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Nutmeg Cinnamon Ginger And Cloves








The spice box is such a constant source of ready domestic comforts
of a medicinal sort in every household that the more important, and
best known of its contents may well receive some consideration
when treating of Herbal Simples; though it will, of course, be
understood these spices are of foreign growth, and not indigenous
products.

Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger, and Cloves, claim particular notice in
this respect.

Sinament, Ginger, Nutmeg, and Cloves,
And that gave me my jolly red nose.
Beaumont and Fletcher.

Cinnamon possesses positive medicinal as well as aromatic virtues.
What we employ as this spice consists of the inner bark of shoots
from the stocks of a Ceylon tree, first cultivated here in 1768.

Such bark chemically contains cinnamic acid, tannin, a resin, and
sugar, so that its continued use will induce constipation. The
aromatic and stimulating effects of Cinnamon have been long
known. It was freely given in England during the epidemic scourges
of the early and middle centuries, nearly every monastery keeping a
store of the cordial for ready use. The monks administered it in
fever, dysentery, and contagious diseases. And recent discovery in
the laboratory of M. Pasteur, the noted French bacteriologist, has
shown that Cinnamon possesses the power of absolutely destroying
all disease germs. Our ancestors, it would appear, had hit upon a
valuable preservative against microbes, when they infused
Cinnamon with other spices in their mulled drinks. Mr. Chamberland
says, no disease germ can long resist the antiseptic powder
of essence of Cinnamon, [391] which is as effective to destroy
microbes as corrosive sublimate.

By its warming astringency, it exercises cordial properties which are
most useful in arresting passive diarrhoea, and in relieving flatulent
indigestion.

Its volatile oil is procured from the bark, and likewise a tincture,
as well as an aromatic water of Cinnamon. For a sick qualmish
stomach either preparation is an excellent remedy, as the virtue of
the bark rests in this essential volatile oil. When obtained from the
fruit it is extremely fragrant, of thick consistence, and sometimes
made into candles at Ceylon, for the sole use of the king. The doses
are of the powdered bark from ten to twenty grains; of the oil from
one to five drops; of the tincture from half to one teaspoonful, and
of the distilled water from one to two tablespoonfuls. Our Queen is
known to be partial to the use of Cinnamon. Keats, the poet, wrote
of lucent syrups tinct. with Cinnamon. And Saint Francis of Sales
says in his Devout Life: With respect to the labour of teaching, it
refreshes and revives the heart by the sweetness it brings to those
who are engaged in it, as the Cinnamon does in Arabia Felix to
them who are laden with it. In toxic quantities of an injurious
amount, Cinnamon bark has produced haemorrhage from the bowels,
and nose bleeding. Therefore small doses of the diluted tincture
are well calculated to obviate these symptoms when presenting
themselves through illness.

The bark was formerly thought to stimulate the functions of the
womb, and of late it has come again into medical use for this
purpose. To check fluxes from that organ a teaspoonful of the
bruised bark should be infused in half a pint of boiling water, and a
tablespoonful given frequently when cool. Lozenges made [392]
with the essential oil are also medicinally available for the speedy
relief of sickness, and as highly useful against influenza. It is well
known that persons who live in Cinnamon districts have an
immunity from malaria.

Ginger (Zingiberis radix) is the root-stock of a plant grown in the
East and West Indies, and is scraped before importation. Its odour is
due to an essential oil, and its pungent hot taste to a resin. It was
known in Queen Elizabeth's reign, having been introduced by the
Dutch about 1566. Grene Gynger of almondes is mentioned in the
Paston Letters, 1444. When condited, says Gerard, it provoketh
venerie.

This Green Ginger, which consists of the young shoots of the
rhizome, when boiled in syrup makes an excellent preserve.
Officinally from the dried and scraped rhizome are prepared a
tincture, and a syrup. If a piece of the root is chewed it causes a
considerable flow of saliva, and an application of powdered Ginger,
made with water into paste, against the skin will produce intense
tingling and heat. To which end it may be spread on paper and
applied to the forehead as a means for relieving a headache from
passive fulness. In India, Europeans who suffer from languid
indigestion drink an infusion of Ginger as a substitute for tea. For
gouty dyspepsia the root may be powdered in a mortar: and a
heaped teaspoonful of it should be then infused in boiling milk; to
be taken when sufficiently cool, for supper or at breakfast.

The dose of the powder is from ten to twenty grains; of the tincture
from a third of a teaspoonful to a teaspoonful, in water hot or cold;
of the syrup from one to two teaspoonfuls in water. Either
preparation is of service to correct diarrhoea, and to relieve weakly
chronic bronchitis. Also as admirably corrective of [393] chronic
constipation through general intestinal sluggishness, a vespertine
slice of good, old-fashioned Gingerbread made with brown treacle
and grated ginger may be eaten with zest, and reliance. There is a
street in Hull called The land of Ginger.

The habitat of the tree from which our Nutmeg comes is the
Molucca Islands, and the part of the nut which constitutes the Spice
is the kernel. This is called generically Nux moschata, or Mugget
(French Musque) a diminutive of musk, from its aromatic odour,
and properties. The Nutmeg is oval, or nearly round, of a brown
wrinkled aspect, with an aromatic smell, and a bitter fragrant taste.
Officinally the tree is named Myristica officinalis, and the oil
distilled from the Nutmeg in Britain is much superior to foreign oil.

Ordinarily as a condiment of a warming character the Nutmeg is
employed to correct cold indigestible food, or as a cordial addition
to negus: and medicinally for languid digestion, with giddiness and
flatulence, causing oppressed breathing. Its activity depends on the
volatile oil, contained in the proportion of six per cent. in the nut.
This when given at all largely is essentially narcotic. Four Nutmegs
have been known to completely paralyse all nervous sensibility, and
have produced a sort of wakeful unconsciousness for three entire
days, with loss of memory afterwards, and with more or less
paralysis until after eight days.

The Banda, or Nutmeg Islands in the Indian Ocean, are twelve in
number, and the strength of the Nutmeg in its season is said to
overcome birds of Paradise so that they fall helplessly intoxicated.

When taken to any excess, whether as a spice, or as a medicine, the
Nutmeg and its preparations are apt to cause giddiness, oppression
of the chest, stupor, and [394] delirium. A moderate dose of the
powdered Nutmeg is from five to twenty grains, but persons with a
tendency to apoplexy should abstain from any free use of this spice.
From two to six drops of the essential oil may be taken on sugar to
relieve flatulent oppression and dyspepsia, or from half to one
teaspoonful of the spirit of Nutmeg made by mixing one part of the
oil with forty parts of spirit of wine; this dose being had with one
or two tablespoonfuls of hot water, sweetened if desired.

A medicinal tincture is prepared (H.) from the kernel with spirit of
wine (not using the oil, nor the essence). This in small diluted doses
is highly useful for drowsiness connected with flatulent indigestion,
and a disposition to faintness: also for gout retrocedent to the
stomach. The dose is from five to ten drops with a spoonful of water
every half hour, or every hour until the symptoms are adequately
relieved. Against diarrhoea Nutmeg grated into warm water is very
helpful, and will prove an efficient substitute for opium in mild
cases. Externally the spirit of Nutmeg is a capital application to be
rubbed in for chronic rheumatism, and for paralysed limbs. The
butter of Nutmegs, or their concrete oil, is used in making plasters
of a warming, and stimulating kind. A drink that was concocted by
our grandmothers was Nutmeg tea. One Nutmeg would make a pint
of this tea, two or three cupfuls of which would produce a sleep of
many hours' duration. The worthy old ladies were wont to carry a
silver grater and Nutmeg case suspended from the waist on their
chatelaines. But in any large quantity the Nutmeg may produce
sleep of such a profundity as to prove really dangerous. Two
drachms of the powder have brought on a comatose sleep with some
delirium.

[395] The Nutmeg contains starch, protein, and other simple
constituents, in addition to its stimulating principles. Mace is the
aromatic envelope of the Nutmeg, and possesses the same qualities
in a minor degree. Its infusion is a good warming medicine against
chronic cough, and moist bronchial asthma in an old person. Mace
is a membranaceous structure enveloping the Nutmeg, having a
fleshy texture, and being of a light yellowish-brown colour. It
supplies an allied essential volatile principle, which is fragrant and
cordial. If given three or four times during the twenty-four hours, in
a dose of from eight to twelve grains, crushed, or powdered Mace
will prove serviceable against long-continued looseness of the
bowels; but this dose should not be exceeded for fear of inducing
narcotism.

Cloves (from clavus, a nail), also found in the kitchen spice box,
and owning certain medicinal resources of a cordial sort, which are
quickly available, belong to the Myrtle family of plants, and are the
unexpanded flower buds of an aromatic tree (Caryophyllus),
cultivated at Penang and elsewhere. They contain a volatile oil
which, like that of Chamomile, although cordial, lowers nervous
sensibility, or irritability: also tannin, a gum resin, and woody
fibre. This volatile oil consists principally of eugenin with a
camphor, caryophyllin. The eugenic acid, with a strong odour of
cloves, is powerfully antiseptic and anti-putrescent. It reduces the
sensibility of the skin: and therefore the oil with lanolin is a
useful application for eczema.

Dr Burnett has lately taught (1895) that a too free use of Cloves will
bring on albuminuria; and that when this disease has supervened
from other causes, the dilute tincture of Cloves, third decimal
strength, will frequently do much to lessen the quantity of albumen
[396] excreted by the kidneys. From five to ten drops of this tincture
should be given with water three times a day.

Used in small quantities as a spice the Clove stimulates digestion,
but when taken more freely it deadens the susceptibility of the
stomach, lessens the appetite, and induces constipation. An infusion
of Cloves, made with half an ounce to a pint of water, and drank in
doses of a small wineglassful, will relieve the nausea and coldness
of flatulent indigestion. The oil put on cotton wool into the hollow
of a decayed tooth is a useful means for giving ease to toothache.
The dose of the oil is from one to five drops, on sugar, or in a
spoonful of milk. The odour of Cloves is aromatic, and the taste
pleasantly hot, but acrid. Half a tumbler of quite hot water poured
over half a dozen Cloves (which are to brew for a few minutes on
the hob, and then to be taken out), will often secure a good night to
a restless dyspeptic patient, if taken just before getting into bed. Or
if given cold before breakfast this dose will obviate constipation. In
Holland the oil of Cloves is prescribed with cinchona bark for ague.
Arthur Cecil's German medico in the Play advises his patient to rub
your pelly mit a Clove.

All-Spice (Pimento) is another common occupant of the domestic
spice box. It is popular as a warming cordial, of a sweet odour, and
a grateful aromatic taste; but being a native of South America,
grows with us only as a stove plant. The leaves and bark are full of
inflammable particles, whilst walks between Pimento trees are
odorous with a delicious scent. The name All-Spice is given because
the berries afford in smell and taste a combination of Cloves,
Juniper berries, Cinnamon and Pepper. The special qualities of the
Pimento reside in the rind of these berries; and this tree is the
Bromelia ananas, [397] named in Brazil Nana. An extract made
from the crushed berries by boiling them down to a thick liquor, is,
when spread on linen, a capital stimulating plaster for neuralgic or
rheumatic parts. About the physician in les Francais it was said
admiringly c'est lui qui a invente la salade d'Ananas. The essential
oil, as well as the spirit and the distilled water of Pimento, are
useful against flatulent indigestion and for hysterical paroxysms. This
Spice was formerly added to our syrup of buckthorn to prevent it
from griping. The berries are put into curry powder, and added to
mulled wines.





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Previous: Night Shade Deadly (_belladonna_)



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