In this country we possess about twenty species of the trefoil, or

Clover, which is a plant so well known in its general features by

its abundance in every field and on every grass plot, as not to need

any detailed description. The special variety endowed with

medicinal and curative virtues, is the Meadow Clover (Trifolium

pratense), or red clover, called by some, Cocksheads, and

familiar to children as Suckles, or Hon
y-suckles, because of the

abundant nectar in the long tubes of its corollae. Other names for it

are Bee-bread, and Smere. An extract of this red clover is now

confidently said to have the power of healing scrofulous sores, and

of curing cancer. The New York Tribune of September, 1884,

related a case of indisputable cancer of the breast of six years'

standing, with an open fetid sore, which had penetrated the

chest-wall between the ribs, and which was radically healed by a

prolonged internal use of the extract of red clover. Four years

afterwards, in September, 1888, the breast was found to be

restored to its normal condition, all but a small place the size of

half a dollar, which will in every probability become absorbed like

[111] the rest, so that the patient is considered by her physicians to

be absolutely cured.

The likelihood is that whatever virtue the red clover can boast for

counteracting a scrofulous disposition, and as antidotal to cancer,

resides in its highly-elaborated lime, silica, and other earthy salts.

Moreover, this experience is not new. Sir Spencer Wells, twenty

years ago, recorded some cases of confirmed cancer cured by

taking powdered and triturated oyster shells; whilst egg shells

similarly reduced to a fine dust have proved equally efficacious. It

is remarkable that if the moorlands in the North of England, and in

some parts of Ireland, are turned up for the first time, and strewed

with lime, white clover springs up there in abundance.

Again, a syrup is made from the flowers of the red clover, which

has a trustworthy reputation for curing whooping-cough, and of

which a teaspoonful may be taken three or four times in the day.

Also stress is laid on the healing of skin eruptions in children, by a

decoction of the purple and white meadow trefoils.

The word clover is a corruption of the Latin clava a club; and

the clubs on our playing cards are representations of clover

leaves; whilst in France the same black suit is called trefle.

A conventional trefoil is figured on our coins, both Irish and

English, this plant being the National Badge of Ireland. Its charm

has been ever supposed there as an unfailing protection against

evil influences, as is attested by the spray in the workman's cap,

and in the bosom of the cotter's wife.

The clover trefoil is in some measure a sensitive plant; its

leaves, said Pliny, do start up as if afraid of an assault when

tempestuous weather is at hand.

[112] The phrase, living in clover, alludes to cattle being put to

feed in rich pasturage.

A sworn foe to the purple clover cultivated by farmers, is the

Dodder (Cuscuta trifolii), a destructive vegetable parasite which

strangles the plants in a crafty fashion, and which goes by the

name of hellweed, or devil's guts. It lies in ambush like a

pigmy field octopus, with deadly suckers for draining the sap of its

victims. These it mats together in its wiry, sinuous coils, and

chokes relentlessly by the acre. Nevertheless, the petty garotter--

like a toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in its

head. If boiled, says Hill, with a little ginger, the dodder in

decoction works briskly as a purge. Also, the thievish herb, when

bruised and applied externally to scrofulous tumours, is an

excellent remedy.

The word dodder signifies the plural of dodd, a bunch of

threads. The parasite is sometimes called Red tangle and Lady's


Its botanical name Cuscuta comes from the Greek Kassuo--to

sew together. If the piece of land infested with it is closely mown

(and the cut material carried away unshaken), being next covered

with deal saw-dust, on which a ten per cent. solution of sulphate of

iron is freely poured, then by combining with the tannin contained

in the stems of the Dodder, this will serve to kill the parasite

without doing any injury to the clover or lucerne. Although a

parasite the plant springs every year from seed. It is a remedy for

swooning or fainting fits.

The Sweet Clover (or yellow Melilot), when prepared as a tincture

(H.), with spirit of wine, and given as a medicine in material

doses, causes, in sensitive persons, a severe headache, sometimes

with a determination of [113] blood to the head, and bleeding from

the nose. When administered, on the principle of curative affinity,

in much smaller doses, it is singularly beneficial against nervous

headaches, with oppression of the brain, acting helpfully within

five minutes. Dr. Hughes (Brighton) writes: I value this medicine

much in nervous headaches, and I always carry it in my pocket-case--

as the mother tincture--which I generally administer by olfaction.

For epilepsy, it is said in the United States of America

to be the one grand master-remedy, by giving a drop of the

tincture every five minutes during the attack, and five drops five

times a day in water, for some weeks afterwards.

The Melilot (from mel, honey, and lotus, because much liked

by bees) is known as Plaster Clover from its use since Galen's time

in plasters for dispersing tumours. Continental physicians still

employ the same made of melilot, wax, resin, and olive oil. The

plant contains, Coumarin in common with the Sweet Woodruff,

and the Tonquin Bean. Other names for it are Harts' Clover,

because deer delight to feed on it and King's Clover or Corona

Regis, because the yellow flouers doe crown the top of the

stalkes as with a chaplet of gold. It is an herbaceous plant

common in waste places, and having light green leaves; when

dried it smells like Woodruff, or new hay.