The white flower is wax-like with golden stamens.
The seed is an oblong narrow pod about 1 inch long. The rootstock
is thick, round and fleshy, slightly curved at ends, and contains
an orange-red juice, and is about 1 to 4 inches long, with
orange-red rootlets. When dried it breaks with a short sharp
fracture, little smell, taste bitter acrid and persistent, powdered
root causes sneezing and irritation of the nose. The root is
collected in the autumn, after leaves die down; it must be stored
in a dry place or it quickly deteriorates.
---Constituents---Alkaloids Sanguinarine, Chelerythrine,
Protopine and B. homochelidonine; Sanguinarine forms colourless
crystals. Chelerythrine is also colourless and crystalline.
Protopine (also found in opium) is one of the most widely diffused
of the opium alkaloids. The rhizome also contains red resin and an
abundance of starch.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Emetic cathartic
expectorant and emmenagogue, and of great value in atonic
dyspepsia, asthma, bronchitis and croup. (The taste is so
nauseating, that it may cause expectorant action.) Of value in
pulmonary consumption, nervous irritation and helpful in lowering
high pulse, and in heart disease and weakness and palpitation of
heart of great use. For ringworm apply the fluid extract. Also good
for torpid liver, scrofula, dysentery. It is applied to fungoid
growths, ulcers fleshy excrescences, cancerous affections and as an
escharotic. Sanguinaria root is chiefly used as an expectorant for
chronic bronchitis and as a local application in chronic eczema,
specially when secondary to varicose ulcers. In toxic doses,
it causes burning in the stomach, intense thirst, vomiting,
faintness vertigo, intense prostration with dimness of
The root has long been used by the American Indians as a dye
for their bodies and clothes and has been used successfully by
American and French dyers.
---Preparations and Dosages---Fluid extract of
Sanguinaria, U.S.P., dose 1 1/2 minims. Tincture of Sanguinaria,
U.S.P., 15 minims. Powdered root, 10 to 30 grains. Sanguinarin, 1/4
to 1 grain. Fluid extract, 10 to 30 drops .
Botanical: Scilla nutans (S. M.)
Hyacinthus nonscriptus (LINN.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Calverkeys. Culverkeys. Auld Man's Bell.
Ring-o'-Bells. Jacinth. Wood Bells. Agraphis nutans,
---Part Used---Bulb, dried and powdered.
---Habitat---Abundant in Britain, Western Europe to
Spain, eastward to Central France, along the Mediterranean to
---Description---From the midst of very long, narrow
leaves, rising from the small bulb, and overtopping them, rises the
flower-stem, bearing the pendulous, bell-shaped blossoms, arranged
in a long curving line. Each flower has two small bracts at the
base of the short flower-stalk. The perianth is bluish-purple and
composed of six leaflets.
The Wild Hyacinth is in flower from early in April till the end
of May, and being a perennial and spreading rapidly, is found year
after year in the same spot, forming a mass of rich colour in the
woods where it grows. The long leaves remain above ground until
late in the autumn.
Linnaeus first called it Hyacinthus, tradition
associating the flower with the Hyacinth of the Ancients, the
flower of grief and mourning. Hyacinthus was a charming youth whom
both Apollo and Zephyrus loved, but Hyacinthus preferred the
Sun-God to the God of the West Wind, who sought to be revenged, and
one day when Apollo was playing quoits with the youth, a quoit
(blown by Zephyrus out of its proper course) killed Hyacinthus.
Apollo, stricken with grief, raised from his blood a purple flower,
on which the letters Ai, Ai were traced, so that his
cry of woe might for evermore have existence upon earth. As our
native variety of Hyacinth had no trace of these mystic letters our
older botanists called it Hyacinthus nonscriptus, or 'not
written on.' A later generic name, Agraphis, is of similar
meaning, being a compound of two Greek words, meaning 'not to
It is the 'fair-hair'd hyacinth' of Ben Jonson, a name alluding
to the old myth. We also find it called Jacinth in Elizabethan
times. In Walton's Angler it is mentioned as
---Constituents---The bulbs contain inulin, but are
characterized by the absence of starch (which in many other
monoeotyledons is found in company with inulin). Even if fed on
cane-sugar, Bluebell bulbs will not form starch. They also contain
a very large quantity of mucilage.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Though little used in
modern medicine, the bulb has diuretic and styptic
Dried and powdered it has been used as a styptic for
leucorrhoea; 'There is hardly a more powerful remedy,' wrote Sir
John Hill (1716-75), warning at the same time that the dose should
not exceed 3 grains. He also informs us that a decoction of the
bulb operates by urine.
Tennyson speaks of Bluebell juice being used to cure
The flowers have a slight, starch-like scent, but no medicinal
uses have been ascribed to them.
The bulbs are poisonous in the fresh state. The viscid juice so
abundantly contained in them and existing in every part of the
plant has been used as a substitute for starch, and in the days
when stiff ruffs were worn was much in request. From its gummy
character, it was also employed as bookbinders' gum.
Gerard informs us that it was also used for setting feathers
upon arrows. De Candolle (1778-1841) suggested that the abundant
mucilage might be put to some economic purpose.
---Substitutes---any other bulbous plants related to
Scilla (Hyacinthus, Muscari Gagea, etc.) have been used as
diuretics, and probably contain related, if not identical
Botanical: Menyanthes trifoliata (TOURNEF.)
Family: N.O. Gentianaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Buckbean. Marsh Trefoil. Water Trefoil.
(Dutch) Bocks. Boonan.
(German) Bocksbohne or Scharbocks-Klee.
---Habitat---The Buckbean, or Bogbean, grows in spongy
bogs, marshes and shallow water throughout Europe, being rather
scarce in the south of England, though common in the north and in
---Description---It is a green, glabrous plant, with
creeping rootstock and procumbent stem, varying in length according
to situation, covered by the sheaths of the leaves, which are on
long, fleshy, striated petioles and three-partite, the leaflets
being entire and about 2 inches long and 1 broad. It blossoms from
May to July, the flowers being borne on long stalks, 6 to 18 inches
high, longer than the leaves and clustered together in a thick
short spike, rendering them very conspicuous. The corollas, 3/4
inch across, are outwardly rose-coloured and inwardly white and
hairy, with reddish stamens. The Buckbean is one of the prettiest
of our wild flowers deserving of cultivation in the garden, where
it grows and thrives well, if planted in peat with water constantly
round the roots.
---History---The plant was held to be of great value as
a remedy against the once-dreaded scurvy. Scharbock, its
German name, is a corruption of the Latin scorbutus, the old
medical name for the disease.
'Bean' is probably an affix from the resemblance of the foliage
to that of the beans grown in cottage gardens. Gerard says that the
leaves are 'like to those of the garden beane.'
Its specific name, trifoliata, carries the same
reference to the form of its leaves.
The generic name, Menyanthes, is from two Greek words
signifying month and flower. It was a name bestowed by Linnaeus,
and it has been suggested that the plant was so called because it
remains in flower for a month; but it is actually often in bloom
during May, June and July!
One of the older writers describes its inflorescence as a 'bush
of feather-like floures of a white colour, dasht ouer slightly with
a wash of light carnation.'
Buckbean has a reputation for preserving sheep from rot, but it
is doubtful whether they really touch it, on account of its extreme
---Constituents---The chief constituents are a small
quantity of volatile oil and a bitter principle, a glucoside called
Menyanthin. The bitterness is imparted to both alcohol and
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Tonic, cathartic,
deobstruent and febrifuge. An extract is made from the leaves,
which possesses strong tonic properties, and which renders great
service in rheumatism, scurvy, and skin diseases. An infusion of 1
OZ. of the dried leaves to 1 pint of boiling water is taken in
wineglassful doses, frequently repeated. It has also been
recommended as an external application for dissolving glandular
swellings. Finely powdered Buckbean leaves have been employed as a
remedy for ague, being said to effect a cure when other means fail.
In large doses, the powder is also purgative. It is used also as a
The juice of the fresh leaves has proved efficacious in
dropsical cases, and mixed with whey has been known to cure
In Halliwell's Popular
Rhymes and Nursery Tales this rhyme occurs:
'Buckee, Buckee, biddy
Is the way now fair and
Is the goose ygone to
And the fox ygone to
Shall I come
These curious lines are said by Devonshire children when they
go through any passages in the dark, and are said to be addressed
to Puck or Robin Goodfellow. Biddy bene= Anglo-Saxon biddan,
to ask or pray; bén, a supplication or entreaty. Buckee is
perhaps a corruption of Puck.
Buckbean tea, taken alone or mixed with wormwood, centaury or
sage, is said to cure dyspepsia and a torpid liver.
---Preparation---Fluid extract, 10 to 40
Botanical: Peumus Boldus (MOLINA)
Family: N.O. Monimiaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Boldu. Boldus. Boldoa
---Part Used---The leaves.
---Description---An evergreen shrub growing in the
fields of the Andes in Chile, where its yellowish-green fruit is
eaten, its bark used for tanning, and its wood utilized in
Leaves are opposite, sessile, about 2 inches long entire, and
colour when dried red brown, coriaceous, prominent midrib, a number
of small glands on their surface. Odour peculiar, when crushed very
strongly disagreeable, not unlike oil of Chenopodium (wormseed).
The leaves contain about 2 per cent on distillation of an aromatic
volatile oil, chemically related to oil of
A peculiar alkaloid called Boldine has been found in the leaves
and when injected hyperdermically, paralyses both motor and sensory
nerves, also the muscle fibres. When given internally, in toxic
doses, it causes great excitement, exaggerates the reflexes and the
respiratory movements, increases diuresis, causes cramp and
convulsions ending in death from centric respiratory paralysis, the
heart continuing to beat long after respiration ceases. Of late
years Boldine has been largely used in veterinary practice for
---Constituents---Boldo leaves contain about 2 per cent
of volatile oil, in which, in addition to terpenes, terpineol has
been detected. They also contain the bitter alkaloid Boldine and
the glucoside Boldin or Boldoglucin.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Tonic, antiseptic,
stimulant. Useful in chronic hepatic torpor. The oil in 5-drop
doses has been found useful in genito-urinary inflammation. Has
long been recognized in South America as a valuable cure for
---Preparations---Tincture of Boldo, B.P.C., used as a
diuretic. Dose, 10 to 40 minims. Fluid extract, 1/4 to 1/2
---Other Species---The Australian tree Monimia
rotundifolia contains an oil rather similar, which may be
safely substituted for Boldo.
Botanical: Eupatorium perfoliatum (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Compositae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Habitat---Thoroughwort or Boneset is a very common
and familiar plant in low meadows and damp ground in North America,
extending from Nova Scotia to Florida.
Boneset was a favourite medicine of the North American Indians,
who called it by a name that is equivalent to 'Ague-weed,' and it
has always been a popular remedy in the United States, probably no
plant in American domestic practice having more extensive and
frequent use; it is also in use to some extent in regular practice,
being official in the United States Pharmacopceia, though it is not
included in the British Pharmacopoeia.
---Constituents---All parts of the plant are active, but
the herb only is official, the leaves and tops being
gathered after flowering has commenced. They contain a volatile
oil, some tannic acid, and Eupatorin, a bitter glucosidal
principle, also resin, gum and sugar. The virtues of the plant are
yielded both to water and alcohol.
---Description---Boneset is a perennial herb, with an
erect stout, cylindrical hairy stem, 2 to 4 feet high, branched at
the top. The leaves are large, opposite, united at the base,
lance-shaped, 4 to 8 inches long (the lower ones being the
largest), tapering to a sharp point, the edges finely toothed, the
veins prominent, the blades rough above, downy and resinous and
dotted beneath. The leaves serve to distinguish the species at the
first glance - they may be considered either as perforated by the
stem, perfoliate (hence the specific name), or as consisting
of two opposite leaves joined at the base, the botanical term for
which is connate. The flower-heads are terminal and
numerous, large and slightly convex, with from ten to twenty white
florets, having a bristly pappus, the hairs of which are arranged
in a single row. The odour of the plant is slightly aromatic, the
taste astringent and strongly bitter. This species shows
considerable variety in size, hairiness, form of leaves and
inflorescence. It flowers from July to September.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Stimulant, febrifuge and
laxative. It acts slowly and persistently, and its greatest power
is manifested upon the stomach, liver, bowels and
It is regarded as a mild tonic in moderate doses, and is also
diaphoretic, more especially when taken as a warm infusion, in
which form it is used in attacks of muscular rheumatism and general
cold. In large doses it is emetic and purgative.
Many of the earlier works allude to this species as a diuretic,
and therefore of use in dropsy, but this is an error, this property
being possessed by Eupatorium purpureum, the purple-flowered
Boneset, or Gravel Root.
It has been much esteemed as a popular febrifuge, especially in
intermittent fever, and has been employed, though less
successfully, in typhoid and yellow fevers. It is largely used by
the negroes of the Southern United States as a remedy in all cases
of fever, as well as for its tonic effects. As a mild tonic it is
useful in dyspepsia and general debility, and particularly
serviceable in the indigestion of old people. The infusion of 1 OZ
of the dried herb to 1 pint of boiling water may be taken in
wineglassful doses, hot or cold: for colds and to produce
perspiration, it is given hot; as a tonic, cold.
As a remedy in catarrh, more especially in influenza, it has
been extensively used and with the best effects, given in doses of
a wineglassful, warm every half hour, the patient remaining in bed
the whole time; after four or five doses, profuse perspiration is
caused and relief is obtained. It is stated that the popular name
Boneset is derived from the great value of this remedy in the
treatment of a species of influenza which had much prevailed in the
United States, and which from the pain attending it was commonly
called Break-Bone Fever.
This species of Eupatorium has also been employed in
cutaneous diseases, and in the expulsion of tapeworm.
---Preparations---Powdered herb. Dose 12 to 20
Fluid extract, 1/2 to 1 drachm.
Eupatorin. Dose, 1 to 3 grains.
Botanical: Borago officinalis (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Boraginaceae
Part Used Medicinally
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Parts Used---Leaves and flowers.
---Habitat---The Common Borage is a hardy annual plant
coming originally from Aleppo but now naturalized in most parts of
Europe and frequently found in this country, though mostly only on
rubbish heaps and near dwellings, and may be regarded as a garden
escape. It has long been grown freely in kitchen gardens, both for
its uses as a herb and for the sake of its flowers, which yield
---Description---The whole plant is rough with white,
stiff, prickly hairs. The round stems, about 1 1/2 feet high, are
branched, hollow and succulent; the leaves alternate, large,
wrinkled, deep green, oval and pointed, 3 inches long or more, and
about 1 1/2 inch broad, the lower ones stalked, with stiff, one
celled hairs on the upper surfaces and on the veins below, the
margins entire, but wavy. The flowers, which terminate the cells,
are bright blue and star-shaped, distinguished from those of every
plant in this order by their prominent black anthers, which form a
cone in the centre and have been described as their beauty spot.
The fruit consists of four brownish-black nutlets.
---History---In the early part of the nineteenth
century, the young tops of Borage were still sometimes boiled as a
pot-herb, and the young leaves were formerly considered good in
The fresh herb has a cucumber-like fragrance. When steeped in
water, it imparts a coolness to it and a faint cucumber flavour,
and compounded with lemon and sugar in wine, and water, it makes a
refreshing and restorative summer drink. It was formerly always an
ingredient in cool tankards of wine and cider, and is still largely
used in claret cup.
Our great grandmothers preserved the flowers and candied
Borage was sometimes called Bugloss by the old herbalists, a
name that properly belongs to Anchusa officinalis, the
Alkanet, the Small Bugloss being Lycopsis arvensis, and
Viper's Bugloss being the popular name for Echium
Some authorities consider that the Latin name Borago, from
which our popular name is taken, is a corruption of corago,
from cor, the heart, and ago, I bring, because of its
In all the countries bordering the Mediterranean, where it is
plentiful, it is spelt with a double 'r,' so the word may be
derived from the Italian borra, French bourra,
signifying hair or wool, words which in their turn are derived from
the Low Latin burra, a flock of wool, in reference to the
thick covering of short hairs which clothes the whole
Henslow suggests that the name is derived from barrach,
a Celtic word meaning 'a man of courage.'
'Pliny calls it Euphrosinum,
because it maketh a man merry and joyfull: which thing also the old
verse concerning Borage doth testifie:
Ego Borago - (I,
Gaudia semper ago. - (Bring
Those of our time do use the flowers in sallads to exhilerate
and make the mind glad. There be also many things made of these
used everywhere for the comfort of the heart, for the driving away
of sorrow and increasing the joy of the minde. The leaves and
floures of Borage put into wine make men and women glad and merry
and drive away all sadnesse, dulnesse and melancholy, as Dios
corides and Pliny affirme. Syrup made of the floures of Borage
comforteth the heart, purgeth melancholy and quieteth the
phrenticke and lunaticke person. The leaves eaten raw ingender good
bloud, especially in those that have been lately
According to Dioscorides and Pliny, Borage was the famous
Nepenthe of Homer, which when drunk steeped in wine, brought
John Evelyn, writing at the close of the seventeenth century
tells us: 'Sprigs of Borage are of known virtue to revive the
hypochrondriac and cheer the hard student.'
Parkinson commends it 'to expel pensiveness and melanchollie.'
Bacon says that it 'hath an excellent spirit to repress the
fuliginous vapour of dusky melancholie.' Culpepper finds the plant
useful in putrid and pestilential fever, the venom of serpents,
jaundice, consumption, sore throat, and rheumatism.'
---Cultivation---Borage flourishes in ordinary soil. It
may be propagated by division of rootstocks in spring and by
putting cuttings of shoots in sandy soil in a cold frame in summer
and autumn, or from seeds sown in fairly good, light soil, from the
middle of March to May, in drills 18 inches apart, the seedlings
being thinned out to about 15 inches apart in the rows. If left
alone, Borage will seed itself freely and comes up year after year
in the same place. Seeds may also be sown in the autumn. Those sown
then will flower in May, whereas those sown in the spring will not
flower till June.
---Part Used Medicinally---The leaves, and to a lesser
extent, the flowers. Gather the leaves when the plant is coming
into flower. Strip them off singly and reject any that are stained
and insect-eaten. Pick only on a fine day, when the sun has dried
off the dew.
---Constituents---Borage contains potassium and calcium,
combined with mineral acids. The fresh juice affords 30 per cent,
the dried herb 3 per cent of nitrate of potash. The stems and
leaves supply much saline mucilage, which when boiled and cooked
likewise deposits nitre and common salt. It is to these saline
qualities that the wholesome invigorating properties of Borage are
supposed to be due. Owing to the presence of nitrate of potash when
burnt, it will emit sparks with a slight explosive
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Diuretic, demulcent,
emollient. Borage is much usedin France for fevers and pulmonary
complaints. By virtue of its saline constituents, it promotes the
activity of the kidneys and for this reason is employed to carry
off feverish catarrhs. Its demulcent qualities are due to the
mucilage contained in the whole plant.
For internal use, an infusion is made of 1 OZ of leaves to 1
pint of boiling water, taken in wineglassful doses.
Externally, it is employed as a poultice for inflammatory
---Preparation---Fluid extract. Dose, 1/2 to 1
The flowers, candied and made into a conserve, were deemed
useful for persons weakened by long sickness, and for those subject
to swoonings; the distilled water was considered as effectual, and
also valuable to cure inflammation of the eyes.
The juice in syrup was thought not only to be good in fevers,
but to be a remedy for jaundice, itch and ringworm. Culpepper tells
us that in his days: 'The dried herb is never used, but the green,
yet the ashes thereof boiled in mead or honeyed water, is available
in inflammation and ulcers in the mouth or throat, as a
Botanical: Buxus sempervirens (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Buxaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Parts Used---Wood and leaves.
---Habitat---Chiefly in limestone districts in western
and southern Europe, westward to the Himalayas and Japan, northward
to central and western France and in Britain, in some parts of
southern and central England.
---Description---Box in its familiar dwarfed state is
merely a shrub, but when left to grow naturally it will become a
small tree 12 to 15 feet in height, rarely exceeding 20 feet, with
a trunk about 6 inches in diameter covered with a rugged, greyish
bark, that of the branches being yellowish. It belongs to the
family Buxacece, a very small family of only six genera and
about thirty species, closely related to the Spurge family -
Euphorbiaceae. Only this evergreen species has been utilized
Its twigs are densely leafy and the leaves are about 1/2 inch
in length, ovate, entire, smooth, thick, coriaceous and dark green.
They have a peculiar, rather disagreeable odour and a bitter and
somewhat astringent taste. The flowers are in heads, a terminal
female flower, surrounded by a number of male flowers. The fruit
dehisces explosively the inner layer of the pericarp separating
from the outer and shooting out the seed by folding into a
---Constituents---The leaves have been found to
contain besides a small amount of tannin and unimportant
constituents, a butyraceous volatile oil and three alkaloids: (i)
Buxine, the important constituent, chiefly responsible for the
bitter taste and now regarded as identical with the Berberine of
Nectander bark, (ii) Parabuxine, (iii) Parabuxonidine, which turns
turmeric paper deep red. The bark contains chlorophyll, wax,
resin, argotized tallow, gum, lignin, sulphates of potassium and
lime, carbonates of lime and magnesia, phosphates of lime, iron and
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The wood in its
native countries is considered diaphoretic, being given in
decoction as an alterative for rheumatism and secondary syphilis.
Used as a substitute for guaiacum in the treatment of venereal
disease when sudorifics are considered to be the correct
It has been found narcotic and sedative in full doses;
emetico-cathartic and convulsant in overdose. The tincture was
formerly used as a bitter tonic and antiperiodic and had the
reputation of curing leprosy.
A volatile oil distilled from the wood has been prescribed in
cases of epilepsy. The oil has been employed for piles and also for
The leaves, which have a nauseous taste, have sudorific,
alterative and cathartic properties being given in powder, in which
form they are also an excellent vermifuge.
Various extracts and perfumes were formerly made from the
leaves and bark. A decoction was recommended by some writers as an
application to promote the growth of the hair. The leaves and
sawdust boiled in Iye were used to dye hair an auburn
Dried and powdered, the leaves are still given to horses for
the purpose of improving their coats. The powder is regarded by
carters as highly poisonous, to be given with great care. In
Devonshire, farriers still employ the old-fashioned remedy of
powdered Box leaves for bot-worm in horses.
In former days, Box was the active ingredient in a once-famous
remedy for the bite of a mad dog.
Animals in this country will not touch Box, and though camels
are said to readily eat the leaves, they are poisoned by
The timber, though small, is valuable on account of its
hardness and heaviness, being the hardest and heaviest of all
European woods. It is of a delicate yellow colour, dense in
structure with a fine uniform grain, which gives it unique value
for the wood-engraver, the most important use to which it is put
being for printing blocks and engraving plates. An edge of this
wood stands better than tin or lead, rivalling brass in its wearing
power. A large amount is used in the manufacture of measuring
rules, various mathematical instruments, flutes and other musical
instruments and the wooden parts of tools, for which a perfectly
rigid and non-expansive material is required, as well as for toilet
boxes, pillrounders and similar articles.
The Boxwood used by
cabinet-makers and turners in France is chiefly the root. Gerard
'The root is likewise yellow
and harder than the timber, but of greater beauty and more fit for
dagger haftes, boxes and suchlike. Turners and cuttlers do call
this wood Dudgeon, wherewith they make Dudgeonhafted
In France, Boxwood has been used as a substitute for
hops and the branches and leaves of Box have been recommended
as by far the best manure for the vine, as it is said no plant by
its decomposition affords a greater quantity of vegetable
---Dosage---As a purgative: dose of the powdered
leaves, 1 drachm.
As vermifuge: 10 to 20 grains of the powdered
As sudorific: 1 to 2 oz. of the wood, in
---Other Species---DWARF BOX (Buxus suffructaca)
possesses similar medicinal properties.
The American Boxwood used in herbal medicine as a
substitute for Peruvian Bark, being a good tonic, astringent and
stimulant, is not this Box but a kind of Dogwood, native to
America, Cornus florida.
---Adulterant---Box bark which is also bitter and free
from tannin, is sometimes substituted for Pomegranate Bark, which
is employed as a worm-dispeller.
Box leaves have sometimes been substituted for Bearberry leaves
(Uva-Ursi), from which they are distinguished by their
Box leaves are also sometimes used as adulteration of senna,
but are easily detected by their shape and thickness.
The custom of clipping Dwarf Box in topiary gardening is said
to have originated with the Romans, a friend of Julius Caesar
having invented it.
Botanical: Cornus florida (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Cornaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Bitter Redberry. Cornel. New England
Boxwood. Dog-Tree. Flowering Dogwood. American Dogwood. Benthamidia
florida. Box Tree. Virginian Dogwood. Cornouiller à grandes fleurs.
---Part Used---The dried bark of the root.
---Habitat---The United States, from Massachusetts to
---Description---An ornamental little tree introduced
into English cultivation about 1740, but still uncommon. It grows
from 10 to 30 feet in height, with oval, opposite leaves, dark,
clear green above and lighter below. The flowers occur in a small
bunch surrounded by four large, white, involucral bracts that give
the tree the appearance of bearing large white flowers. The name
'Florida' alludes to this effect, and the name 'Cornus,' from
cornu, 'a horn,' refers to the density of the wood. It
flowers so punctually in the third week in May that it sets the
time for the Indians' corn-planting. The oval berries are a
brilliant red. The bark is blackish, and cut into almost square
sections. The inner bark can be utilized to make black ink, half an
ounce of bark being mixed with two scruples of sulphate of iron and
two scruples of gum-arabic dissolved in sixteen ounces of
rainwater. A scarlet pigment can be obtained from the root bark.
The wood is heavy and fine-grained, valuable for small articles
because it takes an excellent polish. It is cut in autumn and dried
before using. The twigs, stripped of their bark, whiten the teeth,
and are used as a dentifrice by the Creoles who inhabit Virginia.
The juice of the twigs preserves and hardens the gums. A bitter but
agreeable drink can be prepared from the fruits infused in
In commerce the bark is usually in quilled pieces several
inches long and from 1/2 to 2 inches broad, which may be covered
with the greyish-red outer bark or may be deprived of it. They are
brittle, and the short fracture shows a mottled red and white
colour. There is a slight odour, and the taste is bitter and a
little aromatic; when fresh, almost acrid. The powder is a
---Constituents---The bark has been found to contain
tannic and gallic acids, resin, gum, extractive, oil, wax, red
colouring matter, lignin, potassa, lime, magnesia, iron, and a
neutral, crystalline glucoside called Cornin. Either water or
alcohol extracts the virtues of the bark. The flowers are said to
have similar properties, and to be sometimes used as a substitute.
It is said that the berries, boiled and pressed, yield a limpid
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Before Europeans
discovered America, the Red Indianswere using the bark in the same
way as Peruvian bark. It is valuable in intermittent fevers, as a
weak tonic for the stomach, and antiperiodic, as a stimulant and
astringent. As a poultice in anthrax, indolent ulcers, and inflamed
erysipelas, it is tonic, stimulant and antiseptic. In the recent
state it should be avoided, as it disagrees with stomach and
bowels. Cinchona bark or sulphate of quinea often replace it
officially. 35 grains of Cornus bark are equal to 30 grains of
The leaves make good fodder for cattle, and in Italy the oil is
used in soups.
The ripe fruit, infused in brandy, is used as a stomachic in
domestic practice, and a tincture of the berries restores tone to
the stomach in alcoholism. Hippocrates, Dioscorides, and Pliny
recommend them in diarrhoea.
---Dosage---Formerly, 1 to 2 oz. of the powder between
paroxysms of intermittent fever.
Of fluid extract, 30 minims as a tonic.
Of cornin, 2 grains.
---Other Species---C. circinata, or Round leaved
Dogwood, and C. Amomum or C.Sericea (Silky Cornel or
Swamp Dogwood), have similar properties and are sometimes used as
C. sanguinea or C. stolonifera, a European
species, is stated to have cured hydrophobia. A decoction was
formerly used for washing mangy dogs, hence its name of Dogberry or
Hound's Tree. It also yields an oil that is both edible and good
A Chilian species has edible berries, with which a drink called
Theca is prepared. The juice of the leaves, or Maqui,
is administered in angina.
C. caerulea has an astringent bark.
C. mascula, called in Greece akenia, and in
Turkey kizziljiek, or redwood, yields the red dye used for
the fez, and the astringent fruit is good in bowel complaints, and
is used in cholera and for flavouring sherbet. The flowers are used
in diarrhoea, and the berries were formerly made into tarts called
rob de cornis.
The dwarf C. suecica has small red berries which form
part of the Esquimaux' winter food-store. In Scotland they have
such a reputation as a tonic for the appetite that the tree is
called lus-a-chraois, or Plant of Gluttony.
Dogwood is also a popular name of Pisicia
Erythrina, which yields a powerful soporific used for
toothache. Its chief use is for poisoning birds, fish, or animals,
which may be eaten afterwards without ill effect. Fish after eating
it may be caught in the hand, stupefied.
Botanical: Veronica beccabunga (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Scrophulariaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Water Pimpernel. Becky Leaves. Cow Cress.
Horse Cress. Housewell. Grass. Limewort. Brooklembe. Limpwort.
Wall-ink. Water-Pumpy. Well-ink.
---Habitat---Brooklime is found in all parts of Great
Britain, being very common and generally distributed, occurring as
far north as the Shetlands, and in the Highlands ascending up to
2,800 feet. It is found in Ireland and the Channel
---Description---It grows abundantly in shallow streams,
ditches, the margins of ponds, etc., flourishing in the same
situations as Water Cress and Water Mint, throwing out stout,
succulent, hollow stems that root and creep along the ground at the
base, giving off roots at intervals, and then ascend, bearing pairs
of short, stalked, oval-oblong leaves, smooth, about 1 1/2 inch
long, slightly toothed on their margin and thick and leathery in
texture. The whole plant is very smooth and shiny in appearance,
turning blackish in drying. The flowers are rather numerous, in
lax, axillary racemes, 2 to 4 inches long, given off in pairs,
whereas in Germander, Speedwell, only one flower stem rises from
each pair of leaves. They begin to open in May and continue in
succession through the greater part of the summer, though are at
their best in May and June. The corollas are bright blue, with
darker veins and a white eye, the petals oval and unequal.
Occasionally a pink form is found.
The flower is adapted for cross-fertilization in the same
manner as Veronica chamaedrys, the stamens and style
projecting from the flower and forming an alighting place for
insects. The petals are wide open in the sun but only partly
expanded in dull weather. The flowers are much visited by insects,
especially by a fly, Syritta pipians. The Honey Bee is also
a visitor and some other small wild bees. Two species of beetle and
the larva of a moth, Athalia annulata, feed on the leaves.
The capsule is round, flat notched and swollen and contains winged,
The specific name of this plant seems to be derived from the
German name, Bachbunge bach, signifying a brook, and
bunge, a bunch. Another source given for the specific name
is from the Flemish beckpunge meaning 'mouth smart,' a name
suggested by the pungency of its leaves, which were formerly eaten
in salads. Dr. Prior tells us that the name Brooklime is in old
writers Broklempe or Lympe, from its growing in the lime or
mud of brooks, the Anglo-Saxon word lime, coming from the
Latin limus, a word that from mud used in the rude buildings
of Anglo-Saxon times, has come to be applied to the calcareous
stone of which mortar is now made.
---Constituents---Tannin and a special bitter principle,
a pungent volatile oil and some sulphur.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Alterative, Diuretic. The
leaves and young stems were once in favour as an antiscorbutic, and
even now the young shoots are sometimes eaten in spring with those
of Watercress, the two plants being generally found growing
together. As a green vegetable, Brooklime isalso wholesome, but not
In earlier days the leaves were applied to wounds, though their
styptic qualities appear to be slight. They are sometimes bruised
and put on burns.
The juice, with that of scurvy-grass and Seville oranges,
formed the 'spring juices' once valued as an
The plant has always been a popular simple for scrofulous
affections, especially of the skin. An infusion of the leaves is
recommended for impurity of the blood, an ounce of them being
infused in a pint of boiling water.
In the fourteenth century, Brooklime was used for many
complaints, including swellings, gout, etc.
Botanical: Cytisus scoparius (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Leguminosae
Part Used Medicinally
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Spartium scoparium (Linn.). Genista
scoparius (Lam.). Sarothamnus scoparius (Koch). Broom Tops. Irish
Tops. Basam. Bisom. Bizzom. Browme. Brum. Breeam. Green
---Habitat---The densely-growing Broom, a shrub
indigenous to England and common in this country, grows wild all
over temperate Europe and northern Asia, being found in abundance
on sandy pastures and heaths. It is sparingly naturalized in sandy
soil in North America.
It is remarkable as the only native medicinal plant used as an
official drug that we draw from the important order of the
Leguminosae, or pod-bearing tribe. Though now more generally
known as Cytisus scoparius (Linn.), it has also been named
Spartium scoparium (Linn.), Sarothamnus scoparius
(Koch), and Genista scoparius (Lam.).
Its long, slender, erect and tough branches grow in large,
close fascicles, thus rendering it available for broom-making,
hence its English name. The local names of Basam, Bisom, Bizzom,
Breeam, Browme, Brum and Green Broom have all been given it in
reference to the habit of making brooms of it, and the name of the
genus, Sarothamnus, to which it was formerly assigned, also
points out this use of the plant, being formed from the Greek words
signifying 'to sweep' and 'a shrub.' The specific name,
Scoparius, also, is derived from the Latin scopa, a
besom. The generic name Cytisus is said to be a corruption
of the name of a Greek island, Cythnus, where Broom abounded,
though it is probable that the Broom known to the ancients, and
mentioned by Pliny and by Virgil under the name of Genista,
was another species, the Spanish Broom, Spartium junceum, as
the Common Broom is in Greece and not found in Southern and Eastern
Europe, being chiefly a native of Western, Northern and Central
The medicinal use of the brush-like branches of the Broom,
under the name Genista, Genesta, or Genestia, is mentioned in the
earliest printed herbals, under Passau, 1485, the Hortus
Sanitatis, 1491, the Grete Herball, 1516, and others. It
is likewise the Genista figured by the German botanists and
pharmacologists of the sixteenth century.
Broom was used in ancient Anglo-Saxon medicine and by the Welsh
physicians of the early Middle Ages. It had a place in the London
Pharmacopceia of 1618 and is included in the British Pharmacopoeia
of the present day.
Bartholomew says of
'Genesta hath that name of
bytterness for it is full of bytter to mannes taste. And is a shrub
that growyth in a place that is forsaken, stony and untylthed.
Presence thereof is witnesse that the ground is bareyne and drye
that it groweth in. And hath many braunches knotty and hard. Grene
in winter and yelowe floures in somer thyche (the which) wrapped
with hevy (heavy) smell and bitter sauer (savour). And ben,
netheles, moost of vertue.'
---Description---It grows to a height of 3 to 5 feet and
produces numerous long, straight, slender bright green branches,
tough and very flexible, smooth and prominently angled. The leaves
are alternate, hairy when young the lower ones shortly stalked,
with three small, oblong leaflets, the upper ones, near the tips of
the branches, sessile and small, often reduced to a single leaflet.
Professor G. Henslow (Floral Rambles in Highways and Byways)
says with reference to the 'leaves' of the broom: 'It has generally
no leaves, the green stems undertaking their duties instead. If it
grows in wet places, it can develop threefoliate leaves.' The large
bright yellow, papilionaceous, fragrant flowers, in bloom from
April to July, are borne on axillary footstalks, either solitary or
in pairs, and are succeeded by oblong, flattened pods, about 1 1/2
inch long, hairy on the edges, but smooth on the sides. They are
nearly black when mature. They burst with a sharp report when the
seeds are ripe flinging them to a distance by the spring-iike
twisting of the valves or sides of the pods. The continuous
crackling of the bursting seed-vessels on a hot, sunny July day is
readily noticeable. The flowers have a great attraction for bees,
they contain no honey, but abundance of pollen.
'In flowers without honey, such as the Broom, there is a
curious way of "exploding" to expel the pollen. In the Broom the
stigma lies in the midst of the five anthers of the longer stamens,
and when a bee visits the flower those of the shorter explode and
disperse their pollen on the bee pressing upon the closed edges of
the keel petal. "The shock is not enough to drive the bee away . .
. The split now quickly extends further . . . when a second and
more violent explosion occurs." The style was horizontal with a
flattened end below the stigma; but when freed from restraint it
curls inwards, forming more than a complete spiral turn. It springs
up and strikes the back of the bee with its stigma. The bee then
gathers pollen with its mouth and legs.' (From The Fertilization
of Flowers, by Professor H. Mueller, pp. 195-6)
---History---As a heraldic device, the Broom was adopted
at a very early period as the badge of Brittany. Geoffrey of Anjou
thrust it into his helmet at the moment of going into battle, that
his troops might see and follow him. As he plucked it from a steep
bank which its roots had knit together he is reputed to have said:
'This golden plant, rooted firmly amid rock, yet upholding what is
ready to fall, shall be my cognizance. I will maintain it on the
field, in the tourney and in the court of justice.' Fulke of Anjou
bore it as his personal cognizance, and Henry II of England, his
grandson, as a claimant of that province, also adopted it, its
mediaeval name Planta genista, giving the family name of
Plantagenets to his line. It may be seen on the Great Seal of
Richard I, this being its first official, heraldic appearance in
England. Another origin is claimed for the heraldic use of the
Broom in Brittany. A prince of Anjou assassinated his brother there
and seized his kingdom, but being overcome by remorse, he made a
pilgrimage to the Holy Land, in expiation of his crime. Every night
on the journey, he scourged himself with a brush of 'genets,' or
genista, and adopted this plant as his badge, in perpetual memory
of his repentance. St. Louis of France continued the use of this
token, founding a special order on the occasion of his marriage in
the year 1234. The Colle de Genet, the collar of the order,
was composed alternately of the fleur-de-lys of France and the
Broomflower, the Broomflower being worn on the coat of his
bodyguard of a hundred nobles, with the motto, 'Exaltat humiles,'
'He exalteth the lowly.' The order was held in great esteem and its
bestowal regarded as a high honour. Our Richard II received it, and
a Broom plant, with open, empty pods, can be seen ornamenting his
tomb in Westminster Abbey. In 1368 Charles V of France bestowed the
insignia of the Broom pod on his favourite chamberlain, and in 1389
Charles VI gave the same decoration to his kinsmen.
The Broom is the badge of the Forbes. Thus, according to
Sandford, it was the bonny broom which the Scottish clan of Forbes
wore in their bonnets when they wished to arouse the heroism of
their chieftains, and which in their Gaelic dialect they called
bealadh, in token of its beauty.
'This humble shrub,' writes Baines, 'was not less distinguished
than the Rose herself during the civil wars of the fourteenth
Apart from its use in heraldry, the Broom has been associated
with several popular traditions. In some parts, it used to be
considered a sign of plenty, when it bore many flowers. The
flowering tops were used for house decoration at the Whitsuntide
festival but it was considered unlucky to employ them for menial
purposes when in full bloom.
An old Suffolk tradition
'If you sweep the house with
blossomed Broom in May
You are sure to sweep the
head of the house away.'
And a yet older tradition is extant that when Joseph and Mary
were fleeing into Egypt, the plants of the Broom were cursed by the
Virgin because the crackling of their ripe pods as they touched
them in passing risked drawing the attention of the soldiers of
Herod to the fugitives.
The Broom has been put to many uses. When planted on the sides
of steep banks, its roots serve to hold the earth together. On some
parts of our coast, it is one of the first plants that grow on the
sand-dunes after they have been somewhat consolidated on the
surface by the interlacing stems of the mat grasses and other
sand-binding plants. It will flourish within reach of sea spray,
and, like gorse, is a good sheltering plant for sea-side
Broom is grown extensively as a shelter for game, and also in
fresh plantations among more important species of shrubs, to
protect them from the wind till fully established.
The shrub seldom grows large enough to furnish useful wood, but
when its stem acquires sufficient size, it is beautifully veined,
and being very hard, furnishes the cabinetmaker with most valuable
material for veneering.
The twigs and branches are serviceable not only for making
brooms, but are also used for basket-work, especially in the island
of Madeira. They are sometimes used in the north of England and
Scotland for thatching cottages and cornricks, and as substitutes
for reeds in making fences or screens.
The bark of the Common Broom yields an excellent fibre, finer
but not so strong as that of the Spanish Broom, which has been
employed from very ancient times- it is easily separated by
macerating the twigs in water like flax. From the large quantity of
fibrous matter contained, the shoots have been used in the
manufacture of paper and cloth.
Tannin exists in considerable amount in the bark, which has
been used in former times for tanning leather.
Before the introduction of Hops, the tender Freen tops were
often used to communicate a bitter flavour to beer, and to render
it more intoxicating.
Gerard says of the
'The common Broom groweth
almost everywhere in dry pastures and low woods. It flowers at the
end of April or May, and then the young buds of the flowers are to
be gathered and laid in pickle or salt, which afterwards being
washed or boiled are used for sallads as capers be and be eaten
with no less delight.'
Broom buds were evidently a favourite delicacy, for they
appeared on three separate tables at the Coronation feast of James
II. The flowers served the double purpose of an appetizer and a
Sometimes a bunch of green Broom tied up with coloured ribbons
was carried by the guests at rustic weddings instead of rosemary,
when that favourite aromatic herb proved scarce.
Withering (Arrangement of Plants) stated that the green
tops were a good winter food for sheep, preventing rot and dropsy
The blossoms were used for making an unguent to cure the gout,
and Henry VIII used to drink a water made from the flowers against
Dodoens (Herbal, 1606) recommended a decoction of the
tops in dropsy and for 'stoppages of the liver.'
Gerard tells us: 'The decoction of the twigs and tops of Broom
doth cleanse and open the liver, milt and kidnies.'
Culpepper considered the decoction of Broom to be good not only
for dropsy, but also for black jaundice, ague, gout, sciatica and
various pains of the hips and joints.
Some of the old physicians burned the tops to ashes and infused
the salts thus extracted in wine. They were known as Salts of Broom
The powdered seeds are likewise administered and sometimes a
tincture is employed. Bruised Broom seeds were formerly used
infused in rectified spirit, allowed to stand two weeks and then
strained. A tablespoonful in a glass of peppermint water was taken
daily for liver complaints and ague.
The leaves or young tops yield a green dye.
The seeds have similar properties to the tops, and have also
been employed medicinally, though they are not any longer used
officially. They have served as a substitute for
---Cultivation---Broom is most easily raised from seed,
sown broadcast in the open air, as soon as ripe. Seedlings may be
transplanted in autumn or spring to their permanent position. Prune
directly after flowering, if the shoots have not been gathered for
medicinal use, shortening the old shoots to the base of promising
As their roots strike down deeply into the ground, the plants
can be grown in dry, sandy soil, where others will not grow. They
do well on rough banks.
Broom may also be increased by layers. Choice garden varieties
are generally increased by cuttings inserted in cold frames in
---Constituents---Broom contains two principles on which
its activity depends. Sparteine, discovered in 1851 by
Stenhouse, of which about 0.03 per cent is present, is a
transparent, oily liquid, colourless when fresh, turning brown on
exposure, of an aniline-like odour and a very bitter taste. It is
but slightly soluble in water, but readily soluble in alcohol and
ether. Stenhouse stated that the amount of Sparteine in Broom
depends much upon external conditions, that grown in the shade
yielding less than that produced in sunny places.
Scoparin, the other principal constituent, is a
glucoside, occurring in pale-yellow crystals, colourless and
tasteless, soluble in alcohol and hot water. It represents most of
the direct diuretic activity of Broom.
Volatile oil, tannin, fat, wax, sugar, etc., are also present.
Broom contains a very large quantity of alkaline and earthy matter,
on incineration yielding about 3 per cent of ash, containing 29 per
cent of carbonate of potash.
Sparteine forms certain salts of which the sulphate (official
in the British and the United States Pharmacopceias) is most used
in medicine. It occurs in colourless crystals, readily soluble in
Oxysparteine (formed by the action of acid on Sparteine) is
used as a cardiac stimulant.
The flowers contain volatile oil fatty matter, wax,
chlorophyll, yellow colouring matter, tannin, a sweet substance,
mucilage, albumen and lignin. Scoparin and the alkaloid sparteine
have been separated from them.
---Part Used Medicinally---The young, herbaceous tips of
the flowering branches are collected in early spring, generally in
May, as they contain most alkaloid at the close of the winter. They
are used officially both in the fresh and dried state.
Broom Juice (Succus Scoparii) is directed to be obtained
by pressing out the bruised, fresh tops, adding one-third
volume of alcohol and setting aside for seven days, filtering
For the expression of the juice the fresh tops may be gathered
in June. Broom Juice is official in the British, French, German and
United States Pharmacopoeias.
Infusion of Broom (Infusum Scoparii) is made by infusing
the dried tops with boiling water for fifteen minutes and then
straining. It was introduced in the British Pharmacopoeia of 1898,
in place of the decoction of Broom of the preceding
The Fluid Extract of Broom of the United States Pharmacopceia
is prepared from the powdered dried tops.
The drug, as it appears in commerce, consists of very long,
much-branched, tough and flexible twigs, which lie parallel with
and close to one another and are about 1/25 to 1/12 inch thick,
narrowly five-winged, with alternating, slight nodes, dark-green
and usually naked; internally, greenish-white.
When fresh, the whole plant has a strong and peculiar odour,
especially when bruised, which almost entirely disappears on
The tops are dark green when fresh and dark brownish-green when
The quality of the drug deteriorates with keeping, and this
condition can be determined by the partial or complete loss of the
slight, peculiar odour of the recently dried drug.
The deep yellow flowers, dried, are considerably
employed separately, under the name Flores Genistae, or
Broom Seeds are used sometimes and are as active as the tops.
Water and alcohol extract their active properties.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Diuretic and cathartic.
Broom tops are used in the form of decoction and infusion, often
with squill and ammonium and potassium acetate, as a feeble
diuretic, generally in dropsical complaints of cardiac origin. The
action is due to the Scoparin contained, whose action on the renal
mucous membrane is similar to that of Buchu and
The infusion is made from 1 OZ. of the dried tops to a pint of
boiling water, taken in wineglassful doses frequently. When acute
renal inflammation is present, it should not be given.
Broom Juice, in large doses, is apt to disturb the stomach and
bowels and is therefore more often used as an adjuvant to other
diuretics than alone.
A compound decoction of Broom is recommended in herbal medicine
as of much benefit in bladder and kidney affections, as well as in
chronic dropsy. To make this, 1 OZ. Broomtops and 1/2 oz. of
Dandelion Roots are boiled in one pint of water down to half a
pint, adding towards the last, 1/2 oz. of bruised Juniper berries.
When cold, the decoction is strained and a small quantity of
cayenne added. A wineglassful is taken three or four times a
The statements of different investigators, both clinical and
pharmacological, concerning the effects of the Sparteine in
preparations of Broom, have elicited absolutely opposing views on
the effect upon the nerves and circulatory system. It is found to
produce a transient rise in arterial pressure, followed by a longer
period of decreased vascular tension. Small doses slow the heart
for a short period of time and then hasten its rate and at the same
time increase the volume of the pulse. Those who advocate its
employment claim that it is a useful heart tonic and regulator in
chronic valvular disease. It has no cumulative action, like
In large doses, Sparteine causes vomiting and purging weakens
the heart, depresses the nerve cells and lowers the blood pressure
and has a strong resemblance to the action of Conine (Hemlock) on
the heart. In extreme cases, death is caused by impairing the
activity of the respiratory organs. Shepherds have long been aware
of the narcotic properties of Broom, due to Sparteine, having
noticed that sheep after eating it become at first excited and then
stupefied, but the intoxicating effects soon pass off.
---Preparations---Fluid extract, 1/2 to 1 drachm. Juice,
B.P., 1 to 2 drachms. Infusion, B.P., 1 to 2 oz.
---Substitutes---It is essential that true Broom be
carefully distinguished from Spanish Broom (Spartium
junceum), since a number of cases of poisoning have occurred
from the substitution of the dried flowers of Spartium for those of
the true Broom.
Botanical: Ruscus aculeatus (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Liliaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Kneeholy. Knee Holly. Kneeholm. Jew's
Myrtle. Sweet Broom. Pettigree.
---Parts Used---Herb and root.
---Habitat---Butcher's Broom, a low, shrubby, evergreen
plant, which occurs not infrequently in woods and waste and bushy
places, especially in the south of England, is sometimes called
Knee Holly, though it is in no way allied to the true Holly, being
a member of the Lily tribe. It is, however, entirely different in
appearance to the bulbous plants we regard as the characteristic
representatives of this group, it being, in fact, the only
Liliaceous shrub known in this country, and the only representative
of its genus among our flora, the other species of the genus,
Ruscus, being mostly native to northern Africa.
---Description---The name Knee Holly appears to have
been given it from its rising to about the height of a man's knee
(though occasionally specimens are found growing about 3 feet
high), and from its having, like the true Holly, prickly leaves,
which are also evergreen.
There is no other British plant exhibiting any similarity to
the Butcher's Broom. Its tough, green, erect, striated stems, which
are destitute of bark, send out from the upper part many short
branches, plentifully furnished with very rigid leaves, which are
really a mere expansion of the stem, and terminate each in a single
sharp spine. The small greenish-white flowers are solitary growing
from the centre of the leaves and blossom in the early spring. They
are dioecious, i.e. stamens and pistils are on different plants, as
is also mostly the case with the Holly and Mistletoe. The corolla
is deeply six-cleft, the stamens, in the one kind of flower,
connected at the base, the style, in the fertile flowers,
surrounded by a nectary. The fertile flowers are succeeded by
scarlet berries as large as cherries, which are ripe in September,
and remain attached to the plant all the winter and cause it often
to be picked for room decoration.
Another member of the same family is Ruscus racemosus or
Alexandrinus, a favourite evergreen shrub with the leaf-like
branches unarmed, and the racemes of small flowers terminal.
It is the original of the 'poets' laurel' so often seen in classic
prints. It, too has red berries - smaller than those of the
Other species are R. androgynous, a native of the
Canaries, which bears its flowers along the edges of the so-called
leaves; R. Hypophyllum, in which the flowers are borne on
the underside of the flattened branches; and R. Hypoglossum,
also from southern Europe, in which the flowers are on the upper
side under a bract-like branchlet.
The young shoots of Butcher's Broom have often been eaten like
those of the Asparagus, a plant to which it is closely allied. The
matured branches used to be bound into bundles and sold to butchers
for sweeping their blocks, hence the name: Butcher's Broom. It is
frequently made into besoms in Italy. One of the names given the
plant, 'Jew's Myrtle,' points to its use for service during the
Feast of Tabernacles. 'Pettigree' is another old popular name, the
meaning of which is not clear.
Parkinson tells us that
Butcher's Broom was used to preserve 'hanged meate' from being
eaten by mice, and also for the making of brooms,
'but the King's Chamber is by
revolution of time turned to the Butcher's stall, for that a bundle
of the stalkes tied together serveth them to cleanse their stalls
and from thence have we our English name of Butcher's
Culpepper says it
'a plant of Mars, being of a
gallant cleansing and opening quality. The decoction of the root
drank, and a poultice made of the berries and leaves applied, are
effectual-in knitting and consolidating broken bones or parts out
of joint. The common way of using it is to boil the root of it, and
Parsley and Fennel and Smallage in white wine, and drink the
decoction, adding the like quantity of Grassroot to them: The more
of the root you boil the stronger will the decoction be; it works
no ill effects, yet I hope you have wit enough to give the
strongest decoction to the strongest bodies.'
---Cultivation---Butcher's Broom is very hardy, thriving
in almost any soil or situation, and is often planted in
shrubberies or edges of woods, on account of its remaining green
after the deciduous trees have shed their leaves.
Propagation is generally effected by division of the roots in
autumn. The shrub may also be propagated by seed, but quicker
results are obtained by the other method. When planted under trees
it soon spreads into large clumps.
---Part Used---The root or rhizome, collected in autumn.
The root is thick, striking deep into the ground. When dry, it is
brownish grey, 2 to 4 inches long and 1/3 inch in diameter, having
somewhat crowded rings and rounded stem scars on the upper surface
and many woody rootlets below. If a transverse section be made, a
number of vascular bundles in the central portion are to be seen.
The root has no odour, but its taste is sweetish at first and then
The whole herb is also collected, being dried in the same
manner as Holly leaves.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Diaphoretic, diuretic,
deobstruent and aperient. Was much recommended by Dioscorides and
other ancient physicians as an aperient and diuretic in dropsy,
urinary obstructions and nephritic cases.
A decoction of the root is the usual form of administration,
and it is still considered of use in jaundice and gravel. One pint
of boiling water to 1 OZ. of the twigs, or 1/2 oz. of the bruised
fresh root has also been recommended as an infusion, which may be
taken as tea.
In scrofulous tumours, advantage has been realized by
administering the root in doses of a drachm every
The decoction, sweetened with honey, is said to clear the chest
of phlegm and relieve difficult breathing.
The boughs have been employed for flogging
Botanical: Genista tinctoria (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Leguminosae
---Synonyms---Dyer's Greenwood. Dyer's Weed. Woad
(French) Genêt des Teinturiers.
---Parts Used---Twigs and leaves.
---Habitat---The Dyer's Broom (Genista tinctoria,
Linn.) is a small shrubby plant with narrow, pointed leaves and
yellow flowers, growing in meadows, pastures and heaths and on the
borders of fields, not uncommon in England but rare in Scotland. It
is wild throughout Europe and established on barren hills and on
roadsides in the eastern states of North America. It is also
cultivated in greenhouses in the United States, on account of its
profusion of yellow papilionaceous flowers.
---Description---The bright green smooth stems, 1 to 2
feet high, are much branched; the branches erect, rather stiff,
smooth or only lightly hairy and free from spines. The leaves are
spear-shaped, placed alternately on the stem, smooth, with uncut
margins, 1/2 to 1 inch in length, very smoothly stalked; the
margins fringed with hairs.
The shoots terminate in spikes of brightyellow, pea-like
flowers, opening in July. They are 1/2 to 3/4 inch long, on
foot-stalks shorter than the calyx. Like those of the Broom, they
'explode' when visited by an insect. The 'claws' of the four lower
petals are straight at first, but in a high state of tension, so
that the moment they are touched, they curl downwards with a sudden
action and the flower bursts open. The flowers are followed by
smooth pods, 1 to 1/4 inch long, much compressed laterally, brown
when ripe, containing five to ten seeds.
A dwarf kind grows in tufts in meadows in the greater part of
England and is said to enrich poor soil.
Cows will sometimes eat the plant, and it communicates an
unpleasant bitterness to their milk and even to the cheese and
butter made from it.
All parts of the plant, but especially the flowering tops,
yield a good yellow dye, and from the earliest times have been used
by dyers for producing this colour, especially for wool; combined
with woad, an excellent green is yielded, the colour being fixed
with alum, cream of tartar and sulphate of lime. In some parts of
England, the plant used to be collected in large quantities by the
poor and sold to the dyers.
Tournefort (1708) describes the process of dyeing linen,
woollen, cloth or leather by the use of this plant, which he saw in
the island of Samos. It is still applied to the same purpose in
some of the Grecian islands. The Romans employed it for dyeing, and
it is described by several of their writers.
The plant is called in French Genêt des Teinturiers and
in German Färberginster. Its English name in the fourteenth
century was Wede-wixin, or Woud-wix, which later became Woad Waxen.
We find it also called Green Weed and Dyer's Weed.
It has diuretic, cathartic and emetic properties and both
flower tops and seeds have been used medicinally, though it has
never been an official drug.
The powdered seeds operate as a mild purgative, and a decoction
of the plant has been used medicinally as a remedy in dropsy and is
stated to have proved effective in gout and rheumatism, being taken
in wineglassful doses three or four times a day.
The ashes form an alkaline salt, which has also been used as a
remedy in dropsy and other diseases.
In the fourteenth century it was used, as well as Broom, to
make an ointment called Unguentum geneste, 'goud for alle
could goutes,' etc. The seed was also used in a plaster for broken
A decoction of the plant was regarded in the Ukraine as a
remedy for hydrophobia, but its virtues in this respect do not seem
to rest on very good evidence.
Botanical: Spartium junceum (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Leguminosae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Habitat---The Spanish Broom is a small shrub,
indigenous in the south of Europe and cultivated as an ornamental
plant. The flowers are large, yellow and of an agreeable scent. It
is identified with the Spartium of the ancients, which is reputed
to have been very violent in action and was said by Gerard and
other herbalists 'to cause to vomit with great violence, even as
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The Spanish Broom in its
medicinal properties closely resembles the common Broom, but is
from five to six times more active. The symptoms produced by
overdoses are vomiting and purging, with renal irritation. The
seeds have been used to a considerable extent in dropsy, in the
form of a tincture. The flowers yield a yellow dye.
The dried flowers of Spanish Broom are readily differentiated,
those of the true Broom having a small bell-shaped calyx with two
unequal lobes, the upper of which is bi-dentate and the lower
minutely tridentate, while in Spartium junceum, the calyx is deeply
cleft to the base on one side only.
By macerating the twigs a good fibre is obtained, which is made
into thread in Languedoc, and its cord and a coarse sort of cloth
The name Spartium is from the Greek word denoting 'cardage,' in
allusion to the use of the plant.
Coronilla scorpioides (Koch) has been used medicinally as
substitute for Broom.
Coronilla is the herbage of various species of the genus of
that name, natives of Europe and some naturalized in North
The drug, at least that from Coronilla scorpioides (Koch),
contains the glucoside Coronillin, a yellow powder. The action and
uses of the drug are very similar to those of Broom.
The leaflets are said to produce a dye like indigo by proper
fermentation, and are also reported as a laxative.
Botanical: Sorghum vulgare (PERS.)
Family: N.O. Graminacae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Sorghum Seeds. Sorghum Saccharatum
(Moench). Guinea Corn.
---Habitat---Spain. Italy and south of Europe.
Cultivated in the United States of America.
---Description---Known as Millet or Guinea Corn. Is
cultivated in the same way as oats or barley in northern Europe;
the seeds are small, round and white, the plant is canelike and
similar to Indian Corn, but producing large heads of the small
grain. Sorghum is generally classified under two varieties,
saccharine and non-saccharine. The saccharine sorghums are not used
for producing sugar owing to the difficulty of
---Medicinal Action and Uses---It yields a very white
flour which is used for making bread, and the grain is used for
feeding cattle, horses and poultry. The grain is diuretic and
demulcent if taken as a decoction. The plant is extensively
cultivated in America for the manufacture of brooms and
The decoction of 2 oz. of seeds to 1 quart of water, boiled
down to 1 pint, is used in urinary and kidney
In the semi-arid districts of western America it is reported
that cattle have been poisoned by eating the green sorghum of the
second growth; possibly due to hydrocyanic acid in the
Botanical: Tamus communis (LINN.
Family: N.O. Dioscoreaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
Black Bryony belongs to a family of twining and climbing plants
which generally spring from large tubers, some of which are
cultivated for food, as the Yam, which forms an important article
of food in many tropical countries. Great Britain only furnishes
one species of this tribe, Tamus communis, which, from its
powerful, acrid and cathartic qualities, ranks as a dangerous
It is a very common plant in woods and hedges, with weak stems
twining round anything within reach, and thus ascending or creeping
among the trees and bushes to a considerable distance.
---Description---The leaves are heart-shaped pointed,
smooth and generally shining as if they had been varnished. Late in
autumn they turn dark purple or bright yellow, making a very showy
appearance. In winter, the stems die down, though the root is
The flowers are small, greenish-white, in loose bunches and of
two kinds, barren and fertile on different plants, the latter being
succeeded by berries of a red colour when ripe.
The large, fleshy root is black on the outside and exceedingly
acrid, and, although an old cathartic medicine, is a most dangerous
remedy when taken internally. It is like that of the yam, thick and
tuberous and abounding in starch, but too acrid to be used as food
in any manner.
The young shoots are said to be good eating when dressed like
Asparagus- the Moors eat them boiled with oil and salt, after they
have been first soaked in hot water.
Gerard says of this
'The wild black Briony
resembleth the white Briony vine, but has not clasping tendrils and
is easier to be losed. The root is black without and of a pale
yellow colour within, like Box. It differs from white Briony only
in that the root is of a yellow box colour on the inside, and the
fruit or berries are black when they come to
As to the colour of the berries, Gerard is at fault: they are
bright red. Other writers have also made the same mistake. The root
is nearly cylindrical, 1 to 1 1/2 inch in diameter, 3 to 4 inches
long or more, and black.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Rubifacient, diuretic.
The expressed juice of the fresh root, mixed with a little white
wine, has been used as a remedy for gravel, being a powerful
diuretic, but it is not given internally now, and is not included
in the British Pharmacopoeia. Death in most painful form is the
result of an overdose, while the effect of a small quantity,
varying not with the age only, but according to the idiosyncrasies
of the patient, leaves little room for determining the limit
between safety and destruction. The expressed juice of the root,
with honey, has also been used as a remedy for asthmatic
complaints, but other remedies that are safer should be
The berries act as an emetic, and children should be cautioned
against eating them.
As an external irritant, Black Bryony has, however, been used
with advantage, and it was formerly much employed. The scraped pulp
was applied as a stimulating plaster, and in gout, rheumatism and
paralysis has been found serviceable in many
A tincture made from the root proves a most useful
application to unbroken chilblains, and also the fruits,
steeped in gin, are used for the same remedy.
Black Bryony is a popular remedy for removing discoloration
caused by bruises and black eyes, etc. The fresh root is scraped to
a pulp and applied in the form of a poultice.
For sores, old writers recommend it being made into an ointment
with 'hog's grease or wax, or other convenient
The generic name Tamus is given to the plant from the
belief that it is the same as that referred to in the works of
Pliny under the name of Uva Taminia.
The Greeks use the young suckers like Asparagus, which they
T. cretica is a native of Greece and the Greek
---Preparation---Tincture, 1 to 5 drops.
Bryony, European White
Botanial: Bryonia alba (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Cucurbitaceae
---Synonyms---Black-berried White Bryony. European White
The Black-berried White Bryony is a plant very similar in
general appearance to Bryonia dioica, having also palmate
rough leaves and similar unisexual flowers, which are succeeded,
however, by globular black berries.
The root is very similar to that of Bryonia dioica and
contains the same substances, but it is stated also to contain a
glucoside Brein, which causes the drug to produce a somewhat
different physiological effect.
The tincture is used by homoeopathists, and is said to be one
of the best diuretics in medicine. It is an excellent remedy in
gravel and all other obstructions and disorders of the urinary
passages, and has also been used for relieving coughs and colds of
a feverish, bronchial nature.
---Preparation---Fluid extract, 1/6 to 1 drachm Bryonin,
1/4 to 2 grains.
Botanical: Bryonia dioica (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Cucurbitaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---English Mandrake. Wild Vine. Wild Hops.
Wild Nep. Tamus. Ladies' Seal. Tetterbury.
(French) Navet du diable.
---Habitat---The Cucumber tribe has a single
representative among our wild plants in the Red-berried, common or
White Bryony. This is a vine-like plant growing in woods and
hedges, and exceedingly common in the south of England, rarer in
the Midland counties, and not often found in the north of England.
It is of frequent occurrence in central and southern
---Description---The stems climb by means of long
tendrils springing from the side of the leaf stalks, and extend
among the trees and shrubs often to the length of several yards
during the summer, dying away after ripening their fruit. They are
angular and brittle, branched mostly at the base, and are, as well
as the somewhat vine-shaped leaves very rough to the touch, with
short, pricklelike hairs - a general character of the exotic plants
of this order.
The leaves are stalked, with the stalk curved, shorter than the
blade, which is divided into five lobes, of which the middle one is
the longest - all five are slightly angular.
The flowers, which bloom in May, are small, greenish, and
produced, generally three or four together, in small bunches
springing from the axils of the leaves. Stamens and pistils are
never found in the same flower, nor are the flowers which have them
individually ever met with on the same plant in this species,
whence the name dioica, signifying literally 'two
dwellings.' The male flowers are in loose, stalked bunches, 3 to 8
flowers in a bunch, or cyme, the stamens having one-celled, yellow
anthers. The fertile flowers, easily distinguished from the barren
by the presence of an ovary beneath the calyx, are generally either
stalkless (sessile) or with very short stalks - two to five
together. The corollas in each case consist of five petals,
cohering only at the base. The outer green calyx is widely
bell-shaped and five-toothed.
The berries, which hang about the bushes after the stem and
leaves are withered, are almost the size of peas when ripe, a pale
scarlet in colour. They are filled with juice of an unpleasant,
foetid odour and contain three to six large seeds, greyish-yellow,
mottled with black, and are unwholesome to eat.
The whole plant is rather succulent, bright green and somewhat
The name of the genus, Bryonia, derived from the Greek
bryo, 1 shoot, or sprout appears to have reference to the
vigorous an active growth of its annual stems, which proceed from
the perennial roots, and so rapidlycover other shrubs, adhering to
them with their tendrils. Bryonia dioica is the only British
representative of the genus.
---History---Under the name of Wild Nepit was known in
the fourteenth century as an antidote to leprosy.
It produces a large, tuberous
rootstock which is continuous with a thick, fleshy root which
attains an enormous size. Gerard says of it:
'The Queen's chief surgeon,
Mr. Wiiliam Godorous, a very curious and learned gentleman, shewed
me a root hereof that waied half an hundredweight, and of the
bignes of a child of a yeare old.'
This large, fleshy,
pale-coloured root used often to be seen suspended in herb shops,
occasionally trimmed into a rude human form. Green (Universal
Herbal, 1832) tells us:
'The roots of Bryony grow to
a vast size and have been formerly by imposters brought into a
human shape, carried about the country and shown for Mandrakes to
the common people. The method which these knaves practised was to
open the earth round a young, thriving Bryony plant, being careful
not to disturb the lower fibres of the root; to fix a mould, such
as is used by those who make plaster figures, close to the root,
and then to fill in the earth about the root, leaving it to grow to
the shape of the mould, which is effected in one
The plant is still sometimes called Mandrake in
In this fleshy root is found a somewhat milky juice, very
nauseous and bitter to the taste. It is of a violently purgative
and cathartic nature, and was a favourite medicine with the older
herbalists, well known to and much used by the Greeks and Romans
prescribed by Galen and Dioscorides, and afterwards by Gerard, but
is now seldom employed by regular practitioners, though sometimes
by the homoeopathists, though they mostly use another variety of
Bryony that is not indigenous to this country. The French call the
root Navet du Diable (Devil's Turnip), from its violent and
Withering says a decoction made by boiling one pound of the
fresh root in water is 'the best purge for horned cattle,' and it
has been considered a sovereign remedy for horse grip.
Gerard declared the root to be profitable for tanners to
thicken their hides with.
Bartholomew's Anglicus tells us that Augustus Caesar
used to wear a wreath of Bryony during a thunderstorm to protect
himself from lightning.
Culpepper says it is a 'furious martial plant,' but good for
many complaints; among others, 'stiches in the side, palsies,
cramps, convulsions ' etc.
The acrid and cathartic properties of the root are shared in
some measure by all parts of the plant: the berries are emetic and
even poisonous. They have been used for dyeing. The young shoots in
the spring are considered to be inert, and have sometimes been
boiled and eaten as greens without harm resulting. Among animals,
goats alone are said to eat this plant.
The extracts made from some exotic species of this tribe, as
the Squirting Cucumber (Momordica elaterium) and the
Colocynth (Cucumis colocynthis), afford useful
---Part Used---The root is collected in the autumn and
used both in the fresh and dry state. When fresh, it is of a dirty
yellow or yellowish-white colour, externally marked at close
intervals with prominent transverse corky ridges, which often
extend half round the root and give it the appearance of being
circularly wrinkled. Internally, it is whitish, succulent and
fleshy, with a nauseous odour - which disappears in great measure
on drying - and a bitter, acrid taste. The juice which exudes on
cutting the root is milky, owing to the presence of numerous minute
starch grains. The root is usually simple, like a carrot or
parsnip, but sometimes is forked into two.
When sold dry, Bryony root appears in circular, brittle pieces,
1/4 to 1/3 inch thick about 2 inches in diameter, the thin bark
greyish-brown and rough, longitudinally wrinkled, the central
portion whitish or greyish, showing numerous round wood bundles
arranged in concentric rays, with projecting radiating lines. The
taste is disagreeably bitter, but there is no odour.
The large size, tapering shape, transverse corky ridges and
nauseously bitter taste of Bryony root are distinctive. Small
specimens may resemble Horseradish root, but that is cylindrical
and smooth and has a pungent taste.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Irritative, hydragogue,
cathartic. Its chief use was as a hydragogue cathartic, but is now
superseded by Jalap. Its use as a purgative has been discontinued
as dangerous, on account of its powerful and highly irritant
It was formerly given in dropsy and other complaints. It is of
so acrid a character that, if applied to the skin, it produces
redness and even blisters. It has been used for cataplasms, and
praised as a remedy for sciatica, rheumatism and
It is still considered useful in small doses for cough,
influenza, bronchitis and pneumonia, and has also been recommended
for pleurisy and whooping-cough, relieving the pain and allaying
It has proved of value in cardiac disorders caused by
rheumatism and gout, also in malarial and zymotic
In case of poisoning by Bryony, the stomach must be evacuated
and demulcent drinks given. The body temperature must be maintained
by the use of blankets and hot bottles.
Botanical: Barosma betulina (BART. and WENDL.)
Family: N.O. Rutaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Habitat---A small shrubby plant chiefly found in the
south-west region of Cape Colony.
The standard Buchus of commerce are obtained from three
species: Barosma betulina, known as 'shorts'; B.
crenulata, known 'ovals' and 'shortbroads,' and B.
serratifolia, known as 'longs.' The leaves of the firstnamed
are most valued and constitute the foliea buchu of the
The Hottentots use several species, all under the common name
of 'Bucku.' The leaves have a rue-like smell, and are used by the
natives to perfume their bodies.
Buchu leaves are collected while the plant is flowering and
fruiting, and are then dried and exported from Cape Town. The bulk
of the Buchu exported to London from South Africa eventually finds
its way to America, where it is used in certain proprietary
---Description---The leaves of B. betulina (short
Buchu) are of a pale green colour, 1/2 to 3/4 inch long, 1/2 inch
or less wide, leathery and glossy, with a blunt, strongly-curved
tip and finely-toothed margin, with round oil glands scattered
through the leaf. Frequently the small flowers, with five whitish
petals, and the brownish fruits may be found mixed with the drug.
The leaves have a strongly aromatic taste and a peppermint-like
---Constituents---The principal constituents of Buchu
leaves are volatile oil and mucilage, also diosphenol, which has
antiseptic properties, and is considered by some to be the most
important constituent of Buchu its absence from the variety known
as 'Long Buchu' has led to the exclusion of the latter leaves from
the British Pharmacopoeia.
The Cape Government exercises strict control over the gathering
of Buchu leaves and has lately made the terms and conditions more
onerous, in order to prevent the wholesale destruction of the wild
plants, no person being permitted to pick or buy Buchu without a
licence. Cultivation experiments with Buchu have been made from
time to time by private persons, and during the war experiments
were conducted at the National Botanic Gardens, Kirstenbosch (near
Cape Town), the result of which (given in the South African
Journal of Industries, 1919, 2, 748) indicate that, under
suitable conditions, the commercial cultivation of Buchu should
prove a success, B. betulina, the most valuable kind, being
the species alone to be grown. The plant is particularly adapted to
dry conditions, and may be cultivated on sunny hillsides where
other crops will not succeed.
It is doubtful whether the cultivation of Buehu could be
conducted satisfactorily outside South Africa. B. betulina
was introduced to this country in 1790, but does not appear to be
in eultivation at the present time, except as a greenhouse plant.
This and B. serratifolia are grown in Kew
---Medicinal Action and Uses---In gravel, inflammation
and catarrh of the bladder it is specially useful. The infusion
(B.P.) of 1 OZ. of leaves to 1 pint of boiling water is taken in
wineglassful doses three or four times a day.
---Other Preparations---Fluid extract: dose, 1/2 to 1
drachm. Tincture, B.P.: dose, 1/2 to 1 drachm. Solid extract: dose,
5 to 15 grains. Barosmin: dose, 2 to 3 grains.
Buchu has long been known at the Cape as a stimulant tonic and
remedy for stomachic troubles, where it is infused in Brandy and
known as Buchu Brandy. Its use was learnt from the
It was introdueed into official medicine in Great Britain in
1821 as a remedy for cystitis urethritis, nephritis and catarrh of
Family: N.O. Rhamnaceae
Family: N.O. Rhamnaceae
---Synonyms---Highwaythorn. Waythorn. Hartsthorn.
Three species of the genus Rhamnus (the name derived
from the Greek rhamnos, a branch) are possessed of the same
medicinal properties in varying degrees.
The Common or Purging Buckthorn, a much-branched shrub, usually
about 6 feet high, but sometimes as much as 10 or 12 feet, is
indigenous to North Africa, the greater part of Europe and North
Asia. Though found throughout England in woods and thickets and
near brooks, it is practically confined to a calcareous soil,
except in a few counties, such as Bucks., Herts., Oxon. and Wilts.
In Scotland it occurs only in a single locality.
---Description---The main stem is erect, the bark
smooth, of a blackish-brown colour, on the twigs ash-coloured. The
smaller branches generally terminate in a stout thorn or spine,
hence the ordinary name of Buckthorn, and the older names by which
the shrub has been known: Highwaythorn and Waythorn. Gerard calls
it Ram or Hart's Thorn. The leaves grow in small bunches on
footstalks, mostly opposite towards the base of the young shoots,
though more generally alternate towards the apex. They are
eggshaped and toothed on the edges, the younger ones with a kind of
soft down. In the axils of the more closely arranged leaves,
developed from the wood of the preceding year, are dense branches
of small greenish-yellow flowers, about one-fifth inch across,
which are followed by globular berries about the size of a pea,
black and shining when ripe, and each containing four hard,
Goats, sheep and horses browse on this shrub, but cows refuse
it. Its blossoms are very grateful to bees.
---Part Used---The berries are the part used
medicinally, collected when ripe and from which an acrid, nauseous,
bitter juice is obtained by expression. From this juice, with the
addition of sugar and aromatics, syrup of Buckthorn (Succus
Rhamni) is prepared.
When freshly gathered in the autumn, the berries are about 1/3
inch in diameter, with the remains of a calyx beneath. The fruit is
collected for use chiefly in the counties of Herts., Bucks. and
Oxon, and is usually expressed in the locality where it is grown,
by the collectors themselves, who sell the juice to the wholesale
druggists, generally more or less diluted with water, the admixture
being generally about 6 parts water to 1 of juice.
From the dried berries, a series of rich but fugitive colours
is obtained; the berries used to be sold under the name of 'French
berries' and imported with those of Rhamnus infectorius from
the Levant. If gathered before ripe, the berries furnish a yellow
dye, used formerly for staining maps or paper. When ripe, if mixed
with gum-arabic and limewater, they form the pigment 'Sap or
bladder green,' so well known to water-colour painters. The bark
also affords a yellow dye.
---Cultivation---Buckthorn is seldom cultivated, the
berries being collected from thewild shrubs, but it can be easily
raised from seed in autumn, soon after the berries are ripe,
usually about September, but if left too late the berries soften
and will not bear carriage well. The shrub may also be propagated
like any other hardy deciduous tree or shrub by cuttings or layers:
if the young shoots be laid in autumn, they will have struck roots
by the following autumn, when they may be separated and either
planted in a nursery for a year or two, or at once planted in
permanent quarters. Buckthorn is not so suitable for hedges as the
---Constituents---Buckthorn berry juice contains
Rhamnocathartin (which is yellowand uncrystallizable), Rhamnin, a
peculiar tannic acid, sugar and gum. The fresh juice is coloured
red by acids and yellow by alkalies, and has a bitter taste and
nauseous odour. Its specific gravity should be between 1.035 and
1.070, but it is seldom sold pure. The ripe berries yield on
expression 40 to 50 percent of juice of a green colour,
which on keeping turns, however, gradually to a reddish or purplish
brown colour, on account of the acidification of the saccharine and
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Laxative and
Buckthorn was well known to the AngloSaxons and is mentioned as
Hartsthorn or Waythorn in their medical writings and glossaries
dating before the Norman Conquest. The Welsh physicians of the
thirteenth century prescribed the juice of the fruit of Buckthorn
boiled with honey as an aperient drink.
The medicinal use of the berries was familiar to all the
writers on botany and materia medica of the sixteenth century,
though Dodoens in his Herbal wrote: 'They be not meat to be
administered but to the young and lusty people of the country which
do set more store of their money than their lives.'
Until late in the nineteenth century, syrup of Buckthorn
ranked, however, among favourite rustic remedies as a purgative for
children, prepared by boiling the juice with pimento and ginger and
adding sugar, but its action was so severe that, as time went on,
the medicine was discarded. It first appeared in the London
Pharmacopceia of 1650, where, to disguise the bitter taste of the
raw juice, it was aromatized by means of aniseed, cinnamon, mastic
and nutmeg. It was still official in the British Pharmacopoeia of
1867, but is no longer so, being regarded as a medicine more fit
for animals than human beings, and it is now employed almost
exclusively in veterinary practice, being commonly prescribed for
dogs, with equal parts of castor oil as an occasional
The flesh of birds eating the berries is stated to be
There used to be a superstition that the Crown of Thorns was
made of Buckthorn.
Botanical: Rhamnus Frangula (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Rhamnaceae
---Part Used Medicinally
---Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Black Dogwood. Frangula Bark.
---Habitat---The Alder Buckthorn is a slender shrub,
widely distributed over Europe and northern Asia, and found in
woods and thickets throughout England, though rare in
In place of the violently-acting juice of the berries of the
Common Buckthorn, a fluid extract prepared from the bark of the
closely allied and milder Alder Buckthorn or Black Alder
(Rhamnus Frangula, Linn.) has been proved a very
satisfactory substitute. Frangula bark is official both in the
United States and the British Pharmacopoeia. Its use has been,
however, somewhat neglected and the much advertized Cascara Sagrada
(R. purshianus) has greatly taken its place, though itis a
less agreeable aperient.
---Description---It is generally about the same size as
the Common Buckthorn, but is distinguished from it by its less
bushy and more tree-like habit, by the absence of thorns on its
branches and by its larger and entire, not toothed, feather-veined
leaves, which are all arranged alternately on the stem, none
opposite to one another. The flowers are produced not only from the
wood of the preceding year, but also on the shoots of the current
year, and have a five-parted calyx, while that of the Common
Buckthorn is four-cleft. They bloom in May and are of an
inconspicuous green. Their fruit, which is ripe in September, is
not unlike that of the Common Buckthorn, but the berry has only
two, or at most three, roundish, angular seeds, instead of four.
Bees are likewise constant visitors of the flowers of this species,
and goats eat the leaves voraciously.
It grows as a rule in leaf-mould in woods comparatively free
The bark and leaves of the Alder Buckthorn yield a yellow dye
much used in Russia; when mixed with salts of iron it turns black.
The berries, when unripe, afford a good green colour, readily taken
by woollen stuffs; when ripe, they give various shades of blue and
After removal of the bark from the stem and branches, the wood
of this shrub is used for making charcoal, yielding a very light,
inflammable kind, and being on that account preferred to that of
almost any other tree by gunpowder makers, who name it 'Black
Dogwood.' In Germany, for the same reason, it is called
---Cultivation---Frangula bark is usually collected from
wild shrubs, but this Buckthorn can readily be cultivated. The
seeds should be sown as soon as ripe, not kept till the following
spring. The seedlings should be kept free from weeds, and in the
autumn planted in the nursery in rows 2 feet asunder and 1 foot
distant in the rows. Stock may also be increased by layers and
cuttings, though propagation by seedling plants is
---Part Used Medicinally---The dried bark collected from
the young trunk and moderately-sized branches in early summer and
kept at least one year before being used. It is stripped from the
branches and dried either on sunny days, out of doors, in
halfshade, or by artificial heat, on shelves or trays, in a warm,
The dried bark varies considerably in appearance, according to
the age of the branch or stem from which it has been taken. Young
bark, which is to be preferred, occurs in narrow, single or double
quills and is of papery texture, about 1/25 inch thick. It is of a
greyish or blackish-brown colour outside, with numerous small,
whitish corky warts. When gently scraped, the inner layers are seen
to be crimson in colour. The inner surface of the bark is smooth,
of a pale, yellowish brown and very finely striated. The fracture
is short. Older bark is rougher externally, thicker and usually in
single quills or channelled pieces.
The bark is nearly inodorous; its taste is pleasant, sweetish
and slightly bitter. When masticated, it colours the saliva
---Constituents---The chemical constituents of Frangula
Bark, especially those to which the laxative properties are due,
are but imperfectly known. A yellow, crystalline glucoside,
Frangulin has been isolated from it. Emodin is present in old bark;
this principle is also present in rhubarb root; it is allied to
Chrysophane, and is said to result from the glucosic fermentation
of Frangulin or Frangulic acid, and to its presence the drug owes
its purgative action. Possibly other glucosides are also present
and contribute to the laxative action, but the evidence in favour
of this assumption is not conclusive. Two resins, resinous bitter
matter and a little tannic acid are likewise present in the
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Tonic, laxative,
Dried seasoned bark from one to twoyears old alone should be
used, as the freshlystripped bark acts as an irritant poison on the
gastro-intestinal canal. The action of the bark becomes gradually
less violent when kept for a length of time and more like that of
It is used as a gentle purgative in cases of chronic
constipation and is principally given in the form of the fluid
extract, in small doses, repeated three or four times daily, a
decoction of 1 OZ. of the bark in 1 quart of water boiled down to a
pint, may also be taken in tablespoonful doses.
---Preparation---Fluid extract, 1/2 to 2
This milder English Buckthorn acts likewise as a tonic to the
intestine and is especially useful for relieving
Lozenges of the Alder Buckthorn are dispensed under the name of
'Aperient Fruit Lozenges.'
The juice of the berries, though little used, is aperient
without being irritating.
Country people used to take the bark boiled in ale for
Botanical: Rhamnus purshianus
Family: N.O. Rhamnaceae
---Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Sacred Bark. Cascara Sagrada.
The Californian Buckthorn (Rhamnus purshianus), known
more commonly as Cascara Sagrada, is a nearly-allied shrub growing
in the United States, from northern Idaho westward to the Pacific
Ocean. The drug prepared from its bark is now more commonly
employed than those prepared from the two previously described
The bark is collected in spring and early summer, when it is
easily peeled from the wood, and is dried in the
Since, as is the case with R. Frangula, it is considered
that the action of the bark becomes milder and less emetic by
keeping, matured bark, three years old, is preferred for
---Description---As imported, the drug mostly occurs in
quills or incurved pieces of varying lengths and sizes, smooth or
nearly so externally, covered with a greyish-white layer, which is
usually easily removed, and frequently marked with spots or patches
of adherent lichens. Beneath the surface it is violet-brown,
reddish-brown or brownish, and internally a pale yellowish-brown
and nearly smooth. It has no marked odour, but a nauseous, bitter
It is frequently also imported in flattened packets, consisting
of small pieces of the bark compressed into a more or less compact
The fluid extract is made by maceration and percolation with
diluted alcohol and evaporation.
---Constituents---The chemical constituents of the bark
are but imperfectly known. It has been proved to contain Emodin and
an allied substance possibly identical with the Frangula-Emodin of
Alder Buckthorn bark. Fat, starch, glucose, a volatile odorous oil,
malic and tannic acids are also present. The assertion has been
made that the bark contains glucosides which yield on hydrolysis
Chrysophanic acid, but the evidence on this point is
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Cascara Sagrada is a mild
laxative, acting principally on the large intestine. It is
considered suitable for delicate and elderly persons, and may with
advantage be given in chronic constipation, being generally
administered in the form of the fluid extract.
It acts also as a stomachic tonic and bitter, in small doses,
promoting gastric digestion and appetite.
Fluid extract, B.P., 5 drops
to 1 drachm.
Fluid extract, U.S.P., 15
Fluid extract, tasteless, 1/4
to 1 drachm.
Fluid extract, aromatic,
U.S.P., 15 drops.
Aromatic syrup, B.P., 1/2 to
Powder extract, 2 to 10
Rhamnin, 2 to 6
In veterinary practice, Cascara Sagrada is also much used and
is probably the best mild purgative remedy for dogs with chronic
constipation, as the dose does not require to be increased by
repetition and the tone of the bowels is improved by the
Botanical: Hippophae rhamnoides
Family: N.O. Rhamnaceae
---Synonym---Sallow Thorn. The Sea Buckthorn
(Hippophae rhamnoides), a thorny shrub with narrow
willowlike leaves growing on sandhills and cliffs on the East
Coast, and called also ' Sallow Thorn, ' is in no way related to
these medicinally employed Buckthorns but belongs to a different
natural order: Elaeagnaceae. Its fruit, an orange-coloured
berry, is made (in Tartary) into a pleasant jelly, because of its
acid flavour, and is used in the countries bordering on the Gulf of
Bothnia as an ingredient to a fish sauce. The name Hippophae
has been variously derived either as meaning 'giving light to a
horse,' because of a supposed power to cure equine blindness, or as
signifying 'shining underneath,' an allusion to the silvery
underside of the leaf. The stems, roots and foliage are said to
impart a yellow dye.
Henslow relates that in some parts of Europe the berries are
considered poisonous, and a story is told by Rousseau of a person
who saw him eating them, and, though believing them to be
poisonous, had too much respect for the great man to caution him
against the supposed danger! A decoction of them is said to be
useful in cutaneous eruptions. The colour may be extracted by hot
water and used as a dye for woollen stuffs, but it is not very
brilliant when so obtained. This plant runs very much at the root,
and by its long suckers often assists in binding loose sandy dunes
on which it grows.
Some of the plants of this order (Elaeagnaceae) are said
to possess narcotic properties.
Botanical: Polygonum fagopyrum
Family: N.O. Polygonaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Brank. Beechwheat. Le Blé noir. Sarrasin.
Buchweizen. Heidekorm. French. Wheat. Saracen Corn.
---Part Used---The fruit.
---Habitat---A native of Northern or Central Asia.
Largely cultivated in the United States.
---Description---The Buckwheat is not really a native
plant, and when found apparently wild in this country, it is only
on cultivated land, where it is grown as food for pheasants, which
are very partial to it. One of its local names, 'French Wheat,'
points to then recognition of the fact that it is a foreign
It is a native of Central Asia, cultivated in China and other
Eastern countries as a bread-corn and was first brought to Europe
from Asia by the Crusaders, and hence in France is called 'Saracen
It is a herbaceous plant, with a knotted stem a foot or two in
height, round and hollow, generally green, but sometimes tinged
with red, lateral branches growing out of the joints, which give
off alternately from opposite sides, heart-shaped, or somewhat
arrowshaped leaves, and from July to September, spreading panicles
of numerous light freshcoloured flowers, which are perfumed. They
are dimorphic, i.e. there are two forms of flowers, one with long
styles and short stamens, the other with short styles and long
stamens and are very attractive to bees. It is frequently
cultivated in the Middle United States of Arnerica and also in
Brabant as food for bees, and an immense quantity of Buckwheat
honey is also collected in Russia. It gives a particularly pleasant
flavour to honey.
The nut (so-called 'seed') has a dark brown, tough rind,
enclosing the kernel or seed, and is three-sided in form, with
sharp angles, resembling the triangular Beech-nut, hence the name
of the plant, Buckwheat, a corruption of Boek-weit, the
Dutch form of the name, adopted with its culture from the Dutch,
meaning 'Beech-wheat' (German Buchweizen), a translation of
the Latin name Fagopyrum (Latin fagus, a
By some botanists, the Buckwheat is separated from the
Polygonums, receiving the name Fagopyrum esculentum
The nut contains a floury endosperm, and though rarely employed
in this country as human food is extensively cultivated for that
purpose in Northern Europe, North America (where it also goes by
the name of Indian Wheat) and in India and the East.
Buckwheat flour is occasionally used for bread, but more
frequently employed for cakes, which when baked have an agreeable
taste, with a darkish, somewhat violet colour and are a national
dish throughout America in the winter. They are baked on gridirons
and eaten with maple syrup as breakfast cakes. The meal of
Buckwheat is also baked into crumpets, which are popular among
Dutch children and are said to be nutritious and easily
By the Hindus, Buckwheat, which is extensively cultivated in
the Himalayas, is eaten on 'bart' or fast days, being one of the
lawful foods for such occasions. Polygonum cymosum (Meism.),
the Chinese perennial Buckwheat, and P. Tartaricum Ge.), the
Tartary or Rough Buckwheat, also constitute an important source of
flour in the East. In Japan, Buckwheat is called Soba, and
its flour is prepared in various ways; kneaded with hot water to
make a dough, Soba-neri; a kind of macaroni,
Soba-kiri; and so on. The grains, steamed and dried, are
eaten boiled or made into bread or Manju, a small cake. Its young
leaves are eaten as a vegetable and its stalks are used to feed
In the Russian Army, Buckwheat groats are served out as part of
the soldiers' rations and cooked with butter, tallow or hemp-seed
oil. In Germany it forms an ingredient in pottage, puddings and
Beer may be brewed from the grain, and by distillation it
yields an excellent spirit, in Danzig much used in the preparation
of cordial waters.
The blossoms may be used for dyeing a brown
---Cultivation---It is sown in May or June and ripens
rapidly, thriving in the poorest soil. The flowers appear about
July and the seeds ripen in October, but so tender are the plants
that a single night's frost will destroy a whole crop. As a grian,
Buckwheat is chiefly cultivated in England to supply food for
pheasants and to feed poultry, which devour the seeds with avidity
and thrive on it - hence one of its local names: Fat Hen. Mixed
with bran chaff or grain, its seeds are sometimes given to horses,
either whole or broken. When used as food for cattle, the hard
angular rind must first be removed. The meal is considered
specially good for fattening pigs: 8 bushels of Buckwheat have been
said to go as far as 12 bushels of barleymeal and a bushel of the
seeds to go further than 2 bushels of oats, though all farmers do
not quite agree as to the superior food value of Buckwheat. If it
is given to pigs at first in too large quantities, they will show
symptoms of intoxication. As compared with the principal cereal
grains, it is poor in nitrogenous substances and fat, its
nutritious properties are greatly inferior to wheat, though as a
food it ranks much higher than rice; but the rapidity and the ease
with which it can be grown renders it a fit crop for very poor,
badly-tilled land which will produce scarcely anything else, its
culture, compared with that of other grain, being attended with
When grown by the preservers of game as a food for pheasants,
it is often left standing, as it affords both food and shelter to
the birds during the winter. With some farmers it is the practice
to sow Buckwheat for the purpose only of ploughing it into the
ground as a manure for the land. The best time for ploughing it in
is when it is in full blossom, allowing the land to rest till it
Whilst green, it serves as food for sheep and oxen, and mixed
with other provender it may also with advantage be given to horses.
If sown in April, two green crops may be procured during the
The best mode of harvesting this grain is said to be by pulling
it out of the ground like flax, stripping off the seeds with the
hand and collecting these into aprons or cloths tied round the
In the United States, Buckwheat is sown at the end of June or
beginning of July, the amount of seed varying from 3 to 5 pecks to
the acre. The crop matures rapidly and continues blooming till the
frosts set in, so that at harvest, which is usually set to occur
just before this period, the grain is in various stages of
ripeness. There, after cutting, it is allowed to lie in swaths for
a few days and then set up in shocks. Threshing is done on the
field in most cases.
It grows so quickly that it will kill off any
---Constituents---The leaves have been found by Schunch
to contain a crystalline colouring principle (1 part in a thousand)
identical with the Rutin or Rutic acid previously discovered by
Weiss in the leaves of the common Rue and probably existing in the
leaves of the Holly.
The seeds contain starch, sugar, gum, and various matters
soluble in alcohol. A small amount of the glucoside Indican has
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Astringent,
An infusion of the herb has been used in erysipelas, and a
poultice made of the flour and buttermilk for restoring the flow of
milk in nurses.
The breakfast cakes are very heating, and in many people cause
severe itching, (The Buckwheat used in America to-day is so refined
that these symptoms are not liable to occur. - EDITOR.) felt
chiefly after removing the clothing at night, with an eruption of
vesicles. The faeces may become so glutinous that expulsion is
The FALSE BUCKWHEAT, or Arrow-leaved Tear Thumb, is
Polygonum sagittarum (Linn.), a North American plant that
has become naturalized in County Kerry, Ireland.
It is an annual, with a rough stem, 6 inches to 2 feet high,
bearing turned-back prickles. The leaves are oblong-ovate to
arrow-shaped and the flowers white, in bloom from July to
It has been used with success in nephritic colic, relieving the
pains caused by gravel.
The CLIMBING BUCKWHEAT, or Black Bindweed, also called Bearbind
and Cornbind, is Polygonum Convolvulus (Linn.), a
troublesome climbing cornfield weed, which occurs indifferently in
Its stems are 1 to 3 feet long, angular, twining or trailing,
bearing leaves 1 to 3 inches long, from heart-shaped to
arrowshaped. The flowers are very small, in loose axillary spikes,
about four together, greenishwhite, often tinged with red, and are
insectpollinated, containing nectar secreted in glands near the
base of the stamens. The fruits are three-angled, bearing a
resemblance to those of Buckwheat.
It is largely distributed by the seeds being sown with those of
the crop among which it has grown. Spraying as for Charlock (with
solutions of copper-, iron- or ammonium sulphate) will largely
destroy this weed in cereals. It may be injurious to animals, owing
to mechanical injury from the seeds when fed with corn, horses are
said to have been killed in this way.
Botanical: Ajuga reptans (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Labiatae
Part Used Medicinally
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Carpenter's Herb. Sicklewort. Middle
---Habitat---It is abundantly distributed throughout
Britain in damp, shady pastures and woods.
The Bugle and the Self-Heal, nearly related plants (both, with
their two-lipped corollas, belonging to the important order
Labiatae), for many centuries stood in equally high
estimation as valuable vulneraries or wound herbs.
There are three Bugles in the British flora - the common
creeping form (Ajuga reptans), the erect Bugle (A.
pyramidalis), a rare Highland species, and the Yellow Bugle or
Ground Pine (A. Chamaepitys), which likewise has its
reputation as a curative herb.
---Description---It is a perennial, to be found in
flower from the end of April to the beginning of July and well
marked by its solitary, tapering flower-stalks, 6 to 9 inches high,
and its creeping scions or runners. These are long shoots,
sometimes a couple of feet or more long, sent out from the
rootstock. At intervals upon them are pairs of leaves, and at the
same point rootlets are given off below, which enter the earth. As
winter approaches, the runners die, but at every point where the
leaf-pairs and the rootlets were formed, there is a dormant plant
waiting to develop fully in the spring, a Bugle plant thus being
the centre of quite a colony of new young plants, quite
independently of setting its seeds, which as a matter of fact do
not always ripen, the plant propagating itself more largely by its
The erect flower-stalk sent up from the root-stock is square,
pale green, often purplish above, with the leaves opposite in
pairs, the lower leaves on stalks, the upper leaves stalkless,
oblong and obtuse in form, toothed or almost entire at the margin,
having manycelled hairs on both surfaces, the margins also fringed
with hairs. The runners are altogether smooth, but the stems are
smooth only on two sides and downy on the other two.
The flowers are of a purplish blue, crowded into a spike formed
of about six or more rings of whorls, generally six flowers in a
whorl. The upper leaves or bracts interspersed between the whorls
are also tinged with the same colour, so that ordinarily the whole
of the upper portion of the plant has a bluish appearance. A white
variety is sometimes found, the upper leaves then being of the
normal green colour.
The flowers are adapted by their lipped formation for
cross-fertilization by bees, a little honey being found at the base
of the long tube of the corolla. The upper lip is very short and
the lower three-cleft. The stamens project. The flowers have
practically no scent. After fertilization, small blackish seeds are
formed, but many of the ovules do not mature.
The rather singular names of this plant - both popular and
botanical - are not very easy to account for. It has been suggested
that 'Bugle' is derived from bugulus, a thin, glass pipe
used in embroidery, the long, thin tube of the corolla being
thought to resemble this bead bugle. It is more likely to be a
corruption of the Latin name Ajuga, the generic name which
Linnaeus was the first to apply to this plant from a belief that
this or some closely-allied species was the one referred to by
Pliny and other writers by a very similar name, a name probably
corrupted from Abija, in turn derived from the Latin word
abigo, to drive away, because the plant was thought to drive
away various forms of disease. In former days it was held to
possess great curative powers. Prior, writing in the seventeenth
century, tells us: 'It is put in drinkes for woundes and that is
the cause why some doe commonly say that he that hath Bugle and
Sanicle will scarce vouchsafe the chirugeon a bugle.' The early
writers speak of the plant as the Abija, Ajuga, Abuga and Bugula,
and the common English name, Bugle, is clearly a corruption of one
or other of these forms.
---Part Used Medicinally---The whole herb, gathered in
May and early June, when the leaves are at their best, and
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Bitter, astringent and
In herbal treatment, an infusion of this plant is still
considered very useful in arresting haemorrhages and is employed in
coughs and spitting of blood in incipient consumption and also in
some biliary disorders, a wineglassful of the infusion - made from
1 OZ. of the dried herb to 1 pint of boiling water - being given
In its action, it rather resembles digitalis, lowering the
pulse and lessening its frequency, it allays irritation and cough,
and equalizes the circulation and has been termed 'one of the
mildest and best narcotics in the world.' It has also been
considered good for the bad effects of excessive
Herbal, 1832) gives as his opinion that
'the leaves may be
advantageously used in fluxes and disorders of that kind as they do
not, like many other plants of the same value, produce costiveness,
but rather operate as gentle laxatives.'
He states that a decoction of the herb has been employed for
quinsy on the Continent, where the herb has been more employed as a
remedy than in this country.
The roots have by some authorities been considered more
astringent than the rest of the plant.
Culpepper had a great opinion
of the value of the Bugle and says,
'if the virtues of it make
you fall in love with it (as they will if you be wise) keep a syrup
of it to take inwardly, and an ointment and plaster of it to use
outwardly, always by you. The decoction of the leaves and flowers
in wine dissolveth the congealed blood in those that are bruised
inwardly by a fall or otherwise and is very effectual for any
inward wounds, thrusts or stabs in the body or bowels; and is an
especial help in wound drinks and for those that are liver-grown,
as they call it. It is wonderful in curing all ulcers and sores,
gangrenes and fistulas, if the leaves, bruised and applied or their
juice be used to wash and bathe the place and the same made into
lotion and some honey and gum added, cureth the worse sores. Being
also taken inwardly or outwardly applied, it helpeth those that
have broken any bone or have any member out of joint. An ointment
made with the leaves of Bugle, Scabious and Sanicle bruised and
boiled in hog's lard until the herbs be dry and then strained into
a pot for such occasions as shall require, it is so efficacious for
all sorts of hurts in the body that none should be without
Botanical: Ajuga chamaepitys (SCHREB.)
Family: N.O. Lahiatae
---Synonym---European Ground Pine.
---Habitat---It is a native of many parts of Europe, the
Levant and North Africa, is common in sandy and chalky fields in
Kent, Surrey and Essex, but otherwise is a scarce plant in
---Description---Both in foliage and blossom it is very
unlike its near relative, the Common Bugle, forming a bushy,
herbaceous plant, 3 to 6 inches high, the four-cornered stem, hairy
and viscid, generally purplish red, being much branched and densely
leafy. Except the lowermost leaves, which are lanceshaped and
almost undivided, each leaf is divided almost to its base into
three very long, narrow segments, and the leaves being so closely
packed together, the general appearance is not altogether unlike
the long, needle-like foliage of the pine, hence the plant has
received a second name- Ground Pine. The flowers are placed singly
in the axils of leaf-like bracts and have bright yellow corollas,
the lower lip spotted with red. They are in bloom during May and
The whole plant is very hairy, with stiff hairs, which consist
of a few long joints. It has a highly aromatic and turpentiny odour
---Uses---Ground Pine has stimulant, diuretic and
emmenagogue action and is considered by herbalists to form a good
remedy, combined with other suitable herbs, for gout and rheumatism
and also to be useful in female disorders, an infusion of 1 OZ. of
the dried herb to 1 pint of boiling water being recommended, taken
in tablespoonful doses, frequently repeated.
The herb was formerly regarded almost as a specific in gouty
and rheumatic affections, the young tops, dried and reduced to
powder being employed. It formed an ingredient of the once famous
It likewise operates powerfully by urine, removing obstructions
and is serviceable in dropsy, jaundice and ague, reputed great
cures having been performed by its use, either in infusion, or
Botanical: Lycopus Virginicus (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Labiatae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Water Bugle. Sweet Bugle. Virginian Water
---Habitat---An American plant. It is a very common weed
in North America, growing in low, damp, shady ground and flowering
from July to September.
---Description---Though a Labiate, it does not actually
belong to the same genus as the British Bugles, but has certain
points in common. From the perennial, creeping root, the
quadrangular, smooth stem rises to a height of from 6 to 24 inches,
bearing pairs of opposite leaves on short stalks, those on the
upper part being toothed and lance-shaped, the lower ones
wedge-shaped and with entire margins. The leaves are destitute of
hairs and gland-dotted beneath. The flowers are in clusters in the
axils of the leaves; the calyx has four broad, blunt teeth and the
corolla is four-lobed, purplish in colour, with only two fertile
---Part Used---The whole herb is used. It is slightly
aromatic, with a mint-like odour and is used, fresh, when in
flower, for the preparation of a tincture and a fluid extract,
until recent years official in the United States Pharmacopoeia. It
is also used dried for making an infusion.
---Constituents---It contains a peculiar bitter
principle, insoluble in ether, another soluble in ether, the two
forming more than 10 per cent of the whole solid extract, also
tannin and a volatile oil.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Sedative, astringent and
mildly narcotic. Used in coughs, bleeding from the lungs and
consumption. The infusion made from 1 OZ. of the dried herb to 1
pint of boiling water is taken in wineglassful doses, frequently,
the fluid extract in doses of 10 to 30 drops, and the dry extract,
Lycopin, in doses of 1 to 4 grains.
Botanical: Echium vulgare (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Boraginaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
Viper's Bugloss is a showy plant covered with prickly hairs. It
grows on walls, old quarries and gravel pits, and is common on
calcareous soils. The name Bugloss, which is of Greek origin,
signifies an Ox's Tongue, and was applied to it from the roughness
and shape of the leaves.
---Description---The stems grow from 2 to 3 feet high
and are covered with bristly hairs, as are also the leaves, which
are 4 or 5 inches long, lanceolate, sessile, quite entire and rough
on both sides. The stem is often spotted with red and sometimes the
leaves also. The root-leaves form a tuft nearly 18 inches to 2 feet
across. They are petioled. The flowers are in curved spikes,
numerous, those of each spike pointing one way and closely wedged
together. On their first opening they are bright rose-coloured and
turn to a brilliant blue. They are in bloom throughout June and
July, and are much visited by bees. The corollas are irregularly
tubular and funnel-shaped. A variety is occasionally found with
white flowers. The fruit consists of four small nutlets. The roots
are biennial and descend to a great depth in the loose soil in
which the plant generally grows.
Lycopsis arvenis, the Common or Small Bugloss, has small
wheel-shaped flowers and wavy toothed leaves, which have also rigid
hairs with a bulbous base.
Viper's Bugloss was said of
old to be an expellent of poisons and venom, and to cure the bites
of a viper, hence its name. Coles tells us in his Art of
'Viper's Bugloss hath its
stalks all to be speckled like a snake or viper, and is a most
singular remedy against poyson and the sting of
Its seeds are also thought to resemble snake heads, thus
specifying it as a cure for the bites of serpents. Its generic name
Echium is derived from Echis, a viper.
Parkinson says of
'the water distilled in
glasses or the roote itself taken is good against the passions and
tremblings of the heart as also against swoonings, sadness and
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Diuretic, demulcent and
pectoral. The leaves, especially those growing near the root, make
a good cordial on infusion, which operates by perspiration and
alleviates fevers, headaches and nervous complaints, relieving
inflammatory pains. The infusion is made of 1 oz. of the dried
leaves to a pint of boiling water, and is given in wineglassful to
teacupful doses, as required.
A decoction of the seeds in wine, we are told by old writers,
'comforts the heart and drives away melancholy.'
Botanical: Prunus insititia (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Rosaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Bully-bloom (for the flowers). Bullies,
Bolas, Bullions and Wild Damson (for the fruit).
---Parts Used---Fruit, wood and bark.
---Habitat---Common in England in thickets, woods and
hedges, though more rare in Scotland and probably not wild north of
the Forth and Clyde. Common in South-East Europe and in Northern
and Central Asia.
---Description---A tall shrub, sometimes developing into
a small tree about 15 feet high. Resembles the Blackthorn or Sloe
(Prunus spinosa), but is less thorny and has straight, not
crooked branches, covered by brown, not black bark, only a few of
the old ones terminating in spines, the younger ones downy. It has
also larger leaves than the Blackthorn, downy underneath,
alternate, finely-toothed, on short, downy foot-stalks, and
flowers, white like those of the Blackthorn, but larger, with
broader petals, borne in less crowded clusters and not on the naked
branches, but expanding just after the leaves have begun to
The globular, fleshy fruit, marked with a faint suture, has
generally a black skin, covered with a thin bluish bloom, and is
similar to the Sloe, but larger, often an inch across, and drooping
from its weight, not erect as the Sloe. Occasionally yellow
varieties are found.
---Constituents---The volatile oil expressed from the
seeds contains benzaldehyde and hydrocyanic acid. These substances
are also present in the young leaves and flowers.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The bark of the root and
branches is considerably styptic. An infusion of the flowers,
sweetened with sugar, has been used as a mild purgative for
The wood, branches, fruit and entire plant are used throughout
France for the same properties as those of the Sloe, the bark of
which is used as a febrifuge and the gin, prepared from the fruit
on account of its astringency, as a good remedy in cases of
In this country, the fruit is gathered for 'Bullace Wine,' and
is also made into excellent pies and puddings and a good preserve
is made by mixing the pulp with three times its weight of
There are several varieties of the Bullace in cultivation, and
they frequently appear on the market as 'Damsons.' Both Bullace and
Damson originate from the same source P. domestica, the only
difference being that the former is round and the latter oval. All
cultivated Bullaces are immense bearers; the following are the best
ROYAL BULLACE. Fruit large, 1 1/4 inch in diameter. Skin bright
grass-green, mottled with red on the side next to the sun and
becoming yellowish-green as it ripens, with a thin, grey bloom on
the surface. Flesh green, separating from the stone, briskly
flavoured with sufficient sweetness to make it an agreeable late
fruit. Ripe in early October.
WHITE BULLACE. Fruit small, round. Skin pale yellowish-white,
mottled with red next the sun. Flesh firm, juicy, sub-acid,
adhering to the stone, becoming sweetish when quite ripe in end of
October and beginning of November. Often sold in London as 'White
ESSEX BULLACE. Skin green, becoming yellowish as it ripens.
Flesh juicy and not so acid as the common Bullace. Ripens end of
October and beginning of November. Fruit an inch or more in
diameter, larger than the common White Bullace.
Botanical: Arctium lappa (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Compositae
Parts Used Medicinally
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Lappa. Fox's Clote. Thorny Burr. Beggar's
Buttons. Cockle Buttons. Love Leaves. Philanthropium. Personata.
Happy Major. Clot-Bur.
---Parts Used---Root, herb and seeds
---Habitat---It grows freely throughout England (though
rarely in Scotland) on waste ground and about old buildings, by
roadsides and in fairly damp places.
The Burdock, the only British member of its genus, belongs to
the Thistle group of the great order,
---Description---A stout handsome plant, with large,
wavy leaves and round heads of purple flowers. It is enclosed in a
globular involucre of long stiff scales with hooked tips, the
scales being also often interwoven with a white, cottony
The whole plant is a dull, pale green, the stem about 3 to 4
feet and branched, rising from a biennial root. The lower leaves
are very large, on long, solid foot-stalks, furrowed above,
frequently more than a foot long heart-shaped and of a grey colour
on their under surfaces from the mass of fine down with which they
are covered. The upper leaves are much smaller, more egg-shaped in
form and not so densely clothed beneath with the grey
The plant varies considerably in appearance, and by some
botanists various subspecies, or even separate species, have been
described, the variations being according to the size of the
flower-heads and of the whole plant, the abundance of the whitish
cottonlike substance that is sometimes found on the involucres, or
the absence of it, the length of the flower-stalks,
The flower-heads are found expanded during the latter part of
the summer and well into the autumn: all the florets are tubular,
the stamens dark purple and the styles whitish. The plant owes its
dissemination greatly to the little hooked prickles of its
involucre, which adhere to everything with which they come in
contact, and by attaching themselves to coats of animals are often
carried to a distance.
'They are Burs, I can tell you, they'll stick where they are
Shakespeare makes Pandarus
say in Troilus and Cressida, and in King Lear we have
another direct reference to this plant:
'Crown'd with rank Fumiter
With Burdocks, Hemlocks,
Also in As You Like
ROSALIND. How full of briers
is this working-day world!
CELIA. They are but
burs, cousin, thrown upon thee in holiday foolery. If we
walk not in the trodden paths, our very petticoats will catch
The name of the genus, Arctium, is derived from the
Greek arktos, a bear, in allusion to the roughness of the
burs, lappa, the specific name, being derived from a word
meaning 'to seize.'
Another source derives the word lappa from the Celtic
llap, a hand, on account of its prehensile
The plant gets its name of 'Dock' from its large leaves; the
'Bur' is supposed to be a contraction of the French bourre,
from the Latin burra, a lock of wool, such is often found
entangled with it when sheep have passed by the growing
An old English name for the Burdock was 'Herrif,' 'Aireve,' or
'Airup,' from the Anglo-Saxon hoeg, a hedge, and
reafe, a robber - or from the Anglo-Saxon verb
reafian, to seize. Culpepper gives as popular names in his
time: Personata, Happy Major and Clot-Bur.
Though growing in its wild state hardly any animal except the
ass will browse on this plant, the stalks, cut before the flower is
open and stripped of their rind, form a delicate vegetable when
boiled, similar in flavour to Asparagus, and also make a pleasant
salad, eaten raw with oil and vinegar. Formerly they were sometimes
candied with sugar, as Angelica is now. They are slightly laxative,
but perfectly wholesome.
---Cultivation---As the Burdock grows freely in waste
places and hedgerows, it can be collected in the wild state, and is
seldom worth cultivating.
It will grow in almost any soil, but the roots are formed best
in a light well-drained soil. The seeds germinate readily and may
be sown directly in the field, either in autumn or early spring, in
drills 18 inches to 3 feet apart, sowing 1 inch deep in autumn, but
less in spring. The young plants when well up are thinned out to 6
inches apart in the row.
Yields at the rate of 1,500 to 2,000 lb. of dry roots per acre
have been obtained from plantations of Burdock.
---Parts Used Medicinally---The dried root from plants
of the first year's growth forms the official drug, but the leaves
and fruits (commonly, though erroneously, called seeds) are also
The roots are dug in July, and should be lifted with a
beet-lifter or a deep-running plough. As a rule they are 12 inches
or more in length and about 1 inch thick, sometimes, however, they
extend 2 to 3 feet, making it necessary to dig by hand. They are
fleshy, wrinkled, crowned with a tuft of whitish, soft, hairy
leaf-stalks, grey-brown externally, whitish internally, with a
somewhat thick bark, about a quarter of the diameter of the root,
and soft wood tissues, with a radiate structure.
Burdock root has a sweetish and mucilaginous
Burdock leaves, which are less used than the root, are
collected in July. For drying, follow the drying of Coltsfoot
leaves. They have a somewhat bitter taste.
The seeds (or fruits) are collected when ripe. They are
brownish-grey, wrinkled, about 1/4 inch long and 1/16 inch in
diameter. They are shaken out of the head and dried by spreading
them out on paper in the sun.
---Constituents---Inulin, mucilage, sugar, a bitter,
crystalline glucoside - Lappin-a little resin, fixed and volatile
oils, and some tannic acid.
The roots contain starch, and the ashes of the plant, burnt
when green, yield carbonate of potash abundantly, and also some
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Alterative, diuretic and
diaphoretic. One of the best blood purifiers. In all skin diseases,
it is a certain remedy and has effected a cure in many cases of
eczema, either taken alone or combined with other remedies, such as
Yellow Dock and Sarsaparilla.
The root is principally employed, but the leaves and
seeds are equally valuable. Both root and seeds may be taken as a
decoction of 1 OZ. to 1 1/2 pint of water, boiled down to a pint,
in doses of a wineglassful, three or four times a day.
The anti-scorbutic properties of the root make the decoction
very useful for boils, scurvy and rheumatic affections, and by many
it is considered superior to Sarsaparilla, on account of its
mucilaginous, demulcent nature; it has in addition been recommended
for external use as a wash for ulcers and scaly skin
An infusion of the leaves is useful to impart strength
and tone to the stomach, for some forms of long-standing
When applied externally as a poultice, the leaves are highly
resolvent for tumours and gouty swellings, and relieve bruises and
inflamed surfaces generally. The bruised leaves have been applied
by the peasantry in many countries as cataplasms to the feet and as
a remedy for hysterical disorders.
From the seeds, both a medicinal tincture and a fluid
extract are prepared, of benefit in chronic skin diseases.
Americans use the seeds only, considering them more efficacious and
prompt in their action than the other parts of the plant. They are
relaxant and demulcent, with a limited amount of tonic property.
Their influence upon the skin is due largely to their being of such
an oily nature: they affect both the sebaceous and sudoriferous
glands, and probably owing to their oily nature restore that
smoothness to the skin which is a sign of normal healthy
The infusion or decoction of the seeds is employed in dropsical
complaints, more especially in cases where there is co-existing
derangement of the nervous system, and is considered by many to be
a specific for all affections of the kidneys, for which it may with
advantage be taken several times a day, before meals.
---Preparations---Fluid extract, root, 1/2 to 2 drachms.
Solid extract, 5 to 15 grains. Fluid extract, seed, 10 to 30
Culpepper gives the following uses for the
'The Burdock leaves are
cooling and moderately drying, wherby good for old ulcers and
sores.... The leaves applied to the places troubled with the
shrinking in the sinews or arteries give much ease: a juice of the
leaves or rather the roots themselves given to drink with old wine,
doth wonderfully help the biting of any serpents- the root beaten
with a little salt and laid on the place suddenly easeth the pain
thereof, and helpeth those that are bit by a mad dog:... the seed
being drunk in wine 40 days together doth wonderfully help the
sciatica: the leaves bruised with the white of an egg and applied
to any place burnt with fire, taketh out the fire, gives sudden
ease and heals it up afterwards.... The root may be preserved with
sugar for consumption, stone and the lax. The seed is much
commended to break the stone, and is often used with other seeds
and things for that purpose.'
It was regarded as a valuable
remedy for stone in the Middle Ages, and called Bardona. As a rule,
the recipes for stone contained some seeds or 'fruits' of a 'stony'
character, as gromel seed, ivy berries, and nearly always
saxifrage, i.e. 'stone-breaker.' Even date-stones had to be pounded
and taken; the idea being that what is naturally 'stony' would cure
it; that 'like cures like' (Henslow).
Botanical: Sanguisorba Officinalis (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Rosaceae
Parts Used Medicinally
Medicianal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Garden Burnet. Common Burnet.
---Parts Used---Herb, root.
---Habitat---Grows in moist meadows and shady places,
chiefly in mountainous districts, almost all over Europe. In
Britain it is not uncommon, but is rare in Ireland.
Closely related to the Alchemillas, belonging to the
same subdivision, Sanguisorbidae, of the order Rosaceae and
having similar medicinal properties to Alchemilla vulgaris,
are the Burnets, Sanguisorba officinalis and Poterium
It is a tall and not inelegant plant, with pinnate leaves on
long stalks, bearing thirteen sharply serrate leaflets and branched
stems, 2 feet high or more, sparsely clothed with leaves, and
oblong heads of deep purple-brown flowers, which have four-toothed,
coloured, membraneous calyces. The root is black and long. The
plant has no odour.
It is cultivated to a considerable extent in Germany for
fodder, and has been grown here with that view, but is not in
esteem among English farmers. It will grow tolerably on very poor
land, but is not a very valuable fodder plant.
An Italian proverb says: 'The salad is neither good nor
good-looking when there is no pimpernel.' This pimpernel is our
Common Burnet and must not be confused with the plant known by that
name which has poisonous properties. The roots are perennial and
should be divided in early spring. It likes a dry and chalky
---Parts Used Medicinally---The herb and root, the herb
gathered in July, and the root dug in autumn.
Culpepper says of 'The Great
'This is an herb the Sun
challenges dominion over, and is a most precious herb, little
inferior to Betony- the continual use of it preserves the body in
health and the spirits in vigour, for if the Sun be the preserver
of life under God, his herbs are the best in the world to do it
by.... Two or three of the stalks, with leaves put into a cup of
wine, especially claret, are known to quicken the spirits, refresh
and cheer the heart, and drive away melancholy: It is a special
help to defend the heart from noisome vapours, and from infection
of the pestilence, the juice thereof being taken in some drink, and
the party laid to sweat thereupon.'
He also recommends it for wounds, both inwardly and outwardly
---Cultivation---Burnet may be cultivated. It prefers a
light soil. Sow seeds in March and thin out to 9 inches apart.
Propagation may also be effected by division of roots, in the
autumn, that they may be well-established before the dry summer
weather sets in. The flowers should be picked off when they appear,
the stem and leaves only of the herb being used.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Astringent and tonic.
Great Burnet was formerly in high repute as a vulnerary, hence its
generic name, from sanguis, blood, and sorbeo, to
staunch. Both herb and root are administered internally in all
abnormal discharges: in diarrhoea, dysentery, leucorrhoea, it is of
the utmost service; dried and powdered, it has been used to stop
The whole plant has astringent qualities, but the root
possesses the most astringency. A decoction of the whole herb has,
however, been found useful in haemorrhage and is a tonic cordial
and sudorific; the herb is also largely used in Herb
Botanical: Pimpinella saxifraga (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Umbelliferae
Part Used Medicinally
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Salad Burnet. Burnet Saxifrage. Pimpinella
---Parts Used---Root, herb.
---Habitat---The Salad Burnet is common in dry pastures
and by the wayside, especially on chalk and limestone, but is rarer
in Scotland and Ireland than in England.
The Lesser or Salad Burnet is not unlike the Great Burnet in
habit, but it is much smaller and more slender. It was known by
older writers as Pimpinella sanguisorba, Pimpinella being a
corruption of bipennula, from the two pinnate leaves.
Pimpinella is now reserved for the name of a genus belonging
to the order Umbelliferae, and the Salad Burnet is assigned to the
genus Poterium, which name is derived from the Greek
poterion, a drinking-cup, from the use to which the leaves
of the Salad Burnet were applied in the preparation of the numerous
beverages with which the poterion was filled in ancient
times. The leaves when bruised smell like cucumber and taste
somewhat like it, and it was used to cool tankards in the same
manner as Borage, and was also added to salads and
Hooker places both the Great Burnet and the Salad or Lesser
Burnet in the same genus, Poterium, rejecting the generic
name of Sanguisorba, assigned to the former by
---Description---Its leaflets are more numerous, five to
ten pairs, and shorter than thoseof the Great Burnet. The flowers
in each head bear crimson tufted stigmas, the lower ones thirty to
forty stamens, with very long, drooping filaments. Both the flower
and leafstalks are a deep-crimson colour.
Turner (Newe Herball,
1551), in his description of the plant, tells us that
'it has two little leives
like unto the wings of birdes, standing out as the bird setteth her
wings out when she intendeth to flye. Ye Dutchmen call it Hergottes
berdlen, that is God's little berde, because of the colour that it
hath in the topp.'
The great Burnet and the Salad Burnet both flower in June and
The Salad Burnet forms much of the turf on some of the chalk
downs in the southern counties. It is extremely nutritious to sheep
and cattle, and was formerly extensively cultivated as a fodder
plant on calcareous soils but is now little grown in that way.
Cattle do not seem to like it as well as clover when full grown,
but when kept closely cropped sheep are fond of it. It has the
advantage of keeping green all the winter in dry barren pastures,
affording food for sheep when other green crops are scarce. The
results of cultivation have, however, not been very satisfactory,
except on poor soil, although it contains a larger amount of
nutritive matter than many grasses.
In the herb gardens of older days, Salad Burnet always had its
place. Bacon recommends it to be set in alleys together with wild
thyme and water mint, 'to perfume the air most delightfully, being
trodden on and crushed.'
---Cultivation---It is easily propagated by seeds, sown
in autumn, soon after they are ripe. If the seeds be permitted to
scatter, the plants will come up plentifully, and can be
transplanted into an ordinary or rather poor soil, at about a foot
distant each way. If kept clear from weeds, they will continue some
years without further care, especially if the soil be dry.
Propagation may also be effected by division of roots in spring or
When used for salad, the flower-stalks should be cut down if
not required for seed. The leaves, for salad use, should be cut
young, or may be tough.
---Part Used Medicinally---The whole herb, as in the
Great Burnet, gathered in July and dried in the same
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The older herbalists held
this plant in greater repute than it enjoys at the present day.
Pliny recommended a decoction of the plant beaten up with honey for
Dodoens recommended it as a
healer of wounds,
'made into powder and dronke
with wine, wherin iron hath bene often quenched, and so doth the
herbe alone, being but only holden in a man's hande as some have
written. The leaves stiped in wine and dronken, doth comfort and
rejoice the hart and are good against the trembling and shaking of
Parkinson grew Burnet in his
garden and the early settlers in America introduced it from the
'It gives a grace in the
drynkynge,' says Gerard, referring to this use of it in cool
tankards. We are also told that it affords protection against
'a speciall helpe to defend
the heart from noysome vapours and from the infection of the Plague
or Pestilence, and all other contagious diseases for which purpose
it is of great effect, the juice thereof being taken in some
'it is a capital wound herb
for all sorts of wounds, both of the head and body, either inward
or outward, used either in juice or decoction of the herb, or by
the powder of the herb or root, or the water of the distilled herb,
or made into an ointment by itself or with other things to be
It is still regarded as a styptic, an infusion of the whole
herb being employed as an astringent. It is also a cordial and
Turner advised the use of the herb, infused in wine or beer,
for the cure of gout and rheumatism.
PARSLEY PURT (PIERT).
Botanical: Dictamnus albus
Family: N.O. Rutaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Fraxinella. Bastard. False or White
---Part Used---The root.
---Habitat---Germany. France. Alsace. Spain. Austria.
Italy. Asia Minor.
---Description---The members of this small genus are
plants about 2 feet high, bearing flowers in a long, pyramidal,
loose spike, varying in colour from pale purple to white. It
prefers to grow in woods in warm places. The whole plant,
especially when rubbed, gives out an odour like lemon-peel, and
when bruised this grows more like that of a fine balsam, strongest
in the pedicels of the flowers. It is due to an essential oil,
which gives off an inflammable vapour in heat or in dry, cloudy
weather, which also congeals as resinous wax, exuding from
rusty-red glands in the flowers. This accounts for the fact that
the atmosphere surrounding it will often take fire if approached by
a lighted candle, without injuring the plant.
The fragrant leaves and handsome flowers cause it to be
frequently cultivated in gardens.
The prepared root-bark is whitish, almost odourless, and rolled
in pieces from 1 to 2 inches long.
---Constituents---The acrid and resinous principles have
not been analysed.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The drug is very little
used to-day, though it is an ingredient in 'Orvieton' 'Solomon's
Opiate,' 'Guttète Powder,' 'Balm of Fioraventi,' 'Eau generale,'
'Hyacinth Mixture,' etc. It is recommended in nervous complaints
and intermittent fevers, and used to be given in scrofulous and
scorbutic diseases. It is a cordial and stomachic. The distilled
water is used as a cosmetic. An infusion of the leaves
is regarded as a substitute for tea. The powder is combined
with that of peppermint for use in epilepsy.
---Dosage---Of powdered root, 4 to 8 grammes, or double
the quantity in infusion.
Several drugs bear the name of Dictamnus,such as Dictamnus of
Barbados, or Arrowroot des tilles.
The leaves of a plant growing in Crete and Candy were used by
the Ancients for wounds, and it is still known as Dictamnus or
Dittany of Crete, being Origanum Dictamnus of the Labiatae
Botanical: Pedalium Murex (LINN.)
Tribulus terrestes (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Pedaliaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Description---Fruits brown, two-celled with four
narrow and long seeds. Taste mucilaginous. Odourless.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Diuretic, demulcent,
Used for impotence in males, nocturnal emissions, gonorrhoea,
gleet and incontinence of urine.
Infusion, 1 in 20, is taken three times daily. Fluid extract,
10 to 30 drops.
Botanical: Petasites vulgaris (DESF.)
Family: N.O. Compositae
Medicincal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Langwort. Umbrella Plant. Bog Rhubarb.
Flapperdock. Blatterdock. Capdockin. Bogshorns.
The Butterbur, a plant nearly allied to the Coltsfoot - being
the Tussilago petasites of Linnaeus - is found in wet
ground, lowlying, marshy meadows and by riversides, but is usually
---Description---It has a fleshy, stout root-stock,
extensively creeping, which, like the Coltsfoot, sends up the
flowers before the leaves appear. The flower-heads are, however,
not produced singly, on separate stalks, but in crowned clusters in
a dense spike, with many bracts interspersed, at the summit of a
round, thick flower-stalk, 4 inches to a little over a foot in
height, which first appears at the end of February or beginning of
March, and is generally of a purplish hue.
There are two kinds of flowers - the male or stamen-bearing and
the female or seedproducing - as a rule on different spikes, the
female flowers being in denser, longer spikes than the male
flowers, which are in shorter, loose clusters. Occasionally a few
female flowers are found on the male spikes, and a few male flowers
on the female spikes. The corollas are pale reddish purple or
fleshcoloured, bell-shaped in the male flowers, and containing
abundant nectar, but only threadlike in the female flowers, which
contain no nectar, and are succeeded by the white feathery pappus,
which crowns the seeds.
In April, as the flowers begin to decay, the leaves appear.
They are on stout hollowed channelled foot-stalks, and when full
grown very large - the largest leaves of any plant in Great Britain
- the blade sometimes attaining 3 feet in diameter. It is roundish,
heartshaped at the base, scalloped at the edges, with the portion
between the projections finely toothed. The leaves are white and
cobwebby with down both above and below when young, but when
mature, most of the covering disappears from the upper surface
though the leaves still remain grey and more or less downy
The name of the genus, Petasites, is derived from
petasos, the Greek word for the felt hats worn by shepherds,
and familiar to us in representations of Mercury, in reference to
the large size of the leaves, which could be used as a
head-covering. No other vegetation can live where these leaves
grow, for they exclude light and air from all beneath, and where
the plant abounds, it has been described as 'the most pernicious of
all the weeds which this country produces.'
The name Butterbur is supposed to have been given it because
formerly these large leaves were used to wrap butter in during hot
weather. 'Lagwort' is an old name we sometimes find for it, in
reference to the leaves delaying their appearance till after the
flowers have faded, though once the leaf-shoots make a start, they
grow with almost tropical luxuriance.
'The early flowering of this rank weed,'Hooker writes, 'induces
the Swedish farmers to plant it near their beehives. Thus we see in
our gardens the bees assembled on its affinities, P. alba
and P. fragrans, at a season when scarcely any other flowers
In Germany an old name for the plant was
Pestilenzenwurt, but one finds really very little either of
evil or good assigned by the older writers to the Butterbur as
compared with most other herbs. The old German name was given it,
not as suggesting the plant was provocative of pestilence, but as
an indication of its value as a remedy in time of such calamity
Anne Pratt says the former name of this plant was the
'plague-flower,' as it gained a successful reputation among the few
remedies during the time of that malady. Lyte, in his
Herbal, 1578, calls it 'a soveraigne medicine against the
plague', and remarks of its leaves that 'one of them is large
enough to cover a small table, as with a carpet,' and they are
often 2 feet in width. Under its ample foliage, the poultry in farm
meadows, shelter themselves from the rain, or find a cool retreat
from the noonday sun. The Swedish farmers plant it in great
quantities near their bechives, as bees are attracted by its
The seeds in some parts of the country have been used for love
'The seeds of butterdock must
be sowed by a young unmarried woman half an hour before sunrise on
a Friday morning, in a lonesome place. She must strew the seeds
gradually on the grass, saying these words:
I sow, I sow!
Then, my own
Come here, come
And mow and mow!
The seed being scattered, she will see her future husband
mowing with a scythe at a short distance from her. She must not be
frightened, for if she says, "Have mercy on me," he will
immediately vanish! This method is said to be infallible, but it is
looked upon as a bold, desperate, and presumptuous
---Part Used---The rhizome, or root-stock which is
blackish on the outside and whitish internally, and has a bitter
and unpleasant taste, due to the resinous, bitter juice it
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Butterbur root is
medicinally employed as a heart stimulant, acting both as a cardiac
tonic and also as a diuretic. It has been in use as a remedy in
fevers, asthma, colds and urinary complaints, a decoction being
taken warm in wineglassful doses, frequently repeated.
Both Butterbur and Coltsfoot are specific homoeopathic remedies
for severe and obstinate neuralgia in the small of the back and the
loins, a medicinal tincture being prepared in each
Gerard writes of the
'The roots dried and beaten
to powder and drunke in wine is a soveraigne medicine against the
plague and pestilent fevers, because it provoketh sweat and driveth
from the heart all venim and evill heate; it killeth worms. The
powder of the roots cureth all naughty filthy ulcers, if it be
'It is a great strengthener
of the heart and cheerer of the vital spirits: . . . if the powder
thereof be taken in wine, it also resisteth the force of any other
poison . . . the decoction of the root in wine is singularly good
for those that wheeze much or are shortwinded.... The powder of the
root taketh away all spots and blemishes of the skin.'
Another species known as the Winter Heliotrope, or
Sweet-scented Coltsfoot (P. fragrans), flourishes in warm
districts like South Devon, where it is abundant. It is even more
spreading and luxuriant in growth than our native Coltsfoot, but as
it flowers in the poorest soil and clothes waste land with its
handsome foliage, it is certainly welcome outside the
garden, and is even frequently planted in shrubberies. The fragrant
flowers, which have the scent of vanilla and are like Butterbur in
appearance, are freely borne in the depth of winter. The leaves
appear in the spring and in favourable situations remain green till
the young leaves appear in the succeeding season.
Botanical: Ranunculus bulbosus (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Ranunculaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Parts used---Juice and Herb.
---Synonyms---St. Anthony's Turnip. Crowfoot. Frogsfoot.
The Bulbous Buttercup or Crowfoot is perhaps the commonest of
the Ranunculus family, covering the meadows in May with
dazzling yellow, being one of the earliest of the varieties to
flower, owing to the nourishment stored up in the
The specific name bulbosus refers to the bulb-like
swelling at the base of the stem, roundish and white, flattened a
little both at the top and bottom, somewhat resembling a small
turnip - hence one of the popular names for this plant: St.
Anthony's Turnip. It is however, not a true bulb, only
This is the 'Cuckow buds of yellow hue' of Shakespeare, and in
France it is called the jaunet from the brilliance of its
blossoms. Frogs-foot (from the form of its leaves) and Goldcup,
from the shape and colour of its flowers, are other English names
The Bulbous Buttercup has some superficial resemblance to the
Upright Crowfoot and the Creeping Crowfoot, but is distinguished
not only by its bulb and by the fact that it never throws out
runners, but by the fact that its sepals are turned back in the
fully expanded blossom, so as to touch the stemthat supports the
The stems are furrowed slightly, not merely round, as in
Ranunculus acris. The upper leaves are composed of long,
narrow segments, the lower ones broadened out into very distinct
When once established it is not easily eradicated.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Like most of the
Crowfoots, the Bulbous Buttercup possesses the property of
inflaming and blistering the skin, particularly the roots, which
are said to raise blisters with less pain and greater safety than
Spanish Fly, and have been applied for that purpose, especially to
the joints, in gout. The juice, if applied to the nostrils,
provokes sneezing and cures certain cases of headache. The leaves
have been used to produce blisters on the wrists in rheumatism, and
when infused in boiling water, as a poultice, at the pit of the
A tincture made with spirits of wine will cure shingles very
expeditiously, it is stated, both the outbreak of the small pimples
and the accompanying sharp pains between the ribs, 6 to 8 drops
being given three or four times daily. For sciatica, the tincture
has been employed with good effect.
The roots on being kept lose their stimulating quality, and are
even eatable when boiled. Pigs are remarkably fond of them, and
will go long distances to get them.
The herb is too acrid to be eaten alone by cattle, but possibly
mixed with grasses it may act as a stimulus.
It is recorded that two obstinate cases of nursing soremouth
have been cured with an infusion made by adding 2 drachms of the
recent root, cut into small pieces, to 1 pint of hot water, when
cold, a tablespoonful was given three or four times a day, and the
mouth was frequently washed with a much stronger
Its action as a counter-irritant is both uncertain and violent,
and may cause obstinate ulcers. The beggars of Europe sometimes use
it to keep open sores for the purpose of exciting
CROWFOOT, UPRIGHT MEADOW
Botanical: Juglans cinerea (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Juglandaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---White Walnut. Oilnut.
---Part Used---Bark of the root.
---Habitat---New Brunswick and mountains of
---Description---The leaves possess much the same
properties as the Black Walnut. The inner bark of the root is the
best for medicinal use and should be collected in May or June; it
is generally found in quills, curved strips or chips from 1/8 to
1/2 inch thick, deep brown in colour all through, outer surface
smooth and a little warty, inner surface smooth and striate with
fragments and thin stringy fibre, short fracture, weak and fibrous,
odour slightly aromatic, taste bitter (astringent and acrid). The
powdered drug is dark brown.
---Constituents---A bitter extractive, a large
proportion of oily matter, a volatilizable acid and juglandic
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Butternut is a mild
cathartic like rhubarb; it does not constipate and is often used as
a habitual laxative, also for dysentery and hypatic congestions. It
has been employed as a vermifuge and is recommended for syphilis
and old ulcers. The expressed oil of the fruit removes tapeworm.
The fruit when halfgrown is made into pickles and when matured is a
valuable article of diet. The bark is used for dyeing wool a dark
brown colour but is inferior to that of the black walnut for this
purpose. It is said to be rubefacient when applied to the
---Preparations---Fluid extract, 1 to 2 drachms. Solid
extract, 5 to 10 grains Juglandin, 2 to 5 grains.
is so well known to be an inhabitant almost in every garden, that I
shall not need to write any discription thereof, although its
virtues, which are many, may not be omitted.
Government and virtues : It is an herb of
Jupiter, and under Cancer, and strengthens nature much in all its
actions. Let a syrup made with the juice of it and sugar (as you
shall be taught at the latter end of this book) be kept in every
gentlewoman's house to relieve the weak stomachs and sick bodies of
their poor sickly neighbours; as also the herb kept dry in the
house, that so with other convenient simples, you may make it into
an electuary with honey, according as the disease is you shall be
taught at the latter end of my book. The Arabian physicians have
extolled the virtues thereof to the skies; although the Greeks
thought it not worth mentioning. Seraphio says, it causes the mind
and heart to become merry, and revives the heart, faintings and
swoonings, especially of such who are overtaken in sleep, and
drives away all troublesome cares and thoughts out of the mind,
arising from melancholy or black choler; which Avicen also
confirms. It is very good to help digestion, and open obstructions
of the brain, and hath so much purging quality in it (saith Avicen)
as to expel those melancholy vapours from the spirits and blood
which are in the heart and arteries, although it cannot do so in
other parts of the body. Dioscorides says, that the leaves steeped
in wine, and the wine drank, and the leaves externally applied, is
a remedy against the stings of a scorpion, and the bitings of mad
dogs; and commends the decoction thereof for women to bathe or sit
in to procure their courses; it is good to wash aching teeth
therewith, and profitable for those that have the bloody flux. The
leaves also, with a little nitre taken in drink, are good against
the surfeit of mushrooms, helps the griping pains of belly; and
being made into an electuary, it is good for them that cannot fetch
their breath. Used with salt, it takes away wens, kernels, or hard
swelling in the flesh or throat; it cleanses foul sores, and eases
pains of the gout. It is good for the liver and spleen. A tansy or
caudle made with eggs, and juice thereof while it is young, putting
to it some sugar and rosewater, is good for a woman in child-birth,
when the after-birth is not thoroughly voided, and for their
faintings upon or in their sore travail. The herb bruised and
boiled in a little wine and oil, and laid warm on a boil, will
ripen it, and break it.
is so well known by every boy or girl that has but attained to the
age of seven years, that it needs no description.
Government and virtues : Mars owns the shrub, and
presents it to the use of my countrymen to purge their bodies of
choler. The inner rind of the Barberry-tree boiled in white wine,
and a quarter of a pint drank each morning, is an excellent remedy
to cleanse the body of choleric humours, and free it from such
diseases as choler causes, such as scabs, itch, tetters, ringworms,
yellow jaundice, boils, &c. It is excellent for hot agues,
burnings, scaldings, heat of the blood, heat of the liver,
bloody-flux; for the berries are as good as the bark, and more
pleasing; they get a man a good stomach to his victuals, by
strengthening the attractive faculty which is under Mars. The hair
washed with the lye made of the tree and water, will make it turn
yellow, viz. of Mars' own colour. The fruit and rind of the
shrub, the flowers of broom and of heath, or furz, cleanse the body
of choler by sympathy, as the flowers, leaves, and bark of the
peach tree do by antipathy, because these are under Mars, that
continual usefulness hereof hath made all in general so acquainted
herewith that it is altogether needless to describe it, several
kinds hereof plentifully growing, being yearly sown in this land.
The virtues thereof take as follow.
Government and virtues : It is a notable plant of
Saturn: if you view diligently its effects by sympathy and
antipathy, you may easily perceive a reason of them, as also why
barley bread is so unwholesome for melancholy people. Barley in all
the parts and compositions thereof (except malt) is more cooling
than wheat, and a little cleansing. And all the preparations
thereof, as barley-water and other things made thereof, give great
nourishment to persons troubled with fevers, agues, and heats in
the stomach. A poultice made of barley meal or flour boiled in
vinegar and honey, and a few dry figs put into them, dissolves all
imposthumes, and assuages inflammations, being thereto applied. And
being boiled with melilot and camomile-flowers, and some linseed,
fenugreek, and rue in powder, and applied warm, it eases pains in
side and stomach, and windiness of the spleen. The meal of barley
and fleawort boiled in water, and made a poultice with honey and
oil of lilies applied warm, cures swellings under the ears, throat,
neck, and such like; and a plaister made thereof with tar, with
sharp vinegar into a poultice, and laid on hot, helps the leprosy;
being boiled in red wine with pomegranate rinds and myrtles, stays
the lask or other flux of the belly; boiled with vinegar and
quince, it eases the pains of the gout; barley-flour, white salt,
honey, and vinegar mingled together, takes away the itch speedily
and certainly. The water distilled from the green barley in the end
of May, is very good for those that have defluctions of humours
fallen into their eyes, and eases the pain, being dropped into
them; or white bread steeped therein, and bound on the eyes, does
GARDEN BAZIL, OR SWEET
Descript : The greater of Ordinary Bazil rises up
usually with one upright stalk, diversive branching forth on all
sides, with two leaves at every joint, which are somewhat broad and
round, yet pointed, of a pale green colour, but fresh; a little
snipped about the edges, and of a strong healthy scent. The flowers
are small and white, and standing at the tops of the branches, with
two small leaves at the joints, in some places green, in others
brown, after which come black seed. The root perishes at the
approach of Winter, and therefore must be new sown every
Place : It grows in gardens.
Time : It must be sowed late, and flowers in the
heart of Summer, being a very tender plant.
Government and virtues : This is the herb which
all authors are together by the ears about, and rail at one another
(like lawyers). Galen and Dioscorides hold it not fit to be taken
inwardly; and Chrysippus rails at it with downright Billingsgate
rhetoric; Pliny, and the Arabian physicians defend it.
For my own
part, I presently found that speech true:
Non nostrium inter nos tantas componere
to Dr. Reason went I, who told me it was an herb of Mars, and under
the Scorpion, and perhaps therefore called Basilicon; and it is no
marvel if it carry a kind of virulent quality with it. Being
applied to the place bitten by venomous beasts, or stung by a wasp
or hornet, it speedily draws the poison to it, Every like draws
his like. Mizaldus affirms, that, being laid to rot in
horse-dung, it will breed venomous beasts. Hilarius, a French
physician, affirms upon his own knowledge, that an acquaintance of
his, by common smelling to it, had a scorpion bred in his brain.
Something is the matter; this herb and rue will not grow together,
no, nor near one another: and we know rue is as great an enemy to
poison as any that grows.
conclude; It expels both birth and after-birth; and as it helps the
deficiency of Venus in one kind, so it spoils all her actions in
another. I dare write no more of it.
THE BAY TREE
THIS is so
well known that it needs no description: I shall therefore only
write the virtues thereof, which are many.
Government and virtues : I shall but only add a
word or two to what my friend has written, viz., that it is
a tree of the sun, and under the celestial sign Leo, and resists
witchcraft very potently, as also all the evils old Saturn can do
to the body of man, and they are not a few; for it is the speech of
one, and I am mistaken if it were not Mizaldus, that neither witch
nor devil, thunder nor lightning, will hurt a man in the place
where a Bay-tree is. Galen said, that the leaves or bark do dry and
heal very much, and the berries more than the leaves; the bark of
the root is less sharp and hot, but more bitter, and hath some
astriction withal whereby it is effectual to break the stone, and
good to open obstructions of the liver, spleen, and other inward
parts, which bring the jaundice, dropsy, &c. The berries are
very effectual against all poison of venomous creatures, and the
sting of wasps and bees; as also against the pestilence, or other
infectious diseases, and therefore put into sundry treacles for
that purpose; they likwise procure women's courses, and seven of
them given to women in sore travail of child-birth, do cause a
speedy delivery, and expel the after-birth, and therefore not to be
taken by such as have not gone out their time, lest they procure
abortion, or cause labour too soon. They wonderfully help all cold
and rheumatic distillations from the brain to the eyes, lungs or
other parts; and being made into an electuary with honey, do help
the consumption, old coughs, shortness of breath, and thin rheums;
as also the megrim. They mightily expel the wind, and provoke
urine; helps the mother, and kill the worms. The leaves also work
the like effect. A bath of the decoction of leaves and berries, is
singularly good for women to sit in, that are troubled with the
mother, or the diseases thereof, or the stoppings of their courses,
or for the diseases of the bladder, pains in the bowels by wind and
stoppage of the urine. A decoction likewise of equal parts of
Bay-berries, cummin seed, hyssop, origanum, and euphorbium, with
some honey, and the head bathed therewith, wonderfully helps
distillations and rheums, and settles the pallate of the mouth into
its place. The oil made of the berries is very comfortable in all
cold griefs of the joints, nerves, arteries, stomach, belly, or
womb, and helps palsies, convulsions, cramp, aches, tremblings, and
numbness in any part, weariness also, and pains that come by sore
travelling. All griefs and pains proceeding from wind, either in
the head, stomach, back, belly, or womb, by anointing the parts
affected therewith. And pains in the ears are also cured by
dropping in some of the oil, or by receiving into the ears the fume
of the decoction of the berries through a funnel. The oil takes
away the marks of the skin and flesh by bruises, falls, &c. and
dissolves the congealed blood in them. It helps also the itch,
scabs, and weals in the skin.
garden and field beans are so well known, that it saves me the
labour of writing any description of them. The virtues
Government and virtues : They are plants of
Venus, and the distilled water of the flower of garden beans is
good to clean the face and skin from spots and wrinkles, and the
meal or flour of them, or the small beans doth the same. The water
distilled from the green husk, is held to be very effectual against
the stone, and to provoke urine. Bean flour is used in poultices to
assuage inflammations arising from wounds, and the swelling of
women's breasts caused by the curdling of their milk, and represses
their milk. Flour of beans and Fenugreek mixed with honey, and
applied to felons, boils, bruises, or blue marks by blows, or the
imposthumes in the kernels of the ears, helps them all, and with
Rose leaves, Frankincense and the white of an egg, being applied to
the eyes, helps them that are swollen or do water, or have received
any blow upon them, if used with wine. If a bean be parted in two,
the skin being taken away, and laid on the place where the leech
hath been set that bleeds too much, stays the bleeding. Bean flour
boiled to a poultice with wine and vinegar, and some oil put
thereto, eases both pains and swelling of the privities. The husk
boiled in water to the consumption of a third part thereof, stays a
lask; and the ashes of the husks, made up with old hog's grease,
helps the old pains, contusions, and wounds of the sinews, the
sciatica and gout. The field beans have all the aforementioned
virtues as the garden beans.
eaten are extremely windy meat; but if after the Dutch fashion,
when they are half boiled you husk them and then stew them (I
cannot tell you how, for I never was a cook in all my life), they
are wholesome food.
Descript : This French or kidney Bean arises at
first but with one stalk, which afterwards divides itself into many
arms or branches, but all so weak that if they be not sustained
with sticks or poles, they will be fruitless upon the ground. At
several places of these branches grow foot stalks, each with three
broad round and pointed green leaves at the end of them; towards
the top comes forth divers flowers made like to pease blossoms, of
the same colour for the most part that the fruit will be of, that
is to say, white, yellow, red, blackish, or of a deep purple, but
white is the most usual; after which come long and slender flat
pods, some crooked, some straight, with a string running down the
back thereof, wherein is flattish round fruit made like a kidney;
the root long, spreads with many strings annexed to it, and
perishes every year.
another sort of French bean commonly growing with us in this land,
which is called the Scarlet flower Bean.
with sundry branches as the other, but runs higher, to the length
of hop-poles, about which they grow twining, but turning contrary
to the sun, having footstalks with three leaves on each, as on the
others; the flowers also are like the other, and of a most orient
scarlet colour. The Beans are larger than the ordinary kind, of a
dead purple colour turning black when ripe and dry; the root
perishes in Winter.
Government and virtues : These also belong to
Dame Venus, and being dried and beat to powder, are as great
strengtheners of the kidneys as any are; neither is there a better
remedy than it; a dram at a time taken in white wine to prevent the
stone, or to cleanse the kidneys of gravel or stoppage. The
ordinary French Beans are of an easy digestion; they move the
belly, provoke urine, enlarge the breast that is straightened with
shortness of breath, engender sperm, and incite to venery. And the
scarlet coloured Beans, in regard of the glorious beauty of their
colour, being set near a quick-set hedge, will much adorn the same,
by climbing up thereon, so that they may be discerned a great way,
not without admiration of the beholders at a distance. But they
will go near to kill the quicksets by cloathing them in
the common name above written, it is called Cheese-Rennet, because
it performs the same office, as also Gailion, Pettimugget, and
Maiden-hair; and by some Wild Rosemary.
Descript : This rises up with divers small brown,
and square upright stalks, a yard high or more; sometimes branches
forth into divers parts, full of joints and with divers very fine
small leaves at every one of them, little or nothing rough at all;
at the tops of the branches grow many long tufts or branches of
yellow flowers very thick set together, from the several joints
which consist of four leaves apiece, which smell somewhat strong,
but not unpleasant. The seed is small and black like poppy seed,
two for the most part joined together. The root is reddish, with
many small threads fastened to it, which take strong hold of the
ground, and creep a little: and the branches leaning a little down
to the ground, take root at the joints thereof, whereby it is
another sort of Ladies Bedstraw growing frequently in England,
which bears white flowers as the other doth yellow; but the
branches of this are so weak, that unless it be sustained by the
hedges, or other things near which it grows, it will lie down on
the ground; the leaves a little bigger than the former, and the
flowers not so plentiful as these; and the root hereof is also
thready and abiding.
Place : They grow in meadow and pastures both wet
and dry, and by the hedges.
Time : They flower in May for the most part, and
the seed is ripe in July and August.
Government and virtues : They are both herbs of
Venus, and therefore strengthening the parts both internal and
external, which she rules. The decoction of the former of those
being drank, is good to fret and break the stone, provoke the
urine, stays inward bleeding and heals inward wounds. The herb or
flower bruised and put into the nostrils, stays their bleeding
likewise. The flowers and herbs being made into an oil, by being
set in the sun, and changed after it has stood ten or twelve days;
or into an ointment being boiled in Axunga, or sallad oil,
with some wax melted therein, after it is strained; either the oil
made thereof, or the ointment, do help burnings with fire, or
scalding with water. The same also, or the decoction of the herb
and flower, is good to bathe the feet of travellers and lacquies,
whose long running causes weariness and stiffness in the sinews and
joints. If the decoction be used warm, and the joints afterwards
anointed with ointment, it helps the dry scab, and the itch in
children; and the herb with the white flower is also very good for
the sinews, arteries, and joints, to comfort and strengthen them
after travel, cold, and pains.
there are two sorts, which are best known generally, and whereof I
shall principally treat at this time, viz. the white and red
Beets and their virtues.
Descript : The common white beet has many great
leaves next the ground, somewhat large and of a whitish green
colour. The stalk is great, strong, and ribbed, bearing great store
of leaves upon it, almost to the very top of it. The flowers grow
in very long tufts, small at the end, and turning down their heads,
which are small, pale greenish-yellow buds, giving cornered prickly
seed. The root is great, long, and hard, and when it has given seed
is of no use at all.
red Beet differs not from the white, but only it is less, and the
leaves and the roots are somewhat red; the leaves are differently
red, some only with red stalks or veins; some of a fresh red, and
others of a dark red. The root thereof is red, spungy, and not used
to be eaten.
Government and virtues : The government of these
two sorts of Beets are far different; the red Beet being under
Saturn and the white under Jupiter; therefore take the virtues of
them apart, each by itself. The white Beet much loosens the belly,
and is of a cleansing, digesting quality, and provokes urine. The
justice of it opens obstructions both of the liver and spleen, and
is good for the headache and swimmings therein, and turnings of the
brain; and is effectual also against all venomous creatures; and
applied to the temples, stays inflammations of the eyes; it helps
burnings, being used with oil, and with a little alum put to it, is
good for St. Anthony's fire. It is good for all wheals, pushes,
blisters, and blains in the skin: the herb boiled, and laid upon
chilblains or kibes, helps them. The decoction thereof in water and
some vinegar, heals the itch, if bathed therewith; and cleanses the
head of dandruff, scurf and dry scabs, and does much good for
fretting and running sores, ulcers, and cankers in the head, legs,
or other parts, and is much commended against baldness and shedding
Beet is good to stay the bloody-flux, women's courses, and the
whites, and to help the yellow jaundice; the juice of the root put
into the nostrils, purges the head, helps the noise in the ears,
and the tooth-ache; the juice snuffed up the nose, helps a stinking
breath, if the cause lie in the nose, as many times it does, if any
bruise has been there: as also want of smell coming that
also Brown-wort, and in Yorkshire, Bishop's-leaves.
Descript : First, of the Water Betony, which
rises up with square, hard, greenish stalks, sometimes brown, set
with broad dark green leaves dented about the edges with notches
somewhat resembling the leaves of the Wood Betony, but much larger
too, for the most part set at a joint. The flowers are many, set at
the tops of the stalks and branches, being round bellied and open
at the brims, and divided into two parts, the uppermost being like
a hood, and the lower-most like a hip hanging down, of a dark red
colour, which passing, there comes in their places small round
heads with small points at the ends, wherein lie small and brownish
seeds; the root is a thick bush of strings and shreds, growing from
Place : It grows by the ditch side, brooks and
other watercourses, generally through this land, and is seldom
found far from the water-side.
Time : It flowers about July, and the seed is
ripe in August.
Government and virtues : Water Betony is an herb
of Jupiter in Cancer, and is appropriated more to wounds and hurts
in the breast than Wood Betony, which follows. It is an excellent
remedy for sick hogs. It is of a cleansing quality. The leaves
bruised and applied are effectual for all old and filthy ulcers;
and especially if the juice of the leaves be boiled with a little
honey, and dipped therein, and the sores dressed therewith; as also
for bruises and hurts, whether inward or outward. The distilled
water of the leaves is used for the same purpose; as also to bathe
the face and hands spotted or blemished, or discoloured by sun
I do not much fancy distilled waters, I mean such waters as are
distilled cold; some virtues of the herb they may haply have (it
were a strange thing else;) but this I am confident of, that being
distilled in a pewter still, as the vulgar and apish fashion is,
both chemical oil and salt is left behind unless you burn them, and
then all is spoiled, water and all, which was good for as little as
can be, by such a distillation.
Descript : Common or Wood Betony has many leaves
rising from the root, which are somewhat broad and round at the
end, roundly dented about the edges, standing upon long foot
stalks, from among which rise up small, square, slender but upright
hairy stalks, with some leaves thereon to a piece at the joints,
smaller than the lower, whereon are set several spiked heads of
flowers like Lavender, but thicker and shorter for the most part,
and of a reddish or purple colour, spotted with white spots both in
the upper and lower part. The seeds being contained within the
husks that hold the flowers, are blackish, somewhat long and
uneven. The roots are many white thready strings: the stalk
perishes, but the roots with some leaves thereon, abide all the
Winter. The whole plant is somewhat small.
Place : It grows frequently in woods, and
delights in shady places.
Time : And it flowers in July; after which the
seed is quickly ripe, yet in its prime in May.
Government and virtues : The herb is appropriated
to the planet Jupiter, and the sign Aries. Antonius Musa, physician
to the Emperor Augustus Cæsar, wrote a peculiar book of the virtues
of this herb; and among other virtues saith of it, that it
preserves the liver and bodies of men from the danger of epidemical
diseases, and from witchcraft also; it helps those that loath and
cannot digest their meat, those that have weak stomachs and sour
belchings, or continual rising in their stomachs, using it
familiarly either green or dry; either the herb, or root, or the
flowers, in broth, drink, or meat, or made into conserve, syrup,
water, electuary, or powder, as every one may best frame themselves
unto, or as the time and season requires; taken any of the
aforesaid ways, it helps the jaundice, falling sickness, the palsy,
convulsions, or shrinking of the sinews, the gout and those that
are inclined to dropsy, those that have continual pains in their
heads, although it turn to phrensy. The powder mixed with pure
honey is no less available for all sorts of coughs or colds,
wheesing, or shortness of breath, distillations of thin rheum upon
the lungs, which causes consumptions. The decoction made with Mead,
and a little Pennyroyal, is good for those that are troubled with
putrid agues, whether quotidian, tertian, or quartan, and to draw
down and evacuate the blood and humours, that by falling into the
eyes, do hinder the sight; the decoction thereof made in wine and
taken, kills the worms in the belly, opens obstructions both of the
spleen and liver; cures stitches, and pains in the back and sides,
the torments and griping pains in the bowels, and the wind cholic;
and mixed with honey purges the belly, helps to bring down women's
courses, and is of special use for those that are troubled with the
falling down of the mother, and pains thereof, and causes an easy
and speedy delivery of women in child-birth. It helps also to break
and expel the stone, either in the bladder or kidneys. The
decoction with wine gargled in the mouth, eases the tooth-ache. It
is commended against the stinging and biting of venomous serpents,
or mad dogs, being used inwardly and applied outwardly to the
place. A dram of the powder of Betony taken with a little honey in
some vinegar, does wonderfully refresh those that are over wearied
by travelling. It stays bleeding at the mouth or nose, and helps
those that void or spit blood, and those that are bursten or have a
rupture, and is good for such as are bruised by any fall or
otherwise. The green herb bruised, or the juice applied to any
inward hurt, or outward green wound in the head or body, will
quickly heal and close it up; as also any vein or sinews that are
cut, and will draw forth any broken bone or splinter, thorn or
other things got into the flesh. It is no less profitable for old
sores or filthy ulcers, yea, tho' they be fistulous and hollow. But
some do advise to put a little salt for this purpose, being applied
with a little hog's lard, it helps a plague sore, and other boils
and pushes. The fumes of the decoction while it is warm, received
by a funnel into the ears, eases the pains of them, destroys the
worms and cures the running sores in them. The juice dropped into
them does the same. The root of Betony is displeasing both to the
taste and stomach, whereas the leaves and flowers, by their sweet
and spicy taste, are comfortable both to meat and
some of the many virtues Anthony Muse, an expert physician (for it
was not the practice of Octavius Cesar to keep fools about him),
appropriates to Betony; it is a very precious herb, that is
certain, and most fitting to be kept in a man's house, both in
syrup, conserve, oil, ointment and plaister. The flowers are
THE BEECH TREE
treating of this tree, you must understand, that I mean the green
mast Beech, which is by way of distinction from that other small
rough sort, called in Sussex the smaller Beech, but in Essex
it is needless to describe it, being already too well known to my
Place : It grows in woods amongst oaks and other
trees, and in parks, forests, and chases, to feed deer; and in
other places to fatten swine.
Time : It blooms in the end of April, or
beginning of May, for the most part, and the fruit is ripe in
Government and virtues : It is a plant of Saturn,
and therefore performs his qualities and proportion in these
operations. The leaves of the Beech tree are cooling and binding,
and therefore good to be applied to hot swellings to discuss them;
the nuts do much nourish such beasts as feed thereon. The water
that is found in the hollow places of decaying Beeches will cure
both man and beast of any scurf, or running tetters, if they be
washed therewith; you may boil the leaves into a poultice, or make
an ointment of them when time of year serves.
BILBERRIES, CALLED BY SOME WHORTS,
Descript : Of these I shall only speak of two
sorts which are common in England, viz. the black and red berries.
And first of the black.
bush creeps along upon the ground, scarcely rising half a yard
high, with divers small green leaves set in the green branches, not
always one against the other, and a little dented about the edges.
At the foot of the leaves come forth small, hollow, pale, bluish
coloured flowers, the brims ending at five points, with a reddish
thread in the middle, which pass into small round berries of the
bigness and colour of juniper berries, but of a purple, sweetish
sharp taste; the juice of them gives a purplish colour in their
hands and lips that eat and handle them, especially if they break
them. The root grows aslope under ground, shooting forth in sundry
places as it creeps. This loses its leaves in Winter.
Bilberry, or Whortle-Bush, rises up like the former, having sundry
hard leaves, like the Box-tree leaves, green and round pointed,
standing on the several branches, at the top whereof only, and not
from the sides, as in the former, come forth divers round, reddish,
sappy berries, when they are ripe, of a sharp taste. The root runs
in the ground, as in the former, but the leaves of this abide all
Place : The first grows in forests, on the
heaths, and such like barren places: the red grows in the north
parts of this land, as Lancashire, Yorkshire, &c.
Time : They flower in March and April, and the
fruit of the black is ripe in July and August.
Government and virtues : They are under the
dominion of Jupiter. It is a pity they are used no more in physic
than they are.
Bilberries are good in hot agues and to cool the heat of the liver
and stomach; they do somewhat bind the belly, and stay vomiting and
loathings; the juice of the berries made in a syrup, or the pulp
made into a conserve with sugar, is good for the purposes
aforesaid, as also for an old cough, or an ulcer in the lungs, or
other diseases therein. The Red Worts are more binding, and stops
women's courses, spitting of blood, or any other flux of blood or
humours, being used as well outwardly as inwardly.
BIFOIL OR TWOBLADE
Descript : This small herb, from a root somewhat
sweet, shooting downwards many long strings, rises up a round green
stalk, bare or naked next the ground for an inch, two or three to
the middle thereof as it is in age or growth; as also from the
middle upwards to the flowers, having only two broad Plaintain-like
leaves (but whiter) set at the middle of the stalk one against
another, compassing it round at the bottom of them.
Place : It is an usual inhabitant in woods,
copses, and in many places in this land.
another sort, grows in wet grounds and marshes, which is somewhat
different from the former. It is a smaller plant, and greener,
having sometimes three leaves; the spike of the flowers is less
than the former, and the roots of this do run or creep in the
often used by many to good purpose for wounds, both green and old,
to consolidate or knit ruptures; and well it may, being a plant of
THE BIRCH TREE
Descript : This grows a goodly tall straight
tree, fraught with many boughs, and slender branches bending
downward: the old being covered with discoloured chapped bark, and
the younger being browner by much. The leaves at the first breaking
out are crumpled, and afterwards like the beech leaves, but smaller
and greener, and dented about the edges. It bears short catkins,
somewhat like those of the hazelnut-tree, which abide on the
branches a long time, until growing ripe, they fall on the ground
and their seed with them.
Place : It usually grows in woods.
Government and virtues : It is a tree of Venus;
the juice of the leaves, while they are young, or the distilled
water of them, or the water that comes from the tree being bored
with an auger, and distilled afterwards; any of these being drank
for some days together, is available to break the stone in the
kidneys and bladder, and is good also to wash sore
herb grows not above a span high with many branches spread upon the
ground, set with many wings of small leaves. The flowers grow upon
the branches, many small ones of a pale yellow colour being set
a-head together, which afterwards turn into small jointed pods,
well resembling the claw of small birds, whence it took its
another sort of Bird's Foot in all things like the former, but a
little larger; the flowers of a pale whitish and red colour, and
the pods distinct by joints like the other, but little more
crooked; and the roots do carry many small white knots or kernels
amongst the strings.
Place : These grow on heaths, and many open
untilled places of this land.
Time : They flower and seed in the end of
Government and virtues : They belong to Saturn
and are of a drying, binding quality, and thereby very good to be
used in wound drinks, as also to apply outwardly for the same
purpose. But the latter Bird's Foot is found by experience to break
the stone in the back or kidneys, and drives them forth, if the
decoction thereof be taken; and it wonderfully helps the ruptures,
being taken inwardly, and outwardly applied to the
have best operations upon the stone, as ointments and plaisters
have upon wounds: and therefore you may make a salt of this for the
stone; the way how to do so may be found in my translation of the
London Dispensatory; and it may be I may give you it again in
plainer terms at the latter end of this book.
the common name Bishop's-weed, it is usually known by the Greek
name Ammi and Ammois; some call it Aethiopian
Cummin-seed, and others Cummin-royal, as also Herb William, and
Descript : Common Bishop's-weed rises up with a
round straight stalk, sometimes as high as a man, but usually three
or four feet, high, beset with divers small, long and somewhat
broad leaves, cut in some places, and dented about the edges,
growing one against another, of a dark green colour, having sundry
branches on them, and at the top small umbels of white flowers,
which turn into small round seeds little bigger than Parsley seeds,
of a quick hot scent and taste; the root is white and stringy;
perishing yearly, and usually rises again on its own
Place : It grows wild in many places in England
and Wales, as between Greenhithe and Gravesend.
Government and virtues : It is hot and dry in the
third degree, of a bitter taste, and somewhat sharp withal; it
provokes lust to purpose; I suppose Venus owns it. It digests
humours, provokes unine and women's courses, dissolves wind, and
being taken in wine it eases pains and griping in the bowels, and
is good against the biting of serpents; it is used to good effect
in those medicines which are given to hinder the poisonous
operation of Cantharides, upon the passage of the urine: being
mixed with honey and applied to black and blue marks, coming of
blows or bruises, it takes them away; and being drank or outwardly
applied, it abates a high colour, and makes it pale; and the fumes
thereof taken with rosin or raisins, cleanses the
BISTORT, OR SNAKEWEED
called Snakeweed, English Serpentary, Dragon-wort, Osterick, and
Descript : This has a thick short knobbed root,
blackish without, and somewhat reddish within, a little crooked or
turned together, of a hard astringent taste, with divers black
threads hanging there-from, whence springs up every year divers
leaves, standing upon long footstalks, being somewhat broad and
long like a dock leaf, and a little pointed at the ends, but that
it is of a bluish green colour on the upper side, and of an
ash-colour grey, and a little purplish underneath, with divers
veins therein, from among which rise up divers small and slender
stalks, two feet high, and almost naked and without leaves, or with
a very few, and narrow, bearing a spiky bush of pale-coloured
flowers; which being past, there abides small seed, like unto
Sorrel seed, but greater.
other sorts of Bistort growing in this land, but smaller, both in
height, root, and stalks, and especially in the leaves. The root
blackish without, and somewhat whitish within; of an austere
binding taste, as the former.
Place : They grow in shadowy moist woods, and at
the foot of hills, but are chiefly nourished up in gardens. The
narrow leafed Bistort grows in the north, in Lancashire, Yorkshire,
Time : They flower about the end of May, and the
seed is ripe about the beginning of July.
Government and virtues : It belongs to Saturn,
and is in operation cold and dry; both the leaves and roots have a
powerful faculty to resist all poison. The root, in powder, taken
in drink expels the venom of the plague, the small-pox, measels,
purples, or any other infectious disease, driving it out by
sweating. The root in powder, the decoction thereof in wine being
drank, stays all manner of inward bleeding, or spitting of blood,
and any fluxes in the body of either man or woman, or vomiting. It
is also very available against ruptures, or burstings, or all
bruises from falls, dissolving the congealed blood, and easing the
pains that happen thereupon; it also helps the
distilled from both leaves and roots, is a singular remedy to wash
any place bitten or stung by any venomous creature; as also for any
of the purposes before spoken of, and is very good to wash any
running sores or ulcers. The decoction of the root in wine being
drank, hinders abortion or miscarriage in child-bearing. The leaves
also kill the worms in children, and is a great help to them that
cannot keep their water; if the juice of Plaintain be added
thereto, and outwardly applied, much helps the ghonorrhea, or
running of the reins. A dram of the powder of the root, taken in
water thereof, wherein some red hot iron or steel hath been
quenched, is also an admirable help thereto, so as the body be
first prepared and purged from the offensive humours. The leaves,
seed or roots, are all very good in decoction, drinks, or lotions,
for inward or outward wounds, or other sores. And the powder,
strewed upon any cut or wound in a vein, stays the immoderate
bleeding thereof. The decoction of the root in water, where unto
some pomegranate peels and flowers are added, injected into the
matrix, stays the immoderate flux of the courses. The root thereof,
with pelitory of Spain and burnt alum, of each a little quantity,
beaten small and into paste with some honey, and a little piece
thereof put into a hollow tooth, or held between the teeth, if
there be no hollowness in them, stays the defluction of rheum upon
them which causes pains, and helps to cleanse the head, and void
much offensive water. The distilled water is very effectual to wash
sores or cankers in the nose, or any other part; if the powder of
the root be applied thereunto afterwards. It is good also to fasten
the gums, and to take away the heat and inflammations that happen
in the jaws, almonds of the throat, or mouth, if the decoction of
the leaves, roots, or seeds bruised, or the juice of them, be
applied; but the roots are most effectual to the purposes
Descript : This small plant never bears more than
one leaf, but only when it rises up with its stalk, which thereon
bears another, and seldom more, which are of a bluish green colour,
broad at the bottom, and pointed with many ribs or veins like
Plaintain; at the top of the stalk grows many small flowers
star-fashion, smelling somewhat sweet; after which comes small
reddish berries when they are ripe. The root small, of the bigness
of a rush, lying and creeping under the upper crust of the earth,
shooting forth in divers places.
Place : It grows in moist, shadowy grassy places
of woods, in many places of this realm.
Time : It flowers about May, and the berries are
ripe in June, and then quickly perishes, until the next year it
springs from the same again.
Government and virtues : It is a herb of the Sun,
and therefore cordial; half a dram, or a dram at most, of the root
hereof in powder taken in wine and vinegar, of each a little
quantity, and the party presently laid to sweat, is held to be a
sovereign remedy for those that are infected with the plague, and
have a sore upon them, by expelling the poison, and defending the
heart and spirit from danger. It is also accounted a singular good
wound herb, and therefore used with other herbs in making such
balms as are necessary for curing of wounds, either green or old,
and especially if the nerves be hurt.
THE BRAMBLE, OR BLACKBERRY
IT is so
well known that it needs no description. The virtues thereof are as
Government and virtues : It is a plant of Venus
in Aries. If any ask the reason why Venus is so prickly? Tell them
it is because she is in the house of Mars. The buds, leaves, and
branches, while they are green, are of a good use in the ulcers and
putrid sores of the mouth and throat, and of the quinsey, and
likewise to heal other fresh wounds and sores; but the flowers and
fruit unripe are very binding, and so profitable for the bloody
flux, lasks, and are a fit remedy for spitting of blood. Either the
decoction of the powder or of the root taken, is good to break or
drive forth gravel and the stone in the reins and kidneys. The
leaves and brambles, as well green as dry, are exceeding good
lotions for sores in the mouth, or secret parts. The decoction of
them, and of the dried branches, do much bind the belly and are
good for too much flowing of women's courses; the berries of the
flowers are a powerful remedy against the poison of the most
venomous serpents; as well drank as outwardly applied, helps the
sores of the fundament and the piles; the juice of the berries
mixed with the juice of mulberries, do bind more effectually, and
helps all fretting and eating sores and ulcers where-soever. The
distilled water of the branches, leaves, and flowers, or of the
fruit, is very pleasant in taste, and very effectual in fevers and
hot distempers of the body, head, eyes, and other parts, and for
the purposes aforesaid. The leaves boiled in lye, and the head
washed therewith, heals the itch and running sores thereof, and
makes the hair black. The powder of the leaves strewed on cankers
and running ulcers, wonderfully helps to heal them. Some use to
condensate the juice of the leaves, and some the juice of the
berries, to keep for their use all the year, for the purposes
Descript : Of these there are two sorts commonly
known, viz. white and red. The white has leaves somewhat like to
Beets, but smaller, rounder and of a whitish green colour, every
one standing upon a small long footstalk: the stalk rises up two or
three feet high, with such like leaves thereon; the flowers grow at
the top in long round tufts or clusters, wherein are contained
small and round seeds; the root is very full of threads or
Blite is in all things like the white but that its leaves and
tufted heads are exceeding red at first, and after turn more
other kinds of Blites which grow different from the two former
sorts but little, but only the wild are smaller in every
Place : They grow in gardens, and wild in many
places in this land.
Time : They seed in August and
Government and virtues : They are all of them
cooling, drying, and binding, serving to restrain the fluxes of
blood in either man or woman, especially the red; which also stays
the overflowing of the women's reds, as the white Blites stays the
whites in women. It is an excellent secret; you cannot well fail in
the use. They are all under the dominion of Venus.
another sort of wild Blites like the other wild kinds, but have
long and spiky heads of greenish seeds, seeming by the thick
setting together to be all seed.
the fishers are delighted with, and it is good and usual bait; for
fishes will bite fast enough at them, if you have with enough to
catch them when they bite.
BORAGE AND BUGLOSS
so well known to the inhabitants in every garden that I hold it
needless to describe them.
To these I
may add a third sort, which is not so common, nor yet so well
known, and therefore I shall give you its name and
called Langue de Bœuf; but why then should they call one
herb by the name of Bugloss, and another by the name Langue de
Bœuf? it is some question to me, seeing one signifies Ox-tongue
in Greek, and the other signifies the same in French.
Descript : The leaves whereof are smaller than
those of Bugloss but much rougher; the stalks rising up about a
foot and a half high, and is most commonly of a red colour; the
flowers stand in scaly round heads, being composed of many small
yellow flowers not much unlike to those of Dandelion, and the seed
flieth away in down as that doth; you may easily know the flowers
by their taste, for they are very bitter.
Place : It grows wild in many places of this
land, and may be plentifully found near London, as between
Rotherhithe and Deptford, by the ditch side. Its virtues are held
to be the same with Borage and Bugloss, only this is somewhat
Time : They flower in June and July, and the seed
is ripe shortly after.
Government and virtues : They are all three herbs
of Jupiter and under Leo, all great cordials, and great
strengtheners of nature. The leaves and roots are to very good
purpose used in putrid and pestilential fevers, to defend the
heart, and help to resist and expel the poison, or the venom of
other creatures: the seed is of the like effect; and the seed and
leaves are good to increase milk in women's breasts; the leaves,
flowers, and seed, all or any of them, are good to expel
pensiveness and melancholy; it helps to clarify the blood, and
mitigate heat in fevers. The juice made into a syrup prevails much
to all the purposes aforesaid, and is put, with other cooling,
opening and cleansing herbs to open obstructions, and help the
yellow jaundice, and mixed with Fumitory, to cool, cleanse, and
temper the blood thereby; it helps the itch, ringworms and tetters,
or other spreading scabs or sores. The flowers candied or made into
a conserve, are helpful in the former cases, but are chiefly used
as a cordial, and are good for those that are weak in long
sickness, and to comfort the heart and spirits of those that are in
a consumption, or troubled with often swoonings, or passions of the
heart. The distilled water is no less effectual to all the purposes
aforesaid, and helps the redness and inflammations of the eyes,
being washed therewith; the herb dried is never used, but the
green; yet the ashes thereof boiled in mead, or honied water, is
available against the inflammations and ulcers in the mouth or
throat, to gargle it therewith; the roots of Bugloss are effectual,
being made into a licking electuary for the cough, and to
condensate thick phelgm, and the rheumatic distillations upon the
called Syanus, I suppose from the colour of it; Hurt-sickle,
because it turns the edge of the sickles that reap the corn;
Blue-blow, Corn-flower, and Blue-bottle.
Descript : I shall only describe that which is
commonest, and in my opinion most useful; its leaves spread upon
the ground, being of a whitish green colour, somewhat on the edges
like those of Corn-Scabions, amongst which rises up a stalk divided
into divers branches, beset with long leaves of a greenish colour,
either but very little indented, or not at all; the flowers are of
a bluish colour, from whence it took its name, consisting of an
innumerable company of flowers set in a scaly head, not much unlike
those of Knap-weed; the seed is smooth, bright, and shining,
wrapped up in a woolly mantle; the root perishes every
Place : They grow in corn fields, amongst all
sorts of corn (pease, beans, and tares excepted.) If you please to
take them up from thence, and transplant them in your garden,
especially towards the full of the moon, they will grow more double
than they are, and many times change colour.
Time : They flower from the beginning of May, to
the end of the harvest.
Government and virtues : As they are naturally
cold, dry, and binding, so they are under the dominion of Saturn.
The powder or dried leaves of the Blue-bottle, or Corn-flower, is
given with good success to those that are bruised by a fall, or
have broken a vein inwardly, and void much blood at the mouth;
being taken in the water of Plaintain, Horsetail, or the greater
Confrey, it is a remedy against the poison of the Scorpion, and
resists all venoms and poisons. The seed or leaves taken in wine,
is very good against the plague, and all infectious diseases, and
is very good in pestilential fevers. The juice put into fresh or
green wounds, doth quickly solder up the lips of them together, and
is very effectual to heal all ulcers and sores in the mouth. The
juice dropped into the eyes takes away the heat and inflammation of
them. The distilled water of this herb, has the same properties,
and may be used for the effects aforesaid.
the common name Brank-Ursine, it is also called Bear's-breach, and
Acanthus, though I think our English names to be more proper; for
the Greek word Acanthus, signifies any thistle
Descript : This thistle shoots forth very many
large, thick, sad green smooth leaves on the ground, with a very
thick and juicy middle rib; the leaves are parted with sundry deep
gashes on the edges; the leaves remain a long time, before any
stalk appears, afterwards rising up a reasonable big stalk, three
or four feet high, and bravely decked with flowers from the middle
of the stalk upwards; for on the lower part of the stalk, there is
neither branches nor leaf. The flowers are hooded and gaping, being
white in colour, and standing in brownish husk, with a long small
undivided leaf under each leaf; they seldom seed in our country.
Its roots are many, great and thick, blackish without and whitish
within, full of a clammy sap; a piece of them if you set it in the
garden, and defend it from the first Winter cold will grow and
Place : They are only nursed in the gardens in
England, where they will grow very well.
Time : It flowers in June and July.
Government and virtues : It is an excellent plant
under the dominion of the Moon; I could wish such as are studious
would labour to keep it in their gardens. The leaves being boiled
and used in clysters, is excellent good to mollify the belly, and
make the passage slippery. The decoction drank inwardly, is
excellent and good for the bloody-flux. The leaves being bruised,
or rather boiled and applied like a poultice are excellent good to
unite broken bones and strengthen joints that have been put out.
The decoction of either leaves or roots being drank, and the
decoction of leaves applied to the place, is excellent good for the
king's evil that is broken and runs; for by the influence of the
moon, it revives the ends of the veins which are relaxed. There is
scarce a better remedy to be applied to such places as are burnt
with fire than this is, for it fetches out the fire, and heals it
without a scar. This is an excellent remedy for such as are
bursten, being either taken inwardly, or applied to the place. In
like manner used, it helps the cramp and the gout. It is
excellently good in hectic fevers, and restores radical moisture to
such as are in consumptions.
BRIONY, OR WILD VINE
called Wild, and Wood Vine, Tamus, or Ladies' Seal. The white is
called White Vine by some; and the black, Black Vine.
Descript : The common White Briony grows ramping
upon the hedges, sending forth many long, rough, very tender
branches at the beginning, with many very rough, and broad leaves
thereon, cut (for the most part) into five partitions, in form very
like a vine leaf, but smaller, rough, and of a whitish hoary green
colour, spreading very far, spreading and twining with his small
claspers (that come forth at the joints with the leaves) very far
on whatsoever stands next to it. At the several joints also
(especially towards the top of the branches) comes forth a long
stalk bearing many whitish flowers together on a long tuft,
consisting of five small leaves a-piece, laid open like a star,
after which come the berries separated one from another, more than
a cluster of grapes, green at the first, and very red when they are
thorough ripe, of no good scent, but of a most loathsome taste
provokes vomit. The root grows to be exceeding great, with many
long twines or branches going from it, of a pale whitish colour on
the outside, and more white within, and of a sharp, bitter,
Place : It grows on banks, or under hedges,
through this land; the roots lie very deep.
Time : It flowers in July and August, some
earlier, and some later than the other.
Government and virtues : They are furious martial
plants. The root of Briony purges the belly with great violence,
troubling the stomach and burning the liver, and therefore not
rashly to be taken; but being corrected, is very profitable for the
diseases of the head, as falling sickness, giddiness, and
swimmings, by drawing away much phlegm and rheumatic humours that
oppress the head, as also the joints and sinews; and is therefore
good for palsies, convulsions, cramps, and stitches in the sides,
and the dropsy, and for provoking urine; it cleanses the reins and
kidneys from gravel and stone, by opening the obstructions of the
spleen, and consume, the hardness and swelling thereof. The
decoction of the root in wine, drank once a week at going to bed,
cleanses the mother, and helps the rising thereof, expels the dead
child; a dram of the root in powder taken in white wine, brings
down their courses. An electuary made of the roots and honey, doth
mightily cleanse the chest of rotten phlegm, and wonderfully help
any old strong cough, to those that are troubled with shortness of
breath, and is good for them that are bruised inwardly, to help to
expel the clotted or congealed blood. The leaves, fruit, and root
do cleanse old and filthy sores, are good against all fretting and
running cankers, gangrenes, and tetters and therefore the berries
are by some country people called tetter-berries. The root cleanses
the skin wonderfully from all black and blue spots, freckles,
morphew, leprosy, foul scars, or other deformity whatsoever; also
all running scabs and manginess are healed by the powder of the
dried root, or the juice thereof, but especially by the fine white
hardened juice. The distilled water of the root works the same
effects, but more weakly; the root bruised and applied of itself to
any place where the bones are broken, helps to draw them forth, as
also splinters and thorns in the flesh; and being applied with a
little wine mixed therewith, it breaks boils, and helps whitlows on
the joints.-For all these latter, beginning at sores, cancers,
&c. apply it outwardly, mixing it with a little hog's grease,
or other convenient ointment.
As for the
former diseases where it must be taken inwardly, it purges very
violently, and needs an abler hand to correct it than most country
BROOK LIME, OR
Descript : This sends forth from a creeping root
that shoots forth strings at every joint, as it runs, divers and
sundry green stalks, round and sappy with some branches on them,
somewhat broad, round, deep green, and thick leaves set by couples
thereon; from the bottom whereof shoot forth long foot stalks, with
sundry small blue flowers on them, that consist of five small round
pointed leaves a piece.
another sort nothing different from the former, but that it is
greater, and the flowers of a paler green colour.
Place : They grow in small standing waters, and
usually near Water-Cresses.
Time : And flower in June and July, giving seed
the next month after.
Government and virtues : It is a hot and biting
martial plant. Brook-lime and Water-Cresses are generally used
together in dietdrink, with other things serving to purge the blood
and body from all ill humours that would destroy health, and are
helpful to the scurvy. They do all provoke urine, and help to break
the stone, and pass it away; they procure women's courses, and
expel the dead child. Being fried with butter and vinegar, and
applied warm, it helps all manner of tumours, swellings, and
drinks ought to be made of sundry herbs, according to the malady. I
shall give a plain and easy rule at the latter end of this
called Ruscus, and Bruscus, Kneeholm, Kneeholly, Kneehulver, and
Descript : The first shoots that sprout from the
root of Butcher's Broom, are thick, whitish, and short, somewhat
like those of Asparagus, but greater, they rise up to be a foot and
half high, are spread into divers branches, green, and somewhat
creased with the roundness, tough and flexible, whereon are set
somewhat broad and almost round hard leaves and prickly, pointed at
the end, of a dark green colour, two at the most part set at a
place, very close and near together; about the middle of the leaf,
on the back and lower side from the middle rib, breaks forth a
small whitish green flower, consisting of four small round pointed
leaves, standing upon little or no footstalk, and in the place
whereof comes a small round berry, green at the first, and red when
it is ripe, wherein are two or three white, hard, round seeds
contained. The root is thick, white and great at the head, and from
thence sends forth divers thick, white, long, tough
Place : It grows in copses, and upon heaths and
waste grounds, and oftentimes under or near the holly
Time : It shoots forth its young buds in the
Spring, and the berries are ripe about September, the branches of
leaves abiding green all the Winter.
Government and virtues : It is a plant of Mars,
being of a gallant cleansing and opening quality. The decoction of
the root made with wine opens obstructions, provokes urine, helps
to expel gravel and the stone, the stranguary and women's courses,
also the yellow jaundice and the head-ache; and with some honey or
sugar put thereunto, cleanses the breast of phlegm, and the chest
of such clammy humours gathered therein. The decoction of the root
drank, and a poultice made of the berries and leaves applied, are
effectual in knitting and consolidating broken bones or parts out
of joint. The common way of using it, is to boil the root of it,
and Parsley and Fennel and Smallage in white wine, and drink the
decoction, adding the like quantity of Grass-root to them: The more
of the root you boil, the stronger will the decoction be; it works
no ill effects, yet I hope you have wit enough to give the
strongest decoction to the strongest bodies.
BROOM, AND BROOM-RAPE
time in writing a description hereof is altogether needless, it
being so generally used by all the good housewives almost through
this land to sweep their houses with, and therefore very well known
to all sorts of people.
Broom-rape springs up in many places from the roots of the broom
(but more often in fields, as by hedge-sides and on heaths). The
stalk whereof is of the bigness of a finger or thumb, above two
feet high, having a shew of leaves on them, and many flowers at the
top, of a reddish yellow colour, as also the stalks and leaves
Place : They grow in many places of this land
commonly, and as commonly spoil all the land they grow
Time : They flower in the Summer months, and give
their seed before Winter.
Government and virtues : The juice or decoction
of the young branches or seed, or the powder of the seed taken in
drink purges downwards, and draws phlegmatic and watery humours
from the joints; whereby it helps the dropsy, gout, sciatica, and
pains of the hips and joints; it also provokes strong vomits, and
helps the pains of the sides, and swelling of the spleen, cleanses
also the reins or kidneys and bladder of the stone, provokes urine
abundantly, and hinders the growing again of the stone in the body.
The continual use of the powder of the leaves and seed doth cure
the black jaundice. The distilled water of the flowers is
profitable for all the same purposes: it also helps surfeit, and
alters the fit of agues, if three or four ounces thereof, with as
much of the water of the lesser Centaury, and a little sugar put
therein, be taken a little before the fit comes, and the party be
laid down to sweat in his bed. The oil or water that is drawn from
the end of the green sticks heated in the fire, helps the
tooth-ache. The juice of young branches made into an ointment of
old hog's grease, and anointed, or the young branches bruised and
heated in oil or hog's grease, and laid to the sides pained by
wind, as in stitches, or the spleen, ease them in once or twice
using it. The same boiled in oil is the safest and surest medicine
to kill lice in the head or body of any; and is an especial remedy
for joint aches, and swollen knees, that come by the falling down
The BROOM RAPE also is not without its
decoction thereof in wine, is thought to be as effectual to void
the stone in the kidney or bladder, and to provoke urine, as the
Broom itself. The juice thereof is a singular good help to cure as
well green wounds, as old and filthy sores and malignant ulcers.
The insolate oil, wherein there has been three or four repetitions
of infusion of the top stalks, with flowers strained and cleared,
cleanses the skin from all manner of spots, marks, and freckles
that rise either by the heat of the sun, or the malignity of
humours. As for the Broom and Broom-rape, Mars owns them, and is
exceeding prejudicial to the liver, I suppose by reason of the
antipathy between Jupiter and Mars; therefore if the liver be
disaffected, minister none of it.
Descript : This being sown of seed, rises up at
first with small, long, narrow, hairy, dark green leaves like
grass, without any division or gash in them, but those that follow
are gashed in on both sides the leaves into three or four gashes,
and pointed at the ends, resembling the knags of a buck's horn
(whereof it took its name), and being well wound round about the
root upon the ground, in order one by another, thereby resembling
the form of a star, from among which rise up divers hairy stalks,
about a hand's breadth high, bearing every one a small, long spiky
head, like to those of the common Plantain having such like
bloomings and seed after them. The root is single, long and small,
with divers strings at it.
Place : They grow in sandy grounds, as in
Tothill-fields by Westminster, and divers other places of this
Time : They flower and seed in May, June, and
July, and their green leaves do in a manner abide fresh all the
Government and virtues : It is under the dominion
of Saturn, and is of a gallant, drying, and binding quality. This
boiled in wine and drank, and some of the leaves put to the hurt
place, is an excellent remedy for the biting of the viper or adder,
which I take to be one and the same. The same being also drank,
helps those that are troubled with the stone in the reins or
kidneys, by cooling the heat of the part affected, and strengthens
them; also weak stomachs that cannot retain, but cast up their
meat. It stays all bleeding both at mouth or nose; bloody urine or
the bloody-flux, and stops the lask of the belly and bowels. The
leaves hereof bruised and laid to their sides that have an ague,
suddenly ease the fits; and the leaves and roots applied to the
wrists, works the same effect. The herb boiled in ale and wine, and
given for some mornings and evenings together, stays the
distillation of hot and sharp rheums falling into the eyes from the
head, and helps all sorts of sore eyes.
called Hart's-horn, Herba-stella and Herba-stellaria, Sanguinaria,
Herb-Eve, Herb-Ivy, Wort-Tresses, and Swine-Cresses.
Descript : They have many small and weak
straggled branches trailing here and there upon the ground. The
leaves are many, small and jagged, not much unlike to those of
Buck's-horn Plantain, but much smaller, and not so hairy. The
flowers grow among the leaves in small, rough, whitish clusters;
the seeds are smaller and brownish, of a bitter taste.
Place : They grow in dry, barren, sandy
Time : They flower and seed when the rest of the
Government and virtues : This is also under the
dominion of Saturn; the virtues are held to be the same as
Buck's-horn Plaintain, and therefore by all authors it is joined
with it. The leaves bruised and applied to the place, stop
bleeding. The herbs bruised and applied to warts, will make them
consume and waste in a short time.
the name Bugle, it is called Middle Confound and Middle Comfrey,
Brown Bugle, and by some Sicklewort, and Herb-Carpenter; though in
Essex we call another herb by that name.
Descript : This has larger leaves than those of
the Self-heal, but else of the same fashion, or rather longer; in
some green on the upper side, and in others more brownish, dented
about the edges, somewhat hairy, as the square stalk is also which
rises up to be half a yard high sometimes, with the leaves set by
couples, from the middle almost, whereof upwards stand the flowers,
together with many smaller and browner leaves than the rest, on the
stalk below set at distance, and the stalk bare between them; among
which flowers, are also small ones of a bluish and sometimes of an
ash colour, fashioned like the flowers of Ground-ivy, after which
come small, round blackish seeds. The root is composed of many
strings, and spreads upon the ground.
flowered Bugle differs not in form or greatness from the former,
saving that the leaves and stalks are always green, and never
brown, like the other, and the flowers thereof are
Place : They grow in woods, copses, and fields,
generally throughout England, but the white flowered Bugle is not
so plentiful as the former.
Time : They flower from May until July, and in
the meantime perfect their seed. The roots and leaves next
thereunto upon the ground abiding all the Winter.
Government and virtues : This herb belongs to
Dame Venus. If the virtues of it make you fall in love with it (as
they will if you be wise) keep a syrup of it to take inwardly, an
ointment and plaister of it to use outwardly, always by
decoction of the leaves and flowers made in wine, and taken,
dissolves the congealed blood in those that are bruised inwardly by
a fall, or otherwise is very effectual for any inward wounds,
thrusts, or stabs in the body or bowels; and it is an especial help
in all wound-drinks, and for those that are liver-grown (as they
call it.) It is wonderful in curing all manner of ulcers and sores,
whether new and fresh or old and inveterate; yea, gangrenes and
fistulas also, if the leaves bruised and applied, or their juice be
used to wash and bathe the place; and the same made into a lotion,
and some honey and alum, cures all sores in the mouth and gums, be
they ever so foul, or of long continuance; and works no less
powerfully and effectually for such ulcers and sores as happen in
the secret parts of men and women. Being also taken inwardly, or
outwardly applied, it helps those that have broken any bone, or
have any member out of joint. An ointment made with the leaves of
Bugle, Scabious and Sanicle, bruised and boiled in hog's grease,
until the herbs be dry, and then strained forth into a pot for such
occasions as shall require; it is so singularly good for all sorts
of hurts in the body, that none that know its usefulness will be
is, I have known this herb cure some diseases of Saturn, of which I
thought good to quote one. Many times such as give themselves much
to drinking are troubled with strange fancies, strange sights in
the night time, and some with voices, as also with the disease
Ephialtes, or the Mare. I take the reason of this to be (according
to Fernelius) a melancholy vapour made thin by excessive drinking
strong liquor, and, so flies up and disturbs the fancy, and breeds
imaginations like itself, viz. fearful and troublesome. Those I
have known cured by taking only two spoonfuls, of the syrup of this
herb after supper two hours, when you go to bed. But whether this
does it by sympathy, or antipathy, is some doubt in astrology. I
know there is great antipathy between Saturn and Venus in matter of
procreation, yea, such a one, that the barrenness of Saturn can be
removed by none but Venus ! nor the lust of Venus be repelled by
none but Saturn; but I am not of opinion this is done this way, and
my reason is, because these vapours though in quality melancholy,
yet by their flying upward, seem to be something aerial; therefore
I rather think it is done by antipathy; Saturn being exalted in
Libra, in the house of Venus.
called Sanguisorbia, Pimpinella, Bipulo, Solbegrella, &c. The
common garden Burnet is so well known, that it needs no
description. There is another sort which is wild, the description
whereof take as follows:
Descript : The great wild Burnet has winged
leaves arising from the roots like the garden Burnet, but not so
many; yet each of these leaves are at the least twice as large as
the other, and nicked in the same manner about the edges, of a
greyish colour on the under side; the stalks are greater, and rise
higher, with many such leaves set thereon, and greater heads at the
top, of a brownish colour, and out of them come small dark purple
flowers, like the former, but greater. The root is black and long
like the other, but greater also: it has almost neither scent nor
taste therein, like the garden kind.
Place : It first grows frequently in gardens. The
wild kind grows in divers counties of this land, especially in
Huntingdon, in Northamptonshire, in the meadows there: as also near
London, by Pancras church, and by a causeway-side in the middle of
a field by Paddington.
Time : They flower about the end of June and
beginning of July, and their seed is ripe in August.
Government and virtues : This is an herb the Sun
challenges dominion over, and is a most precious herb, little
inferior to Betony; the continual use of it preserves the body in
health, and the spirits in vigour; for if the Sun be the preserver
of life under God, his herbs are the best in the world to do it by.
They are accounted to be both of one property, but the lesser is
more effectual because quicker and more aromatic. It is a friend to
the heart, liver, and other principal parts of a man's body. Two or
three of the stalks, with leaves put into a cup of wine, especially
claret, are known to quicken the spirits, refresh and cheer the
heart, and drive away melancholy. It is a special help to defend
the heart from noisome vapours, and from infection of the
pestilence, the juice thereof being taken in some drink, and the
party laid to sweat thereupon. They have also a drying and an
astringent quality, whereby they are available in all manner of
fluxes of blood or humours, to staunch bleedings inward or outward,
lasks, scourings, the bloody flux, women's too abundant flux of
courses, the whites, and the choleric belchings and castings of the
stomach, and is a singular wound-herb for all sorts of wounds, both
of the head and body, either inward or outward, for all old ulcers,
running cankers, and most sores, to be used either by the juice or
decoction of the herb, or by the powder of the herb or root, or the
water of the distilled herb, or ointment by itself, or with other
things to be kept. The seed is also no less effectual both to stop
fluxes, and dry up moist sores, being taken in powder inwardly in
wine, or steeled water, that is, wherein hot rods of steel have
been quenched; or the powder, or the seed mixed with the
THE BUTTER-BUR, OR
Descript : This rises up in February, with a
thick stalk about a foot high, whereon are set a few small leaves,
or rather pieces, and at the top a long spiked head; flowers of a
blue or deep red colour, according to the soil where it grows, and
before the stalk with the flowers have abiden a month above ground,
it will be withered and gone, and blow away with the wind, and the
leaves will begin to spring, which being full grown, are very large
and broad, being somewhat thin and almost round, whose thick red
foot stalks above a foot long, stand towards the middle of the
leaves. The lower part being divided into two round parts, close
almost one to another, and are of a pale green colour; and hairy
underneath. The root is long, and spreads underground, being in
some places no bigger than one's finger, in others much bigger,
blackish on the outside, and whitish within, of a bitter and
and Time : They grow in low and wet grounds by rivers
and water sides. Their flower (as is said) rising and decaying in
February and March, before their leaves, which appear in
Government and virtues : It is under the dominion
of the Sun, and therefore is a great strengthener of the heart, and
clearer of the vital spirit. The roots thereof are by long
experience found to be very available against the plague and
pestilential fevers by provoking sweat; if the powder thereof be
taken in wine, it also resists the force of any other poison. The
root hereof taken with Zedoary and Angelica, or without them, helps
the rising of the mother. The decoction of the root in wine, is
singularly good for those that wheese much, or are short-winded. It
provokes urine also, and women's courses, and kills the flat and
broad worms in the belly. The powder of the root doth wonderfully
help to dry up the moisture of the sores that are hard to be cured,
and takes away all spots and blemishes of the skin. It were well if
gentlewomen would keep this root preserved, to help their poor
neighbours. It is fit the rich should help the poor, for the
poor cannot help themselves.
also called Personata, and Loppy-major, great Burdock and Clod-bur.
It is so well known, even by the little boys, who pull off the burs
to throw and stick upon each other, that I shall spare to write any
description of it.
Place : They grow plentifully by ditches and
water-sides, and by the highways almost everywhere through this
Government and virtues : Venus challenges this
herb for her own, and by its leaf or seed you may draw the womb
which way you please, either upwards by applying it to the crown of
the head, in case it falls out; or downwards in fits of the mother,
by applying it to the soles of the feet; or if you would stay it in
its place, apply it to the navel, and that is one good way to stay
the child in it. The Burdock leaves are cooling, moderately drying,
and discussing withal, whereby it is good for old ulcers and sores.
A dram of the roots taken with Pine kernels, helps them that spit
foul, mattery, and bloody phlegm. The leaves applied to the places
troubled with the shrinking of the sinews or arteries, gives much
ease. The juice of the leaves, or rather the roots themselves,
given to drink with old wine, doth wonderfully help the biting of
any serpents. And the root beaten with a little salt, and laid on
the place, suddenly eases the pain thereof, and helps those that
are bit by a mad dog. The juice of the leaves being drank with
honey, provokes urine, and remedies the pain of the bladder. The
seed being drank in wine forty days together, doth wonderfully help
the sciatica. The leaves bruised with the white of an egg, and
applied to any place burnt with fire, takes out the fire, gives
sudden ease, and heals it up afterwards. The decoction of them
fomented on any fretting sore, or canker, stays the corroding
quality, which must be afterwards anointed with an ointment made of
the same liquor, hog's-grease, nitre, and vinegar boiled together.
The roots may be preserved with sugar, and taken fasting, or at
other times, for the same purposes, and for consumptions, the
stone, and the lask. The seed is much commended to break the stone,
and cause it to be expelled by urine, and is often used with other
seeds and things to that purpose.