Arum--the Common

The lords and ladies (arum maculatum) so well known to

every rustic as common throughout Spring in almost every hedge

row, has acquired its name from the colour of its erect pointed

spike enclosed within the curled hood of an upright arrow-shaped

leaf. This is purple or cream hued, according to the accredited sex

of the plant. It bears further the titles of Cuckoo Pint, Wake Robin,

Parson in the Pulpit, Rampe, Starchwo
t, Arrowroot, Gethsemane,

Bloody Fingers, Snake's Meat, Adam and Eve, Calfsfoot, Aaron,

and Priest's Pintle. The red spots on its glossy emerald arrow-head

leaves, are attributed to the dropping of our Saviour's blood on

[34] the plant whilst growing at the foot of the cross. Several of

the above appellations bear reference to the stimulating effects of

the herb on the sexual organs. Its tuberous root has been found to

contain a particular volatile acrid principle which exercises distinct

medicinal effects, though these are altogether dissipated if the

roots are subjected to heat by boiling or baking. When tasted, the

fresh juice causes an acrid burning irritation of the mouth and

throat; also, if swallowed it will produce a red raw state of the

palate and tongue, with cracked lips. The leaves, when applied

externally to a delicate skin will blister it. Accordingly a tincture

made (H.) from the plant and its root proves curative in diluted

doses for a chronic sore throat, with swollen mucous membrane,

and vocal hoarseness, such as is often known as Clergyman's

Sore Throat, and likewise for a feverish sore mouth, as well as for

an irresistible tendency to sleepiness, and heaviness after a full

meal. From five to ten drops of the tincture, third decimal strength,

should be given with a tablespoonful of cold water to an adult

three times a day. An ointment made by stewing the fresh sliced

root with lard serves efficiently for the cure of ringworm.

The fresh juice yields malate of lime, whilst the plant contains

gum, sugar, starch and fat. The name Arum is derived from the

Hebrew jaron, a dart, in allusion to the shape of the leaves like

spear heads; or, as some think, from aur, fire, because of the

acrid juice. The adjective maculatum refers to the dark spots or

patches which are seen on the smooth shining leaves of the plant.

These leaves have sometimes proved fatal to children who have

mistaken them for sorrel. The brilliant scarlet coral-like berries

which are found set closely about the erect spike of the arum in the

autumn [35] are known to country lads as adder's meat--a name

corrupted from the Anglo-Saxon attor, poison, as originally

applied to these berries, though it is remarkable that pheasants can

eat them with impunity.

In Queen Elizabeth's time the Arum was known as starch-wort

because the roots were then used for supplying pure white starch

to stiffen the ruffs and frills worn at that time by gallants and

ladies. This was obtained by boiling or baking the roots, and thus

dispelling their acridity. When dried and powdered the root

constitutes the French cosmetic, Cypress Powder. Recently a

patented drug, Tonga, has obtained considerable notoriety for

curing obstinate neuralgia of the head and face--this turning

out to be the dried scraped stem of an aroid (or arum) called

Raphidophora Vitiensis, belonging to the Fiji Islands. Acting on

the knowledge of which fact some recent experimenters have tried

the fresh juice expressed from our common Arum Maculatum in a

severe case of neuralgia which could be relieved previously only

by Tonga: and it was found that this juice in doses of a teaspoonful

gave similar relief. The British Domestic Herbal, of Sydenham's

time, describes a case of alarming dropsy, with great constitutional

exhaustion treated most successfully with a medicine composed of

Arum and Angelica, which cured in about three weeks. The

English Passion Flower and Portland Sago are other names

given to the Arum Maculatum.