Goosefoot





Among Curative Simples, the Goosefoot, or Chenopod order of

British plants, contributes two useful herbs, the Chenopodium

bonus Henricus (Good King Henry), and the Chenopodium

vulvaria (Stinking Goosefoot).



This tribe derives its distinctive title from the Greek words,

cheen, a goose, and pous, a foot, in allusion to the resemblance

borne by its leaves to the webbed members of that waddling bird

which raw recruits are wont to bless for their irksome drill of the

goose-step. Incidentally, it may be said that goosegrease, got from

the roasted bird, is highly emollient, and very useful in clysters;

it also proves easily emetic.



The Goosefoot herbs are common weeds in most temperate climates,

and grow chiefly in salt marshes, or on the sea-shore. Other plants

of this tribe are esculent vegetables, as the Spinach, Beet,

and Orach. They all afford soda in abundance.



The Good King Henry (Goosefoot) grows abundantly in waste

places near villages, being a dark green, succulent plant, about a

foot high, with thickish arrow-shaped leaves, which are cooked as

spinach, especially in Lincolnshire. It is sometimes called Blite,

from the Greek bliton, insipid; and, as Evelyn says, in his

Acetaria, it is well named, being insipid enough.



Why the said Goosefoot has been named Good King Henry, or,

Good King Harry, is a disputed point. A French writer declares

this humble plant which grows on our plains without culture will

confer a more lasting [228] duration on the memory of Henri

Quatre than the statue of bronze placed on the Pont Neuf, though

fenced with iron, and guarded by soldiers. Dodoeus says the

appellation was given to distinguish the plant from another, a

poisonous one, called Malus Henricus, Bad Henry. Other

authors have referred it to our Harry the Eighth, and his sore legs,

for which the leaves were applied as a remedy; but this idea does

not seem of probable correctness. Frowde tells us the constant

irritation of his festering legs made his terrible temper still more

dreadful. Warned of his approaching dissolution; and consumed

with the death-thirst, he called for a cup of white wine, and, turning

to one of his attendants; cried, 'All is lost!'--and these were his

last words. The substantive title, Henricus, is more likely derived

from heinrich, an elf or goblin, as indicating certain magical

virtues in the herb.



It is further known as English Marquery, or Mercury, and Tota bona;

or, Allgood, the latter from a conceit of the rustics that it will

cure all hurts; wherefore the leaves are now a constant plaster

among them for every green wound. It bears small flowers of

sepals only, and is grown by cottagers as a pot herb. The young

shoots peeled and boiled may be eaten as asparagus, and are gently

laxative. The leaves are often made into broth, being applied also

externally by country folk to heal old ulcers; and the roots are given

to sheep having a cough.



Both here and in Germany this Goosefoot is used for feeding

poultry, and it has hence acquired the sobriquet of Fat-hen.



The term, English Mercury, has been given because of its excellent

remedial qualities against indigestion, and bears out the proverb:

Be thou sick or whole, put [229] Mercury in thy koole. Poultices

made from the herb are applied to cleanse and heal chronic sores,

which, as Gerard teaches, they do scour and mundify. Certain

writers associate it with our good King Henry the Sixth. There is

made in America, from an allied plant, the oak-leaved Goosefoot

(Chenopodium glaucum), or from the aphis which infests it, a

medicinal tincture used for expelling round worms.



The Stinking Goosefoot, called therefore, Vulvaria, and Garosmus,

grows often on roadsides in England, and is known as Dog's

Orach. It is of a dull, glaucous, or greyish-green aspect, and

invested with a greasy mealiness which when touched exhales a

very odious and enduring smell like that of stale salt fish, this being

particularly attractive to dogs, though swine refuse the plant. It has

been found very useful in hysteria, the leaves being made into a

conserve with sugar; or Dr. Fuller's famous Electuarium

hystericum may be compounded by adding forty-eight drops of oil

of amber (Oleum succini) to four ounces of the conserve. Then a

piece of the size of a chestnut should be taken when needed, and

repeated more or less often as required. It further promotes the

monthly flow of women. But the herb is possessed odoris virosi

intolerabilis, of a stink which remains long on the hands after

touching it. The whole plant is sprinkled over with the white,

pellucid meal, and contains much trimethylamine, together with

osmazome, and nitrate of potash; also it gives off free ammonia.

The title, Orach, given to the Stinking Goosefoot, a simple of a

most ancient, fish-like smell, and to others of the same tribe, is a

corruption of aurum, gold, because their seeds were supposed to

cure the ailment known popularly as the yellow jaundice. These

plants afford no nutriment, [230] and, therefore, each bears the

name, atriplex, not, trephein, to nourish:--



Atriplicem tritum cum nitro, melle, et aceto

Dicunt appositum calidum sedare podagram

Ictericis dicitque Galenus tollere morbum

Illius semen cum vino saepius haustum.



With vinegar, honey, and salt, the Orach

Made hot, and applied, cures a gouty attack;

Whilst its seeds for the jaundice, if mingled with wine,

--As Galen has said--are a remedy fine.



Orach is cooling, writes Evelyn, and allays the pituit humors.

Being set over the fire, neither this nor the lettuce needs any other

water than their own moisture to boil them in. The Orach hails

from Tartary, and is much esteemed in France. It was introduced

about 1548.





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