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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
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House Leek (crassulaceoe)



Spurge








Conspicuous in Summer by their golden green leaves, and their
striking epergnes of bright emerald blossoms, the Wood Spurge, and
the Petty Spurge, adorn our woodlands and gardens commonly and
very remarkably. Together with many other allied plants, foreign
and indigenous, they yield from their severed stems a milky juice of
medicinal properties. The name Euphorbioe has been given to
this order from Euphorbus, the favourite physician of Juba, King of
Mauritania. All the Spurges possess the same poisonous principle,
which may, however, be readily dissipated by heat; and then, in
many instances, the root becomes a nourishing and palatable food.
For example, the Manioc, a South American Spurge, furnishes a
juice which has been known to kill in a few minutes. Nevertheless,
its root baked, after first draining away the juice, makes a
wholesome bread: and by washing the fresh pulp a starch is
produced which we know as Tapioca for our table. This is so
sustaining that half-a-pound a day is said to be sufficient of itself
to support a healthy man. The Indian rubber and Castor oil plants
belong also to this order of Euphorbioe.

The Wood Spurge, seen so frequently during our country rambles,
suggests by its spreading aspect a [533] clever juggler balancing on
his upturned chin a widely-branched series of delicate green saucers
on fragile stems, which ramify below from a single rod. Each saucer
is the bearer again of sub-divided pedicels which stretch out to
support other brightly verdant little leafy dishes; so that the whole
system of well poised flowering perianths forms a specially
handsome candelabrum of emerald (cup-like) bloom. The botanical
title Spurge is derived from expurgare, to act as a purgative,
because of the acrid juice possessing this property. Gerard says the
juice of the Wood Spurge, if given as physic, must be ministered
with discretion, and prepared with correctories by some honest
apothecary. Furthermore, this juice, if mixed with honey causeth
hair to fall from that part which is anointed therewith, if it be done
in the sun. Therefore, what better place may there be than a
wooded English meadow on a sunny day for a clean and convenient
natural shave by those of the fair sex who, unhappily, own hirsute
facial appendages of which they would gladly be rid? Euphorbia
Peplus, the Petty Spurge, is equally common, and often called
wart weed. It signifies, Welcome to our house, and turns its
flowers towards the sun. The Irish Spurge (Hiberna), is so powerful
that a small bundle of its bruised plant will kill the fish for
several miles down a river. Yet another Spurge (Lathyris), a twin
brother, bears caper-like seeds which are sometimes dishonestly
pickled and sold as a (dangerous) substitute for the toothsome
flowerbuds taken in sauce with our boiled mutton. The whole tribe
of Spurges contains two hundred genera, and forms, what we call
now-a-days, a large order. The roots of several common kinds are
used in making quack medicines, which are unsafe, [534] and
violent in action. Because of its milk-white sap the Wood Spurge
bears the name in Somersetshire of Virgin Mary's Nipple: and yet in
other parts, for the like reason, this plant is known as Devil's Milk.
Chemically, most of the Spurges contain caoutchouc, resin, gallic
acid, and their particular acrid principle which has not been fully
defined. In France the rustics sometimes purge themselves with a
dose of from six to twelve grains of the dried Wood Spurge: and its
juice is used in this country as an application to destroy warts;
also, to be rubbed in behind the ear for ear-ache, or face-ache. The
famous surgeon, Cheselden, employed a noted plaster made with the
resin of Spurge for relieving disease of the hip joint by
counterstimulation. But, to sum up, I would say with wise Gerard,
these herbes by mine advice should not be received into the body,
considering there be so many other good and wholesome potions to
be made with other herbes that may be taken without peril.
Nevertheless, a tincture prepared (H.) from the Wood Spurge, with
spirit of wine, may be given admirably in much diluted doses for
curing the same severe symptoms which the plant produces when
taken to a toxical degree. Offensive diarrhoea, with prolapse of the
lowest bowel, will be certainly remedied by four or five drops of
this tincture, first decimal strength, with water, every two or three
hours: especially if, at the same time, there be a burning and
stinging soreness of the throat. Said young Rosamond Berew
(1460), in Malvern Chase, concerning a tall gaunt figure, noted
for her knowledge of herbs, sometimes called the Witch, but
worshipped by the hinds and their children:--There is Mary, of
Eldersfield; I expect she has been on Berthill after Nettles to make a
capon sit, or to gather Spurges for ointments. [535]





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Previous: Spindle Tree (celastracoe)



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