FENNEL: (Foeniculum vulgare) Sacred to the
God. This biennial or perennial herb has finely cut feathery
foliage, umbels of midsummer flowers, curved, ribbed seeds and a
thick root, all with a fresh anise seed flavor. The seeds are
chewed to allay hunger and ease indigestion. They are brewed for
constipation, to increase breast milk and regulate menstruation;
with root extract, they are detoxifying and diuretic. Research
indicates Fennel helps repair the liver after alcohol damage. Seed
and leaf steam aids deep skin cleansing, and the essential oil is
used in a muscle-toning massage. Fennel oil should not be used by
epileptics or young children.
To help with
indigestion and gas, pour boiling water over crushed fennel seeds
(one teaspoon seed to a pint of water). The seeds are simmered in
syrups for coughs, shortness of breath and wheezing. Powdered
fennel seeds repel fleas from pets' sleeping quarters. Place fennel
inside a fish when you cook it to make it more digestible. The
seeds and root help clean the liver, spleen, gall bladder, and
blood. The leaves and seeds when boiled with barley increase breast
milk. The tea and broth of this herb are said to help in weight
loss programs. Fennel is eaten in salads, soups, and breads. Fennel
oil mixed with honey can be taken for coughs, and the tea is used
as a gargle. The oil is eaten with honey to allay gas and it is
applied externally to rheumatic swellings. The seeds are boiled to
make an eye wash: use one half teaspoon of seed per cup of water,
three times a day, and be sure to strain carefully before
Used: Leaf, root and seeds
Uses: Hang over doors with St. John's Wort at Litha to
repel evil spirits. Carry fennel to influence others to trust your
words. Use for: Protection; Healing; Health;
Aromatherapy Uses: Bruises; Dull, Oily, Mature
Complexions; Cellulitis; Obesity; Edema; Rheumatism; Asthma;
Bronchitis; Anorexia; Colic; Constipation; Dyspepsia; Flatulence;
Hiccoughs; Nausea; Menopausal Problems; Insufficient Milk in
Nursing Mothers. Key Qualities: Stimulating; Balancing;
Restorative; Revitalizing; Purifying; Cleansing.
FERNS: Especially Male Fern (Dryopteris
filixmas), Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum), Bracken (Pteridium
aquilinum), Lady Fern, Polypody, or Oak Fern (Polypodium vulgare).
The Druids classified ferns as sacred trees. Uncurled fronds of
Male fern were gathered at Midsummer, dried and carried for good
luck. The mysterious regeneration of ferns led to the ancient
belief that their seed could confer invisibility. The root was
added to love potions and the fronds eaten by those embarking on
Fern: The fall gathered root is a remedy for tapeworm. A few
hours after it has been ingested, a purgative is given. Begin the
vermifuge process by eating fresh garlic. Take one to four
teaspoons of the liquid extract of the root, or of the powdered
root, on an empty stomach and follow several hours later with
castor oil. Caution: do not ingest alcohol while
taking this herb. Overdose can result in blindness and
The roots are
added to healing salves for wounds and rubbed into the limbs of
children with rickets.
Used: Leaf and root
Uses: Fern "seeds" are said to render on invisible if
gathered on Midsummer's Eve. Ferns are also said to be an herb of
immortality. Moonwort (Botrychium lunaria) is especially
effective if gathered by moonlight. This fern aids in opening locks
and breaking charms, is used in love spells and has the alchemical
reputation of being an herb to convert quicksilver into silver. Use
it to conjure money. Burned indoors, dried male fern fronds produce
a very strong wall of protection. Burned outdoors they produce
rain. Use for: Luck; Love; Banishing; Releasing; Exorcism;
FEVERFEW: (Tanacetum parthenum) Also known
as Featherfoil or Flirtwort. Semievergreen Feverfew has pungent,
divided, medium to yellow-green leaves and white daisy flowers
appearing in summer. The leaves add a bitter tang to food and are
found in digestive apéritifs. They relax blood vessels, reduce
inflammation and are mildly sedative. Feverfew's importance lies in
its success in reducing some migraines. Chewed daily its
accumulative effect is to reduce headache pains and inhibit the
secretion of a compound implicated in migraine and arthritis;
infused flowering tops are applied to ease headaches and arthritic
swellings. A tea is taken for tinnitus and irregular periods.
Warning: Fresh leaves can irritate the mouth.
Used: Leaf, flower, essential oil
Uses: Travelers carries it as a ward against sickness or
accidents during their journeys. Protection; Purification; Defense;
SILVER: (Abies alba) Also known as Birth Tree. A
Druid sacred tree. The Silver Fir grows to a height of 180 feet.
This was the original Christmas tree from central Europe, chosen
for its long lasting, aromatic needles. The bark resin is distilled
to make Strassburg turpentine. The buds and leaves are distilled to
make the expectorant and antiseptic Silver Pine needle oil, which
is used in cough drops and asthma inhalations, and to give pine
scent to toiletries.
Used: Leaf tips, bark, wood, seeds, and sap
Uses: The needles are burned at childbirth to bless and
protect the mother and baby. Burn for Happiness; Harmony; Peace;
Inspiration; and Wisdom.
FLAX: (Linum usitatissimum) Also called
Linseed. Annual Flax has slender stems with linear green leaves,
beautiful, flat blue flowers, and oily brown seeds.
A teaspoon of
the seed is placed in a quart of water and gently simmered down to
one-half quart. The resulting liquid is given for constipation, for
ulcerated sore throat, and as an exectorant for bronchitis in
one-fourth cup doses throughout the day. To pass a gallstone, take
one and a half to two tablespoons of linseed oil and lie on your
left sied for a half hour. The whole seeds (about two tablespoons)
can be taken with plenty of water to relieve constipation. Follow
with stewed prunes or prune juice. The cooked seeds are added to
fresh grated carrots, and the mix is warmed to make a poultice to
rheumatism and swellings.
Uses: the chld who runs or dances in a flax field at the
age of seven is assured of growing up to be attractive. Newborn
babies are placed in a flax field to sleep for similar reasons. The
blue flowers are worn as a preservative against sorcery. Sprinkle
the altar with flax seeds while performing healing rituals or
include it in healing mixtures. Use for: Protection; Psychic
FOXGLOVE: (Digitalis purpurea) Also known
as Fairy Gloves, Fairy Fingers, or Dead Men's Bells. A Druid sacred
herb associated with the "little people".
This plant is poisonous and should be used by qualified personnel
Uses: Grow in a garden for protection of house and
FRANKINCENSE: (Boswellia carteri) A small
tree or shrub, with pinnate leaves, and white or pale pink flowers.
It yields a natural oleo-resin gum, which is used to make a healing
incense, which induces a meditative state. Frankincense essential
oil is also useful in promoting spirituality and meditative states.
Dilute before applying to the skin as it may be irritating. Pliny
claimed that Frankincense was an antidote to hemlock poisoning.
Avicenna advocated its use for tumors, fevers, vomiting, and
dysentary. Chinese herbalists use it in powder form and in teas for
rheumatism and menstrual pain, and externally as a wash for sores
and bruises. The dose is three to six grains in a glass of wine; or
twenty drops of the tincture. Frankincense is highly antiseptic and
the scent is said to calm and clear the mind.
Prolonged use of resins can damage the kidneys.
Uses: Sacred to the Sun God Ra, frankincense is buned in
rites of exorcism, purification, and protection. It is said to
accelerate spiritual growth. Rosemary may be used as a substitute.
(Oil)Anoint tools, sachets or the body. Use for spirituality,
exorcism, purification, luck and protection rites. (Resin)burn for
protection, exorcism, spirituality, love, consecration, blessing,
energy, strength, visions, healing, meditation, power and
Aromatherapy Uses: (Oil) Blemishes; Dry and
Mature Complexions; Scars; Wounds; Wrinkles; Asthma; Bronchitis;
Colds; Coughs; Flu; Laryngitis; Cystitis; Anxiety; Nervous Tension;
Stress-related Conditions. Frankincense has the ability to slow
down, and deepen the breath - very conducive to prayer and
Foeniculum vulgare (GÆRT.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Fenkel. Sweet Fennel. Wild Fennel.
Used---Seeds, leaves, roots.
---Habitat---Fennel, a hardy, perennial, umbelliferous herb,
with yellow flowers and feathery leaves, grows wild in most parts
of temperate Europe, but is generally considered indigenous to the
shores of the Mediterranean, whence it spreads eastwards to India.
It has followed civilization, especially where Italians have
colonized, and may be found growing wild in many parts of the world
upon dry soils near the sea-coast and upon river-banks. It
flourishes particularly on limestone soils and is now naturalized
in some parts of this country, being found from North Wales
southward and eastward to Kent, being most frequent in Devon and
Cornwall and on chalk cliffs near the sea. It is often found in
chalky districts inland in a semi-wild state.
medicinal use of its fruits, commonly called seeds, Fennel is
largely cultivated in the south of France, Saxony, Galicia, and
Russia, as well as in India and Persia.
This plant was
attached by Linnaeus to the genus Anethum, but was separated from
it by De Candolle and placed with three or four others in a new
genus styled Foeniculum, which has been generally adopted by
botanists. (Foeniculum was the name given to this plant by the
Romans, and is derived from the Latin word, foenum =
corrupted in the Middle Ages into Fanculum, and this gave birth to
its alternative popular name, 'fenkel.'
Foeniculum of Linnaeus embraced two varieties, the Common or Wild
Fennel and the Sweet Fennel. These are considered by De Candolle as
distinct species named respectively F. vulgare (Gaertn.) - the
garden form of which is often named F. Capillaceum (Gilibert) - and
---History---Fennel was well known to the Ancients and was
cultivated by the ancient Romans for its aromatic fruits and
succulent, edible shoots. Pliny had much faith in its medicinal
properties, according no less than twenty-two remedies to it,
observing also that serpents eat it 'when they cast their old
skins, and they sharpen their sight with the juice by rubbing
against the plant.' A very old English rhyming Herbal, preserved at
Stockholm, gives the following description of the virtue of the
heddere (adder) is hurt in eye
Ye red fenel is
And yif he mowe
doth hys kynde.
He schall it
And leyn it to
hys eye kindlely,
Ye jows shall
sang and hely ye eye
Yat beforn was
sicke et feye.'
Many of the
older herbalists uphold this theory of the peculiarly strengthening
effect of this herb on the sight.
alludes to this virtue in the plant:
lower plants it towers,
The Fennel with
its yellow flowers;
And in an
earlier age than ours
Was gifted with
the wondrous powers
Lost vision to
times, Fennel was employed, together with St. John's Wort and other
herbs, as a preventative of witchcraft and other evil influences,
being hung over doors on Midsummer's Eve to warn off evil spirits.
It was likewise eaten as a condiment to the salt fish so much
consumed by our forefathers during Lent. Like several other
umbelliferae, it is carminative.
Romans valued the young shoots as a vegetable, it is not certain
whether it was cultivated in northern Europe at that time, but it
is frequently mentioned in Anglo-Saxon cookery and medical recipes
prior to the Norman Conquest. Fennel shoots, Fennel water and
Fennel seed are all mentioned in an ancient record of Spanish
agriculture dating A.D. 961. The diffusion of the plant in Central
Europe was stimulated by Charlemagne, who enjoined its cultivation
on the imperial farms.
It is mentioned
in Gerard (1597), and Parkinson (Theatricum Botanicum, 1640) tells
us that its culinary use was derived from Italy, for he
seede and rootes are both for meate and medicine; the Italians
especially doe much delight in the use thereof, and therefore
transplant and whiten it, to make it more tender to please the
taste, which being sweete and somewhat hot helpeth to digest the
crude qualitie of fish and other viscous meats. We use it to lay
upon fish or to boyle it therewith and with divers other things, as
also the seeds in bread and other things.'
in Nature's Paradise (1650) affirms that -
seeds, leaves and root of ourGarden Fennel are much used in drinks
and broths for those that are grown fat, to abate their
unwieldiness and cause them to grow more gaunt and
Greek name of the herb, Marathron, from maraino, to grow thin,
probably refers to this property.
It was said to
convey longevity, and to give strength and courage.
There are many
references to Fennel in poetry. Milton, in Paradise Lost alludes to
the aroma of the plant:
appetite, more pleased my sense
Than smell of
---Description---Fennel is a beautiful plant. It has a
thick, perennial root-stock, stout stems, 4 to 5 feet or more in
height, erect and cylindrical, bright green and so smooth as to
seem polished, much branched bearing leaves cut into the very
finest of segments. The bright golden flowers, produced in large,
flat terminal umbels, with from thirteen to twenty rays, are in
bloom in July and August.
In the kitchen
garden this naturally ornamental, graceful plant, generally has its
stems cut down to secure a constant crop of green leaves for
flavouring and garnishing, so that the plant is seldom seen in the
same perfection as in the wild state. In the original wild
condition, it is variable as to size, habit, shape and colour of
leaf, number of rays in the flower-head or umbel, and shape of
fruit, but it has been under cultivation for so long that there are
now several well-marked species. The Common Garden Fennel (F.
Capillaceum or officinale) is distinguished from its wild relative
(F. vulgare) by having much stouter, taller, tubular and larger
stems, and less divided leaves, but the chief distinction is that
the leaf-stalks form a curved sheath around the stem, often even as
far as the base of the leaf above. The flower-stalks, or pedicels,
of the umbels are also sturdier, and the fruits, 1/4 to 1/2 inch
long, are double the size of the wild ones.
---Cultivation---Fennel will thrive anywhere, and a
plantation will last for years. It is easily propagated by seeds,
sown early in April in ordinary soil. It likes plenty of sun and is
adapted to dry and sunny situations, not needing heavily manured
ground, though it will yield more on rich stiff soil. From 4 1/2 to
5 lb. of seed are sown per acre, either in drills, 15 inches apart,
lightly, just covered with soil and the plants afterwards thinned
to a similar distance, or sewn thinly in a bed and transplanted
when large enough. The fruit is heavy and a crop of 15 cwt. per
acre is an average yield.
The roots of
Fennel were formerly employed in medicine, but are generally
inferior in virtues to the fruit, which is now the only portion
recognized by any of the Pharmacopoeias.
of the supply of Fennel fruits from the Continent during the War
led to its being grown more extensively here, any crop produced
being almost certain to sell well.
several varieties of Fennel fruit known in commerce - sweet or
Roman Fennel, German or Saxon Fennel, wild or bitter Fennel,
Galician Russian and Roumanian Fennel, Indian, Persian and
Japanese. The fruits vary very much in length, breadth, taste and
other characters, and are of very different commercial
esteemed Fennel fruit vary from three to five lines in length, are
elliptical, slightly curved, somewhat obtuse at the ends and pale
greyish green in colour. Wild fruits are short, dark coloured and
blunt at their ends, and have a less agreeable flavour and odour
than those of sweet Fennel - they are not official.
are frequently distinguished into 'shorts' and 'longs' in commerce,
the latter being the most valued.
The odour of
Fennel seed is fragrant, its taste, warm, sweet and agreeably
aromatic. It yields its virtues to hot water, but more freely to
alcohol. The essential oil may be separated by distillation with
use, the fruits of the cultivated Fennel, especially those grown in
Saxony, are alone official, as they yield the most volatile oil.
Saxon fruits are greenish to yellowish-brown in colour, oblong,
smaller and straighter than the French or Sweet Fennel (F. dulce).
This French Fennel, known also as Roman Fennel, is distinguished by
its greater length, more oblong form, yellowish-green colour and
sweet taste; its anise-like odour is also stronger. It is
cultivated in the neighbourhood of Nimes, in the south of France,
but yields comparatively little oil, which has no value
is brownish, usually smaller, straighter and not quite so rounded
at the ends with a sweet anise taste. Persian and Japanese fennel,
pale greenish brown in colour, are the smallest and have a sweeter,
still more strongly anise taste and an odour intermediate between
that of French and Saxon.
Galician, Roumanian and Russian varieties all yield 4 to 5 per cent
of volatile oil, and these varieties are alone suitable for
pharmaceutical use. In the ordinary way they furnish some of the
best Fennel crops, and from their fruit a large portion of the oil
of commerce is derived.
For family use,
1/2 oz. of seed will produce an ample supply of plants and for
several years, either from the established roots, or by re-seeding.
Unless seed is needed for household or sowing purposes, the flower
stems should be cut as soon as they appear.
----Adulteration---Commercial Fennel varies greatly in
quality, this being either due to lack of care in harvesting, or
deliberate adulteration. It may contain so much sand, dirt, stem
tissues, weed seeds or other material, that it amounts to
adulteration and is unfit for medicinal use, or it may have had
some of its oil removed by distillation.
exhausted by water or steam are darker, contain less oil and sink
at once in water, but those exhausted by alcohol still retain 1 to
2 per cent, and are but little altered in appearance, they acquire,
however, a peculiar fusel oil odour.
otherwise inferior fennel is occasionally improved in appearance by
the use of a factitious colouring, but old exhausted fruits that
have been re-coloured may be detected by rubbing the fruit between
the hands, when the colour will come off.
---Constituents---As found in commerce, oil Fennel is not
varieties of Fennel yield from 4 to 5 per cent of volatile oil (sp.
gr. 0.960 to 0.930), the principal constituents of which are
Anethol (50 to 60 per cent) and Fenchone (18 to 22 per cent).
Anethol is also the chief constituent of Anise oil.
Fenchone is a
colourless liquid possessing a pungent, camphoraceous odour and
taste, and when present gives the disagreeable bitter taste to many
of the commercial oils. It probably contributes materially to the
medicinal properties of the oil, hence only such varieties of
Fennel as contain a good proportion of fenchone are suitable for
There are also
present in oil of Fennel, d-pinene, phellandrine, anisic acid and
anisic aldehyde. Schimmel mentions limonene as also at times
present as a constituent.
There is reason
to believe that much of the commercial oil is adulterated with oil
from which the anethol or crystalline constituent has been
separated. Good oil will contain as much as 60 per
yields 4.7 per cent of volatile oil, containing 22 per cent of
Galician and Roumanian, which closely resembles one another, yield
4 to 5 per cent of volatile oil, of which about 18 per cent is
fenchone. They have a camphoraceous taste.
French sweet or
Roman Fennel yields only 2.1 per cent. of oil, containing much less
anethol and with a milder and sweeter taste, probably due to the
entire absence of the bitter fenchone.
Fennel oil differs considerably, anethol being only present in
traces. The oil (Essence de Fenouil amer) is distilled from the
entire herb, collected in the south of France, where the plant
grows without cultivation.
yields only 0.72 per cent of oil, containing only 6.7 per cent of
yields 2.7 per cent of oil, containing 10.2 of fenchone and 75 per
cent of anethol.
oil is yielded from F. piperitum.
It was formerly
the practice to boil Fennel with all fish, and it was mainly
cultivated in kitchen gardens for this purpose. Its leaves are
served nowadays with salmon, to correct its oily indigestibility,
and are also put into sauce, in the same way as parsley, to be
eaten with boiled mackerel.
The seeds are
also used for flavouring and the carminative oil that is distilled
from them, which has a sweetish aromatic odour and flavour, is
employed in the making of cordials and liqueurs, and is also used
in perfumery and for scenting soaps. A pound of oil is the usual
yield of 500 lb. of the seed.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---On account of its aromatic
and carminative properties, Fennel fruit is chiefly used
medicinally with purgatives to allay their tendency to griping and
for this purpose forms one of the ingredients of the well-known
compound Liquorice Powder. Fennel water has properties similar to
those of anise and dill water: mixed with sodium bicarbonate and
syrup, these waters constitute the domestic 'Gripe Water,' used to
correct the flatulence of infants. Volatile oil of Fennel has these
properties in concentration.
formerly also employed as a carminative, is made by pouring half a
pint of boiling water on a teaspoonful of bruised Fennel
from Fennel juice was formerly given for chronic
Fennel is also
largely used for cattle condiments.
It is one of
the plants which is said to be disliked by fleas, and powdered
Fennel has the effect of driving away fleas from kennels and
stables. The plant gives off ozone most readily.
'One good old
custom is not yet left off, viz., to boil fennel with fish, for it
consumes the phlegmatic humour which fish most plentifully afford
and annoy the body with, though few that use it know wherefore they
do it. It benefits this way, because it is a herb of Mercury, and
under Virgo, and therefore bears antipathy to Pisces. Fennel expels
wind, provokes urine, and eases the pains of the stone, and helps
to break it. The leaves or seed boiled in barley water and drunk,
are good for nurses, to increase their milk and make it more
wholesome for the child. The leaves, or rather the seeds, boiled in
water, stayeth the hiccup and taketh away nausea or inclination to
sickness. The seed and the roots much more help to open
obstructions of the liver, spleen, and gall, and thereby relieve
the painful and windy swellings of the spleen, and the yellow
jaundice, as also the gout and cramp. The seed is of good use in
medicines for shortness of breath and wheezing, by stoppings of the
lungs. The roots are of most use in physic, drinks and broths, that
are taken to cleanse the blood, to open obstructions of the liver,
to provoke urine, and amend the ill colour of the face after
sickness, and to cause a good habit through the body; both leaves,
seeds, and roots thereof, are much used in drink, or broth, to make
people more lean that are too fat. A decoction of the leaves and
root is good for serpent bites, and to neutralize vegetable poison,
as mushrooms, etc.'
climates,' says Mattiolus, 'the stems are cut and there exudes a
resinous liquid, which is collected under the name of Fennel
In Italy and
France, the tender leaves areoften used for garnishes and to add
flavour to salads, and are also added, finely chopped, to sauces
served with puddings. Roman bakers are said to put the herb under
their loaves in the oven to make the bread taste
stems are employed in soups in Italy, though are more frequently
eaten raw as a salad. John Evelyn, in his Acetaria (1680), held
that the peeled stalks, soft and white, of the cultivated garden
Fennel, when dressed like celery exercised a pleasant action
conducive to sleep. The Italians eat these peeled stems, which they
call 'Cartucci' as a salad, cutting them when the plant is about to
bloom and serving with a dressing of vinegar and
people used to eat Fennel to satisfy the cravings of hunger on fast
days and make unsavoury food palatable; it was also used in large
quantities in the households of the rich, as may be seen by the
record in the accounts of Edward I.'s household, 8 1/2 lb. of
Fennel were bought for one month's supply.
---Preparations---Fluid extract, 5 to 30 drops. Oil, 1 to 5
drops. Water, B.P. and U.S.P., 4 drachms.
Florence Fennel is a native of Italy, and bears a general
resemblance to Foeniculum vulgare, but is an annual and a much
smaller plant, being as a rule little more than a foot high. It is
a very thick-set plant, the stem joints are very close together and
their bases much swollen. The large, finely-cut leaves are borne on
very broad, pale green, or almost whitish stalks, which overlap at
their bases somewhat like celery, swelling at maturity to form a
sort of head or irregular ball - often as big as a man's head and
resembling a tuber. The flowers appear earlier than those of common
Fennel, and the number of flowers in the umbel is only six to
---Cultivation---The cultivation is much the same as for
common Fennel though it requires richer soil, and owing to the
dwarf nature of the plant, the rows and the plants may be placed
closer together, the seedlings only 6 to 8 inches apart. They are
very thirsty and require watering frequently in dry weather. When
the 'tubers' swell and attain the size of an egg, draw the soil
slightly around them, half covering them. Cutting may begin about
ten days later. The flowerheads should be removed as they
should be cooked in vegetarian or meat stock and served with either
a rich butter sauce or cream dressing. It suggests celery in
flavour, but is sweeter, and very pleasantly fragrant. In ordinary
times, it can be bought from Italian greengrocers in London. In
Italy it is one of the commonest and most popular of
It is grown in
this country at Hitchin.
Nigella sativa (LINN.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Roman Coriander. Nutmeg Flower.
cumin. (Quatre épices. Toute épice.
or Nutmeg Flower, is a small Asiatic annual, native to Syria, not
in any way related to the Fennel, but belonging to the buttercup
order of plants and grown to a limited extent in southern Europe
and occasionally in other parts of the world.
Romans it was esteemed in cooking, hence one of its common names,
employ the seeds of this plant under the name of quatre épices or
toute épice. They were formerly used as a substitute for
---Description---The plant has a rather stiff, erect,
branching stem, bears deeply-cut greyish-green leaves and terminal
greyishblue flowers, followed by odd, toothed seedvessels, filled
with small somewhat compressed seeds, usually three-cornered, with
two sides flat and one convex, black or brown externally, white and
oleaginous within, of a strong, agreeable aromatic odour, like that
of nutmegs, and a spicy, pungent taste.
---Cultivation---The seed is sown in spring, after the
ground gets warm. The drills may be 15 to 18 inches apart and the
plants thinned to 10 to 12 inches asunder. No special attention is
necessary until mid-summer when the seeds ripen. They are easily
threshed and cleaned. After drying, they should be carefully stored
in a cool, dry place.
---Constituents---The chief constituents of the seeds are a
volatile oil and a fixed oil (1.3 per cent of the former and 35 per
cent of the latter), and an amorphous, glucoside Melanthin, which
is decomposed by diluted hydrochloric acid into Melanthigenin and
sugar. Rochebrune, Toxicol Africaine, has found a powerful
paralysing alkaloid, to which he gives the name of Nigelline.
Melanthin is stated to exhibit the typical physiological action of
the most poisonous saponines.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---In India, the seeds are
considered as stimulant, diaphoretic and emmenagogue, and are
believed to increase the secretion of milk. They are also used as a
condiment and as a corrigent or adjuvant of purgative and tonic
countries they are commonly used for seasoning curries and other
dishes, and the Egyptians spread them on bread or put them on cakes
like comfits, believing them to be fattening. They are also used in
India for putting among linen to keep away insects- and the native
doctors employ them medicinally as a carminative in indigestion and
Peucedanum palustre (LINN.), Peucedanum officinale
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Sow Fennel. Sulphurwort. Chucklusa. Hoar Strange.
Hoar Strong. Brimstonewort. Milk Parsley. Marsh Parsley. Marsh
Fennel, a native of Great Britain, though not commonly met with, is
more closely allied to the dill than to the true Fennel, belonging
to the same genus as the former.
Hog's Fennel (Peucedanum officinale, Linn.) occurs, though somewhat
rarely, in salt marshes on the eastern coast of England. It seems
to have been less rare in the days of Culpepper, who states that it
grows plentifully in the salt marshes near Faversham.
---Description---It grows to a height of 3 or 4 feet, and
is remarkable for its large umbels of yellow flowers, which are in
bloom from July to September. Its leaves are cut into long narrow
segments, hence perhaps its popular name of Hog's
The thick root
has a strong odour of sulphur - hence one of the other popular
names of the plant, Sulphurwort, and when wounded in the spring,
yields a considerable quantity of a yellowish-green juice, which
dries into a gummy resin and retains the strong scent of the
This plant is
now naturalized in North America, where in addition to the name of
Sulphurwort, it is called Chucklusa.
---Constituents---The active constituent of the root is
Peucedanin, a very active crystalline principle, stated to be
diuretic and emmenagogue.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Culpepper gives Hog's Fennel
the name of Hoar Strange, Hoar Strong, Brimstonewort and
Sulphurwort, and tells us, on the authority of Dioscorides and
Galen, that -
'the juice used
with vinegar and rose-water, or with a little Euphorbium put to the
nose benefits those that are troubled with the lethargy, frenzy or
giddiness of the head, the falling sickness, long and inveterate
headache, the palsy, sciatica and the cramp, and generally all the
diseases of the sinews, used with oil and vinegar. The juice
dissolved in wine and put into an egg is good for a cough or
shortness of breath, and for those that are troubled with wind. It
also purgeth gently and softens hardness of the spleen.... A little
of the juice dissolved in wine and dropped into the ears or into a
hollow tooth easeth the pains thereof. The root is less effectual
to all the aforesaid disorders, yet the powder of the root
cleanseth foul ulcers, and taketh out splinters of broken bones or
other things in the flesh and healeth them perfectly; it is of
admirable virtue in all green wounds and prevents
the Marsh Hog's Fennel, is also a rare plant, found in marshes in
Yorks and Lincoln and a few other districts.
stem grows 4 to 5 feet high, bears white flowers and abounds in a
milky juice which dries to a brown resin. The root is, when dried,
of a brown colour externally, having a strong aromatic odour and an
acrid, pungent, aromatic taste.
The resin in it
has been found, by Peschier, to contain a volatile oil, a fixed oil
and a peculiar acid which he named Selinic. It has been used as a
substitute for ginger in Russia and has been employed in that
country as a remedy for epilepsy, having the same stimulating
qualities as the former species, the dose given being from 20 to 30
grains thrice daily, rapidly increased to four times the
See Dropwort (Water).
---Synonyms---Bird's Foot. Greek Hay-seed.
---Habitat---Indigenous to the countries on the eastern shores
of the Mediterranean. Cultivated in India, Africa, Egypt, Morocco,
and occasionally in England.
---Description---The name comes from Foenum-graecum,
meaning Greek Hay, the plant being used to scent inferior hay. The
name of the genus, Trigonella, is derived from the old Greek name,
denoting 'three-angled,' from the form of its corolla. The seeds of
Fenugreek have been used medicinally all through the ages and were
held in high repute among the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans for
medicinal and culinary purposes.
Fenugreek is an
erect annual herb, growing about 2 feet high, similar in habit to
Lucerne. The seeds are brownish, about 1/8 inch long, oblong,
rhomboidal, with a deep furrow dividing them into two unequal
lobes. They are contained, ten to twenty together, in long, narrow,
and peculiar, not unlike lovage or celery. Odour,
---Constituents---About 28 per cent mucilage; 5 per cent of
a stronger-smelling, bitter fixed oil, which can be extracted by
ether; 22 per cent proteids; a volatile oil; two alkaloids,
Trigonelline and Choline, and a yellow colouring substance. The
chemical composition resembles that of cod-liver oil, as it is rich
in phosphates, lecithin and nucleoalbumin, containing also
considerable quantities of iron in an organic form, which can be
readily absorbed. Reutter has noted the presence of trimethylamine,
neurin and betain; like the alkaloids in cod-liver oil, these
substances stimulate the appetite by their action on the nervous
system, or produce a diuretic or ureo-poietic effect.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---In Cairo it is used under
the name of Helba. This is an Egyptian preparation, made by soaking
the seeds in water till they swell into a thick paste. Said to be
equal to quinine in preventing fevers; is comforting to the stomach
and has been utilized for diabetes. The seeds are soaked in water,
then allowed to sprout, and when grown about 2 or 3 inches high,
the green eaten raw with the seeds.
The seeds yield
the whole of their odour and taste to alcohol and are employed in
the preparation of emollient cataplasms, ointments and
They give a
strong mucilage, which is emollient and a decoction of 1 OZ. seeds
to 1 pint water is used internally in inflamed conditions of the
stomach and intestines. Externally it is used as a poultice for
abscesses, boils, carbuncles, etc. It can be employed as a
substitute for cod-liver oil in scrofula, rickets, anaemia,
debility following infectious diseases. For neurasthenia, gout and
diabetes it can be combined with insulin. It possesses the
advantage of being cheap and readily taken by children, if its
bitter taste is disguised: 1 or 2 teaspoonful of the powder is
taken daily in jam, etc.
seeds are used also to give a maple-flavouring to confectionery and
nearly all cattle like the flavour of Fenugreek in their forage.
The powder is also employed as a spice in curry. At the present
day, the ground seeds are utilized to an enormous extent in the
manufactures of condition powders for horses and cattle; Funugreek
is the principal ingredient in most of the quack nostrums which
find so much favour among grooms and horsekeepers. It has a
powerful odour of coumarin and is largely used for flavouring
cattle foods and to make damaged hay palatable.
In India the
fresh plant is employed as an esculent.
purpurascens, a British species,with small pinky-white flowers, one
to three together, and straight, six- to eight-seeded pods, twice
as long as the calyx.
Garrya fremonti (TORR.)
---Synonyms---Skunk Bush. Californian Feverbush.
---Habitat---California, Oregon, Mexico, Cuba,
---Description---This is a small evergreen bush. The leaves
are broad, leathery, grey green on the upperside; on the underside
mealy and lighter grey green. It has grown in the Author's garden,
but needs care in the winter. The leaves are intensely bitter, and
are largely used in California as an antiperiodic and tonic. A new
alkaloid has been found in it called garryine. It is best
administered as a fluid extract.
---Dosages---Powder, 10 to 30 grains - leaves. Fluid
extract, 10 to 30 minims - leaves.
Chrysanthemum Parthenium (BERNH.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Pyrethrum Parthenium (Sm.). Featherfew.
Featherfoil. Flirtwort. Bachelor's Buttons.
---Description---Feverfew (a corruption of Febrifuge, from
its tonic and fever-dispelling properties) is a composite plant
growing in every hedgerow, with numerous, small, daisy-like heads
of yellow flowers with outer white rays, the central yellow florets
being arranged on a nearly flat receptacle, not conical as in the
chamomiles. The stem is finely furrowed and hairy, about 2 feet
high; the leaves alternate, downy with short hairs, or nearly
smooth-about 4 1/2 inches long and 2 inches broad - bipinnatifid,
with serrate margins, the leaf-stalk being flattened above and
convex beneath. It is not to be confounded with other wild
chamomile-like allied species, which mostly have more feathery
leaves and somewhat large flowers; the stem also is upright,
whereas that of the true garden Chamomile is procumbent. The
delicate green leaves are conspicuous even in mild winter. The
whole plant has a strong and bitter smell, and is particularly
disliked by bees. A double variety is cultivated in gardens for
ornamental purposes, and its flower-heads are sometimes substituted
for the double Chamomile.
have long been accustomed to make curative uses of this herb, which
grows abundantly throughout England. Gerard tells us that it may be
used both in drinks, and bound on the wrists is of singular virtue
against the ague.
derived from the Greek pur (fire), in allusion to the hot taste of
---Cultivation---Feverfew is a perennial, and herbaceous in
habit. When once planted it gives year after year an abundant
supply of blossoms with only the merest degree of attention.
Planting may be done in autumn, but the best time is about the end
of April. Any ordinary good soil is suitable, but better results
are obtained when well-drained, and of a stiff, loamy character,
enriched with good manure. Weeding should be done by hand, the
plants when first put out being small might be injured by
There are three
methods of propagation: by seed, by division of roots and by
cuttings. If grown by seed, it should be sown in February or March,
thinned out to 2 to 3 inches between the plants, and planted out
early in June to permanent quarters, allowing a foot or more
between the plants and 2 feet between the rows, selecting, if
possible, a showery day for the operation. They will establish
themselves quickly. To propagate by division, lift the plants in
March, or whenever the roots are in an active condition, and with a
sharp spade, divide them into three or five fairly large pieces.
Cuttings should be made from the young shoots that start from the
base of the plant, and should be taken with a heel of the old plant
attached, which will greatly assist their rooting. They may be
inserted at any time from October to May. The foliage must be
shortened to about 3 inches, when the cuttings will be ready for
insertion in a bed of light, sandy soil, in the open. Plant very
firmly, surface the bed with sand, and water in well. Shade is
necessary while the cuttings are rooting.
Keep a good
watch at all times for snails, slugs and black fly. For the latter
pest, try peppering the plants; for the others use soot, ashes or
lime. Toads will keep a garden free of slugs.
'A few pots
placed on their sides may be dotted about the garden, and it will
be found that the toads will sit in these when they are not hunting
around for their prey. The creatures are not at all likely to leave
the garden, seeing that if the supply of slugs runs short they will
turn their attention to all kinds of insects.' (S. L.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Aperient, carminative,
bitter. As a stimulant it is usefulas an emmenagogue. Is also
employed in hysterical complaints, nervousness and lowness of
spirits, and is a general tonic. The cold infusion is made from 1
OZ. of the herb to a pint of boiling water, allowed to cool, and
taken frequently in doses of half a teacupful.
with sugar or honey is said to be good for coughs, wheezing and
difficult breathing. The herb, bruised and heated, or fried with a
little wine and oil, has been employed as a warm external
application for wind and colic.
A tincture made
from Feverfew and applied locally immediately relieves the pain and
swelling caused by bites of insects and vermin. It is said that if
two teaspoonfuls of tincture are mixed with 1/2 pint of cold water,
and all parts of the body likely to be exposed to the bites of
insects are freely sponged with it, they will remain unassailable.
A tincture of the leaves of the true Chamomile and of the German
Chamomile will have the same effect.
dwellings, it is said to purify the atmosphere and ward off
An infusion of
the flowers, made with boiling water and allowed to become cold,
will allay any distressing sensitiveness to pain in a highly
nervous subject, and will afford relief to the face-ache or earache
of a dyspeptic or rheumatic person.
---Preparations---Fluid extract: dose, 1 to 2
See CHAMOMILE, PELLITORY, PYRETHRUM.
(Chrysanthemum Suaveolens) and C. maritima, found by the seashore,
especially in the north, with leaves broader, more fleshy,
succulent and smaller flowerheads than the Common
Ficus Carica (LINN.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Habitat---The Common Fig-tree provides the succulent fruit
that in its fresh and dried state has been valued from the earliest
days. It is indigenous to Persia, Asia Minor and Syria, but now is
wild in most of the Mediterranean countries. It is cultivated in
most warm and temperate climates and has been celebrated from the
earliest times for the beauty of its foliage and for its 'sweetness
and good fruit' (Judges ix. 2), there being frequent allusions to
it in the Scriptures. The Greeks are said to have received it from
Caria in Asia Minor - hence the specific name. Under Hellenic
culture it was improved and Attic figs became celebrated in the
East. It was one of the principal articles of sustenance among the
Greeks, being largely used by the Spartans at their public table;
and athletes fed almost entirely on figs, considering that they
increased their strength and swiftness. To such an extent, indeed,
were figs a part of the staple food of the people in ancient Greece
that there was a law forbidding the exportation of the best fruit
from their trees.
Figs were early
introduced into Italy. Pliny gives details of no less than
twentynine kinds known in his day, and specially praises those of
Tarant and Caria and also those of Herculaneum. Dried Figs have
been found in Pompeii in our days and in the wall-paintings of the
buried city Figs are represented together with other fruits. Pliny
states that homegrown Figs formed a large portion of the food of
slaves, especially in the fresh state for agricultural
The Fig plays
an important part in Latin mythology. It was dedicated to Bacchus
and employed in religious ceremonies. The wolf that suckled Romulus
and Remus rested under a Fig tree, which was therefore held sacred
by the Romans, and Ovid states that among the celebrations of the
first day of the year by Romans, Figs were offered as presents. The
inhabitants of Cyrene crowned themselves with wreaths of Figs when
sacrificing to Saturn, holding him to be the discoverer of the
fruit. Pliny speaks also of the Wild Fig, which is mentioned also
in Homer, and further classical references to the Fig are to be
found in Theophrastus, Dioscorides, Varro and
---Description---Ficus Carica is a bush or small tree,
rarely more than 18 to 20 feet high, with broad, rough, deciduous,
deeply-lobed leaves in the cultivated varieties, though in wild
forms the leaves are often almost entire.
botanically, the Fig, as we eat it, is a very remarkable form of
fruit. It is actually neither fruit nor flower, though partaking of
both, being really a hollow, fleshy receptacle, enclosing a
multitude of flowers, which never see the light, yet come to full
perfection and ripen their seeds - a contrary method from the
strawberry, in which the minute pistils are scattered over the
exterior of the enlarged succulent receptacle. In the Fig, the
inflorescence, or position of the flowers is concealed within the
body of the 'fruit.' The Fig stands alone in this peculiar
arrangement of its flowers. The edge of the pear-shaped receptacle
curves inwards, so as to form a nearlyclosed cavity, bearing the
numerous fertile and sterile flowers mingled on its surface, the
male flowers mostly in the upper part of the cavity and generally
few in number. As it ripens, the receptacle enlarges greatly and
the numerous one-seeded fruits become embedded in it. The fruit of
the wild kind never attains the succulence of the cultivated kinds.
The Figs are borne in the axils of the leaves, singly.
---Cultivation---The Fig is grown for its fresh fruit in
all the milder parts of Europe, being cultivated in the
Mediterranean countries, and in the United States of America. With
protection in winter, it succeeds as far north as Pennsylvania.
(Prof. Nancy Traill, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
points out.. "In some parts of Pennsylvania, people bury the trees.
In Philadelphia, a mulch is necessary, and the fig is a "die-back"
shrub. Ficus carica varieties have been grown in Southern Ontario
for many years. Though by no means very much north of Pennsylvania,
it is still further north. The figs need mulching, as in
Philadelphia, and are die-back shrubs but they do produce very
sweet fruit. Some that I have seen will grow back to about 10 or
more feet in height, others about 6 or 7 feet, in a season. Some
years the crop is quite heavy. People who bury their trees, as some
still do, or give them the shelter of a house wall and some
insulation, often have small trees, and these bear quite heavily.")
It is said to have been introduced into England by the Romans, but
was probably introduced from Italy early in the sixteenth century,
when the Fig tree still growing in Lambeth Palace garden is said to
have been planted.
The trees live
to a great age, and along the southern coast of England bear fruit
abundantly as standard trees, though in Scotland and many parts of
England a south wall is indispensable for their successful
cultivation out of doors. Old quarries are good situations for
them. The roots are free from stagnant water and they are sheltered
from cold, while exposed to a hot sun, which ripens the fruit
perfectly. The trees also succeed well planted in a paved court
against a building with a south aspect.
The best soil
for a Fig border is a friable loam, not too rich, but well-drained;
a chalky subsoil is congenial to the tree. To correct the tendency
to over-luxuriance of growth, the roots should be confined within
spaces surrounded by a wall enclosing an area of about a square
yard. Grown as a standard, the tree needs very little pruning. When
against a wall, a single stem should be trained to a height of a
foot and a shoot be trained to either side - one to the right and
the other to the left.
part needing protection in the winter is the main stem, which is
more tender than the young wood.
Fig trees are
propagated by cuttings, which should be put into pots and placed in
a gentle hot-bed. They may be obtained more speedily from layers,
and these when rooted will form plants ready to bear fruit the
first or second year after planting.
numerous varieties of Fig in cultivation, bearing fruit of various
colours, from deep purple to yellow or nearly white.
produces naturally two sets of shoots and two crops of fruit in the
season. The first shoots generally show young Figs in July and
August but those in England rarely ripen and should therefore be
rubbed off. The late midsummer shoots also put forth fruit buds
which, however, do not develop till the following spring, ripening
in late September and October, and these form the only crop of Figs
on which the English gardener can depend.
sometimes a failure in the Fig crop, many immature receptacles
dropping off in consequence of the pistils of the florets not
having been duly fertilized by the pollen of the stamens. It is
supposed that fertilization is caused naturally by the entry of
insects through the very small orifice which remains open in the
flowering Fig. Fig growers therefore adopt an artificial means of
ensuring fertilization: a small feather is inserted and turned
round in the internal cavity, the pollen thus being brushed against
the pistils. This process is called 'Caprification,' from the Latin
caprificus (a wild Fig), as the same result was originally obtained
in the countries where the Fig grows wild, by placing branches of
the Wild Fig in flower over the cultivated bushes, so that the
pollen might be shaken out over the orifices of their receptacles,
thus ensuring the development of the young fruit.
Most of our
supplies of dried Figs come from Asia Minor, Spain, Malta and the
South of France. When the fruits are ripe, they are collected and
dried in the sun. 'Natural' Figs are those which are packed loose
and retain to some extent their original shape. 'Pulled' Figs have
been kneaded and pulled to make them supple; they are usually
packed for exportation in small square or circular boxes the latter
being termed 'drums' - and are considered to be the best variety. A
few bay leaves are put upon the top of each box, to keep the fruit
from being injured by a gnat which feeds on it and is very
destructive. 'Pressed' Figs have been closely packed into boxes so
that they are compressed into discs. Maltese Figs are very good,
but those from Smyrna, which are thin-skinned and soft (the best
kind known as 'Elemi'), are most valued. Greek Figs are thicker
skinned, tougher and have less pulp.
---Constituents---The chief constituent of Figs is
dextrose, of which they contain about 50 per cent.
---Uses---Figs have long been employed for their nutritive
value and in both their fresh and dried state form a large part of
the food of the natives of both Western Asia and Southern
A sort of cake
made by mashing up inferior Figs serves in parts of the Greek
Archipelago as a substitute for bread.
obtained from fermented Figs in some southern countries, and a kind
of wine, still made from the ripe fruit, was known to the Ancients
and is mentioned by Pliny under the name of Sycites.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Figs are used for their
mild, laxative action, and are employed in the preparation of
laxative confections and syrups, usually with senna and
carminatives. It is considered that the laxative property resides
in the saccharine juice of the fresh fruit and in the dried fruit
is probably due to the indigestible seeds and skin. The three
preparations of Fig of the British Pharmacopoeia are Syrup of Figs,
a mild laxative, suitable for administration to children; Aromatie
Syrup of Figs, Elixir of Figs, or Sweet Essence of Figs, an
excellent laxative for children and delicate persons, is compounded
of compound tincture of rhubarb, liquid extract of senna, compound
spirit of orange, liquid extract of cascara and Syrup of Figs. The
Compound Syrup of Figs is a stronger preparation, composed of
liquid extract of senna, syrup of rhubarb and Syrup of Figs, and is
more suitable for adults.
demulcent as well as nutritive. Demulcent decoctions are prepared
from them and employed in the treatment of catarrhal affections of
the nose and throat.
split into two portions, the soft pulpy interior of Figs may be
applied as emolient poultices to gumboils, dental abscesses and
other circumscribed maturating tumours. They were used by Hezekiah
as a remedy for boils 2,400 years ago (Isaiah xxxviii.
The milky juice
of the freshly-broken stalk of a Fig has been found to remove warts
on the body. When applied, a slightly inflamed area appears round
the wart, which then shrivels and falls off. The milky juice of the
stems and leaves is very acrid and has been used in some countries
for raising blisters.
The wood of the
tree is porous and of little value, though a piece, saturated with
oil and spread with emery, is in France a common substitute for a
Green Fig Jam
is excellent. Choose very juicy Figs. Take off the stalks, but do
not peel them. Make a syrup of 1/2 lb. of sugar and a glass of
water (1/2 pint) for each pound of fruit. Put the Figs into it and
cook them till the syrup pearls. Boil a stick of cinnamon with them
and remove it before pouring the jam into pots.
Fig (Ficus Sycamorus) is a tree of large size, with heart-shaped,
somewhat mulberry-like leaves. It is a favourite tree in Egypt and
Syria, being often planted along roads, deep shade being cast by
its spreading branches. It bears a sweet, edible fruit, somewhat
like that of the Common Fig, but produced in racemes, on the older
branches. The Ancients, after soaking it in water, preserved it
like the Common Fig. The porous wood is only fit for
Sycamore tree is in no way related to this Sycamore Fig, but has
wrongly acquired its name, Prior says, through a mistake of the
botanist Ruellius, who transferred the Greek name, Sycamoros,
properly the name of the Wild Fig, to the great Maple.
says Prior, 'arose perhaps from this tree, the great maple, being
on account of the density of its foliage, used in the sacred dramas
of the Middle Ages to represent the Fig tree into which Zaccheus
climbed and that in which the Virgin Mary on her journey into Egypt
had hidden herself and the infant Jesus to avoid the fury of Herod;
a legend quoted by Stapel on Theophrastus and by Thevenot in his
Voyage de Levant: "At Mathave is a large sycamore or Pharaoh's Fig,
very old, but which bears fruit every year. They say that upon the
Virgin passing that way with her son Jesus and being pursued by the
people, this Fig tree opened to receive her and closed her in
again, until the people had passed by and then opened again. The
tree is still shown to travellers." ' (See Cowper's Apocryphal
TREE. (note, no reference)
Medicinal Action and Uses
Preparation and Dosage
---Synonyms---Throatwort. Carpenter's Square.
Figwort, common throughout England, is similar in general habit to
the Water Figwort, but differs both in the form of its root and in
having more acutely heartshaped leaves. The stem, too, is without
the projections or wings at its angles, and the lobes of the calyx
have only a very narrow membraneous margin. The plant, also, though
found in rather moist, bushy places, either in cultivated or waste
ground, and in damp woods, is not distinctly an aquatic, like the
which resemble in appearance and character the Water Figwort, are
in bloom during July and are specially visited by
thirteen months' siege of Rochelle by the army of Richelieu in
1628, the tuberous roots of this Figwort yielded support to the
garrison for a considerable period, from which circumstance the
French still call it Herbe du siège. The taste and smell of the
tubers are unpleasant, and they would never be resorted to for food
except in times of famine.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---It has been called the
Scrofula Plant, on account of its value in all cutaneous eruptions,
abscesses, wounds, etc., the name of the genus being derived from
that of the disease for which it was formerly considered a
It has diuretic
and anodyne properties.
The whole herb
is used, collected in June and July and dried. A decoction is made
of it for external use and the fresh leaves are also made into an
different kinds of Figwort used, this species is most employed,
principally as a fomentation for sprains, swellings, inflammations,
wounds and diseased parts, especially in scrofulous sores and
simply bruised are employed by the peasantry in some districts as
an application to burns and swellings.
The Welsh so
highly esteem the plant that they call it Deilen Ddu ('good leaf').
In Ireland, it is known as Rose Noble and as Kernelwort. Gerard
tells us, referring to what he evidently considered an exaggerated
estimate of its worth: 'Divers do rashly teach that if it be hanged
about the necke or else carried about one, it keepeth a man in
The herb was
said to be curative of hydrophobia, by taking
while fasting a slice of bread and butter on which the powdered
knots of the roots had been spread and eating it up with two
tumblers of fresh spring water. Then let the patient be well clad
in woollen garments and made to take a long, fast walk until in a
profuse perspiration, the treatment being continued for seven
A decoction of
the herb has been successfully used as a cure for the scab in
swine. Cattle, as a rule, will refuse to eat the leaves, as they
are bitter, acrid and nauseating, producing purging and vomiting if
---Preparation and Dosage---Fluid extract, 1/2 to 1
FIGWORT (Scrophularia Scorodoma), found only in Cornwall, and at
Tralee, in Ireland; it is distinguished by its downy, wrinkled
(S. vernalis) is a plant of local occurrence and is well
distinguished by its remarkably bright green foliage and yellow
flowers. It appears early in spring and is the only British species
which can be called ornamental.
of the 'yellow-flowered Figwort' as growing in his time 'in the
moist medowes as you go from London to Hornsey.' He also speaks of
the 'rare whiteflowered Betony.'
Scrophularia aquatica (LINN.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Water Betony. Fiddlewood. Fiddler. Crowdy Kit.
Brownwort. Bishops' Leaves.
Figwort has obtained the name of Water Betony from a certain
resemblance of its leaves to those of the Wood Betony, but it
differs entirely from that plant in every other respect, not being
even closely related to it, and nowadays is more generally called
the Water Figwort, the name Figwort being derived from the form of
the root in another member of the genus Scrophularia, the Knotted
Figwort (S. nodosa), a fairly common plant.
---Description---The root of the Water Figwort is perennial
and throws out numerouslarge fibres. The plant is to be found only
in damp ground, generally by the banks of rivers and ponds. It
varies much in size, but on an average, the stems grow to a height
of 5 feet. The general character of the stem is upright, though
small lateral branches are thrown out from the rigid, straight,
main stem, which is smooth and quadrangular, the angles being
winged. The stems are often more or less reddish-purple in colour;
though hollow and succulent, they become rigid when dead, and prove
very troublesome to anglers owing to their lines becoming tangled
in the withered capsules. The Figwort is named in Somersetshire,
'Crowdy Kit' (the word kit meaning a fiddle), or 'Fiddlewood,'
because if two of the stalks are rubbed together, they make a noise
like the scraping of the bow on violin strings, owing no doubt to
the winged angles. In Devonshire, also, the plant is known as
The leaves are
placed in pairs on the stem, each pair at right angles to the pair
below it; all are on footstalks, the pairs generally rather distant
from one another on the stem. The leaves are oblong and somewhat
heartshaped; smooth, with very conspicuous veining. The flowers
grow at the top of the stems, arranged in loose panicles, under
each little branch of which is a little floral leaf, or bract. They
are in bloom during July and August. The calyx has five conspicuous
lobes, fringed by a somewhat ragged-looking, brown, membraneous
border. The dark, greenish-purple, sometimes almost brown corolla
is almost globular; the lobes at its mouth are very short and
broad, the two upper ones stand boldly out from the flower, the two
side ones taking the same direction, but are much shorter, and the
fifth lobe turned sharply downward. The result is that the flowers
look like so many little helmets. There are four anther-bearing
stamens, and generally a fifth barren one beneath the upper lip of
the corolla. The seed vessel when ripe is a roundish capsule
opening with two valves, the edges of which are turned in, and
contains numerous small brown seeds.
Wasps and bees
are very fond of the flowers, from which they collect much
The leaves are
used, collected in June and July, when in best condition, just
coming into flower, and used both fresh and dried.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---This plant has vulnerary and detergent
properties, and has enjoyed some fame as a vulnerary, both when
used externally and when taken in decoction.
modern herbal medicine, the leaves are employed externally as a
poultice, or boiled in lard as an ointment for ulcers, piles,
scrofulous glands in the neck, sores and wounds. It is said to have
been one of the ingredients in Count Matthei's noted remedy,
former days this herb was relied on for the cure of toothache and
for expelling nightmare. It has also a reputation as a cosmetic,
old herbalists telling us that:
'the juice or distilled water of the leaves is good for
bruises, whether inward or outward, as also to bathe the face and
hands spotted or blemished or discoloured by sun
Botanical: Erechtites hieracifolia (LINN. and RAFIN.),
Cineraria Canadensis (WALTER.)
Family: N.O. Compositae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Senecio hieracifolius (Linn.).
---Parts Used---Herb, oil.
---Habitat---Newfoundland and Canada, southward to South
---Description---This coarse, homely
American weed is an annual and derives its name from its habit of
growing freely in moist open woods and clearings, and in greatest
luxuriance on newly-burnt fallows. It has composite flowers,
blooming from July to September.
Lactuca Canadensis, the wild Lettuce or Trumpet Weed, and
Hieracium Canadense, are also given the designation of 'Fireweed'
in America from their habit of growing on newly-burnt fallow, but
Erechtites hieracifolia (Rafin.) may be called the true Fireweed,
as it is the plant which commonly goes by that name.
Senecio is derived from Senex (an old man), in reference to the
hoary pappus, which in this order represents the calyx; Erechtites
comes from the ancient name of some troublesome
Fireweed is a rank, slightly hairy plant, growing from 1 to 7
feet high. The thick, somewhat fleshy stem is virgate, sulcate,
leafy to the top, branching above, the branches erect. The leaves
are alternate, delicate and thin, very variable in size and form,
lanceovate to linear, apex-pointed, margins irregular, sharply
toothed, or divided right down to the midrib into leaflets, which
are sometimes then bipinnatifid, the lower, very short-stalked and
becoming sessile as they grow up the stem. The flowers are white or
yellow, a corymbose panicle. The little fruits are oblong, slender,
tapering at the end, striate and crowned with a very fine copious
silky pappus, white or violet. The whole plant is succulent, the
odour rank and slightly aromatic, with a bitterish and somewhat
acrid and disagreeable taste.
the United States Fireweed is a very troublesome weed; the fields
often get infested with it, and when growing among Peppermint, it
is definitely destructive, as it gets mingled with the plant in
distilling and causes great deterioration of the oil.
---Constituents---A peculiar volatile
oil - oil of Erechtites - transparent and yellow, obtained by
distilling the plant with water, taste bitter and burning, odour
foetid, slightly aromatic, somewhat resembling oil of Erigeron, but
not soluble as that is in an equal volume of alcohol. The specific
gravity of the oil is variously given as 0.927 and 0.838-0.855, and
its rotation 1 to 2. According to Bielstein and Wiegand, it
consists almost wholly of terpenes boiling between 175 and 310
---Medicinal Action and
Uses---Astringent, alterative, tonic, cathartic, emetic. Much used
among the aborigines of North America in various forms of eczema,
muco-sanguineous diarrhoea, and haemorrhages, also for relaxed
throat and sore throat, and in the United States Eclectic
Dispensatory in the form of oil and as an infusion, both herb and
oil being beneficial for piles and dysentery. For its
anti-spasmodic properties, it has been found useful for colic,
spasms and hiccough. Applied externally, it gives great relief in
the pains of gout, rheumatism and sciatica.
---Dosage---(Internally) 5 to 10 drops
on sugar, in capsules or in emulsion.
The homoeopathic tincture is made from the whole fresh
flowering plant. It is chopped, pounded to a pulp and weighed. Then
two parts by weight of alcohol are taken, the pulp mixed thoroughly
with one-sixth part of it and the rest of the alcohol added. After
having stirred the whole, it is poured into a well-stoppered bottle
and allowed to stand for eight days in a dark, cool
The resulting tincture has a clear, beautiful, reddish-orange
colour by transmitted light; a sourish odour, resembling that of
claret, a taste at first sourish, then astringent and bitter, and
an acid reaction.
Pine, American Ground
Fleur De Luce
See Roadflax (not listed).
Botanical: Potentilla reptans (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Rosaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
Preparations and Dosage
---Synonyms---Cinquefoil. Five Fingers. Five-Finger Blossom.
---Parts Used---Herb, root.
Five-leaf Grass is a creeping plant with large yellow flowers
like the Silverweed, each one growing on its own long stalk, which
springs from the point at which the leaf joins the
branches at the top from several crowns, from which arise the
long-stalked root-leaves and thread-like, creeping stems, which
bear stalked leaves and solitary flowers. These stem-runners root
at intervals and as they often attain a length of 5 feet, the plant
is rapidly propagated, spreading over a wide area. It grows freely
in meadows, pastures and by the wayside.
The name Five-leaved or Five Fingers refers to the leaves being
divided into five leaflets. Each of these is about 1 1/2 inch long,
with scattered hairs on the veins and margin, the veins being
prominent below. The margins of the leaflets are much serrated. In
rich soils the leaflets are often six or seven. Out of a hundred
blossoms once picked as a test, eighty had the parts of the
corolla, calyx and epicalyx in fives, and the remaining twenty were
Although the flowers much resemble those of the Silverweed, the
two plants can readily be distinguished by the difference in their
leaves. The flowers secrete honey on a ringlike ridge surrounding
the base of the stamens. Insects alighting on the petals dust
themselves with the pollen, but do not touch the stigmas, as the
honey ring extends beyond. If they alight in the middle of the next
flower, they dust the pollen against the stigma and cross-pollinate
it. But the flower is often self-pollinated. The flowers close up
in part in dull weather and completely at night, and it is then
that the anthers touch the stigmas.
Bacon says that frogs have a predilection for sitting on this
herb: 'The toad will be much under Sage, frogs will be in
was an ingredient in many spells in the Middle Ages, and was
particularly used as a magic herb in love divinations. It was one
of the ingredients of a special bait for fishing nets, which was
held to ensure a heavy catch. This concoction consisted of corn
boiled in thyme and marjoram water, mixed with nettles, cinquefoil
and the juice of houseleek.
an old recipe called 'Witches' Ointment' the juice of Five-leaf
Grass, smallage and wolfsbane is mixed with the fat of children dug
up from their graves and added to fine wheat flour.
---Medicinal Action and
Uses---stringent, febrifuge. The roots have a bitterish, styptic,
slightly sweetish taste and have been employed medicinally since
the time of Hippocrates and Dioscorides.
They were used to cure the intermittent fevers which prevailed
in marshy, ill-drained lands, and especially ague.
Dioscorides stated that one leaf cured a quotidian, three a
tertian, and four a quarten ague.
'It is an especial herb used in all inflammations and fevers,
whether infectious or pestilential or, among other herbs, to cool
and temper the blood and humours in the body; as also for all
lotions, gargles and infections; for sore mouths, ulcers, cancers,
fistulas and other foul or running sores.
'The juice drank, about four ounces at a time, for certain days
together, cureth the quinsey and yellow jaundice, and taken for 30
days cureth the falling sickness. The roots boiled in vinegar and
the decoction held in the mouth easeth toothache.
'The juice or decoction taken with a little honey removes
hoarseness and is very good for coughs.
'The root boiled in vinegar, being applied, heals
inflammations, painful sores and the shingles. The same also,
boiled in wine, and applied to any joint full of pain, ache or the
gout in the hands, or feet or the hip-joint, called the sciatica,
and the decoction thereof drank the while, doth cure them and
easeth much pain in the bowels.
'The roots are also effectual to reduce ruptures, being used
with other things available to that purpose, taken either inwardly
or outwardly, or both; as also bruises or hurts by blows, falls or
the like, and to stay the bleeding of wounds in any part, inward or
Robinson's Herbal directs that the roots are to be dug up in
April and the outer bark taken off and dried, the rest not being
make the decoction, it is directed that 1 1/2 OZ. of the root be
boiled in a quart of water down to a pint. This decoction is
recommended not only as a remedy for diarrhoea, and of avail to
stop bleeding of the lungs or bronchial tubes and bleeding at the
nose, but as a good eyewash, as well as a gargle in relaxed sore
The juice of the root, mixed with wheat bread, boiled first, is
recommended as a good styptic.
scruple of the powder in wine is the dose prescribed to cure the
modern Herbal Medicine, the dried herb is more generally now
employed, for its astringent and febrifuge properties.
infusion of 1 OZ. of the herb to a pint of boiling water is used in
wineglassful doses for diarrhoea and looseness of the bowels, and
for other complaints for which astringents are usually prescribed,
and it is employed externally as an astringent lotion and as a
gargle for sore throat.
---Preparation and Dosage---Fluid
extract, 1/2 to 2 drachms.
FIVE-LEAF GRASS (AMERICAN)
Botanical: Linum usitatissimum (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Linaceae
Cultivation and Preparation
Parts Used Medicinally
Medicinal Action and Uses
---History---Flax is one of the
English-grown medicinal herbs, the products of which are included
in the British Pharmacopoeia, its seed known as Linseed, being much
employed in medicine.
Its cultivation reaches back to the remotest periods of
history, Flax seeds as well as the woven cloth having been found in
Egyptian tombs. It has been cultivated in all temperate and
tropical regions for so many centuries that its geographical origin
cannot be identified, for it readily escapes from cultivation and
is found in a semi-wild condition in all the countries where it is
The 'fine linen' mentioned in the Bible has been satisfactorily
proved to have been spun from Flax; it was the plant to which the
plague of hail proved so disastrous (Exodus ix. 31). Joseph was
arrayed in this product (Genesis xii. 42), and it also furnished
the garments of the Jewish High-Priests (Exodus xxviii.) as well as
the curtains of the Tabernacle (Exodus xxvi. 1). We learn that the
knowledge of spinning this linen was known to the Canaanites (see
Joshua ii. 6), and in New Testament times it formed the clothing of
the Saviour in the tomb where Joseph of Arimathaea laid
was used for cord and sail-cloth ('white sails' are mentioned by
Homer in the Odyssey), and it was used for lamp-wicks (Isaiah xlii.
The seed-vessels with their five-celled capsules are referred
to in the Bible as 'bolls,' and the expression 'the flax was
bolled' (Exodus ix. 31) means that it had arrived at a state of
maturity. When the bolls are ripe, the Flax is pulled and tied in
bundles, and in order to assist the separation of the fibre from
the stalks, the bundles are placed in water for several weeks, and
then spread out to dry. This custom is alluded to in Joshua ii.
'What department is there to be found of active life in which
flax is not employed? And in what production of the Earth are there
greater marvels to us than in this? To think that here is a plant
which brings Egypt to close proximity to Italy! - so much so, in
fact, that Galerius and Balbillus, both of them prefects of Egypt,
made the passage to Alexandria from the Straits of Sicily, the one
in six days, the other in five! . . . What audacity in man! What
criminal perverseness! Thus to sow a thing in the ground for the
purpose of catching the winds and tempests; it being not enough for
him, forsooth, to be borne upon the waves alone!'
Bartholomew the mediaeval herbalist, refers to the making of
linen from the soaking of Flax in water till it is dried and turned
in the sun and then bound in 'praty bundels' and afterwards
'knockyd, beten and brayd and carflyd, rodded and gnodded; ribbyd
and heklyd, and at the last sponne'; of the bleaching, and finally
of its many uses for making clothing, and for sails, and fish-nets,
and thread and ropes, and strings ('for bows'), and measuring
lines, and sheets ('to reste in'), and 'sackes and bagges, and
purses (to put and to kepe thynges in').
the making of tow 'uneven and full of knobs' used for stuffing into
the cracks in ships, and 'for bonds and byndynges and matches for
candelles, for it is full drye and taketh sone fyre and brenneth.'
'And so,' he concludes somewhat breathlessly, 'none herbe is so
needfull to so many dyurrse uses to mankynde as is the
Darwin studied several species of Linum, and found that some
like the primrose had flowers with two forms of stamens and pistil.
His object was to test the relative degrees of fertility of the
long and short-styled pistils. L. perenne, for instance, is
'Of the flowers on the long-styled plants he found that twelve
were fertilized with their own form pollen, but from a different
plant. A seed capsule was only set when pollinated from anthers of
the same height as the stigmas.'
'We have the clearest evidence that the stigmas of each form
require for full fertility that pollen from the stamens of a
corresponding height, belonging to the opposite form, should be
brought to them.' (Forms of Flowers, p. 92.)
This plant is visited by bees, who perform the function Darwin
The Flax is a graceful little plant with turquoise blue
blossoms, a tall, erect annual, 1 to 2 feet high, the stems usually
solitary quite smooth, with alternate, linear, sessile leaves, 3/4
to 1 inch long.
Many traditions are associated with this useful plant. Flax
flowers were believed in the Middle Ages to be a protection against
sorcery. The Bohemians have a belief that if seven-year-old
children dance among Flax, they will become beautiful, and the
whole plant was supposed to be under the protection of the goddess
Hulda, who, in Teuton mythology, was held to have first taught
mortals the art of growing Flax, of spinning, and of weaving
---Cultivation and Preparation for
Market---Linseed requires ground as rich as for wheat, and if
cultivated for seed is not of much use for Flax.
Its cultivation in this country could only pay on a large
scale. The very exhausting nature of the crop has prevented its
extensive cultivation in England, and the area under cultivation
has declined in consequence. This peculiarity was well known to the
Ancients, and Pliny asserted that it scorched the ground. Its
culture requires care and suitable soil to secure a good crop. It
has been grown in large quantities in the alluvial soils of
Lincolnshire and in the eastern counties, and flourishes well in
Ireland. It succeeds best in deep, moist loams such as contain a
large proportion of vegetable matter, in good condition, firm, not
loose. Strong clays do not answer well, nor poor soils, nor such as
are of a gravelly or sandy nature, nor should the soil be freshly
is best treated as a farm crop. Being quickly grown and quickly
harvested, it can be grown after a winter root crop, being over and
reaped in time to secure a catch crop for the following season. The
seed, which must be kept dry, as damp injures it, is sown in March
or April, in drills, 70 lb. to the acre, on land carefully prepared
and freed from weeds by ploughing. The crop itself must be
handweeded, or the roots, being surface rooted, will be injured. It
should be reaped in August, before the seed is fully ripe. The
fibres of the plant, when grown for Flax, are found to be softer
and stronger when the blossom has just fallen and the stalk begins
to turn yellow before the leaves fall, than if left standing till
the seeds are quite mature. The seeds, however, will ripen after
the plant is gathered, if they be allowed to remain on the plant
for a time. The Dutch avail themselves of this fact with regard to
their Flax crops. After pulling the plants they stack them. The
seeds by this means ripen, while the fibres are collected at the
most favourable period of their growth. They thus obtain both of
the valuable products of the plant.
---Parts Used Medicinally---The fruit is a
globular capsule, about the size of a small pea, containing in
separate cells ten seeds, which are brown (white within),
oval-oblong and flattened, pointed at one end, shining and polished
on the surface, 1/6 to 1/4 inch long. They are inodorous except
when powdered, but the taste is mucilaginous and slightly
Linseed varies much in size and tint - a yellowish variety
occurring in India. Holland, Russia, the United States, Canada, the
Argentine and India furnish the principal supplies. The Russian
seed or Dutch-grown of Russian origin, though small, is preferred
for Flax-growing, as it is hardier than the large southern seed
from the Mediterranean and India. For medicinal purposes, English
and Dutch seeds are preferred, on account of their freedom from
weed-seeds and dirt. If containing more than 4 per cent of
weedseeds, linseed may be said to be adulterated. Of English and
Dutch seeds about twelve weigh 1 grain, but some of the Indian and
Mediterranean varieties are twice as large and heavy.
---Constituents---The envelope or
testa of the seed contains about 15 per cent of mucilage. The seeds
themselves contain in the cotyledons and endosperm from 30 to 40
per cent of a fixed oil, of a light yellow colour, and about 25 per
cent proteids, together with wax, resin, sugar, phosphates, acetic
acid, and a small quantity of the glucoside Linamarin. On
incineration, linseed should not yield more than 5 per cent of
The oil is obtained by expression, with little or no heat. The
cake which remains after expressing the oil, and which contains the
farinaceous and mucilaginous part of the seed, is familiarly known
as oil-cake, and is largely used as a fattening food for cattle. It
is also used as a manure. When ground up, it is known as linseed
meal, which is employed for making poultices. The meal is sold in
two forms, crushed linseed and linseed meal. Formerly linseed meal
was always obtained by grinding English oil-cake to powder and
contained little oil, but now the crushed seeds, containing all the
oil, are official. Crushed linseed of good quality usually contains
from 30 to 35 per cent of oil.
Linseed oil rapidly absorbs oxygen from the air and forms, when
laid on in thin layers, a hard, transparent varnish. It is largely
used in the arts for its properties as a drying oil. It is a
viscid, yellow liquid, its chief constituent being Linolein. It
also contains palmitin, stearin and myristin, with glyceride of
linoleic acid. Boiled oil, produced by heating raw linseed oil to a
temperature of 150 degrees C., together with a small proportion of
a metallic drier, possesses the drying properties of linseed oil to
an enhanced degree. It becomes of a brown colour and dries much
more rapidly, and in this state is used in the manufacture of
---Medicinal Action and
Uses---Emollient, demulcent, pectoral. The crushed seeds or linseed
meal make a very useful poultice, either alone or with mustard. In
ulceration and superficial or deep-seated inflammation a linseed
poultice allays irritation and pain and promotes suppuration. The
addition of a little lobelia seed makes it of greater value in
cases of boils. It is commonly used for abscesses and other local
Linseed is largely employed as an addition to cough medicines.
As a domestic remedy for colds, coughs and irritation of the
urinary organs, linseed tea is most valuable. A little honey and
lemon juice makes it very agreeable and more efficacious. This
demulcent infusion contains a large quantity of mucilage, and is
made from 1 OZ. of the ground or entire seeds to 1 pint of boiling
water. It is taken in wineglassful doses, which may be repeated ad
Linseed oil, mixed with an equal quantity of lime water, known
then as Carron Oil, is an excellent application for burns and
Internally, the oil is sometimes given as a laxative; in cases
of gravel and stone it is excellent, and has been administered in
pleurisy with great success. It may also be used as an injection in
constipation. Mixed with honey, linseed oil has been used as a
cosmetic for removing spots from the face.
The oil enters into veterinary pharmacy as a purgative for
sheep and horses, and a jelly formed by boiling the seeds is often
given to calves.
Linseed is often employed, with other seeds, as food for small
Plantain seeds, also a favourite food of small birds, can, it
is said, be used instead of linseed in making poultices, as they
contain much mucilage, though not so much oil.
Linseed has occasionally been employed as human food - we hear
of the seeds being mixed with corn by the ancient Greeks and Romans
for making bread - but it affords little actual nourishment and is
apparently unwholesome, being difficult of digestion and provoking
The meal has sometimes been used fraudulently for adulterating
Botanical: Linum catharticum (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Linaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Purging Flax. Dwarf Flax. Fairy Flax. Mill
---Part Used---Whole Herb.
Mountain Flax is a pretty little herb, which grows profusely in
---Description---It is an annual, with
a small, thready root, which sends up several slender, smooth,
straight stems, which rise to a height of 6 to 8 inches, and are
sometimes branched towards the upper part. The leaves are small,
linear-oblong and obtuse, the lower ones opposite, and the upper
alternate. The flowers, 1/3 to 1/4 of an inch in diameter, are
white. The plant at first glance much resembles chickweed, being
glaucous and glabrous.
---Part Used---The whole herb is used
mediinally, both fresh and dried, collected in July, when in
flower, in the wild state.
---Constituents---A green, bitter
resin and a neutral, colourless, crystalline principle of a
persistently bitter taste, called Linin, to which the herb owes its
---Medicinal Action and Uses---This
herb was highly extolled by Gerard as a purgative. It operates
chiefly as a gentle cathartic, and is useful in all cases where a
brisk purgative is required. As a laxative, it is preferred to
senna, though the action is very similar. It is generally taken
combined with a carminative, such as peppermint.
The dried herb has been found very useful in muscular
rheumatism and catarrhal affections, the infusion of 1 oz. in a
pint of boiling water being taken in wineglassful doses. In liver
complaints and jaundice, it has been employed with
Botanical: Linum perenne
Family: N.O. Linaceae
---Preparations and Dosage---Fluid extract, 10 to 30
tincture is also made from the entire fresh plant, 2 or 3 drops in
water being given every hour or two for diarrhoea.
Country people boil the fresh herb and take it for rheumatic
pains, colds, coughs and dropsy.
The Perennial Flax is a native plant not uncommon in some parts
of the country upon calcareous soils. It grows about 2 feet in
height and is readily distinguished from the annual kind by its
paler flowers and narrower leaves. The rootstock usually throws up
many stems. It flowers in July.
This species has been recommended for cultivation as a fibre
plant, but it has been little adopted, the fibre being coarser and
the seeds smaller than those of the Common Flax.
the plant will last several years and yields an abundant crop of
stems, it might be advantageously grown for paper
The seeds contain the same kind of oil as the ordinary
The All-Seed or Flax-Seed (Radiola linoides) belongs to the
Flax family also; it is a minute annual with very fine, repeatedly
forked branches. The leaves are opposite. Flowers in clusters very
small, and seeding abundantly. It occurs inland on gravelly and
sandy places, but is not common, from the Orkneys to Cornwall,
e.g., near St. Ives, on the hills, and in the New Forest, near
Culpepper mentions remedies which include 'Lin-seed,' more than
once - usually in the form of 'mussilage of Lin-seed'; in one he
mentions 'the seeds of Flax' and (later in the same prescription)
'Linseed.' He says it 'heats and moistens, helps pains of the
breast, coming cold and pleurises, old aches, and stitches, and
softens hard swellings.'
Botanical: Erigeron Canadense (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Compositae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Fleawort. Coltstail. Prideweed.
---Parts Used---Herb, seeds.
---Habitat---This species of Fleabane is an American annual,
common in Northern and Middle States as well as in Canada, growing
in fields and meadows and by roadsides, and closely allied to the
---History---It was introduced into
Europe in the seventeenth century. Parkinson, in his Theatrum
Botanicum (1640), mentions it as having been brought to Europe, but
describes it as an American species, not yet growing in England. In
1653 we hear of it growing in the Botanic Gardens of Paris, and
soon after it had become a weed about Paris. We first hear of it in
England in 1669, and since its introduction it has often been found
in the neighbourhood of London and in the Thames Valley, where it
appears to have naturalized itself here and there, though it is
very rare in the rest of England. Green (Universal Herbal, 1832)
stated that it was to be found on cultivated ground in
Glamorganshire and also on rubbish heaps.
The name Erigeron denotes 'soon becoming old,' and is most
appropriate, for in many of the species the plant, even when in
flower, has a worn-out appearance, giving the idea of a weed which
has passed its prime.
Parkinson says Fleabane 'bound to the forehead is a great helpe
to cure one of the frensie.'
Culpepper says 'Flea-wort' (Fleabane) obtained its name
'because the seeds are so like Fleas'!
---Description---It has an unbranched
stem, with lance-shaped leaves, the lower ones with short stalks
and with five teeth, the upper ones with uncut edges and narrower,
1 to 2 inches long. The stem is bristly and grows several feet
high, bearing composite heads of flowers, small, white and very
numerous, blossoming from June to September.
---Part Used---The whole herb is
gathered when in bloom and dried in bunches. The seeds are also
---Constituents---The herb contains a
bitter extractive, tannic and gallic acids and a volatile oil, to
which its virtues are due
---Medicinal Action and
Uses---Astringent, diuretic, tonic. It is considered useful in
gravel, diabetes, dropsy and many kidney diseases, and is employed
in diarrhoea and dysentery.
Oil of Erigeron resembles in its action Oil of Turpentine, but
is less irritating. It has been used to arrest haemorrhage from the
lungs or alimentary tract, but this property is not assigned to it
in modern medicine.
is said to be a valuable remedy for inflamed tonsils and ulceration
and inflammation of the throat generally.
The drug has a feeble odour and an astringent, aromatic and
bitter taste. It is given in infusion (dose, wineglassful to a
teacupful), oil (dose, 2 to 5 drops) on sugar. Fluid extract, 1/2
to 1 drachm.
Botanial: Inula dysenterica (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Compositae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Pulicaria dysenterica (Gaertn.). Middle
---Parts Used---Herb, root.
---Habitat---This species is a native of most parts of Europe,
in moist meadows, watery places, by the sides of ditches, brooks
and rivers, growing in masses and frequently overrunning large
tracts of land on account of its creeping underground stems. In
Scotland, however, it is rare, though common in
The Common Fleabane is nearly related to elecampane and other
species of Inula, and by Linnaeus, whom Hooker follows, is assigned
to the same genus, although placed, with a smaller variety, in a
separate genus, Pulicaria, by the botanist Gaertner.
This plant has medicinal properties, and though in England it
has never had much reputation as a curative agent it has ranked
high in the estimation of herbalists abroad. It was formerly used
in dysentery, and on this account received its specific name from
Linnaeus, who in his Flora Suecia says that he had been informed by
General Keit, of the Russian Army, that his soldiers, in one of
their expeditions against Persia, were cured of dysentery by means
of this plant. Our old authors call it 'Middle Fleabane' -
Ploughman's Spikenard being the Great Fleabane; both names being
derived from the fact that, if burnt, the smoke from them drives
away fleas and other insects. The generic name, Pulicaria, refers
to this property, the Latin name for the flea being
the Arabians, it is called Rarajeub, or Job's Tears, from a
tradition that Job used a decoction of this herb to cure his
ulcers. It was formerly recommended for the itch and other
---Description---It is a rough-looking
plant, well marked by its soft, hoary foliage, and large terminal
flat heads of bright yellow flowers, single, or one or two
together, about an inch across, large in proportion to the size of
the plant, the ray florets very numerous, long and narrow, somewhat
paler than the florets in the centre or disk.
The creeping rootstock is perennial, and sends up at intervals
stems reaching a height of 1 to 2 feet. These stems are woolly,
branched above and very leafy, the leaves oblong, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2
inches long, heart or arrowshaped at the base, embracing the stem,
irregularly waved and toothed. Like the stem, the leaves are more
or less covered with a woolly substance, varying a good deal in
different plants. The under surface is ordinarily more woolly than
the upper, and though the general effect of the foliage varies
according to its degree of woolliness, it is at best a somewhat
dull and greyish green.
The plant is in bloom from the latter part of July to
September. The fruit is silky and crowned by a few short, unequal
hairs of a dirty-white, with an outer ring of very short bristles
or scales, a characteristic which distinguishes it from Elecampane
and other members of the genus Inula, whose pappus consists of a
single row of hairs this being the differing point which has led to
its being assigned to a distinct genus, Pulicaria.
Another English plant bears the name of Fleabane (Erigeron
acris), a member of the same order. For the sake of distinction, it
is commonly known as the Blue Fleabane, its flowerheads having a
yellow centre, and being surrounded by purplish rays. It is a
smaller, far less striking plant, growing in dry
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The
leaves when bruised have a somewhat soap-like smell. The sap that
lies in the tissues is bitter, astringent and saltish, so that
animals will not eat the plant, and this astringent character, to
which no doubt the medicinal properties are to be ascribed, is
imparted to decoctions and infusions of the dried
The following is taken from Miss E. S. Rohde's Old English
Herbals: 'Fleabane bound to the forehead is a great helpe to cure
one of the frensie.'
'Fleabane on the lintel of the door I have hung,
John's wort, caper and wheatears
With a halter as a roving ass
Thy body I restrain.
evil spirit, get thee hence!
Depart, O evil Demon.'
.......(Trans. of Utukke Limnûte Tablet 'B.' R. C. Thompson,
Devils and Evil Spirits of Babylonians).
Botanical: Myosotis symphytifolia
Family: N.O. Boraginaceae
This plant has a strong affinity for the respiratory organs,
especially the left lower lung. On the Continent it is sometimes
made into a syrup and given for pulmonary affections. There is a
tradition that a decoction or juice of the plant hardens
Steadman Shorter's Medical Dictionary, Poisons & Antidotes: Digitalis
Botanical: Digitalis purpurea (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Scrophulariaceae
Preparation for Market
Preparations and Dosages
---Synonyms---Witches' Gloves. Dead Men's Bells. Fairy's Glove.
Gloves of Our Lady. Bloody Fingers. Virgin's Glove. Fairy Caps.
Folk's Glove. Fairy Thimbles.
---Habitat---The Common Foxglove of the woods (Digitalis
purpurea), perhaps the handsomest of our indigenous plants, is
widely distributed throughout Europe and is common as a wild-flower
in Great Britain, growing freely in woods and lanes, particularly
in South Devon, ranging from Cornwall and Kent to Orkney, but not
occurring in Shetland, or in some of the eastern counties of
England. It flourishes best in siliceous soil and grows well in
loam, but is entirely absent from some calcareous districts, such
as the chain of the Jura, and is also not found in the Swiss Alps.
It occurs in Madeira and the Azores, but is, perhaps, introduced
there. The genus contains only this one indigenous species, though
several are found on the Continent.
Needing little soil, it is found often in the crevices of
granite walls, as well as in dry hilly pastures, rocky places and
by roadsides. Seedling Foxgloves spring up rapidly from
recently-turned earth. Turner (1548), says that it grows round
---Description---The normal life of a
Foxglove plant is two seasons, but sometimes the roots, which are
formed of numerous, long, thick fibres, persist and throw up
flowers for several seasons.
the first year a rosette of leaves, but no stem, is sent up. In the
second year, one or more flowering stems are thrown up, which are
from 3 to 4 feet high, though even sometimes more, and bear long
spikes of drooping flowers, which bloom in the early summer, though
the time of flowering differs much, according to the locality. As a
rule the flowers are in perfection in July. As the blossoms on the
main stem gradually fall away, smaller lateral shoots are often
thrown out from its lower parts, which remain in flower after the
principal stem has shed its blossoms. These are also promptly
developed if by mischance the central stem sustains any serious
The radical leaves are often a foot or more long, contracted at
the base into a long, winged footstalk, the wings formed by the
lower veins running down into it some distance. They have slightly
indented margins and sloping lateral veins, which are a very
prominent feature. The flowering stems give off a few leaves, that
gradually diminish in size from below upwards. All the leaves are
covered with small, simple, unbranched hairs.
The flowers are bell-shaped and tubular, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches
long, flattened above, inflated beneath, crimson outside above and
paler beneath, the lower lip furnished with long hairs inside and
marked with numerous dark crimson spots, each surrounded with a
white border. The shade of the flowers varies much, especially
under cultivation, sometimes the corollas being found perfectly
cultivated plants there frequently occurs a malformation, whereby
one or two of the uppermost flowers become united, and form an
erect, regular, cup-shaped flower, through the centre of which the
upper extremity of the stem is more or less prolonged.
The Foxglove is a favourite flower of the honey-bee, and is
entirely developed by the visits of this insect. For that reason,
its tall and stately spikes of flowers are at their best in those
sunny, midsummer days when the bees are busiest. The projecting
lower lip of the corolla forms an alighting platform for the bee,
and as he pushes his way up the bell, to get at the honey which
lies in a ring round the seed vessel at the top of the flower, the
anthers of the stamens which lie flat on the corolla above him, are
rubbed against his back. Going from flower to flower up the spike,
he rubs pollen thus from one blossom on to the cleft stigma of
another blossom, and thus the flower is fertilized and seeds are
able to be produced. The life of each flower, from the time the bud
opens till the time it slips off its corolla, is about six days. An
almost incredible number of seeds are produced, a single Foxglove
plant providing from one to two million seeds to ensure its
is noteworthy that although the flower is such a favourite with
bees and is much visited by other smaller insects, who may be seen
taking refuge from cold and wet in its drooping blossoms on chilly
evenings, yet no animals will browse upon the plant, perhaps
instinctively recognizing its poisonous character.
The Foxglove derives its common name from the shape of the
flowers resembling the finger of a glove. It was originally
Folksglove - the glove of the 'good folk' or fairies, whose
favourite haunts were supposed to be in the deep hollows and woody
dells, where the Foxglove delights to grow. Folksglove is one of
its oldest names, and is mentioned in a list of plants in the time
of Edward III. Its Norwegian name, Revbielde (Foxbell), is the only
foreign one that alludes to the Fox, though there is a northern
legend that bad fairies gave these blossoms to the fox that he
might put them on his toes to soften his tread when he prowled
among the roosts.
The earliest known form of the word is the Anglo-Saxon foxes
glofa (the glove of the fox).
The mottlings of the blossoms of the Foxglove and the Cowslip,
like the spots on butterfly wings and on the tails of peacocks and
pheasants, were said to mark where the elves had placed their
fingers, and one legend ran that the marks on the Foxglove were a
warning sign of the baneful juices secreted by the plant, which in
Ireland gain it the popular name of 'Dead Man's Thimbles.' In
Scotland, it forms the badge of the Farquharsons, as the Thistle
does of the Stuarts. The German name Fingerhut (thimble) suggested
to Leonhard Fuchs (the well-known German herbalist of the sixteenth
century, after whom the Fuchsia has been named) the employment of
the Latin adjective Digitalis (from Digitabulum, a thimble) as a
designation for the plant, which, as he remarked, up to the time
when he thus named it, in 1542, had had no name in either Greek or
The Foxglove was employed by the old herbalists for various
purposes in medicine, most of them wholly without reference to
those valuable properties which render it useful as a remedy in the
hands of modern physicians. Gerard recommends it to those 'who have
fallen from high places,' and Parkinson speaks highly of the
bruised herb or of its expressed juice for scrofulous swellings,
when applied outwardly in the form of an ointment, and the bruised
leaves for cleansing for old sores and ulcers. Dodoens (1554)
prescribed it boiled in wine as an expectorant, and it seems to
have been in frequent use in cases in which the practitioners of
the present day would consider it highly dangerous. Culpepper says
it is of: 'a gentle, cleansing nature and withal very friendly to
nature. The Herb is familiarly and frequently used by the Italians
to heal any fresh or green wound, the leaves being but bruised and
bound thereon and the juice thereof is also used in old sores, to
cleanse, dry and heal them. It has been found by experience to be
available for the King's evil, the herb bruised and applied, or an
ointment made with the juice thereof, and so used.... I am
confident that an ointment of it is one of the best remedies for a
scabby head that is.' Strangely enough, the Foxglove, so handsome
and striking in our landscape, is not mentioned by Shakespeare, or
by any of the old English poets. The earliest known descriptions of
it are those given about the middle of the sixteenth century by
Fuchs and Tragus in their Herbals. According to an old manuscript,
the Welsh physicians of the thirteenth century appear to have
frequently made use of it in the preparation of external medicines.
Gerard and Parkinson advocate its use for a number of complaints,
and later Salmon, in the New London Dispensatory, praised the
plant. It was introduced into the London Pharmacopoeia in 1650,
though it did not come into frequent use until a century later, and
was first brought prominently under the notice of the medical
profession by Dr. W. Withering, who in his Acount of the Foxglove,
1785, gave details of upwards of 200 cases, chiefly dropsical, in
which it was used.
domestic use of the Foxglove was general throughout North Wales at
one time, when the leaves were used to darken the lines engraved on
the stone floors which were fashionable then. This gave them a
The plant is both cultivated and collected in quantities for
commercial purposes in the Harz Mountains and the Thuringian
---Cultivation---The Foxglove is
cultivated by a few growers in this country in order to provide a
drug of uniform activity from a true type of Digitalis purpurea. It
is absolutely necessary to have the true medicinal seeds to supply
the drug market: crops must be obtained from carefully selected
wild seed and all variations from the new type struck
The plant will flourish best in welldrained loose soil,
preferably of siliceous origin, with some slight shade. The plants
growing in sunny situations possess the active qualities of the
herb in a much greater degree than those shaded by trees, and it
has been proved that those grown on a hot, sunny bank, protected by
a wood, give the best results.
grows best when allowed to seed itself, but if it is desired to
raise it by sown seed, 2 lb. of seed to the acre are required. As
the seeds are so small and light, they should be mixed with fine
sand in order to ensure even distribution. They should be thinly
covered with soil. The seeds are uncertain in germination, but the
seedlings may be readily and safely transplanted in damp weather,
and should be pricked out to 6 to 9 inches apart. Sown in spring,
the plant will not blossom till the following year. Seeds must be
gathered as soon as ripe. The flowers of the true medicinal type
must be pure, dull pink or magenta, not pale-coloured, white or
is estimated that one acre of good soil will grow at least two tons
of the Foxglove foliage, producing about 1/2 ton of the dried
---Preparation for Market---The leaves
alone are now used for the extraction of the drug, although
formerly the seeds were also official.
leaves are to be used for medicinal purposes that are not taken
from the twoyear-old plants, picked when the bloom spike has run up
and about two-thirds of the flowers are expanded, because at this
time, before the ripening of the seeds, the leaves are in the most
active state. They may be collected as long as they are in good
condition: only green, perfect leaves being picked, all those that
are insect-eaten or diseased, or tinged with purple or otherwise
discoloured, must be discarded. Leaves from seedlings are
valueless, and they must also not be collected in the spring,
before the plant flowers, or in the autumn, when it has seeded, as
the activity of the alkaloids is in each case too low.
the fresh leaves are sent to the manufacturing druggists for
Extract-making, they should be in 1/2 cwt. bundles, packed in
aircovered railway cattle-trucks, or if in an open truck, must be
covered with tarpaulin. The fresh crop should, if possible, be
delivered to the wholesale buyer the same day as cut, but if this
is impossible, on account of distance, they should be picked before
the dew falls in the late afternoon and despatched the same
evening, packed loosely in wicker baskets, lined with an open kind
of muslin. Consignments by rail should be labelled: 'Urgent,
Medicinal Herbs,' to ensure quick delivery. The weather for picking
must be absolutely dry - no damp or rain in the air and the leaves
must be kept out of the sun and not packed too closely, or they may
heat and turn yellow.
The odour of the fresh leaves is unpleasant, and the taste of
both fresh and dried leaves is disagreeably bitter.
Foxglove leaves have in some places been recklessly gathered by
over-zealous and thoughtless collectors without due regard to the
future supply of the plants. The plant should not be roughly
treated and never cut off just above the root, but the bottom
leaves should in all cases be left to nourish the flower-spikes, in
order that the seed may be ripened. In patches where Foxgloves grow
thickly, the collection and redistribution of seed in likely places
is much to be recommended.
The dried leaves as imported have occasionally been found
adulterated with the leaves of various other plants. The chief of
these are Inula Conyza (Ploughman's Spikenard), which may be
distinguished by their greater roughness, the less-divided margins,
the teeth of which have horny points, and odour when rubbed; I.
Helenium (Elecampane), the leaves of which resemble Foxglove
leaves, though they are less pointed, and the lower lateral veins
do not form a 'wing' as in the Foxglove, the leaves of Symphytum
officinale (Comfrey), which, however, may be recognized by the
isolated stiff hairs they bear, and Verbascum Thapsus (Great
Mullein), the leaves of which, unlike those of the Foxglove, have
woolly upper and under surfaces, and the hairs of which, examined
under a lens, are seen to be branched. Primrose leaves are also
sometimes mingled with the drug, though they are much smaller than
the average Foxglove leaf, and may be readily distinguished by the
straight, lateral veins, which divide near the margins of the
leaves. Foxglove leaves are easy to distinguish by their veins
running down the leaf.
There is no reason why Foxglove leaves, properly prepared,
should not become a national export.
Digitalis has lately been grown in Government Cinchona
plantations in the Nilgiris, Madras, India. The leaves are coarser
and rather darker in colour than British or German-grown leaves,
wild or cultivated, but tests show that the tincture prepared from
them contains glucosides of more than average value.
four important glucosides of which three arecardiac stimulants. The
most powerful is Digitoxin, an extremely poisonous and cumulative
drug, insoluble in water, Digitalin, which is crystalline and also
insoluble in water; Digitalein, amorphous, but readily soluble in
water, rendering it, therefore, capable of being administered
subcutaneously, in doses so minute as rarely to exceed of a grain;
Digitonin, which is a cardiac depressant, containing none of the
physiological action peculiar to Digitalis, and is identical with
Saponin, the chief constituent of Senega root. Other constituents
are volatile oil, fatty matter, starch, gum, sugar,
The amount and character of the active constituents vary
according to season and soil: 100 parts of dried leaves yield about
1.25 of Digitalin, which is generally found in a larger proportion
in the wild than in the cultivated plants.
The active constituents of Digitalis are not yet sufficiently
explored to render a chemical assay effective in standardizing for
therapeutic activity. The different glucosides contained varying
from each other in their physiological action, it is impossible to
assay the leaves by determining one only of these, such as
Digitoxin. No method of determining Digitalin is known. Hence the
chemical means of assay fail, and the drug is usually standardized
by a physiological test. One of our oldest firms of manufacturing
druggists standardizes preparations of this extremely powerful and
important drug by testing their action upon frogs.
---Preparations---The preparations of
Foxglove on the market vary considerably in composition and
strength. Powdered Digitalis leaf is administered in pill form. The
pharmacopoeial tincture, which is the preparation in commonest use,
is given in doses of 5.15 minims, and the infusion is the unusually
small dose of 2 to 4 drachms, the dose of other infusions being an
ounce or more. The tincture contains a fair proportion of both
Digitalin and Digitoxin.
The following note from the Chemist and Druggist (December 30,
1922) is of interest here:
'Cultivation of Digitalis
'As is well known, for many years prior to the War digitalis
was successfully cultivated on a large scale in various parts of
the former Austro-Hungarian monarchy, and indeed the Government
actively promoted the cultivation of this as well as of other
medicinal plants. B. Pater, of Klausenburg, gives a résumé of his
experiences in this direction (Pharmazeutische Monatshefte, 7,
1922), dealing not only with the best methods for cultivating
digitalis from the seeds of this plant, but also with his
investigations into certain differences and abnormalities peculiar
to Digitalis purpurea. Apart from the fact that, occasionally, some
plants bear flowers already in the first year of growth, the
observation was made that the colour of the flowers showed a wide
scale of variation, ranging from the well-known distinctive purple
shade through dark rose, light rose, to white. These variations in
colour of the flowers of cultivated digitalis plants induced the
author to undertake a study of the activity of the several
varieties, based on the digitoxin content of the stem leaves
collected from flowering plants. In the case of Digitalis purpurea
with normal purple flowers, the content of purified digitoxin,
ascertained by Keller's method, averaged 0.17 per cent, while the
leaves of plants bearing white flowers showed a slightly lower
content, i.e. an average of 0.155 per cent of purified digitoxin.
On the other hand, the plants with rose-coloured flowers were found
to possess a very low content of digitoxin, averaging only 0.059
per cent. In the course of these investigations the fact was
confirmed that the upper stem leaves are more active than the lower
---Medicinal Action and
Uses---Digitalis has been used from early times in heart cases. It
increases the activity of all forms of muscle tissue, but more
especially that of the heart and arterioles, the all-important
property of the drug being its action on the circulation. The first
consequence of its absorption is a contraction of the heart and
arteries, causing a very high rise in the blood
After the taking of a moderate dose, the pulse is markedly
slowed. Digitalis also causes an irregular pulse to become regular.
Added to the greater force of cardiac contraction is a permanent
tonic contraction of the organ, so that its internal capacity is
reduced, which is a beneficial effect in cases of cardiac
dilatation, and it improves the nutrition of the heart by
increasing the amount of blood.
ordinary conditions it takes about twelve hours or more before its
effects on the heart muscle is appreciated, and it must thus always
be combined with other remedies to tide the patient over this
period and never prescribed in large doses at first, as some
patients are unable to take it, the drug being apt to cause
considerable digestive disturbances, varying in different cases.
This action is probably due to the Digitonin, an undesirable
The action of the drug on the kidneys is of importance only
second to its action on the circulation. In small or moderate
doses, it is a powerful diuretic and a valuable remedy in dropsy,
especially when this is connected with affections of the
has also been employed in the treatment of internal haemorrhage, in
inflammatory diseases, in delirium tremens, in epilepsy, in acute
mania and various other diseases, with real or supposed
The action of Digitalis in all the forms in which it is
administered should be carefully watched, and when given over a
prolonged period it should be employed with caution, as it is
liable to accumulate in the system and to manifest its presence all
at once by its poisonous action, indicated by the pulse becoming
irregular, the blood-pressure low and gastro-intestinal irritation
setting in. The constant use of Digitalis, also, by increasing the
activity of the heart, leads to hypertrophy of that
Digitalis is an excellent antidote in Aconite poisoning, given
as a hypodermic injection.
When Digitalis fails to act on the heart as desired,
Lily-of-the-Valley may be substituted and will often be found of
large doses, the action of Digitalis on the circulation will cause
various cerebral symptoms, such as seeing all objects blue, and
various other disturbances of the special senses. In cases of
poisoning by Digitalis, with a very slow and irregular pulse, the
administration of Atropine is generally all that is necessary. In
the more severe cases, with the very rapid heart-beat, the stomach
pump must be used, and drugs may be used which depress and diminish
the irritability of the heart, such as chloral and
Preparations of Digitalis come under Table II of the Poison
Dosages---Tincture, B.P., 5 to 15 drops. Infusion, B.P., 2 to 4
drachms. Powdered leaves, 1/2 to 2 grains. Fluid extract, 1 to 3
drops. Solid extract, U.S.P., 1/8 grain.
method of preparing the drug in a noninJurious manner is given in
the Chemist and Druggist (December 30, 1922):
'On preparing an infusion of digitalis leaves in the usual
manner, one of the active principles, gitalin, is destroyed by the
action of the boiling water. To obviate the possibility of
destroying any of the active principles in the leaves, Th. Koch
(Süddeutsche Apotheker-Zeitung, 63, 1922) has for some years past
adopted the following procedure: 20 gm. powdered standardized
digitalis leaves, 1000 gm. chloroform water (7.1000) and 40 drops
of 10 per cent. Solution of Sodium Carbonate are shaken for four
hours. The liquid is then passed through a flannel cloth, and,
after standing for some time, filtered in the ordinary way, taking
the precaution to cover the filter with a glass plate. The use of
chloroform water as the solvent serves a threefold purpose: It
promotes the solution of the gitalin present in the leaves, ensures
the stability and keeping properties of the maceration, and
prevents the occurrence of gastric troubles. The presence of Sodium
Carbonate prevents the plant acid from reacting with the chloroform
to produce hydrochloric acid. In this maceration no digitoxin is
present, the principle which is assumed to exert a deleterious
action on the heart as well as a cumulative effect.'
Botanical: Boswellia Thurifera
Family: N.O Burseraceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Part Used---The gum resin.
---Description---Obtained from the
leafy forest tree Boswellia Thurifera, with leaves deciduous,
alternate towards the tops of branches, unequally pinnated;
leaflets in about ten pairs with an odd one opposite, oblong,
obtuse, serrated, pubescent, sometimes alternate; petioles short.
Flowers, white or pale rose on short pedicels in single axillary
racemes shorter than the leaves. Calyx, small five-toothed,
persistent; corolla with five obovate-oblong, very patent petals,
acute at the base, inserted under the margin of the disk,
acstivation slightly imbricative. Stamens, ten, inserted under the
disk, alternately shorter; filaments subulate, persistent. Anthers,
caducous, oblong. Torus a cupshaped disk, fleshy, larger than
calyx, crenulated margin. Ovary, oblong, sessile. Style, one
caducous, the length of the stamens; stigma capitate, three-lobed.
Fruit capsular, three-angled three-celled, three-valved,
septicidal, valves hard. Seeds, solitary in each cell surrounded by
a broad membranaceous wing. Cotyledons intricately folded
The trees on the Somali coast grow, without soil, out of
polished marble rocks, to which they are attached by a thick oval
mass of substances resembling a mixture of lime and mortar. The
young trees furnish the most valuable gum, the older yielding
merely a clear, glutinous fluid, resembling coral
obtain the Frankincense, a deep, longitudinal incision is made in
the trunk of the tree and below it a narrow strip of bark 5 inches
in length is peeled off. When the milk-like juice which exudes has
hardened by exposure to the air, the incision is deepened. In about
three months the resin has attained the required degree of
consistency, hardening into yellowish 'tears.' The large, clear
globules are scraped off into baskets and the inferior quality that
has run down the tree is collected separately. The season for
gathering lasts from May till the middle of September, when the
first shower of rain puts a close to the gathering for that
The coast of Southern Arabia is yearly visited by parties of
Somalis, who pay the Arabs for the privilege of collecting
Frankincense, and in the interior of the country, about the plain
of Dhofar, during the southwest Monsoon, Frankincense and other
gums are gathered by the Bedouins. (The incense of Dhofar is
alluded to by the Portuguese poet, Camoens.)
---Constituents---Resins 65 per cent,
volatile oil 6 per cent, water-soluble gum 20 per cent, bassorin 6
to 8 per cent, plant residue 2 to 4 per cent; the resins are
composed of boswellic acid and alibanoresin.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---It is
stimulant, but seldom used now internally, though formerly was in
great repute . Pliny mentions it as an antidote to hemlock.
Avicenna (tenth century) recommends it for tumours, ulcers,
vomiting, dysentery and fevers. In China it is used for
Its principal use now is in the manufacture of incense and
pastilles. It is also used in plasters and might be substituted for
Balsam of Peru or Balsam or Tolu. The inhalation of steam laden
with the volatile portion of the drug is said to relieve bronchitis
The ceremonial incense of the Jews was compounded of four
'sweet scents,' of which pure Frankincense was one, pounded
together in equal proportion. It is frequently mentioned in the
Pentateuch. Pure Frankincense formed part of the meet offering and
was also presented with the shew-bread every Sabbath day. With
other spices, it was stored in a great chamber of the House of God
According to Herodotus, Frankincense to the amount of 1,000
talents weight was offered every year, during the feast of Bel, on
the great altar of his temple in Babylon. The religious use of
incense was as common in ancient Persia as in Babylon and Assyria.
Herodotus states that the Arabs brought every year to Darius as
tribute 1,000 talents of Frankincense, and the modern Parsis of
Western India still preserve the ritual of incense.
Frankincense, though the most common, never became the only
kind of incense offered to the gods among the Greeks. According to
Pliny, it was not sacrificially employed in Trojan times. Among the
Romans, the use of Frankincense (alluded to as mascula thura by
Virgil in the Eclogues) was not confined to religious ceremonials.
It was also used on state occasions, and in domestic
The kohl, or black powder with which the Egyptian women paint
their eyelids, is made of charred Frankincense, or other
odoriferous resin mixed with Frankincense. Frankincense is also
melted to make a depilatory, and it is made into a paste with other
ingredients to perfume the hands. A similar practice is described
by Herodotus as having been practiced by the women of Scythia and
is alluded to in Judith x. 3 and 4. In cold weather, the Egyptians
warm their rooms with a brazier whereon incense is burnt,
Frankincense, Benzoin and Aloe wood being chiefly used for the
The word 'incense,' meaning originally the aroma given off with
the smoke of any odoriferous substance when burnt, has been
gradually restricted almost exclusively to Frankincense, which has
always been obtainable in Europe in greater quantity than any other
of the aromatics imported from the East.
There is no fixed formula for the incense now used in the
Christian churches of Europe, but it is recommended that
Frankincense should enter as largely as possible intoits
composition. In Rome, Olibanum alone is employed: in the Russian
church, Benzoin is chiefly employed.
The following is a formula for an incense used in the Roman
Church: Olibanum, 10 OZ. Benzoin, 4 oz. Storax, 1 OZ. Break into
small pieces and mix.
Botanical: Chionanthus virginica (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Oleaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Old Man's Beard. Fringe Tree Bark. Chionathus.
Snowdrop Tree. Poison Ash.
---Part Used---The dried bark of the root.
---Habitat---The United States, from Pennsylvania to
---Description---A small tree, bearing
in June white flowers like snowdrops, and with large leaves like
those of Magnolia, it presents a charming appearance. The root-bark
is found in single, transversely-curved pieces, often heavy enough
(though small) to sink in water. The outside is reddish or
greyish-brown, with root scars and whiter patches. The inner
surface is a yellowishbrown. The fracture is short, coarsely
granular, and yellowish-white. It is almost odourless, but very
bitter in taste. The powder is light brown in colour.
---Constituents---It is said that both
saponin and a glucoside have been found, but neither appears to
have been officially confirmed.
---Medicinal Action and
Uses---Aperient, diuretic. Some authorities regard it as tonic and
slightly narcotic. It is used in typhoid, intermittent, or bilious
fevers, and externally, as a poultice, for inflammations or wounds.
Is useful in liver complaints.
---Dosage---Of fluid extract, 1/2 to 1
fluid drachm two or three times a day. Of infusion, 1/2 to 2 fluid
ounces two or three times a day. Chiomanthin, 1 to 3
Botanical: Fritillaria Meleagris (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Liliaceae
---Synonyms---Lilium variegatum. Chequered Daffodil. Narcissus
Caparonius. Turkey Hen. Ginny Flower.
Fritillaria Meleagris (Linn.), the Snake's Head Fritillary, is
a native of Great Britain, found in meadows and pastures in the
southern and eastern counties of England, chiefly in Oxfordshire.
It is not common and does not occur farther north than Norfolk, or
farther west than Somerset.
has a tiny, solid bulb, not larger than a good-sized black currant,
with two or three long, narrow leaves, on a stem about a foot high,
which bears a single, drooping flower of a dull red colour, marked
curiously with pink and dark purple, in quaint squares and
blotches. The petals are only overlapping and not joined together
in any way, although the flowers look bell-like. Though the open
flower is pendulous the bud stands erect, and so does the capsule.
The plant is in bloom in April and May, in mild seasons in
The botanical name, meleagris, is derived from a Greek term
applied to a guinea-hen, and many of the popular English names have
a similar allusion to the markings of the flower, viz. Guinea-hen
flower, Turkey-hen flower, Pheasant Lily, Leopards Lily, Chequered
Lily, Chequered Daffodil and Lazarus Bell.
Bees visit the flower for the nectar secreted largely at the
base of the perianth.
Many garden varieties are now cultivated. The best mode of
propagation is by offsets, but also by seed, which ripens readily.
Rabbits are very fond of this plant and will destroy it
The bulb is poisonous and very distasteful to the palate and is
said to have no medicinal value, though from its presence on the
elaborate allegorical frontispiece of the old Herbal of Clusius,
Rariorum Plantarum Historia, published in 1601, it bore at that
time a reputation as a herb of healing.
See LILY (CROWN
Botanical: Helianthemum Canadense (MISCH.)
Family: N.O. Cistaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Cistus. Frostweed. Frostplant. Rock Rose.
Canadisches Sonnenroschen. Helianthemum Ramultoflorum. Helianthemum
Rosmarinifolium. Helianthemum michauxii. Helianthemum Corymbosum.
Cistus Canadensis. Lechea Major. Heterameris
---Part Used---The dried herb.
---Habitat---Eastern United States.
---Description---The official name
comes from the Greek helios (the sun) and anthemon (a flower). The
genus differs from the Cistus in having imperfectly three-celled
instead of five or ten-celled capsules. Two distinct varieties of
the species are known, the early and late flowering forms. They
grow in sandy soil, from 6 to 12 inches high, with upright stems,
branching or almost without branches, leaves light or dark green,
small and lanceolate, and flat, yellow flowers, solitary or in
terminal clusters. The popular names spring from the peculiarity of
thin, curved, ice-crystals projecting in early winter from fissures
in the bark near the root. The taste is astringent, slightly
aromatic and bitter. It has no odour.
---Constituents---A volatile oil, wax,
tannin, fatty oil, and a glucoside that will crystallize into white
needles. Chlorophyll, gum and inorganic salts were also found in
---Medicinal Action and
Uses---Antiscro fulous, astringent, alterative and tonic. It has
for long been used in secondary syphilis, diarrhoea, ulcerations,
ophthalmia, and any conditions arising from a scrofulous
constitution. Locally it is useful as a wash in prurigo and as a
gargle in scarlatina, and in poultice form for scrofulous tumours
is said that an oil helpful in cancer has been obtained from
may be combined with Corydalis Formosa and Stillingia, in secondary
syphilis, and the infusion may be used in chronic diarrhcea and
overdose may produce nausea and vomiting.
---Dosage---Of extract, 2 grains. Of
fluid extract, 1 fluid drachm as an alternative and
Corymbosum may be used indiscriminately as officinal.
Cistus Creticus, or European Rock Rose, the only other plant of
the order used in medicine, yields the gum resin Ladanum or
Labdanum, a natural exudation valued as a stimulant expectorant and
emmenagogue. It has been used in plasters, and formerly in catarrh
and dysentery. An oil with the odour of ambergris has been obtained
from the resin.
Labdanum is found in masses weighing up to several pounds,
enclosed in bladders. It softens in the hand when broken, becoming
adhesive and balsamic. It burns with a clear flame. An adulterated
kind is in contorted, hard pieces, mixed with sand and
Landaniferous, C. Ledon and C. Laurifolius are said to yield the
same substance, most of which comes from the Grecian
All these Cistus and Helianthenums grow in the author's garden
at Chalfont St. Peters.
See Willow Herbs.
Botanical: Fumaria officinalis (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Fumariaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
Old Recipes and Prescriptions
---Synonyms---Earth Smoke. Beggary. Fumus. Vapor. Nidor. Fumus
Terrae. Fumiterry, Scheiteregi. Taubenkropp. Kaphnos. Wax
---Habitat---Europe and America. Parts of Asia, Australia and
---Description---A small annual plant,
a common weed in many parts of Europe, including Britain, and
naturalized in the United States.
The Fumitories, of which Corydalis and Fumaria are the only two
fully British genera, are distinguished in the Order of Fumariaceae
by having one of the petals swollen or spurred at the base, and a
oneseeded capsule which does not open. The name is said to be
derived either from the fact that its whitish, blue-green colour
gives it the appearance of smoke rising from the ground, or,
according to Pliny, because the juice of the plant brings on such a
flow of tears that the sight becomes dim as with smoke, and hence
its reputed use in affections of the eye. According to the ancient
exorcists, when the plant is burned, its smoke has the power of
expelling evil spirits, it having been used for this purpose in the
famous geometrical gardens of St. Gall. There is a legend that the
plant was produced, not from seed, but from vapours arising out of
The herb is small and slender, with weak, straggling, or
climbing stems, decompound leaves, and clusters or spikes of small
flowers of a pinkish hue, topped with purple, or more rarely,
white. The leaves have no odour, but taste bitter and saline. The
plant flowers almost throughout the summer in fields, gardens, and
on banks, and in ditches, spreading with great rapidity. At Mudgee,
in New South Wales, it was reported to have smothered a wheat crop.
Shakespeare makes several references to the herb. An interesting
peculiarity is that it is very seldom visited by insects. It is
self-fertile, and sets every seed.
The flowers are used to make a yellow dye for
---Constituents---The leaves yield by
expression a juice which has medicinal properties. An extract,
prepared by evaporating the expressed juice, or a decoction of the
leaves, throws out upon its surface a copious saline efflorescence.
Fumaric acid was early identified as present, and its isomerism
with maleic acid was established later. The alkaloid Fumarine has
been believed to be identical with corydaline, but it differs both
in formula and in its reaction to sulphuric and nitric acids. It
occurs in colourless, tasteless crystals, freely soluble in
chloroform, less so in benzine, still less so in alcohol and ether,
sparingly soluble in water.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---A weak
tonic, slightly diaphoretic, diuretic, and aperient; valuable in
all visceral obstructions, particularly those of the liver, in
scorbutic affections, and in troublesome eruptive diseases, even
those of the leprous order. A decoction makes a curative lotion for
milk-crust on the scalp of an infant. Physicians and writers from
Dioscorides to Chaucer, and from the fourteenth century to Cullen
and to modern times value its purifying power. The Japanese make a
tonic from it. Cows and sheep eat it, and the latter are said to
derive great benefit from it. The leaves, in decoction or extract,
may be used in almost any doses. The inspissated juice has also
been employed, also a syrup, powder, cataplasm, distilled water,
and several tinctures.
French and German physicians still preferit to most other
medicines as a purifier of the blood; while sometimes the dried
leaves are smoked in the manner of tobacco, for disorders of the
head. Dr. Cullen, among its good effects in cutaneous disorders,
mentions the following:
'There is a disorder of the skin, which, though not attended
with any alarming symptoms of danger to the life of the patient, is
thought to place the empire of beauty in great jeopardy; the
complaint is frequently brought on by neglecting to use a parasol,
and may be known by sandy spots, vulgarly known as freckles,
scattered over the face. Now, be it known to all whom it may
concern, that the infusion of the leaves of the abovedescribed
plant is said to be an excellent specific for removing these
freckles and clearing the skin; and ought, we think, to be chiefly
employed by those who have previously removed those moral blemishes
which deform the mind, or degrade the dignity of a reasonable and
an immortal being.'
---Dosage---Of Fumarine, 1/3 or 1/4 of
a grain is moderately excitant; 3 grains are first irritant, then
sedative. Of the expressed juice, 2 fluid ounces or more, twice a
day. Of fluid extract, 1/2 to 1 drachm.
For dyspepsia, 2 oz. of the flowers and tops may be macerated
in 3 pints of Madeira wine, and taken twice a day in doses of 2 to
4 fluid ounces.
Fluid extract 1/2 to 1 drachm.
---Old Recipes and
The Liquid Juice four or five
spoonfuls in themorning, fasting, with a glass of white Port wine.
It purges a little downwards, but more especially if mixed with an
infusion of Senna in wine. It purifies the blood from salt,
choleric, or viscous humours, and strengthens all the Viscera, not
leaving any evil quality behind it.
The Essence has all the virtues of the
former, but is more efficacious. A safe remedy also against adult
choler and melancholy or obstructions which are the cause of
choleric and putrid fevers, jaundice, Strangury of Urine through
Gravel, Sand, or Viscous Matter, all of which it expels in
Dose 5 or 6 spoonfuls in white wine or clarified
The Syrup Whether made of the juice or
greenherb, has all the virtue, but is weaker in operation, and
therefore ought to be given mixed with the Syrup of Damask Roses or
Peach Blossoms, or Tincture of Senna. Very effectual against
Jaundice, Dropsy, and Gout, and is a most singular thing against
hypochondriack melancholy in any person whatsoever.
The Decoction in Water or Wine Weaker
than the above, and 6 to 8 oz. may be given in the morning,
The Power of the Dried Herb. A drachm, with half a drachm of
Powder of Esula Root, and given in 5 or 6 spoonsful of the essence
of juice, causes vomiting and cleanses the stomach and bowels,
effectual against Dropsy, Scurvy, Jaundice, Gout and Rheumatism,
but because it stirs up much wind, should be corrected with a few
drops of oil of Anise or Fennel Seed, or with the Powder of the
The Collurium. 3 ounces of Juice or Essence of Fumitory, mixed
with one ounce each of distilled Water of Fumitory, and honey. An
excellent thing against sores, inflamed, running and watery Eyes.
Also a healing Gargle. Drops in the Eyes clear the sight and take
away redness. If the Juice be mixed with equal parts of Juice of
Sharp-pointed Docks and Wine Vinegar, and a contaminated Skin be
washed therewith, it cures it of Scabs, Itch, Wheals, Pimples,
The Distilled Water has the virtues of the Juice, but is much
weaker, and may be used as a Vehicle for any of the other
Preparations. Taken with good Venice Treacle, it is good against
Plague, driving forth the Malignity by sweat.
The Spirituous Tincture is good against Plague, Fevers, Colic,
and Griping of the Guts, whether in Young or Old.
Dose, 2 to 3 drachms in Canary or other fit
The Acid Tincture is an excellent Antiscorbutick, good against
Vapors and Tumors which cause fiery Eruptions. Causes a good
Appetite and a strong Digestion. To be given in all the patient
drinks, so many drops as may give the Liquor a grateful or pleasant
acidity, and to be continued for some time.
The Saline Tincture cures Scabs, Pimples, Leprosy, etc., by
bathing or well washing the parts affected therewith, as hot as can
be endured, and continuing for some considerable time.
The Powder of the Seed. Stronger than the Powder of the Herb,
prevalent against the Dropsy, being given daily with 10 to 12
grains of Scammony. A drachm of the simple powder, morning and
night, especially in an infusion of Senna, may do wonders in
American Fumitory (Fumaria Indica, or Codder Indian) of
Virginia and Canada has the virtues of Common Fumitory, but is more
bitter and more powerful. The tuberous American or Indian Fumitory
is much weaker.
Bulbous Fumitory, so-called, is Adoxa Meschatellina, and
belongs to the Octandria class.
The Lyre Flower of Japan and Siberia (Dicentra or F.
spectabilis) belongs to the Fumitory Order.
cucullaria (Naked- talked Fumitory) is a native of
fungosa (Spongy-flowered Fumitory) is a native of North
mobilis (Great-flowered Fumitory) is a native of
sempervirens (Glaucous Fumitory) is a native of North
lutea (Yellow Fumitory) is a native of Barbary.
Sibirica (Siberian Fumitory) is a native of Siberia.
capnoides (White-flowered Fumitory) is a native of South
enneaphylla (White-flowered Fumitory) is a native of Spain and
capreolata (Ramping Fumitory) is a native of Provence, Silesia and
spicula (Narrow-leaved Fumitory) is a native of Spain, Portugal,
Italy, and France.
claviculata (Climbing Fumitory) is a native of Southern Europe and
vesicaria (Bladdered Fumitory) is a native of the Cape of Good
parviflora (Small-flowered Fumitory) is a native of hot countries.
Rare in Britain.
densiflora is a native of Southern Europe and Britain.
Some of these differences may merely be clue to
ancient history they are all inclucled among medicinal
Uses of Fungi
Discrimination between Edible
and Poisonous Fungi
Fungi are those plants which are colourless; they have no green
chlorophyll within them, and it is this green substance which
enables the higher plants to build up, under the influence of
sunlight, the starches and sugars which ultimately form our food.
Having no chlorophyll, fungi cannot use the energy of the sun and
must therefore adopt another method of life. They either live as
parasites on other living plants or animals, or they live on
decaying matter. In either case they derive their energy by
breaking up highly complex substances and, when these are broken up
in the living plant, the living plant suffers. Many Fungi, such as
the bacteria, are microscopic; others form visible growths, from
moulds and mildews to the familiar mushroom and toadstools they in
crease in size and conspicuousness.
Fungi differ from flowering plants in theirchemical influence
upon the air. They absorb oxygen and exhale carbonic acid,
performing the same office in this respect as animals, which they
most resemble in chemical composition. The odours they emit in
decay are more like putrescent animal than vegetable matter. Some
species, e.g., the Stinkhorns, emit a most intolerably offensive
stench; others, on the contrary, are very agreeable to the smell
and some 'toadstools' acquire in drying a fine aroma. They are
quite as variable to the taste.
Numerically, Fungi rank next to flowering plants and in many
portions of the globe far exceed them. In Great Britain, indeed, we
have just over 5,000 species of Fungi, which number exceeds that of
our flowering plants, ferns, mosses, lichens and algae all added
---Uses of Fungi---The uses of Fungi
are various. Their office in the organized world is to check
exuberance of growth, to facilitate decomposition, to regulate the
balance of the component elements of the atmosphere, to promote
fertility and to nourish myriads of the smaller members of the
animal kingdom. As disease producers, both in plants and animals,
not excluding man himself, they are responsible for much damage;
nor do they leave alone the works of man. The subject of Mycology
(Fungology) is of growing importance and is attracting the
attention of scientific research, especially in America, as to the
action of Fungi in human diseases. The fact is recognized in
medical science that more than 20 per cent of tropical diseases, in
the strict sense, are caused by Fungi and that the diseases due to
Fungi are also not at all rare in temperate climates.
Certain of the species represent a danger to our existing food
supply; the parasites on wheat and on potato plants have of recent
years been the object of study by scientific agriculturists. The
Imperial Bureau of Entomology, which grapples with injurious
insects, has its counterpart in the Imperial Bureau of Mycology,
which was inaugurated in 1920, and is equally effective in helping
to control the fungus pests of our Colonies.
Yet all members of this great division of flowerless and
chlorophyll-free plants are not harmful. Many of them perform
useful and even beneficent functions, playing an important part in
the welfare of humanity. Yeast, for instance, converts sugary
solution into alcohol. Yeasts are everywhere and the various
vintage wines are to some extent due to the particular yeast which
is found amongst the grapes. Other Fungi (bacteria) help one to
digest. As food plants, Fungi deserve more attention than they have
received, at least in this country, although it has been estimated
that we possess at least 200 edible forms. In ancient times the
eating of Fungi was a common practice. The Romans especially
favoured the Boleti, while Celsus makes allusion to the use of
certain of the edible varieties. Throughout Europe and the East,
Fungi are much more widely used as food than in Great Britain. In
France, Germany, Italy and Japan the mushroom trade is officially
recognized: in France, the prefecture de police has established a
centre of inspection for mushrooms at the 'Halles' of Paris. Not
only are all consignments of mushrooms entering this market
inspected and passed before being put up for sale, but all amateur
gatherers of Fungi may also have their spoil classified by the
inspector free of charge, whereas a most useful addition to our
food resources in this country is almost entirely
Formerly it was stated by enthusiastic fungus-eaters that Fungi
contained more nitrogenous material than beef, but recent chemical
analysis proves that the amount of nitrogenous matter that can be
assimilated or used as food is actually but small and that Fungi
practically contain no more fleshforming material than does a
cabbage. Notwithstanding this, Fungi have their special flavours,
often combined with a very pleasant aroma, and in this way serve a
purpose, like condiments, rendering more palatable other essential
foods and often aiding their digestion and
considerable number of Fungi have been employed in medicine, and
although Ergot alone represents these plants in the Pharmacopoeia,
yet the medicinal properties attributed by tradition to certain
species of Fungi (as a writer in the Lancet pointed out, September
26, 1925) may possibly represent an untapped source of therapeutic
to the present time, no less than 64,000 species of Fungi have been
described. They are divided into two great classes, the Sporifera,
or spore-bearing, in which the spores are naked or exposed, and the
Sporidifera, in which the spores are contained in bags or sacs
called asci. The sporiferous division is by far the larger: in its
family Hymenomycetes, which includes all the mushrooms and
toadstools, the hymenium, or spore-bearing surface, is distributed
over gills, tubes, pores or fissures. It is the most important
group, both from the view of the toxicologist and the epicure, and
comprises about 14,000 species.
The Agaricaceae order of gill-bearing Fungi comprises about
4,600 species. Some members are poisonous, as the Amanitas (Fly and
Deadly Agarics), whereas others, as Agaricus, Cantharellus, etc.,
are among the best edible varieties.
The name Agaricum (as it stands in Pliny) was applied by
Dioscorides to a peculiar drug supplied by the Polyporus of the
Larch, which was obtained principally, if not solely, from Agraria,
a region in Sarmatia and which was formerly of considerable repute
and is still to be had from herbalists. Other Polypori were often
substituted for that of the larch, and the name Agaricus became to
a certain extent generic for Polyporus, but was applied by Linnaeus
erroneously to the Toadstool class of Fungi bearing gills, and from
that time adopted, though the earlier herbalists applied the name
rightly to the corky tree Fungi, as Agaric of the Oak,
---Discrimination between Edible and
Poisonous Fungi----Of the 1,100 species of gill-bearing Fungi of
the Mushroom type which are native to Great Britain, less than one
hundred are known to be poisonous, though unfortunately these are
mostly very virulent; and so it is essential, before attempting to
enjoy the novelty of a dish of Fungi, to well study descriptions
and figures of both edible and poisonous species, and not attempt
to experiment on any unknown kind, as some of the really good and
edible Fungi unfortunately superficially resemble extremely
There are no absolute general rules by which good or harmless
Fungi can be distinguished, but there should be no difficulty in
recognizing all the best kinds by means of ordinary care. In the
Mushrooms and Toadstools, the gill-bearing Fungi, the colour of the
gills and spores they contain are, for instance, of considerable
importance and must be taken into account in determining a fungus.
Hairs, scales, wool and gluten are found on the stem and cap of
some species and present important data for identification. It must
be noted, also, whether the stem is hollow or solid.
Many of the old statements as to the methods of distinguishing
between edible and poisonous Fungi are quite valueless. It is quite
an erroneous notion that only those Fungi are good to eat which
grow in open places, and also that if the skin of the cap cannot be
peeled off, as in the common Mushroom, a fungus is unfit for food,
for many good species grow in woods (though comparatively few of
these actually grow on trees), and in many excellent species which
are constantly eaten there is no separable cuticle, whereas in
numerous deadly species, it is as readily peeled off as in the
Mushroom. Equally without foundation is the statement that if a
silver spoon placed among Fungi that are cooking turns black, it is
a proof that such Fungi are poisonous.
Good Fungi have usually a pleasant mushroomy odour, some have a
smell of new meal, others a faint anise-like scent or no particular
odour at all. Evil-smelling Fungi are always to be regarded with
distrust. It is a suspicious sign of dangerous qualities, if a
fungus on being cut or bruised quickly turns deep blue or greenish,
also if it is noticed that a small piece broken from a
freshly-gathered fungus when tasted leaves, instead of an
agreeable, nutty flavour, a sharp tingling on the tongue, or is in
any way bitter. All such should be avoided. It is as well, also,
not to eat any Fungi which contain a milky juice which exudes
freely on being cut, without carefully identifying the species
first, as some of these, belonging to the genus Lactarius, are
dangerous, though one of them, distinguished by a reddish juice,
ranks as oneof the best.
The majority are acrid and dangerous, producing severe or even
fatal gastric enteritis, due to the presence of an irritant resin.
As, however, most species are used, when pickled, in considerable
quantities almost indiscriminately by the Russians, it would seem
that the dangerous properties are neutralized by the
The Amanita genus of the large order Agaricaceae was formerly
included in the genus Agaricus, but is now generally recognized to
be quite distinct. It is remarkable for including two
closely-allied species which are respectively one of the best of
our edible species, Amanita rubescens, the Blusher Toadstool, and
certainly our most poisonous species: A. phalloides, the Deadly
Agaric or Death Cap.
Species of Amanita are usually of large size, grown on the
ground and speedily decay after maturity. In the most highly
evolved species, the entire plant when young is enclosed in a
universal veil, which remains intact until the stem, cap and gills
are completely differentiated, when by increase in length of the
stem and the expansion of the cap, it is ruptured, leaving a more
or less loose sheath round the base of the stem called the volva.
The upper part of the universal veil remains on the surface of the
cap, where by the gradual expansion of the same, it is broken up
into irregular patches, which in most cases remain throughout the
life of the fungus, hence one of the popular names Wart Caps. After
the universal veil has been ruptured and the cap has commenced to
expand, the secondary veil, or velum, may be seen as a firm, felted
or interwoven membrane stretched between the upper part of the stem
and the edge or margin of the cap. This secondary veil serves to
protect the gills until the spores are formed, when by the gradual
growth and straightening out of the edge of the cap it breaks away
from the edge of the cap and remains as a ring or collar round the
stem. After these phases of development have passed, the cap
expands to its full size, the stem attains its full length, the
spores mature and are dispersed and the entire fungus rapidly
decays. No other Agarics have a complete volva and ring present.
Although one species of Amanita and various other Fungi possessing
a volva are edible, yet the safest plan for those not familiar to
them is to avoid all species possessing this organ.
The Amanitas may also be distinguished from the mushrooms by
their white lamellae or gills and the relatively thin edge of the
cap. The poisonous Amanitas should not be very liable to be
mistaken for the mushroom, since the top of the cap is usually
coloured, from yellow through shades of orange to red or
occasionally olive brown. A. phalloides, though generally of a pale
primrose yellow, is, however, frequently white, in which case its
other characters must be depended on for recognition. The species,
the Death Cap, is the most fatally poisonous of all Fungi, though
it has a pleasant taste and smell and looks perfectly harmless. Its
volva is partly a ragged, edged, basal cup, partly in scales upon
the top of the cap, one or the other position predominating in
different cases. It has a well-developed, partly drooping, white
veil. It is one of the commonest found in our woods, liking damp
muscaria, the 'Fly Agaric,' is one of our most handsome toadstools.
The cap is large (4 to 6 inches) and spreads out quite
horizontally. It is a brilliant scarlet, studded with scattered
white scales, fragments of the volva in which it was wrapped when
young. The white stem is thick and provided with a prominent ring.
The skin of the cap is viscid, so that d‚bris, such as
pine-needles, stick to it. The gills underneath the cap are white,
It is intensely poisonous and should be handled with great care.
Poison extracted from it was once used for the destruction of flies
and other insects - hence its name. Throughout the autumn, it may
frequently be found, solitary and in groups, in birch and pine
woods, in damp parts. Although justly considered injurious, it is
used as a means of intoxication by the natives of Kamschatka. A.
pantherina is used in Japan for like purposes.
This fungus is used in Homoeopathy as Agaricus or Aga.
Hahnemann, naming it 'Bug Agaric,' described it as 'surmounted with
a scarlet-coloured top with white excrescences and white
Hahnemann's and his students' proving was published in Stapf's
Archives in 1830, with some toxic symptoms, and Aga was included in
Hahnemann's second edition of his Chronic Diseases as one of the
antipsorics, and present-day homoeeopaths assert that its powers
over such chronic affections as chorea and chilblains proves its
right to the title. C. T. Allen (Hom. Rec., March, 1913) has
recorded the power of Aga to clear up certain cataracts. In this he
used sometimes the ordinary preparations of Aga at other times
Agaricin, or Agaric Acid.
Ceasarea (Caesar's Mushroom), largely consumed in Southern Europe,
is closely allied to the poisonous species and shares their general
appearance, and it is in seeking for this that most of the recorded
fatal mistakes are made. Its stem, veil and gills are yellow, and
it has a white volva in the form of a cup.
The nature of Amanita toxin from A. phalloides is not yet
determined, but poisons of a similar nature appear to be widespread
throughout the whole genus.
Poisonous principles in Fungi
The poisonous principles in Fungi may be divided
(1) Those acting purely upon the nerves, as muscarine and
(2) Those that produce local irritation, as various species of
Lactarius and Russula.
(3) Those acting primarily upon the blood, as helvellic acid
The most important constituents are the alkaloid Muscarine,
especially in A. muscaria and the albuminoid Phallin, especially in
A. phalloides, which appears to be related to serpent venom, though
differing in its greater activity when absorbed through the
stomach. The action of A. muscaria depends principally upon the
alkaloid Muscarine, which prolongs the diastolic action of the
heart and acts as a decided depressant upon the vaso-motor system
and the respiratory centre. Muscarine has been employed as a remedy
for epilepsy, but is probably of little value. It has also been
used in the treatment of the nightsweats of phthisis: the reports
as to its effect vary. When poisonous doses are taken, large doses
of atropine should be injected by hypodermic syringe, external heat
applied and the stomach pump or emetics promptly employed.
Purgatives such as castor oil should be freely given as early as
The symptoms produced by poisoning from eating A. phalloides
are usually delayed for nearly twenty-four hours - they consist of
great respiratory and circulatory depression; a cold heavy sweat
breaks out, accompanied by severe headache and delirium often sets
in. Jaundice may occur and a high temperature is frequent.
Sometimes convulsions precede collapse. If Fly Agaric (A. muscaria)
has been eaten, Muscarine poisoning is added to these symptoms,
viz. profuse salivation, contracted pupils and slowing of pulse.
Treatment consists in the administration of stimulants and the
emptying of the alimentary canal by means of promptly-acting
emetics and purges to prevent absorption. Atropine is to be freely
used as an antidote.
The Polyporaceae order of Tube-bearing Fungi includes about
2,000 species, many of which are parasites on trees and destructive
to timber. Some are edible, as Boletus edulis, whereas others are
poisonous, as B. satanus.
The genus Polyporus, which has its pores so closely packed and
united together that they are not easily separable, is a very large
one, containing very varied forms, some succulent, others very hard
and dense, form and colour being as varied as the texture. In most
cases there is no stem, and when present it is often
officinalis was once a celebrated drug, known as White Agaric, or
Larch Agaric, but it is now little used, though it is still to be
obtained in the herbalists' shops. The term 'Agaric' is, of course,
more properly applied to the Fungi of the genus Agaricus (see
above), but in medicine it has long been applied to this species of
fungus, P. officinalis (Fries), syn. B. laricis (Jacqui.), B.
purgans (Person), which is found upon the old trunks of the
European Larch, and Larix siberica (Ledebour) of Asia. The same
species is found upon various coniferous trees in some of the
western United States and in British Columbia. It is stemless, of
various sizes, from that of the fist to that of a child's head or
even larger, hard and spongy, externally brown or reddish, but as
found in commerce, deprived of its outer coat, it consists of a
light, white, spongy somewhat farinaceous mass, which though
capable of being rubbed into powder upon a sieve, is not easily
pulverized in the ordinary way, as it flattens under the pestle.
The best is considered to be that from Siberia, but it is probably
produced wherever the European Larch grows. It is collected in the
autumn, chiefly in the larch forests of Archangel, then dried,
deprived of its firm, upper rind, and exported to
The powdered drug has a faint odour and a sweetish taste, which
is afterwards bitter. It yields to boiling alcohol not less than 50
per cent of a resinous extract, and when burnt yields not more than
2 per cent of a white ash, rich in phosphates. White Agaric owes
its medicinal virtues to Agaric acid, which is also called Laricic
and Agaricinic acid. It contains a small amount of soft resin and
from 4 to 6 per cent of a fatty body. Sodium, Lithium and Bismuth
Agaricinates have been prepared and introduced into
moderate doses, Agaric acid is stated to have no effect upon the
system except to paralyse the nerves of the sweat glands. Large
doses act as an irritant to the stomach and intestines. The most
important use of Agaric is in the treatment of sweats in wasting
conditions such as phthisis. Its value in checking these profuse
sweats has been confirmed by clinical experience. It is used inthe
preparation of Tincture antiperiodica. When Agaric acid is applied
to abraded surfaces or mucous membrane, it acts as a distinct
Agaric growing on the L. leptolepsis, used in Japan as a sacred
medicine, under the name of Toboshi or Eburiko, has been found to
contain Agaric acid.
Under the name of Agaricin are marketed preparations containing
the active Agaric acid with larger or smaller amount of impurities.
The dose of the pure principle is from 1/6 to 1/2 of a
suaveolens (on willows), P. annosus (on birches), P. squamosus and
other species have apparently a similar composition and similar
properties. P. anthelminticus (Chu-tau of the Chinese) is used as a
worm-dispeller. P. hirsutus, or 'Pugak,' and P. tinctorius yield
chirurgorum (SURGEON'S AGARIC, OAK AGARIC, PUNK, TOUCHWOOD) is the
product of P. fomentarius, which is found upon the oak and beech
trees of Europe and is a very different substance, its uses being
mechanical, as tinder, and to staunch bleeding.
is shaped somewhat like the horse's foot, with a diameter of from 6
to 10 inches. It is soft like velvet when young, but afterwards
becomes hard and ligneous. It usually rests immediately upon the
bark of the tree, without any supporting foot-stalk. On the upper
surface, it is smooth, but marked with circular ridges of different
colours, more or less brown or blackish. On the under surface, it
is whitish or yellowish and full of small pores; internally, it is
fibrous, tough and of a tawny brown colour. It is composed of
short, tubular fibres, compactly arranged in layers, one of which
is added every year.
is collected in Central and Southern Europe, in August and
September, chiefly from oak and beech, the best being from oak and
prepared for use by removing the exterior rind and cutting the
inner part into thin slices, which are washed first in weak alkali,
then in water and then beaten with a hammer and worked until they
become soft, pliable and easily torn by the fingers. In this state,
it was formerly much used by surgeons for arresting haemorrhage,
being applied with pressure. When it is steeped in a solution of
nitre and afterwards dried, it constitutes 'Spunk,' 'punk' or
tinder, the Amadou of the French, which occurs in flat pieces, of a
consistence somewhat like that of very soft, rotten buckskin
leather, of a brownishyellow colour, capable of absorbing liquids
and inflammable by the slightest spark. Though as a styptic, it has
now gone out of use, as tinder it is still an article of commerce
and in Northern Europe has been much used by smokers, manufactured
also into fusees, and used to be found here in tobacconists' shops
under the name of Amadou or German tinder.
Among its constituents are extractive, resin (in very similar
proportion), nitrogenous matter, also in small quantity, potassium
chloride and calcium sulphate, and in its ashes are found iron and
calcium and magnesium phosphate.
Similar but harder products are yielded by P. igniarius and P.
marginatus, the former internally rust-brown, or dark
cinnamonbrown, the latter yellowish, but P. fomentarius is
considered to supply the best Amadou.
squamosus, one of the large fan-shaped species with a lateral stem,
that grows mostly on decayed oak trees and becomes very tough, has
often, when carefully dried and cut, been used as a razor strop, P.
betulina, a stemless variety found on birch trees, serving a like
purpose. When quite young, they have been recommended as esculents,
but cannot be said to be excellent.
Many trees, especially beeches, often bear a number of
overlapping sulphur-coloured fungus tufts of the consistency of
mellow cheese. This is P. sulphureus. When wounded, quantities of
yellow juice exude, which has been used for dyeing. When dry, the
fungus becomes covered with beautiful crystals of oxalate of potash
and during decomposition, it is luminous. It is absolutely unfit
The STRIPED STUMP FLAP (Polystictus versicolor), one of our
commonest and most beautiful Fungi, is also poisonous. It has no
stalk, but grows out horizontally in a bracketlike way, layer upon
layer, from trunks and tree-stumps and branches.
The TINDER BRACKET (Fomes fomentarius) is one of the large
Fungi which cause much destruction in beech forests. This species
causes the condition of timber known as white rot. After doing
serious damage to the interior wood, a dark, hoof-shaped knob
bursts through the bark and spreads horizontally into an inverted
bracket, a foot across, with a white layer of spore-bearing tubes
on its flat underside.
much larger beech fungus is the GIANT POLYPORE (P. giganteus), the
largest of our Bracket Fungi, which attacks the roots and base of
the trunks, demoralizing the foundations, so that a huge beech that
appears to have the solidity of a lighthouse, is snapped across in
the first severe gale. The external manifestation of the fungus is
made in autumn, when about twenty handsome, overlapping, fleshy
fans, a foot across, and of a pale brown tint, with darker zones,
make their appearance at the base of the trunk. The pallid
underside of the flaps becomes dark at once when bruised. Its
esculent qualities are appreciated on the Continent.
The JEW'S EAR (Hirneola auricula-Judae) has never been regarded
here as an edible fungus, but in some parts of the world has that
reputation. It is a somewhat gelatinous, flabby thin, expanded
saucer-like fungus of a brownish colour when fresh, more or less
folded, the fructifying surface uppermost, spread all over the
inequalities of the fungus. It is smooth in the inside and veined
or plaited, having some resemblance to the human ear; minutely
velvety outside and greyish olive in colour. It is thin and elastic
when moist, rigid when dry. It varies in size from 1 to 3 inches
across and is attached to the tree-bark by a point at the back,
rather on one side.
Our native species had at one time a reputation for medicinal
qualities and was on that account included in most of the old
Herbals; for its astringent properties it was considered a cure for
sore throats, and because of its faculty of absorbing and holding
water like a sponge, was also used as a medium for applying
eye-water and for similar purposes, but its virtues are no longer
recognized, nor is it here regarded as an article of food, though
it is in all probability edible, but a very closely allied species,
H. polytricha, not uncommon in tropical and sub-tropical countries,
is esteemed as a dainty by the Chinese, under the name of Mu-esh,
and is one of the species of Fungi cultivated in China, where it
grows wild on the bark of the wild cherry, but is cultivated on
rotten poles of the China oak. It is of great commercial
importance, the quantity annually produced being very large. It is
largely used by the Chinese in soups with farinaceous seeds and
also as a medicine, being highly valued. The demand for it is so
large that much is imported into China from the small Pacific
islands and especially from New Zealand, and its collection and
exportation to China adds to the revenue of this part of the
fungus growing on the Elder, Fungus sambuci, has been used as a
local application in conjunctivitis: according to Steckel, it is
capable of taking up from nine to twelve times its weight of water.
(N.R. Pharm., XIII, 476, 1864.)
the PUFF-BALLS (Lycoperdon, Bovista, etc.), belonging to the family
Gasteromycetes, the hymenium remains completely enclosed in a
continuous wall of peridium (Gr. perideo, I wrap round) until the
spores are fully formed, when the peridium is ruptured and the
spore-producing portion of the fungus is enabled to liberate its
spores. In the Puffballs there is a specialized opening or mouth in
the wall of the peridium through which the spores can escape into
the air. There are also present, mixed with the dry mass of spores,
certain very fine, elongated threads or hyphae. This mass of thread
is termed the capillitium, and is considered to assist in the
expulsion of the spores.
The Puff-balls are distinctive enough to be readily recognized.
Although generally wantonly kicked to pieces when found, they can
be used as food, being excellent eating when young. Two species of
Bovista are very common in pastures, resembling small balls, white
when young, which when ripe discharge their dust-like spores from
openings in the top of the peridium. In the GIANT PUFF-BALL (L.
gigantea), instead of there being a well-defined opening at the
apex, the upper part of the wall breaks away in irregular patches.
This giant Puff-ball is often not larger than a moderately-sized
turnip, but the size is very variable, ranging from 4 inches to a
foot in diameter, and specimens are said to have been met with a
yard in diameter. It is usually found singly, or only two or three
together, among grass in pastures, meadows, etc. It forms a
globose, white mass, depressed a little at the top, often puckered
at the base, the wall thick, somewhat downy, becoming smooth and
fragile, breaking away above and leaving a wide, irregular opening.
The base is spongy. The mass of spores is yellow, then olive,
finally brownish olive, the interspersed threads or capillitium,
dark coloured, long and intertwining.
Young Puff-balls in nearly all European countries but our own
are used as food. Cut in slices, about 1/2 inch thick, the outer
skin peeled off, and dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and fried in
butter, with salt and pepper, they are quite palatable and
But it is only in the immature condition, whilst the interior
remains fleshy and perfectly white, that they are edible, and on no
account should any Puff-ball be cooked after the flesh has
commenced discoloration, as poisonous properties are apt to be
developed when old, even before decomposition sets in, so that it
is essential they should be eaten only before the development of
the spores. Gradually the flesh assumes a faint yellow tinge,
deepening to canary yellow and in the dry, powdery condition to a
brownish-olive colour. It is juicy and good about the end of July
or in August, reaching the powdery state in September. The Giant
Puff-ball is said to have been an article of diet among the North
The smaller Puff-balls are not made use of, probably only on
account of their small size, as they are not considered to be
harmful, but the Giant Puff-balls, besides being edible, have been
employed also in other ways.
The Puff-ball has a reputation in country districts for
arresting haemorrhage. In former times, it was not unusual among
cottagers to find the woolly interior mass, with its profusion of
minute, snuff-coloured spores, considered an excellent remedy to
apply for the staunching of blood in wounds, pieces of Puff-ball
being kept year after year for use in case of emergency, being
bound over the wound and allowed to remain until healed. The smoke
from the burning plant has been employed for the purpose of
stupefying bees in order that their honey may be collected without
difficulty. It was formerly thought to contain a narcotic
principle, but it has been determined that the stupefying effect of
the smoke is due to the presence of carbon dioxide. If inhaled in
large amount, it causes anaesthesia and excessive quantities cause
death by respiratory failure. A 25 per cent tincture has been
recommended in 1 drachm doses as a sedative in the treatment of
nervous affections, but the drug is now considered of little
importance in internal medicine. There is a tradition that in the
days of flint and steel, housewives employed the dried substance of
Puff-balls as tinder, Gerard remarking that 'In divers parts of
England, where people dwell farre from neighbours, they carry them
kindled with fire, which lasteth long.'
The spores prove very irritating to the nose and eyes if blown
into the face when dry and powdery.
the family Ascomycetes the spores are produced inside special cells
or asci. The great majority of the species are minute and come
under the definition of microscopic Fungi, and many of these are
parasitic, and in many instances prove very destructive to
cultivated plants: among such are the species causing Apple Scab,
Potato Disease, American Gooseberry Mildew. Though none areknown to
be distinctly poisonous, except the fungus called ERGOT and a few
others, very few are edible, those best known in this country being
the large, fleshy MORELS and the subterranean
Under the name of Lycoperdon Nuts, HART S TRUFFLE, or Deer
Balls, a species closely allied to the Truffles, Elophomyces
granulatus, had formerly some medicinal reputation, the drug being
termed in old Herbals B. cervinus, though it has nothing to do with
the modern genus Boletus, belonging to the tube-bearing order
Polyporaceae. This old-fashioned drug was a few years ago offered
in the London market, but it met with no sale. In the time of Dr.
Pereira (middle of last century) it was stated by him that it was
no longer used in medicine officially, but that he met with it in
the stock of a London herbalist, and it was sold in Covent Garden
as Lycoperdon nuts, so it could not long have gone out of use. It
was formerly used by apothecaries for the preparation of Balsamus
apoplecticus, and great power was ascribed to it in promoting
parturition and the secretion of milk. Parkinson (Theatrum
Botanicum, 1640) says the dose of it is 1 1/2 drachms in powder,
taken in sweet wine. An analysis by Biltz is given by Pereira, from
which it appears to contain a bitter substance in the coat; sugar,
inuline, and various salts of lime and ammonia, and some proteid
substances. An excellent illustration is given of the drug in
Pereira's Materia Medica, Vol. II, Part I, 1850. According to Volg,
Phamacognisie, 1892, it is still used in Central Europe in
veterinary medicine, and Ludwig and Busse (1869) found it to
contain mannite, mycose, pectin, mycogum, mycodextrin and
mycoinulin. The fungus is found in woods under pine-trees from June
to October, and it may usually be detected by the presence of
orange-yellow branched threads or hyphae in the decayed leaf-mould
where it occurs. It is brown and warty, about as large as a walnut,
and purplish-brown internally.
Claviceps, or ERGOT, is one of the few species of Fungi that
has sustained its reputation as a medicine, its value having been
proved to be so considerable that it is official in all
Pharmacopoeias. It is the winter resting stage of Claviceps
purpurea, parasitic on wheat, rye and various other grasses. The
stigmas of the flower of a grass becomes infected by the spores of
the fungus brought by some insect visiting the flower. The spore
germinates on the stigma and the mycelium grows down into the
ovary, where it appropriates the food intended to nourish the grain
or seed that should normally develop there. Instead of this, the
fungus grows out as a long, black, slightly curved body, the
sclerotium (a mass of cells compacted into a solid body), which
bears minute conidia on its surface. These conidia are carried by
insects to other grasses which in turn become infected. When the
grass is ripe, the black sclerotia fall to the ground, where they
remain in an unaltered condition until the following spring, when
they give origin to one or more sub-globose ascophores, or heads
supported on slender stems. Spores produced by these ascophores
escape and are carried by wind, etc., on to the stigmas of grasses
and cereals, and the course of development commences
The firm dark-coloured sclerotium which when mature stands out
conspicuously from the glumes of the ears of rye, constitutes the
drug known as Ergot. It has attained its full development when the
ears of rye have ripened, and is then collected by hand or
separated from the grain, after it has been threshed, by specially
designed machinery. After collection, it is carefully dried, and is
then ready for use.
The drying of Ergot has to be carefully performed. Its quality
is injuriously affected by too great drying, wherefore the official
requirement that it be 'only moderately dried,' whereas incomplete
drying subjects it to danger of mouldiness. Its oil is subject to
rancidity, and insects are very liable to destroy it. The
Pharmacopoeia therefore directs it to be preserved in a close
vessel and a few drops of chloroform added from time to time, and
that it be not used after being kept longer than a year. It is very
prone to chemical change if kept in a damp place.
The chief commercial varieties of the drug are the Russian,
Spanish and German; but Austrian, Swiss, Norwegian and Swedish
Ergots also come into the market occasionally. The Spanish drug is
generally largest and of the finest appearance, but it contains
much starch and is less active than Russian Ergot. The drug is dark
violet-black, tapering towards both ends, longitudinally furrowed,
especially on the concave side, breaks with a short fracture and is
whitish within. The odour and taste are characteristic and
---Constituents---According to the
most recent investigations, Ergot owes its activity to specific
complex alkaloids, Ergotoxine and Ergotamine; in good Ergots the
alkaloidal content may be 0.02. A large number of other substances
have been isolated from Ergot, the most important (quantitatively)
is a fatty oil, which occurs to the extent of 30 to 35 per cent. A
red colouring matter, Sclererythrin, is extracted by alcohol and by
alkalis and serves for the recognition of Ergot in flour. The drug
also contains mannitol, partly combined as a glucoside, and the
sugar trehalose. About 3 per cent of ash is yielded.
---Uses---Ergot stimulates plain
muscle, directly and indirectly throughout the body; its action on
the uterus is like that on other plain muscle, and it is employed
almost entirely to excite uterine contraction in the final stages
of parturition. It is also employed, though rarely, to arrest
internal haemorrhage, but its use should be restricted to cases of
uterine haemorrhage, as it has been found to raise blood pressure
in pulmonary and cerebral haemorrhage.
has a strongly sedative action on the central nervous system and
has proved a useful remedy in delirium tremens and spinal
congestion and has been employed in certain forms of asthma,
hysteria, amenorrhoea and in menstrual disorders. It increases the
secretion of milk and is used to check the night-sweats of
is usually administered in the form of extract (Ergotin), liquid
extract, infusion or ammoniated tincture.
Ergot is scheduled under Part I of the Poisons Act. Its
long-continued use is dangerous, resulting sometimes in gangrene,
and it should only be used in the hands of fully qualified
Sometimes a fatal gangrenous disease, known as Ergotism, has
spread over large districts on the Continent, as if it were a
visitation of the plague, as the result of eating bread made with
grain which has been contaminated by Ergot.
Ergot was in olden times written argot in French, and there is
little doubt that this is the origin of our name, the old French
signification being 'a cock's spur,' to which Ergot has a marked
similarity of form.
The earliest reference to Ergot is found in Loneer's 1582
edition of Rhodion's Kreutterbuch, where the occurrence of Ergot on
rye and its obstetric virtues are mentioned. Camerarius about the
same time stated that it was a popular remedy for accelerating
parturition, and in France and Italy it was in quite general use
for the same purpose for many years before it was employed by
professional physicians. A Dutch physician used it for obstetric
work in 1747; but the first to give it extended trials and to bring
it under the notice of the profession in France was Dr. J. B.
Desgranges of Lyons, in 1777. But it was not until Dr. J. Stearns,
of New York, published his Account of the 'Pulvis Parturiens
(Secale cornutum),' a remedy for quickening childbirth in 1805 that
the knowledge of its value became general among English-speaking
practitioners, and it was not until 1836 that it appeared in the
London Pharmacopoeia, as Ergota: Acinula Clavus
regard to the botanical history of Ergot, it was for a long time
regarded merely as a malformation of the rye, due to luxuriance of
sap or to insect bite. Its fungoid nature was first recognized by
Baron Otto von Munchhausen in a work on Rural Economy, dated 1764.
He placed it between the genera Clavaria and Lycoperdon. De
Candolle definitely classified it as a fungus under the name of
Sclerotium clavus, and Tulasne worked out its life-history and
named it Claviceps purpurea.
Chemical investigations of Ergot go back to the eighteenth
century, but the first of any importance was due to Vauquelin (Ann.
Chim. Phys. 1816), and was doubtless suggested by the introduction
of Ergot into scientific medicine.
Its purely vegetable origin was, however, still disputed, for
Rennie, in the fourth edition (1837) of his New Supplement, after
referring to De Candolle and Fries, adds that he has himself
'ascertained beyond doubt' that it is 'an exudation caused by the
puncture of an insect - namely, Aphis graminis.'
Ergot can also be obtained from wheat and grasses, but that on
Rye is alone official and is distinguished by its size, attaining a
length often double that on other cereals, in which the sclerotium
may not project at all.
Descript : Of
this there are two kinds principally to be treated of, viz. the
Male and Female. The Female grows higher than the Male, but the
leaves thereof are smaller, and more divided and dented, and of as
strong a smell as the male; the virtue of them are both alike, and
therefore I shall not trouble you with any description or
distinction of them.
Place : They
grow both in heaths and in shady places near the hedge-sides in all
counties of this land.
Time : They
flower and give their seed at Midsummer.
The Female Fern
is that plant which is in Sussex, called Brakes, the seed of which
some authors hold to be so rare. Such a thing there is I know, and
may be easily had upon Midsummer Eve, and for ought I know, two or
three days after it, if not more.
virtues : It is under the dominion of Mercury, both Male and
Female. The roots of both these sorts of Fern being bruised and
boiled in Mead, or honeyed water, and drank, kills both the broad
and long worms in the body, and abates the swelling and hardness of
the spleen. The green leaves eaten, purge the belly of choleric and
waterish humours that trouble the stomach. They are dangerous for
women with child to meddle with, by reason they cause abortions.
The roots bruised and boiled in oil, or hog's grease, make a very
profitable ointment to heal wounds, or pricks gotten in the flesh.
The powder of them used in foul ulcers, dries up their malignant
moisture, and causes their speedier healing. Fern being burned, the
smoke thereof drives away serpents, gnats, and other noisome
creatures, which in fenny countries do in the night time, trouble
and molest people lying in their beds with their faces uncovered;
it causes barrenness.
OR WATER FERN
Descript : This
shoots forth in Spring time (for in the Winter the leaves perish)
divers rough hard stalks, half round, and yellowish, or flat on the
other side, two feet high, having divers branches of winged
yellowish green leaves on all sides, set one against another,
longer, narrower, and not nicked on the edges as the former. From
the top of some of these stalks grow forth a long bush of small and
more yellow, green, scaly aglets, set in the same manner on the
stalks as the leaves are, which are accounted the flowers and
seeds. The root is rough, thick and scabby: with a white pith in
the middle, which is called the heart thereof.
Place : It
grows on moors, bogs, and watery places, in many parts of this
Time : It is
green all the summer, and the root only abides in
virtues : Saturn owns the plant. This has all the virtues mentioned
in the former Ferns, and is much more effectual than they, both for
inward and outward griefs, and is accounted singularly good in
wounds, bruises, or the like. The decoction to be drank, or boiled
into an ointment of oil, as a balsam or balm, and so it is
singularly good against bruises, and bones broken, or out of joint,
and gives much ease to the cholic and splenetic diseases: as also
for ruptures or burstings. The decoction of the root in white wine,
provokes urine exceedingly, and cleanses the bladder and passages
Common Featherfew has large, fresh, green leaves, much torn or cut
on the edges. The stalks are hard and round, set with many such
like leaves, but smaller, and at the tops stand many single
flowers, upon small foot stalks, consisting of many small white
leaves standing round about a yellow thrum in the middle. The root
is somewhat hard and short, with many strong fibres about it. The
scent of the whole plant is very strong, and the taste is very
Place : This
grows wild in many places of the land, but is for the most part
nourished in gardens.
Time : It
flowers in the months of June and July.
virtues : Venus commands this herb, and has commended it to succour
her sisters (women) and to be a general strengthener of their
wombs, and remedy such infirmities as a careless midwife hath there
caused; if they will but be pleased to make use of her herb boiled
in white wine, and drink the decoction; it cleanses the womb,
expels the after-birth, and doth a woman all the good she can
desire of an herb. And if any grumble because they cannot get the
herb in winter, tell them, if they please, they may make a syrup of
it in summer; it is chiefly used for the disease of the mother,
whether it be the strangling or rising of the mother, or hardness,
or inflammation of the same, applied outwardly there-unto. Or a
decoction of the flowers in wine, with a little Nutmeg or Mace put
therein, and drank often in a day, is an approved remedy to bring
down women's courses speedily, and helps to expel the dead birth
and after-birth. For a woman to sit over the hot fumes of the
decoction of the herb made in water or wine, is effectual for the
same; and in some cases to apply the boiled herb warm to the privy
parts. The decoction thereof made with some sugar, or honey put
thereto, is used by many with good success to help the cough and
stuffing of the chest, by colds, as also to cleanse the reins and
bladder, and helps to expel the stone in them. The powder of the
herb taken in wine, with some Oxymel, purges both choler and
phlegm, and is available for those that are short winded, and are
troubled with melancholy and heaviness, or sadness of spirits. It
is very effectual for all pains in the head coming of a cold cause,
the herb being bruised and applied to the crown of the head. As
also for the vertigo, that is a running or swimming in the head.
The decoction thereof drank warm, and the herb bruised with a few
corns of Bay salt, and applied to the wrists before the coming of
the ague fits, doth take them away. The distilled water takes away
freckles, and other spots and deformities in the face. The herb
bruised and heated on a tile, with some wine to moisten it, or
fried with a little wine and oil in a frying-pan, and applied warm
out-wardly to the places, helps the wind and cholic in the lower
part of the belly. It is an especial remedy against opium taken too
affords this so plentifully, that it needs no
virtues : One good old fashion is not yet left off, viz. to boil
Fennel with fish; for it consumes that phlegmatic humour, which
fish most plentifully afford and annoy the body with, though few
that use it know wherefore they do it. I suppose the reason of its
benefit this way is because it is an herb of Mercury, and under
Virgo, and therefore bears antipathy to Pisces. Fennel is good to
break wind, to provoke urine, and ease the pains of the stone, and
helps to break it. The leaves or seed, boiled in barley water and
drank are good for nurses, to increase their milk, and make it more
wholesome for the child. The leaves, or rather the seeds, boiled in
water, stays the hiccough, and takes away the loathings which
oftentimes happen to the stomachs of sick and feverish persons, and
allays the heat thereof. The seed boiled in wine and drank, is good
for those that are bitten with serpents, or have eaten poisonous
herbs, or mushrooms. The seed and the roots much more, help to open
obstructions of the liver, spleen, and gall, and thereby help the
painful and windy swellings of the spleen, and the yellow jaundice;
as also the gout and cramps. The seed is of good use in medicines
to help shortness of breath and wheezing by stopping of the lungs.
It helps also to bring down the courses, and to cleanse the parts
after delivery. The roots are of most use in physic drinks, and
broth that are taken to cleanse the blood, to open obstructions of
the liver, so provoke urine, and amend the ill colour in the face
after sickness, and to cause a good habit through the body. Both
leaves, seeds, and roots thereof are much used in drink or broth,
to make people more lean that are too fat. The distilled water of
the whole herb, or the condensate juice dissolved, but especially
the natural juice, that in some counties issues out hereof of its
own accord, dropped into the eyes, cleanses them from mists and
films that hinder the sight. The sweet Fennel is much weaker in
physical uses than the common Fennel. The wild Fennel is stronger
and hotter than the tame, and therefore most powerful against the
stone, but not so effectual to encrease milk, because of its
common name in English, Hog's Fennel, and the Latin name
Peucidanum, is called Hoar-strange, and Hoar-strong, Sulphur-wort,
Descript : The
common Sow-Fennel has divers branched stalks of thick and somewhat
long leaves, three for the most part joined together at a place,
among which arises a crested straight stalk, less than Fennel, with
some joints thereon, and leaves growing thereat, and towards the
tops some branches issuing from thence; likewise on the tops of the
stalks and branches stand divers tufts of yellow flowers,
whereafter grows somewhat flat, thin, and yellowish seed, bigger
than Fennel seed. The roots grow great and deep, with many other
parts and fibres about them of a strong scent like hot brimstone,
and yield forth a yellowish milk, or clammy juice, almost like a
Place : It
grows plentifully in the salt low marshes near Faversham in
Time : It
flowers plentifully in July and August.
virtues : This is also an herb of Mercury. The juice of Sow-Fennel
(saith Dioscorides, and Galen,) used with vinegar and rose water,
or the juice with a little Euphorbium put to the nose, helps those
that are troubled with the lethargy, frenzy, giddiness of the head,
the falling sickness, long and inveterate head-aches, the palsy,
sciatica, and the cramp, and generally all the diseases of the
sinews, used with oil and vinegar. The juice dissolved in wine, or
put into an egg, is good for a cough, or shortness of breath, and
for those that are troubled with wind in the body. It purges the
belly gently, expels the hardness of the spleen, gives ease to
women that have sore travail in child-birth, and eases the pains of
the reins and bladder, and also the womb. A little of the juice
dissolved in wine, and dropped into the ears, eases much of the
pains in them, and put into a hollow tooth, eases the pain thereof.
The root is less effectual to all the aforesaid disorders; yet the
powder of the root cleanses foul ulcers, being put into them, and
takes out splinters of broken bones, or other things in the flesh,
and heals them up perfectly: as also, dries up old and inveterate
running sores, and is of admirable virtue in all green
Common great Fig-wort sends divers great, strong, hard, square
brown stalks, three or four feet high, whereon grow large, hard,
and dark green leaves, two at a joint, harder and larger than
Nettle leaves, but not stinking; at the tops of the stalks stand
many purple flowers set in husks, which are sometimes gaping and
open, somewhat like those of Water Betony; after which come hard
round heads, with a small point in the middle, wherein lie small
brownish seed. The root is great, white, and thick, with many
branches at it, growing aslope under the upper crust of the ground,
which abides many years, but keeps not his green leaves in
Place : It
grows frequently in moist and shadowy woods, and in the lower parts
of the fields and meadows.
Time : It
flowers about July, and the seed will be ripe about a month after
the flowers are fallen.
virtues : Some Latin authors call it Cervicaria, because it is
appropriated to the neck; and we Throat-wort, because it is
appropriated to the throat. Venus owns the herb, and the Celestial
Bull will not deny it; therefore a better remedy cannot be for the
king's evil, because the Moon that rules the disease, is exalted
there. The decoction of the herb taken inwardly, and the bruised
herb applied outwardly, dissolves clotted and congealed blood
within the body, coming by any wounds, bruise or fall; and is no
less effectual for the king's evil, or any other knobs, kernel,
bunches, or wens growing in the flesh wheresoever; and for the
hæmorrhoids, or piles. An ointment made hereof may be used at all
times when the fresh herb is not to be had. The distilled water of
the whole plant, roots and all, is used for the same purposes, and
dries up the superfluous, virulent moisture of hollow and corroding
ulcers; it takes away all redness, spots, and freckles in the face,
as also the scurf, and any foul deformity therein, and the leprosy
Descript : This
sends forth many leaves, some larger, some smaller, set on each
side of a middle rib, and each of them dented about the edges,
somewhat resembling wild Tansy, or rather Agrimony, but harder in
handling; among which rise up one or more stalks, two or three feet
high, with the leaves growing thereon, and sometimes also divided
into other branches spreading at the top into many white,
sweet-smelling flowers, consisting of five leaves a-piece, with
some threads in the middle of them, standing together in a pith or
umble, each upon a small foot stalk, which after they have been
blown upon a good while, do fall away, and in their places appear
small, round, chaffy heads like buttons, wherein are the chaffy
seeds set and placed. The root consists of many small, black,
tuberous pieces, fastened together by many small, long, blackish
strings, which run from one to another.
Place : It
grows in many places of this land, in the corners of dry fields and
meadows, and the hedge sides.
Time : They
flower in June and July, and their seed is ripe in
virtues : It is under the dominion of Venus. It effectually opens
the passages of the urine, helps the stranguary; the stone in the
kidneys or bladder, the gravel, and all other pains of the bladder
and reins, by taking the roots in powder, or a decoction of them in
white wine, with a little honey. The roots made into powder, and
mixed with honey in the form of an electuary, doth much help them
whose stomachs are swollen, dissolving and breaking the wind which
was the cause thereof; and is also very effectual for all the
diseases of the lungs, as shortness of breath, wheezing, hoarseness
of the throat, and the cough; and to expectorate tough phlegm, or
any other parts thereabout.
To give a
description of a tree so well known to every body that keep it in
his garden, were needless. They prosper very well in our English
gardens, yet are fitter for medicine than for any other profit
which is gotten by the fruit of them.
virtues : The tree is under the dominion of Jupiter. The milk that
issues out from the leaves or branches where they are broken off,
being dropped upon warts, takes them away. The decoction of the
leaves is excellently good to wash sore heads with: and there is
scarcely a better remedy for the leprosy than it is. It clears the
face also of morphew, and the body of white scurf, scabs, and
running sores. If it be dropped into old fretting ulcers, it
cleanses out the moisture, and brings up the flesh; because you
cannot have the leaves green all the year, you may make an ointment
of them whilst you can. A decoction of the leaves being drank
inwardly, or rather a syrup made of them, dissolves congealed blood
caused by bruises or falls, and helps the bloody flux. The ashes of
the wood made into an ointment with hog's grease, helps kibes and
chilblains. The juice being put into an hollow tooth, eases pain:
as also pain and noise in the ears, being dropped into them; and
deafness. An ointment made of the juice and hog's grease, is an
excellent remedy for the bitten of mad dogs, or other venomous
beasts as most are. A syrup made of the leaves, or green fruit, is
excellently good for coughs, hoarseness, or shortness of breath,
and all diseases of the breast and lungs; it is also extremely good
for the dropsy and falling sickness. They say that the Fig Tree, as
well as the Bay Tree, is never hurt by lightning; as also, if you
tie a bull, be he ever so mad, to a Fig Tree, he will quickly
become tame and gentle. As for such figs as come from beyond sea, I
have little to say, because I write not of exoticks.
WATER-FLAG, OR FLOWER-DE-LUCE
Descript : This
grows like the Flower-de-luce, but it has much longer and narrower
sad green leaves, joined together in that fashion; the stalk also
growing oftentimes as high, bearing small yellow flowers shaped
like the Flower-de-luce, with three falling leaves, and other three
arched that cover their bottoms; but instead of the three upright
leaves, as the Flower-de-luce has, this has only three short pieces
standing in their places, after which succeed thick and long three
square heads, containing in each part somewhat big and flat seed,
like those of the Flower-de-luce. The root is long and slender, of
a pale brownish colour on the outside, and of a horse-flesh colour
on the inside, with many hard fibres thereat, and very harsh in
Place : It
usually grows in watery ditches, ponds, lakes, and moor sides,
which are always overflowed with water.
Time : It
flowers in July, and the seed is ripe in August.
virtues : It is under the dominion of the Moon. The root of this
Water-flag is very astringent, cooling, and drying; and thereby
helps all lasks and fluxes, whether of blood or humours, as
bleeding at the mouth, nose, or other parts, bloody flux, and the
immoderate flux of women's courses. The distilled water of the
whole herb, flowers and roots, is a sovereign good remedy for
watering eyes, both to be dropped into them, and to have cloths or
sponges wetted therein, and applied to the forehead. It also helps
the spots and blemishes that happen in and about the eyes, or in
any other parts. The said water fomented on swellings and hot
inflammations of women's breasts, upon cancers also, and those
spreading ulcers called Noli me tangere, do much good. It helps
also foul ulcers in the privities of man or woman; but an ointment
made of the flowers is better for those external
Descript : Our
common Flax-weed has divers stalks full fraught with long and
narrow ash-coloured leaves, and from the middle of them almost
upward, stored with a number of pale yellow flowers, of a strong
unpleasant scent, with deeper yellow mouths, and blackish flat seed
in round heads. The root is somewhat woody and white, especially
the main downright one, with many fibres, abiding many years,
shooting forth roots every way round about, and new branches every
Place : This
grows throughout this land, both by the way sides and in meadows,
as also by hedge-sides, and upon the sides of banks, and borders of
Time : It
flowers in Summer, and the seed is ripe usually before the end of
virtues : Mars owns the herb. In Sussex we call it Gallwort, and
lay it in our chicken's water to cure them of the gall; it relieves
them when they are drooping. This is frequently used to spend the
abundance of those watery humours by urine which cause the dropsy.
The decoction of the herb, both leaves and flowers, in wine, taken
and drank, doth somewhat move the belly downwards, opens
obstructions of the liver, and helps the yellow jaundice; expels
poison, provokes women's courses, drives forth the dead child, and
after-birth. The distilled water of the herb and flowers is
effectual for all the same purposes; being drank with a dram of the
powder of the seeds of bark or the roots of Wall-wort, and a little
Cinnamon, for certain days together, it is held a singular remedy
for the dropsy. The juice of the herb, or the distilled water,
dropped into the eyes, is a certain remedy for all heat,
inflammation, and redness in them. The juice or water put into foul
ulcers, whether they be cancerous or fistulous, with tents rolled
therein, or parts washed and injected therewith, cleanses them
thoroughly from the bottom, and heals them up safely. The same
juice or water also cleanses the skin wonderfully of all sorts of
deformity, as leprosy, morphew, scurf, wheals, pimples, or spots,
applied of itself, or used with some powder of
Ordinary Flea-wort rises up with a stalk two feet high or more,
full of joints and branches on every side up to the top, and at
every joint two small, long and narrow whitish green leaves
somewhat hairy. At the top of every branch stand divers small,
short scaly, or chaffy heads out of which come forth small whitish
yellow threads, like to those of the Plantain herbs, which are the
bloomings of flowers. The seed enclosed in these heads is small and
shining while it is fresh, very like unto fleas both for colour and
bigness, but turning black when it grows old. The root is not long,
but white, hard and woody, perishing every year, and rising again
of its own seed for divers years, if it be suffered to shed. The
whole plant is somewhat whitish and hairy, smelling somewhat like
another sort hereof, differing not from the former in the manner of
growing, but only that the stalk and branches being somewhat
greater, do a little more bow down to the ground. The leaves are
somewhat greater, the heads somewhat less, the seed alike; and the
root and leaves abide all winter, and perish not as the
Place : The
first grows only in gardens, the second plentifully in fields that
are near the sea.
Time : They
flower in July or thereabouts.
virtues : The herb is cold, and dry, and saturnine. I suppose it
obtained the name of Flea-wort, because the seeds are so like
Fleas. The seeds fried, and taken, stays the flux or lask of the
belly, and the corrosions that come by reason of hot choleric, or
sharp and malignant humours, or by too much purging of any violent
medicine, as Scammony, or the like. The mucilage of the seed made
with Rose-water, and a little sugar-candy put thereto, is very good
in all hot agues and burning fevers, and other inflammations, to
cool the thirst, and lenify the dryness and roughness of the tongue
and throat. It helps also hoarseness of the voice, and diseases of
the breast and lungs, caused by heat, or sharp salt humours, and
the pleurisy also. The mucilage of the seed made with Plantain
water, whereunto the yoke of an egg or two, and a little Populeon
are put, is a most safe and sure remedy to ease the sharpness,
pricking, and pains of the hæmorrhoids or piles, if it be laid on
cloth, and bound thereto. It helps all inflammations in any part of
the body, and the pains that come thereby, as the headache and
megrims, and all hot imposthumes, swellings, or breaking out of the
skin, as blains, wheals, pushes, purples, and the like, as also the
joints of those that are out of joint, the pains of the gout and
sciatica, the burstings of young children, and the swellings of the
navel, applied with oil of roses and vinegar. It is also good to
heal the nipples and sore breasts of women, being often applied
there-unto. The juice of the herb with a little honey put into the
ears helps the running of them, and the worms breeding in them. The
same also mixed with hog's grease, and applied to corrupt and
filthy ulcers, cleanses them and heals them.
Descript : It
rises up with a round upright hard stalk, four or five feet high,
spread into sundry branches, whereon grow many greyish green
leaves, very finely cut and severed into a number of short and
almost round parts. The flowers are very small and yellow, growing
spike fashion, after which come small long pods, with small
yellowish seed in them. The root is long and woody, perishing every
another sort, differing in nothing, save only it has somewhat broad
leaves; they have a strong evil savour, being smelled unto, and are
of a drying taste.
Place : They
flower wild in the fields by hedge-sides and highways, and among
rubbish and other places.
Time : They
flower and seed quickly after, namely in June and
virtues : This herb is saturnine also. Both the herb and seed of
Flux-weed is of excellent use to stay the flux or lask of the
belly, being drank in water wherein gads of steel heated have been
often quenched; and is no less effectual for the same purpose than
Plantain or Comfrey, and to restrain any other flux of blood in man
or woman, as also to consoladate bones broken or out of joint. The
juice thereof drank in wine, or the decoction of the herb drank,
doth kill the worms in the stomach or belly, or the worms that grow
in putrid and filthy ulcers, and made into a salve doth quickly
heal all old sores, how foul or malignant soever they be. The
distilled water of the herb works the same effect, although
somewhat weaker, yet it is a fair medicine, and more acceptable to
be taken. It is called Flux-weed because it cures the flux, and for
its uniting broken bones, &c. Paracelsus extol it to the skies.
It is uniting broken bones, &c. Paracelsus extol it to the
skies. It is fitting that syrup, ointment, and plaisters of it were
kept in your house.
It is so well
known, being nourished up in most gardens, that I shall not need to
spend time in writing a description thereof.
Time : The
flaggy kinds thereof have the most physical uses; the dwarf kinds
thereof flowers in April, the greater sorts in May.
virtues : The herb is Luner. The juice or decoction of the green
root of the flaggy kind of Flower-de-luce, with a little drank,
doth purge and cleanse the stomach of gross and tough phlegm, and
choler therein; it helps the jaundice and the dropsy, evacuating
those humours both upwards and downwards; and because it somewhat
hurts the stomach, is not to be taken without honey and spikenard.
The same being drank, doth ease the pains and torments of the belly
and sides, the shaking of agues, the diseases of the liver and
spleen, the worms of the belly, the stone in the reins, convulsions
and cramps that come of old humours; it also helps those whose seed
passes from them unawares. It is a remedy against the bitings and
stingings of venomous creatures being boiled in water and vinegar
and drank. Boiled in water and drank, it provokes urine, helps the
cholic, brings down women's courses; and made up into a pessary
with honey, and put up into the body, draws forth the dead child.
It is much commended against the cough, to expectorate rough
phlegm. It much eases pains in the head, and procures sleep; being
put into the nostrils it procures sneezing, and thereby purges the
head of phlegm. The juice of the root applied to the piles or
hæmorrhoids, gives much ease. The decoction of the roots gargled in
the mouth, eases the tooth-ache, and helps the stinking breath. Oil
called Oleum Irinum, if it be rightly made of the great broad flag
Flower-de-luce and not of the great bulbous blue Flower-de-luce,
(as is used by some apothecaries) and roots of the same, of the
flaggy kinds, is very effectual to warm and comfort all cold joints
and sinews, as also the gout and sciatica, and mollifies, dissolves
and consumes tumours and swellings in any part of the body, as also
of the matrix; it helps the cramp, or convulsions of the sinews.
The head and temples anointed therewith, helps the catarrh or thin
rheum distilled from thence; and used upon the breast or stomach,
helps to extenuate the cold tough phlegm; it helps also the pains
and noise in the ears, and the stench of the nostrils. The root
itself, either green or in powder, helps to cleanse, heal, and
incarnate wounds, and to cover the naked bones with flesh again,
that ulcers have made bare; and is also very good to cleanse and
heal up fistulas and cankers that are hard to be
Descript : It
shoots forth many long branches partly lying upon the ground, and
partly standing upright, set with almost red leaves, yet a little
pointed, and sometimes more long than round, without order thereon,
somewhat hairy, and of an evil greenish white colour; at the joints
all along the stalks, and with the leaves come forth small flowers,
one at a place, upon a very small short foot-stalk, gaping somewhat
like Snapdragons, or rather like Toad-flax, with the upper jaw of a
yellow colour, and the lower of a purplish, with a small heel or
spur behind; after which come forth small round heads, containing
small black seed. The root is small and thready, dying every year,
and rises itself again of its own sowing.
another sort of Lluellin which has longer branches wholly trailing
upon the ground, two or three feet long, and somewhat more thin,
set with leaves thereon, upon small foot-stalks. The leaves are a
little larger, and somewhat round, and cornered sometimes in some
places on the edges; but the lower part of them being the broadest,
hath on each side a small point, making it seem as if they were
ears, sometimes hairy, but not hoary, and of a better green colour
than the former. The flowers come forth like the former, but the
colours therein are more white than yellow, and the purple not so
far. It is a large flower, and so are the seed and seedvessels. The
root is like the other, and perishes every year.
Place : They
grow in divers corn fields, and in borders about them, and in other
fertile grounds about Southfleet in Kent abundantly; at Buchrite,
Hamerton, and Rickmanworth in Huntingdonshire, and in divers other
Time : They are
in flower about June and July, and the whole plant is dry and
withered before August be done.
virtues : It is a Lunar herb. The leaves bruised and applied with
barley meal to watering eyes that are hot and inflamed by
defluxions from the head, do very much help them, as also the
fluxes of blood or humours, as the lask, bloody flux, women's
courses, and stays all manner of bleeding at the nose, mouth, or
any other place, or that comes by any bruise or hurt, or bursting a
vein; it wonderfully helps all those inward parts that need
consolidating or strengthening, and is no less effectual both to
heal and close green wounds, than to cleanse and heal all foul or
old ulcers, fretting or spreading cankers or the like. This herb is
of a fine cooling, drying quality, and an ointment or plaister of
it might do a man a courtesy that hath any hot virulent sores. 'Tis
admirable for the ulcers of the French pox; if taken inwardly, may
cure the desease.
Descript : It
has many long and broad leaves lying upon the ground dented upon
the edges, a little soft or woolly, and of a hoary green colour,
among which rise up sometimes sundry stalks, but one very often,
bearing such leaves thereon from the bottom to the middle, from
whence to the top it is stored with large and long hollow reddish
purple flowers, a little more long and eminent at the lower edge,
with some white spots within them, one above another with small
green leaves at every one, but all of them turning their heads one
way, and hanging downwards, having some threads also in the middle,
from whence rise round heads, pointed sharp at the ends, wherein
small brown seed lies. The roots are so many small fibres, and some
greater strings among them; the flowers have no scent, but the
leaves have a bitter hot taste.
Place : It
grows on dry sandy ground for the most part, and as well on the
higher as the lower places under hedge-sides in almost every county
of this land.
Time : It
seldom flowers before July, and the seed is ripe in
virtues : The plant is under the dominion of Venus, being of a
gentle cleansing nature, and withal very friendly to nature. The
herb is familiarly and frequently used by the Italians to heal any
fresh or green wound, the leaves being but bruised and bound
thereon; and the juice thereof is also used in old sores, to
cleanse, dry, and heal them. The decoction hereof made up with some
sugar or honey, is available to cleanse and purge the body both
upwards and downwards, sometimes of tough phlegm and clammy
humours, and to open obstructions of the liver and spleen. It has
been found by experience to be available for the king's evil, the
herb bruised and applied, or an ointment made with the juice
thereof, and so used; and a decoction of two handfuls thereof, with
four ounces of Polipody in ale, has been found by late experience
to cure divers of the falling sickness, that have been troubled
with it above twenty years. I am confident that an ointment of it
is one of the best remedies for scabby head that is.
Descript : Our
common Fumitory is a tender sappy herb, sends forth from one
square, a slender weak stalk, and leaning downwards on all sides,
many branches two or three feet long, with finely cut and jagged
leaves of a whitish or rather bluish sea green colour. At the tops
of the branches stand many small flowers, as it were in a long
spike one above another, made like little birds, of a reddish
purple colour, with whitish bellies, after which come small round
husks, containing small black seeds. The root is yellow, small, and
not very long, full of juice while it is green, but quickly
perishes with the ripe seed. In the corn fields in Cornwall, it
bears white flowers.
Place : It
grows in corn fields almost every where, as well as in
Time : It
flowers in May, for the most part, and the seed ripens shortly
virtues : Saturn owns the herb, and presents it to the world as a
cure for his own disease, and a strengthener of the parts of the
body he rules. If by my astrological judgment of diseases, from the
decumbiture, you find Saturn author of the disease, or if by
direction from a nativity you fear a saturnine disease approaching,
you may by this herb prevent it in the one, and cure it in the
other, and therefore it is fit you keep a syrup of it always by
you. The juice or syrup made thereof, or the decoction made in whey
by itself, with some other purging or opening herbs and roots to
cause it to work the better (itself being but weak) is very
effectual for the liver and spleen, opening the obstructions
thereof, and clarifying the blood from saltish, choleric, and adust
humours, which cause leprosy, scabs, tetters, and itches, and such
like breakings-out of the skin, and after the purgings doth
strengthen all the inward parts. It is also good against the
yellow-jaundice, and spends it by urine, which it procures in
abundance. The powder of the dried herb given for some time
together, cures melancholy, but the seed is strongest in operation
for all the former diseases. The distilled water of the herb is
also of good effect in the former diseases, and conduces much
against the plague and pestilence, being taken with good treacle.
The distilled water also, with a little water and honey of roses,
helps all sores of the mouth or throat, being gargled often
therewith. The juice dropped into the eyes, clears the sight and
takes away redness and other defects in them, although it procure
some pain for the present, and cause tears. Dioscorides saith it
hinders any fresh springing of hairs on the eye-lids (after they
are pulled away) if the eye-lids be anointed with the juice hereof,
with Gum Arabic dissolved therein. The juice of the Fumitory and
Docks mingled with vinegar, and the places gently washed therewith,
cures all sorts of scabs, pimples, blotches, wheals, and pushes
which arise on the face or hands or any other parts of the
It is as well
known by this name, as it is in some counties by the name of Gorz
or Whins, that I shall not need to write any description thereof,
my intent being to teach my countrymen what they know not, rather
than to tell them again of that which is general known
Place : They
are known to grow on dry barren heaths, and other waste, gravelly
or sandy grounds, in all counties of this land.
Time : They
also flower in the Summer months.
virtues : Mars owns the herb. They are hot and dry, and open
obstructions of the liver and spleen. A decoction made with the
flowers thereof hath been found effectual against the jaundice, as
also to provoke urine, and cleanse the kidneys from gravel or stone
ingendered in them. Mars doth also this by sympathy.