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(archangelica Officinalis Hoffm)
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Least Viewed Herbs

Finocchio
Southernwood
(archangelica Officinalis Hoffm)
And There Is Pansies That's For Thoughts
Acorn
Poppy
Bluebell (wild Hyacinth)
Asparagus
House Leek (crassulaceoe)
Anemone (wood)



Mushrooms








Without giving descriptive attention to those Mushrooms (Agarics,
Boleti, and others) which are edible, and [363] of which
over a hundred may be enumerated, as beyond our purpose when
treating of curative Herbal Simples, notice will be bestowed
here on two productions of the Mushroom nature--the Puff Ball and
the Fly Agaric,--because of their medicinal qualities.

It may be first briefly stated that the Agaricus campestris, or field
Mushroom, is the kind most commonly eaten in England, being
highly nitrogenous, and containing much fat. This may be readily
distinguished from any harmful fungus by the pink colour of its
gills, the solidity of its stem, the fragrant anise-like odour which it
possesses, and the separability of its outer skin. Other edible
Mushrooms which grow with us, and are even of a better quality
than the above, are the Agaricus augustus and the Agaricus
elvensis, not to mention the Chanatrelle, said to be unapproachable
for excellence.

The Greeks were aware of edible fungi, and knew of injurious sorts
which produced a sense of choking, whilst subsequent wasting of
the body occurred. Athenaeus quotes an author who said: You will
be choked like those who waste after eating mushrooms. The
Romans also esteemed some fungi as of so exquisite a flavour that
these would be stolen sooner than silver or gold by anyone entrusted
with their delivery:--

Argentum, atque aurum facile est laenamque togamque.
Mittere, boletos mittere difficile est.

Mushrooms were styled by Porphry deorum filii, and without
seed, as produced by the midwifery of autumnal thunderstorms, and
portending the mischief which these cause. They are generally
reported to have something noxious in them, and not without
reason; but they were exalted to the second course of the Caesarean
tables with the noble title 'bromatheon,' [364] a dainty fit for the
gods, to whom they sent the Emperor Claudius, as they have many
since to the other world. So true it is he who eats Mushrooms
many times, nil amplius edit, eats no more of anything.

The poisonous kinds may be commonly recognised by their possessing
permanently white gills which do not touch the stem; and
a thin ring, or frill, is borne by the stem at some distance from
the top, whilst the bottom of the stem is surrounded by a loose
sheath, or volva. If phalline is the active poisonous principle, this
is not rendered inert by heat in cooking; but the helvellic acid of
other sorts disappears during the process, and its fungi are thus
made non-poisonous. There is a popular belief that Mushrooms
which grow near iron, copper, or other metals, are deadly; the same
idea obtaining in the custom of putting a coin in the water used for
boiling Mushrooms in order that it may attract and detach any
poison, and so serve to make them wholesome.

In Essex there is an old saying:--

When the moon is at the full,
Mushrooms you may freely pull;
But when the moon is on the wane,
Wait till you think to pluck again.

Even the most poisonous species may be eaten with impunity after
repeated maceration in salt and water, or vinegar and water--which
custom is generally adopted in the South of Europe, where the diet
of the poorer classes largely includes the fungi which they gather;
but when so treated the several Mushrooms lose much of their soluble
nutritive qualities as well as their flavour. For the most part,
Agarics with salmon-coloured spores are injurious, likewise fungi
having a rancid or fetid odour, and an acrid, pungent, peppery taste.
Celsus said: If anyone shall have eaten [365] noxious fungi, let him
take radishes with vinegar and water, or with salt and vinegar.

Wholesome Mushrooms afford nourishment which is a capital
substitute for butchers' meat, and almost equally sustaining. If a
poisonous fungus has been eaten, its ill-effects may nowadays be
promptly met by antidotes injected beneath the skin, and by taking
small doses of strychnia in coffee.

Gerard says: I give my advice to those that love such strange and
new fangled meats to beware of licking honey among thorns, lest
the sweetness of the one do not countervail the sharpness and
pricking of the other. With regard to Mushrooms generally, Horace
said:--

Pratensibus optima fungis
Natura est; aliis male creditur.

The meadow Mushrooms are in kind the best;
'Tis ill to trust in any of the rest.

The St. George's Mushroom, an early one, takes, perhaps, the
highest place as an agaric for the table. Blewits (formerly sold in
Covent Garden market for Catsup), and Blue Caps, each all
autumnal species, are savoury fungi to be fried. They may be served
with bacon on toast.

A very old test as to the safety of Mushrooms is to stew with them
in the saucepan a small carefully-peeled onion. If after boiling for a
few minutes this comes out White, and clean-looking, the
Mushrooms may all be confidently eaten: but if it has turned blue,
or black, there are dangerous ones among them, and all should be
rejected.

The Puff Ball (Lycoperdon giganteum bovista) grows usually on
the borders of fields, in orchards, or meadows, also on dry downs,
and occasionally in gardens. It [366] should be collected as a Simple
in August and September. This Puff Ball is smooth, globose, and
yellowish-white when young, becoming afterwards brown. It
contains, when ripe, a large quantity of extremely fine brown black
powder, which is a capital application for stopping bleeding from
slight wounds and cuts. This also makes a good drying powder for
dusting on weeping eruptive sores between parts which approximate
to one another, as the fingers, toes, and armpits. The powder is very
inflammable, and when propelled in a hollow cone against lighted
spirit of wine on tow at the other end by a sudden jerk, its flash
serves to imitate lightning for stage purposes. It was formerly used
as tinder for lighting fires with the flint and steel.

When the fungus is burnt, its fumes exercise a narcotic property,
and will stupify bees, so that their honey may be removed. It has
been suggested that these fumes may take the place of chloroform
for minor surgical operations. The gas given off during combustion
is carbonic oxide.

Puff Balls vary in size from that of a moderately large turnip to the
bigness of a man's head. Their form is oval, depressed a little at the
top, and the colour is a pure white both without and within. The
surface is smooth at first, but at length cracking, and as the fungus
ripens it becomes discoloured and dry; then the interior is resolved
into a yellow mass of delicate threads, mixed with a powder of
minute spores, about the month of September.

When young and pulpy the Puff Ball is excellent to be eaten, and is
especially esteemed in Italy; but it deteriorates very rapidly after
being gathered, and should not be used at table if it has become
stained with yellow marks. When purely white it may be cut into
thick [367] slices of a quarter-of-an-inch, and fried in fresh butter,
with pepper, salt; and pounded herbs, and each slice should be first
dipped in the yolk of an egg; the Puff Ball will also make an
excellent omelette. Small Puff Balls are common on lawns, heaths,
and pastures. These are harmless, and eatable as long as their flesh
remains quite white. The Society of Amateur Botanists, 1863, had
its origin (as described by the president, Mr. M. C. Cooke), over a
cup of tea and fried Puff Balls, in Great Turnstile.

Pieces of its dried inner woolly substance, with a profusion of
minute snuff-coloured spores, have been long kept by the wise old
women of villages for use to staunch wounds and incisions; whilst a
ready surgical appliance to a deep cut is to bind a piece of Puff Ball
over it, and leave it until healing has taken place. In Norfolk large
Puff Balls found at the margins of cornfields are known as Bulfers,
or Bulfists, and are regarded with aversion.

In medicine a trituration (H.) is made of this fungus, and its spores,
rubbed up with inert sugar of milk powdered, and it proves an
effective remedy against dull, stupid, sleepy headache, with passive
itchy pimples about the skin. From five to ten grains of the
trituration, diluted to the third decimal strength, should be given
twice a day, with a little water, for two or three weeks.

Sir B. Richardson found that even by smelling at a strong tincture of
the fungus great heaviness of the head was produced; and he has
successfully employed the same tincture for relieving an analogous
condition when coming on of its own accord. But the Puff Ball,
whether in tincture (H.) or in trituration, is chiefly of service for
curing the itchy pimply skin of tettery subjects, especially if this
is aggravated by washing. Likewise the remedy is of essential use in
some forms [368] of eczema, especially in what is known as bakers',
or grocers' itch. Five drops of the diluted tincture may be given with
a spoonful of water three times in the day; and the affected parts
should be sponged equally often with a lotion made of one part of
the stronger tincture to four parts of water, or thin strained gruel.
Sometimes when a full meal of the Puff Ball fried in butter, or
stewed in milk, has been taken, undoubted evidences of its narcotic
effects have shown themselves.

Gerard said: In divers parts of England, where people dwell far
from neighbours, they carry the Puff Balls kindled with fire, which
lasteth long. In Latin they were named Lupi crepitum, or Wolfs'
Fists. The powder of them is fitly applied to merigals, kibed heels,
and such like; the dust or powder thereof is very dangerous for the
eyes, for it bath been observed that divers have been poreblind even
after when some small quantity thereof hath been blown into their
eyes. This fungus has been called Molly Puff, from its resemblance
to a powder puff; also Devil's Snuff Box, Fuss Balls, and Puck Fists
(from feist, crepitus ani, and Puck, the impish king of the
fairies). In Scotland the Puff Ball is the blind man's e'en, because
it has been believed that its dust will cause blindness; and in
Wales it is the bag of smoke.

The Fly Agaric, or Bug Agaric (Agaricus muscarius) gives the
name of Mushroom to all the tribe of Fungi as used for the
destruction of flies (mousches). Albertus Magnus describes it as
Vocatus fungus muscarum eo quidem lacte pulverisatus interficit
muscas: and this seems to be the real source of the word, which
has by caprice become transmitted from a poisonous sort to the
wholesome kinds exclusively. The pileus of the Fly Agaric is broad,
convex, and of a rich orange scarlet [369] colour, with a striate
margin and white gills. It gets its name, as also that of Flybane,
from being used in milk to kill flies; and it is called Bug Agaric
from having been formerly employed to smear over bedsteads so as
to destroy bugs. It inhabits dry places, especially birchwoods, and
pinewoods, having a bright red upper surface studded with brown
warts; and when taken as a poisonous agent it causes intoxication,
delirium, and death through narcotism. It is more common in
Scotland than in England. This Mushroom is highly poisonous, and
therefore the remedial preparations are only to be given in a diluted
form. For medicinal purposes a tincture is made (H.) from the fresh
fungus: and a trituration of the dried fungus powdered and mixed
with inert sugar of milk also powdered. These preparations are kept
specially by the homoeopathic chemists: and the use of the Fly
Agaric has been adopted by the school which they represent for
curatively treating an irritable spinal cord, with soreness, twitching
of the limbs, dragging of the legs, unsteadiness of the head,
neuralgic pains in the arms and legs (as if caused by sharp ice),
some giddiness, a coating of yellow fur on the lining mucous
membranes, together with a crawling, or burning, and eruptive skin.
In fact for a lamentably depraved condition of all the bodily health,
such as characterises advanced locomotor ataxy, and allied spinal
degradations leading to general physical failure. Just such a totality
of symptoms has been recorded by provers after taking the fungus
for some length of time in toxical quantities. The tincture should be
used of the third decimal strength, five drops for a dose twice or
three times a day with a spoonful of water; or the trituration of the
third decimal strength, for each dose as much of the powder as will
lie on the flat surface of [370] a sixpence. Chilblains may be
mitigated by taking the tincture of this Agaric, and by applying
some of the stronger tincture on cotton wool over the swollen and
itching parts alt night.

Muscarin is the leading active principle of the Fly Agaric, in
conjunction with agaricin, mycose, and mannite. It stimulates, when
swallowed in strong doses, certain nerves which tend to retard the
action of the heart. Both our Fly Agaric and the White Agaric of the
United States serve to relieve the night sweats of advanced
pulmonary consumption, and they have severally proved of supreme
palliative use against the cough, the sleeplessness, and the other
worst symptoms of this, wasting disease, as also for drying up the
milk in weaning. Each of these fungi when taken by mistake will
salivate profusely, and provoke both immoderate, and untimely
laughter. When the action of the heart is laboured and feeble
through lack of nervous power, muscarin, or the tincture of Fly
Agaric, in a much diluted potency will relieve this trouble. The dose
of Muscarin, or Agaricin, is from a sixth to half a grain in a pill.
These medicines increase the secretion of tears, saliva, bile, and
sweating, but they materially lessen the quantity of urine.
Belladonna is found to be the best antidote. From the Oak Agaric,
touchwood, or spunk,--when cut into thin slices and beaten with
a hammer until soft,--is made Amadou, or German tinder. This is
then soaked in a solution of nitre and dried; it afterwards forms an
excellent elastic astringent application for staying bleedings and for
bed sores. The Larch Agaric is powdered, and given in Germany as
a purgative, its dose being from twenty to sixty grains.

In Belgium the Polyporus Officinalis is used medicinally [371] as
an aperient, and to check profuse sweating. By the Malays the
Polyporus Sanguineus is used outwardly for leprosy.

Truffles (Tuber cibarium) may receive a passing notice whilst
treating of fungi, though they are really subterranean tubers of an
edible sort found in the earth, especially beneath beech trees, and
uprooted by dogs trained for the purpose. They somewhat resemble
our English earth nuts, which swine discover by their scent. The
ancients called the Truffle lycoperdon, because supposing it to
spring from the dung of wolves. In Athens the children of Cherips
had the rights of citizenship granted them because their father had
invented a choice ragout concocted of Truffles. But delicate and
weak stomachs find them difficult to digest. Pliny said, Those
kinds which remain hard after cooking are injurious; whilst others,
naturally harmful if they admit of being cooked thoroughly well,
and if eaten with saltpetre, or, still better, dressed with meat, or
with pear stalks, are safe and innocent.

In Italy these tubers are fried in oil and dusted with pepper. For
epicures they are mixed with the liver of fattened geese in pate de
foie gras. Also, greedy swine are taught to discover and root them
out, being of a chestnut colour and heavy rank hercline smell, and
found not seldom in England. Black Truffles are chiefly used: but
there are also red and white varieties, the best tubers being light of
weight in proportion to their size, with an agreeable odour, and
elastic to the touch.

They are stimulating and heating, insomuch, that for delicate
children who are atrophied, and require a multum in parvo of
fatty and nitrogenous food in a compact but light form, which is
fairly easy of digestion, [372] the pate de foie gras on bread is a
capital prescription. Truffles grow in clusters several inches below
the soil, being found commonly on the downs of Wiltshire,
Hampshire and Kent; also in oak and chestnut forests. Dogs have
been trained to discriminate their scent below the surface of the soil,
and to assist in digging them out. There is a Garlic Truffle of a small
inferior sort which is put into stews; and the best Truffles are
frequently found full of perforations. The presence of the tubers
beneath the ground is denoted by the appearance above of a
beautiful little fly having a violet colour--this insect being never
seen except in the neighbourhood of Truffles. They are subject to
the depredations of certain animalcules, which excavate the tubers
so that they soon become riddled with worms. These, after passing
through a chrysalis state, develop into the violet flies. Gerard called
Truffles Spanish fussebals. They were not known to English
epicures in Queen Elizabeth's day. Another appellation borne by
them formerly was Swines' bread, and they were supposed to be
engendered by thunderbolts. In Northern France they were first
popularised four hundred and fifty years ago, by John, Duke of
Berry, a reprobate gambler, third son of John the Good. The
Perigord Truffle has a dark skin, and smells of violets. Piedmontese
truffles suggest garlic: those of Burgundy are a little resinous: the
Neapolitan specimens are redolent of sulphur: and in the Gard
Department (France) they have an odour of musk. The English
truffle is white, and best used in salads. Dr. Warton, Poet Laureate,
1750, said Happy the grotto'ed hermit with his pulse, who wants no
truffles. A Girton girl under examination described the tuber as a
sort of sea-anemone on land. When once dug up truffles soon
[373] lose their perfume and aroma, so they are imported bedded in
the very earth which produced them.

The Earth Nut (Bunium flexuosum) is also catted Hog Nut, Pig
Nut, Jur Nut, St. Anthony's Nut, Earth Chesnut, and Kipper Nut.
Caliban says, in the Tempest, I with my long nails-will dig thee Pig
Nuts. They are an excellent diuretic, serving to stimulate the
kidneys.

Pliny talked of fungi in general as a great delicacy to be eaten with
amber knives and a service of silver. But Seneca called them
voluptuaria venena. The Russians take some which we think to be
deleterious; but they first soak these in vinegar, which (adds Pliny),
being contrary to them neutralizes their dangerous qualities; also
they are rendered still more safe if cooked with pear stalks; indeed it
is good to eat pears immediately after all fungi. Almost every
species except the common Mushroom is characterized by the
majority of our countrymen as a toadstool; but this title really
appertains to the large group bearing the subgeneric name of
Tricholoma, which probably does not contain a single unwholesome
species. Other rustic names given to this group are Puckstools
and Puckfists. They are further known as Toad skeps (toad's cap)
in the Eastern counties.

Puck, the mischievous king of the fairies, has been commonly
identified with pogge, the toad, which was believed to sit upon most
of the unwholesome fungi; and the Champignon (or Paddock Stool)
was said to owe its growth to those wanton elves whose pastime is
to make midnight mushrooms. One of the toad stoo's (the
Clathrus cancellatus) is said to produce cancerous sores if
handled too freely. It has an abominably disgusting odour, and is
therefore named the lattice stinkhorn. The toad was popularly
thought to [374] impersonate the devil; and the toad-stool, pixie
stool, or paddock stool was believed to spring from the devil's
droppings.

The word Mushroom may have been derived from the French Moucheron,
or Mousseron, because of its growing among moss. The chief
chemical constituents of wholesome Mushrooms are albuminoids,
carbo-hydrates, fat, mineral matters, and water. When salted
they yield what is known as catsup, or ketchup (from the
Japanese kitchap). The second most edible fungus of this
nature is the Parasol Mushroom (Lepcota procera).

Edible Mushrooms, if kept uncooked, become dangerous: they cannot
be sent to table too soon. In Rome our favourite Pratiola is
held in very small esteem, and the worst wish an Italian can express
against his foe is that he may die of a Pratiola. If this species
were exposed for sale in the Roman markets it would be certainly
condemned by the inspector of fungi.

Fairy rings are produced by the spawn, or mycelium, beginning to
germinate where dropped by a bird or a beast, and exhausting the
soil of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and potash, from the centre
continuously outwards; whilst immediately within the enlarging ring
there is constantly a band of coarse rank grass fed by the manure of
the penultimate dead spawn. The innermost starved ground remains
poor and barren. In this duplicate way the rings grow larger and
larger.

Our edible Mushroom is a Pratella of the subgenus Psalliota,
and the Agaricus campestris of English botanists. In common
with the esculent Mushrooms of France it contains phosphate of
potassium--a cell salt essentially reparative of exhausted nerve
tissue and energy.

The old practice of testing Mushrooms with a silver [375] spoon,
which is supposed to become tarnished only when the juices are of
an injurious quality (i.e., when sulphur is developed therein under
decomposition) is not to be trusted. In cases of poisoning by
injurious fungi after the most violent symptoms may have been
relieved, and the patient rescued from immediate danger, yet great
emaciation will often follow from the subsequent effects of the
poison: and the skin may exhibit an abundant outbreak of a
vesicular eruption, whilst the health will remain perhaps
permanently injured. Strong alcoholic drinks should never be taken
together with, or immediately after eating Mushrooms, or other
innocent fungi. Experienced fungus eaters (mycophagists) have
found themselves suffering from severe pains, and some swellings
through taking whiskey and water shortly after the meal: whereas
precisely the same fungus, minus the whiskey, could be eaten with
impunity by these identical experimentalists.





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