Herbs & Oils
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IVY: (Hedera helix) A Druid Sacred Herb.
An ancient plant, believed by the Greeks to treat intoxication, its
toxic leaves are used as a poultice to soothe neuralgia,
rheumatism, and sciatica, and in a tincture for toothache and
whooping cough. They reduce fevers, expel worms and in a compress,
reduce cellulite. They contain saponins and in solution, darken
hair, blacken silk and taffeta. Ivy leaves kill some amoebas, fungi
twigs are simmered in salves to heal sunburn; follow the standard
instruction for salves. The leaves are used as a douche for vaginal
infections. Externally, ivy is used in poultices to heal nerves,
sinews, ulcers, enlarged glands, boils and abscesses.
Parts Used: Twig and leaf
Magical Uses: Connected with the Winter Solstice
when it is used for decorating. Ivy provides protection when
growing on or near a house. Ivy is equated with fidelity and is
woven into marriage wreaths. Use in charms to bind luck, love, and
fidelity to your person. It is paired with holly, magically. Ivy is
carried by women for good luck in general, and is worn by brides
for the same reason. Traditional crowns for the bride and groom are
made of holly (a male plant) and ivy (a female plant). Wreaths and
altar decorations are made from these as well.
See Moss, Iceland.
Strychnos Ignatii (BERG.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
Preparations and Dodages
---Synonyms---Faba Ignatic. Ignatia amara (Linn.).
Used---Ripe dried seeds.
large woody climbing shrub, introduced into Cochin China, and
highly esteemed there as a medicine. It attracted the attention of
the Jesuits, hence its name. In commerce the beans are about one
full inch long; ovate, a dull blacky brown colour, very hard and
horny, covered in patches with silvery adpressed hairs; endosperm
translucent, enclosing an irregular cavity with an oblong embryo;
no odour; taste extremely bitter. Each fruit contains about twelve
to twenty seeds embedded in the pulp from which they have to be
---Constituents---The beans have the same properties as Nux
Vomica, but contain more strychnine, also brucine, a volatile
principle extractive, gum, resin, colouring matter, a fixed oil,
and bassorin; they contain no albumen or starch.
and Uses---Tonic and stimulant in action like Nux Vomica, which,
being cheaper, is nearly always used as a substitute. Old writers
lauded these beans as a remedy against cholera. They are useful in
certain forms of heart trouble, but must be used with the greatest
caution, as they are a very active and powerful
as for strychnine, chloroform, belladonna, aconite, tobacco,
chloral hydrate 1 drachm doses, morphia.
Dosages---Tincture of Ignatia, 5 to 20 minims. Alkaline Tincture of
Ignatia (syn. Goute Ameres de Beaume), 5 to 20 minims.
See Hemp, Indian.
Gillenia trifoliata (MOENCH.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Bowman's Root. American Ipecacuanha. Gillenia.
Indian Hippo. Spiraea trifoliata. Spiraea stipulata.
---Habitat---Eastern United States.
perennial herb, indigenous to the United States, its irregular,
brownish root gives rise to several stems 2 or 3 feet in height,
and has depending from it many long, thin fibres. The leaves and
leaflets are of various shapes, and the white, reddish-tinged
flowers grow in a few loose, terminal panicles.
root is reddish brown, the bark being easily removed and
pulverized. Within, it is light, ligneous, and comparatively inert.
The bitterness of the bark is extracted by alcohol, or by water at
212 degrees F., to which a red colour is given.
well in the author's garden, in slightly moist, rich soil, not in
the full blaze of the mid-day sun.
---Constituents---The roots have been found to contain gum,
starch, gallotannic acid, fatty matter, wax, resin, lignin,
albumen, salts and colouring matter.
was obtained by W. B. Stanhope by exhausting coarsely powdered bark
with alcohol, evaporating the resulting red tincture to the
consistency of an extract, dissolving this in cold water,
filtering, evaporating, and finally drying on glass.
grain caused nausea and retching.
glucosides were found, Gillein, from the ethereal extract, and
Gilleenin, from the aqueous infusion.
and Uses---Tonic, emetic, slightly diaphoretic, cathartic, and
expectorant. The American Indians and early colonists knew the uses
of the roots, the action of which resembles
Recommended in dyspepsia, dropsy, rheumatism, chronic
costiveness, and whenever an emetic is required. It is safe and
powdered root, as an emetic, 20 to 30 grains. In dyspepsia, as a
tonic, 2 to 4 grains. As a sudorific, in cold water, 6 grains at
intervals of two or three hours. It may be combined with opium.
Frequent large doses of the infusion cause vomiting and
stipulata, taller and more bushy,with fewer flowers and roots more
like those of Ipecac; grows as far west as Kansas.
equally with G. trifoliata, the source of Gillenia.
---Habitat---India; cultivated in sub-tropical
---Description---A blue dyestuff is obtained from the various
species of Indigofera. It does not exist ready formed, but is
produced during fermentation from another agent existing in the
plant. This is called Indocan, and is yellow, amorphous, of a
nauseous bitter taste with an acid reaction; readily soluble in
water, alcohol and ether.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Indigo was at one time much used
in medicine, but now is rarely employed. It is said to produce
nausea and vomiting.
It is a
very well-known and highly important dye, millions of pounds being
exported from India annually.
artificial product, Indigotine, is manufactured chemically and used
as a substitute.
Baptisia tinctoria (R. BR.)
---Synonyms---Baptisia. Horse-fly Weed. Rattlebush.
Indigo-weed. Sophora tinctoria (Linn.). Podalyria tinctoria
Used---Root, bark, leaves.
---Habitat---Dry hily woods from Canada to
---Description---An herbaceous perennial which takes its name
from the Greek Bapto (to dye); has a black woody root, yellowish
internally with many rootlets; stem about 3 feet high smooth,
glabrous, round, and branched; leaves, small, subsessile, alternate
and palmately trifoliate; leaflets rounded at end; calyx
four-cleft; flowers, yellow, blooming August and September, in
small loose terminal racemes. Legume short, bluish-black seeds,
---Constituents---The root is non-odorous and of a nauseous
acrid taste, containing gum, albumen, starch, a yellowish resin and
a crystalline substance.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Used internally in form of
decoction or syrup in scarlatina, typhus, and in all cases where
there is a tendency to putrescency; it is purgative, emetic,
stimulant, astringent, and antiseptic, principally used for its
---Dosage---Of the decoction, 1 tablespoonful. Fluid extract,
1/4 to 1/2 drachm. Baptisin, 1 to 3 grains.
Psychotria Ipecacuanha (STOKES)
Medicinal Action and Uses
Preparations and Dosages
---Habitat---The root used in medicine under this name is that
of a small, shrubby plant about a foot high, belonging to the order
Rubiaceae, which is found in most parts of Brazil, growing in
clumps or patches, in moist, shady woods.
is chiefly collected in the interior, in the province of Matto
Grosso and near the German colony of Philadelphia, north of Rio de
Janeiro. It is also found in New Granada and in
plant has a slender stem which grows partly underground and is
often procumbent at the base, the lower portion being
rootlets are given off from the knots, and some of them develop an
abnormally thick bark, in which much starch is
thickened rootlets alone are collected and dried for medicinal use,
since the active constituents of the drug are found chiefly in the
Ipecacuanha roots are collected, chiefly by the Indians, during
the months of January and February, when the plant is in flower and
are prepared by separation from the stem, cleaning and hanging in
bundles to dry in the sun.
is known in commerce as Brazilian or Rio Ipecacuanha.
name of the plant is the Portuguese form of the native word,
i-pe-kaa-guéne, which is said to mean 'road-side sick-making
account of Brazil, written by a Portuguese friar who had resided in
that country from about 1570 to 1600, mention is made of three
remedies for the bloody flux, one of which is called Igpecaya, or
Pigaya, which is probably this root.
in common use in Brazil, Ipecacuanha was not employed in Europe
prior to the year 1672, when a traveller named Legros brought a
quantity of the root to Paris from South America. In 1680, a
merchant of Paris named Garnier became possessed of 150 lb. of
Ipecacuanha, and informed his assistant and the physician Helvetius
of its usefulness in treating dysentery.
prescribed the new drug, and it formed the basis of a patent
medicine for dysentery. Trials were made of the composition, and
Helvetius was granted by Louis XIV the sole right of vending the
remedy. A few years after, the secret was bought from him by the
French Government for 1,000 louis d'or and the formula was made
public in 1688.
botanical source of Ipecacuanha was the subject of much dispute,
until it was finally settled by Gomez, a physician of the
Portuguese Navy, who brought authentic specimens from Brazil to
Lisbon in 1800.
Ipecacuanha occurs in commerce as slender and somewhat tortuous
closely annulated pieces, which seldom exceed 6 inches in length
and 1/4 inch in thickness. It varies in colour from very dark brown
to dark red, the latter colour being partly due to adhering
particles of earth. Difference in colour may also be due to
difference of age or mode of drying. The bark is constricted at
short intervals, so as to give the root the appearance of a number
of discs somewhat irregularly strung together. The constrictions
are sometimes quite shallow in Brazilian or Rio Ipecacuanha, though
they may penetrate nearly to the wood. The root is hard and breaks
with a very short fracture, the fractured surface exhibiting a
thick, dark grey bark or cortex, with a horny, resinous or starchy
appearance and a hard, wiry centre - small dense wood, in which no
distinct pores or pith can be discerned; when examined with a lens
though it is radiate.
has a bitter taste, but only a slight, rather musty
generally mixed with more or less of the slender subterranean stem,
which has only a very thin bark, surrounding a ring of wood which
encloses a distinct pith, and is thus easily distinguished from the
root. The activity of the drug resides chiefly in the cortical
portion, hence the presence of the stem diminishes its
variety imported from Colombia and known as Cartagena Ipecacuanha,
the product of Psychotria acuminata, differs only in its larger
size and in being less conspicuously annulated, the constrictions
of the bark assuming the form of narrow merging
addition to the Cartagena Ipecacuanha, various other roots have
been offered as substitutes, but all differ
Indian Ipecacuanha, from Cryptocarpus spiralis, exhibits a
typically monocotyledous structure in transverse section, scattered
bundles running the pith, and a white starchy bark.
poaya is applied in Brazil to emetic roots of several genera
belonging to the natural orders Rubiaceae, Violaceae and
Polygalaceae, and hence several roots have from time to time been
sent over to England as Ipecacuanha, but none of them possess the
ringed or annulated appearance of the true drug. Of these, the root
of Ionidium Ipecacuanha, Richardsonia scabra and P. emetica are
those which have most frequently been exported from Brazil or
Ipecacuanha, from R. scabra, is only lightly annulated, the wood is
porous and the starchy bark often has a violet colour.
Striated Ipecacuanha from another species of Richardsonia is dark
purplish brown in colour, longitudinally wrinkled, not annulated,
and has porous wood.
Striated Ipecacuanha from P. emetica, known as Black or Peruvian
Ipecacuanha, closely resembles the preceding, but contains no
starch and has dense wood. It grows in Peru and New Grenada, and in
earlier days was for a long time considered as the source of the
new drug, but is much less active.
Ipecacuanha, from I. Ipecacuanha is greyish-white, or yellowish in
colour and is also free from starch. This likewise was for long
believed to be the plant which produces the genuine drug. It is a
member of the order Violaceae. The root is almost insipid and
inodorous and is used in Brazil as an emetic, though it has been
considered doubtful whether it possesses any well-defined
of several species of Borreria, as B. ferruginia and B. Poaya, are
also used in Brazil as substitutes for Ipecacuanha.
---Constituents---The chief constituents of Ipecacuanha root
are the alkaloids Emetine, Cephaelin and Psychotrine, of which the
bark may contain from 1.5 to 2 per cent, of which about 72 per cent
consists of Emetine and 26 per cent of Cephaelin, while only 2 per
cent consists of Psychotrine.
to which Ipecacuanha owes its properties and which, with the
exception of traces, occurs only in the cortical portion of the
root, is an amorphous white powder, but it forms crystalline salts.
It has a bitter taste, no odour and turns yellow when exposed to
air and light.
constituents are a crystalline saponin- like glucoside, an
amorphous, bitter glucoside, which is a modification of tannin, and
is known as Ipecacuanhic acid, choline, resin, pectin, starch,
sugar, calcium oxalate, odorous, fatty matter and a
disagreeable-smelling volatile oil.
Ipecacuanha contains 2 to 3 per cent more alkaloidal matter than
the Brazilian drug, but a smaller proportion of Emetine, Cephaelin
being the alkaloid present in largest quantities.
Indian Ipecacuanha and White Ipecacuanha contain minute quantities
of emetic principles, which differ from the alkaloids of true
Ipecacuanha, but the Undulated and Striated Ipecacuanha contain
and Uses---In large doses, Ipecacuanha root is emetic; in smaller
doses, diaphoretic and expectorant, and in still smaller,
stimulating to the stomach, intestines and liver, exciting appetite
and facilitating digestion.
of the powdered root is 1/4 to 2 grains when an expectorant action
is desired (it is frequently used in the treatment of bronchitis
and laryngitis, combined with other drugs, aiding in the expulsion
of the morbid product), and from 15 to 30 grains when given as an
emetic, which is one of its most valuable functions.
Pharmacopoeias contain a very large number of preparations of
Ipecacuanha, most of which are standardized.
Ipecacuanha has been known for more than a century to benefit
amoebic (or tropical) dysentery, and is regarded as the specific
treatment, but the administration of the drug by mouth was limited
by its action as an emetic. Sir Leonard Rogers showed in 1912 that
subcutaneous injections of the alkaloid Emetine, the chief active
principle present in Ipecacuanha usually produced a rapid cure in
cases of amoebic dysentery. The toxic action of Emetine on the
heart must be watched. A preparation from which the Emetine has
been removed, known as de-emetized Ipecacuanha, is also in use for
cases of dysentery.
value of the drug in dysentery and its rapid increase in price from
an average of 2s. 9 1/2d. per lb. in 1850 to about 8s. 9d. per lb.
in 1870, led to attempts to acclimatize the plant in India, but
without much commercial success, owing to the difficulty of finding
suitable places for its cultivation and to its slowness of growth.
It is grown to a limited extent in the Malay States, at Johore,
near Singapore. In December, 1915, the Brazil root was valued at
24s. per lb. and the Johore root at 20s. per lb. At the same time,
Cartagena root sold for 16s. per lb. It would probably pay to grow
this plant more extensively in the British Colonies.
diaphoretic properties are employed in the Pulvis Ipecacuanhaea
compositus, or Dover's Powder, which contains 1 part of Ipecacuanha
powder and 1 part of Opium in 10.
applied to the skin, Ipecacuanha powder acts as a powerful
irritant, even to the extent of causing pustulations.
inhaled, it causes sneezing and a mild inflammation of the nasal
doses cause gastro-enteritis, cardiac failure, dilation of the
blood-vessels, severe bronchitis and pulmonary
Dosages---Powdered root, 5 to 30 grains. Fluid extract, B.P., 2 to
20 drops. Comp. Tinct. (Dover's), U.S.P., 8 drops. Wine, B.P., 10
drops to 6 drachms. Syrup, U.S.P., 1/4 to 4 drachms. Dover's
Powder, B.P., 5 to 15 grains.
plants possessing emetic properties to a greater or less degree, to
which the name of Ipecacuanha has been popularly applied are:
American Ipec., Gillenia stipulacea; Wild Ipec., Euphorbia
Ipecacuanha; Guinea Ipec., Boerhavia decumbens; Venezuela Ipec.,
Sarcostemma glaucum; Ipecacuanha des Allemands, Vincetoxicum
officinale, and the Bastard Ipecacuanha, Asclepias cuirassavica, of
the West Indies. This plant is used by the negroes as an emetic and
the root is purgative; the juice of the plant, made into a syrup,
is said to be a powerful anthelmintic, and as such is given to
children in the West Indies.
Medicinal Action and Uses
Orris Root - Medicinal Action
belongs to a family of plants that is justly popular in this
country for its many varieties of handsome garden blooms,
beautifying the borders in spring and early summer.
is named after the rainbow goddess, 'Iris,' from the beauty and
variety of colours in the flowers of the genus.
ancient times the stately Iris stood as a symbol of power and
majesty - it was dedicated to Juno and was the origin of
thesceptre, the Egyptians placing it on the brow of the Sphinx and
on the sceptre of their kings, the three leaves of its blossoms
typifying faith, wisdom and valour.
Cultivation has produced a great number of varieties, both
among the bulbous or Spanish Iris (Iris xiphium) and the
herbaceous, or Flag Irises, which have fleshy, creeping rootstocks
or rhizomes. Among the latter, manyhave a considerable reputation
for their medicinal virtues; in all the species belonging to this
genus, the roots being more or less acrid, are possessed of
cathartic and emetic properties. The chief economic use of the Iris
at the present time is for the production of Orris Root (Rhizoma
Iridis), which is derived from I. Germanica, I. pallida and I.
Florentina, collected indiscriminately in Italy from these three
species, well-known and very beautiful ornamental plants, natives
of the eastern Mediterranean region, extending into Northern India
and Northern Africa, and largely cultivated for their rhizomes in
Southern Europe, mostly on the mountain slopes.
pseudacorus, I. foetidissima and I. tuberosa are the European
species that have been employed in medicine, though their use has
much declined, but the American species, I. versicolor, produces a
drug official in the United States Pharmacopoeia.
of these Irises are naturally wild plants in this country, I.
pseudacorus (the Yellow Flag) and I. foetidissima (the Stinking
Iris). I. tuberosa (the Snakeshead Iris), which has cathartic
properties, is occasionally but very rarely found in Cornwall and
South Devon, but it is not native, and where it occurs it is
considered a garden escape.
Germanica and other Flag Irises are cultivated in this country for
their beautiful flowers, but no attempts have been made to supply
the market with the rhizomes.
Greece and Rome, Orris Root was largely used in perfumery, and
Macedonia, Elis and Corinth were famous for their unguents of
Theophrastus and Dioscorides were well acquainted with Orris
Root; Dioscorides and Pliny remark that the best comes from
Illyricum (the modern Dalmatia). Probably I. Germanica is the
Illyrian Iris of the ancients, as it is plentiful there and I.
Florentina and I. pallida do not occur. The latter were probably
introduced into Northern Italy in the early Middle Ages. The
ancient arms of Florence - a white Lily or Iris on a red shield -
seem to indicate that the city was famed for the growth of these
plants. A writer of the thirteenth century, Petrus de Crescentiro
of Bologna, mentions the cultivation of the White, as well as of
the Purple Iris, and states at what season the root should be
collected for medicinal use.
GERMANICA (Linn.), Blue Flower de Luce, German Iris, is a handsome
plant with sword-like leaves of a bluish-green colour, narrow and
flat, the largest of all the species. The flower-sterns are 2 to 3
feet high, the flowers, which bloom in May and June, are large and
deep blue, or purplish-blue in colour. The three bending petals, or
falls, are of a faint purple, inclining to blue, with purple veins
running lengthwise; the beard on them is yellow and the three erect
petals or standards are bright blue, with faint purple stripes. The
flowers have an agreeable scent, reminiscent of orange blossoms.
The creeping root-stocks are thick and fleshy, spreading over the
surface of the ground and of a brownish colour.
plant is a native of Southern Europe, very frequent in Italy, apart
from its cultivation there, and is also cultivated in Morocco. In
England, this German Flag or Flag Iris is by far the commonest of
the family in gardens and justly deserves its popularity, for it
will grow and flower well in the most unpromising situations and
will bear with apparent equanimity hardships that few other plants
would endure without loss of vitality. It is not moisture-loving -
ordinary border soil, well cultivated, suits it well and the heavy
clay soils are more or less inimical to its growth. If the best
results are to be obtained, deep and rich beds should be prepared
for these Irises, for they will well repay liberal treatment by the
production of larger and more numerous flowers. Although they may
be moved at any time of the year, April is the best month. They
will not flower the same year, but they will during the summer, if
attended to, become sufficiently strong to bloom freely the
succeeding year. Winter is the worst time to move them, as in heavy
soil, the plants often remain dormant without forming a single
root-fibre until the spring. But they are easily increased in
spring by dividing the root-stocks and replanting and watering into
Iris, or Flag Iris of the nurseryman as it now exists, is a
compound of many species and more varieties, as hybridization has
been extensively carried on for many years.
and Uses---The juice of the fresh roots of this Iris, bruised with
wine, has been employed as a strong purge of great efficiency in
dropsy, old physic writers stating that if the dropsy can be cured
by the hand of man, this root will effect it. The juice is also
sometimes used as a cosmetic and for the removal of freckles from
PALLIDA (Lamarck) has sweet-scented flowers of a delicate, pale
blue. It is a native of the Eastern Mediterranean countries and
grows very freely in Italy. It yields, with I. Germanica, the bulk
of the drug.
FLORENTINA (Linn.), called by our old writers White Flower de Luce,
or Flower de Luce of Florence, has large, white flowers tinged with
pale lavender and a bright yellow beard on the falls. Less
commonly, a purple form occurs, of smaller growth.
root, like that of I. Germanica, is a powerful cathartic, and for
this reason its juice has been employed in dropsy.
chiefly used in the dry state, being said to be good for complaints
of the lungs, for coughs and hoarseness, but is now more valued for
the pleasantness of its violet-like perfume than for any other
roots have an earthy smell, the characteristic violet odour is
gradually developed during the drying process and does not attain
its maximum for at least two years, and even intensifies after that
time. The essential oil may, therefore, be included in the class of
rhizomes of I. Germanica, I. pallida and I. Florentina so closely
resemble one another that they are not easily distinguished.
Contractions occur at intervals of about two inches, indicating the
limit of a year's growth in each case.
fresh, the rhizomes are extremely acrid and when chewed excite a
pungent taste in the mouth, which continues some hours. This
acridity is almost entirely dissipated when dried, the taste then
being slightly bitter and the smell agreeable, closely approaching
that of violets, though in the fresh state the rhizomes are
practically odourless. The loss of acridity appears to be due to
the disappearance of a volatile acrid principle on drying the
species of Iris from which Orris root is derived were already
cultivated in England in the time of Gerard, though not on a
Tuscany and other parts of Italy, large districts are given over to
the cultivation of these three Irises . They are also cultivated,
but only to a slight degree, in other parts of Europe, in Morocco
and in India.
planting of the Orris root in Tuscany - locally known as
'giaggiolo' - is a matter of great importance. When the Iris begins
to grow, the ground is carefully and systematically weeded, this
being chiefly done by women, who traverse the rows of the plants
barefoot, hoeing up the weeds; whole families of peasants work
together at this, and in the subsequent collection, trimming and
drying of the roots.
plant takes two or even three years to arrive at maturity, only a
somewhat sparse growth being attained during the second year: the
flowers are very fine, but the roots are as yet immature. In the
third year of its growth, the plant attains almost the height of a
man. The full beauty of the flowers lasts during May and June, in
July they fade and wither and the glory of the plantation is
product of a good harvest at a large Orris plantation at San Polo,
in the hilly region midway between Florence and Siena in Tuscany,
is about a million kilogrammes of fresh roots (about 1,000 tons),
yielding after peeling and drying, roughly 300 tons of dry
root, in the decorticated, dried condition, is imported into
England in large casks, mainly from Leghorn, Trieste and
several varieties of Orris in commerce, differing chiefly in colour
and the care with which they have been peeled. The finest is
Florentine Orris, from I. Florentina, which is carefully peeled,
nearly white, plump and very fragrant, irregular in shape, bearing
small marks where the rootlets have been removed. Veronese Orris,
from I. Germanica, is usually somewhat compressed and elongated,
less suddenly tapering than the Florentine root, less carefully
peeled, yellowish in colour, and somewhat wrinkled and has not the
fine fragrance of the Florentine Orris.
Mogadore Orris, also obtained from I. Germanica, bears particles of
reddishbrown cork, is darker in colour generally and less fragrant;
the pieces are also smaller, flatter, more shrunken and often bear
the shrivelled remains of leaves at the apex. This variety is
sometimes bleached with sulphur dioxide. It is altogether inferior
to both the foregoing varieties. Bombay Orris is also of small
size, dark-coloured and of inferior fragrance.
---Constituents---The chief constituent of Orris root is the
oil of Orris 0.1 to 0.2 per cent), a yellowish-white to yellow
mass, containing about 85 per cent of odourless myristic acid,
which appears to be liberated from a fat present in the rhizome
during the process of steam distillation. Oil of Orris is known
commercially as Orris Butter.
constituents are fat, resin, a large quantity of starch, mucilage,
bitter extractive and a glucoside named Iridin, which is not to be
confused with the powdered extracti Iridin or Irisin, prepared from
the rhizome of the American plant I. versicolor, by precipitating a
tincture of the drug with water and mixing the precipitate with an
equal weight of powdered liquorice root, or other absorbent
odorous constituent of oil of Orris is a liquid ketone named Irone,
to which the violet-like odour is due (though it is not absolutely
identical with oil of Violets obtained from the natural flower),
and it is the presence of this principle in the rhizome that has
long led to the employment of powdered Orris root in the
preparation of Violet powders, which owe very little of their scent
to the real Violet perfume. It was first isolated by the eminent
chemist Tiemann and formed the basis of his researches on
artificial Violet perfume, and in 1893 he succeeded in preparing an
allied body, which was termed Ionone and which had an odour even
more like that of Violets than had Irone, and is now largely
manufactured for the perfumery trade in making toilet waters and
handkerchief extracts. The discovery of Ionone, which costs about
one-eighth of the natural oil of Violets, has popularized Violet
perfume to an enormous extent: most of the cheaper Violet perfumes
on the market contain no trace of true Violet, but are made
entirely with the artificial Ionone.
Orris is a golden-yellow oily liquid, which contains the odorous
principles of the concrete oil of the rhizome without the solid,
fatty inodorous constituents.
important industry of Orris root still requires the light of
scientific research to be thrown upon the life history of the plant
to determine the conditions under which the largest percentage of
the volatile oil can be developed.
---Orris Root -
Medicinal Action and Uses---Orris Root is rarely employed in
medicine at the present time.
root possesses diuretic, emetic and cathartic properties. If given
in large doses, it will occasion nausea, vomiting, purging and
was formerly employed in the treatment of bronchitis and chronic
diarrhoea, and was considered a useful remedy in dropsy. The
internal dose is stated to be from 5 to 15 grains.
of the rhizome was formerly reckoned medicinal.
powder is said to act as a good snuff, useful to excite sneezing to
relieve cases of congested headache.
the dried root are occasionally chewed for the purpose of
overcoming a disagreeable breath.
principal use of the dried root is, however, in perfumery, in
sachet powders and to flavour dentifrices, toothpowders and
Orris, obtained by distilling powdered Orris root with steam, has
an intense and extremely delicate odour of the fresh Violet and
commands a high price. It is used commercially in the preparation
of the finest scents and is also blended with artificial Violet
perfumes, the odour of which it renders more subtle. Orris has the
power of strengthening the odour of other fragrant bodies and is
used as a fixative in perfumery.
Orris root is sometimes put into rinsing water in laundries and
imparts a refreshing and fragrant scent to the linen.
root, mixed with Anise, was used in England as a perfume for linen
as early as 1480, under which date it is mentioned in the Wardrobe
accounts of Edward IV.
One of the most interesting of the MS.
still-room books of the later seventeenth century is Mary Doggett:
Her Book of Receipts, 1682. In it we find 'A perfume for a sweet
bagg,' as follows:
'Take half a pound of Cypress Roots, a
pound of Orris, 3 quarter of a pound of Calamus, 3 Orange stick
with Cloves, 2 ounces of Benjamin, 3 quarters of a pound of
Rhodium, a pound of Coriander seed, and an ounce of Storax and 4
pecks of Damask Rose leaves, a peck of dryed sweet Marjerum, a
pretty stick of Juniper shaved very thin, some lemon pele dryed and
a stick of Brasill; let all these be powdered very grosely for ye
first year and immediately put into your baggs; the next year pound
and work it and it will be very good again.'
(History of the Vegetable Kingdom, 1868) states that Orris gives
the peculiar flavour to artificial brandies made in this country,
and the root is much used in Russia to flavour a drink made of
honey and ginger which is sold in the streets.
and finer roots are often turned into pretty forms to be used for
ornamental purposes, rosary beads, etc., and long pieces of Verona
Orris are often shaped for infants' use when teething. The less
handsome rhizomes, as well as the chips, are
'the Iris is knowen of the clothworkers and drapers, for with these
rootes they use to trimme their clothes to make them sweete and
pleasant.' This was probably the 'swete clothe' so celebrated in
the reign of Elizabeth.
Iris Pseudacorus (LINN.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Iris Aquatica. Iris lutia. Yellow Flag. Yellow
Iris. Fleur de Luce. Dragon Flower. Myrtle Flower. Fliggers.
Flaggon. Segg. Sheggs. Daggers. Jacob's Sword. Gladyne. Meklin.
Levers. Livers. Shalder.
British wild plants, none can rival in stately beauty this native
representative of the Irises, one of the most distinguished plants
in the marginal vegetation of watery places, not only in this
country, being universally distributed in Great Britain and growing
also in Ireland, but also throughout Europe, North Africa and
found on river-banks, by the side of lakes, ponds, etc., in ditches
and hedges, but any moist, shady place will suit it, and it is
quite worthy of a place in our gardens.
Propagation is effected in autumn or spring, by division of the
root-stocks. It should not, however, be allowed to grow where
---Description---From the thick, creeping rhizome, brownish on
the outside, reddish and spongy within, which pushes through the
moist ground parallel to the surface, many rootlets pass downwards.
From above it, rise the broad, flat, sword-shaped, stalkless
leaves, bound several together into a sheath at the base. The
lower, radical leaves are 2 to 3 feet tall, the upper leaves much
shorter, embracing the flower-stalk, which is round and seldom
rises as high as the outer leaves. On the top of the stem are the
beautiful, very conspicuous, deep yellow flowers, two or three
together, the buds being very large and pointed. The mature flowers
consist of three large, drooping, yellow petal-like sepals (the
falls) with brownish mottled markings on their upper surfaces,
inside which are the three petalloid stigmas, also yellow, which
arch gracefully over the stamens, forming a rain-protecting roof
for the pollen, as in all the Irises. The honey is contained in
canals on the inner side, towards the base of the small, erect
petals and out of these it exudes and lies round the ovary in the
heart of the flower. The Yellow Iris is adapted to receive two
kinds of insect visitors, the Bumble Bee (Bombus), and the Honey
Bee (Apis mellifica), and also the long-tongued Hover-Fly (Rhingia
rostrata), which in seeking the honey, push through the outer
perianth segments and the style, the anther being between, dusting
its back with the pollen.
fertilization, the floral leaves fade and drop away from the top of
the capsule, which increases in size. When ripe, the capsule opens
above and allows the smooth, flattened seeds, when blown by the
wind, to fall some distance away.
is in bloom from May to July.
the plant is often called 'Segg,' 'Skeggs' or 'Cegg,' all of which
names come down from Anglo-Saxon days, 'Segg' being the Anglo-Saxon
for a small sword, an obvious allusion to the shape of its leaves.
The names 'Daggers' and 'Jacob's Sword ' have a similar allusion,
and 'Yellow Saggen,' 'Seag,' 'Seggin' are variations of Seg. In the
days of Chaucer, it was called Gladyne. To the popular mind in
early days, the fluttering segment of the perianth suggested the
waving of a flag, hence the origin of the names 'Yellow Flag,'
'Water Flag' and 'Sword Flag,' and corruptions of the name such as
'Flaggon,' 'Flaggon's' and perhaps 'Fliggers,' the latter stated to
be applied to it from the motion of its leaves by the slightest
breeze. The strange name 'Cheiper' is explained 'because children
make a shrill noise with its leaves,' and 'Cucumbers' refers to the
seedvessels, which when green resemble young
calls it 'Myrtle Flag or Myrtle Grass.'
It is also
called the Flower de Luce, or Fleur de Lys, being the origin of the
heraldic emblem of the Kings of France. The legend is that early in
the sixth century, the Frankish King Clovis, faced with defeat in
battle, was induced to pray for victory to the god of his Christian
wife, Clothilde. He conquered and became a Christian and thereupon
replaced the three toads on his banner by three Irises, the Iris
being the Virgin's flower. Six hundred years later, it was adopted
by Louis VII of France as his heraldic bearings in his Crusade
against the Saracens, and it is said that it then became known as
Fleur de Louis, corrupted into Fleur de Luce and then into Fleur de
Lys or Lis, though another theory for the name is that it was not
named Fleur de Lys from Louis, but from the river Lys, on the
borders of Flanders, where it was peculiarly abundant.
specific name, Pseudacorus, refers to its similarity to another
plant, pseudo being the Greek for false, while acorus is the
generic name of the Sweet Sedge (Acorus calamus), with which it is
supposed to have been confused, the plants when not in flower
resembling it and growing in the same situations. The Sweet Sedge,
however, has an aromatic scent, while Iris Pseudacorus is
called the plant consecratix, from its being used in purifications,
and Pliny mentions certain ceremonies used in digging up the
and Uses---The Yellow Flag rhizome was formerly much employed as a
medicine, acting as a very powerful cathartic, but from its
extremely acrid nature is now seldom used. An infusion of it has
been found to be effective in checking diarrhoea, and it is reputed
of value in dysmenorrhoea and leucorrhoea.
It was formerly held in the highest
esteem, the juice of the root being considered a cure for obstinate
coughs, 'evil spleens,' convulsions, dropsies and serpents' bites,
and as Gerard also says, 'doth mightilie and vehementlie draw forth
choler.' Gerard recommended it as a cosmetic, saying:
'The root, boiled soft, with a few drops
of rosewater upon it, laid plaisterwise upon the face of man or
woman, doth in two daies at the most take away the blacknesse and
blewnesse of any stroke or bruise,'
though he adds as a warning that if the
'be very tender and delicate, it shall be
needful that ye lay a piece of silke, sindall or a piece of fine
lawne betweene the plaister and the skinne for otherwise in such
tender bodies it often causeth heat and inflammation.'
'an oil made of the roots and flowers of
the Iris, made in the same way as oil of roses and lilies. It is
used to rub in the sinews and joints to strengthen them, and is
good for cramp.'
Parkinson, of all the varieties, most
esteems 'for his excellent beautie and raretie the great Turkie
Flower de luce.'
'And for a sweet powder to lay among
linnen and garments and to make sweet waters to wash hand-gloves or
other things to perfume them' the roots of the sweetsmelling
juice snuffed up the nostrils excites violent sneezing, and on the
authority of Dr. Thornton, 'in this way it has cured complaints of
the head of long standing in a marvellous way.' The root powdered
was also used as snuff.
authorities praised it as a cure for toothache, a slice of the
rhizome rubbed against the aching tooth or held in the mouth
between the teeth, being supposed to cause the pain to disappear at
was also an ingredient in an antidote to poison. Withering
(Arrangement of Plants) mentions it as having cured swine bitten by
a mad dog.
(1652) says that the distilled water of the whole herb is a
sovereign remedy for weak eyes, either applied on a wet bandage, or
dropped into the eye, and that an ointment made of the flowers is
very good for ulcers or swellings.
chemist, early last century, discovered that the seeds, when ripe,
freed from the friable skin which envelops them, produces a
beverage similar to coffee and even much superior to it in flavour,
but they must be well roasted before using.
flowers afford a beautiful yellow dye, and the root, with sulphate
of iron, a good black dye.
properties are entirely dissipated by drying, after which it acts
only as an astringent, so powerful from the amount of tannin
contained, that it has been used in the place of Galls in the
making of ink.
---Habitat---The hillsides of Oregon.
incorrectly listed as Iris Lenax, in the printed version of A
Modern Herbal. As per Hortius III, p 605, the correct listing is
of the whole plant, or of the bulbous stems, is given in bilious
vomiting, and is recommended for depression.
Indians use the fibres of this plant for making ropes.
Iris Versicolor (LINN.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
Preparations and Dosages
---Synonyms---Blue Flag. Poison Flag. Flag Lily. Liver Lily.
Snake Lily. Dragon Flower. Dagger Flower. Water Flag.
Versicolor (Linn.) is a perennial herb, found abundantly in swamps
and low grounds throughout eastern and central North America,
common in Canada, as well as in the United States, liking a loamy
or peaty soil. It is not a native of Europe.
It grows 2
to 3 feet high, with narrow, sword-shaped leaves, and from May to
July produces large, handsome flowers, blue, except for the yellow
and whitish markings at the base of the sepals.
---Description---Blue Flag Rhizome has annual joints, 2 or more
inches long, about 3/4 inch in diameter, cylindrical in the lower
half, becoming compressed towards the crown, where the cup-shaped
stem-scar is seen, when dry, and numerous rings, formed of leaf
scars are apparent above and scars of rootlets below. It is dark
brown externally and longitudinally wrinkled. The fracture is
short, purplish, the vascular bundles scattered through the central
column. The rootlets are long, slender and simple. The rhizome has
a very slight but peculiar odour, and a pungent, acrid and nauseous
the similarity of name, and the appearance before blooming, this
flag is sometimes mistaken by American children for Sweet Flag or
Calamus, which grows in the same localities, often with disastrous
Of the 100
species of true Iris, twenty-two inhabit the United States, but
only one, Iris Missouriensis, much resembles this species (the
rhizome of which yields an official American drug), or has a
rhizome likely to be mistaken for it.
cultivated, the American Blue Flag succeeds best in heavy, rich,
moist soil. If planted in August or September, it can be harvested
at the end of October the following year. The yield per acre is 3
to 4 tons of the rhizome.
---Constituents---The rhizome contains starch, gum, tannin,
volatile oil, 25 per cent of acrid, resinous matter, isophthalic
acid, traces of salicylic acid and possibly an alkaloid, though a
number of substances contained are still unidentified. It owes its
medicinal virtues to an oleoresin.
with water, the fresh rhizome yields an opalescent distillate, from
which is separated a white, camphoraceous substance with a faint
odour. The oil possesses the taste and smell, but only partly the
medicinal activity of the drug.
and Uses---The root is an official drug of the United States
Pharmacopoeia and is the source of the Iridin or Irisin of
commerce, a powdered extractive, bitter, nauseous and acrid, with
diuretic and aperient properties.
acts powerfully on the liver, but, from its milder action on the
bowels, is preferable to podophyllin.
Iris is quite acrid and if employed internally produces nausea,
vomiting, purging and colicky pains. The dried root is less acrid
and is employed as an emetic, diuretic and cathartic. The oleoresin
in the root is purgative to the liver, and useful in bilious
sickness in small doses.
chiefly used for its alterative properties, being a useful
purgative in disorders of the liver and duodenum, and is an
ingredient of many compounds for purifying the blood. It acts as a
stimulant to the liver and intestinal glands and is used in
constipation and biliousness, and is believed by some to be a
hepatic stimulant second only to podophyllin, but if given in full
doses it may occasion considerable nausea and severe
use is for syphilis and some forms of low-grade scrofula and skin
affection. It is also valuable in dropsy.
It is said
to have been used by the southern North American Indians as a
cathartic and emetic.
flowers afford a fine blue infusion, which serves as a test for
acids and alkalies.
Dosages---Powdered root, as a cathartic, 20 grains. Irisin, 1 to 3
grains. Solid extract, 10 to 15 grains. Fluid extract, 1/2 to 1
drachm. Tincture, 1 to 3 drachms.
See Moss, Irish.
See Plantain, Ispaghul.
See Virginia Creeper.
Hedera Helix (LINN.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Habitat---The plant is found over the greater part of Europe
and Northern and Central Asia, and is said to have been
particularly abundant at Nyssa, the fabled home of Bacchus in his
youth. There are many varieties, but only two accepted species,
i.e. Hedera Helix and the Australian species, which is confined to
the southern Continent.
well-known evergreen climber, with its dark-green, glossy, angular
leaves is too familiar to need detailed description. It climbs by
means of curious fibres resembling roots, which shoot out from
every part of the stem, and are furnished with small disks at the
end, which adapt themselves to the roughness of the bark or wall
against which the plant grows and to which it clings firmly. These
fibres on meeting with soil or deep crevices become true roots,
obtaining nourishment for the plant, but when dilated at the
extremity, they merely serve to attach the stems and do not absorb
nourishment from the substance to which they adhere. The Ivy is
therefore liable to injure the trees around which it twines by
abstracting the juices of the stem.
attains the summit of a tree or wall, it grows out in a bushy form,
and the leaves instead of being five-lobed and angular, as they are
below, become ovate, with entire margins. Ivy only produces flowers
when the branches get above their support, the flowering branches
being bushy and projecting a foot or two from the climbing stems,
with flowers at the end of every shoot.
Professor Henslow has an interesting note
on the Ivy and its shoots, in his Floral Rambles in Highways and
'The shoots turn to the darker side, as
may be seen when Ivy reaches the top of a wall, from both sides;
wherever the sun may be the shoots lie flat upon the top. The roots
themselves only come out from the darker side of the shoots, so
that both of these acquired habits have their purposes. When the
Ivy is going to flower, the shoots now turn to the light and stand
out freely into the air; moreover the form of the leaf changes from
a finepointed one to a much smaller oval type. As the shoot now has
to support itself, if a section be made and compared with one of
the same diameter which is supported by the adhesive roots, it will
be found that it has put on more wood with less pith, than in that
of the supported stem. It at once, so to speak, feels the strain
and makes wood sufficient to meet it.'
of Ivy which creeps over the ground on banks and in woods, etc.,
never blossoms. The branches root into the soil, but they are of
the ordinary kind deriving nourishment from it. On endeavouring to
train this kind on a wall, it was found to have practically lost
the power of climbing; for it kept continually falling away from
the wall instead of adhering to it; just as cucumbers refuse to
climb by their tendrils, if the stem and branches are supported
flowers of Common Ivy are small, in clusters of nearly globular
umbels and of a yellowish-green, with five broad and short petals
and five stamens. They seldom open before the latter end of
October, and often continue to expand till late in December. Though
they have little or no scent, they yield abundance of nectar and
afford food to bees late in the autumn, when they can get no
berries, which do not become ripe till the following spring,
provide many birds, especially wood pigeons, thrushes and
blackbirds with food during severe winters. When ripe, they are
about the size of a pea, black or deep purple, smooth and
succulent, and contain two to five seeds. They have a bitter and
nauseous taste, and when rubbed, an aromatic and slightly resinous
in high esteem among the ancients. Its leaves formed the poet's
crown, as well as the wreath of Bacchus, to whom the plant was
dedicated, probably because of the practice of binding the brow
with Ivy leaves to prevent intoxication, a quality formerly
attributed to the plant. We are told by old writers that the
effects of intoxication by wine are removed if a handful of Ivy
leaves are bruised and gently boiled in wine and
It is the
Common Ivy that is alluded to in the Idylls of Theocritus, but the
Golden Ivy of Virgil is supposed to be the yellowberried variety
(Hedera Chrysocarpa), now so rare.
priests presented a wreath of Ivy to newly-married persons, and the
Ivy has throughout the ages been regarded as the emblem of
fidelity. The custom of decorating houses and churches with Ivy at
Christmas was forbidden by one of the early Councils of the Church,
on account of its pagan associations, but the custom still
leaf is the badge of the Gordons.
agricultural writers much recommended Ivy leaves as cattle food,
but they are not relished by cows, though sheep and deer will
sometimes eat them in the winter. The broad leaves being evergreen
afford shelter to birds in the winter, and many prefer Ivy to other
shrubs, in which to build their nests.
when it attains a sufficient size is employed by turners in
Southern Europe, but being very soft is seldom used in England
except for whetting the knives of leatherdressers. It is very
porous, and the ancients thought it had the property of separating
wine from water by filtration, an error arising from the fact that
wood absorbs the colour of the liquid in its passage through the
pores. On the Continent it has sometimes been used in thin slices
as a filter.
days, English taverns bore over their doors the sign of an Ivy
bush, to indicate the excellence of the liquor supplied within:
hence the saying 'Good wine needs no bush.'
medicinal virtues of Ivy are little regarded nowadays. Its great
value is as an ornamental covering for unsightly buildings and it
is said to be the only plant which does not make walls damp. It
acts as a curtain, the leaves from the way they fall, forming a
sort of armour and holding and absorbing the rain and
very hardy; not only are the leaves seldom injured by frost, but
they suffer little from smoke, or from the vitiated air of
manufacturing towns. The plant lives to a great age, its stems
become woody and often attain a considerable size - Ivy trunks of a
foot in diameter are often to be seen where the plant has for many
years climbed undisturbed over rocks and ruins.
months are the best times for planting.
and Uses---Robinson tells us that a drachm of the flowers decocted
in wine restrains dysentery, and that the yellow berries are good
for those who spit blood and against the jaundice.
says of the Ivy: 'It is an enemy to the nerves and sinews taken
inwardly, but most excellent outwardly.'
sunburn it is recommended to smear the face with tender Ivy twigs
boiled in butter; according to the old English Leechbook of
Glechoma Hederacea (LINN.)
Part Used Medicinally
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Nepeta Glechoma (Benth.). Alehoof.
Gill-go-over-the-Ground. Haymaids. Tun-hoof. Hedgemaids.
Lizzy-run-up-the-Hedge. Gill-go-by-the-Hedge. Catsfoot.
---Description---Ground Ivy is one of the commonest plants,
flourishing upon sunny hedge banks and waste ground in all parts of
Great Britain. The root is perennial, throwing out long, trailing,
unbranched square stems, which root at intervals and bear numerous,
kidney-shaped leaves of a dark green tint, somewhat downy with
manycelled hairs, and having regular, rounded indentations on the
margins. The leaves are stalked and opposite to one another, the
undersides paler and dotted with glands.
flowers are placed three or four together in the axils of the upper
leaves, which often have a purplish tint and are two-lipped, of a
bright purplish blue, with small white spots on the lower lip, or
more rarely white or pink and open early in April. The plant
continues in blossom through the greater part of the summer and
popular name is attributed to the resemblance borne by its foliage
to that of the true Ivy.
in size, as well as the degree of colour in the flower, according
to its situation and remains green not only in summer, but, like
the true Ivy, at all times of the year, even throughout winter,
unless the frost is very severe.
(Universal Herbal, 1832) tells us that Ground Ivy expels the plants
which grow near it, and in consequence impoverishes pastures.
Cattle seem in general to avoid it, though Linnaeus says that sheep
eat it; horses are not fond of it, and goats and swine refuse it.
It is thought to be injurious to those horses that eat much of it,
though the expressed juice, mixed with a little wine and applied
morning and evening, has been said to destroy the white specks
which frequently form on their eyes.
plant possesses a balsamic odour and an aromatic, bitter taste, due
to its particular volatile oil, contained in the glands on the
under surface of the leaves. It was one of the principal plants
used by the early Saxons to clarify their beers, before hops had
been introduced, the leaves being steeped in the hot liquor. Hence
the names it has also borne; Alehoof and Tunhoof. It not only
improved the flavour and keeping qualities of the beer, but
rendered it clearer. Until the reign of Henry VIII it was in
general use for this purpose.
also acquired the name of Gill from the French guiller (to ferment
beer), but as Gill also meant 'a girl,' it came also to be called
tumours may often be seen in the autumn on the leaves of Ground
Ivy, caused by the puncture of the Cynips glechomae, from which
these galls spring. They have a strong flavour of the plant and are
sometimes eaten by the peasantry of France.
Medicinally---The whole herb, gathered early in May, when most of
the flowers are still quite fresh.
and Uses---Diuretic, astringent, tonic and gently stimulant. Useful
in kidney diseases and for indigestion.
days, Ground Ivy has been endowed with singular curative virtues,
and is one of the most popular remedies for coughs and nervous
headaches. It has even been extolled before all other vegetable
medicines for the cure of consumption.
excellent cooling beverage, known in the country as Gill Tea, is
made from this plant, 1 OZ. of the herb being infused with a pint
of boiling water, sweetened with honey, sugar or liquorice, and
drunk when cool in wineglassful doses, three or four times a day.
This used to be a favourite remedy with the poor for coughs of long
standing, being much used in consumption. Ground Ivy was at one
time one of the cries of London for making a tea to purify the
blood. It is a wholesome drink and is still considered serviceable
in pectoral complaints and in cases of weakness of the digestive
organs, being stimulating and tonic, though it has long been
discarded from the Materia Medica as an official plant, in favour
of others of greater certainty of action. As a medicine useful in
pulmonary complaints, where a tonic for the kidneys is required, it
would appear to possess peculiar suitability, and is well adapted
to all kidney complaints.
extract is also prepared, the dose being from 1/2 to 1 drachm. It
has a bitter and acrid taste and a strong and aromatic
expressed juice of the fresh herb is diaphoretic, diuretic and
somewhat astringent; snuffed up the nose, it has been considered
curative of headache when all other remedies have failed. A snuff
made from the dried leaves of Ground Ivy will render marked relief
against a dull, congestive headache of the passive
expressed juice may also be advantageously used for bruises and
'black eyes.' It is also employed as an antiscorbutic, for which it
has a long-standing reputation. Combined with Yarrow or Chamomile
Flowers it is said to make an excellent poultice for abscesses,
gatherings and tumours.
America, painters used the Ground Ivy as a preventive of, and
remedy for lead colic, a wineglassful of the freshly-made infusion
being taken frequently.
infusion is also used with advantage as a wash for sore and weak
'it is commended against the humming noise
and ringing sound of the ears, being put into them, and for them
that are hard of hearing. Matthiolus writeth that the juice being
tempered with Verdergrease is good against fistulas and hollow
ulcers. Dioscorides teacheth that "half a dram of the leaves being
drunk in foure ounces and a half of faire water for 40 or 50 days
together is a remedy against sciatica or ache in the
attributed all the virtues to the flowers. Ground Ivy, Celandine
and Daisies, of each a like quantity, stamped, strained and a
little sugar and rose-water put thereto, and dropt into the eyes,
takes away all manner of inflammation, etc., yea, although the
sight were well-nigh gone. It is proved to be the best medicine in
the world. The women of our Northern parts, especially Wales and
Cheshire, do turn Herbe-Ale-hoof into their ale - but the reason I
know not. It also purgeth the head from rheumatic humours flowing
from the brain.'
Culpepper, repeating much that Gerard has
already related of the virtues of Ground Ivy, adds that it
'a singular herb for all inward wounds,
ulcerated lungs and other parts, either by itself or boiled with
other like herbs; and being drank, in a short time it easeth all
griping pains, windy and choleric humours in the stomach, spleen,
etc., helps the yellow jaundice by opening the stoppings of the
gall and liver, and melancholy by opening the stoppings of the
spleen; the decoction of it in wine drank for some time together
procureth ease in sciatica or hip gout; as also the gout in the
hands, knees or feet; if you put to the decoction some honey and a
little burnt alum, it is excellent to gargle any sore mouth or
throat, and to wash sores and ulcers; it speedily heals green
wounds, being bruised and bound thereto.'
He concludes his account of the herb by
'It is good to tun up with new drink, for
it will clarify it in a night that it will be the fitter to be
drank the next morning; or if any drink be thick with removing or
any other accident, it will do the like in a few
Rhus Toxicodendron (LINN.)
Part Used Medicinally
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Poison Oak. Poison Vine.
---Habitat---The American Poison Ivy is one of the species of
Sumachs, an attractive group of plants widely distributed in
Europe, Asia and North America, varying much in habit from low
bushes to moderately-sized trees, and many of them familiar
denizens of our gardens, for the sake of their ornamental foliage,
which mostly assume beautiful tints in autumn, some of the
varieties also bearing showy fruits. It grows in thickets and low
grounds in North America, where it is quite common.
Its sap is
of an extremely poisonous character, and in many persons the
slightest contact with the leaves causes a rash of a most
distressing character, the hands and arms and sometimes the whole
body becoming greatly swollen from simply touching or carrying a
branch of the plant, the swelling being accompanied with
intolerable pain and inflammation, ending in ulceration. Some
persons however, are able to handle the plant with impunity. It has
been sometimes known as Ampelopsis Hoggii, and under this name has
occasionally been introduced with other climbers, but it has
nothing to do with the group of Vines known under the name of
Ampelopsis, and its presence in our gardens should be
root is reddish and branching; the leaves rather large, threeparted
(which will readily distinguish it from the five-parted
Ampelopsis). The central leaflet has a longer stalk, the lateral
ones are almost stalkless. The leaflets are entire when young, but
when full-grown they are variously indented, downy beneath, thin
and about 4 inches long. They abound with an acrid juice, which
darkens when exposed to air, and when applied to the skin produces
the inflammation and swelling referred to. When dry, the leaves are
papery and brittle, sometimes with black spots of exuded juice
turned black on drying. The flowers are in loose, slender clusters
or panicles, in the axils of the leaves and are small, some
perfect, others unisexual, and are greenish or yellowish-white in
colour. They blossom in June, and are followed by clusters of
small, globular, duncoloured, berry-like fruit.
almost as many antidotes for the inflammation caused by Poison Ivy
as for the bites of the rattlesnake. Alkaline lotions, especially
carbonate of soda, alum and hyposulphite of soda, are all
recommended, and the patient is advised to moisten the skin
constantly with the agent in solution. A hot solution of potassium
permanganate applied locally is also recommended as a cure, also
solutions of lead and ammonia. Rhus venenata has similar poisonous
Medicinally---The fresh leaves, from which a fluid extract is
---Constituents---The activity of the drug was formerly
ascribed to a fixed oil, Toxicodendrol, but has been attributed
more recently to a yellow resin, to which the name Toxicodendrin is
and Uses---Irritant, rubefacient, stimulant, narcotic.
Toxicodendron was introduced into England first in 1640, but not
used as a medicine till 1798, when Du Fressoy, a physician at
Valenciennes, had brought to his notice a young man, who had been
cured of a herpetic eruption on his wrist of six years' standing on
being accidentally poisoned by this plant. He thereupon commenced
the use of the plant in the treatment of obstinate herpetic
eruptions and in palsy, many cases yielding well to the drug. Since
then it has rapidly gained a place in general practice, meeting
with some success in the treatment of paralysis, acute rheumatism
and articular stiffness, and in various forms of chronic and
obstinate eruptive diseases.
It is not
official in the British Pharmacopoeia, but was formerly official in
the United States Pharmacopceia. It is in extensive use by
homoeopathists for rheumatism, ringworm and other skin disorders,
and is considered by them one of the most useful remedies in a
great majority of cases of Nettlerash, especially if caused by some
natural predisposition of constitution, in which the eruption is
due to the use of some particular food.
extract, prepared from the fresh leaves, is mostly given in the
form of a tincture, in doses of 5 to 30 drops. In small doses it is
an excellent sedative to the nervous system, but must be given with
care, as internally it may cause gastric intestinal irritation,
drowsiness, stupor and delirium.
been recommended in cases of incontinence of urine. For this, the
bark of the root of R. aromatica is also employed very
successfully, an infusion of 1 OZ. to a pint of boiling water being
taken in wineglassful doses.
extract of R. Toxicodendron can be used as a vesicant or blister
producer, like cantharides, mezeron, and oil of
preparation is a concentrated alcoholic tincture made from the
green plant in the strength of 1 in 4. The dose of 25 per cent
tincture is given in 1 to 5 drops three times a day. A solid
extract is not used owing to the extreme volatility of the active
principles of the crude drug.
juice is also used as an indelible ink for marking linen, and as an
ingredient of liquid dressings or varnishes for finishing boots or
shoes, though R. venenata is more extensively used for the latter
It is so
well known to every child almost, to grow in woods upon the trees,
and upon the stone walls of churches, houses, &c. and sometimes
to grow alone of itself, though but seldom.
Time : It
flowers not until July, and the berries are not ripe till
Christmas, when they have felt Winter frosts.
and virtues : It is under the dominion of Saturn. A pugil of the
flowers, which may be about a dram, (saith Dioscorides) drank twice
a day in red wine, helps the lask, and bloody flux. It is an enemy
to the nerves and sinews, being much taken inwardly, out very
helpful to them, being outwardly applied. Pliny saith, the yellow
berries are good against the jaundice; and taken before one be set
to drink hard, preserves from drunkenness, and helps those that
spit blood; and that the white berries being taken inwardly, or
applied outwardly, kills the worms in the belly. The berries are a
singular remedy to prevent the plague, as also to free them from it
that have got it, by drinking the berries thereof made into a
powder, for two or three days together. They being taken in wine,
do certainly help to break the stone, provoke urine, and women's
courses. The fresh leaves of Ivy, boiled in vinegar, and applied
warm to the sides of those that are troubled with the spleen, ache,
or stitch in the sides, do give much ease. The same applied with
some Rosewater, and oil of Roses, to the temples and forehead,
eases the head-ache, though it be of long continuance. The fresh
leaves boiled in wine, and old filthy ulcers hard to be cured
washed therewith, do wonderfully help to cleanse them. It also
quickly heals green wounds, and is effectual to heal all burnings
and scaldings, and all kinds of exulcerations coming thereby, or by
salt phlegm or humours in other parts of the body. The juice of the
berries or leaves snuffed up into the nose, purges the head and
brain of thin rheum that makes defluxions into the eyes and nose,
and curing the ulcers and stench therein; the same dropped into the
ears helps the old and running sores of them; those that are
troubled with the spleen shall find much ease by continual drinking
out of a cup made of Ivy, so as the drink may stand some small time
therein before it be drank. Cato saith, That wine put into such a
cup, will soak through it, by reason of the antipathy that is
seems to be a very great antipathy between wine and Ivy; for if one
hath got a surfeit by drinking of wine, his speediest cure is to
drink a draught of the same wine wherein a handful of Ivy leaves,
being first bruised, have been boiled.