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Water Plants


Water Dropwort

Water Dropwort, Water Lily, Water Pepper

The Water Dropwort--Hemlock (oenanthe crocata) is an umbelliferous plant, frequent in our marshes and ditches. It is named from oinos, wine, and anthos, a flower, because its blossoms have a vinous smell. A medicinal tincture is made (H.) from the ripe fruit.

The leaves look like Celery, and the roots like parsnips. A country name

of this plant is Dead-tongue, from its paralyzing effects on the organs of the voice. Of eight lads who were poisoned by eating the root, says Mr. Vaughan, five died before morning, not one of them having spoken a word. Other names are Horsebane, from its being thought in Sweden to cause in horses a kind of palsy; (due, as Linnaeus thought, to an insect, curculio paraplecticus, which breeds in the stem); and Five-fingered-root, from its five leaflets. The roots contain a poisonous, milky juice, which becomes yellow on exposure to the air, and which exudes from all parts of the plant when wounded. It will be readily seen that because of so virulent a nature the plant is too dangerous for use as a Herbal Simple, though the juice has been known to cure obstinate and severe skin disease. It yields an acrid emetic principle.

The root is sometimes applied by country folk to whitlows, but this has proved an unsafe proceeding. The plant has a pleasant odor. Its leaves have been mistaken for Parsley, and its root for the Skirret.

The OEnanthe Phellandrium (Water Fennel) is a variety of the same species, but with finer leaves. Pliny gave the seeds, twenty grains for a dose, against stone, and disorders of the bladder. Also they have been commended for cancer.

In this country Water Lilies, or Pond Lilies, comprise the White Water Lily--a large native flower inhabiting clear pools and slow rivers--and the Yellow Water Lily, frequent in rivers and ditches, with a yellow, globose flower smelling like brandy, so that it is called "Brandy bottle" in Norfolk and other parts. Its root and stalks contain much tannin.

This latter Yellow Lily (Nuphar lutea) possesses medicinal virtues against diarrhoea, such as is aggravated in the morning, and against sexual weakness. A tincture is made (H.) from the whole plant with spirit of wine. The second title, lutea, signifies growing in the mud; whilst the large white Water Lily is called Nymphoea, from occurring in the supposed haunts of the nymphs: and Flatter-dock.

The root stocks of the Yellow Water Lily, when bruised, and infused in milk, will destroy beetles and cockroaches. The smoke of the same when burnt will get rid of crickets.

The small Yellow Pond Lily bears the name of Candock, from the shape of its seed vessel, like that of a silver can or flagon, and this perhaps has likewise to do with the appellations, "Brandy bottle" and "Water can:" which latter may be given because of the half unfolded leaves floating on the water like cans.

The root of the larger white Water Lily is acrid, and will redden the skill if the juice is applied thereto.

An Ointment may be made with this juice to stimulate the scalp so as to prevent falling out of the hair. The root contains tannin and mucilage, it is therefore astringent and demulcent. Also the expressed juice from the fresh leaves of this white Water Lily, the "one sinless flower," if used as a head wash, will preserve the hair.

"Oh, destin?des choses d'ici bas!
Descendre des austeriti?du
Cloitre dans l'officine
Cancani du perruquier!"

Dutch boys are said to be extremely careful about plucking or handling the Water Lily, for, if a boy fall [606] with the flowers in his possession, he is thought to immediately become subject to fits.

The Water Pepper (Polygonum Hydropiper) or Arsmart, Grows abundantly by the sides of lakes and ditches in Great Britain. It bears a vulgar English name signifying the irritation which it causes when applied to the fundament; and its French sobriquet, Culrage, conveys the same meaning:

"An erbe is the cause of all this rage,
In our tongue called Culrage."

The plant is further known to rustics as Cyderach, or Ciderage, and as Red-knees, from its red angular points. It possesses an acrid, biting taste, somewhat like that of the Peppermint, which resides in the glandular dots sprinkled about its surface, and which is lost in drying. Fleas will not come into rooms where this herb is kept. It is called also "lake weed." A tradition says that the plant when placed under the saddle will enable a horse to travel for some long time without becoming hungry or thirsty. The Scythians knew this herb (Hippice) to be useful for such a purpose.

The Water Pepper has its virtues first taught by a beggar of Savoy. It is admirable against syphilis, and to arrest sexual losses: being long adored because "healing the original sin."

Farriers use it for curing proud flesh in the sores of animals, and when applied to the human skin, the leaves will serve the purpose of a mustard poultice. Also, a piece of the plant may be chewed to relieve toothache, as well as to cure small ulcers of thrush in the mouth, and pimples on the tongue.

The expressed juice of the freshly-gathered plant has been found very useful in jaundice. From one to three tablespoonfuls may be taken for a dose. A hot decoction made from the whole herb (Water Persicaria) has a sheet soaked in it as an American remedy for cholera, the patient being wrapped therein immediately when seized. This herb, together with the Thuja Occidentalis (Arbor vitoe) makes the Anti-venereo of Count Mattaei.

Another Polygonum, the great Bistort, or Snakeweed, and Adderswort, is a common wild plant in the northern parts of Great Britain, having bent or crooked roots, which are difficult to be extirpated, and are strongly astringent.

This Bistort, "twice twisted," on account of its snake-like root, was at one time called Serpentaria, Columbrina, and Dracunculus.

It has been thought to be the Oxylapathum Britannicum and Limonium of the ancients.

The dose of the root in substance is from twenty to sixty grains. In the North of England the plant is known as Easter Giant, and its young shoots are eaten in herb pudding. About Manchester they are substituted for greens, under the name of Passion's dock. The root may be employed both externally as a poultice, and inwardly as a decoction, when an astringent is needed. It is most useful for a spongy state of the gums, attended with looseness of the teeth.

This plant grows in moist meadows, but is not common. Its roots are reddish of color inside.

The Bistort contains starch, and much tannin; likewise its rhizome (crooked root) furnishes gallic acid. The decoction is to be made with an ounce of the bruised root boiled in a pint of water; one tablespoonful of this may be given every two hours in passive bleedings, and for simple diarrhea. Other names for the plant are Osterick, and Twice writhen (bis tort), Red legs, and Man giant, from the French mangeant, eatable.


Herb Simples

The Primitive Simplers presented here show the way of life in other generations, it is not suggested or recommended trying them yourself.

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