English hedgerows exhibit Bryony of two distinct sorts--the white

and the black--which differ much, the one from the other, as to

medicinal properties, and which belong to separate orders of

plants. The White Bryony is botanically a cucumber, being of

common growth at our roadsides, and often called the White Vine;

it also bears the name of Tetterberry, from curing a disease of the

skin known as tetters. It climbs abou
with long straggling stalks,

which attach themselves by spiral tendrils, and which produce

rough, palmated leaves. Insignificant pale-green flowers spring in

small clusters from the bottom of these leaves. The round berries

are at first green, and afterwards brilliantly red. Chemically, the

plant contains bryonin, a medicinal substance which is intensely

bitter; also malate and phosphate of lime, with gum, starch, and


A tincture is made (H.) from the fresh root collected before the

plant flowers, which is found to [66] be of superlative use for the

relief of chronic rheumatism (especially when aggravated by

moving), and for subduing active congestions of the serous

membranes which line the heart-bag, the ribs, the outer coat of the

brain, and which cover the bowels. In the treatment of pleurisy,

this tincture is invaluable. Four drops should be given in a

tablespoonful of cold water every three or four hours. Also for any

contused bruising of the skin, and especially for a black eye, to

promptly bathe the injured part with a decoction of White

Bryony root will speedily subdue the swelling, and will prevent

discoloration far better than a piece of raw beef applied outside as

the remedy most approved in the Ring.

In France, the White Bryony is deemed so potent and perilous, that

its root is named the devil's turnip--navet du diable.

Our English plant, the Bryonia dioica, purges as actively as

colocynth, if too freely administered.

The name Bryony is two thousand years old, and comes from a

Greek word bruein, to shoot forth rapidly.

From the incised root of the White Bryony exudes a milky juice

which is aperient of action, and which has been commended for

epilepsy, as well as for obstructed liver and dropsy; also its

tincture for chronic constipation.

The popular herbal drink known as Hop Bitters is said to owe

many of its supposed virtues to the bryony root, substituted for the

mandrake which it is alleged to contain. The true mandrake is a

gruesome herb, which was held in superstitious awe by the Greeks

and the Romans. Its root was forked, and bears some resemblance

to the legs of a man; for which reason the moneymakers [67] of

the past increased the likeness, and attributed supernatural powers

to the plant. It was said to grow only beneath a murderer's gibbet,

and when torn from the earth by its root to utter a shriek which

none might hear and live. From earliest times, in the East, a notion

prevailed that the mandrake would remove sterility. With which

purpose in view, Rachel said to Leah: Give me, I pray thee, of thy

son's mandrakes (Genesis xxx. v. 14). In later times the Bryony

has come into use instead of the true mandrake, and it has

continued to form a profitable spurious article with mountebank

doctors. In Henry the Eighth's day, ridiculous little images made

from Bryony roots, cut into the figure of a man, and with grains of

millet inserted into the face as eyes, the same being known as

pappettes or mammettes, were accredited with magical powers,

and fetched high prices with simple folk. Italian ladies have been

known to pay as much as thirty golden ducats for one of these

artificial mandrakes. Readers of Thalaba (Southey) will remember

the fine scene in which Khawla procures this plant to form part of

the waxen figure of the Destroyer. Unscrupulous vendors of the

fraudulent articles used to seek out a thriving young Bryony plant,

and to open the earth round it. Then being prepared with a mould

such as is used for making Plaster of Paris figures, they fixed it

close to the root, and fastened it with wire to keep it in place.

Afterwards, by filling the earth up to the root they left it to assume

the required shape, which was generally accomplished in a single


The medicinal tincture (H.) of White Bryony (Bryonia alba) is

of special service to persons of dark hair and complexion, with

firm fibre of flesh, and of a bilious cross-grained temperament.

Also it is of [68] particular use for relieving coughs, and colds of a

feverish bronchial sort, caught by exposure to the east wind. On

the contrary, the catarrhal troubles of sensitive females, and of

young children, are better met by Ipecacuanha:--

Coughing in a shady grove

Sat my Juliana,

Lozenges I gave my love,


Full twenty from the lozenge box

The greedy nymph did pick;

Then, sighing sadly, said to me--

My Damon, I am sick.

George Canning.


In nemore umbroso Phyllis mea forte sedebat,

Cui mollem exhausit tussis anhela sinum:

Nec mora: de loculo deprompsi pyxida loevo,

Ipecacuaneos, exhibuique trochos:

Illa quidem imprudens medicatos leniter orbes

Absorpsit numero bisque quaterque decem:

Tum tenero ducens suspiria pectore dixit,

Thyrsi! Mihi stomachum nausea tristis habet.

The Black Bryony (Lady's-seal, or Oxberry), which likewise

grows freely in our hedges, is quite a different plant from its

nominal congener. It bears the name of Tamus Vulgaris, and

belongs to the natural order of Yams. It is also called the Wild

Hop, and Tetterberry or Tetterwort (in common with the greater

Celandine), because curing the skin disease known as tetters; and

further, Blackbindweed. It has smooth heart-shaped leaves, and

produces scarlet, elliptical berries larger than those of the White

Bryony. A tincture is made (H.) from the root-stock, with spirit of

wine, which proves a most useful application to unbroken

chilblains, when [69] made into a lotion with water, one part to

twenty. The plant is called Black Bryony (Bryonia nigra) from

its dark leaves and black root. It is not given at all internally, but

the acrid pulp of the root has been used as a stimulating plaster.