Herbs & Oils
~ N ~
(Myristica fragrans) See Mace.
Magical Uses Nutmegs have long been carried as
good luck charms, and are strung with star anise and tonka beans
for a potent herbal necklace. Burn for prosperity., luck, psychic
awareness, fortune, clairvoyance, divination, justice, and
Aromatherapy Uses: Arthritis; Gout; Muscular
Aches and Pains; Poor circulation; Rheumatism; Flatulence;
Indigestion; Nausea; Sluggish Digestion; Bacterial Infection;
Frigidity in Women; Impotence in Men; Neuralgia; Nervous Fatigue.
Key Qualities: Aphrodisiac; Analgesic; Narcotic; Tonic (nerve and
heart); Comforting; Soothing; Calming; Elevating; Cephalic;
of plants belonging to the natural order Amaryllidaceae are in many
cases poisonous, though they are widely cultivated for the sake of
of these is the DAFFODIL, or Lent Lily (Narcissus pseudo-narcissus,
Linn.). The botanical name of the genus, Narcissus, is considered
to be derived, not as is often said, from the name of the classical
youth who met with his death through vainly trying to embrace his
image reflected in a clear stream, but from the Greek word narkao
(to benumb), on account of the narcotic properties which the plant
possesses. Pliny describes it as Narce narcissum dictum, non a
fabuloso puero, 'named Narcissus from Narce, not from the fabulous
called this plant the 'Chaplet of the infernal Gods,' because of
its narcotic effects. An extract of the bulbs, when applied to open
wounds, has produced staggering, numbness of the whole nervous
system and paralysis of the heart.
popular English names Daffodowndilly, Daffodily Affodily, are a
corruption of Asphodel, with which blossoms of the ancient Greeks
this was supposed to be identical. It is in France the fleur
d'asphodèle, also 'pauvres filles de Sainte Claire.'
alludes in his Hesperides to the Daffodil as a portent of death,
probably connecting the flower with the asphodel, and the habit of
the ancient Greeks of planting that flower near tombs.
of the Daffodil, as well as every other part of the plant are
powerfully emetic, and the flowers are considered slightly
poisonous, and have been known to have produced dangerous effects
upon children who have swallowed portions of them.
influence of Daffodil on the nervous system has led to giving its
flowers and its bulb for hysterical affections and even epilepsy,
decoction of the dried flowers acts as an emetic, and has been
considered useful for relieving the congestive bronchial catarrh of
children, and also useful for epidemic dysentery.
Narcissus flowers have been used as an antispasmodic.
has been distilled from the bulb, used as an embrocation and also
given as a medicine and a yellow volatile oil, of disagreeable
odour and a brown colouring matter has been extracted from the
flowers, the pigment being Quercetin, also present in the outer
scales of the Onion.
Arabians commended the oil to be applied for curing baldness and as
alkaloid was first isolated from the bulbs of N. pseudo-narcissus
by Gerard in 1578, and obtained in a pure state as Narcissine by
Guérin in 1910. The resting bulbs contain about 0.2 per cent and
the flowering bulbs about 0.1 per cent. With cats, Narcissine
causes nausea and purgation.
princeps also contains a minute quantity of this
A case of
poisoning by Daffodil bulbs, cooked by mistake in the place of
leeks, was reported from Toulouse in 1923. The symptoms were acute
abdominal pains and nausea, which yielded to an
of N. poeticus (Linn.), the POET'S NARCISSUS, are more dangerous
than those of the Daffodil, being powerfully emetic and irritant.
The scent of the flowers is deleterious, if they are present in any
quantity in a closed room, producing in some persons headache and
is used in homoeopathy for the preparation of a
fragrant flowers of the JONQUIL (N. jonquilla) and the CAMPERNELLA
(N. odorus), a sweet-smelling yellow oil is obtained in the south
of France, used in perfumery.
with which most species of Narcissus can be grown in this country
is remarkable, since, being mostly natives of Southern Europe and
Northern Africa, they have to adapt themselves to very different
conditions of soil and climate.
of flowering plants is more readily cultivated and less liable to
disease, and the presence in its leaves and roots of innumerable
bundles of needle-shaped crystals of calcium oxalate, termed
raphides, protect it from injury of browsing and gnawing animals,
rendering the plants indigestible and possibly poisonous to cattle
and smaller animals.
and Lily are not thus equipped for defence against browsing
animals. Rabbits often fall prey to it.
insect enemy from which the Narcissus seems to suffer is the fly
Merodon equestris, the grub of which lays an egg in or near the
bulb, which then forms the food of the larva. This pest causes
serious damage in Holland and the south of England.
Nettle, White Dead
Nettle, Purple Dead
Nettle, Yellow Dead
tribe, Urticaceae, is widely spread over the world and contains
about 500 species, mainly tropical, though several, like our common
Stinging Nettle, occur widely in temperate climates. Many of the
species have stinging hairs on their stems and leaves. Two genera
are represented in the British Isles, Urtica, the Stinging Nettles,
and Parietaria, the Pellitory. Formerly botanists included in the
order Urticaceae the Elm family, Ulmaceae; the Mulberry, Fig and
Bread Fruit family, Moraceae; and that of the Hemp and Hop,
Cannabinacece; but these are now generally regarded as separate
British species of Stinging Nettle, belonging to the genus Urtica
(the name derived from the Latin, uro, to burn), are well known for
the burning properties of the fluid contained in the stinging hairs
with which the leaves are so well armed. Painful as are the
consequences of touching one of our common Nettles, they are far
exceeded by the effects of handling some of the East Indian
species: a burning heat follows the sensation of pricking, just as
if hot irons had been applied, the pain extending and continuing
for many hours or even days, attended by symptoms similar to those
which accompany lockjaw. A Java species, U. urentissima, produces
effects which last for a whole year, and are even said to cause
death. U. crenulato and U. heterophylla, both of India, are also
most virulent. Another Indian species, U. tuberosa, on the other
hand, has edible tubers, which are eaten either raw, boiled or
roasted, and considered nutritious.
Urtica dioica (LINN.)
Urtica urens (LINN.)
Medicinal Uses of the Nettle
Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Common Nettle. Stinging Nettle.
Nettle (Urtica dioica, Linn.) is distributed throughout the
temperate regions of Europe and Asia: it is not only to be found in
distant Japan, but also in South Africa and Australia and in the
description of this familiar plant is hardly necessary; its
heart-shaped, finelytoothed leaves tapering to a point, and its
green flowers in long, branched clusters springing from the axils
of the leaves are known to everyone. The flowers are incomplete:
the male or barren flowers have stamens only, and the female or
fertile flowers have only pistil or seed-producing organs.
Sometimes these different kinds of flowers are to be found on one
plant; but usually a plant will bear either male or female flowers
throughout, hence the specific name of the plant, dioica, which
means 'two houses.'
flower consists of a perianth of four greenish segments enclosing
an equal number of stamens, which bend inwards in the bud stage,
but when the flower unfolds spring backwards and outwards, the
anthers with the sudden uncoiling, exploding and scattering the
pollen. The flowers are thus adapted for wind-fertilization. The
perianth of the female flower is similar, but only contains a
single, one-seeded carpel, bearing one style with a brush-like
stigma. The male flowers are in loose sprays or racemes, the female
flowers more densely clustered together.
flowers from June to September. As a rule the stem attains a height
of 2 to 3 feet. Its perennial roots are creeping, so it multiplies
quickly, making it somewhat difficult of extirpation.
plant is downy, and also covered with stinging hairs. Each sting is
a very sharp, polished spine, which is hollow and arises from a
swollen base. In this base, which is composed of small cells, is
contained the venom, an acrid fluid, the active principle of which
is said to be bicarbonate of ammonia. When, in consequence of
pressure, the sting pierces the skin, the venom is instantly
expressed, causing the resultant irritation and inflammation. The
burning property of the juice is dissipated by heat, enabling the
young shoots of the Nettle, when boiled, to be eaten as a
It is a strange fact that the juice of the
Nettle proves an antidote for its own sting, and being applied will
afford instant relief: the juice of the Dock, which is usually
found in close proximity to the Nettle, has the same beneficial
'Nettle in, dock out.
Dock rub nettle out!'
is an old rhyme.
If a person is stung with a Nettle a
certain cure will be effected by rubbing Dock leaves over the part,
repeating the above charm slowly. Another version is current in
Out 'ettle in dock,
Dock zhail ha' a new smock;
'Ettle zhant ha' narrun!
of a Nettle may also be cured by rubbing the part with Rosemary,
Mint or Sage leaves.
two other species of Nettle found in Britain, both annuals. The
Lesser Nettle (U. urens) is widely distributed and resembles the
Common Nettle in habit, but has smaller leaves and the flowers in
short, mostly unbranched clusters, male and female in the same
panicle. It is glabrous except for the stinging hairs, whereas U.
dioica is softly hairy throughout. It rarely attains more than a
foot in height and is a common garden weed.
The Roman Nettle (U. pilulifera), bearing
its female flowers in little compact, globular heads, is not
general and is considered a doubtful native. It is also smooth
except for the stinging hairs, but these contain a far more
virulent venom than either of the other species. It occurs in waste
places near towns and villages in the east of England, chiefly near
the sea, but is rare. It is supposed to have been introduced by the
Romans. The antiquary Camden records in his work Britannica that
this Nettle was common at Romney, saying that here or near it,
Julius Caesar landed and called it 'Romania,' from which Romney is
a corruption. Camden adds:
'The soldiers brought some of the nettle
seed with them, and sowed it there for their use to rub and chafe
their limbs, when through extreme cold they should be stiff or
benumbed, having been told that the climate of Britain was so cold
that it was not to be endured. '
general presence in the neighbourhood of houses or spots where
house refuse is deposited, it has been suggested that Nettles are
not really natives, a supposition that to some extent receives
countenance from the circumstance that the young shoots are very
sensitive to frost. However that may be, they follow man in his
migrations, and by their presence usually indicate a soil rich in
name of the Nettle, or rather its Anglo-Saxon and also Dutch
equivalent, Netel, is said to have been derived from Noedl (a
needle), possibly from the sharp sting, or, as Dr. Prior suggests,
in reference to the fact that it was this plant that supplied the
thread used in former times by the Germanic and Scandinavian
nations before the general introduction of flax, Net being the
passive participle of ne, a verb common to most of the
Indo-European languages in the sense of 'spin' and 'sew' (Latin
nere, German na-hen, Sanskrit nah, bind). Nettle would seem, he
considers, to have meant primarily that with which one
is very similar to that of Hemp or Flax, and it was used for the
same purposes, from making cloth of the finest texture down to the
coarsest, such as sailcloth, sacking, cordage, etc. In Hans
Andersen's fairy-tale of the Princess and the Eleven Swans, the
coats she wove for them were made of Nettles.
Hemp bear southern names and were introduced into the North to
In the sixteenth and seventeenth century
Nettle fibres were still used in Scotland for weaving the coarser
household napery. The historian Westmacott says: 'Scotch cloth is
only the housewifery of the nettle. In Friesland, also, it was used
till a late period.' The poet, Campbell, complaining of the little
attention paid to the Nettle in England, tells us:
'In Scotland, I have eaten nettles, I have
slept in nettle sheets, and I have dined off a nettle tablecloth.
The young and tender nettle is an excellent potherb. The stalks of
the old nettle are as good as flax for making cloth. I have heard
my mother say that she thought nettle cloth more durable than any
other species of linen.'
Nettles had been cut, dried and steeped, the fibre was separated
with instruments similar to those used in dressing flax or hemp,
and then spun into yarn, used in manufacturing every sort of cloth,
cordage, etc., usually made from flax or hemp. Green (Universal
Herbal, 1832) says this yarn was particularly useful for making
twine for fishing nets, the fibre of the Nettle being stronger than
those of flax and not so harsh as those of hemps.
being, however, produced in less quantities than that of flax, and
being somewhat difficult to extract, accounts, perhaps, for the
fact that it is no longer used in Britain, though it was still
employed in other countries in textile manufactures some sixty
years ago. The greatest objection to its extensive employment is
the necessity of growing it in rich, deep soil, for otherwise the
fibre produced is short and coarse, and on land fitted for it flax
can be grown at less cost compared to the value of the seed and
fibre yielded. The most valuable sort of Nettle in regard to length
and suppleness is most common in the bottom of ditches, among
briars and in shaded valleys, where the soil is a strong loam. In
such situations the plants will sometimes attain a great height,
those growing in patches on a good soil, standing thick, averaging
5 to 6 feet in height, the stems thickly clothed with fine lint.
Those growing in poorer soils and less favourable situations, with
rough and woody stem and many lateral branches, run much to seed
and are less useful, producing lint more coarse, harsh and
Germany and Austria ran short of cotton during the War, the value
of the Nettle as a substitute was at once recognized, and the two
ordinary species, U. dioica and U. urens, the great and the smaller
Nettle, were specially selected for textiles.
many fibrous plants experimented with, the Nettle alone fulfilled
all the conditions of a satisfactory source of textile fibre, and
it was believed that it would become an important factor in
agriculture and in the development of the textile industry.
Investigations and practical tests made in 1916 at Brünn and
Reichenberg confirmed the hopes raised concerning the possibilities
to be realized in Nettle fibre; the capabilities of the plant were
thoroughly tested, and from the standpoint of the factory it was
affirmed that goods woven from this fibre were for most purposes
equal to cotton goods, so that it was believed that, for Central
Europe at least, a large and increasing use of Nettle fibre seemed
assured. Mixed with 10 per cent cotton, it was definitely shown
that underclothing, cloth, stockings, tarpaulins, etc., could be
manufactured from the new fibre.
1.3 million kilograms of this material were collected in Germany, a
quantity which increased to 2.7 million kilograms in 1916, and this
without any attempt at systematic cultivation. The quantity of
Nettles grown wild in Germany was estimated at 60,000 tons, but as
time went on it was found that self-sown Nettles were insufficient
in quantity for the need, and that their quality could be improved
by cultivation, and great efforts were made to increase production,
but the cultivation proved more difficult than was
from Nettle fibre was employed in many articles of army clothing.
Forty kilograms were calculated to provide enough stuff for one
shirt. In 1917 two captured German overalls, marked with the dates
1915 and 1916 respectively, were found to be woven of a mixed fibre
consisting of 85 per cent of the common Stinging Nettle and 15 per
cent of Ramie, the fibre of the Rhea, or Grass (Boehmeria nivea), a
tropical member of the Nettle family, which is used in the
manufacture of gas-mantles and is also valuable for making
artificial silk and was largely employed in war-time in the making
army orders dated in March, April and May of 1918 give a good
insight into the extent to which use was made of cloth woven from
Nettle fibre. In these orders, Nettle is described as the only
efficient cotton substitute.
Austria, also, Nettles were cultivated on a large
of the Nettle fibre varies from 3/4 inch to 2 1/2 inches: all above
1 3/8 inch is equal to the best Egyptian cotton. It can be dyed and
bleached in the same way as cotton, and when mercerized is but
slightly inferior to silk. It has been considered much superior to
cotton for velvet and plush.
Textile Department of the Bradford Technical College exhibited in
March, 1918, samples of Nettle fibre. It had a pleasing appearance
to the eye, but when examined under the microscope, magnification
showed that it had a glass-like surface, devoid of the serrations
which endow wool as a fibre for textile production, and experts
considered that its employment in Germany seemed to point to very
straitened circumstances as the motive, rather than any recognition
of a true textile value in the fibre.
properties of the Nettle were recognized before the War, and
considerable sums of money were spent in the endeavour to utilize
that plant, but trouble was experienced in the separation of the
fibres. Recently, great progress has been made and some fifty
processes have been patented for attaining this separation. In 1917
some 70,000 hectares of Nettles were cultivated, and it is thought
possible to plant a million hectares of lowlands, giving a yield of
Nettle fibres that would cover about 18 per cent of Germany's
by-products of the Nettle were also stated to be of enormous
production, the Nettle not only supplying a substitute for cotton,
but for such indispensable articles as sugar, starch, protein and
use of great importance is the application of the fibres of Nettle
to the manufacture of paper of various qualities. They used to be
collected in France in considerable quantities for that purpose,
and though, owing to the different ages of the fibre, the attempts
to use it for paper-making have not always met with complete
success, the subject deserves further attention.
culinary point of view the Nettle has an old reputation. It is one
of the few wild plants still gathered each spring by country-folk
as a pot-herb. It makes a healthy vegetable, easy of
tops should be gathered when 6 to 8 inches high. Gloves should be
worn to protect the hands when picking them. They should be washed
in running water with a stick and then put into a saucepan,
dripping, without any added water, and cooked with the lid on for
about 20 minutes. Then chopped, rubbed through a hair-sieve and
either served plain, or warmed up in the pan again, with a little
salt, pepper and butter, or a little gravy, and served with or
without poached eggs. They thus form a refreshing dish of spring
greens, which is slightly laxative. In autumn, however, Nettles are
hurtful, the leaves being gritty from the abundance of crystals
(cystoliths) they contain.
Scotland it was the practice to force Nettles for 'early spring
kail. ' Sir Walter Scott tells us in Rob Roy how Andrew
Fairservice, the old gardener of Lochleven, raised early Nettles
under hand-glasses. By earthing up, Nettles may be blanched in the
same way as seakale and eaten in a similar manner. They also make a
good vegetable soup, and in Scotland are used with leeks, broccoli
and rice to make Nettle pudding, a very palatable
gallon of young Nettle tops, thoroughly washed, add 2 good-sized
leeks or onions, 2 heads of broccoli or small cabbage, or Brussels
sprouts, and 1/4 lb. of rice. Clean the vegetables well; chop the
broccoli and leeks and mix with the Nettles. Place all together in
a muslin bag, alternately with the rice, and tie tightly. Boil in
salted water, long enough to cook the vegetables, the time varying
according to the tenderness or other vise of the greens. Serve with
gravy or melted butter. These quantities are sufficient for six
refers to Nettle pudding in his Diary, February, 1661: 'We did eat
some Nettle porridge, which was very good.'
Beer made by cottagers is often given to their old folk as a remedy
for gouty and rheumatic pains, but apart from this purpose it forms
a pleasant drink. It may be made as follows: Take 2 gallons of cold
water and a good pailful of washed young Nettle tops, add 3 or 4
large handsful of Dandelion, the same of Clivers (Goosegrass) and 2
OZ. of bruised, whole ginger. Boil gently for 40 minutes, then
strain and stir in 2 teacupsful of brown sugar. When lukewarm place
on the top a slice of toasted bread, spread with 1 OZ. of
compressed yeast, stirred till liquid with a teaspoonful of sugar.
Keep it fairly warm for 6 or 7 hours, then remove the scum and stir
in a tablespoonful of cream of tartar. Bottle and tie the corks
securely. The result is a specially wholesome sort of ginger beer.
The juice of 2 lemons may be substituted for the Dandelion and
Clivers. Other herbs are often added to Nettles in the making of
Herb Beer, such as Burdock, Meadowsweet, Avens Horehound, the
combination making a refreshing summer drink.
arrester of bleeding, the Nettle has few equals and an infusion of
the dried herb, or alcoholic tincture made from the fresh plant, or
the fresh Nettle juice itself in doses of 1 to 2 tablespoonsful is
of much power inwardly for bleeding from the nose, lungs or
stomach. Old writers recommended a small piece of lint, moistened
with the juice, to be placed in the nostril in bad cases of
nosebleeding. The diluted juice provides a useful astringent
gargle. Burns may be cured rapidly by applying to them linen cloths
well wetted with the tincture, the cloths being frequently
re-wetted. An infusion of the fresh leaves is also soothing and
healing as a lotion for burns.
one of the best antiscorbutics. An infusion known as Nettle Tea is
a common spring medicine in rural districts, and has long been used
as a blood purifier. This tea made from young Nettles is in many
parts of the country used as a cure for nettlerash. It is also
beneficially employed in cases of gouty gravel, but must not be
brewed too strong. A strong decoction of Nettle, drunk too freely,
has produced severe burning over the whole body.
homoeopathic tincture, Urtica, is frequently administered
successfully for rheumatic gout, also for nettlerash and
chickenpox, and externally for bruises.
'Urtication,' or flogging with Nettles, was an old remedy for
chronic rheumatism and loss of muscular power.
Nettles, mashed and pulped finely, mixed with equal bulk of thick
cream, pepper and salt being added to taste, have been considered a
valuable food for consumptives.
Uses of the Nettle---Parts employed: The whole herb, collected in
Mayand June, just before coming into flower, and dried in the usual
manner prescribed for 'bunched' herbs.
herb is collected for drying, it should be gathered only on a fine
day, in the morning, when the sun has dried off the dew. Cut off
just above the root, rejecting any stained or insect-eaten leaves,
and tie in bunches, about six to ten in a bunch, spread out
fanwise, so that the air can penetrate freely to all
bunches over strings. If dried in the open, keep them in half-shade
and bring indoors before there is any risk of damp from dew or
rain. If dried indoors, hang up in a sunny room, and failing sun,
in a well-ventilated room by artificial heat. Care must be taken
that the window be left open by day so that there is a free current
of air and the moisture-laden, warm air may escape. The bunches
should be of uniform size and length, to facilitate packing when
dry, and when quite dry and crisp must be packed away at once in
airtight boxes or tins, otherwise moisture will be reabsorbed from
and flowers are dried in the sun, or over a stove, on sheets of
is still in demand by wholesale herbalists, who stock the dried and
powdered herb, also the seeds. Homoeopathic chemists, in addition,
employ the green herb for the preparation of a
---Constituents---The analysis of the fresh Nettle shows the
presence of formic acid, mucilage, mineral salts, ammonia, carbonic
acid and water.
It is the
formic acid in the Nettle, with the phosphates and a trace of iron,
which constitute it such a valuable food medicinally.
Uses---Although not prescribed by the British Pharmacopceia, the
Nettle has still a reputation in herbal medicine, and is regarded
in homoeopathy as a useful remedy. Preparations of the herb have
astringent properties and act also as a stimulating
anti-asthmatic: the juice of the roots or leaves, mixed with honey
or sugar, will relieve bronchial and asthmatic troubles and the
dried leaves, burnt and inhaled, will have the same effect. The
seeds have also been used in consumption, the infusion of herb or
seeds being taken in wineglassful doses. The seeds and flowers used
to be given in wine as a remedy for ague. The powdered seeds have
been considered a cure for goitre and efficacious in reducing
Herbals the seeds, taken inwardly, were recommended for the stings
or bites of venomous creatures and mad dogs, and as an antidote to
poisoning by Hemlock, Henbane and Nightshade.
old superstition existed that a fever could be dispelled by
plucking a Nettle up by the roots, reciting thereby the names of
the sick man and also the names of his parents.
Preparations of Nettle are said to act well upon the kidneys,
but it is a doubtful diuretic, though it has been claimed that
incipient dropsy may be remedied by tea made from the
treatment for diabetes was reported by a sufferer from that disease
in the daily press of April, 1926, it being affirmed that a diet of
young Nettles (following a two days' fast) and drinking the brew of
them had been the means of reducing his weight by 6 stone in three
days and had vastly improved his condition.
efficient Hair Tonic can be prepared from the Nettle: Simmer a
handful of young Nettles in a quart of water for 2 hours, strain
and bottle when cold. Well saturate the scalp with the lotion every
other night. This prevents the hair falling and renders it soft and
glossy. A good Nettle Hair Lotion is also prepared by boiling the
entire plant in vinegar and water, straining and adding Eau de
stimulating hair growth, the old herbalists recommended combing the
hair daily with expressed Nettle juice.
homoeopathic tincture of Nettle is made of 2 OZ. of the herb to 1
pint of proof spirit.
of the dried herb is administered in doses of 5 to 10
---Preparations---Fluid extract of herb, 1/2 to 1 drachm.
Infusion, 1 OZ. of the herb to a pint of boiling
Uses---Nettles are of considerable value as fodder for live-stock,
and might be used for this purpose where they occur largely. When
Nettles are growing, no quadruped except the ass will touch them,
on account of their stinging power, but if cut and allowed to
become wilted, they lose their sting and are then readily cleared
up by livestock. It is well known that when dried and made into
hay, so as to destroy the poisonous matter of the stings, cows will
relish them and give more milk than when fed on hay alone. In
Sweden and Russia, the Nettle has sometimes been cultivated as a
fodder plant, being mown several times a year, and given to milch
were much used as a substitute for fodder during the war, and
instructions for their use were laid down by German military
authorities. It was found that horses which had become thin and
suffered from digestive troubles benefited from the use of Nettle
leaves in their rations. When dried, the proportion of albuminoid
matter in Nettles is as high as in linseed cake and the fat content
is also considerable.
is also of great use to the keeper of poultry. Dried and powdered
finely and put into the food, it increases egg-production and is
healthy and fattening. The seeds are also said to fatten fowls.
Turkeys, as well as ordinary poultry, thrive on Nettles chopped
small and mixed with their food, and pigs do well on boiled
Holland, and also in Egypt, it is said that horse-dealers mix the
seeds of Nettles with oats or other food, in order to give the
animals a sleek coat.
in Britain upwards of thirty insects feed solely on the Nettle
plant, flies have a distaste for the plant, and a fresh bunch of
Stinging Nettles will keep a larder free from them.
in the neighbourhood of beehives, it is said the Nettle will drive
of the Nettle, or a decoction formed by boiling the green herb in a
strong solution of salt, will curdle milk, providing the
cheese-maker with a good substitute for rennet. The same juice, if
rubbed liberally into small seams in leaky wooden tubs coagulates
and will render them once more watertight.
decoction of Nettle yields a beautiful and permanent green dye,
which is used for woollen stuffs in Russia: the roots, boiled with
alum, produce a yellow colour, which was formerly widely used in
country districts to dye yarn, and is also employed by the Russian
peasants to stain eggs yellow on Maundy Thursday.
expressed seeds yield a burning oil, which has been extracted and
used in Egypt.
The following passage from Les Misérables
on the utilization of Nettles, shows how conversant Victor Hugo was
with the virtues of this commonly despised 'weed':
'One day he (Monsieur Madeleine) saw some
peasants busy plucking out Nettles; he looked at the heap of plants
uprooted and already withered, and said - "They are dead. Yet it
would be well if people knew how to make use of them. When the
nettle is young, its leaf forms an excellent vegetable; when it
matures, it has filaments and fibres like hemp and flax. Nettle
fabric is as good as canvas. Chopped, the nettle is good for
poultry; pounded it is good for cattle. The seed of the nettle
mingled with fodder imparts a gloss to the coats of animals; its
root mixed with salt produces a beautiful yellow colour. It is
besides excellent hay and can be cut twice. And what does the
nettle require? Little earth, no attention, no cultivation. Only
the seed falls as it ripens, and is difficult to gather. That is
all. With a little trouble, the nettle would be useful; it is
neglected, and becomes harmful." '
are increasing all over the country, and for the benefit of those
who desire their eradication, the Royal Horticultural Society, in
their Diary for 1926, informed their members that if Nettles are
cut down three times in three consecutive years, they will
Lamium album (LINN.)
---Synonyms---Archangel. White Dead Nettle. Blind Nettle. Dumb
Nettle. Deaf Nettle. Bee Nettle.
Dead-Nettle owes its name of Nettle to the fact that the plant as a
whole bears a strong general resemblance to the Stinging Nettle,
for which it may easily be mistaken in the early spring, before it
is in bloom; but the flowers are absolutely different in the two
plants, which are quite unrelated. It can, moreover, be always
readilydistinguished from the Stinging Nettle, even when not in
flower, by the squareness and hollowness of its stem.
The 'Dead' in its name refers to its
inability to sting. Lord Avebury points out that this resemblance
is a clever adaption of nature.
'It cannot be doubted that the true nettle
is protected by its power of stinging, and that being so, it is
scarcely less clear that the Dead Nettle must be protected by its
likeness to the other,'
the two species being commonly found
growing together. The resemblance serves probably not only as a
protection against browsing quadrupeds, but also against
country names refer to this false suggestion of stinging power. In
some localities it is called White Archangel, or Archangel alone,
probably because it first comes into flower about the day dedicated
to the Archangel Michael, May 8, old style - eleven days earlier
than our May 8.
is also known as the Bee Nettle, because bees visit it freely for
the honey which it provides lavishly. The flower is specially built
to encourage bee visitors - especially the bumble bee. In the axils
of the leaves are whorls, or rings, of the flowers each ring
composed of six to twelve blossoms of a delicate creamy white; out
of the spiky green, five-pointed calyx rises the white petal tube,
which expands into an erection of very irregular shape, composed of
five petals, one forming the lip, two the hood, and two form the
stamens lie in pairs along the back of the flower, with their heads
well up under the hood and their faces downwards. The long column
from the ovary also lies with them, but its top, the stigma, hangs
a little out beyond the pollen-bearing anthers of the stamens. At
the bottom of the corolla-tube is a rich store of
When a bee
visits the flower, he alights on the lower lip, thrusts his
proboscis down the petal tube, which is nearly 1/2 inch long, and
reaches the honey, his back fitting meanwhile exactly into the
conformation of the corolla, so that he first, as he settles on the
lip, rubs the projecting stigmas with the pollen already on his
back (thus affecting the fertilization of the flower), and then
presses on to the stamens and gets dusted with their pollen in
exchange, and this is then passed on to the next flower he visits.
Unless the insect visitor is a big one, his back will not fill the
cavity and neither stigma nor stamens are touched. The honey is
placed in such a position that only the big humble bees with their
long probosces can reach it. The flower also guards against smaller
insects creeping down its tube by placing a barrier of hairs round
it just above the honey. Some insects, whose tongues are too short
to reach the honey, get at it by biting through the wall of the
white tube right down at its base, and sucking away the honey
without taking any share in the fertilization of the
flower fades, the green calyx still remains to protect the tiny
nutlets. It is somewhat stiffened, and when the nutlets are ripe
and ready for dispersal, any pressure upon it forces it back and on
the pressure being removed, the nuts are shot out with some
is to be found in flower from May almost until December. The
heartshaped leaves, with their saw-like margins, are placed on the
square, hollow stems in pairs, each pair exactly at right angles to
the one above and below. Both stems and leaves are covered with
small rough hairs, and contain certain essential oils which
probably make them distasteful to cattle, even after their
powerlessness to sting has been discovered. When bruised, the whole
plant has a strong, rather disagreeable smell.
corners of the hollow stems are strengthened by specially strong
columns of fibres. In the country, boys often cut the stems and
make whistles out of them.
generic name of the Dead Nettles Lamium, is derived from the Greek
word laimos (the throat), in allusion to the form of the
Lamium purpureum (LINN.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
Dead-Nettle is a common weed in cultivated ground and by waysides,
found in the same spots as the other species, but less
heart- or kidney-shaped leaves, blunt, not pointed as in the
preceding species, and is distinguished by the purple tinge of its
foliage, crowded upper leaves and small, reddish flowers, which
have much shorter petal tubes than the Yellow and White
DeadNettles, so that bees with shorter tongues than the humble-bee,
can reach its honey and fertilize it. It is, indeed, a favourite
with bees, who find abundance of honey in its blossoms. The upper
leaves are often densely clapped with silky hairs.
all the summer - from April to September and in mild seasons, both
earlier and later. This species of Dead-Nettle is an annual,
propagated by its seeds alone. It is one of the earliest weeds in
gardens, but being an annual is easily eradicated.
varies greatly in appearance, according to the situation in which
it grows. On the open ground, it is somewhat spreading in habit,
rarely more than 6 inches in height, whilst specimens growing in
the midst of crowded vegetation are often drawn up to a
considerable height, their leaves being of a dull green throughout,
whereas those of the smaller specimens grown in the open are
ordinarily more or less warm and rich in colour. At first glance
the variation in the appearance of specimens grown under these
different circumstances would leave the casual observer to suppose
them to belong to different species.
Action and Uses---The herb and flowers, either fresh or dried, have
been used to make a decoction for checking any kind of
are also useful to staunch wounds, when bruised and outwardly
herb, made into a tea and sweetened with honey, promotes
perspiration and acts on the kidneys, being useful in cases of
reported that this species also has been boiled and eaten as a
pot-herb by the peasantry in Sweden.
Part Used Medicinally
Medicinal Action and Uses
DEAD-NETTLE (Lamium amplexicaule, Linn.), a small annual, fairly
common on cultivated and waste ground, is not unlike the Purple
Dead-Nettle, but somewhat lighter and more graceful. Its fine, deep
rose-coloured flowers have a much slenderer tube, thrown out
farther from the leaves.
SPOTTED DEAD-NETTLE (L. maculatum), not considered a true wilding,
but an escape from old-fashioned cottage gardens, is by some
botanists regarded as a variety of the White Dead-Nettle, which it
closely resembles, the flowers being, however, pale purple, instead
of white and the foliage often marked by a broad, irregular streak
of white down the centre of each leaf, with a few blotches on each
NETTLE (Galeopsis tetrahit, Lirm.) (named from gale (weasel) and
opsis (a countenance), because of a fancied resemblance of its
blossom to a weasel's face) is supposed to have been the source of
one of Count Mattei's nostrums: Pettorale.
found on roadsides and borders of cornfields, tall-stemmed and
erect, covered with long, dense bristles, the stem-joints thickened
and the egg-shaped leaves hairy. The flowers, in dense whorls, are
white, purple or yellow and are specially adapted for the visits of
long-lipped bees, being much visited by the Humble
Gerard tells us:
'the White Archangel flowers compass the
stalks round at certain distances, even as those of Horehound,
whereof this is a kind and not of Nettle. The root is very threddy.
The flowers are baked with sugar; as also the distilled water of
them, which is said to make the heart merry, to make a good colour
in the face, and to make the vital spirits more fresh and
tells us that although refused by cattle, the leaves are eaten in
Sweden as a pot-herb in the spring, in like manner as the True
Used Medicinally---The whole herb, collected in May and June, when
just coming into flower and the leaves are in their best condition,
and then dried in the manner directed for 'bunched'
characteristic Dead-Nettle odour is lost in drying, but a slightly
bitter taste remains.
may be cultivated and propagated by means of seed sown in shallow
drills, or by cuttings or division of roots - it spreads rapidly by
means of its creeping, perennial roots, so that when once
established, it is hard to get rid of it - but it would hardly pay
for cultivation and is generally collected in the wild
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The whole plant is of an
astringent nature, and in herbal medicine is considered of use for
arresting haemorrhages, as in spitting of blood and dysentery.
Cotton-wool, dipped in a tincture of the fresh herb, is efficacious
in staunching bleeding and a homoeopathic tincture prepared from
the flowers is used for internal bleeding, the dose being 5 to 10
drops in cold water.
As a blood
purifier for rashes, eczema, etc., a decoction of Nettle flowers is
It has the
reputation of being effectual in the healing of green wounds,
bruises and burns.
the other species of Dead-Nettle have also been used in female
complaints for their astringent properties.
and the old herbalists tell us that the Archangel is an
exhilarating herb, that it 'makes the heart merry, drives away
melancholy, quickens the spirits, is good against the quartan
agues, stauncheth bleeding at the mouth and nose if it be stamped
and applied to the nape of the neck.'
used with great success in removing the hardness of the spleen,
which was supposed to be the seat of melancholy, a decoction being
made with wine and the herb applied hot as a plaster to the region
of the spleen, the decoction also being used as a
and mixed with salt, vinegar and lard, it has proved useful in the
reduction of swellings and also to give ease in gout, sciatica and
other pains in the joints and muscles.
Lamium Galeobdolon (LINN.)
---Synonyms---Yellow Archangel. Weazel Snout. Dummy
closely-allied Yellow Archangel and the Purple Dead-Nettle (Lamium
purpureum) have also been used medicinally for the same purposes as
the White Dead-Nettle, Culpepper telling us that the Yellow
Archangel is most to be commended of the three for healing sores
species have hollow, square stalks, with the leaves opposite, in
Archangel resembles in habit the White Dead-Nettle, but its stems
are straighter and more upright, the pairs of leaves farther apart,
the leaves themselves, narrower, longer and more pointed. The
flowers, which also grow in whorls, are a little longer. They are
large and handsome; pale yellow, blotched with red, visited by both
Humble- and Honey-bee.
It has a
much shorter flowering season than either of the other
Dead-Nettles, being only in flower for two months - mid-April to
mid-June, or May to July, according to district.
is not infrequent in damp woods and shady hedgerows, but is much
more local in its habitat than either the White or Purple
Dead-Nettle, being common in some localities and altogether absent
specific name, Galeobdolon, is made up from two Greek words, gale
(a weasel) and bdolos (a disagreeable odour), an allusion to the
somewhat strong odour of the plant when crushed.
herb was used medicinally, dried and employed in the same manner as
the White Archangel.
Solanum nigrum (LINN.)
Shorter's Medical Dictionary, Poisons &
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Garden Nightshade. Petty Morel.
Used---Whole plant, fresh leaves.
Nightshade is an annual plant, common and generally distributed in
the South of England, less abundant in the North and somewhat
infrequent in Scotland. It is one of the most cosmopolitan of wild
plants, extending almost over the whole globe.
country, it is frequently to be seen by the wayside and is often
found on rubbish heaps, but also among growing crops and in damp
and shady places. It is sometimes called the Garden Nightshade,
because it so often occurs in cultivated ground.
rarely grows more than a foot or so in height and is much branched,
generally making a bushy-looking mass. It varies much according to
the conditions of its growth, both as to the amount of its dull
green foliage and the size of its individual leaves, which are
egg-shaped and stalked, the outlines bluntly notched or waved. The
stem is green and hollow.
flowers are arranged in clusters at the end of stalks springing
from the main stems at the intervals between the leaves, not, as in
the Bittersweet, opposite the leaves. They are small and white,
resembling those of Bittersweet in form, and are succeeded by small
round berries, green at first, but black when ripe. The plant
flowers and fruits freely, and in the autumn the masses of black
berries are very noticeable; they have, when mature, a very
of its berries, the Black Nightshade was called by older herbalists
'Petty Morel,' to distinguish it from the Deadly Nightshade, often
known as Great Morel. Culpepper says: 'Do not mistake the deadly
nightshade for this,' cautiously adding, 'if you know it not, you
may then let them both alone.'
fourteenth century, we hear of the plant under the name of Petty
Morel being used for canker and with Horehound and wine taken for
whole plant, gathered in early autumn, when in both flower and
fruit and dried. Also the fresh leaves.
plant grows at all in a bunchy mass, strip off the stems singly and
dry them under the same conditions as given above for Belladonna
leaves, tying several stems together in a bunch, however, spread
out fanwise for the air to penetrate to all parts, and hang the
bunches over strings, rather than in trays. The bunches should be
of uniform size.
and Uses---This species has the reputation of being very poisonous,
a fact, however, disputed by recent inquiries. In experimenting on
dogs, very varying results have been obtained, which may be
explained by the fact that the active principle, Solanine, on which
the poisonous properties of this and the preceding species depend,
and which exists in considerable quantity in the fresh herb, varies
very much at different seasons.
berries are injurious to children, but are often eaten by adults
with impunity, especially when quite ripe, as the poisonous
principle is chiefly associated with all green parts. Cattle will
not eat the plant and sheep rarely touch it.
applied in medicine similarly to Bittersweet, but is more powerful
and possesses greater narcotic properties.
to Withering and other authorities, 1 or 2 grains of the dried
leaves, infused in boiling water, act as a strong
the leaves are placed in the cradles of infants to promote sleep.
In the islands of Bourbon and Mauritius, the leaves are eaten in
place of spinach: and the fruit is said to be eaten without
inconvenience by soldiers stationed in British Kaffraria.
(Lindley's Treasury of Botany.)
been found useful in cutaneous disorders, but its action is
variable, and it is considered a somewhat dangerous remedy except
in very small doses.
bruised fresh leaves, used externally, are said to ease pain and
abate inflammation, and the Arabs apply them to burns and ulcers.
Their juice has been used for ringworm, gout and earache, and mixed
with vinegar, is said to be good as a gargle and
the above-mentioned species, others are used for medicinal,
alimentary, and other purposes. Some are employed almost
universally as narcotics to allay pain, etc.; others are sudorific
and purgative. Solanum toxicarium is used as a poison by the
natives of Cayenne. S. pseudo-quina is esteemed as a valuable
febrifuge in Brazil. Among those used for food, are S. Album and S.
Æthiopicum, the fruits of which are used in China and Japan. Those
of S. Anguivi are eaten in Madagascar. S. esculentum and its
varieties furnish the fruits known as Aubergines or Brinjals, which
are highly esteemed in France, and may sometimes be met with in
English markets; they are of the size and form of a goose's egg and
usually of a rich purple colour. The Egg-plant, which has white
berries, is only a variety of this. The Peruvians eat the fruits of
S. muricatum and S. quitoense; those of S. ramosum are eaten as a
vegetable in the West Indies. The Tasmanian Kangaroo Apple is the
fruit of S. laciniatum; unless fully ripe this is said to be acrid.
In Gippsland, Australia, the natives eat the fruits of S. vescum,
which, like the preceding, is not agreeable till fully ripe, when
it is said to resemble in form and flavour the fruits of Physalis
peruviana. Of other species the leaves are eaten; as those of S.
oleraceum in the West Indies and Fiji Islands, of S. sessiflorum in
species are used as dyes. S. indigoferum, in Brazil, cultivated for
indigo. The juice of the fruit of S. gnaphalioides is said to be
used to tint the cheeks of the Peruvian ladies, while their sisters
of the Canary Isles employ similarly the fruits of S. vespertilia.
The fruits of S. saponaceum are used in Peru to whiten linen in
place of soap. S. marginatum is used in Abyssinia for tanning
Shorter's Medical Dictionary, Poisons &
Atropa belladonna (LINN.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
Preparations and Dosages
---Synonyms---Belladonna. Devil's Cherries. Naughty Man's
Cherries. Divale. Black Cherry. Devil's Herb. Great Morel.
Used---Root, leaves, tops.
---Habitat---Widely distributed over Central and Southern
Europe, South-west Asia and Algeria; cultivated in England, France
and North America.
widely distributed over Central and Southern Europe, the plant is
not common in England, and has become rarer of late years. Although
chiefly a native of the southern counties, being almost confined to
calcareous soils, it has been sparingly found in twenty-eight
British counties, mostly in waste places, quarries and near old
ruins. In Scotland it is rare. Under the shade of trees, on wooded
hills, on chalk or limestone, it will grow most luxuriantly,
forming bushy plants several feet high, but specimens growing in
places exposed to the sun are apt to be dwarfed, consequently it
rarely attains such a large size when cultivated in the open, and
is more subject to the attacks of insects than when growing wild
under natural conditions.
root is thick, fleshy and whitish, about 6 inches long, or more,
and branching. It is perennial. The purplishcoloured stem is annual
and herbaceous. It is stout, 2 to 4 feet high, undivided at the
base, but dividing a little above the ground into three - more
rarely two or four branches, each of which again branches
are dull, darkish green in colour and of unequal size, 3 to 10
inches long, the lower leaves solitary, the upper ones in pairs
alternately from opposite sides of the stem, one leaf of each pair
much larger than the other, oval in shape, acute at the apex,
entire and attenuated into short petioles.
plants grow only about 1 1/2 feet in height. Their leaves are often
larger than in full-grown plants and grow on the stem immediately
above the ground. Older plants attain a height of 3 to 5 feet,
occasionally even 6 feet, the leaves growing about 1 to 2 feet from
plant is glabrous, or nearly so, though soft, downy hairs may occur
on the young stems and the leaves when quite young. The veins of
the leaves are prominent on the under surface, especially the
midrib, which is depressed on the upper surface of the
plant, when crushed, exhales a disagreeable odour, almost
disappearing on drying, and the leaves have a bitter taste, when
both fresh and dry.
flowers, which appear in June and July, singly, in the axils of the
leaves, and continue blooming until early September, are of a dark
and dingy purplish colour, tinged with green, large (about an inch
long), pendent, bell-shaped, furrowed, the corolla with five large
teeth or lobes, slightly reflexed. The five-cleft calyx spreads
round the base of the smooth berry, which ripens in September, when
it acquires a shining black colour and is in size like a small
cherry. It contains several seeds. The berries are full of a dark,
inky juice, and are intensely sweet, and their attraction to
children on that account, has from their poisonous properties, been
attended with fatal results. Lyte urges growers 'to be carefull to
see to it and to close it in, that no body enter into the place
where it groweth, that wilbe enticed with the beautie of the fruite
to eate thereof.' And Gerard, writing twenty years later, after
recounting three cases of poisoning from eating the berries,
exhorts us to 'banish therefore these pernicious plants out of your
gardens and all places neare to your houses where children do
resort.' In September, 1916, three children were admitted to a
London hospital suffering from Belladonna poisoning, caused, it was
ascertained, from having eaten berries from large fruiting plants
of Atropa Belladonna growing in a neighbouring public garden, the
gardener being unaware of their dangerous nature, and again in 1921
the Norwich Coroner, commenting on the death of achild from the
same cause, said that he had had four not dissimilar cases
It is said
that when taken by accident, the poisonous effects of Belladonna
berries may be prevented by swallowing as soon as possible an
emetic, such as a large glass of warm vinegar or mustard and water.
In undoubted cases of this poisoning, emetics and the stomach-pump
are resorted to at once, followed by a dose of magnesia, stimulants
and strong coffee, the patient being kept very warm and artificial
respiration being applied if necessary. A peculiar symptom in those
poisoned by Belladonna is the complete loss of voice, together with
frequent bending forward of the trunk and continual movements of
the hands and fingers, the pupils of the eye becoming much
plant in Chaucer's days was known as Dwale, which Dr. J. A. H.
Murray considers was probably derived from the Scandinavian dool,
meaning delay or sleep. Other authorities have derived the word
from the French deuil (grief), a reference to its fatal
character is due to the presence of an alkaloid, Atropine, 1/10
grain of which swallowed by a man has occasioned symptoms of
poisoning. As every part of the plant is extremely poisonous,
neither leaves, berries, nor root should be handled if there are
any cuts or abrasions on the hands. The root is the most poisonous,
the leaves and flowers less so, and the berries, except to
children, least of all. It is said that an adult may eat two or
three berries without injury, but dangerous symptoms appear if more
are taken, and it is wiser not to attempt the experiment. Though so
powerful in its action on the human body, the plant seems to affect
some of the lower animals but little. Eight pounds of the herb are
said to have been eaten by a horse without causing any injury, and
an ass swallowed 1 lb. of the ripe berries without any bad results
following. Rabbits, sheep, goats and swine eat the leaves with
impunity, and birds often eat the seeds without any apparent
effect, but cats and dogs are very susceptible to the
is supposed to have been the plant that poisoned the troops of
Marcus Antonius during the Parthian wars. Plutarch gives a graphic
account of the strange effects that followed its use.
relates in his History of Scotland (1582) a tradition that when
Duncan I was King of Scotland, the soldiers of Macbeth poisoned a
whole army of invading Danes by a liquor mixed with an infusion of
Dwale supplied to them during a truce. Suspecting nothing, the
invaders drank deeply and were easily overpowered and murdered in
their sleep by the Scots.
to old legends, the plant belongs to the devil who goes about
trimming and tending it in his leisure, and can only be diverted
from its care on one night in the year, that is on Walpurgis, when
he is preparing for the witches' sabbath. The apples of Sodom are
held to be related to this plant, and the name Belladonna is said
to record an old superstition that at certain times it takes the
form of an enchantress of exceeding loveliness, whom it is
dangerous to look upon, though a more generally accepted view is
that the name was bestowed on it because its juice was used by the
Italian ladies to give their eyes greater brilliancy, the smallest
quantity having the effect of dilating the pupils of the
derivation is founded on the old tradition that the priests used to
drink an infusion before they worshipped and invoked the aid of
Bellona, the Goddess of War.
generic name of the plant, Atropa, is derived from the Greek
Atropos, one of the Fates who held the shears to cut the thread of
human life - a reference to its deadly, poisonous
Lupton (1585) says: 'Dwale makes one to sleep while he is cut or
burnt by cauterizing.' Gerard (1597) calls the plant the Sleeping
Nightshade, and says the leaves moistened in wine vinegar and laid
on the head induce sleep.
a foreign species of Atropa (A. Mandragora), was used in Pliny's
day as an anaesthetic for operations. Its root contains an
alkaloid, Mandragorine. The sleeping potion of Juliet was a
preparation from this plant - perhaps also the Mandrake wine of the
Ancients. It was called Circaeon, being the wine of
is often confused in the public mind with dulcamara (Bittersweet),
possibly because it bears the popular name of woody nightshade. The
cultivation of Belladonna in England dates at least from the
sixteenth century, for Lyte says, in the Niewe Herball, 1578: 'This
herbe is found in some places of this Countrie, in woods and hedges
and in the gardens of some Herboristes.' Though not, however, much
cultivated, it was evidently growing wild in many parts of the
country when our great Herbals were written. Gerard mentions it as
freely growing at Highgate, also at Wisbech and in Lincolnshire,
and it gave a name to a Lancashire valley. Under the name of
Solanum lethale, the plant was included in our early
Pharmacopoeias, but it was dropped in 1788 and reintroduced in 1809
as Belladonna folia. Gerard was the first English writer to adopt
the Italian name, of which he makes two words. The root was not
used in medicine here until 1860, when Peter Squire recommended it
as the basis of an anodyne liniment.
War, the bulk of the world's supply of Belladonna was derived from
plants growing wild on waste, stony places in Southern Europe. The
industry was an important one in Croatia and Slavonia in South
Hungary, the chief centre for foreign Belladonna, the annual crop
in those provinces having been estimated at 60 to 100 tons of dry
leaves and 150 to 200 tons of dry root. In 1908 the largest
exporter in Slavonia is said to have sent out 29,880 lb. of dry
War of 1912-13 interrupted the continuity of Belladonna exports
from South Hungary. Stocks of roots and leaves made shorter
supplies last out until 1914, when prices rose, owing to increasing
scarcity roots which realized 45s. per cwt. in January, 1914,
selling for 65s. in June, 1914. With the outbreak of the Great War
and the consequent entire stoppage of supplies, the price
immediately rose to 100s. per cwt., and soon after, from 300s. to
480s. per cwt. or more. The dried leaves, from abroad, which in
normal times sold at 45s. to 50s. per cwt., rose to 250s. to 350s.
or more, per cwt. In August, 1916, the drug Atropine derived from
the plant had risen from 10s. 6d. per oz. before the War to L. 7
(pounds sterling) per OZ.
---Cultivation---Belladonna herb and root are sold by analysis,
the value depending upon the percentage of alkaloid contained. A
wide variation occurs in the amount of alkaloid present. It is
important, therefore, to grow the crop under such conditions of
soil and temperature as are likely to develop the highest
percentage of the active principle.
connexion with specimens of the wild plant, it is most difficult to
trace the conditions which determine the variations, but it has
been ascertained that a light, permeable and chalky soil is the
most suitable for this crop. This, joined to a south-west aspect on
the slope of a hill, gives specially good results as regards a high
percentage of alkaloids. The limits of growth of Belladonna are
between 50 degrees and 55 degrees N. Lat. and an altitude of 300 to
600 feet, though it may descend to sealevel where the soil is
calcareous, especially where the drainage is good and the necessary
amount of shade is found. The question of suitability of soil is
especially important. Although the cultivated plant contains less
alkaloid than that which grows wild, this in reality is only true
of plants transported to a soil unsuited to them. It has been
found, on the contrary, that artificial aids, such as the judicious
selection of manure, the cleansing and preparation of the soil,
destruction of weeds, etc., in accordance with the latest
scientific practice, have improved the plants in every respect, not
only in bulk, but even in percentage weight of alkaloidal
Authorities differ on the question of manuring. Some English
growers manure little if the plants are strong, but if the soil is
really poor, or the plants are weak, the crop may be appreciably
increased by the use of farmyard manure, or a mixture of nitrate of
soda, basic slag and kainit. Excellent results have been obtained
in experiments, by treating with basic slag, a soil already
slightly manured and naturally suited to the plant, the percentage
of total alkaloid in dry leaf and stem from third-year plants
amounting to 0.84. In this case, the season was, however, an
exceptionally favourable one, and, moreover, the soil being
naturally suited to the plant, the percentage of alkaloid obtained
without added fertilizer was already high. Speaking from the
writer's own experience, Belladonna grows in her garden at Chalfont
St. Peter. The soil is gravelly even stony in some parts, with a
chalk subsoil - the conditions similar to those that the plant
enjoys in its wild state. This neighbourhood, in her opinion, is a
suitable one for growing fields of Belladonna as crops for
statistics taken from season to season, extending over nine years,
have shown that atmospheric conditions have a marked influence on
the alkaloidal contents of Belladonna, the highest percentage of
alkaloid being yielded in plants grown in sunny and dry seasons.
The highest percentage of alkaloid, viz. 0.68 per cent, was
obtained from the Belladonna crop of 1912, a year in which the
months May and June were unusually dry and sunny; the lowest, just
half, 0.34 was obtained on the same ground in 1907, when the period
May and June was particularly lacking in sunshine. In 1905, August
and September proving a very wet season, specimens analysed showed
the low percentages of 0.38 and 0.35, whereas in July and October,
1906, the intervening period being very fine and dry, specimens
analysed in those months showed a percentage of 0.54 and 0.64
appears to be no marked variation in alkaloidal contents due to
different stages of growth from June to September, except when the
plant begins to fade, when there is rapid loss, hence the leaves
may be gathered any time from June until the fading of the leaves
and shoots set in.
Belladonna seed, 2 to 3 lb. should be reckoned to the acre. Autumn
sown seeds do not always germinate, it is therefore more
satisfactory to sow in boxes in a cool house, or frame, in early
March, soaking the soil in the seed-boxes first, with boiling
water, or baking it in an oven, to destroy the embryo of a small
snail which is apt, as well as slugs and various insects, to attack
the seedlings later. Pieces of chalk or lime can be placed among
the drainage rubble at the bottom of the boxes. Belladonna seed is
very slow in germinating, taking four to six weeks, or even longer,
and as a rule not more than 70 per cent can be relied on to
germinate. On account of the seeds being so prone to attack by
insect pests, if sown in the open, the seed-beds should first be
prepared carefully. First of all, rubbish should be burnt on the
ground, the soil earthed up and fired all over, all sorts of burnt
vegetable rubbish being worked in. Then thoroughly stir up the
ground and leave it rough for a few days so that air and sun
permeate it well. Then level and rake the bed fine and finally give
it a thorough drenching with boiling water. Let it stand till dry
and friable, add sharp grit sand on the surface, rake fine again
and then sow the seed very thinly.
Considerable moisture is needed during germination. The
seedlings should be ready for planting out in May, when there is no
longer any fear of frost. They will then be about 1 1/2 inch high.
Put them in after rain, or if the weather be dry, the ground should
be well watered first, the seedlings puddled in and shaded from the
sun with inverted flower-pots for several days. About 5,000 plants
will be needed to the acre. If they are to remain where first
planted, they may be planted 18 inches apart. A reserve of plants
should be grown to fill in gaps.
seedlings are liable to injury by late frosts and a light top
dressing of farmyard manure or leaf-mould serves to preserve young
shoots from injury during sudden and dangerous changes of
temperature. They do best in shade. In America, difficulties in the
cultivation of Belladonna have been overcome by interspersing
plants with rows of scarlet runners, which, shading the herb, cause
it to grow rapidly. Healthy young plants soon become re-established
when transplanted, but require watering in dry weather. Great care
must be taken to keep the crop clean from weeds and handpicking is
to be recommended.
September, the single stem will be 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 feet high. A
gathering of leaves may then be made, if the plants are strong;
'leaves' include the broken-off tops of the plants, but the coarser
stems are left on the plant and all discoloured portions rejected,
and the plants should not be entirely denuded of
approach of winter, plants must be thinned to 2 1/2 to 3 feet
apart, or overcrowding will result in the second year, in which the
plant will bear one or two strong stems.
finds that the green tips and cuttings from side branches root well
and easily in early summer, and that buds with a piece of the root
attached can be taken off the bigger roots in April, this being a
very successful way of rapid propagation to get big, strong
second year, in June, the crop is cut a few inches above the
ground, while flowering, and delivered to the wholesale buyer the
same day it is cut.
average crop of fresh herb in the second and third years is 5 to 6
tons per acre, and 5 tons of fresh leaves and tops yield 1 ton of
dried herb. A second crop is obtained in September in good
per acre in the first year of growth should average about 6 cwt. of
greatest loss of plants is in wet winters. Young seedling plants
unless protected by dead leaves during the winter often perish. On
the lighter soils there is less danger from winter loss, but the
plants are more liable to damage from drought in
One of the
principal insect pests that attack Belladonna leaves is the
so-called 'fleabeetle.' It perforates the leaves to such an extent
as to make them unfit for sale in a dried state. It is when the
plants are exposed to too much sunlight in open spots that the
attacks of the beetle are worst, its natural habitat being
well-drained slopes, partly under trees. If therefore the ground
around the plants is covered with a thick mulch of leaves, they are
not so likely to be attacked. The caterpillars from which the
beetles come feed on the ground, and as they dislike moisture, the
damp leaves keep them away. If napthalene is scattered on the soil,
the vapour will probably help to keep the beetles off. The only way
to catch them is to spread greased sheets of paper below the
plants, and whenever the plants are disturbed a number of beetles
will jump off like fleas and be caught on the papers. This at best
only lessens the total quantity, however, and the other methods of
precaution are the best.
is dug or ploughed up during the autumn in the fourth year and the
root collected, washed and dried, 3 to 4 tons of fresh root
yielding a little over 1 ton of dry root. In time of great
scarcity, it would probably pay to dig the root in the third
must be replaced by a planting of young ones or offsets, and if
wireworm is observed, soot should be dug in with
Belladonna is not a plant that can be successfully grown in every
small garden, yet in a chalky garden a few plants might be grown in
a shady corner for the sake of the seed, for which there is a
demand for propagation. Those, also, who know the haunts of the
plant in its wild state might profitably collect the ripe berries,
which should then be put into thin cotton bags and the juice
squeezed out in running water. When the water is no longer stained,
wring the bag well and turn out the seeds on to blotting paper and
dry in the sun, or in a warm room near a stove. Sieve them finally,
when dry, to remove all portions of the berry skin,
has been successfully cultivated in the neighbourhood of Leningrad
since 1914, and already good crops have been obtained, the richness
of the stems in alkaloids being noteworthy. It is stated that in
consequence of the success that has attended the cultivation of
Belladonna in Russia, it will no longer be needful to employ German
drugs in the preparation of certain alkaloids. Much is also being
collected wild in the Caucasus and in the Crimea.
hoped that if sufficient stocks can be raised in Britain, not only
will it be unnecessary to import Belladonna, but that it may be
possible to export it to those of our Dominions where the climate
and local conditions prevent its successful culture, though at
present it is still included among the medicinal plants of which
the exportation is forbidden.
The following note on the growth and
cultivation of Belladonna is from the Chemist and Druggist, of
February 26, 1921:
'Belladonna is a perennial, but for
horticultural purposes it is treated as a biennial, or triennial
plant. The root in 3 years has attained very large dimensions
around Edinburgh; in fact, often so large as to make the lifting a
very heavy, and therefore costly, matter, and in consequence 2
years' growth is quite sufficient. One-year-old roots are just as
active as the three-year-old stocks, and to the grower it is merely
a matter of expediency which crop he chooses to dig up. The aerial
growth is very heavy, twoyear-old plants making 5 to 6 feet in the
season if not cut for first crop, and if cut in July they make a
second growth of 2 to 3 feet by September. To obtain a supply of
seeds certain plantations must be left uncut, so as to get a crop
of seeds for the next season. Moisture is, from a practical point
of view, a very important matter. A sample, apparently dry to the
touch, but not crisp, may have 15 per cent to 20 per cent of
moisture present. Therefore if a pharmacist was to use a sample of
such Belladonna leaves, although assayed to contain 0.03 per cent
of alkaloids, he would produce a weaker tincture than if he had
used leaves with, say, only 5 per cent of water present. The
alkaloidal factor of this drug is the index to its value. Both the
British and the United States Pharmacopoeias adopt the same
standard of alkaloidal value for the leaves, but the British
Pharmacopceia does not require a standard for the root, which is
one of those subtle conundrums which this quaint book frequently
presents! Plants grown in a hard climate, such as Scotland, give a
good alkaloidal figure, which compares favourably with any others.
For roots, the British Pharmacopoeia as just stated, requires no
standard, but United States Pharmacopceia standard is 0.45 per
cent, and Scottish roots yielded 0.78 per cent and 0.72 per cent.
There is not a great deal of alkaloidal value in the stalks. About
0.08 in the autumn.'
---Constituents---The medicinal properties of Belladonna depend
on the presence of Hyoscyamine and Atropine. The root is the basis
of the principal preparations of Belladonna.
alkaloid present in the root varies between 0.4 and 0.6 per cent,
but as much as 1 per cent has been found, consisting of Hyoscyamine
and its isomer Atropine, 0.1 to 0.6 per cent; Belladonnine and
occasionally, Atropamine. Starch and Atrosin, a red colouring
principle, are also present in the root. Scopolamine (hyoscine) is
also found in traces, as is a fluorescent principle similar to that
found in horse-chestnut bark and widely distributed through the
natural order Solanaceae. The greater portion of the alkaloidal
matter consists of Hyoscyamine, and it is possible that any
Atropine found is produced during extraction.
of alkaloids present in the leaves varies somewhat in wild or
cultivated plants, and according to the methods of drying and
storing adopted, as well as on the conditions of growth, soil,
proportion of the total alkaloid present in the dried leaves varies
from 0.3 to 0.7per cent. The greater proportion consists of
Hyoscyamine, the Atropine being produced during extraction, as in
the root. Belladonnine and Apoatropine may also be formed during
extraction from the drug. The leaves contain also a trace of
Scopolamine, Atrosin and starch.
British Pharmacopoeia directs that the leaves should not contain
less than 0.3 per cent of alkaloids and the root not less than 0.45
standardized liquid extract is prepared, from which the official
plaster, alcoholic extract, liniment, suppository, tincture and
ointment are made. The green extract is prepared from the fresh
and Uses---Narcotic, diuretic, sedative, antispasmodic, mydriatic.
Belladonna is a most valuable plant in the treatment of eye
diseases, Atropine, obtained during extraction, being its most
important constituent on account of its power of dilating the
pupil. Atropine will have this effect in whatever way used, whether
internally, or injected under the skin, but when dropped into the
eye, a much smaller quantity suffices, the tiny discs oculists
using for this purpose, before testing their patient's sight for
glasses, being made of gelatine with 1/50000 grain of Atropine in
each, the entire disk only weighing 1/50 grain. Scarcely any
operation on the eye can safely be performed without the aid of
this valuable drug. It is a strong poison, the amount given
internally being very minute, 1/200 to 1/100 grain. As an antidote
to Opium, Atropine may be injected subcutaneously, and it has also
been used in poisoning by Calabar bean and in Chloroform poisoning.
It has no action on the voluntary muscles, but the nerve endings in
involuntary muscles are paralysed by large doses, the paralysis
finally affecting the central nervous system, causing excitement
various preparations of Belladonna have many uses. Locally applied,
it lessens irritability and pain, and is used as a lotion, plaster
or liniment in cases of neuralgia, gout, rheumatism and sciatica.
As a drug, it specially affects the brain and the bladder. It is
used to check excessive secretions and to allay inflammation and to
check the sweating of phthisis and other exhausting
doses allay cardiac palpitation, and the plaster is applied to the
cardiac region for the same purpose, removing pain and
It is a
powerful antispasmodic in intestinal colic and spasmodic asthma.
Occasionally the leaves are employed as an ingredient of cigarettes
for relieving the latter. It is well borne by children, and is
given in large doses in whooping cough and false
action on the circulation, it is given in the collapse of
pneumonia, typhoid fever and other acute diseases. It increases the
rate of the heart by some 20 to 40 beats per minute, without
diminishing its force.
It is of
value in acute sore throat, and relieves local inflammation and
proved that tincture of Belladonna given in very small doses will
protect from the infection of scarlet fever, and at one time
Belladonnna leaves were held to be curative of cancer, when applied
externally as a poultice, either fresh or dried and
plasters are often applied, after a fall, to the injured or
sprained part. A mixture of Belladonna plaster, Salicylic acid and
Lead plaster is recommended as an application for corns and
Dosages---Powdered leaves, 1 to 2 grains. Powdered root, 1 to 5
grains. Fluid extract leaves, 1 to 3 drops. Fluid extract root,
B.P., 1/4 to 1 drop. Tincture, B.P., 5 to 15 drops. Alkaloid
Atropine, Alcoholic extract, B.P., 1/4 to 1 grain. Green extract,
B.P., 1/4 to 1 grain. Juice, B.P., 5 to 15 drops. Liniment, B.P.
Plaster, B.P. and U.S.P. Ointment, B.P.
Solanum Dulcamara (LINN.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Bittersweet. Dulcamara. Felonwood. Felonwort.
Scarlet Berry. Violet Bloom.
and important natural order of Solanaceae contains, besides Henbane
and the Nightshades, some of the most poisonous of our native
plants, such useful economic plants as the Potato, Tomato,
Aubergine Capsicum and Tobacco, also the medicinally valuable
Thornapple (Datura Stramonium) the Winter Cherry and the Mandrake,
which in earlier days was supposed to possess miraculous
prevailing property of plants belonging to the Nightshade tribe is
narcotic, rendering many of them in consequence highly
Solanum - to which the older herbalists formerly assigned Atropa
Belladonna, and to which the Potato and Aubergine belong, is
represented in this country by two species: Solanum nigrum (Black
or Garden Nightshade) and S. Dulcamara (Bittersweet or Woody
Nightshade). The leaves bear a certain resemblance to those of
Belladonna, and the flowers of both Bittersweet and Belladonna are
purple, though totally distinct in shape, and both have berries,
red in the case of Bittersweet, not black as in the Belladonna.
Bittersweet is common throughout Europe and America. It abounds in
almost every hedgerow in England, where it is rendered conspicuous
in the summer by its bright purple flowers, and in autumn by its
brilliant red berries. Belladonna for which it is often mistaken is
is a perennial, shrubby plant, quite woody at the base, but throws
out long, straggling, slender branches, which trail over the hedges
and bushes among which it grows, reaching many feet in length, when
supported by other plants. They are at first green and hairy, but
become woody and smooth as they grow older, with an ashygreen
flowers, which are open all the summer, are in loose, drooping
clusters, on short stalks opposite the leaves. They are of a bluish
purple tint, with reflexed petals when expanded, so as almost to
appear drooping. Their bright yellow stamens project in a conical
form around the pistil, or seedbearing portion of the
are chiefly auriculate on the upper stems, i.e. with little ears,
having at their base from one to two (rarely three) wing-like
segments, but are heart-shaped below. They are placed alternately
on either side of the stem and arranged so that they face the
light. The flower-clusters always face a different direction to the
leaves. 'One may gather a hundred pieces of the Woody Nightshade,
and this strange perversity is rampant in all,' remarks an observer
of this very curious habit.
berries are green at first, afterwards becoming orange and finally
bright red, and are produced in constant succession throughout the
summer and early autumn, many remaining on the plant long after the
leaves have fallen.
The plant was called the Woody Nightshade
by the old herbalists to distinguish it from the Deadly Nightshade.
Its generic name Solanum is derived from Solor (I ease), and
testifies to the medicinal power of this group of plants. The
second name, Dulcamara, used to be more correctly written in the
Middle Ages, Amaradulcis, signifying literally 'bittersweet,' the
common country name of the plant, given to it in reference to the
fact that the root and stem, if chewed, taste first bitter and then
sweet. Another old name is Felonwood, probably a corruption of
Felonwort, the plant for felons - felon being an old name for
whitlow. We are told by an old writer that:
'the Berries of Bittersweet stamped
withrusty Bacon, applied to the Joynts of the Finger that is
troubled with a Felon hath been found by divers country people who
are most subject thereto to be very successful for the curing of
days of belief in witchcraft, shepherds used to hang it as a charm
round the necks of those of their beasts whom they suspected to be
under the evil eye.
physicians valued Bittersweet highly and applied it to many
purposes in medicine and surgery, for which it is no longer used.
It was in great repute as far back as the time of Theophrastus, and
we know of it being in use in this country in the thirteenth
Gerard says of it:
'The juice is good for those that have
fallen from high places, and have been thereby bruised or beaten,
for it is thought to dissolve blood congealed or cluttered anywhere
in the intrals and to heale the hurt places.'
the celebrated Dutch physician, considered the young shoots
superior to Sarsaparilla as a restorative, and Linnaeus, who at
first had an aversion to the plant, later spoke of it in the
highest terms as a remedy for rheumatism, fever and inflammatory
diseases of all kinds. There are few complaints for which it has
not been at some time recommended.
limited demand for Bitter sweet in modern pharmacy is supplied
bythe wild plant.
young branches from indigenous plants, taken when they have shed
their leaves, were the parts directed for use up to 1907, by the
British Pharmacopoeia, but it has been removed from the last two
shoots, preferably the extreme branches, are collected from two- to
threeyear-old branches, after the leaves have fallen in the autumn,
cut into pieces about 1/2 inch long, with a chaff cutter, and then
carefully dried by artificial heat. They require no other
preparation. The peculiar unpleasant odour of the shoots is lost on
of the leaves or tops is frequently prepared also; 10 lb. of the
dried shoots yield about 2 lb. of the extract. A decoction of the
dried herb is likewise used.
occurs in commerce in short, cylindrical pieces of a light
greenish, or brownish-yellow colour, about 1/4 inch thick, bearing
occasional alternate scars where the leaves have fallen off, and
are quite free from hairs, and more or less longitudinally furrowed
and wrinkled. A thin, shining bark surrounds the wood, which is
lined internally by a whitish pith, which only partially fills it,
leaving the centre hollow.
properties of Bittersweet are most developed when it grows in a dry
and exposed situation. The bitterness is more pronounced in the
spring than in the autumn, and in America the shoots are gathered
while still pliant, when the plant is just budding, though the
British Pharmacopoeia directs that they shall be collected in the
---Constituents---Bittersweet contains the alkaloid Solanine
and the amorphous glucoside Dulcamarine, to which the
characteristic bittersweet taste is due. Sugar, gum, starch and
resin are also present.
acts narcotically; in large doses it paralyses the central nervous
system, without affecting the peripheral nerves or voluntary
muscles. It slows the heart and respiration, lessens sensibility,
lowers the temperature and causes vertigo and delirium, terminating
in death with convulsions.
and Uses---The drug possesses feeble narcotic properties, with the
power of increasing the secretions, particularly those of the skin
and kidneys. It has no action on the pupil of the eye.
chiefly used as an alterative in skin diseases, being a popular
remedy for obstinate skin eruptions, scrofula and
also been recommended in chronic bronchial catarrh, asthma and
chronic rheumatism and for jaundice it has been much employed in
the past, an infusion of 1 OZ. of the dried herb to 1/2 pint water
being taken in wineglassful doses, two or three times daily. From
the fluid extract made from the twigs, a decoction is prepared of
10 drachms in 2 pints of boiling water, boiled down to 1 pint, and
taken in doses of 1/2 to 2 OZ. with an equal quantity of
berries have proved poisonous to a certain degree to
extract, 1/2 to 2 drachms.
following species are all used in Homoeopathic
---Synonym---Apple of Sodom.
Used---Fresh ripe fruit.
---Medicinal Use---Irritability and restlessness.
---Habitat---Shores of Rio Janeiro.
---Medicinal Use---Acts specifically on the mammary
Myristica fragrans (HOUTT.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
Uses of Nutmeg
---Synonyms---Nux Moschata. Myristica officinalis (Linn.).
Myristica aromata. Myristica.
Used---Dried kernel of the seed.
---Habitat---Banda Islands, Malayan Archipelago, Molucca
Islands, and cultivated in Sumatra, French Guiana.
tree is about 25 feet high, has a greyish-brown smooth bark,
abounding in a yellow juice. The branches spread in whorls -
alternate leaves, on petioles about 1 inch long, elliptical,
glabrous, obtuse at base - acuminate, aromatic, dark green and
glossy above, paler underside and 4 to 6 inches long. Flowers
dioecious, small in axillary racemes. Peduncles and pedicles
glabrous. Male flowers three to five more on a peduncle. Calyx
urceolate, thick and fleshy, covered with an indistinct reddish
pubescence dingy pale yellow, cut into three erect teeth. Female
flowers differ little from the male, except pedicel is often
solitary. Fruit is a pendulous, globose drupe, consisting of a
succulent pericarp - the mace arillus covering the hard endocarp,
and a wrinkled kernel with ruminated endosperm. When the arillus is
fresh it is a brilliant scarlet, when dry more horny, brittle, and
a yellowish-brown colour. The seed or nutmeg is firm, fleshy,
whitish, transversed by red-brown veins, abounding in oil. The tree
does not bloom till it is nine years old, when it fruits and
continues to do so for seventy-five years without attention. In
Banda Islands there are three harvests, the chief one in July or
August, the next in November, and the last in March or April. The
fruit is gathered by means of a barb attached to a long stick. The
mace is separated from the nut and both are dried separately. The
nutmeg or kernel of the fruit and the arillus or mace are the
mace is removed, the nutmegs are dried on gratings, three to six
weeks over a slow charcoal fire - but are often sun-dried for six
days previously. The curing protects them from
thoroughly dried, they rattle in the shell, which is cracked with a
mallet. The nutmegs are graded, 1st Penang, 2nd Dutch (these are
usually covered with lime to preserve them from insects), 3rd
Singapore, and 4th long nutmegs.
have a strong, peculiar and delightful fragrance and a very strong
bitter warm aromatic taste.
---Constituents---They contain lignin, stearin, volatile oil,
starch, gum and 0.08 of an acid substance. By submitting nutmegs
and water to distillation, a volatile oil is obtained. The small
round heavy nutmeg is the best. Those that are larger, longer,
lighter, less marbled, and not so oily, are inferior.
of nutmegs, beaten to a pulp with water, then pressed between
heated plates, gives from 10 to 30 per cent of orangecoloured
scented concrete oil erroneously called 'oil of mace' - an inferior
oil is prepared in Holland from the spoiled or inferior nutmegs -
and an artificial preparation is made by mixing together tallow,
spermaceti, etc., colouring it with saffron and flavouring it with
essential oil of nutmeg.
nutmegs have been collected, the outside fleshy pericarp is made
into a preserve.
of commerce should be somewhat flexible, cinnamon-yellow coloured,
in single or double blades, with nutmeg-like smell and a warm,
sharp, fatty, aromatic taste.
There is a
large trade in wild nutmegs, which are known in commerce under the
names of long, female, Macassar, Papua, Guinea, or Norse nutmegs.
All these varieties have been traced to Myristica argentea of New
Guinea, from whence they enter commerce as Macassar
much adulteration and fraud in the nutmeg trade. The essential oil
has often been extracted before they are marketed - a fraud which
can be detected by the light weight. This renders them more subject
to attacks by insects.
oil of nutmeg, often erroneously termed 'oil of mace' or 'nutmeg
butter,' is made by bruising the nuts and treating them with steam.
The best nutmeg butter is imported from the East Indies in stone
jars, or in blocks wrapped in palm leaves - it should be softly
solid, unctuous to touch, orange yellow colour and mottled, with
the taste and smell of nutmeg.
prepares an inferior kind of oil sometimes offered for sale - it is
said to be derived from nutmegs that have been deprived of their
volatile oil by distillation. It is found in hard shining square
cakes, light coloured and with less taste and smell than the East
Indies oil. Ucuhula nut is the round or oval seed of M.
surinamensis. It is distinguished by very large albuminous
crystalloids, the seeds containing over 70 per cent solid yellow
fat. The Brazilian M. officinalis resembles the nutmeg in form and
structure, it contains crystals like the preceding one, though less
large; has a black shell covered with broad furrows and yields a
fat or bicuhyba balsam very like the ordinary nutmeg, with a sharp
sour taste, and a peculiar fatty acid, bicuhybastearic acid. From
M. otoba otoba fat is procured. Almost colourless with a fresh
smell of nutmeg, it contains myristin, olein, and otobite. The
fruit of virola or M. sebifera also gives a fatty substance termed
ocuba wax. The following are erroneously called
CALIFORNIAN NUTMEG. The seed of a coniferous tree, Sorreya
Californica - its odour and taste terebinthinate.
CALABACH NUTMEG. Obtained from Monodora myristica.
HOLLAND or PLUME NUTMEG. Obtained from the Atherosperma
NUTMEG. Obtained from Agathophyllum aromaticum.
that attack nutmegs only extract the fat oil. They do not interfere
in any way with the essential oil.
and Uses---The tonic principle is Myristicin. Oil of Nutmeg is used
to conceal the taste of various drugs and as a local stimulant to
the gastro-intestinal tract.
Nutmeg---Powdered nutmeg is rarely given alone, though it enters
into the composition of a number of medicines. The expressed oil is
sometimes used externally as a gentle stimulant, and it was once an
ingredient of the Emplastrum picis.
properties of mace are identical to those of the nutmeg. Dose, 5 to
nutmeg and mace are used for flatulence and to correct the nausea
arising from other drugs, also to allay nausea and
an agreeable addition to drinks for convalescents.
nutmeg mixed with lard makes an excellent ointment for
places roasted nutmeg is applied internally as a remedy for
leucorrhaoea. Dose of the powder, 5 to 20 grains. Fluid extract, 10
to 30 drops. Larger doses are narcotic and produce dangerous
symptoms. Spirit, B.P., 5 to 20 drops.
Shorter's Medical Dictionary, Poisons &
Strychnos Nux-vomica (LINN.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
Preparations and Dosages
Poisoning and Antidotes
---Synonyms---Poison Nut. Semen strychnos. Quaker
Used---Dried ripe seeds.
---Habitat---India, in the Malay Archipelago.
medium-sized tree with a short, crooked, thick trunk, the wood is
white hard, close grained, durable and the root very bitter.
Branches irregular, covered with a smooth ash-coloured bark; young
shoots deep green, shiny; leaves opposite, short stalked, oval,
shiny, smooth on both sides, about 4 inches long and 3 broad;
flowers small, greeny-white, funnel shape, in small terminal cymes,
blooming in the cold season and having a disagreeable smell. Fruit
about the size of a large apple with a smooth hard rind or shell
which when ripe is a lovely orange colour, filled with a soft white
jelly-like pulp containing five seeds covered with a soft
woolly-like substance, white and horny internally. The seeds are
removed when ripe, cleansed, dried and sorted; they are exported
from Cochin, Madras and other Indian ports. The seeds have the
shape of flattened disks densely covered with closely appressed
satiny hairs, radiating from the centre of the flattened sides and
giving to the seeds a characteristic sheen; they are very hard,
with a dark grey horny endosperm in which the small embryo is
embedded; no odour but a very bitter taste.
---Constituents---Nux Vomica contains the alkaloids, Strychnine
and Brucine, also traces of strychnicine, and a glucoside Loganin,
about 3 per cent fatty matter, caffeotannic acid and a trace of
copper. The pulp of the fruit contains about 5 per cent of loganin
together with the alkaloid strychnicine.
and Uses---The propertiesof Nux Vomica are substantially those of
the alkaloid Strychnine. The powdered seeds are employed in atonic
dyspepsia. The tincture of Nux Vomica is often used in mixtures -
for its stimulant action on the gastro-intestinal tract. In the
mouth it acts as a bitter, increasing appetite; it stimulates
peristalsis, in chronic constipation due to atony of the bowel it
is often combined with cascara and other laxatives with good
effects. Strychnine, the chief alkaloid constituent of the seeds,
also acts as a bitter, increasing the flow of gastric juice; it is
rapidly absorbed as it reaches the intestines, after which it
exerts its characteristic effects upon the central nervous system,
the movements of respiration are deepened and quickened and the
heart slowed through excitation of the vagal centre. The senses of
smell, touch, hearing and vision are rendered more acute, it
improves the pulse and raises blood pressure and is of great value
as a tonic to the circulatory system in cardiac failure. Strychnine
is excreted very slowly and its action is cumulative in any but
small doses; it is much used as a gastric tonic in dyspepsia. The
most direct symptom caused by strychnine is violent convulsions due
to a simultaneous stimulation of the motor or sensory ganglia of
the spinal cord; during the convulsion there is great rise in blood
pressure; in some types of chronic lead poisoning it is of great
value. In cases of surgical shock and cardiac failure large doses
are given up to 1/10 grain by hypodermic injection; also used as an
antidote in poisoning by chloral or chloroform. Brucine closely
resembles strychnine in its action, but is slightly less poisonous,
it paralyses the peripheral motor nerves. It is said that the
convulsive action characteristic of strychnine is absent in brucine
almost entirely. It is used in pruritis and as a local anodyne in
inflammations of the external ear.
Dosages---Strychnine should not be administered in liquid form
combined with bromides, iodides or chlorides, there being a risk of
formation of the insoluble hydrobromide, etc.
Vomica, 1 to 4 grains. Extract of Nux Vomica, B.P., 1/4 to 1 grain.
Extract of Nux Vomica, B.P. 1885, 1/4 to 1 grain. Extract of Nux
Vomica, U.S.P., 1/4 grain. Liquid extract of Nux Vomica, B.P., 1 to
3 minims. Fluid extract of Nux Vomica, U.S.P., 1 minim. Tincture of
Nux Vomica, B.P., 5 to 15 minims. Tincture of Nux Vomica, B.P.
1885, 10 to 20 minims. Tincture of Nux Vornica, U.S.P., 10 minims.
Strychnine, B.P., 1/6 to 1/15 grain. Hypodermic injection of
strychnine. Solution of Strychnine Hydrochloride, B.P., 2 to 8
minims. Acid Strychnine Mixture, B.P.C., 1/2 to 1 fluid
Antidotes---In cases of poisoning by strychnine an emetic or the
stomach pump should be used at once and tannin or potassium
permanganate given to render the strychnine inactive. Violent
convulsions should be controlled by administration of chloroform or
large doses of chloral or bromide. Urethane in large doses is
considered an antidote. Amyl nitrite is also useful owing to its
rapid action during the convulsion, and in absence of respiration 3
to 5 minims may be hypodermically injected.
tieute, a clumbing shrub growing in Java, gives a juice termed Upas
tieute, said to be used by the natives as an arrow poison; it
produces death by violent convulsions, the heart stopping before
toxifera yields the deadly poison Curare (Woorari or Urari) used by
the natives of British Guiana.
ligustrina, the wood of which contains brucine, as does the
is found in the mountains and forests of India. It supplies the
seeds known as clearing nuts. The fruit is black, the size of a
cherry, containing only one seed; fruit and seeds are used
medicinally in India and also to clear muddy water, the seeds being
rubbed for a minute inside the vessel and the water then allowed to
settle; their efficiency depending on their albumen and casein
contents acting as a fining agent similar to those employed to
clarify wine and beer.
innocua. The fruit and pulp are harmless and are eaten by the
natives of Egypt and Senegal.
is found in the Philippines, the seeds containing strychnine and
brucine, strychnine being present in greater quantity than in Nux
Vomica. A tincture made from the beans is official in the British
NAILWORT, OR WHITLOW-GRASS
This very small and common herb hath no roots, save only a few
strings: neither doth it ever grow to be above a hand's breadth
high, the leaves are very small, and something long, not much
unlike those of Chickweed, among which rise up divers slender
stalks, bearing many white flowers one above another, which are
exceeding small; after which come small flat pouches containing the
seed, which is very small, but of a sharp taste.
Place : It grows commonly upon old stone and
brick walls, and sometimes in gravelly grounds, especially if there
be grass or moss near to shadow it.
Time : They flower very early in the year,
sometimes in January, and in February; for before the end of April
they are not to be found.
Government and virtues : It is held to be
exceedingly good for those imposthumes in the joints, and under the
nails, which they call Whitlows, Felons, Andicorns and
NEP, OR CATMINT
Descript : Common Garden Nep shoots forth hard
four-square stalks, with a hoariness on them, a yard high or more,
full of branches, bearing at every joint two broad leaves like
balm, but longer pointed, softer, white, and more hoary, nicked
about the edges, and of a strong sweet scent. The flowers grow in
large tufts at the tops of the branches, and underneath them
likewise on the stalks many together, of a whitish purple colour.
The roots are composed of many long strings or fibres, fastening
themselves stronger in the ground, and abide with green leaves
thereon all the winter.
Place : It is only nursed up in our
Time : And it flowers in July, or
Government and virtues : It is an herb of Venus.
Nep is generally used for women to procure their courses, being
taken inwardly or outwardly, either alone, or with other convenient
herbs in a decoction to bathe them, or sit over the hot fumes
thereof; and by the frequent use thereof, it takes away barrenness,
and the wind, and pains of the mother. It is also used in pains of
the head coming of any cold cause, catarrhs, rheums, and for
swimming and giddiness thereof, and is of special use for the
windiness of the stomach and belly. It is effectual for any cramp,
or cold aches, to dissolve cold and wind that afflict the place,
and is used for colds, coughs, and shortness of breath. The juice
thereof drank in wine, is profitable for those that are bruised by
an accident. The green herb bruised and applied to the fundament
and lying there two or three hours, eases the pains of the piles;
the juice also being made up into an ointment, is effectual for the
same purpose. The head washed with a decoction thereof, it takes
away scales, and may be effectual for other parts of the body
are so well known, that they need no description; they may be found
by feeling, in the darkest night.
Government and virtues : This is also an herb
Mars claims dominion over. You know Mars is hot and dry, and you
know as well that Winter is cold and moist; then you may know as
well the reason why Nettle-tops eaten in the Spring consume the
phlegmatic superfluities in the body of man, that the coldness and
moistness of Winter hath left behind. The roots or leaves boiled,
or the juice of either of them, or both made into an electuary with
honey and sugar, is a safe and sure medicine to open the pipes and
passages of the lungs, which is the cause of wheezing and shortness
of breath, and helps to expectorate tough phlegm, as also to raise
the imposthumed pleurisy; and spend it by spitting; the same helps
the swelling of the almonds of the throat, the mouth and throat
being gargled therewith. The juice is also effectual to settle the
palate of the mouth in its place, and to heal and temper the
inflammations and soreness of the mouth and throat. The decoction
of the leaves in wine, being drank, is singularly good to provoke
women's courses, and settle the suffocation, strangling of the
mother, and all other diseases thereof; it is also applied
outwardly with a little myrrh. The same also, or the seed provokes
urine, and expels the gravel and stone in the reins or bladder,
often proved to be effectual in many that have taken it. The same
kills the worms in children, eases pains in the sides, and
dissolves the windiness in the spleen, as also in the body,
although others think it only powerful to provoke venery. The juice
of the leaves taken two or three days together, stays bleeding at
the mouth. The seed being drank, is a remedy against the stinging
of venomous creatures, the biting of mad dogs, the poisonous
qualities of Hemlock, Henbane, Nightshade, Mandrake, or other such
like herbs that stupify or dull the senses; as also the lethargy,
especially to use it outwardly, to rub the forehead or temples in
the lethargy, and the places stung or bitten with beasts, with a
little salt. The distilled water of the herb is also effectual
(though not so powerful) for the diseases aforesaid; as for outward
wounds and sores to wash them, and to cleanse the skin from
morphew, leprosy, and other discolourings thereof. The seed or
leaves bruised, and put into the nostrils, stays the bleeding of
them, and takes away the flesh growing in them called polypus. The
juice of the leaves, or the decoction of them, or of the root, is
singularly good to wash either old, rotten, or stinking sores or
fistulous, and gangrenes, and such as fretting, eating, or
corroding scabs, manginess, and itch, in any part of the body, as
also green wounds, by washing them therewith, or applying the green
herb bruised thereunto, yea, although the flesh were separated from
the bones; the same applied to our wearied members, refresh them,
or to place those that have been out of joint, being first set up
again, strengthens, dries, and comforts them, as also those places
troubled with aches and gouts, and the defluxion of humours upon
the joints or sinews; it eases the pains, and dries or dissolves
the defluctions. An ointment made of the juice, oil, and a little
wax, is singularly good to rub cold and benumbed members. An
handful of the leaves of green Nettles, and another of Wallwort, or
Deanwort, bruised and applied simply themselves to the gout,
sciatica, or joint aches in any part, hath been found to be an
admirable help thereunto.
Descript : Common Nightshade hath an upright,
round green, hollow stalk, about a foot or half a yard high,
bushing forth in many branches, whereon grow many green leaves,
somewhat broad, and pointed at the ends, soft and full of juice,
somewhat like unto Bazil, but longer and a little unevenly dented
about the edges. At the tops of the stalks and branches come forth
three or four more white flowers made of five small pointed leaves
a-piece, standing on a stalk together, one above another, with
yellow pointels in the middle, composed of four or five yellow
threads set together, which afterwards run into so many pendulous
green berries, of the bigness of small pease, full of green juice,
and small whitish round flat seed lying within it. The root is
white, and a little woody when it hath given flower and fruit, with
many small fibres at it. The whole plant is of a waterish insipid
taste, but the juice within the berries is somewhat viscous, and of
a cooling and binding quality.
Place : It grows wild with us under our walls,
and in rubbish, the common paths, and sides of hedges and fields,
as also in our gardens here in England, without any
Time : It lies down every year, and rises up
again of its own sowing, but springs not until the latter end of
April at the soonest.
Government and virtues : It is a cold Saturnine
plant. The common Nightshade is wholly used to cool hot
inflammations either inwardly or outwardly, being no ways dangerous
to any that use it, as most of the rest of the Nightshades are; yet
it must be used moderately. The distilled water only of the whole
herb is fittest and safest to be taken inwardly. The juice also
clarified and taken, being mingled with a little vinegar, is good
to wash the mouth and throat that is inflamed. But outwardly the
juice of the herb or berries, with oil of roses and a little
vinegar and ceruse laboured together in a leaden mortar, is very
good to anoint all hot inflammations in the eyes. It also doth much
good for the shingles, ringworms, and in all running, fretting and
corroding ulcers, applied thereunto. The juice dropped into the
ears, eases pains thereof that arise of heat of inflammations. And
Pliny saith, it is good for hot swellings under the throat. Have a
care you mistake not the deadly Nightshade for this; if you know it
not, you may let them both alone, and take no harm, having other
medicines sufficient in the book.