The Toadflax, or Flaxweed (Linaria vulgaris) belongs to the

scrofula-curing order of plants, getting its name from linum, flax,

and being termed toad by a [566] mistaken translation of its Latin

title Bubonio, this having been wrongly read bufonio,--

belonging to a toad,--or because having a flower (as the

Snapdragon) like a toad's mouth: whereas bubonio means useful

for the groins.

It is an
pright herbaceous plant most common in hedges, having

leaves like grass of a dull sea green aspect, and bearing dense

clusters of yellow flowers shaped like those of the garden

Snapdragon, with spurs at their base. It continues in flower until the

late autumn. The Russians cultivate the Snapdragon for the oil

yielded by its seeds.

The Toadflax has a faint disagreeable smell, and a bitter saline taste.

It acts medicinally as a powerful purge, and promoter of urine, and

therefore it is employed for carrying off the water of dropsies, being

in this respect a well known rural Simple. Waller says: Country

people boil the whole plant in ale, and drink the decoction; but the

expressed juice of the fresh plant acts still more powerfully.

In many districts the herb is familiarly known as butter and eggs;

and in Germany though dedicated to the Virgin it is called devil's


Again in Devonshire it goes by the names of Rambling, or

Wandering Sailor, Pedler's Basket, Mother of Millions (the

ivy-leaved sort), Lion's Mouth and Flaxweed.

When used externally an infusion of the herb acts as an anodyne to

subdue irritation of the skin, and it may be taken as a medicine to

modify skin diseases. The fresh juice is attractive to flies, but at

the same time it serves to poison them: so if it be mixed with milk,

and placed where flies resort they will drink it and perish at the

first sip.

[567] As promoting a free flow of urine, the herb has been named

Urinalis, or sometimes Ramsted. The flowers contain a yellow

colouring matter, mucilage, and sugar. In Germany they are given

with the rest of the plant for dropsy, jaundice, piles, and some

diseases of the skin. Gerard says: The decoction openeth the

stoppings of the liver, and spleen: and is singular good against the

jaundice which is of long continuance. He advises an ointment

made from the plant stampt with lard for certain skin eruptions, and

a decoction made with four drachms of the herb in eight ounces of

boiling water. The bruised leaves are useful externally for curing

blotches on the face, and for piles.

An old distich says of the Toadflax as compared with the


Esula lactescit: sine lacte Linaria crescit;


Larkspur with milk doth flow:

Toadflax without milk doth grow,

(alluding to the dry nature of the toadflax). To which the Hereditary

Marshal of Hesse added the following line:--

Esoula nil nobis, sed dat linaria taurum,

implying that the herb was of old valued for its good effects when

applied externally to piles as an ointment, a fomentation, or a

poultice, each being made from the leaves and the flowers. The

originator of this ointment was a Dr. Wolph, physician to the

Landgrave of Hesse, who only divulged its formula on the prince

promising to give him a fat ox annually for the discovery.