Ragwort





The Ragwort (Senecio Jacoboea) is a very common plant in our

meadows, and moist places, closely allied to the [458] Groundsel,

and well known by its daisy-like flowers, but of a golden yellow

colour, with rays in a circle surrounding the central receptacle, and

with a strong smell of honey. This plant goes popularly by the name

of St. James's wort, or Canker wort, or (near Liverpool) Fleawort,

and in Yorkshire, Seggrum; also Jacoby and Yellow Top. The term

Ragwort, or Ragweed, is a corruption of Ragewort, as expressing its

supposed stimulating effects on the sexual organs. For the same

reason the pommes d'amour (Love Apples, or Tomatoes) are

sometimes caned Rage apples. The Ragwort was formerly thought

to cure the staggers in horses, and was hence named Stagger wort,

or because, says Dr. Prior, it was applied to heal freshly cut young

bulls, known as Seggs, or Staggs. So also it was called St. James's

wort, either because that great warrior and saint was the patron of

horses, or because it blossoms on his day, July 25th: sometimes also

the plant has been styled Stammer wort. Furthermore it possesses a

distinct reputation for the cure of cancer, and is known as

Cankerwort, being applied when bruised, either by itself, or

combined with Goosegrass.



Probably the lime which the whole plant contains in a highly

elaborated state of subdivision has fairly credited it with

anti-cancerous powers. For just such a reason Sir Spencer Wens

commended powdered egg shells and powdered oyster shells as

efficacious in curing certain cases under his immediate observation

of long-standing cancer, when steadily given for some considerable

time.



A poultice made of the fresh leaves, and applied externally two or

three times in succession will cure, if ever so violent, the old ache

in the hucklebone known as sciatica. Chemically the active

principle of the [459] Ragwort is senecin, a dark resinous

substance, of which two grains may be given twice or three times in

the day.



Also the tincture, made with one part of the plant to ten parts of

spirit of wine (tenuior), may be taken in doses of from five to fifteen

drops, with a spoonful of water three times in the day.



Either form of medicine will correct monthly irregularities of

women where the period is delayed, or difficult, or arrested by cold.

It must be given steadily three times a day for ten days or a fortnight

before the period becomes re-established. In suitable cases the

Senecio not only anticipates the period, but also increases the

quantity: and where the monthly time has never been established the

Ragwort is generally found useful.



This herb--like its congener, the common Groundsel--has lancinated,

juicy leaves, which possess a bitter saline taste, and yield

earthy potash salts abundantly. Each plant is named Senecio

because of the grey woolly pappus of its seeds, which resemble the

silvered hair of old age. In Ireland the Ragwort is dedicated to the

fairies, and is known as the Fairies' Horse, on the golden blossoms

of which the good little people are thought to gallop about at

midnight.





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