Scurvy Grass

One of the roost useful, but not best known, of the Cruciferous wild

plants which are specifics against Scrofula is our English Scurvy


It grows by choice near the sea shore, or in mountainous places; and

even when found many miles from the sea its taste is Salt. It occurs

along the muddy banks of the Avon; also in Wales, and in

Cumberland, more commonly near the coast, and likewise on the

/> mountains of Scotland; again it may be readily cultivated in the

garden for medicinal uses. If eaten as a salad in its fresh state it

is the most effectual of all the antiscorbutic plants.

The herb is produced with an angular smooth shilling stem, twelve

or fourteen inches high, having narrow green leaves, and

terminating in thick clusters of white flowers. Its leaves are good

and wholesome when eaten in spring with bread and butter. The

juice, when diluted with water, makes a good mouth-wash for

spongy gums.

The whole plant contains tannin, and a bitter principle, which is

butyl-mustard oil, and on which the medicinal properties depend.

This oil is of great volatility and penetrating power; one drop

instilled on sugar, or dissolved in spirit, communicates to a quart of

wine the taste and smell of Scurvy Grass.

The fresh plant taken as such, or the expressed fresh juice, confers

the benefits of the herb in by far the most effectual way. A distilled

water, and a conserve prepared with the leaves, were formerly

dispensed by druggists; and the fresh juice mixed with that of

Seville oranges went by the name of spring drinks, or juices.

The plant is found in large quantities at Lymington [496] (Hants),

on low banks almost dipping into the sea. Its expressed juice was

formerly taken in beer, or boiled in milk as a decoction, flavoured

with pepper, aniseed, etc.

This Scurvy Grass has the botanical name Cochlearia, or, in

English, Spoonwort, so named from its leaves resembling in shape

the bowl of an old-fashioned spoon. It is supposed to be the famous

Herba Britannica of the ancients. Our great navigators have borne

unanimous testimony to its never-failing value in scurvy; and it has

been justly noticed that the plant grows most plentifully in altitudes

where scurvy is specially troublesome and frequent. The green herb

bruised may be applied as a poultice.

For making a decoction of the plant as a blood purifier, and against

scurvy, put two ounces of the whole plant and its roots into a quart

jug, and fill up with boiling water, taking care to keep this well

covered. When it is cold take a wineglassful thereof three, or four

times in the day.

Another name for the plant is Scruby grass. The fresh herb has a

strong pungent odour when bruised, and a warm bitter taste. Its

beneficial uses in scurvy, are due to the potash salts which it

contains. Externally, the juice will cleanse and heal foul ulcers,

and ill-favoured eruptions.