This little plant, with its exquisite flowers of celestial blue, grows most familiarly in our hedgerows throughout the Spring, and early Summer. Its brilliant, gemlike blossoms show a border of pale purple, or delicate violet, marked with deeper veins or streaks. But the lovely circlet of petals is most fragile, and falls off at a touch; whence are derived the names Speedwell, Farewell, Good-bye, and Forget-me-not.
Speedwell is a Veronica (fero, "I bring," nikee, "victory"), which tribe was believed to belong especially to birds. So the plant bears the name "Birds' Eyes," as well as "Blue Eyes," "Strike Fires," and "Mammy Die" (because of the belief that if the herb were brought into a family the mother would die within the year). Turner calls the plant "Fluellin," or "Lluellin," a name "the shentleman of Wales have given it because it saved her nose, which a disease had
almost gotten from her." Further, it is the Paul's Betony, called after Paulus OEgineta. The plant belongs to the Scroflua-curing order.
It is related that a shepherd observed how a stag, whose hind-quarters were covered with a scabby eruption brought about through the bite of a wolf, cured itself by rolling on plants of the Speedwell, and by eating its leaves. Thereupon he commended the plant to his king, and thus promoted his majesty's restoration to health.
In Germany it bears the title Grundheele, from having cured a king of France who suffered from a leprosy for eight years, which disease is named grund in German. At one time the herb was held in high esteem as a specific for gout in this country, but it became adulterated, and its fame suffered a downfall.
The only sensible quality of the Speedwell is the powerful astringency of its leaves, and this property serves to protect it from herbivorous foes.
It has been long held famous among country folk as an excellent plant for coughs, asthma, and pulmonary consumption. The leaves are bitter, with a rough taste; and a decoction of the whole plant stimulates the kidneys. The infusion promotes perspiration, and reduces feverishness. The juice may be boiled into a syrup with honey, for asthma and catarrhs.
When applied outwardly, it is said to cure the itch; and by some it has been asserted that a continued use of the infusion will overcome sterility, if taken daily as a tea. The French still distinguish the plant as the Th?'Europe; and a century ago it was used commonly in Germany in substitution for tea. As a medicine, by reason of its astringency, it became called Polychresta herba veronica.
"My freckles with the Speedwell's juices washed," says Alfred Austin, our Poet Laureate.
The Germans also name this plant Ehren-preis, or Prize of Honor; which fact favors the supposition of its being the true "Forget-me-not," or souveigne vous de moy, as legendary on knightly collars of yore to commemorate a famous joust fought in 1465 between the most accomplished champions of England and France.
The present Forget-me-not is a Myosotis, or Mouse Ear, or Scorpion Grass.
In Somersetshire, the pretty little Germander Speedwell is known as Cat's Eye: and because seeming to reflect by its azure color the beautiful blue firmament above, this pure-tinted blossom has got its name of veron eikon, the "true image" (Veronica); just as the napkin with which a compassionate maiden wiped the face of Christ on the morning of His crucifixion, held imprinted for ever on its fabric a miraculous
portrait, which led to her being afterwards canonized on this account as Saint Veronica.
The Emperor Charles the Fifth of Spain is said to have derived much relief to his gout from the use of this herb. It contains tannin, and a particular bitter principle.
The Primitive Simplers presented here show the way of life in other generations, it is not suggested or recommended trying them yourself.
History of Herbs
Herbs for Beginners
Drying & Preserving Herbs
Indoor Herb Gardening
Hints & Tips
Oil and Vinegar
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