Herbal Encyclopedia - D
Herbs & Oils
~ D ~
Uniquely flavored, Dill offers culinary "seeds" and leaves, but the choicest flavor is in the fresh immature green seed heads. They give character to dill pickles, vinegar and potato salad. Distilled seed oil is colorless to pale yellow, with a light, fresh, warm-spicey scent and flavors drinks, food and infant gripe water for colic. The seeds aid digestion, and their infusion reduces flatulence, hiccups, stomach pains, and insomnia. A seed decoction gives a nail-strengthening bath.
Parts Used: Flower, leaf, stem, fruit, seeds, and essential oil.
Magical Uses: Seeds draw money, Leaves for protection, Flowers for love and defense. Protective when hung at the door, no one ill-disposed or envious of you can enter your house. Smell Dill to cure hiccups.
Aromatherapy Uses: (Oil) Colic; Constipation; Dyspepsia; Flatulence; Headaches; Indigestion; Nervousness; Amenorrhea.
(Draceana draco spp.)
Dragon's blood is the resin of the Draceana draco species. The common name of this plant is "dragon tree" hence the name.
Parts Used: Resin
Magical Uses: Burn for love, protection, exorcism, and sexual potency. Use for Courage; Magical Power; Energy; Strength; Purification; Changes; Determination; Cleansing. A pinch of Dragon's blood added to other incenses increases their potency and power.
Botanical: Narcissus Pseudo-narcissus
Family: N.O. Arnaryllidaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
Poison and Antidotes
---Synonyms---Narcissus. Porillon. Daffy-down-dilly. Fleur de coucou. Lent Lily.
---Parts Used---Bulb, leaves, flowers.
---Habitat---Europe, including Britain.
---Description---The Common Daffodil, a representative of the Ajax group, grows wild in most European countries. Its green, linear leaves about a foot long, and golden, terminal flowers, are familiar in moist woods and country gardens.
The bulbs should be gathered during the winter, and the flowers when in full bloom, in dry weather, and dried quickly. The bulbs and not the flowers of other species are used.
---Constituents---Professor Barger has given the following notes on the alkaloid of Narcissus Pseudo-narcissus. 'In 1910 Ewins obtained from the bulbs a crystalline alkaloid, to which he gave the name of narcissine, and on analysis found the formula to be C16H17ON.' He notes that the alkaloid is characterized by great stability and cannot easily be decomposed. Ringer and Morshead found the alkaloid from resting bulbs acted like pilocarpine, while that from the flowering bulbs resembled atropine. Laidlaw tested Ewins' alkaloid on frogs and cats, but found no action similar to pilocarpine or atropine. 0.125 gram given by mouth to a cat caused vomiting, salivation and purgation. In 1920 Asahtna, Professor of Chemistry in the Tokyo College of Pharmacy, showed that narcissine is identical with Iycorine isolated from Lycoris radiata in 1899. The name narcissine has therefore been dropped. Lycorine is quite common in the N.O. Amaryllidaceae. It was found in Buphane disticha by Tutin in the Mellome Research Laboratory in 1911 (Journ. Chem. Soc. Transactions 99, page 1,240). It is generally present in quite small quantities, at most 0.1 to 0.18 per cent of the fresh material. Chemically, Iycorine or narcissine has some resemblance to hydrastine, and like it, contains a dioxymethylene group.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The following is a quotation from Culpepper:
'Yellow Daffodils are under the dominion of Mars, and the roots thereof are hot and dry in the third degree. The roots boiled and taken in posset drink cause vomiting and are used with good success at the appearance of approaching agues, especially the tertian ague, which is frequently caught in the springtime. A plaster made of the roots with parched barley meal dissolves hard swellings and imposthumes, being applied thereto; the juice mingled with honey, frankincense wine, and myrrh, and dropped into the ears is good against the corrupt and running matter of the ears, the roots made hollow and boiled in oil help raw ribed heels; the juice of the root is good for the morphew and the discoloring of the skin.'
It is said by Galen to have astringent properties. It has been used as an application to wounds. For hard imposthumes, for burns, for strained sinews, stiff or painful joints, and other local ailments, and for 'drawing forth thorns or stubs from any part of the body' it was highly esteemed.
The Daffodil was the basis of an ancient ointment called Narcissimum.
The powdered flowers have been used as an emetic in place of the bulbs, and in the form of infusion or syrup, in pulmonary catarrh.
---Dosages---Of powder, from 20 grains to 2 drachms as an emetic. Of extract, 2 to 3 grains.
---Poison and Antidotes---It may be noted that Henry states that Iycorine or narcissine in warm-blooded animals acts as an emetic causing eventually collapse and death by paralysis of the central nervous system.
There have been several cases of poisoning by Daffodil bulbs which have been eaten in mistake for onions. In one case the points observed were: (1) the speedy action of the poison; (2) the fact that the high temperature did not destroy the toxicity of the poison; and (3) the relatively small quantity of Daffodil bulbs which caused the trouble.
The bulbs of N. poeticus, N. odorus, and N. jonquilla possess similar acrid and emetic properties.
Botanical: Dahlia Variabilis
Family: N.O. Compositae
The Dahlia is named after Dr. Dahl, a pupil of Linnaeus, but is also known, especially on the Continent, by the name 'Georgina.' It is a native of Mexico, where it grows in sandy meadows at an elevation of 5,000 feet above the sea, and from whence the first plants introduced to England were brought by way of Madrid, in 1789, by the Marchioness of Bute. These having been lost, others were introduced, in 1804, by Lady Holland. These, too, perished, so fresh ones were obtained from France, when the Continent was thrown open by the Peace of 1814.
---Constituents---The Inulin obtained in Dandelion and Chicory is also present in Dahlia tubers under the name of Dahlin. After undergoing a special treatment, Dahlia tubers and Chicory will yield the pure Laevulose that is sometimes called Atlanta Starch or Diabetic Sugar, which is frequently prescribed for diabetic and consumptive patients, and has been given to children in cases of wasting illness.
There was a very considerable business done in this product before the War by certain German firms. In a paper read at the Second International Congress of the Sugar Industry, held at Paris in 1908, it was stated that pure Laevulose is preferably made by the inversion of Inulin with dilute acids, and that the older process of preparation from invert sugar or molasses does not yield a pure product. The first step in the technical production of Laevulose is in the preparation of Inulin, and Dahlia tubers or Chicory root, which contain 6 to 12 per cent of Inulin are the most suitable material. Chicory root can readily be obtained in quantity, and Dahlia plants, if cultivated for the purpose, should yield in a few years a plentiful supply of cheap raw material.
For extraction of the Inulin, the roots or tubers are sliced, treated with milk of lime and steamed. The juice is then expressed and clarified by subsidence and filtration, the clear liquid being run into a revolving cooler until flakes are produced. These flakes are separated by a centrifugal machine, washed and decolorized, and the thus purified product finally treated with diluted acid, and so converted into Laevulose. This solution of Laevulose is neutralized and evaporated to a syrup in a vacuum pan.
Laevulose can be produced in this manner from Chicory roots and Dahlia tubers at an enormous reduction of price from the older methods of preparing it from molasses or sugar, the resultant product being moreover of absolute purity. Its sweet and pleasant taste are likely to make it used not only for diabetic patients, but also in making confectionery and for retarding crystallization of sugar products. It can also readily be utilized in the brewing and mineral water industries.
The research staff of one of the Scottish Universities during the War developed a process of extracting a valuable and much needed drug for the Army from Dahlia tubers, and was using as much material for the purpose as could be spared by growers.
Botanical: Bellis perennis (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Compositae
---Synonyms---Bruisewort. (Scotch) Bairnwort. (Welsh) Llygad y Dydd (Eye of the Day).
---Parts Used---Root, leaves.
The Common Daisy, which flowers from the earliest days of spring till late in the autumn, and covers the ground with its flat leaves so closely that nothing can grow beneath them, needs no detailed description.
It had once, in common with the Ox-Eye Daisy, a great reputation as a cure for fresh wounds, used as an ointment applied externally, and against inflammatory disorders of the liver, taken internally in the form of a distilled water of the plant.
The flowers and leaves are found to afford a certain amount of oil and ammoniacal salts.
Gerard mentions the Daisy, under the name of 'Bruisewort,' as an unfailing remedy in 'all kinds of paines and aches,' besides curing fevers, inflammation of the liver and 'alle the inwarde parts.'
In 1771 Dr. Hill said that an infusion of the leaves was 'excellent against Hectic Fevers.' The Daisy was an ingredient of an ointment much used in the fourteenth century for wounds, gout and fevers.
A strong decoction of the roots has been recommended as an excellent medicine in scorbutic complaints, it being stated, however, that the use of it must be continued for a considerable length of time before its effects will appear.
The taste of the leaves is somewhat acrid, notwithstanding which it has been used in some countries as a pot-herb. On account of the acrid juice contained in the leaves, no cattle will touch it, nor insects attack it.
The roots, too, have a penetrating pungency, containing some tannic acid, and there was once a popular superstition (to which Bacon refers) that if they be boiled in milk and the liquid given to puppies, the animals will grow no bigger.
According to some old writers, the generic name is derived from the Latin bellus (pretty or charming), though others say its name is from a dryad named Belidis. The common name is a corruption of the old English name 'day's-eye,' and is used by Chaucer in that sense:
'Well by reason men it call maie
The Daisie, or else the Eye of the Daie.'
In Scotland it is the 'Bairnwort,' testifying to the joy of children in gathering it for daisy-chains.
There is a common proverb associated with the flower and its abundance in spring and early summer: 'When you can put your foot on seven daisies summer is come.'
Botanical: Chrysanthemum leucanthemum (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Compositae
Part Used Medicinally
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Great Ox-eye. Goldens. Marguerite. Moon Daisy. Horse Gowan. Maudlin Daisy. Field Daisy. Dun Daisy. Butter Daisy. Horse Daisy. Maudlinwort. White. Weed. Leucanthemum vulgare. (Scotch) Gowan.
---Parts Used---Whole herb, flowers, root.
The Ox-Eye Daisy is a familiar sight in fields. In Somersetshire there is an old tradition connecting it with the Thunder God, and hence it is sometimes spoken of as the 'Dun Daisy.'
It is to be found throughout Europe and Russian Asia. The ancients dedicated it to Artemis, the goddess of women, considering it useful in women's complaints. In Christian days, it was transferred to St. Mary Magdalen and called Maudelyn or Maudlin Daisy after her. Gerard terms it Maudlinwort.
The genus derives its name from the Greek words chrisos (golden) and anthos (flower), and contains only two indigenous species this and the Corn Marigold, in which the whole flower is yellow, not only the central disc of florets, as in the Daisy. The specific name of the Ox-Eye signifies 'white flower,' being like the generic name, Greek in origin. The old northern name for the Daisy was Baldur's Brow, and this, with many other species of Chrysanthemum became dedicated to St. John.
---Description---The plant generally grows from 1 to 2 feet high. The root is perennial and somewhat creeping; the stems, hard and wiry, furrowed and only very slightly branched. The leaves are small and coarsely toothed; those near the root are somewhat rounder in form than those on the stem, and are on long stalks, those on the stem are oblong and stalkless.
By the middle of May, the familiar yellowcentred white flower-heads commence to bloom, and are at their best till about the close of June, though isolated specimens may be met with throughout the summer, especially where undisturbed by the cutting of the hay, as on railway banks, where the plant flourishes well. Beneath each flower-head is a ring of green sheathing bracts, the involucre. These not only protect and support the bloom, but doubtless prevents insects trying to bite their way to the honey from below. They, as well as the rest of the plant, are permeated with an acrid juice that is obnoxious to insects.
The young leaves are said to be eaten in salads in Italy. According to Linnaeus, horses, sheep and goats eat the plant, but cows and pigs refuse it on account of its acridity.
---Part Used Medicinally---The whole herb, collected in May and June, in the wild state, and dried. Also the flowers.
The taste of the dried herb is bitter and tingling, and the odour faintly resembles that of valerian.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Antispasmodic diuretic, tonic. Ox-Eye Daisy has been successfully employed in whooping-cough, asthma and nervous excitability.
As a tonic, it acts similarly to Chamomile flowers, and has been recommended for nightsweats. The flowers are balsamic and make a useful infusion for relieving chronic coughs and for bronchial catarrhs. Boiled with the leaves and stalks and sweetened with honey, they make an excellent drink for the same purpose. In America, the root is also employed successfully for checking the night-sweats of pulmonary consumption, the fluid extract being taken, 15 to 60 drops in water.
Externally, it is serviceable as a lotion for wounds, bruises, ulcers and some cutaneous diseases.
'Dioscorides saith that the floures of Oxeie made up in a seare cloth doe asswage and washe away cold hard swellings, and it is reported that if they be drunke by and by after bathing, they make them in a short time wellcolored that have been troubled with the yellow jaundice.'
Culpepper tells us that it is 'a wound herb of good respect, often used in those drinks and salves that are for wounds, either inward or outward' . . . and that it is 'very fitting to be kept both in oils, ointments, plasters and syrups.' He also tells us that the leaves bruised and applied reduce swellings, and that
'a decoction thereof, with wall-wort and agrimony, and places fomented or bathed therewith warm, giveth great ease in palsy, sciatica or gout. An ointment made thereof heals all wounds that have inflammation about them.'
Country people used formerly to take a decoction of the fresh herb in ale for the cure of jaundice.
Botanical: Turnera aphrodisiaca (WILLD.)
Family: N.O. Turneraceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Habitat---Mexico, South Arnerica, Texas, West Indies.
---Description---A small shrub; leaves smooth and pale green on upper side, underneath glabrous, with a few hairs on the ribs, ovolanceolate, shortly petiolate with two small glands at base; flowers yellow, rising singly from axils of the leaves, capsule one-celled splitting into three pieces; smell aromatic, taste characteristic, bitterish, aromatic and resinous.
---Constituents---A greenish volatile oil, smelling like chamomile, amorhpous bitter principle Damianin, resins and tannin.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Mild purgative, diuretic, tonic, acting directly on the reproductive organs, stimulant, hypochondriastic, aphrodisiae.
---Preparations---Fluid extract, 1/2 to 1 drachm. Solid extract, 5 to 10 grains. Often combined with Nux Vomica, Phosphorus, etc.
Turnera opifera leaves are used as an infusion and given as an astringent and tonic by the natives of Brazil, also T. ulmifolia for its tonic and expectorant properties.
Aplopappus discoideus was formerly sold as Damiana, but can easily be detected, as the leaves are distinctly lanceolate, with only two or three teeth on either side.
Botanical: Aplopappus laricifolius
Family: N.O. Compositae
Medicinal Action and Uses
Preparations and Dosages
---Synonyms---Aplopappus. Bigelovia Veneta.
---Part Used---The leaves.
---Description---The U.S.D. refers to Aplopappus discoideus as False Damiana. Gray refers to it as Bigelovia Veneta.
---Constituents---A volatile oil, also a fatty oil which has the smell of the plant, brown acid, resin, tannin. The resin is peculiar in containing other resins.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---It is used as a stimulant in flatulent dyspepsia and chronic inflammation with haemorrhage of the lower bowel. It is very useful in dysentery and in genito-urinary catarrh and as a stimulant expectorant; the tincture is useful for slowly healing ulcers.
---Preparations and Dosages---A strong decoction is made by 1 part to 5 of water. 1 tablespoonful as a dose every two hours. Dose of the fluid extract, 5 to 20 minims.
Botanical: Taraxacum officinale (WEBER)
Family: N.O. Compositae
Parts Used Medicinally
Medicinal Action and Uses
Preparations and Dosages
---Synonyms---Priest's Crown. Swine's Snout.
---Parts Used---Root, leaves.
The Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale, Weber, T. Densleonis, Desf; Leontodon taraxacum, Linn.), though not occurring in the Southern Hemisphere, is at home in all parts of the north temperate zone, in pastures, meadows and on waste ground, and is so plentiful that farmers everywhere find it a troublesome weed, for though its flowers are more conspicuous in the earlier months of the summer, it may be found in bloom, and consequently also prolifically dispersing its seeds, almost throughout the year.
---Description---From its thick tap root, dark brown, almost black on the outside though white and milky within, the long jagged leaves rise directly, radiating from it to form a rosette Iying close upon the ground, each leaf being grooved and constructed so that all the rain falling on it is conducted straight to the centre of the rosette and thus to the root which is, therefore, always kept well watered. The maximum amount of water is in this manner directed towards the proper region for utilization by the root, which but for this arrangement would not obtain sufficient moisture, the leaves being spread too close to the ground for the water to penetrate.
The leaves are shiny and without hairs, the margin of each leaf cut into great jagged teeth, either upright or pointing somewhat backwards, and these teeth are themselves cut here and there into lesser teeth. It is this somewhat fanciful resemblance to the canine teeth of a lion that (it is generally assumed) gives the plant its most familiar name of Dandelion, which is a corruption of the French Dent de Lion, an equivalent of this name being found not only in its former specific Latin name Dens leonis and in the Greek name for the genus to which Linnaeus assigned it, Leontodon, but also in nearly all the languages of Europe.
There is some doubt, however, as to whether it was really the shape of the leaves that provided the original notion, as there is really no similarity between them, but the leaves may perhaps be said to resemble the angular jaw of a lion fully supplied with teeth. Some authorities have suggested that the yellow flowers might be compared to the golden teeth of the heraldic lion, while others say that the whiteness of the root is the feature which provides the resemblance. Flückiger and Hanbury in Pharmacographia, say that the name was conferred by Wilhelm, a surgeon, who was so much impressed by the virtues of the plant that he likened it to Dens leonis. In the Ortus Sanitatis, 1485, under 'Dens Leonis,' there is a monograph of half a page (unaccompanied by any illustration) which concludes:
'The Herb was much employed by Master Wilhelmus, a surgeon, who on account of its virtues, likened it to "eynem lewen zan, genannt zu latin Dens leonis" (a lion's tooth, called in Latin Dens leonis).'
In the pictures of the old herbals, for instance, the one in Brunfels' Contrafayt Kreuterbuch, 1532, the leaves very much resemble a lion's tooth. The root is not illustrated at all in the old herbals, as only the herb was used at that time.
The name of the genus, Taraxacum, is derived from the Greek taraxos (disorder), and akos (remedy), on account of the curative action of the plant. A possible alternative derivation of Taraxacum is suggested in The Treasury of Botany:
'The generic name is possibly derived from the Greek taraxo ("I have excited" or "caused") and achos (pain), in allusion to the medicinal effects of the plant.'
There are many varieties of Dandelion leaves; some are deeply cut into segments, in others the segments or lobes form a much less conspicuous feature, and are sometimes almost entire.
The shining, purplish flower-stalks rise straight from the root, are leafless, smooth and hollow and bear single heads of flowers. On picking the flowers, a bitter, milky juice exudes from the broken edges of the stem, which is present throughout the plant, and which when it comes into contact with the hand, turns to a brown stain that is rather difficult to remove.
Each bloom is made up of numerous strapshaped florets of a bright golden yellow. This strap-shaped corolla is notched at the edge into five teeth, each tooth representing a petal, and lower down is narrowed into a claw-like tube, which rests on the singlechambered ovary containing a single ovule. In this tiny tube is a copious supply of nectar, which more than half fills it, and the presence of which provides the incentive for the visits of many insects, among whom the bee takes first rank. The Dandelion takes an important place among honey-producing plants, as it furnishes considerable quantities of both pollen and nectar in the early spring, when the bees' harvest from fruit trees is nearly over. It is also important from the beekeeper's point of view, because not only does it flower most in spring, no matter how cool the weather may be, but a small succession of bloom is also kept up until late autumn, so that it is a source of honey after the main flowers have ceased to bloom, thus delaying the need for feeding the colonies of bees with artificial food.
Many little flies also are to be found visiting the Dandelion to drink the lavishly-supplied nectar. By carefully watching, it has been ascertained that no less than ninety-three different kinds of insects are in the habit of frequenting it. The stigma grows up through the tube formed by the anthers, pushing the pollen before it, and insects smearing themselves with this pollen carry it to the stigmas of other flowers already expanded, thus insuring cross-fertilization. At the base of each flower-head is a ring of narrow, green bracts the involucre. Some of these stand up to support the florets, others hang down to form a barricade against such small insects as might crawl up the stem and injure the bloom without taking a share in its fertilization, as the winged insects do.
The blooms are very sensitive to weather conditions: in fine weather, all the parts are outstretched, but directly rain threatens the whole head closes up at once. It closes against the dews of night, by five o'clock in the evening, being prepared for its night's sleep, opening again at seven in the morning though as this opening and closing is largely dependent upon the intensity of the light, the time differs somewhat in different latitudes and at different seasons.
When the whole head has matured, all the florets close up again within the green sheathing bracts that lie beneath, and the bloom returns very much to the appearance it had in the bud. Its shape being then somewhat reminiscent of the snout of a pig, it is termed in some districts 'Swine's Snout.' The withered, yellow petals are, however soon pushed off in a bunch, as the seeds, crowned with their tufts of hair, mature, and one day, under the influence of sun and wind the 'Swine's Snout' becomes a large gossamer ball, from its silky whiteness a very noticeable feature. It is made up of myriads of plumed seeds or pappus, ready to be blown off when quite ripe by the slightest breeze, and forms the 'clock' of the children, who by blowing at it till all the seeds are released, love to tell themselves the time of day by the number of puffs necessary to disperse every seed. When all the seeds have flown, the receptacle or disc on which they were placed remains bare, white, speckled and surrounded by merely the drooping remnants of the sheathing bracts, and we can see why the plant received another of its popular names, 'Priest's Crown,' common in the Middle Ages, when a priest's shorn head was a familiar object.
Small birds are very fond of the seeds of the Dandelion and pigs devour the whole plant greedily. Goats will eat it, but sheep and cattle do not care for it, though it is said to increase the milk of cows when eaten by them. Horses refuse to touch this plant, not appreciating its bitter juice. It is valuable food for rabbits and may be given them from April to September forming excellent food in spring and at breeding seasons in particular.
The young leaves of the Dandelion make an agreeable and wholesome addition to spring salads and are often eaten on the Continent, especially in France. The full-grown leaves should not be taken, being too bitter, but the young leaves, especially if blanched, make an excellent salad, either alone or in combination with other plants, lettuce, shallot tops or chives.
Young Dandelion leaves make delicious sandwiches, the tender leaves being laid between slices of bread and butter and sprinkled with salt. The addition of a little lemon-juice and pepper varies the flavour. The leaves should always be torn to pieces, rather than cut, in order to keep the flavour.
John Evelyn, in his Acetana, says: 'With thie homely salley, Hecate entertained Theseus.' In Wales, they grate or chop up Dandelion roots, two years old, and mix them with the leaves in salad. The seed of a special broad-leaved variety of Dandelion is sold by seedsmen for cultivation for salad purposes. Dandelion can be blanched in the same way as endive, and is then very delicate in flavour. If covered with an ordinary flower-pot during the winter, the pot being further buried under some rough stable litter, the young leaves sprout when there is a dearth of saladings and prove a welcome change in early spring. Cultivated thus, Dandelion is only pleasantly bitter, and if eaten while the leaves are quite young, the centre rib of the leaf is not at all unpleasant to the taste. When older the rib is tough and not nice to eat. If the flower-buds of plants reserved in a corner of the garden for salad purposes are removed at once and the leaves carefully cut, the plants will last through the whole winter.
The young leaves may also be boiled as a vegetable, spinach fashion, thoroughly drained, sprinkled with pepper and salt, moistened with soup or butter and served very hot. If considered a little too bitter, use half spinach, but the Dandelion must be partly cooked first in this case, as it takes longer than spinach. As a variation, some grated nutmeg or garlic, a teaspoonful of chopped onion or grated lemon peel can be added to the greens when they are cooked. A simple vegetable soup may also be made with Dandelions.
The dried Dandelion leaves are also employed as an ingredient in many digestive or diet drinks and herb beers. Dandelion Beer is a rustic fermented drink common in many parts of the country and made also in Canada. Workmen in the furnaces and potteries of the industrial towns of the Midlands have frequent resource to many of the tonic Herb Beers, finding them cheaper and less intoxicating than ordinary beer, and Dandelion stout ranks as a favourite. An agreeable and wholesome fermented drink is made from Dandelions, Nettles and Yellow Dock.
In Berkshire and Worcestershire, the flowers are used in the preparation of a beverage known as Dandelion Wine. This is made by pouring a gallon of boiling water over a gallon of the flowers. After being well stirred, it is covered with a blanket and allowed to stand for three days, being stirred again at intervals, after which it is strained and the liquor boiled for 30 minutes, with the addition of 3 1/2 lb. of loaf sugar, a little ginger sliced, the rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon sliced. When cold, a little yeast is placed in it on a piece of toast, producing fermentation. It is then covered over and allowed to stand two days until it has ceased 'working,' when it is placed in a cask, well bunged down for two months before bottling. This wine is suggestive of sherry slightly flat, and has the deserved reputation of being an excellent tonic, extremely good for the blood.
The roasted roots are largely used to form Dandelion Coffee, being first thoroughly cleaned, then dried by artificial heat, and slightly roasted till they are the tint of coffee, when they are ground ready for use. The roots are taken up in the autumn, being then most fitted for this purpose. The prepared powder is said to be almost indistinguishable from real coffee, and is claimed to be an improvement to inferior coffee, which is often an adulterated product. Of late years, Dandelion Coffee has come more into use in this country, being obtainable at most vegetarian restaurants and stores. Formerly it used occasionally to be given for medicinal purposes, generally mixed with true coffee to give it a better flavour. The ground root was sometimes mixed with chocolate for a similar purpose. Dandelion Coffee is a natural beverage without any of the injurious effects that ordinary tea and coffee have on the nerves and digestive organs. It exercises a stimulating influence over the whole system, helping the liver and kidneys to do their work and keeping the bowels in a healthy condition, so that it offers great advantages to dyspeptics and does not cause wakefulness.
---Parts Used Medicinally---The root, fresh and dried, the young tops. All parts of the plant contain a somewhat bitter, milky juice (latex), but the juice of the root being still more powerful is the part of the plant most used for medicinal purposes.
---History---The first mention of the Dandelion as a medicine is in the works of the Arabian physicians of the tenth and eleventh centuries, who speak of it as a sort of wild Endive, under the name of Taraxcacon. In this country, we find allusion to it in the Welsh medicines of the thirteenth century. Dandelion was much valued as a medicine in the times of Gerard and Parkinson, and is still extensively employed.
Dandelion roots have long been largely used on the Continent, and the plant is cultivated largely in India as a remedy for liver complaints.
The root is perennial and tapering, simple or more or less branched, attaining in a good soil a length of a foot or more and 1/2 inch to an inch in diameter. Old roots divide at the crown into several heads. The root is fleshy and brittle, externally of a dark brown, internally white and abounding in an inodorous milky juice of bitter, but not disagreeable taste.
Only large, fleshy and well-formed roots should be collected, from plants two years old, not slender, forked ones. Roots produced in good soil are easier to dig up without breaking, and are thicker and less forked than those growing on waste places and by the roadside. Collectors should, therefore only dig in good, free soil, in moisture and shade, from meadow-land. Dig up in wet weather, but not during frost, which materially lessens the activity of the roots. Avoid breaking the roots, using a long trowel or a fork, lifting steadily and carefully. Shake off as much of the earth as possible and then cleanse the roots, the easiest way being to leave them in a basket in a running stream so that the water covers them, for about an hour, or shake them, bunched, in a tank of clean water. Cut off the crowns of leaves, but be careful in so doing not to leave any scales on the top. Do not cut or slice the roots or the valuable milky juice on which their medicinal value depends will be wasted by bleeding.
---Cultivation---As only large, well-formed roots are worth collecting, some people prefer to grow Dandelions as a crop, as by this means large roots are insured and they are more easily dug, generally being ploughed up. About 4 lb. of seed to the acre should be allowed, sown in drills, 1 foot apart. The crops should be kept clean by hoeing, and all flower-heads should be picked off as soon as they appear, as otherwise the grower's own land and that of his neighbours will be smothered with the weed when the seeds ripen. The yield should be 4 or 5 tons of fresh roots to the acre in the second year. Dandelion roots shrink very much in drying, losing about 76 per cent of their weight, so that 100 parts of fresh roots yield only about 22 parts of dry material. Under favourable conditions, yields at the rate of 1,000 to 1,500 lb. of dry roots per acre have been obtained from second-year plants cultivated.
Dandelion root can only be economically collected when a meadow in which it is abundant is ploughed up. Under such circumstances the roots are necessarily of different ages and sizes, the seeds sowing themselves in successive years. The roots then collected after washing and drying, have to be sorted into different grades. The largest, from the size of a lead pencil upwards, are cut into straight pieces 2 to 3 inches long, the smaller side roots being removed, these are sold at a higher price as the finest roots. The smaller roots fetch a less price, and the trimmings are generally cut small, sold at a lower price and used for making Dandelion Coffee. Every part of the root is thus used. The root before being dried should have every trace of the leaf-bases removed as their presence lessens the value of the root.
In collecting cultivated Dandelion advantage is obtained if the seeds are all sown at one time, as greater uniformity in the size of the root is obtainable, and in deep soil free from stones, the seedlings will produce elongated, straight roots with few branches, especially if allowed to be somewhat crowded on the same principles that coppice trees produce straight trunks. Time is also saved in digging up the roots which can thus be sold at prices competing with those obtained as the result of cheaper labour on the Continent. The edges of fields when room is allowed for the plough-horses to turn, could easily be utilized if the soil is good and free from stones for both Dandelion and Burdock, as the roots are usually much branched in stony ground, and the roots are not generally collected until October when the harvest is over. The roots gathered in this month have stored up their food reserve of Inulin, and when dried present a firm appearance, whilst if collected in spring, when the food reserve in the root is used up for the leaves and flowers, the dried root then presents a shrivelled and porous appearance which renders it unsaleable. The medicinal properties of the root are, therefore, necessarily greater in proportion in the spring. Inulin being soluble in hot water, the solid extract if made by boiling the root, often contains a large quantity of it, which is deposited in the extract as it cools.
The roots are generally dried whole, but the largest ones may sometimes be cut transversely into pieces 3 to 6 inches long. Collected wild roots are, however, seldom large enough to necessitate cutting. Drying will probably take about a fortnight. When finished, the roots should be hard and brittle enough to snap, and the inside of the roots white, not grey
The roots should be kept in a dry place after drying, to avoid mould, preferably in tins to prevent the attacks of moths and beetles. Dried Dandelion is exceedingly liable to the attacks of maggots and should not be kept beyond one season.
Dried Dandelion root is 1/2 inch or less in thickness, dark brown, shrivelled, with wrinkles running lengthwise, often in a spiral direction; when quite dry, it breaks easily with a short, corky fracture, showing a very thick, white bark, surrounding a wooden column. The latter is yellowish, very porous, without pith or rays. A rather broad but indistinct cambium zone separates the wood from the bark, which latter exhibits numerous well-defined, concentric layers, due to the milk vessels. This structure is quite characteristic and serves to distinguish Dandelion roots from other roots like it. There are several flowers easily mistaken for the Dandelion when in blossom, but these have either hairy leaves or branched flower-stems, and the roots differ either in structure or shape.
Dried Dandelion root somewhat resembles Pellitory and Liquorice roots, but Pellitory differs in having oil glands and also a large radiate wood, and Liquorice has also a large radiate wood and a sweet taste.
The root of Hawkbit (Leontodon hispidus) is sometimes substituted for Dandelion root. It is a plant with hairy, not smooth leaves, and the fresh root is tough, breaking with difficulty and rarely exuding much milky juice. Some kinds of Dock have also been substituted, and also Chicory root. The latter is of a paler color, more bitter and has the laticiferous vessels in radiating lines. In the United States it is often substituted for Dandelion. Dock roots have a prevailing yellowish color and an astringent taste.
During recent years, a small form of a Dandelion root has been offered by Russian firms, who state that it is sold and used as Dandelion in that country. This root is always smaller than the root of T. officinale, has smaller flowers, and the crown of the root has often a tuft of brown woolly hairs between the leaf bases at the crown of the root, which are never seen in the Dandelion plant in this country, and form a characteristic distinction, for the root shows similar concentric, horny rings in the thick white bark as well as a yellow porous woody centre. These woolly hairs are mentioned in Greenish's Materia Medica, and also in the British Pharmaceutical Codex, as a feature of Dandelion root, but no mention is made of them in the Pharmacographia, nor in the British Pharmacopceia or United States Pharmacopceia, and it is probable, therefore, that Russian specimens have been used for describing the root, and that the root with brown woolly hairs belongs to some other species of Taraxacum.
---Chemical Constituents---The chief constituents of Dandelion root are Taraxacin, acrystalline, bitter substance, of which the yield varies in roots collected at different seasons, and Taraxacerin, an acrid resin, with Inulin (a sort of sugar which replaces starch in many of the Dandelion family, Compositae), gluten, gum and potash. The root contains no starch, but early in the year contains much uncrystallizable sugar and laevulin, which differs from Inulin in being soluble in cold water. This diminishes in quantity during the summer and becomes Inulin in the autumn. The root may contain as much as 24 per cent. In the fresh root, the Inulin is present in the cell-sap, but in the dry root it occurs as an amorphodus, transparent solid, which is only slightly soluble in cold water, but soluble in hot water.
There is a difference of opinion as to the best time for collecting the roots. The British Pharmacopceia considers the autumn dug root more bitter than the spring root, and that as it contains about 25 per cent insoluble Inulin, it is to be preferred on this account to the spring root, and it is, therefore, directed that in England the root should be collected between September and February, it being considered to be in perfection for Extract making in the month of November.
Bentley, on the other hand, contended that it is more bitter in March and most of all in July, but that as in the latter month it would generally be inconvenient for digging it, it should be dug in the spring, when the yield of Taraxacin, the bitter soluble principle, is greatest.
On account of the variability of the constituents of the plant according to the time of year when gathered, the yield and composition of the extract are very variable. If gathered from roots collected in autumn, the resulting product yields a turbid solution with water; if from spring-collected roots, the aqueous solution will be clear and yield but very little sediment on standing, because of the conversion of the Inulin into Laevulose and sugar at this active period of the plant's life.
In former days, Dandelion Juice was the favourite preparation both in official and domestic medicine. Provincial druggists sent their collectors for the roots and expressed the juice while these were quite fresh. Many country druggists prided themselves on their Dandelion Juice. The most active preparations of Dandelion, the Juice (Succus Taraxaci) and the Extract (Extractum Taraxaci), are made from the bruised fresh root. The Extract prepared from the fresh root is sometimes almost devoid of bitterness. The dried root alone was official in the United States Pharmacopoeia.
The leaves are not often used, except for making Herb-Beer, but a medicinal tincture is sometimes made from the entire plant gathered in the early summer. It is made with proof spirit.
When collecting the seeds care should be taken when drying them in the sun, to cover them with coarse muslin, as otherwise the down will carry them away. They are best collected in the evening, towards sunset, or when the damp air has caused the heads to close up.
The tops should be cut on a dry day, when quite free of rain or dew, and all insect-eaten or stained leaves rejected.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Diuretic, tonic and slightly aperient. It is a general stimulant to the system, but especially to the urinary organs, and is chiefly used in kidney and liver disorders.
Dandelion is not only official but is used in many patent medicines. Not being poisonous, quite big doses of its preparations may be taken. Its beneficial action is best obtained when combined with other agents.
The tincture made from the tops may be taken in doses of 10 to 15 drops in a spoonful of water, three times daily.
It is said that its use for liver complaints was assigned to the plant largely on the doctrine of signatures, because of its bright yellow flowers of a bilious hue.
In the hepatic complaints of persons long resident in warm climates, Dandelion is said to afford very marked relief. A broth of Dandelion roots, sliced and stewed in boiling water with some leaves of Sorrel and the yolk of an egg, taken daily for some months, has been known to cure seemingly intractable cases of chronic liver congestion.
A strong decoction is found serviceable in stone and gravel: the decoction may be made by boiling 1 pint of the sliced root in 20 parts of water for 15 minutes, straining this when cold and sweetening with brown sugar or honey. A small teacupful may be taken once or twice a day.
Dandelion is used as a bitter tonic in atonic dyspepsia, and as a mild laxative in habitual constipation. When the stomach is irritated and where active treatment would be injurious, the decoction or extract of Dandelion administered three or four times a day, will often prove a valuable remedy. It has a good effect in increasing the appetite and promoting digestion.
Dandelion combined with other active remedies has been used in cases of dropsy and for induration of the liver, and also on the Continent for phthisis and some cutaneous diseases. A decoction of 2 OZ. of the herb or root in 1 quart of water, boiled down to a pint, is taken in doses of one wineglassful every three hours for scurvy, scrofula, eczema and all eruptions on the surface of the body.
---Preparations and Dosages---Fluid extract, B.P., 1/2 to 2 drachms. Solid extract, B.P. 5 to 15 grains. Juice, B.P., 1 to 2 drachms. Leontodin, 2 to 4 grains.
Infuse 1 OZ. of Dandelion in a pint of boiling water for 10 minutes; decant, sweeten with honey, and drink several glasses in the course of the day. The use of this tea is efficacious in bilious affections, and is also much approved of in the treatment of dropsy.
Or take 2 OZ. of freshly-sliced Dandelion root, and boil in 2 pints of water until it comes to 1 pint; then add 1 OZ. of compound tincture of Horseradish. Dose, from 2 to 4 OZ. Use in a sluggish state of the liver.
Or 1 OZ. Dandelion root, 1 OZ. Black Horehound herb, 1/2 OZ. Sweet Flag root, 1/4 OZ. Mountain Flax. Simmer the whole in 3 pints of water down to 1 1/2 pint, strain and take a wineglassful after meals for biliousness and dizziness.
---For Gall Stones---
1 OZ. Dandelion root, 1 OZ. Parsley root, 1 OZ. Balm herb, 1/2 OZ. Ginger root, 1/2 OZ. Liquorice root. Place in 2 quarts of water and gently simmer down to 1 quart, strain and take a wineglassful every two hours.
For a young child suffering from jaundice: 1 OZ. Dandelion root, 1/2 oz. Ginger root, 1/2 oz. Caraway seed, 1/2 oz. Cinnamon bark, 1/4 oz. Senna leaves. Gently boil in 3 pints of water down to 1 1/2 pint, strain, dissolve 1/2 lb. sugar in hot liquid, bring to a boil again, skim all impurities that come to the surface when clear, put on one side to cool, and give frequently in teaspoonful doses.
---A Liver and Kidney Mixture---
1 OZ. Broom tops, 1/2 oz. Juniper berries, 1/2 oz. Dandelion root, 1 1/2 pint water. Boil in gredients for 10 minutes, then strain and adda small quantity of cayenne. Dose, 1 tablespoonful, three times a day.
---A Medicine for Piles---
1 OZ. Long-leaved Plantain, 1 OZ. Dandelion root, 1/2 oz. Polypody root, 1 OZ. Shepherd's Purse. Add 3 pints of water, boil down to half the quantity, strain, and add 1 OZ. of tincture of Rhubarb. Dose, a wineglassful three times a day. Celandine ointment to be applied at same time.
In Derbyshire, the juice of the stalk is applied to remove warts.
Botanical: Liatris odoratissima (WILLD.)
Family: N.O. Orchidaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Vanilla Leaf. Wild Vanilla. Trilissia odorata.
---Habitat---North America: cultivated in England.
---Description---Herbaceous perennial plant, composite distinguished by a naked receptacle, oblong, imbricated, involucre, and a feathery pappus, fleshy basal leaves obolanceolate, terminating in a flattened stalk. Leaves of stem clasping at base. The leaves are used to flavour tobacco. Their perfume is largely due to Coumarin, which can be seen in crystals on the upper side of the smooth spatulate leaves. Most of the species are used medicinally.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Demulcent, febrifuge, diaphoretic.
Liatris spicata has a warm bitterish taste and used as a local application for sore throat in the treatment of gonorrhoea.
L. squarrosa, called 'the rattlesnake' because the roots are used to cure rattlesnake bite, a handsome plant with very long narrow leaves, and large heads of lovely purple flowers.
L. scariosa also used for snake-bite and recognized by the involucral scales which are margined with purple.
Scabious, Devil's Bit
Botanical: Peucedanum graveolens (BENTH.)
Family: N.O. Compositae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Anethum graveolus. Fructus Anethi.
---Part Used---Dried ripe fruit.
Dill is a hardy annual, a native of the Mediterranean region and Southern Russia. It grows wild among the corn in Spain and Portugal and upon the coast of Italy, but rarely occurs as a cornfield weed in Northern Europe.
The plant is referred to in St. Matthew XXiii., 23, though the original Greek name Anethon, was erroneously rendered Anise by English translators, from Wicklif (1380) downwards.
Dill is commonly regarded as the Anethon of Dioscorides. It was well known in Pliny's days and is often mentioned by writers in the Middle Ages. As a drug it has been in use from very early times. It occurs in the tenth-century vocabulary of Alfric, Archbishop of Canterbury.
The name is derived, according to Prior's Popular Names of English Plants, from the old Norse word, dilla (to lull), in allusion to the carminative properties of the drug.
Lyte (Dodoens, 1578) says Dill was sown in all gardens amongst worts and pot-herbs.
In the Middle Ages, Dill was also one of the herbs used by magicians in their spells, and charms against witchcraft.
In Drayton's Nymphidia are the lines:
'Therewith her Vervain and her Dill,
That hindereth Witches of their Will.'
Culpepper tells us that:
'Mercury has the dominion of this plant, and therefore to be sure it strengthens the brain.... It stays the hiccough, being boiled in wine, and but smelled unto being tied in a cloth. The seed is of more use than the leaves, and more effectual to digest raw and vicious humours, and is used in medicines that serve to expel wind, and the pains proceeding therefrom....'
---Description---The plant grows ordinarily from 2 to 2 1/2 feet high and is very like fennel, though smaller, having the same feathery leaves, which stand on sheathing foot-stalks, with linear and pointed leaflets. Unlike fennel, however, it has seldom more than one stalk and its long, spindle-shaped root is only annual. It is of very upright growth, its stems smooth, shiny and hollow, and in midsummer bearing flat terminal umbels with numerous yellow flowers, whose small petals are rolled inwards. The flat fruits, the so-called seeds, are produced in great quantities. They are very pungent and bitter in taste and very light, an ounce containing over 25,000 seeds. Their germinating capacity lasts for three years. The whole plant is aromatic.
The plant was placed by Linnaeus in a separate genus, Anethum, whence the name Fructus Anethi, by which Dill fruit goes in medicine. It is now included in the genus Peucedanum.
---Cultivation---This annual is of very easy culture. When grown on a large scale for the sake of its fruits, it may be sown in drills 10 inches apart, in March or April, 10 lb. of the seed being drilled to the acre, and thinned out to leave 8 to 10 inches room each way Sometimes the seed is sown in autumn as soon as ripe, but it is not so advisable as spring sowing. Careful attention must be given to the destruction of weeds. The crop is considered somewhat exhaustive of soil fertility.
---Harvesting---Mowing starts as the lower seeds begin, the others ripening on the straw. In dry periods, cutting is best done in early morning or late evening, care being taken to handle with the least possible shaking to prevent loss. The loose sheaves are built into stacks of about twenty sheaves, tied together. In hot weather, threshing may be done in the field, spreading the sheaves on a large canvas sheet and beating out. The average yield is about 7 cwt. of Dill fruits per acre.
The seeds are finally dried by spreading out on trays in the sun, or for a short time over the moderate heat of a stove, shaking occasionally.
Dill fruits are oval, compressed, winged about one-tenth inch wide, with three longitudinal ridges on the back and three dark lines or oil cells (vittae) between them and two on the flat surface. The taste of the fruits somewhat resembles caraway. The seeds are smaller, flatter and lighter than caraway and have a pleasant aromatic odour. They contain a volatile oil (obtained by distillation) on which the action of the fruit depends. The bruised seeds impart their virtues to alcohol and to boiling water.
---Constituents---Oil of Dill is of a pale yellow color, darkening on keeping, with the odour of the fruit and a hot, acrid taste. Its specific gravity varies between 0.895 and 0.915. The fruit yields about 3.5 per cent of the oil, which is a mixture of a paraffin hydrocarbon and 40 to 60 per cent of d-carvone, with d-limonene. Phellandrine is present in the English and Spanish oils, but not to any appreciable extent in the German oil.
In spite of the difference in odour between Dill and Caraway oils, the composition of the two is almost identical, both consisting nearly entirely of limonene and carvone. Dill oil, however, contains less carvone than caraway oil.
English-distilled oils usually have the highest specific gravity, from 0.910 to 0.916, and are consequently held in the highest esteem.
---Uses---As a sweet herb, Dill is not much used in this country. When employed, it is for flavouring soups, sauces, etc., for which purpose the young leaves only are required. The leaves added to fish, or mixed with pickled cucumbers give them a spicy taste.
Dill vinegar, however, forms a popular household condiment. It is made by soaking the seeds in vinegar for a few days before using.
The French use Dill seeds for flavouring cakes and pastry, as well as for flavouring sauces.
Perhaps the chief culinary use of Dill seeds is in pickling cucumbers: they are employed in this way chiefly in Germany where pickled cucumbers are largely eaten.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Like the other umbelliferous fruits and volatile oils, both Dill fruit and oil of Dill possess stimulant, aromatic, carminative and stomachic properties, making them of considerable medicinal value.
Oil of Dill is used in mixtures, or administered in doses of 5 drops on sugar, but its most common use is in the preparation of Dill Water, which is a common domestic remedy for the flatulence of infants, and is a useful vehicle for children's medicine generally.
---Preparations---Dill water, 1 to 8 drachms. Oil, 1 to 5 drops.
Oil of Dill is also employed for perfuming soaps.
The British Pharmacopoeia directs that only the fruits from English-grown plants shall be employed pharmaceutically, and it is grown in East Anglia for that purpose. The Dill fruits of commerce are imported from central and southern Europe, the plant being largely cultivated in Germany and Roumania.
Considerable quantities of Dill fruit are imported from India and Japan - they are the fruits of a species of Peucedanum that has been considered by some botanists entitled to rank as a distinct species, P. Sowa (Kurz), but is included by others in the species, P. graveolens. Indian dill is widely grown in the Indies under the name of 'Soyah,' its fruit and leaves being used for flavouring pickles. Its fruits are narrower and more convex than European dill, with paler, more distinct ridges and narrower wings.
The oils from both Japanese and Indian dill differ from European dill oil, in having a higher specific gravity (0.948 to 0.968), which is ascribed to the presence of dill apiol, and in containing much less carvone than the European oil. It should not be substituted for the official oil.
African dill oil is produced from plants grown from English imported seed. The fruits are slightly larger than the English fruits and a little paler in color, their odour closely resembling the English. The yield of oil is slightly larger than that of English fruits, and it is considered that if the fruits can be produced in Cape Colony, they should form a most useful source of supply.
SOME OLD-FASHIONED FENNEL AND DILL RECIPES
---A Sallet of Fennel---
'Take young Fennel, about a span long in the spring, tye it up in bunches as you do Sparragrass; when your Skillet boyle, put in enough to make a dish; when it is boyled and drained, dish it up as you do Sparragrass, pour on butter and vinegar and send it up.' (From The Whole Body of Cookery Dissected, 1675, by William Tabisha.)
---Fennel and Gooseberry Sauce---
'Brown some butter in a saucepan with apinch of flour, then put in a few cives shred small, add a little Irish broth to moisten it, season with salt and pepper; make these boil, then put in two or three sprigs of Fennel and some Gooseberries. Let all simmer together till the Gooseberries are soft and then put in some Cullis.' (From Receipt Book of Henry Howard, Cook to the Duke of Ormond, 1710.)
---Dill and Collyflower Pickle---
'Boil the Collyflowers till they fall inpieces; then with some of the stalk and worst of the flower boil it in a part of the liquer till pretty strong. Then being taken off strain it- and when settled, clean it from the bottom. Then with Dill, gross pepper, a pretty quantity of salt, when cold add as much vinegar as will make it sharp and pour all upon the Collyflower.' (From Acetaria, a book about Sallets, 1680, by John Evelyn.)
---To Pickle Cucumbers in Dill---
'Gather the tops of the ripest dill and cover the bottom of the vessel, and lay a layer of Cucumbers and another of Dill till you have filled the vessel within a handful of the top. Then take as much water as you think will fill the vessel and mix it with salt and a quarter of a pound of allom to a gallon of water and poure it on them and press them down with a stone on them and keep them covered close. For that use I think the water will be best boyl'd and cold, which will keep longer sweet, or if you like not this pickle, doe it with water, salt and white wine vinegar, or (if you please) pour the water and salt on them scalding hot which will make them ready to use the sooner.' (From Receipt Book of Joseph Cooper, Cook to Charles I, 1640.)
Botanical: Alstonia scholaris (R. BR,)
Family: N.O. Apocynaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Devil's Bit. Pali-mara. Bitter Bark. Australian Fever Bush. Devil Tree.
---Habitat---India. Moluccas. Philippines.
---Description---The genus of Alstonia takes its name from Alston, a Professor of botany in Edinburgh. Grows 50 to 80 feet high, has a furrowed trunk, oblong stalked leaves 6 inches long, 2 to 4 inches wide, in whorls round stem, upper surface glossy, under one white, and marked with nerves running at right-angles to midrib; taste bitter, but no odour. A. constricta, belonging to the same order, is also recognized by the British Pharmacopceia; the bark is quite dissimilar however, and contains different alkaloids, slightly aromatic odour, taste very bitter, used for same purposes, mainly as a febrifuge in malarial fever, tonic and astringent, with much the same properties as Peruvian bark.
---Constituents---The strongest alkaloids in A. scholaris bark are Ditamine, Echitanine, the latter in character resembling ammonia other constituents are echierin, echicaoutin echitin, and echitein - these are crystalline and Echiretin amorphous.
Constituents of A. constricta bark, alstonine and porphyrine, is colorless and amorphous; also contains porphyrosine and alstonidine.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Though Alstonia is used in India and Eastern Colonies for malarial conditions, its efficacy in this respect is not to be compared with cinchona bark, though it does not produce the bad effects cinchona does. It is also employed as a bitter tonic, vermifuge, and as a cure for chronic diarrhoea and bowel complaints, both varieties are used.
---Preparation---Dita bark: 1 part in 20 for B.P. infusion, 1/2 to 1 fluid ounce; 1 part in 8 Alcohol Tinc., B.P., 1/2 to 1 fluid drachm. Dose, 2 to 4 grains.
---Other Species---The A. spectabilis, a habitat of Java, contains the same alkaloid as Dita bark, with the addition of a crystalline alkaloid, Alstonamine.
Family: N.O. Polygonaceae
Great Water Dock
The name Dock is applied to a widespread tribe of broad-leaved wayside weeds, having roots possessing astringent qualities united in some with a cathartic principle, rendering them valuable as substitutes for Rhubarb, a plant of the same family.
Although now, in common with the Sorrels, assigned to the genus Rumex, the Docks were formerly ranked as members of the genus Lapathum, this name being derived from the Greek word, lapazein (to cleanse), an allusion to the medicinal virtues of these plants as purgatives, the word still surviving in the name of one of the species, Rumex Hydrolapathum.
All the Docks resemble our Garden Rhubarb more or less, both in their general characteristics and in possessing much tannin.Most of them furnish rumicin, or crysophanic acid, which is useful in chronic scrofulous disorders.
The young leaves and shoots of several species of Dock may be eaten as pot-herbs, but are not very palatable, and have a slight laxative effect. 'Sour Docks' were considered formerly a good accompaniment to boiled beef, either hot or cold, but this was a popular name, not for the ordinary kinds of Docks, but for the closely allied Sorrel or Sorrel Dock (Rumex acetosa), whose herbage has a somewhat acid flavour. This, with its French variety, R. scutatus, has been much cultivated as a pot-herb.
Botanical: Rumex alpinus
---Synonyms---Herb Patience. Monk's Rhubarb. Passion's Dock.
This, although not considered a native plant, grows wild in some parts of the country, mostly by roadsides and near cottages, being originally a garden escape. It is a large plant, about 6 feet high, with very large, long, pointed leaves on thick hollow footstalks. The long stout root was also formerly used medicinally for its slight astringent qualities. It was considered good for jaundice.
It has a gentle laxative action. There are about ten or eleven kinds of native Docks.
Botanical: Rumex obtusifolius
---Synonyms---Common Wayside Dock. Butter Dock.
---Description---It is a large and spreading plant, its stout stems 2 to 3 feet high, the leaves 6 to 12 inches long, with rather slender foot-stalks, the margins waved and the end or apex of the leaf rounded. The flowers are small, green and numerous, arranged in whorled spikes at the ends of the stem. In this, as in all the Docks, the flowers contain both stamens and pistils - the nearly-related Sorrels, on the contrary, having their stamens and pistils on different plants. This Dock is so coarse that cattle refuse to touch it. It is a troublesome weed, all the more because it prefers growing on good land, not thriving in poor soil. Its broad foliage serves also to lodge the destructive turnip fly. The leaves are often applied as a rustic remedy to burns and scalds and used for dressing blisters, serving also as a popular cure for Nettle stings.
The cure was accompanied by the words:
'Nettle in, Dock;
Dock in, Nettle out
Dock rub Nettle out,'
and is the origin of the saying: 'In Dock, out Nettle', to suggest inconstancy.
A tea made from the root was formerly given for the cure of boils. The plant is frequently called Butter Dock, because its cool leaves have often been used in the country for wrapping up butter for the market.
Botanical: Rumex acetus
---Description---A common plant like the Common Dock, but handsomer, and distinguished by its sharp-pointed leaves being narrower and longer. It grows about 3 feet high, having erect, round, striated stems and small greenish flowers, turning brown when ripe. The root has been used in drinks and decoctions for scurvy and as a general blood cleanser, and employed for outward application to cutaneous eruptions, in the form of an ointment, made by beating it up with lard.
Both the Round-leaved Dock and the Sharp-pointed Dock, together with the BLOODY-VEINED DOCK (Rumex sanguineus) (which is very conspicuous on account of its veins and footstalks abounding in a bloodcolored juice), make respectively with their astringent roots a useful infusion against bleedings and fluxes, also with their leaves, a decoction curative of several chronic skin diseases.
THE YELLOW DOCK (Rumex crispus), the RED DOCK (R. aquaticus) and the GREAT WATER DOCK (R. Hydrolapathum) are, however, the species more generally used medicinally.
Botanical: Rumex crispus
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Description---The leaves are crisped at their edges. It grows freely in our roadside ditches and waste places. The roots are 8 to 12 inches long, about 1/2 inch thick, fleshy and usually not forked. Externally they are of a rusty brown and internally whitish, with fine, straight, medullary rays and a rather thick bark. It has little or no smell and a rather bitter taste. The stem is 1 to 3 feet high and branched, the leaves, 6 to 10 inches long.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The Yellow Dock is applicable to all the purposes for which the other species are used. The root has laxative, alterative and mildly tonic action, and can be freely used as a tonic and laxative in rheumatism, bilious complaints and as an astringent in piles, bleedings of the lungs, etc. It is largely prescribed for diseases of the blood, from a spring eruption, to scurvy, scrofula and chronic skin diseases. It is also useful in jaundice and as a tonic to the stomach and the system generally. It has an action on the bowels very similar to that of Rhubarb, being perhaps a little less active, but operating without pain or uneasiness.
Rumicin is the active principle of the Yellow Dock, and from the root, containing Chrysarobin, a dried extract is prepared officially, of which from 1 to 4 grains may be given for a dose in a pill. This is useful for relieving a congested liver, as well as for scrofulous skin diseases.
A syrup can be made by boiling 1/2 lb. crushed root in a pint of syrup, which is taken in teaspoonful doses. The infusion administered in wineglassful doses - is made by pouring 1 pint of boiling water on 1 OZ. of the powdered root. A useful homoeopathic tincture is made from the plant before it flowers, which is of particular service to an irritable tickling cough of the upper air-tubes and the throat. It is likewise excellent for dispelling any obstinate itching of the skin. It acts like Sarsaparilla for curing scrofulous skin affections and glandular swellings.
To be applied externally for cutaneous affections, an ointment may be made by boiling the root in vinegar until the fibre is softened and then mixing the pulp with lard.
The seeds have been given with advantage in dysentery, for their astringent action.
The Yellow Dock has also been considered to have a positive effect in restraining the inroads made by cancer in the human system, being used as an alterative and tonic to enfeebled condition caused by necrosis, cancer, etc. It has been used in diphtheria.
---Preparations---Fluid extract, 30 to 60 drops. Solid extract, 5 to 15 grains. Rumin, 3 grains.
The roots are collected in March, being generally ploughed up.
Botanical: Rumex aquaticus
Medicinal Action and Uses
The Red Dock, or Water Dock (Rumex aquaticus), has properties very similar to those of the Yellow Dock. It is frequent in fields, meadows and ditches. Its rootstock is top-shaped, the outer surface blackish or dark brown, the bark porous and the pith composed of honeycomb-like cells, with a short zone of woody bundles separated by rays. It has an astringent and somewhat sweet taste, but no odour. The stem is 1 to 3 feet high, very stout; the leaves similar to those of the Yellow Dock, having also crisped edges, but being broader, 3 to 4 inches across.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---This Dock has alterative, deobstruent and detergent action. Its powers as a tonic are, perhaps rather more marked than the previous species. For internal use, it is given in an infusion, in wineglassful doses. Externally it is used as an application for eruptive and scorbutic diseases, ulcers and sores, being employed for cleansing ulcers in affections of the mouth, etc. As a powder, it has cleansing and detergent effect upon the teeth.
The root of this and all other Docks is dried in the same manner as the Yellow Dock.
---Preparation---Fluid extract, 30 to 60 drops.
GREAT WATER DOC
Botanical: Rumex Hydrolapathum
The Great Water Dock (Rumex Hydrolapathum), the largest of all the Docks, 5 to 6 feet high, is frequent on river banks. It is a picturesque plant with several erect, furrowed stems arising from its thick, blackish root, each of which are branched in the upper part, and bear numerous green flowers in almost leafless whorls. The leaves are exceedingly large - 1 to 3 feet long, dull green, not shiny, lance-shaped and narrow, tapering at both ends, the lower ones heart-shaped at the base. It is much like Rumex acutus, but larger.
This Dock, also, has some reputation as an antiscorbutic, and was used by the ancients. The root is strongly astringent, and powdered makes a good dentifrice. It is this species that is said to be the Herba Britannica of Pliny. This name does not denote British origin - the plant not being confined to the British Isles - but is said to be derived from three Teutonic words: brit (to tighten), tan (a tooth), and ica (loose), thus expressing its power of bracing up loose teeth and spongy gums.
Miss Rohde (Old English Herbals) says:
'It is interesting to find that Turner identifies the Herba Britannica of Dioscorides and Pliny (famed for having cured the soldiers of Julius Caesar of scurvy in the Rhine country) with Polygonum bistorta, which he observed plentifully in Friesland, the scene of Pliny's observations. This herb is held by modern authorities to be Rumex aquaticus (Great Water Dock).'
As a stomach tonic the following decoction was formerly much in use: 2 oz. of the root sliced were put into 3 pints of water, with a little cinnamon or liquorice powder, and boiled down to a quart and a wineglassful taken two or three times a day. The astringent qualities of the root render it good in case of diarrhoea, the seeds (as with the other Docks) having been used for the same purpose. The green leaves are reputed to be an excellent application for ulcers of the eyes.
Culpepper says of the Docks:
'All Docks are under Jupiter, of which the Red Dock, which is commonly called Bloodwort, cleanseth the blood and strengthens the liver, but the Yellow Dock root is best to be taken when either the blood or liver is affected by choler. All of them have a kind of cooling, drying quality: the Sorrel being most cool and the Bloodworts most drying. The seed of most kinds, whether garden or field, doth stay laxes and fluxes of all sorts, and is helpful for those that spit blood. The roots boiled in vinegar helpeth the itch, scabs and breaking out of the skin, if it be bathed therewith. The distilled water of the herb and roots have the same virtue and cleanseth the skin from freckles.... All Docks being boiled with meat make it boil the sooner; besides Bloodwort is exceeding strengthening to the liver and procures good blood, being as wholesome a pot-herb as any growing in a garden.'
Another species of Rumex may also be termed of indirect medicinal use, for Turkey opium, as imported, comes in flattened masses enveloped in poppy leaves and covered with the reddish-brown, triangular winged fruit of a species of Rumex, to prevent the cakes adhering to one another.
Botanical: Cuscuta Europaea
Family: N.O. Convolvulaceae
---Synonyms---Beggarweed. Hellweed. Strangle Tare. Scaldweed. Devil's Guts.
Belonging to the same family as the Convolvulus is a small group of plants, the genus Cuscuta, that at first glance seem to have little in common with our common Bindweeds. All the members of this genus are parasites, with branched, climbing cord-like and thread-like stems, no leaves and globular heads of small wax-like flowers.
The seeds germinate in the ground in the normal manner and throw up thready stems, which climb up adjoining plants and send out from their inner surfaces a number of small vesicles, which attach themselves to the bark of the plant on which they are twining. As soon as the young Dodder stems have firmly fixed themselves, the root from which they have at first drawn part of their nourishment withers away, and the Dodder, entirely losing its connection with the ground, lives completely on the sap of its 'host,' and participates of its nature.
One British species is very abundant on Furze, another on Flax, others on Thistles and Nettles, etc.
Cuscuta Epithymum, THE LESSER DODDER, is the species of Dodder that formerly was much used medicinally, and which is the commonest. It is parasitic on Thyme Heath, Milk Vetch, Potentilla and other small plants, but most abundant on Furze, which it often entirely conceals with its tangled masses of red, thread-like stems. The flowers are in dense, round heads, each flower small, light flesh-colored and wax-like, the corolla bellshaped, four- to five-cleft. Soon after flowering, the stems turn dark brown and in winter disappear.
The Dodder which grows on Thyme, C. Epithemum, was often preferred to others.
The threads being boiled in water (preferably fresh gathered) with ginger and allspice produced a decoction used in urinary complaints, kidney, spleen and liver diseases for its laxative and hepatic action. It was considered useful in jaundice, as well as in sciatica and scorbutic complaints.
The juice of two Brazilian species of Dodder is given for hoarseness and spitting of blood and their powder applied to wounds, to hasten healing.
Other species of Dodder which more or less resemble the Lesser Dodder are C. Europaea, THE GREATER OR COMMON DODDER which is parasitical on Thistles and Nettles, and has stems as thick as twine, reddish or yellow, with pale orange-colored flowers 1/2 to 3/4 inch in diameter; C. Epilinum, FLAX DODDER, parasitical on Flax, to crops of which it is sometimes very destructive, and with seeds of which it is supposed to have been introduced, C. Hassiaca, parasitical on Lucerne, and C. Trifolii, CLOVER DODDER, parasitical on Clover.
Both the Greater Dodder and the Lesser Dodder have been employed medicinally.
Culpepper tells us:
'All Dodders are under Saturn. We confess Thyme is of the hottest herb it usually grows upon, and therefore that which grows upon thyme is hotter than that which grows upon colder herbs; for it draws nourishment from what it grows upon, as well as from the earth where its root is, and thus you see old Saturn is wise enough to have two strings to his bow. This is accounted the most effectual for melancholy diseases, and to purge black or burnt color, which is the cause of many diseases of the head and brain, as also for the trembling of the heart, faintings, and swoonings. It is helpful in all diseases and griefs of the spleen and melancholy that arises from the windiness of the hypochondria. It purges also the reins or kidneys by urine; it openeth obstructions of the gall, whereby it profiteth them that have the jaundice; as also the leaves, the spleen; purging the veins of choleric and phlegmatic humours and cures children in agues, a little wormseed being added.
'The other Dodders participate of the nature of those plants whereon they grow: as that which hath been found growing upon Nettles in the west country, hath by experience been found very effectual to procure plenty of urine, where it hath been stopped or hindered.'
Many of its popular and local names testify to the bad reputation it had among farmers, such as Beggarweed, Hellweed, Strangle Tare, and Scaldweed, the latter from the scalded appearance it gives to bean crops. The name 'Devil's Guts' shows how much its strangling threads were detested. An old writer comments:
'Hellweed grows upon tares more abundantly in some places, where it destroyeth the pulse, or at least maketh it much worse, and is called of the country people Hellweed, because they know not how to destroy it.'
It was not only considered useful in jaundice but also in sciatica and scorbutic complaints. Gathered fresh and applied externally after being bruised, the plant has been found efficacious in dispersing scrofulous tumours. The whole plant, of whatever species, is very bitter, and an infusion acts as a brisk purge.
Botanical: Piscidia erythrina (JACQ.)
Family: N.O. Leguminosae
Medicinal Action and Uses
Preparations and Dosages
---Habitat---West Indies, Florida, Texas, Mexico, the northern part of South America.
---Description---A tree with very valuable wood and with the foliage and habit of Lonchocarpus. The pods bear four projecting longitudinal wings. The pounded leavesand young branches are used to poison fish the method followed is to fill an open crate with the branches, drop it into the water, and swill it about till the water is impregnated with the liquid from the leaves, etc.; this quickly stupefies the fish and enables the fishers to catch them quickly. In commerce the bark is found in quilled pieces 1 or 2 inches long and 1 inch thick. The outer surface yellow or greyish brown, inner surface lighter colored or white, and if damp a peculiar blue color. Inside it is very fibrous and dark brown, taste very acrid and bitter, and produces burning sensation in mouth with a strong disagreeable smell like broken opium. In 1844 attention was called to its narcotic, analgesic and sudorific properties which are uncertain.
---Constituents---Resin, fat, a crystallizable substance called piscidin and in the aqueous extract of the bark piscidic acid, and a bitter glucoside.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---In some subjects it cures violent toothache, neuralgia and whooping-cough and promotes sleep, and acts as an antispasmodic in asthma. It also dilates the pupil and is useful in dysmenorrhoea and nervous debility. In other subjects it only causes gastric distress and nausea; over doses produce toxic effects.
---Preparations and Dosages---Fluid extract, 5 to 20 drops, which may be cautiously increased to 2 fluid drachms. Solid extract, 1 to 5 grains.
Botanical: Daemomorops Draco (BLUME)
Family: N.O. Palmaceae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Calamus Draco. Draconis Resina. Sanguis draconis. Dragon's Blood Palm. Blume.
---Part Used---The resinous exudation of the fruits.
---Description---Dragon's Blood, as known in commerce, has several origins, the substance so named being contributed by widely differing species. Probably the best known is that from Sumatra. Daemomorops Draco formerly known as Calamus Draco, was transferred with many others of the species to Daemomorops, the chief distinguishing mark being the placing of the flowers along the branches instead of their being gathered into catkins, as in those remaining under Calamus.
The long, slender stems of the genus are flexible, and the older trees develop climbing propensities. The leaves have prickly stalks which often grow into long tails and the bark is provided with many hundreds of flattened spines. The berries are about the size of a cherry, and pointed. When ripe they are covered with a reddish, resinous substance which is separated in several ways, the most satisfactory being by steaming, or by shaking or rubbing in coarse, canvas bags. An inferior kind is obtained by boiling the fruits to obtain a decoction after they have undergone the second process. The product may come to market in beads, joined as if forming a necklace, and covered with leaves (Tear Dragon's Blood), or in small, round sticks about 18 inches long, packed in leaves and strips of cane. Other varieties are found in irregular lumps, or in a reddish powder. They are known as lump, stick, reed, tear, or saucer Dragon's Blood.
---Uses---It is used as a coloring matter for varnishes, tooth-pastes, tinctures, plasters, for dyeing horn to imitate tortoiseshell, etc. It is very brittle, and breaks with an irregular, resinous fracture, is bright red and glossy inside, and darker red sometimes powdered with crimson, externally. Small, thin pieces are transparent.
---Constituents---Several analyses of Dragon's Blood have been made with the following results:
(1) 50 to 70 per cent resinous compound of benzoic and benzoyl-acetic acid, with dracoresinotannol, and also dracon alban and dracoresene.
(2) 56.8 per cent of red resin compounded of the first three mentioned above, 2.5 per cent of the white, amorphous dracoalban, 13.58 of the yellow, resinous dracoresene, 18.4 vegetable debris, and 8.3 per cent. ash.
(3) 90.7 per cent of red resin, draconin, 2.0 of fixed oil, 3.0 of benzoic acid, 1.6 of calcium oxalate, and 3.7 of calcium phosphate.
(4) 2.5 per cent of draco-alban, 13.58 of draco resen, 56.86 of draco resin, benzoic dracoresinotannol ester and benzoylaceticdracoresinotannol ester, with 18.4 of insoluble substances.
Dragon's Blood is not acted upon by water, but most of it is soluble in alcohol. It fuses by heat. The solution will stain marble a deep red, penetrating in proportion to the heat of the stone.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Doses of 10 to 30 grains were formerly given as an astringent in diarrhoea, etc., but officially it is never at present used internally, being regarded as inert.
The following treatment is said to have cured cases of severe syphilis. Mix 2 drachms of Dragon's Blood, 2 drachms of colocynth, 1/2 oz. of gamboge in a mortar, and add 3 gills of boiling water. Stir for an hour, while keeping hot. Allow to cool, and add while stirring a mixture of 2 OZ. each of sweet spirits of nitre and copaiba balsam.
---Dosage---1/2 oz. for catharsis, followed by 1 drachm two or three times a day.
The Malay varieties are from D. didynophyllos, D. micranthus and D. propinguus.
The Borneo variety is from D. draconcellus and others. 'Zanzibar Drop' or Socotrine Dragon's Blood is imported from Bombay and Zanzibar, and is the product of D. cinnabari. It has no scales, and like other nonSumatra varieties, is not soluble in benzene and carbon disulphide.
Dracaena Draco is a giant tree of the East Indies and Canary Islands, and shares with the baobab tree the distinction of being the oldest living representative of the vegetable kingdom, being much reverenced by the Guanches of the Canaries, who use its product for embalming in the fashion of the wiccans.
The trunk cracks and emits a red resin used as 'tear' Dragon's Blood, now rarely seen in commerce.
Dracaena terminalis, or Chinese Colli, yields Chinese Dragon's Blood, used in China for its famous red varnish. In some countries a syrup, yielding sugar, is made from the roots (called Tii roots). An intoxicating drink can be made from it, and it has also been used in dysentery and diarrhoea, and as a diaphoretic.
Pterocarpus Draco, of the East Indies and South America, yields a resin found, as Guadaloupe Dragon's Blood, in small irregular lumps.
Croton Draco or Mexican Dragon's Blood, is called Sangre del Drago, and is used in Mexico as a vulnerary and astringent. Others used are from:
Croton hibiscifolius of New Granada.
Croton sanguifolius of New Andalusia, and
Calamus rotang of the East Indies and Spanish America.
See SEDGE (SWEET).
Dropwort, Hemlock Water
Botanical: Oenanthe crocata (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Umbelliferae
---Synonyms---Horsebane. Dead Tongue. Five-Fingered Root. Water Lovage. Yellow Water Dropwort.
The name Water Hemlock is, though incorrectly, often popularly applied to several species of Oenanthe, the genus of the Water Dropworts, which of all the British umbelliferous plants are the most poisonous.
The species most commonly termed Water Hemlock is Oenanthe crocata, the Hemlock Water Dropwort, a common plant in England, especially in the southern counties, in ditches and watering places, but not occurring in Scandinavia, Holland, Germany, Russia, Turkey or Greece.
---Description---It is a large, stout plant, 3 to 5 feet high, the stems thick, erect, much branched above, furrowed, hollow, tough, dark green and smooth.
The roots are perennial and fleshy, of a pale yellow color. They have a sweetish and not unpleasant taste, but are virulently poisonous. Being often exposed by the action of running water near which they grow, they are thus easily accessible to children and cattle, and the plant should not be allowed to grow in places where cattle are kept, as instances are numerous in which cows have been poisoned by eating these roots. They have also occasionally been eaten in mistake, either for wild celery or water parsnip, with very serious results, great agony, sickness, convulsions, or even death resulting. While the root of the Parsnip is single and conical in form, that of Oenanthe crocata consists of clusters of fleshy tubers similar to those of the Dahlia, hence, perhaps, one of its popular names: Dead Tongue.
The author of Familiar Wild Flowers states that the name 'Dead Tongue' was given from the paralysing effect of this plant on the organs of speech.
No British wild plant has been responsible for more fatal accidents than the one in question: a party of workmen repairing a breach in a towing-path dug up the plants and ate the roots, mistaking them for parsnips; another party, working in a field, thought that a few of the leaves with their bread and cheese would prove a tasty relish: in each case death occurred within three hours. On another occasion eight boys ate the roots, and five died - and the other three had violent convulsions and lost their reason for many hours.
The plant has been used to poison rats and moles.
Both stem and root, when cut, exude a yellowish juice, hence the specific name of the plant and one of the common names (Yellow Water Dropwort) by which it is known. The juice will stain the hands yellow. The generic name, Oenanthe, is derived from the Greek ainos (wine) and anthos (a flower), from the wine-like scent of the flowers.
The leaves are somewhat celery-like in form, and the flowers are in bloom in June and July, and are borne in large umbels. There is considerable variety in the form of the leafsegments, the number of rays in the umbel, and of the involucre bracts. The lower leaves, with very short, sheathing footstalks, are large and spreading, reaching more than a foot in length, broadly triangular in outline and tripinnate. The leaflets are stalkless, 1 to 1 1/2 inch long, roundish, with a wedge-shaped base, deeply and irregularly lobed, dark green, paler and shining beneath. The upper leaves are much smaller, nearly stalkless, the segments narrower and acute.
This most poisonous of our indigenous plants is not official and has never been used to any extent in medicine, though in some cases it has been taken with effect in eruptive diseases of the skin, being given at first in small doses, gradually increased.
Great caution must be exercised in the use of the tincture. The dose of the tincture is 1 to 5 drops. The roots have likewise been used in poultices to whitlows and to foul ulcers, both in man and horned cattle.
Botanical: Oenanthe phellandrium (LANK.)
Family: N.O. Umbelliferae
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Water Fennel. Horsebane. Phellandrium aquaticum (Linn.).
Oenanthe phellandrium (syn. Phellandrium aquaticum), the Fine-leaved Water Dropwort, known popularly as Water Fennel, is a common British plant in ditches and by the sides of ponds.
It is a biennial, flowering from July to September in its second year of growth.
---Description---The stems are 2 to 3 feet high, very stout at the base, rising from fibrous roots. The leaves are divided into many fine segments, the lower ones submerged. The umbels are smaller than those of O. crocata and are on short stalks, springing either from the forks of the branches or from opposite the leaves.
The rootstock varies in appearance, according to the locality. If growing in deep or running water the rootstock and stem are long and slender; in other districts it is thicker and more erect. The variety that grows in deep running water is often considered a distinct species and is classed under O. fluviatilis.
O. phellandrium is less poisonous than O. crocata, but both produce ill-effects if eaten.
---Constituents---The fruits yield from 1 to 2 1/2 per cent of an ethereal oil, known as Water Fennel Oil, a yellow liquid of strong, pleasant, characteristic odour and burning taste, its specific gravity 0.85 to 0.89, containing as its chief constituent about 80 per cent of the terpene Phellandrene.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The fruits have been used in chronic pectoral affections such as bronchitis, pulmonary consumption and asthma, also in dyspepsia, intermittent fever, obstinate ulcers, etc. The dose when given in powdered form is 5 or 6 grains to commence with, so repeated as to amount to a drachm in four hours. An alcoholic extract and essence of the fruits has also been recommended as a very valuable and active remedy in the relief of consumption and bronchitis.
In overdoses the fruits produce vertigo, intoxication and other narcotic effects.
Externally applied, the root has sometimes been used as a local remedy in piles. When eaten in mistake, like that of O. crocata, the results have sometimes proved fatal. The symptoms produced are those of irritation of the stomach, failure of circulation and great cerebral disturbance, indicated by giddiness, convulsions and coma.
The fresh leaves are injurious to cattle, producing a kind of paralysis when eaten. When dried, they lose their deleterious properties .
O. fistulosa, the Common Water Dropwort, is found in watery places. This has a mixture of slender and fleshy roots, and bears leaves with only a few narrow segments. It is also poisonous. A peculiar resinous principle, called cenanthin, has been found in this species.
Most of the other species of Oenanthe found both in Great Britain and in the United States are poisonous, although none appear to be as virulent as O. crocata. A few are, however, innocuous, and their roots, especially those of O. pimpinelloides, have been esteemed as food in certain districts. Burnett (Medical Botany) states 'they are replete with a bland farina and have something the flavour of a filbert.'
See Greenweed (Greenweed, Dyer's).
These are so well known almost to every child, that I suppose it needless to write any description of them. Take therefore the virtues of them as follows.
Government and virtues : The herb is under the sign Cancer, and under the dominion of Venus, and therefore excellently good for wounds in the breast, and very fitting to be kept both in oils, ointments, and plaisters, as also in syrup. The greater wild Daisy is a wound herb of good respect, often used in those drinks or salves that are for wounds, either inward or outward. The juice or distilled water of these, or the small Daisy, doth much temper the heat of choler, and refresh the liver, and the other inward parts. A decoction made of them and drank, helps to cure the wounds made in the hollowness of the breast. The same also cures all ulcers and pustules in the mouth or tongue, or in the secret parts. The leaves bruised and applied to the privities, or to any other parts that are swollen and hot, doth dissolve it, and temper the heat. A decoction made thereof, of Wallwort and Agrimony, and the places fomented and bathed therewith warm, gives great ease to them that are troubled with the palsy, sciatica, or the gout. The same also disperses and dissolves the knots or kernels that grow in the flesh of any part of the body, and bruises and hurts that come of falls and blows; they are also used for ruptures, and other inward burnings, with very good success. An ointment made thereof doth wonderfully help all wounds that have inflammations about them, or by reason of moist humours having access unto them, are kept long from healing, and such are those, for the most part, that happen to joints of the arms or legs. The juice of them dropped into the running eyes of any, doth much help them.
DANDELION, VULGARLY CALLED PISS-A-BEDS
Descript : It is well known to have many long and deep gashed leaves, lying on the ground round about the head of the roots; the ends of each gash or jag, on both sides looking downwards towards the roots; the middle rib being white, which being broken, yields abundance of bitter milk, but the root much more; from among the leaves, which always abide green, arise many slender, weak, naked, foot-stalks, every one of them bearing at the top one large yellow flower, consisting of many rows of yellow leaves, broad at the points, and nicked in with deep spots of yellow in the middle, which growing ripe, the green husk wherein the flowers stood turns itself down to the stalk, and the head of down becomes as round as a ball: with long seed underneath, bearing a part of the down on the head of every one, which together is blown away with the wind, or may be at once blown away with one's mouth. The root growing downwards exceedingly deep, which being broken off within the ground, will yet shoot forth again, and will hardly be destroyed where it hath once taken deep root in the ground.
Place : It grows frequently in all meadows and pasture-grounds.
Time : It flowers in one place or other almost all the year long.
Government and virtues : It is under the dominion of Jupiter. It is of an opening and cleansing quality, and therefore very effectual for the obstructions of the liver, gall and spleen, and the diseases that arise from them, as the jaundice and hypocondriac; it opens the passages of the urine both in young and old; powerfully cleanses imposthumes and inward ulcers in the urinary passage, and by its drying and temperate quality doth afterwards heal them; for which purpose the decoction of the roots or leaves in white wine, or the leaves chopped as pot-herbs, with a few Alisanders, and boiled in their broth, are very effectual. And whoever is drawing towards a consumption or an evil disposition of the whole body, called Cachexia, by the use hereof for some time together, shall find a wonderful help. It helps also to procure rest and sleep to bodies distempered by the heat of ague fits, or other wise. The distilled water is effectual to drink in pestilential fevers, and to wash the sores.
You see here what virtues this common herb hath, and that is the reason the French and Dutch so often eat them in the Spring; and now if you look a little farther, you may see plainly without a pair of spectacles, that foreign physicians are not so selfish as ours are, but more communicative of the virtues of plants to people.
It is called Jam and Wray: in Sussex they call it Crop, it being a pestilent enemy among corn.
Descript : This has all the winter long, sundry long, flat, and rough leaves, which, when the stalk rises, which is slender and jointed, are narrower, but rough still; on the top grows a long spike, composed of many heads set one above another, containing two or three husks, with a sharp but short beard of awns at the end; the seed is easily shaken out of the ear, the husk itself being somewhat rough.
Place : The country husbandmen do know this too well to grow among their corn, or in the borders and pathways of the other fields that are fallow.
Government and virtues : It is a malicious part of sullen Saturn. As it is not without some vices, so hath it also many virtues. The meal of Darnel is very good to stay gangrenes, and other such like fretting and eating cankers, and putrid sores. It also cleanses the skin of all leprosies, morphews, ringworms, and the like, if it be used with salt and raddish roots. And being used with quick brimstone and vinegar, it dissolves knots, and kernels, and breaks those that are hard to be dissolved, being boiled in wine with pigeon's dung and Linseed. A decoction thereof made with water and honey, and the places bathed therewith, is profitable for the sciatica. Darnel meal applied in a poultice draws forth splinters and broken bones in the flesh. The red Darnel, boiled in red wine and taken, stays the lask and all other fluxes, and women's bloody issues; and restrains urine that passes away too suddenly.
Descript : The common Dill grows up with seldom more than one stalk, neither so high, nor so great usually as Fennel, being round and fewer joints thereon, whose leaves are sadder, and somewhat long, and so like Fennel that it deceives many, but harder in handling, and somewhat thicker, and of a strong unpleasant scent. The tops of the stalks have four branches and smaller umbels of yellow flowers, which turn into small seed, somewhat flatter and thinner than Fennel seed. The root is somewhat small and woody, perishes every year after it hath borne seed: and is also unprofitable, being never put to any use.
Place : It is most usually sown in gardens and grounds for the purpose, and is also found wild in many places.
Government and virtues : Mercury has the dominion of this plant, and therefore to be sure it strengthens the brain. The Dill being boiled and drank, is good to ease swellings and pains; it also stays the belly and stomach from casting. The decoction therefore helps women that are troubled with the pains and windiness of the mother, if they sit therein. It stays the hiccough, being boiled in wine, and but smelled unto being tied in a cloth. The seed is of more use than the leaves, and more effectual to digest raw and vicious humours, and is used in medicines that serve to expel wind, and the pains proceeding therefrom. The seed, being roasted or fried, and used in oils or plasters, dissolves the imposthumes in the fundament; and dries up all moist ulcers, especially in the fundament; an oil made of Dill is effectual to warm or dissolve humours and imposthumes, and the pains, and to procure rest. The decoction of Dill, be it herb or seed (only if you boil the seed you must bruise it) in white wine, being drank, it is a gallant expeller of wind, and provoker of the terms.
Descript : This rises up with a round green smooth stalk, about two feet high, set with divers long and somewhat narrow, smooth, dark green leaves, somewhat nipped about the edges, for the most part, being else all whole, and not divided at all, or but very seldom, even to the tops of the branches, which yet are smaller than those below, with one rib only in the middle. At the end of each branch stands a round head of many flowers set together in the same manner, or more neatly than Scabious, and of a bluish purple color, which being past, there follows seed which falls away. The root is somewhat thick, but short and blackish, with many strings, abiding after seed time many years. This root was longer, until the devil (as the friars say) bit away the rest of it for spite, envying its usefulness to mankind; for sure he was not troubled with any disease for which it is proper.
There are two other sorts hereof, in nothing unlike the former, save that the one bears white, and the other bluish-colored flowers.
Place : The first grows as well in dry meadows and fields as moist, in many places of this land. But the other two are more rare, and hard to be met with, yet they are both found growing wild about Appledore, near Rye in Kent.
Time : They flower not usually until August.
Government and virtues : The plant is venereal, pleasing, and harmless. The herb or the root (all that the devil hath left of it) being boiled in wine, and drank, is very powerful against the plague, and all pestilential diseases or fevers, poisons also, and the bitings of venemous beasts. It helps also those that are inwardly bruised by any casuality, or outwardly by falls or blows, dissolving the clotted blood; and the herb or root beaten and outwardly applied, takes away the black and blue marks that remain in the skin. The decoction of the herb, with honey of roses put therein, is very effectual to help the inveterate tumours and swellings of the almonds and throat, by often gargling the mouth therewith. It helps also to procure women's courses, and eases all pains of the mother and to break and discuss wind therein, and in the bowels. The powder of the root taken in drink, drives forth the worms in the body. The juice or distilled water of the herb, is effectual for green wounds, or old sores, and cleanses the body inwardly, and the seed outwardly, from sores, scurf, itch, pimples, freckles, morphew, or other deformities thereof, especially if a little vitriol be dissolved therein.
Many kinds of these are so well known, that I shall not trouble you with a description of them. My book grows big too fast.
Government and virtues : All Docks are under Jupiter, of which the Red Dock, which is commonly called Bloodwort, cleanses the blood, and strengthens the liver; but the yellow Dock-root is best to be taken when either the blood or liver is affected by choler. All of them have a kind of cooling (but not all alike) drying quality, the sorrel being most cold, and the Blood-worts most drying. Of the Burdock, I have spoken already by itself. The seed of most of the other kinds, whether the gardens or fields, do stay lasks and fluxes of all sorts, the loathing of the stomach through choler, and is helpful for those that spit blood. The roots boiled in vinegar help the itch, scabs, and breaking out of the skin, if it be bathed therewith. The distilled water of the herb and roots have the same virtue, and cleanses the skin from freckles, morphews, and all other spots and discolorings therein.
All Docks being boiled with meat, make it boil the sooner. Besides Blood-wort is exceeding strengthening to the liver, and procures good blood, being as wholesome a pot herb as any growing in a garden; yet such is the nicety of our times, forsooth, that women will not put it into a pot, because it makes the pottage black; pride and ignorance (a couple of monsters in the creation) preferring nicety before health.
DODDER OF THYME, EPITHYMUM, AND OTHER
Descript : This first from seed gives roots in the ground, which shoot forth threads or strings, grosser or finer as the property of the plant wherein it grows, and the climate doth suffer, creeping and spreading on that plant whereon it fastens, be it high or low. The strings have no leaves at all on them, but wind and interlace themselves, so thick upon a small plant, that it takes away all comfort of the sun from it; and is ready to choak or strangle it. After these strings are risen to that height, that they may draw nourishment from that plant, they seem to be broken off from the ground, either by the strength of their rising, or withered by the heat of the Sun. Upon these strings are found clusters of small heads or husks, out of which shoot forth whitish flowers, which afterwards give small pale white colored seed, somewhat flat, and twice as big as Poppyseed. It generally participates of the nature of the plant which it climbs upon; but the Dodder of Thyme is accounted the best, and is the only true Epithymum.
Government and virtues : All Dodders are under Saturn. Tell not me of physicians crying up Epithymum, or that Dodder which grows upon Thyme, (most of which comes from Hemetius in Greece, or Hybla in Sicily, because those mountains abound with Thyme,) he is a physician indeed, that hath wit enough to choose the Dodder according to the nature of the disease and humour peccant. We confess, Thyme is the hottest herb it usually grows upon; and therefore that which grows upon Thyme is hotter than that which grows upon cold herbs; for it draws nourishment from what it grows upon as well as from the earth where its root is, and thus you see old Saturn is wise enough to have two strings to his bow. This is accounted the most effectual for melancholy diseases, and to purge black or burnt choler, which is the cause of many diseases of the head and brain, as also for the trembling of the heart, faintings and swoonings. It is helpful in all diseases and griefs of the spleen, and melancholy that arises from the windiness of the hypochondria. It purges also the reins or kidneys by urine; it opens obstructions of the gall, whereby it profits them that have the jaundice; as also the leaves, the spleen. Purging the veins of the choleric and phlegmatic humours, and helps children in agues, a little worm seed being put thereto.
The other Dodders do, as I said before, participate of the nature of those plants whereon they grow. As that which hath been found growing upon nettles in the west-country, hath by experience been found very effectual to procure plenty of urine where it hath been stopped or hindered. And so of the rest.
Sympathy and antipathy are two hinges upon which the whole mode of physic turns; and that physician who minds them not, is like a door off from the hooks, more like to do a man mischief, than to secure him. Then all the diseases Saturn causes, this helps by sympathy, and strengthens all the parts of the body he rules; such as be caused by Sol, it helps by antipathy. What those diseases are, see my judgment of diseases by astrology; and if you be pleased to look at the herb Wormwood, you shall find a rational way for it.
DOG'S-GRASS, OR COUCH GRASS
Descript : It is well known, that the grass creeps far about under ground, with long white joined roots, and small fibres almost at every joint, very sweet in taste, as the rest of the herb is, and interlacing one another, from whence shoot forth many fair grassy leaves, small at the ends, and cutting or sharp on the edges. The stalks are jointed like corn, with the like leaves on them, and a large spiked head, with a long husk in them, and hard rough seed in them. If you know it not by this description, watch the dogs when they are sick, and they will quickly lead you to it.
Place : It grows commonly through this land in divers ploughed grounds to the no small trouble of the husbandmen, as also of the gardeners, in gardens, to weed it out, if they can; for it is a constant customer to the place it get footing in.
Government and virtues : 'Tis under the dominion of Jupiter, and is the most medicinal of all the Quick-grasses. Being boiled and drank, it opens obstructions of the liver and gall, and the stopping of urine, and eases the griping pains of the belly and inflammations; wastes the matter of the stone in the bladder, and the ulcers thereof also. The roots bruised and applied, do consolidate wounds. The seed doth more powerfully expel urine, and stays the lask and vomiting. The distilled water alone, or with a little wormseed, kills the worms in children.
The way of use is to bruise the roots, and having well boiled them in white wine, drink the decoction: 'Tis opening but not purging, very safe: 'Tis a remedy against all diseases coming of stopping, and such are half those that are incident to the body of man; and although a gardener be of another opinion, yet a physician holds half an acre of them to be worth five acres of Carrots twice told over.
DOVE'S-FOOT, OR CRANE'S-BILL
Descript : This has divers small, round, pale-green leaves, cut in about the edges, much like mallow, standing upon long, reddish, hairy stalks lying in a round compass upon the ground; among which rise up two or three, or more, reddish, jointed, slender, weak, hairy stalks, with some like leaves thereon, but smaller, and more cut in up to the tops, where grow many very small bright red flowers of five leaves a-piece; after which follow small heads, with small short beaks pointed forth, as all other sorts of those herbs do.
Place : It grows in pasture grounds, and by the path-sides in many places, and will also be in gardens.
Time : It flowers in June, July, and August, some earlier and some later; and the seed is ripe quickly after.
Government and virtues : It is a very gentle, though martial plant. It is found by experience to be singularly good for wind cholic, as also to expel the stone and gravel in the kidneys. The decoction thereof in wine, is an excellent good cure for those that have inward wounds, hurts, or bruises, both to stay the bleeding, to dissolve and expel the congealed blood, and to heal the parts, as also to cleanse and heal outward sores, ulcers and fistulas; and for green wounds, many do only bruise the herb, and apply it to the places, and it heals them quickly. The same decoction in wine fomented to any place pained with the gout, or to joint-aches, or pains of the sinews, gives much ease. The powder or decoction of the herb sinews, gives much ease. The powder or decoction of the herb taken for some time together, is found by experience to be singularly good for ruptures and burstings in people, either young or old.
This is so well known to swim on the tops of standing waters, as ponds, pools, and ditches, that it is needless further to describe it.
Government and virtues : Cancer claims the herb, and the Moon will be Lady of it; a word is enough to a wise man. It is effectual to help inflammations, and St. Anthony's Fire, as also the gout, either applied by itself, or in a poultice with Barley meal. The distilled water by some is highly esteemed against all inward inflammations and pestilent fevers; as also to help the redness of the eyes, and swellings of privities, and of the breasts before they be grown too much. The fresh herb applied to the forehead, eases the pains of the headache coming of heat.
DOWN, OR COTTON-THISTLE
Descript : This has large leaves lying on the ground, somewhat cut in, and as it were crumpled on the edges, of a green color on the upper side, but covered with long hairy wool, or Cotton Down, set with most sharp and cruel pricks, from the middle of whose head of flowers, thrust forth many purplish crimson threads, and sometimes (although very seldom) white ones. The seed that follows in the heads, lying in a great deal of white down, is somewhat large, long, and round, like the seed of ladies thistle, but paler. The root is great and thick, spreading much, yet it usually dies after seed time.
Place : It grows in divers ditches, banks, and in cornfields, and highways, generally everywhere throughout the land.
Time : It flowers and bears seed about the end of Summer, when other thistles do flower and seed.
Government and virtues : Mars owns the plant, and manifest to the world, that though it may hurt your finger, it will help your body; for I fancy it much for the ensuing virtues. Pliny and Dioscorides write, That the leaves and roots thereof taken in drink, help those that have a crick in their neck; whereby taken in drink, help those that have a crick in their neck; whereby they cannot turn their neck but their whole body must turn also (sure they do not mean those that have got a crick in their neck by being under the hangman's hand.) Galen saith, that the root and leaves hereof are of a healing quality, and good for such persons as have their bodies drawn together by some spasm or convulsion, as it is with children that have the rickets.
They are so well known to everyone that plants them in their gardens, they need no description; if not, let them look down to the lower end of the stalks, and see how like a snake they look.
Government and virtues : The plant is under the dominion of Mars, and therefore it would be a wonder if it should want some obnoxious quality or other. In all herbs of that quality, the safest way is either to distil the herb in an alembick, in what vehicle you please, or else to press out the juice, and distil that in a glass still, in sand. It scours and cleanses the internal parts of the body mightily, and it clears the external parts also, being externally applied, from freckles, morphew, and sun-burning. Your best way to use it externally, is to mix it with vinegar; an ointment of it is held to be good in wounds and ulcers; it consumes cankers, and that flesh growing in the nostrils, which they call Polypus. Also the distilled water being dropped into the eyes, takes away spots there, or the pin and web, and mends the dimness of sight; it is excellently good against pestilence and poison. Pliny and Dioscorides affirm, that no serpent will meddle with him that carries this herb about him.
THE ELDER TREE
I Hold it needless to write any description of this, since every boy that plays with a pop-gun will not mistake another tree instead of Elder. I shall therefore in this place only describe the Dwarf-Elder, called also Dead-wort, and Wall-wort.
Descript : This is but an herb every year, dying with his stalks to the ground, and rising afresh every Spring, and is like unto the Elder both in form and quality, rising up with a square, rough, hairy stalks, four feet high, or more sometimes. The winged leaves are somewhat narrower than the Elder, but else like them. The flowers are white with a dash of purple, standing in umbels, very like the Elder also, but more sweet in scent, after which come small blackish berries, full of juice while they are fresh, wherein is small hard kernels, or seed. The root doth creep under the upper crust of the ground, springing in divers places, being of the bigness of one's finger or thumb sometimes.
Place : The Elder-tree grows in hedges, being planted there to strengthen the fences and partitions of ground, and to hold the banks by ditches and water-courses.
The Dwarf Elder grows wild in many places of England, where being once gotten into a ground, it is not easily gotten forth again.
Time : Most of the Elder Trees, flower in June, and their fruit is ripe for the most part in August. But the Dwarf Elder, or Wall-wort, flowers somewhat later, and his fruit is not ripe until September.
Government and virtues : Both Elder and Dwarf Tree are under the dominion of Venus. The first shoots of the common Elder boiled like Asparagus, and the young leaves and stalks boiled in fat broth, doth mightily carry forth phlegm and choler. The middle or inward bark boiled in water, and given in drink, works much more violently; and the berries, either green or dry, expel the same humour, and are often given with good success to help the dropsy; the bark of the root boiled in wine, or the juice thereof drank, works the same effects, but more powerfully than either the leaves or fruit. The juice of the root taken, doth mightily procure vomitings, and purges the watery humours of the dropsy. The decoction of the root taken, cures the biting of an adder, and biting of mad dogs. It mollifies the hardness of the mother, if women sit thereon, and opens their veins, and brings down their courses. The berries boiled in wine perform the same effect; and the hair of the head washed therewith is made black. The juice of the green leaves applied to the hot inflammations of the eyes, assuages them; the juice of the leaves snuffed up into the nostrils, purges the tunicles of the brain; the juice of the juice of the berries boiled with honey and dropped into the ears, helps the pains of them; the decoction of the berries in wine, being drank, provokes urine; the distilled water of the flowers is of much use to clean the skin from sun-burning, freckles, morphew, or the like; and takes away the head-ache, coming of a cold cause, the head being bathed therewith. The leaves or flowers distilled in the month of May, and the legs often washed with the said distilled water, it takes away the ulcers and sores of them. The eyes washed therewith, it takes away the redness and bloodshot; and the hands washed morning and evening therewith, helps the palsy, and shaking of them.
The Dwarf Elder is more powerful than the common Elder in opening and purging choler, phlegm, and water; in helping the gout, piles, and women's diseases, colors the hair black, helps the inflammations of the eyes, and pains in the ears, the biting of serpents, or mad dogs, burnings and scaldings, the wind cholic, cholic, and stone, the difficulty of urine, the cure of old sores and fistulous ulcers. Either leaves or bark of Elder, stripped upwards as you gather it, causes vomiting. Also, Dr. Butler, in a manuscript of his, commends Dwarf Elder to the sky of dropsies, viz. to drink it, being boiled in white wine; to drink the decoction I mean, not the Elder.
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