Herbal Simples Approved for Modern Uses of Cure
by William Thomas Fernie
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Transcriber's notes:

While most of the book titles and non-English words are italicized, not all of them are, and I have left the non-italicized terms as is.

Page numbers have been placed in sqare brackets to facilitate the use of the table of contents and the index.



W. T. FERNIE, M.D. Author of "Botanical Outlines," etc_

Second Edition.

"Medicine is mine; what herbs and Simples grow In fields and forests, all their powers I know." DRYDEN.

Philadelphia: Boericke & Tafel. 1897.

"Jamque aderat Phoebo ante alios dilectus lapis Iasides: acri quondam cui captus amore Ipse suas artes, sua munera, laetus Apollo Augurium, citharamque dabat, celeresque sagittas Ille ut depositi proferret fata clientis, Scire potestates herbarum, usumque medendi Maluit, et mutas agitare inglorius artes." VIRGIL, AEnid: Libr. xii. v. 391-8.

"And now lapis had appeared, Blest leech! to Phoebus'-self endeared Beyond all men below; On whom the fond, indulgent God His augury had fain bestowed, His lyre-his sounding bow! But he, the further to prolong A fellow creature's span, The humbler art of Medicine chose, The knowledge of each plant that grows, Plying a craft not known to song, An unambitious man!"



It may happen that one or another enquirer taking up this book will ask, to begin with, "What is a Herbal Simple?" The English word "Simple," composed of two Latin words, Singula plica (a single fold), means "Singleness," whether of material or purpose.

From primitive times the term "Herbal Simple" has been applied to any homely curative remedy consisting of one ingredient only, and that of a vegetable nature. Many such a native medicine found favour and success with our single-minded forefathers, this being the "reverent simplicity of ancienter times."

In our own nursery days, as we now fondly remember, it was: "Simple Simon met a pieman going to the fair; said Simple Simon to the pieman, 'Let me taste your ware.'" That ingenuous youth had but one idea, connected simply with his stomach; and his sole thought was how to devour the contents of the pieman's tin. We venture to hope our readers may be equally eager to stock their minds with the sound knowledge of Herbal Simples which this modest Manual seeks to provide for their use.

Healing by herbs has always been popular both [xviii] with the classic nations of old, and with the British islanders of more recent times. Two hundred and sixty years before the date of Hippocrates (460 B.C.) the prophet Isaiah bade King Hezekiah, when sick unto death, "take a lump of Figs, and lay it on the boil; and straightway the King recovered."

Iapis, the favourite pupil of Apollo, was offered endowments of skill in augury, music, or archery. But he preferred to acquire a knowledge of herbs for service of cure in sickness; and, armed with this knowledge, he saved the life of AEneas when grievously wounded by an arrow. He averted the hero's death by applying the plant "Dittany," smooth of leaf, and purple of blossom, as plucked on the mountain Ida.

It is told in Malvern Chase that Mary of Eldersfield (1454), "whom some called a witch," famous for her knowledge of herbs and medicaments, "descending the hill from her hut, with a small phial of oil, and a bunch of the 'Danewort,' speedily enabled Lord Edward of March, who had just then heavily sprained his knee, to avoid danger by mounting 'Roan Roland' freed from pain, as it were by magic, through the plant-rubbing which Mary administered."

In Shakespeare's time there was a London street, named Bucklersbury (near the present Mansion House), noted for its number of druggists who sold Simples and sweet-smelling herbs. We read, in [ix] The Merry Wives of Windsor, that Sir John Falstaff flouted the effeminate fops of his day as "Lisping hawthorn buds that smell like Bucklersbury in simple time."

Various British herbalists have produced works, more or less learned and voluminous, about our native medicinal plants; but no author has hitherto radically explained the why and where fore of their ultimate curative action. In common with their early predecessors, these several writers have recognised the healing virtues of the herbs, but have failed to explore the chemical principles on which such virtues depend. Some have attributed the herbal properties to the planets which rule their growth. Others have associated the remedial herbs with certain cognate colours, ordaining red flowers for disorders of the blood, and yellow for those of the liver. "The exorcised demon of jaundice," says Conway, "was consigned to yellow parrots; that of inflammatory disease to scarlet, or red weeds." Again, other herbalists have selected their healing plants on the doctrine of allied signatures, choosing, for instance, the Viper's Bugloss as effectual against venomous bites, because of its resembling a snake; and the sweet little English Eyebright, which shows a dark pupil in the centre white ocular corolla, as of signal benefit for inflamed eyes.

Thus it has continued to happen that until the [x] last half-century Herbal Physic has remained only speculative and experimental, instead of gaining a solid foothold in the field of medical science. Its claims have been merely empirical, and its curative methods those of a blind art:—

"Si vis curari, de morbo nescio quali, Accipias herbam; sed quale nescio; nec qua Ponas; nescio quo; curabere, nescio quando."

Your sore, I know not what, be not foreslow To cure with herbs, which, where, I do not know; Place them, well pounc't, I know not how, and then You shall be perfect whole, I know not when."

Happily now-a-days, as our French neighbours would say, Nous avons change tout cela, "Old things are passed away; behold all things are become new!" Herbal Simples stand to-day safely determined on sure ground by the help of the accurate chemist. They hold their own with the best, and rank high for homely cures, because of their proved constituents. Their manifest healing virtues are shown to depend on medicinal elements plainly disclosed by analysis. Henceforward the curtain of oblivion must fall on cordial waters distilled mechanically from sweet herbs, and on electuaries artlessly compounded of seeds and roots by a Lady Monmouth, or a Countess of Arundel, as in the Stuart and Tudor times. Our Herbal Simples are fairly entitled at last to independent promotion from the shelves of the amateur still-room, from [xi] the rustic ventures of the village grandam, and from the shallow practices of self styled botanical doctors in the back streets of our cities.

"I do remember an apothecary,— And hereabouts he dwells,—whom late I noted In tatter'd weeds, with overwhelming brows, Culling of Simples; meagre were his looks; And in his needy shop a tortoise hung, An alligator stuff'd, and other skins Of ill-shap'd fishes; and about his shelves A beggarly account of empty boxes, Green earthen pots, bladders, and musty seeds, Remnants of packthread, and old cakes of roses Were thinly scattered to make up a show." Romeo and Juliet, Act V. Sc. 1.

Chemically assured, therefore, of the sterling curative powers which our Herbal Simples possess, and anxious to expound them with a competent pen, the present author approaches his task with a zealous purpose, taking as his pattern, from the Comus of Milton:—

"A certain shepherd lad Of small regard to see to, yet well skilled In every virtuous plant, and healing herb; He would beg me sing; Which, when I did, he on the tender grass Would sit, and hearken even to constancy; And in requital ope his leathern scrip, And show me Simples, of a thousand names, Telling their strange, and vigorous faculties."

Shakespeare said, three centuries ago, "throw physic to the dogs." But prior to him, one Doctor Key, self styled Caius, had written in the Latin [xii] tongue (tempore Henry VIII.), a Medical History of the British Canine Race. His book became popular, though abounding in false concords; insomuch that from then until now medical classics have been held by scholars in poor repute for grammar, and sound construction. Notwithstanding which risk, many a passage is quoted here of ancient Herbal lore in the past tongues of Greece, Rome; and the Gauls. It is fondly hoped that the apt lines thus borrowed from old faultless sources will escape reproach for a defective modern rendering in Dog Latin, Mongrel Greek, or the "French of Stratford atte bowe."

Lastly, quaint old Fuller shall lend an appropriate Epilogue. "I stand ready," said he (1672), "with a pencil in one hand, and a spunge in the other, to add, alter, insert, efface, enlarge, and delete, according to better information. And if these my pains shall be found worthy to passe a second Impression, my faults I will confess with shame, and amend with thankfulnesse, to such as will contribute clearer intelligence unto me."




On its First Reading, a Bill drafted in Parliament meets with acquiescence from the House on both sides mainly because its merits and demerits are to be more deliberately questioned when it comes up again in the future for a second closer Reading, Meanwhile, its faults can be amended, and its omissions supplied: fresh clauses can be introduced: and the whole scheme of the Bill can be better adapted to the spirit of the House inferred from its first reception.

In somewhat similar fashion the Second Edition of "Herbal Simples" is now submitted to a Parliament of readers with the belief that its ultimate success, or failure of purpose, is to depend on its present revised contents, and the amplified scope of its chapters.

The criticism which public journalists, not a few, thought proper to pass on its First Edition have been attentively considered herein. It is true their comments were in some cases so conflicting as to be difficult of practical appliance. The fabled old man and his ass stand always in traditional warning against futile attempts to satisfy inconsistent objectors, or to carry into effect suggestions made by irreconcilable censors. "Quot homines, tot [xiv] sententioe," is an adage signally verified when a fresh venture is made on the waters of chartered opinion. How shall the perplexed navigator steer his course when monitors in office accuse him on the one hand of lax precision throughout, and belaud him on the other for careful observance of detail? Or how shall he trim his sails when a contemptuous Standard-bearer, strangely uninformed on the point, ignores, as a leader of any repute, "one Gerard," a former famous Captain of the Herbal fleet? With the would-be Spectator's lament that Gerard's graphic drawings are regrettedly wanting here, the author is fain to concur. He feels that the absence of appropriate cuts to depict the various herbs is quite a deficiency: but the hope is inspired that a still future Edition may serve to supply this need. Certain botanical mistakes pointed out with authority by the Pharmaceutical Journal have here been duly corrected: and as many as fifty additional Simples will be found described in the present Enlarged Edition. At the same time a higher claim than hitherto made for the paramount importance of the whole subject is now courageously advanced.

To all who accept as literal truth the Scriptural account of the Garden of Eden it must be evident how intimately man's welfare from the first was made to depend on his uses of trees and herbs. The labour of earning his bread in the sweat of his brow by tilling the ground: and the penalty of [xv] and thistles produced thereupon, were alike incurred by Eve's disobedience in plucking the forbidden fruit: and a signified possibility of man's eventful share in the tree of life, to "put forth his hand, and eat, and live for ever," has been more than vaguely revealed. So that with almost a sacred mission, and with an exalted motive of supreme usefulness, this Manual of healing Herbs is published anew, to reach, it is hoped, and to rescue many an ailing mortal.

Against its main principle an objection has been speciously raised, which at first sight appears of subversive weight; though, when further examined, it is found to be clearly fallacious. By an able but carping critic it was alleged that the mere chemical analysis of old-fashioned Herbal Simples makes their medicinal actions no less empirical than before: and that a pedantic knowledge of their constituent parts, invested with fine technical names, gives them no more scientific a position than that which our fathers understood.

But, taking, for instance, the herb Rue, which was formerly brought into Court to protect a and the Bench from gaol fever, and other infectious disease; no one knew at the time by what particular virtue the Rue could exercise this salutary power. But more recent research has taught, that the essential oil contained in this, and other allied aromatic herbs, such as Elecampane, [xvi] Rosemary, and Cinnamon, serves by its germicidal principles (stearoptens, methyl-ethers, and camphors), to extinguish bacterial life which underlies all contagion. In a parallel way the antiseptic diffusible oils of Pine, Peppermint, and Thyme, are likewise employed with marked success for inhalation into the lungs by consumptive patients. Their volatile vapours reach remote parts of the diseased air-passages, and heal by destroying the morbid germs which perpetuate mischief therein. It need scarcely be said the very existence of these causative microbes, much less any mode of cure by their abolishment, was quite unknown to former Herbal Simplers.

Again, in past times a large number of our native, plants acquired a well-deserved, but purely empirical celebrity, for curing scrofula and scurvy. But later discovery has shown that each of these several herbs contains lime, and earthy salts, in a subtle form of high natural sub-division: whilst, at the same time, the law of cure by medicinal similars has established the cognate fact that to those who inherit a strumous taint, infinitesimal doses of these earth salts are incontestably curative. The parents had first undergone a gradual impairment of health because of calcareous matters to excess in their general conditions of sustenance; and the lime proves potent to cure in the offspring what, through the parental surfeit, was entailed as [xvii] a heritage of disease. Just in the same way the mineral waters of Missisquoi, and Bethesda, in America, through containing siliceous qualities so sublimated as almost to defy the analyst, are effective to cure cancer, albuminuria, and other organic complaints.

Nor is this by any means a new policy of cure. Its barbaric practice has long since obtained, even in African wilds, where the native snake doctor inoculates with his prepared snake poison to save the life of a victim otherwise fatally bitten by another snake of the same deadly virus. To Ovid, of Roman fame (20 B.C.), the same sanative axiom was also indisputably known as we learn from his lines:—

"Tunc observatas augur descendit in herbas; Usus et auxilio est anguis ab angue dato."

"Then searched the Augur low mid grass close scanned For snake to heal a snake-envenomed hand."

And with equal cogency other arguments, which are manifold, might be readily adduced, as of congruous force, to vindicate our claim in favour of analytical knowledge over blind experience in the methods of Herbal cure, especially if this be pursued on the broad lines of enlightened practice by similars.

So now, to be brief, and to change our allegory, "on the banks of the Nile," as Mrs. Malaprop would have pervertingly put it, with "a nice [xviii] derangement of epitaphs," we invite our many guests to a simple "dinner of herbs." Such was man's primitive food in Paradise: "every green herb bearing seed, and every tree in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed:" "the green herb for meat for every beast of the earth, and every fowl of the air." What better Preface can we indite than a grace to be said before sitting down to the meal? "Sallets," it is hoped, will be found "in the lines to make the matter savoury." Far be it from our object to preach a prelude of texts, or to weary those at our board I with a meaningless long benediction. "'Tis not so plain as the old Hill of Howth," said tender-hearted witty Tom Hood, with serio-comic truth, "a man has got his belly full of meat, because he talks with victuals in his mouth." Rather would we choose the "russet Yeas and honest kersey Noes" of sturdy yeoman speech; and cheerfully taking the head of our well-stocked table, ask in homely terms that "God will bless these the good creatures of His Herbal Simples to our saving uses, and us to His grateful service."




Absinthe . . . 614 Acorn . . . 15 Agaric, Fly . . . 368 Agrimony . . . 18 Alexanders . . . 313 Allspice . . . 386 Amadou . . . 378 Anemone, Wood . . . 20 Angelica . . . 23 Aniseed . . . 24 Apple . . . 26 Arsmart . . . 606 Artichoke, Globe . . . 548 " Jerusalem . . . 549 Arum . . . 33 Asafetida . . . 269 Ash, Mountain . . . 350 Asparagus . . . 35 Asphodel, Bog . . . 482 Avens . . . 47

Balm . . . 39 Barberry . . . 42 Barley . . . 44 Basil, Sweet . . . 45 Bean . . . 415 Bedstraw . . . 231 Bee sting . . . 260 Beet . . . 507 Belladonna . . . 388 Bennet Herb . . . 47 Betony, Water . . . 50, 198 " Wood . . . 42 Bilberry . . . 652 Bistort, Great . . . 607 Blackberry . . . 53 Black Pot Herb . . . 312 Blackthorn . . . 517 Bladderwrack . . . 503 Blessed Thistle . . . 557 Blue Bell . . . 57 Bog Bean . . . 58 Borage . . . 60 Bracken . . . 184 Brooklime . . . 431 Broom . . . 62 Bryony, Black . . . 68 " White . . . 65 Buckthorn . . . 69 Bugle . . . 510 Bullace . . . 520 Bulrush . . . 481 Burdock . . . 162 Burnet Saxifrage . . . 430 Butcher's Broom . . . 64 Butterbur . . . 119 Buttercup . . . 71

Cabbage . . . 74 " Sea . . . 76 Calamint . . . 343 Camphor . . . 337 Capsicum . . . 78 Caraway . . . 81 Carline Thistle . . . 558 Carraigeen Moss . . . 500 Carrot . . . 88 Cascara Sagrada . . . 70 Cat Mint . . . 344 Cat Thyme . . . 565 Cat's Tail . . . 482 [xx] Celandine, Greater . . . 92 " Lesser . . . 90 Celery . . . 94 Centaury . . . 96 Chamomile . . . 84 " Bitter . . . 86 Cherry . . . 98 Chervil . . . 100 Chestnut, Horse . . . 102 " Sweet . . . 104 Chickweed . . . 105 Chicory . . . 542 Christmas Rose . . . 107 Cider . . . 30 Cinnamon . . . 390 Cinquefoil, Creeping . . . 516 Clary . . . 492 Cleavers . . . 230 Clover, Meadow . . . 110 " Sweet . . . 112 Clovers . . . 395 Club Moss . . . 113 Colchicum . . . 483 Coltsfoot . . . 116 Comfrey . . . 120, 595 " Prickly . . . 122 Coriander . . . 122 Couch Grass . . . 242 Cow . . . 126 Cowslip . . . 124 Crab Apple . . . 29 Cresses . . . 127 Cress, Garden . . . 128 " Water . . . 129 Crowfoot . . . 71 Cuckoo Flower . . . 134 Cuckoo Pint . . . 33 Cumin . . . 135 Currants, Red, White, and Black . . . 137

Daffodil . . . 141 Daisy . . . 143 Damson . . . 520 Dandelion . . . 147 Darnel . . . 242 Date . . . 152 Dill . . . 155 Dock . . . 157 " Great Water . . . 164 " Yellow Curled . . . 163 Dodder . . . 112 Dog's Mercury . . . 332 Dropwort, Water . . . 603 Dulse . . . 501

Earthnut . . . 372 Egg . . . 150 Elder . . . 164 " Dwarf . . . 171 Elecampane . . . 172 Eryngo . . . 499 Eyebright . . . 175

Fairy rings . . . 374 Fennel . . . 179 " Water . . . 604 Ferns . . . 182 " Female (Bracken) . . . 184 " Hart's-tongue . . . 187 " Maidenhair . . . 188 " Male . . . 183 " Polypody . . . 189 " Royal . . . 186 " Spleenwort . . . 190 " Wall Rue . . . 191 Feverfew . . . 192 Fig . . . 194 Figwort . . . 54 Flag, Blue . . . 199 " Yellow . . . 200 " Stinking (Gladdon) . . . 201 " Sweet . . . 201, 480 Flax . . . 202 " Purging . . . 204 Fly Agaric . . . 368 Foxglove . . . 205 Fumitory . . . 201 Furze . . . 63

Gage, Green . . . 521 Garlic . . . 214 " Poor Man's . . . 222 Ginger . . . 392 Gipsy Wort (Water Hore-hound) . . . 269 [xxi] Good King Henry . . . 227 Gooseberry . . . 223 Goosefoot . . . 227 " Stinking . . . 229 Goosegrass . . . 230 Goutweed . . . 235 Grapes . . . 236 Grasses . . . 241 Ground Ivy . . . 283 Groundsel . . . 243

Hawthorn . . . 245 Hellebore, Stinking . . . 109 Hemlock . . . 248 " Water . . . 251 Hemp Agrimony . . . 19 Henbane . . . 252 Herb, Bennet . . . 47 Hoglouse . . . 564 Honey . . . 256 Hop . . . 262 Horehound, Black . . . 268 " White . . . 267 Horse Radish . . . 269 House Leek . . . 273 Hyssop . . . 277 " Hedge . . . 279

Iceland Moss . . . 500 Irish Moss . . . 500 Ivy . . . 280 " Ground . . . 283

John's Wort, Saint . . . 287 Juniper . . . 291

Knapweed, the Lesser . . . 296

Ladies' Mantle . . . 511 " Smock . . . 134 Lavender . . . 296 " Sea . . . 300 Laver . . . 505 Leek . . . 220 Lemon . . . 300 Lentil . . . 305 Lettuce . . . 308 Lettuce, Lamb's . . . 312 " Wild . . . 307 Lily of the Valley 313 Lily, Water . . . 604 Lime Tree . . . 316 Linseed . . . 202 Liquorice . . . 318 Lords and Ladies (Arum) . . . 33 Lungwort . . . 594 Lupine . . . 306

Mace . . . 395 Mace Reed . . . 482 Mallow . . . 322 " Marsh . . . 323 " Musk . . . 325 Mandrake . . . 66 Marigold . . . 327 " Corn . . . 326 " Marsh . . . 329 Marjoram . . . 331 Melancholy Thistle . . . 560 Menthol . . . 339 Mercury, Dog's . . . 332 " English . . . 228 Milk Thistle . . . 556 Mints . . . 333 Mistletoe . . . 345 Monk's Rhubarb . . . 159 Moon Daisy . . . 146 Moss, Club . . . 113 " Iceland . . . 500 " Irish . . . 500 Mountain Ash . . . 350 Mugwort . . . 352 Mulberry . . . 356 Mullein . . . 359 Mum . . . 581 Mushrooms . . . 362 Mustard . . . 375 " Hedge . . . 222, 381

Nasturtium . . . 132 Nettle . . . 382 " Dead . . . 387 Night Shade, Deadly . . . 388 Nutmeg . . . 393 Nuts . . . 602

[xxii] Oak Bark . . . 16 Oat . . . 397 Onion . . . 209 Orach . . . 229 Orange . . . 399 Orchids . . . 404 Orpine (Live Long) . . . 276 Ox eye Daisy . . . 146

Pansy, Wild . . . 589 Parsley . . . 407 " Fool's . . . 412 Parsnip . . . 413 " Water . . . 414 Pea . . . 416 Peach . . . 418 Pear . . . 419 Pellitory of Spain . . . 424 " of Wall . . . 423 Pennyroyal . . . 334 Peppermint . . . 338 Pepper, Water . . . 606 Periwinkle, Greater . . . 427 " Lesser . . . 428 Perry . . . 422 Pilewort . . . 90 Pimento, Allspice . . . 386 Pimpernel . . . 428 Pine . . . 576 Pink . . . 432 Plantain, Greater . . . 433 " Ribwort . . . 435 " Water . . . 435 Plum, Common . . . 520 " Wild . . . 520 Polypody Fern . . . 190 Poppy, Scarlet . . . 437 " Welsh . . . 441 " White . . . 438 Potato . . . 441 Primrose . . . 447 " Evening . . . 449 Primula . . . 449 Prune . . . 522 Prunella . . . 509 Psyllium Seeds . . . 436 Puff Ball . . . 365 Pulsatilla . . . 20

Quince . . . 452

Radish . . . 455 " Horse . . . 269 Ragwort . . . 457 Ransoms . . . 221 Raspberry . . . 459 Reed, Sweet Scented . . . 480 Rest Harrow . . . 320 Rhubarb, Garden . . . 159 Rice . . . 461 Rosemary . . . 470 " Wild . . . 474 Roses . . . 463 " Rock . . . 469 Rue . . . 475 Rushes . . . 479

Saffron . . . 485 " Meadow . . . 483 Sage . . . 489 " Meadow . . . 492 Sago . . . 155 Saint John's Wort . . . 287 Salep . . . 405 Saliva . . . 178 Samphire . . . 497 Sanicle . . . 508 Saucealone . . . 222 Savin . . . 493 Schalot . . . 222 Scurvy Grass . . . 133, 495 Sea Holly . . . 498 " Tang . . . 502 " Water . . . 508 " Weeds . . . 496 Selfheal . . . 508 Service Tree . . . 352 Shepherd's Purse . . . 511 Silverweed . . . 514 Skullcap . . . 516 " the Lesser . . . 517 Sloe . . . 517 Snails . . . 409 Soapwort . . . 522 Solomon's Seal . . . 524 Sorrel . . . 160 " Wood . . . 161 Southernwood . . . 526 Sowbread . . . 450 Sow Thistle . . . 559 Spearmint . . . 342 Speedwell . . . 527 Spinach . . . 529 " Sea . . . 506 Spindle Tree . . . 530 Spurge Wood . . . 532 " Petty . . . 602 Stitchwort . . . 535 Stonecrop (House Leek) . . . 276 Strawberry . . . 538 " Wild . . . 537 Succory . . . 541 Sundew . . . 543 Sunflower . . . 546

Tamarind . . . 550 Tansy . . . 552 Tar . . . 580 Tarragon . . . 554 Teasel, Fuller's . . . 559 " Wild . . . 559 Thistles . . . 555 Thyme . . . 560 Thymol . . . 563 Toadflax . . . 565 Toadstool . . . 372 Tomato . . . 567 Tormentil . . . 573 Truffle . . . 371 Turnip . . . 574 Turpentine . . . 576 Tutsan . . . 290

Valerian, Red . . . 585 " Wild . . . 583 Verbena (Vervain) . . . 586 Verguice . . . 29, 238 Vernal grass . . . 241 Vine . . . 240, 588 Violet, Sweet . . . 592 " Wild . . . 589 Viper's Bugloss . . . 594

Wallflower . . . 595 Walnut . . . 597 " American . . . 601 Wartwort . . . 602 Watercress . . . 129 Water Dropwort . . . 603 " Figwort . . . 198 " Horehound . . . 269 " Lily, White . . . 605 " Yellow . . . 605 " Pepper . . . 606 Whitethorn . . . 245 Whortleberry . . . 52 Woodruff, Sweet . . . 608 " Squinancy . . . 609 Wood Sorrel . . . 161, 610 Wormwood . . . 355, 612 Woundwort, Hedge . . . 615

Yarrow 616 Yew 619


The art of Simpling is as old with us as our British hills. It aims at curing common ailments with simple remedies culled from the soil, or got from home resources near at hand.

Since the days of the Anglo-Saxons such remedies have been chiefly herbal; insomuch that the word "drug" came originally from their verb drigan, to dry, as applied to medicinal plants.

These primitive Simplers were guided in their choice of herbs partly by watching animals who sought them out for self-cure, and partly by discovering for themselves the sensible properties of the plants as revealed by their odour and taste; also by their supposed resemblance to those diseases which nature meant them to heal.

John Evelyn relates in his Acetaria (1725) that "one Signor Faquinto, physician to Queen Anne (mother to the beloved martyr, Charles the First), and formerly physician to one of the Popes, observing scurvy and dropsy to be the epidemical and dominant diseases [2] of this nation, went himself into the hundreds of Essex, reputed the most unhealthy county of this island, and used to follow the sheep and cattle on purpose to observe what plants they chiefly fed upon; and of these Simples he composed an excellent electuary of marvellous effects against these same obnoxious infirmities." Also, in like manner, it was noticed by others that "the dog, if out of condition, would seek for certain grasses of an emetic or purgative sort; sheep and cows, when ill, would devour curative plants; an animal suffering from rheumatism would remain as much as it could in the sunshine; and creatures infested by parasites would roll themselves frequently in the dust." Again, William Coles in his Nature's Paradise, or, Art of Simpling (1657), wrote thus: "Though sin and Sathan have plunged mankinde into an ocean of infirmities, jet the mercy of God, which is over all His works, maketh grass to grow upon the mountaines, and Herbes for the use of men; and hath not only stamped upon them a distinct forme, but also given them particular signatures, whereby a man may read even in legible characters the use of them."

The present manual of our native Herbal Simples seeks rather to justify their uses on the sound basis of accurate chemical analysis, and precise elementary research. Hitherto medicinal herbs have come down to us from early times as possessing only a traditional value, and as exercising merely empirical effects. Their selection has been commended solely by a shrewd discernment, and by the practice of successive centuries. But to-day a closer analysis in the laboratory, and skilled provings by experts have resolved the several plants into their component parts, and have chemically determined the medicinal nature of these parts, both [3] singly and collectively. So that the study and practice of curative British herbs may now fairly take rank as an exact science, and may command the full confidence of the sick for supplying trustworthy aid and succour in their times of bodily need.

Scientific reasons which are self-convincing may be readily adduced for prescribing all our best known native herbal medicines. Among them the Elder, Parsley, Peppermint, and Watercress may be taken as familiar examples of this leading fact. Almost from time immemorial in England a "rob" made from the juice of Elderberries simmered and thickened with sugar, or mulled Elder wine concocted from the fruit, with raisins, sugar, and spices, has been a popular remedy in this country, if taken hot at bedtime, for a recent cold, or for a sore throat. But only of late has chemistry explained that Elderberries furnish "viburnic acid," which induces sweating, and is specially curative of inflammatory bronchial soreness. So likewise Parsley, besides being a favourite pot herb, and a garnish for cold meats, has been long popular in rural districts as a tea for catarrh of the bladder or kidneys; whilst the bruised leaves have been extolled as a poultice for swellings and open sores. At the same time, a saying about the herb has commonly prevailed that it "brings death to men, and salvation to women." Not, however, until recently has it been learnt that the sweet-smelling plant yields what chemists call "apiol," or Parsley-Camphor, which, when given in moderation, exercises a quieting influence on the main sensific centres of life—the head and the spine. Thereby any feverish irritability of the urinary organs inflicted by cold, or other nervous shock, would be subordinately allayed. Thus likewise the Parsley-Camphor (whilst serving, [4] when applied externally, to usefully stimulate indolent wounds) proves especially beneficial for female irregularities of the womb, as was first shown by certain French doctors in 1849.

Again, with respect to Peppermint, its cordial water, or its lozenges taken as a confection, have been popular from the days of our grandmothers for the relief of colic in the bowels, or for the stomach-ache of flatulent indigestion. But this practice has obtained simply because the pungent herb was found to diffuse grateful aromatic warmth within the stomach and bowels, whilst promoting the expulsion of wind; whereas we now know that an active principle "menthol" contained in the plant, and which may be extracted from it as a camphoraceous oil, possesses in a marked degree antiseptic and sedative properties which are chemically hostile to putrescence, and preventive of dyspeptic fermentation.

Lastly, the Watercress has for many years held credit with the common people for curing scurvy and its allied ailments; while its juices have been further esteemed as of especial use in arresting tubercular consumption of the lungs; and yet it has remained for recent analysis to show that the Watercress is chemically rich in "antiscorbutic salts," which tend to destroy the germs of tubercular disease, and which strike at the root of scurvy generally. These salts and remedial principles are "sulphur," "iodine," "potash," "phosphatic earths," and a particular volatile essential oil known as "sulphocyanide of allyl," which is almost identical with the essential oil of White Mustard.

Moreover, many of the chief Herbal Simples indigenous to Great Britain are further entitled for a still stronger reason to the fullest confidence of both doctor [5] and patient. It has been found that when taken experimentally in varying quantities by healthy provers, many single medicines will produce symptoms precisely according with those of definite recognized maladies; and the same herbs, if administered curatively, in doses sufficiently small to avoid producing their toxical effects, will speedily and surely restore the patient to health by dispelling the said maladies. Good instances of such homologous cures are afforded by the common Buttercup, the wild Pansy, and the Sundew of our boggy marshes. It is widely known that the field Buttercup (Ranunculus bulbosus), when pulled from the ground, and carried in the palm of the hand, will redden and inflame the skin by the acrimony of its juices; or, if the bruised leaves are applied to any part they will excite a blistering of the outer cuticle, with a discharge of watery fluid from numerous small vesicles, whilst the tissues beneath become red, hot, and swollen; and these combined symptoms precisely represent "shingles,"—a painful skin disease given to arise from a depraved state of the bodily system, and from a faulty supply of nervous force. These shingles appear as a crop of sore angry blisters, which commonly surround the walls of the chest either in part or entirely; and modern medicine teaches that a medicinal tincture of the Buttercup, if taken in small doses, and applied, will promptly and effectively cure the same troublesome ailment; whilst it will further serve to banish a neuralgic or rheumatic stitch occurring in the side from any other cause.

And so with respect to the Wild Pansy (Viola tricolor), we read in Hahnemann's commentary on the proved plant: "The Pansy Violet excites certain cutaneous eruptions about the head and face, a hard thick scab being formed, which is cracked here and there, and [6] from which a tenacious yellow matter exudes, and hardens into a substance like gum." This is an accurate picture of the diseased state seen often affecting the scalp of unhealthy children, as milk-crust, or, when aggravated, as a disfiguring eczema, and concerning the same Dr. Hughes of Brighton, in his authoritative modern treatise, says, "I have rarely needed any other medicine than the Viola tricolor for curing milk-crust, which is the plague of children," and "I have given it in the adult for recent impetigo (a similar disease of the skin), with very satisfactory results."

Finally, the Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia), which is a common little plant growing on our bogs, and marshy places, is found to act in the same double fashion of cause or cure according to the quantity taken, or administered. Farmers well know that this small herb when devoured by sheep in their pasturage will bring about a violent chronic cough, with waste of substance: whilst the Sundew when given experimentally to cats has been found to stud the surface of their lungs with morbid tubercular matter, though this is a form of disease to which cats are not otherwise liable. In like manner healthy human provers have become hoarse of voice through taking the plant, and troubled with a severe cough, accompanied with the expectoration of abundant yellow mucus, just as in tubercular mischief beginning at the windpipe. Meantime it has been well demonstrated (by Dr. Curie, and others) that at the onset of pulmonary consumption in the human subject a cure may nearly always be brought about, or the symptoms materially improved, by giving the tincture of Sundew throughout several weeks—from four to twenty drops in the twenty-four hours. And it has further become an established fact that the same tincture [7] will serve with remarkable success to allay the troublesome spasms of Whooping Cough in its second stage, if given in small doses, repeated several times a day.

From these several examples, therefore, which are easy to be understood, we may fairly conclude that positive remedial actions are equally exercised by other Herbal Simples, both because of their chemical constituents and by reason of their curing in many cases according to the known law of medicinal correspondence.

Until of late no such an assured position could be rightly claimed by our native herbs, though pretentions in their favour have been widely popular since early English times. Indeed, Herbal physic has engaged the attention of many authors from the primitive days of Dioscorides (A.D. 60) to those of Elizabethan Gerard, whose exhaustive and delightful volume published in 1587 has remained ever since in paramount favour with the English people. Its quaint fascinating style, and its queer astrological notions, together with its admirable woodcuts of the plants described, have combined to make this comprehensive Herbal a standing favourite even to the present day.

Gerard had a large physic-garden near his house in Old Bourne (Holborn), and there is in the British Museum a letter drawn up by his hand asking Lord Burghley, his patron, to advise the establishment by the University of Cambridge in their grounds of a Simpling Herbarium. Nevertheless, we are now told (H. Lee, 1883) that Gerard's "ponderous book is little more than a translation of Dodonoeus, from which comparatively un-read author whole chapters have been taken verbatim without acknowledgment."

No English work on herbs and plants is met with prior to the sixteenth century. In 1552 all books on [8] astronomy and geography were ordered to be destroyed, because supposed to be infected with magic. And it is more than probable that any publications extant at that time on the virtues of herbs (then associated by many persons with witchcraft), underwent the same fate. In like manner King Hezekiah long ago "fearing lest the Herbals of Solomon should come into profane hands, caused them to be burned," as we learn from that "loyal and godly herbalist," Robert Turner.

During the reigns of Edward the Sixth and Mary, Dr. William Bulleyn ranked high as a physician and botanist. He wrote the first Boke of Simples, which remains among the most interesting literary productions of that era as a record of his acuteness and learning. It advocates the exclusive employment of our native herbal medicines. Again, Nicholas Culpeper, "student in physick," whose name is still a household word with many a plain thinking English person, published in 1652, for the benefit of the Commonwealth, his "Compleat Method whereby a man may cure himself being sick, for threepence charge, with such things only as grow in England, they being most fit for English bodies." Likewise in 1696 the Honourable Richard Boyle, F.R.S., published "A Collection of Choice, Safe, and Simple English Remedies, easily prepared, very useful in families, and fitted for the service of country people."

Once more, the noted John Wesley gave to the world in 1769 an admirable little treatise on Primitive Physic, or an Easy and Natural Method for Curing most Diseases; the medicines on which he chiefly relied being our native plants. For asthma, he advised the sufferer to "live a fortnight on boiled Carrots only"; for "baldness, to wash the head with a decoction of Boxwood"; [9] for "blood-spitting to drink the juice of Nettles"; for "an open cancer, to take freely of Clivers, or Goosegrass, whilst covering the sore with the bruised leaves of this herb"; and for an ague, to swallow at stated times "six middling pills of Cobweb."

In Wesley's day tradition only, with shrewd guesses and close observation, led him to prescribe these remedies. But now we have learnt by patient chemical research that the Wild Carrot possesses a particular volatile oil, which promotes copious expectoration for the relief of asthmatic cough; that the Nettle is endowed in its stinging hairs with "formic acid," which avails to arrest bleeding; that Boxwood yields "buxine," a specific stimulant to those nerves of supply which command the hair bulbs; that Goosegrass or Clivers is of astringent benefit in cancer, because of its "tannic," "citric," and "rubichloric acids"; and that the Spider's Web is of real curative value in ague, because it affords an albuminous principle "allied to and isomeric with quinine."

Long before this middle era in medicine, during quite primitive British times, the name and office of "Leeches" were familiar to the people as the first doctors of physic; and their parabilia or "accessibles" were worts from the field and the garden; so that when the Saxons obtained possession of Britain, they found it already cultivated and improved by what the Romans knew of agriculture and of vegetable productions. Hence it had happened that Rue, Hyssop, Fennel, Mustard, Elecampane, Southernwood, Celandine, Radish, Cummin, Onion, Lupin, Chervil, Fleur de Luce, Flax (probably), Rosemary, Savory, Lovage, Parsley, Coriander, Alexanders, or Olusatrum, the black pot herb, Savin, and other useful herbs, were already of common growth for kitchen uses, or for medicinal purposes.

[10] And as a remarkable incidental fact antiquity has bequeathed to us the legend, that goats were always exceptionally wise in the choice of these wholesome herbs; that they are, indeed, the herbalists among quadrupeds, and known to be "cunning in simples." From which notion has grown the idea that they are physicians among their kind, and that their odour is wholesome to the animals of the farmyard generally. So that in deference, unknowingly, to this superstition, it still happens that a single Nanny or a Betty is freakishly maintained in many a modern farmyard, living at ease, rather than put to any real use, or kept for any particular purpose of service. But in case of stables on fire, he or she will face the flames to make good an escape, and then the horses will follow.

It was through chewing the beans of Mocha, and becoming stupefied thereby, that unsuspicious goats first drew the attention of Mahomedan monks to the wonderful properties of the Coffee berry.

Next, coming down to the first part of the present century, we find that purveyors of medicinal and savoury herbs then wandered over the whole of England in quest of such useful simples as were in constant demand at most houses for the medicine-chest, the store-closet, or the toilet-table. These rustic practitioners of the healing art were known as "green men," who carried with them their portable apparatus for distilling essences, and for preparing their herbal extracts. In token of their having formerly officiated in this capacity, there may yet be seen in London and elsewhere about the country, taverns bearing the curious sign of "The Green Man and (his) Still."

It is told of a certain French writer not long since, that whilst complacently describing our British manners [11] customs, he gravely translated this legend of the into "L'homme vert, et tranquil."

Passing on finally to our own times at the close of the nineteenth century, we are able now-a-days, as has been already said, to avail ourselves of precise chemical research by apparatus far in advance of the untutored herbalist's still. He prepared his medicaments and his fragrant essences, merely as a mechanical art, and without pretending to fathom their method of physical action. But the skilled expert of to-day resolves his herbal simples into their ultimate elements by exact analysis in the laboratory, and has learnt to attach its proper medicinal virtue to each of these curative principles. It has thus come about that Herbal Physic under competent guidance, if pursued with intelligent care, is at length a reliable science of fixed methods, and crowned with sure results.

Moreover, in this happy way is at last vindicated the infinite superiority felt instinctively by our forefathers of home-grown herbs over foreign and far-fetched drugs; a superiority long since expressed by Ovid with classic felicity in the passage:—

"AEtas cui facimus aurea nomen, Fructibus arbuteis, et humus quas educat herbis Fortunata fuit."—Metamorphos., Lib. XV.

"Happy the age, to which we moderns give The name of 'golden,' when men chose to live On woodland fruits; and for their medicines took Herbs from the field, and simples from the brook."

or, as epitomised in the time-worn Latin adage:—

"Qui potest mederi simplicibus frustra quaerit composita."

"If simple herbs suffice to cure, 'Tis vain to compound drugs endure."

In the following pages our leading Herbal Simples [12] are reviewed alphabetically; whilst, to ensure accuracy, the genus and species of each plant are particularised.

Most of these herbs may be gathered fresh in their proper season by persons who have acquired a knowledge of their parts, and who live in districts where such plants are to be found growing; and to other persons who inhabit towns, or who have no practical acquaintance with Botany, great facilities are now given by our principal druggists for obtaining from their stores concentrated fresh juices of the chief herbal simples.

Again, certain preparations of plants used only for their specific curative methods are to be got exclusively from the Homoeopathic chemist, unless gathered at first hand. These, not being officinal, fail to find a place on the shelves of the ordinary Pharmaceutical druggist. Nevertheless, when suitably employed, they are of singular efficacy in curing the maladies to which they stand akin by the law of similars. For convenience of distinction here, the symbol H. will follow such particular preparations, which number in all some seventy-five of the simples described. At the same time any of the more common extracts, juices, and tinctures (or the proper parts of the plants for making these several medicaments), may be readily purchased at the shop of every leading druggist.

It has not been thought expedient to include among the Simples for homely uses of cure such powerfully poisonous plants as Monkshood (Aconite), Deadly Nightshade (Belladonna), Foxglove (Digitalis), Hemlock or Henbane (except for some outward uses), and the like dangerous herbs, these being beyond the province of domestic medicine, whilst only to be administered under the advice and guidance of a qualified prescriber.

[13] The chief purpose held in view has been to reconsider those safe and sound herbal curative remedies and medicines which were formerly most in vogue as homely simples, whether to be taken or to be outwardly applied. And the main object has been to show with what confidence their uses may be now resumed, or retained under the guidance of modern chemical teachings, and of precise scientific provings. This question equally applies, whether the Simples be employed as auxiliaries by the physician in attendance, or are welcomed for prompt service in a household emergency as ready at hand when the doctor cannot be immediately had.

Moreover, such a Manual as the present of approved Herbal Remedies need not by any means be disparaged by the busy practitioner, when his customary medicines seem to be out of place, or are beyond speedy reach; it being well known that a sick person is always ready to accept with eagerness plain assistant remedies sensibly advised from the garden, the store-closet, the spice-box, or the field.

"Of simple medicines, and their powers to cure, A wise physician makes his knowledge sure; Else I or the household in his healing art He stands ill-fitted to take useful part."

So said Oribasus (freely translated) as long ago as the fourth century, in classic terms prophetic of later times, Simplicium medicamentorum et facultatum quoe in eis insunt cognitio ita necessaria est ut sine ea nemo rite medicari queat.

But after all has been said and done, none the less must it be finally acknowledged in the pathetic utterance of King Alfred's Anglo-Saxon proverb, Nis [14] no wurt woxen on woode ne on felde, per enure mage be lif uphelden.

"No wort is waxen in wood or wold, Which may for ever man's life uphold."

Neither to be discovered in the quaint Herbals of primitive times, nor to be learnt by the advanced chemical knowledge of modern plant lore, is there any panacea for all the ills to which our flesh is heir, or an elixir of life, which can secure for us a perpetual immunity from sickness. Contra vim mortis nullum medicamentum in hortis, says the rueful Latin distich:—

"No healing herb can conquer death, And so for always give us breath."

To sum up which humiliating conclusion good George Herbert has put the matter thus with epigrammatic conciseness:—

"St. Luke was a saint and a physician, yet he is dead!"

But none the less bravely we may still take comfort each in his mortal frailty, because of the hopeful promise preached to men long since by the son of Sirach, "A faithful friend is the Medicine of life; they that fear the Lord shall find Him."

[15] ACORN.

This is the well-known fruit of our British Oak, to Which tree it gives the name—Aik, or Eik, Oak.

The Acorn was esteemed by Dioscorides, and other old authors, for its supposed medicinal virtues. As an article of food it is not known to have been habitually used at any time by the inhabitants of Britain, though acorns furnished the chief support of the large herds of swine on which our forefathers subsisted. The right of maintaining these swine in the woods was called "panage," and formed a valuable property.

The earliest inhabitants of Greece and Southern Europe who lived in the primeval forests were supported almost wholly on the fruit of the Oak. They were described by classic authors as fat of person, and were called "balanophagi"—acorn eaters.

During the great dearth of 1709 the French were driven to eat bread of acorns steeped in water to destroy the bitterness, and they suffered therefrom injurious effects, such as obstinate constipation, or destructive cholera.

It is worth serious notice medically that in years remarkable for a large yield of Acorns disastrous losses have occurred among young cattle from outbreaks of acorn poisoning, or the acorn disease. Those up to two years old suffered most severely, but sheep, pigs and deer were not affected by this acorn malady. Its symptoms are progressive wasting, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, sore places inside the mouth, discharge from [16] the eyes and nostrils, excretion of much pale urine, and no fever, but a fall of temperature below the normal standard. Having regard to which train of symptoms it is fair to suppose the acorn will afford in the human subject a useful specific medicine for the marasmus, or wasting atrophy of young children who are scrofulous. The fruit should be given in the form of a tincture, or vegetable extract, or even admixed (when ground) sparingly with wheaten flour in bread. The dose should fall short of producing any of the above symptoms, and the remedy should be steadily pursued for many weeks.

The tincture should be made of saturated strength with spirit of wine on the bruised acorns, to stand for a fortnight before being decanted. Then the dose will be from twenty to thirty drops with water three or four times a day.

The Acorn contains chemically starch, a fixed oil, citric acid, uncrystallizable sugar, and another special sugar called "quercit."

Acorns, when roasted and powdered, have been sometimes employed as a fair substitute for coffee. By distillation they will yield an ardent spirit.

Dr. Burnett strongly commends a "distilled spirit of acorns" as an antidote to the effects of alcohol, where the spleen and kidneys have already suffered, with induced dropsy. It acts on the principle of similars, ten drops being given three times a day in water.

In certain parts of Europe it is customary to place acorns in the hands of the newly dead; whilst in other districts an apple is put into the palm of a child when lying in its little coffin.

The bark of an oak tree, and the galls, or apples, produced on its leaves, or twigs, by an insect named [17] cynips, are very astringent, by reason of the gallo-tannic acid which they furnish abundantly. This acid, given as a drug, or the strong decoction of oak bark which contains it, will serve to restrain bleedings if taken internally; and finely powdered oak bark, when inhaled pretty frequently, has proved very beneficial against consumption of the lungs in its early stages. Working tanners are well known to be particularly exempt from this disease, probably through their constantly inhaling the peculiar aroma given off from the tan pits; and a like effect may be produced by using as snuff the fresh oak bark dried and reduced to an impalpable powder, or by inhaling day after day the steam given off from recent oak bark infused in boiling water.

Marble galls are formed on the back of young twigs, artichoke galls at their extremities, and currant galls by spangles on the under surface of the leaves. From these spangles females presently emerge, and lay their eggs on the catkins, giving rise to the round shining currant galls.

The Oak—Quercus robur—is so named from the Celtic "quer," beautiful; and "cuez," a tree. "Drus," another Celtic word for tree, and particularly for the Oak, gave rise to the terms Dryads and Druids. Among the Greeks and Romans a chaplet of oak was one of the highest honours which could be conferred on a citizen. Ancient oaks exist in several parts of England, which are traditionally called Gospel oaks, because it was the practice in times long past when beating the bounds of a parish to read a portion of the Gospel on Ascension Day beneath an oak tree which was growing on the boundary line of the district. Cross oaks were planted at the juncture of cross roads, so that persons suffering from ague might peg a lock of their hair into the [18] trunks, and by wrenching themselves away might leave the hair and the malady in the tree together. A strong decoction of oak bark is most usefully applied for prolapse of the lower bowel.

Oak Apple day (May 29th) is called in Hampshire "Shikshak" day.


The Agrimony is a Simple well known to all country folk, and abundant throughout England in the fields and woods, as a popular domestic medicinal herb. It belongs to the Rose order of plants, and blossoms from June to September with small yellow flowers, which sit close along slender spikes a foot high, smelling like apricots, and called by the rustics "Church Steeples." Botanically it bears the names Agrimonia Eupatoria, of which the first is derived from the Greek, and means "shining," because the herb is thought to cure cataract of the eye; and the second bears reference to the liver, as indicating the use of this plant for curing diseases of that organ. Chemists have determined that the Agrimony possesses a particular volatile oil, and yields nearly five per cent. of tannin, so that its use in the cottage for gargles, and as an astringent application to indolent wounds, is well justified. The herb does not seem really to own any qualities for acting medicinally on the liver. More probably the yellow colour of its flowers, which, with the root, furnish a dye of a bright nankeen hue, has given it a reputation in bilious disorders, according to the doctrine of signatures, because the bile is also yellow. Nevertheless, Gerard says: "A decoction of the leaves is good for them that have naughty livers." By pouring a pint of boiling water on a handful of the plant—stems, flowers and leaves—an [19] excellent gargle may be made for a relaxed throat; and a teacupful of the same infusion may be taken cold three or four times in the day for simple looseness of the bowels; also for passive losses of blood. In France, Agrimony tea is drank as a beverage at table. This herb formed an ingredient of the genuine arquebusade water, as prepared against wounds inflicted by an arquebus, or hand-gun, and it was mentioned by Philip de Comines in his account of the battle of Morat, 1476. When the Yeomen of the Guard were first formed in England—1485—half were armed with bows and arrows, whilst the other half carried arquebuses. In France the eau de arquebusade is still applied for sprains and bruises, being carefully made from many aromatic herbs. Agrimony was at one time included in the London Materia Medica as a vulnerary herb. It bears the title of Cockleburr, or Sticklewort, because its seed vessels cling by the hooked ends of their stiff hairs to any person or animal coming into contact with the plant. A strong decoction of the root and leaves, sweetened with honey, has been taken successfully to cure scrofulous sores, being administered two or three times a day in doses of a wineglassful persistently for several months. Perhaps the special volatile oil of the plant, in common with that contained in other herbs similarly aromatic, is curatively antiseptic. Pliny called it a herb "of princely authoritie."

The Hemp Agrimony, or St. John's Herb, belongs to the Composite order of plants, and grows on the margins of brooks, having hemp-like leaves, which are bitter of taste and pungent of smell, as if it were an umbelliferous herb. Because of these hempen leaves it was formerly called "Holy Rope," being thus named after the rope with which Jesus was bound. They contain a volatile [20] oil, which acts on the kidneys; likewise some tannin, and a bitter chemical principle, which will cut short the chill of intermittent fever, or perhaps prevent it. Provers of the plant have found it produce a "bilious fever," with severe headache, redness of the face, nausea, soreness over the liver, constipation, and high-coloured urine. Acting on which experience, a tincture, prepared (H.) from the whole plant, may be confidently given in frequent small well-diluted doses with water for influenza, or for a similar feverish chill, with break-bone pains, prostration, hot dry skin, and some bilious vomiting. Likewise a tea made with boiling water poured on the dried leaves will give prompt relief if taken hot at the onset of a bilious catarrh, or of influenza. This plant also is named Eupatorium because it refers, as Pliny says, to Eupator, a king of Pontus. In Holland it is used for jaundice, with swollen feet: and in America it belongs to the tribe of bone-sets. The Hemp Agrimony grows with us in moist, shady places, with a tall reddish stem, and with terminal crowded heads of dull lilac flowers. Its distinctive title is Cannabinum, or "Hempen," whilst by some it is known as "Thoroughwort."


The Wood Anemone, or medicinal English Pulsatilla, with its lovely pink white petals, and drooping blossoms, is one of our best known and most beautiful spring flowers. Herbalists do not distinguish it virtually from the silky-haired Anemone Pulsatilla, which medicinal variety is of highly valuable modern curative use as a Herbal Simple. The active chemical principles of each plant are "anemonin" and "anemonic acid." A tincture is made (H.) with spirit of wine from the entire [21] plant, collected when in flower. This tincture is remarkably beneficial in disorders of the mucous membranes, alike of the respiratory and of the digestive passages. For mucous indigestion following a heavy or rich meal the tincture of Pulsatilla is almost a specific remedy. Three or four drops thereof should be given at once with a tablespoonful of water, hot or cold, and the same dose may be repeated after an hour if then still needed. For catarrhal affections of the eyes and the ears, as well as for catarrhal diarrhoea, the tincture is very serviceable; also for female monthly difficulties its use is always beneficial and safe. As a medicine it best suits persons of a mild, gentle disposition, and of a lymphatic constitution, especially females; it is less appropriate for quick, excitable, energetic men. Anemonin, or Pulsatilla Camphor, which is the active principle of this plant, is prepared by the chemist, and may be given in doses of from one fiftieth to one tenth of a grain rubbed up with dry sugar of milk. Such a dose (or a drop of the tincture with a tablespoonful of water), given every two or three hours, will soon relieve a swollen testicle; and the tincture still more diluted will ease the bladder difficulties of old men. Furthermore, the tincture, in doses of two or three drops with a spoonful of water, will allay spasmodic cough, as of whooping cough, or bronchitis. The vinegar of Wood Anemone made from the leaves retains all the more acrid properties of the plant, and is put, in France, to many rural domestic purposes. When applied in lotions every night for five or six times consecutively, it will heal indolent ulcers; and its rubefacient effects serve instead of those produced externally by mustard. If a teaspoonful is sprinkled within the palms and its volatile vapours are inhaled through the mouth and nose, this [22] will dispel an incipient catarrh. The name Pulsatilla is a diminutive of the Latin puls, a pottage, as made from pulse, and used at sacrificial feasts. The title Anemone signifies "wind-flower." Pliny says this flower never opens but when the wind is blowing. The title has been misapprehended as "an emony." Turner says gardeners call the flowers "emonies"; and Tennyson, in his "Northern Farmer," tells of the dead keeper being found "doon in the woild enemies afoor I corned to the plaice." Other names of the plant are Wood Crowfoot, Smell Fox (Rants), and Flawflower. Alfred Austin says, "With windflower honey are my tresses smoothed." It is also called the Passover Flower, because blossoming at Easter; and it belongs to the Ranunculaceous order of plants. The flower of the Wood Anemone tells the approach of night, or of a shower, by curling over its petals like a tent; and it has been said that fairies nestle within, having first pulled the curtains round them. Among the old Romans, to gather the first Anemone of the year was deemed a preservative against fever. The Pasque flower, also named Bluemoney and Easter, or Dane's flower, is of a violet blue, growing in chalky pastures, and less common than the Wood Anemone, but each possesses equally curative virtues.

The seed of the Anemone being very light and downy, is blown away by the first breeze of wind. A ready-witted French senator took advantage of this fact while visiting Bacheliere, a covetous florist, near Paris, who had long held a secret monopoly of certain richly-coloured and splendidly handsome anemones from the East. Vexed to see one man hoard up for himself what ought to be more widely distributed, he walked and talked with the florist in his garden when the anemone [23] plants were in seed. Whilst thus occupied, he let fall his robe, as if by accident, upon the flowers, and so swept off a number of the little feathery seed vessels which clung to his dependent garment, and which he afterwards cultivated at home. The petals of the Pasque flower yield a rich green colour, which is used For staining Easter eggs, this festival having been termed Pask time in old works, from "paske," a crossing over. The plant is said to grow best with iron in the soil.


The wild Angelica grows commonly throughout England in wet places as an umbelliferous plant, with a tall hollow stem, out of which boys like to make pipes. It is purple, furrowed, and downy, bearing white flowers tinged with pink. But the herb is not useful as a simple until cultivated in our gardens, the larger variety being chosen for this purpose, and bearing the name Archangelica.

"Angelica, the happy counterbane, Sent down from heaven by some celestial scout, As well its name and nature both avow't."

It came to this country from northern latitudes in 1568. The aromatic stems are grown abundantly near London in moist fields for the use of confectioners. These stems, when candied, are sold as a favourite sweetmeat. They are grateful to the feeble stomach, and will relieve flatulence promptly. The roots of the garden Angelica contain plentifully a peculiar resin called "angelicin," which is stimulating to the lungs, and to the skin: they smell pleasantly of musk, being an excellent tonic and carminative. An infusion of the plant may be made by pouring a pint of boiling water on an ounce of the bruised root, and two tablespoonfuls [24] of this should be given three or four times in the day; or the powdered root may be administered in doses of from ten to thirty grains. The infusion will relieve flatulent stomach-ache, and will promote menstruation if retarded. It is also of use as a stimulating bronchial tonic in the catarrh of aged and feeble persons. Angelica, taken in either medicinal form, is said to cause a disgust for spirituous liquors. In high Dutch it is named the root of the Holy Ghost. The fruit is employed for flavouring some cordials, notably Chartreuse. If an incision is made in the bark of the stems, and the crown of the root, at the commencement of spring, a resinous gum exudes with a special aromatic flavour as of musk or benzoin, for either of which it can be substituted. Gerard says: "If you do but take a piece of the root, and hold it in your mouth, or chew the same between your teeth, it doth most certainly drive away pestilent aire." Icelanders eat both the stem and the roots raw with butter. These parts of the plant, if wounded, yield a yellow juice which becomes, when dried, a valuable medicine beneficial in chronic rheumatism and gout. Some have said the Archangelica was revealed in a dream by an angel to cure the plague; others aver that it blooms on the day of Michael the Archangel (May 8th, old style), and is therefore a preservative against evil spirits and witchcraft.


The Anise (Pimpinella), from "bipenella," because of its secondary, feather-like leaflets, belongs to the umbelliferous plants, and is cultivated in our gardens; but its aromatic seeds chiefly come from Germany. The careful housewife will do well always to have a [25] supply of this most useful Simple closely bottled in her store cupboard. The herb is a variety of the Burnet Saxifrage, and yields an essential oil of a fine blue colour. To make the essence of Aniseed one part of the oil should be mixed with four parts of spirit of wine. This oil, by its chemical basis, "anethol," represents the medicinal properties of the plant. It has a special influence on the bronchial tubes to encourage expectoration, particularly with children. For infantile catarrh, after its first feverish stage, Aniseed tea is very useful. It should be made by pouring half-a-pint of boiling water on two teaspoonfuls of the seeds, bruised in a mortar, and given when cold in doses of one, two, or three teaspoonfuls, according to the age of the child. For the relief of flatulent stomach-ache, whether in children or in adults, from five to fifteen drops of the essence may be given on a lump of sugar, or mixed with two dessertspoonfuls of hot water. Gerard says: "The Aniseed helpeth the yeoxing, or hicket (hiccough), and should be given to young children to eat which are like to have the falling sickness, or to such as have it by patrimony or succession." The odd literary mistake has been sometimes made of regarding Aniseed as a plural noun: thus, in "The Englishman's Doctor," it is said, "Some anny seeds be sweet, and some bitter." An old epithet of the Anise was, Solamen intestinorum—"The comforter of the bowels." The Germans have an almost superstitious belief in the medicinal virtues of Aniseed, and all their ordinary household bread is plentifully flavoured with the whole seeds. The mustaceoe, or spiced cakes of the Romans, introduced at the close of a rich entertainment, to prevent indigestion, consisted of meal, with anise, cummin, and other aromatics used for staying putrescence or fermentation within the [26] intestines. Such a cake was commonly brought in at the end of a marriage feast; and hence the bridecake of modern times has taken its origin, though the result of eating this is rather to provoke dyspepsia than to prevent it. Formerly, in the East, these seeds were in use as part payment of taxes: "Ye pay tithe of mint, anise [dill?], and cummin!" The oil destroys lice and the itch insect, for which purpose it may be mixed with lard or spermaceti as an ointment. The seed has been used for smoking, so as to promote expectoration.

Besides containing the volatile oil, Aniseed yields phosphates, malates, gum, and a resin. The leaves, if applied externally, will help to remove freckles; and, "Let me tell you this," says a practical writer of the present day, "if you are suffering from bronchitis, with attacks of spasmodic asthma, just send for a bottle of the liqueur called 'Anisette,' and take a dram of it with a little water. You will find it an immediate palliative; you will cease barking like Cerberus; you will be soothed, and go to sleep."— Experto crede! "I have been bronchitic and asthmatic for twenty years, and have never known an alleviative so immediately efficacious as 'Anisette.'"

For the restlessness of languid digestion, a dose of essence of Aniseed in hot water at bedtime is much to be commended. In the Paregoric Elixir, or "Compound Tincture of Camphor," prescribed as a sedative cordial by doctors (and containing some opium), the oil of Anise is also included—thirty drops in a pint of the tincture. This oil is of capital service as a bait for mice.


The term "Apple" was applied by the ancients indiscriminately to almost every kind of round fleshy fruit, [27] such as the thornapple, the pineapple, and the loveapple. Paris gave to Venus a golden apple; Atalanta lost her classic race by staying to pick up an apple; the fruit of the Hesperides, guarded by a sleepless dragon, were golden apples; and through the same fruit befell "man's first disobedience," bringing "death into the world and all our woe" (concerning which the old Hebrew myth runs that the apple of Eden, as the first fermentable fruit known to mankind, was the beginner of intoxicating drinks, which led to the knowledge of good and evil).

Nothing need be said here about the Apple as an esculent; we have only to deal with this eminently English, and most serviceable fruit in its curative and remedial aspects. Chemically, the Apple is composed of vegetable fibre, albumen, sugar, gum, chlorophyll, malic acid, gallic acid, lime, and much water. Furthermore, German analysts say that the Apple contains a larger percentage of phosphorus than any other fruit or vegetable. This phosphorus is specially adapted for renewing the essential nervous "lethicin" of the brain and spinal cord. Old Scandinavian traditions represent the Apple as the food of the gods, who, when they felt themselves growing feeble and infirm, resorted to this fruit for renewing their powers of mind and body. Also the acids of the Apple are of signal use for men of sedentary habits, whose livers are sluggish of action; they help to eliminate from the body noxious matters, which, if retained, would make the brain heavy and dull, or produce jaundice, or skin eruptions, or other allied troubles. Some experience of this sort has led to the custom of our taking Apple sauce with roast pork, roast goose, and similar rich dishes. The malic acid of ripe Apples, raw or cooked, will neutralize the chalky matter engendered in gouty subjects, particularly from [28] an excess of meat eating. A good, ripe, raw Apple is one of the easiest of vegetable substances for the stomach to deal with, the whole process of its digestion being completed in eighty-five minutes. Furthermore, a certain aromatic principle is possessed by the Apple, on which its peculiar flavour depends, this being a fragrant essential oil—the valerianate of amyl—in a small but appreciable quantity. It can be made artificially by the chemist, and used for imparting the flavour of apples to sweetmeats and confectionery. Gerard found that "the pulp of roasted Apples, mixed in a wine quart of faire water, and laboured together until it comes to be as Apples and ale—which we call lambswool (Celtic, 'the day of Apple fruit')—never faileth in certain diseases of the raines, which myself hath often proved, and gained thereby both crownes and credit." Also, "The paring of an Apple cut somewhat thick, and the inside whereof is laid to hot, burning or running eyes at night when the party goes to bed, and is tied or bound to the same, doth help the trouble very speedily, and, contrary to expectation, an excellent secret." A poultice made of rotten Apples is commonly used in Lincolnshire for the cure of weak, or rheumatic eyes. Likewise in the Hotel des Invalides, at Paris, an Apple poultice is employed for inflamed eyes, the apple being roasted, and its pulp applied over the eyes without any intervening substance To obviate constipation two or three Apples taken at night, whether baked or raw, are admirably efficient. It was said long ago: "They do easily and speedily pass through the belly, therefore they do mollify the belly," and for this reason a modern maxim teaches that:—

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

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

The juice of a sour Apple, if rubbed on warts first pared away to the quick, will serve to cure them. The wild "Scrab," or Crab Apple, armed with thorns, grows in our fields and hedgerows, furnishing verjuice, which is rich in tannin, and a most useful application for old sprains. In the United States of America an infusion of apple tree bark is given with benefit during intermittent, remittent, and bilious fevers. We likewise prescribe Apple water as a grateful cooling drink for [29] feverish patients. Francatelli directs that it should be made thus: "Slice up thinly three or four Apples without peeling them, and boil them in a very clean saucepan, with a quart of water and a little sugar until the slices of apple become soft; the apple water must then be strained through a piece of muslin, or clean rag, into a jug, and drank when cold." If desired, a small piece of the yellow rind of a lemon may be added, just enough to give it a flavour.

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

The juice of the cultivated Apple made by fermentation into cider, which means literally "strong drink," was pronounced by John Evelyn, in his Pomona, 1729, to be "in a word the most wholesome drink in Europe, as specially sovereign against the scorbute, the stone, spleen, and what not." This beverage [31] contains alcohol (on the average a little over five per cent.), gum, sugar, mineral matters, and several acids, among which the malic predominates. As an habitual drink, if sweet, it is apt to provoke acid fermentation with a gouty subject, and to develop rheumatism. Nevertheless, Dr. Nash, of Worcester, attributed to cider great virtues in leading to longevity; and a Herefordshire vicar bears witness to its superlative merits thus:—

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

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

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

Pippins are apples which have been raised from pips; [32] a codling is an apple which requires to be "coddled," stewed, or lightly boiled, being yet sour and unfit for eating whilst raw. The John Apple, or Apple John, ripens on St. John's Day, December 27th. It keeps sound for two years, but becomes very shrunken. Sir John Falstaff says (Henry IV., iii. 3) "Withered like an old Apple John." The squab pie, famous in Cornwall, contains apples and onions allied with mutton.

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

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

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

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

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


The "lords and ladies" (arum maculatum) so well known to every rustic as common throughout Spring in almost every hedge row, has acquired its name from the colour of its erect pointed spike enclosed within the curled hood of an upright arrow-shaped leaf. This is purple or cream hued, according to the accredited sex of the plant. It bears further the titles of Cuckoo Pint, Wake Robin, Parson in the Pulpit, Rampe, Starchwort, Arrowroot, Gethsemane, Bloody Fingers, Snake's Meat, Adam and Eve, Calfsfoot, Aaron, and Priest's Pintle. The red spots on its glossy emerald arrow-head leaves, are attributed to the dropping of our Saviour's blood on [34] the plant whilst growing at the foot of the cross. Several of the above appellations bear reference to the stimulating effects of the herb on the sexual organs. Its tuberous root has been found to contain a particular volatile acrid principle which exercises distinct medicinal effects, though these are altogether dissipated if the roots are subjected to heat by boiling or baking. When tasted, the fresh juice causes an acrid burning irritation of the mouth and throat; also, if swallowed it will produce a red raw state of the palate and tongue, with cracked lips. The leaves, when applied externally to a delicate skin will blister it. Accordingly a tincture made (H.) from the plant and its root proves curative in diluted doses for a chronic sore throat, with swollen mucous membrane, and vocal hoarseness, such as is often known as "Clergyman's Sore Throat," and likewise for a feverish sore mouth, as well as for an irresistible tendency to sleepiness, and heaviness after a full meal. From five to ten drops of the tincture, third decimal strength, should be given with a tablespoonful of cold water to an adult three times a day. An ointment made by stewing the fresh sliced root with lard serves efficiently for the cure of ringworm.

The fresh juice yields malate of lime, whilst the plant contains gum, sugar, starch and fat. The name Arum is derived from the Hebrew jaron, "a dart," in allusion to the shape of the leaves like spear heads; or, as some think, from aur, "fire," because of the acrid juice. The adjective maculatum refers to the dark spots or patches which are seen on the smooth shining leaves of the plant. These leaves have sometimes proved fatal to children who have mistaken them for sorrel. The brilliant scarlet coral-like berries which are found set closely about the erect spike of the arum in the autumn [35] are known to country lads as adder's meat—a name corrupted from the Anglo-Saxon attor, "poison," as originally applied to these berries, though it is remarkable that pheasants can eat them with impunity.

In Queen Elizabeth's time the Arum was known as starch-wort because the roots were then used for supplying pure white starch to stiffen the ruffs and frills worn at that time by gallants and ladies. This was obtained by boiling or baking the roots, and thus dispelling their acridity. When dried and powdered the root constitutes the French cosmetic, "Cypress Powder." Recently a patented drug, "Tonga," has obtained considerable notoriety for curing obstinate neuralgia of the head and face—this turning out to be the dried scraped stem of an aroid (or arum) called Raphidophora Vitiensis, belonging to the Fiji Islands. Acting on the knowledge of which fact some recent experimenters have tried the fresh juice expressed from our common Arum Maculatum in a severe case of neuralgia which could be relieved previously only by Tonga: and it was found that this juice in doses of a teaspoonful gave similar relief. The British Domestic Herbal, of Sydenham's time, describes a case of alarming dropsy, with great constitutional exhaustion treated most successfully with a medicine composed of Arum and Angelica, which cured in about three weeks. The "English Passion Flower" and "Portland Sago" are other names given to the Arum Maculatum.


The Asparagus, belonging to the Lily order of plants, occurs wild on the coasts of Essex, Suffolk, and Cornwall. It is there a more prickly plant than the cultivated vegetable which we grow for the sake of the tender, [36] edible shoots. The Greeks and Romans valued it for their tables, and boiled it so quickly that velocius quam asparagi coquuntur—"faster than asparagus is cooked"—was a proverb with them, to which our "done in a jiffy" closely corresponds. The shoots, whether wild or cultivated, are succulent, and contain wax, albumen, acetate of potash, phosphate of potash, mannite, a green resin, and a fixed principle named "asparagin." This asparagin stimulates the kidneys, and imparts a peculiar, strong smell to the urine after taking the shoots; at the same time, the green resin with which the asparagin is combined, exercises gently sedative effects on the heart, calming palpitation, or nervous excitement of that organ. Though not producing actual sugar in the urine, asparagus forms and excretes a substance therein which answers to the reactions used by physicians for detecting sugar, except the fermentation test. It may fairly be given in diabetes with a promise of useful results. In Russia it is a domestic medicine for the arrest of flooding.

Asparagin also bears the chemical name of "althein," and occurs in crystals, which may be reduced to powder, and which may likewise be got from the roots of marsh mallow, and liquorice. One grain of this given three times a day is of service for relieving dropsy from disease of the heart. Likewise, a medicinal tincture is made (H.) from the whole plant, of which eight or ten drops given with a tablespoonful of water three times a day will also allay urinary irritation, whilst serving to do good against rheumatic gout. A syrup of asparagus is employed medicinally in France: and at Aix-les-Bains it forms part of the cure for rheumatic patients to eat Asparagus. The roots of Asparagus contain diuretic virtues more abundantly than the shoots. An infusion [37] made from these roots will assist against jaundice, and congestive torpor of the liver. The shrubby stalks of the plant bear red, coral-like berries which, when ripe, yield grape sugar, and spargancin. Though generally thought to branch out into feathery leaves, these are only ramified stalks substituted by the plant when growing on an arid sandy soil, where no moisture could be got for the maintenance of leaves. The berries are attractive to small birds, who swallow them whole, and afterwards void the seeds, to germinate when thus scattered about. Thus there is some valid reason for the vulgar corruption of the title Asparagus into Sparrowgrass, or Grass. Botanically the plant is a lily which has seen better days. In the United States of America, Asparagus is thought to be undeniably sedative, and a palliative in all heart affections attended with excited action of the pulse. The water in which asparagus has been boiled, if drunk, though somewhat disagreeable, is beneficial against rheumatism. The cellular tissue of the plant furnishes a substance similar to sago. In Venice, the wild asparagus is served at table, but it is strong in flavour and less succulent than the cultivated sort. Mortimer Collins makes Sir Clare, one of his characters in Clarisse say: "Liebig, or some other scientist maintains that asparagin—the alkaloid in asparagus-develops form in the human brain: so, if you get hold of an artistic child, and give him plenty of asparagus, he will grow into a second Raffaelle!"

Gerard calls the plant "Sperage," "which is easily concocted when eaten, and doth gently loose the belly." Our name, "Asparagus," is derived from a Greek word signifying "the tearer," in allusion to the spikes of some species; or perhaps from the Persian "Spurgas," a shoot.

[38] John Evelyn, in his Book of Salads, derives the term Asparagus in easy fashion, ab asperitate, "from the sharpness of the plant." "Nothing," says he, "next to flesh is more nourishing; but in this country we overboil them, and dispel their volatile salts: the water should boil before they are put in." He tells of asparagus raised at Battersea in a natural, sweet, and well-cultivated soil, sixteen of which (each one weighing about four ounces) were made a present to his wife, showing what "solum, coelum, and industry will effect." The Asparagus first came into use as a food about 200 B.C., in the time of the elder Cato, and Augustus was very partial to it. The wild Asparagus was called Lybicum, and by the Athenians, Horminium. Roman cooks used to dry the shoots, and when required these were thrown into hot water, and boiled for a few minutes to make them look fresh and green. Gerard advises that asparagus should be sodden in flesh broth, and eaten; or boiled in fair water, seasoned with oil, pepper, and vinegar, being served up as a salad. Our ancestors in Tudor times ate the whole of the stalks with spoons. Swift's patron, Sir William Temple, who had been British Minister at the Hague, brought the art of Asparagus culture from Holland; and when William III. visited Sir William at Moor Park, where young Jonathan was domiciled as Secretary, his Majesty is said to have taught the future Dean of St. Patrick's how to eat asparagus in the Dutch style. Swift afterwards at his own table refused a second helping of the vegetable to a guest until the stalks had been devoured, alleging that "King William always ate his stalks." When the large white asparagus first came into vogue, it was known as the "New Vegetable." This was grown with lavish manure and was called Dutch Asparagus. For [39] cooking the stalks should be cut of equal lengths, and boiled standing upwards in a deep saucepan with nearly two inches of the heads out of the water. Then the steam will suffice to cook these tender parts, whilst the hard stalky portions may be boiled long enough to become soft and succulently wholesome. Two sorts of asparagus are now grown— the one an early kind, pinkish white, cultivated in France and the Channel Islands; the other green and English. At Kynance Cove in Cornwall, there is an island called Asparagus Island, from the abundance in which the plant is found there.

In connection with this popular vegetable may be quoted the following riddle:—

"What killed a queen to love inclined, What on a beggar oft we find, Show—to ourselves if aptly joined, A plant which we in bundles bind."


The herb Balm, or Melissa, which is cultivated quite commonly in our cottage gardens, has its origin in the wild, or bastard Balm, growing in our woods, especially in the South of England, and bearing the name of "Mellitis." Each is a labiate plant, and "Bawme," say the Arabians, "makes the heart merry and joyful." The title, "Balm," is an abbreviation of Balsam, which signifies "the chief of sweet-smelling oils;" Hebrew, Bal smin, "chief of oils"; and the botanical suffix, Melissa, bears reference to the large quantity of honey (mel) contained in the flowers of this herb.

When cultivated, it yields from its leaves and tops an essential oil which includes a chemical principle, or "stearopten." "The juice of Balm," as Gerard tells us, "glueth together greene wounds," and the leaves, say [40] both Pliny and Dioscorides, "being applied, do close up woundes without any perill of inflammation." It is now known as a scientific fact that the balsamic oils of aromatic plants make most excellent surgical dressings. They give off ozone, and thus exercise anti-putrescent effects. Moreover, as chemical "hydrocarbons," they contain so little oxygen, that in wounds dressed with the fixed balsamic herbal oils, the atomic germs of disease are starved out. Furthermore, the resinous parts of these balsamic oils, as they dry upon the sore or wound, seal it up, and effectually exclude all noxious air. So the essential oils of balm, peppermint, lavender, and the like, with pine oil, resin of turpentine, and the balsam of benzoin (Friars' Balsam) should serve admirably for ready application on lint or fine rag to cuts and superficial sores. In domestic surgery, the lamentation of Jeremiah falls to the ground: "Is there no balm in Gilead: is there no physician there?" Concerning which "balm of Gilead," it may be here told that it was formerly of great esteem in the East as a medicine, and as a fragrant unguent. It was the true balsam of Judea, which at one time grew nowhere else in the whole world but at Jericho. But when the Turks took the Holy Land, they transplanted this balsam to Grand Cairo, and guarded its shrubs most jealously by Janissaries during the time the balsam was flowing.

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