Viper's Bugloss

The Simpler's passing consideration should be given to this tall

handsome English herb which grows frequently in gravel pits, and

on walls. It belongs to the Borage tribe (see page 60), and, in

common with the Lungwort (Pulmonaria), the Comfrey, and the

ordinary Bugloss, abounds in a soft mucilaginous saline juice. This

is demulcent to the chest, or to the urinary passages, being also

slightly laxative. Bees favour the
said plants, which are rich in

honey. Each herb goes by the rustic name of Abraham, Isaac, and

Jacob, because bearing spires of tricoloured flowers, blue, purple,

and red. The Viper's Bugloss is called botanically Echium, having

been formerly considered antidotal to the bite of (Echis) a viper:

and its seed was thought to resemble the reptile's head: wherefore

such a curative virtue became attributed to it after the doctrine of

signatures. In Echio, herba contra viperarum morsus celeberrima,

natura semen viperinis capitibus simile procreavit. Similarly the

Lungwort (or Jerusalem Cowslip), because of its spotted leaves, was

held to be a remedy for diseased lungs. This rarely grows wild, but

it is of frequent cultivation in cottage gardens, bearing also the

rustic name, Soldiers and Sailors, To-day and to-morrow, and

Virgin Mary. From either of these herbs a fomentation of the

flowers, or a decoction of the whole bruised plant, may be employed

with benefit locally to sore or raw surfaces: [595] whilst an infusion

made with three drams of the dried herb to a pint of boiling water

will be good in feverish pulmonary catarrh. By our ancestors viper

broth was thought to be highly invigorating: and vipers cooked like

eels were given to patients suffering from ulcers. The Sardinians

still take them in soup. Marvellous powers were supposed to be

acquired by the Druids through their possession of a viper's egg, laid

in the air, and caught before reaching the earth. All herbs of the

Borage order are indifferently of force and virtue to drive away

sorrow and pensiveness of the mind: also to comfort and strengthen

the heart. With respect to the Comfrey (see page 120), quite

recently the President of the Irish College of Surgeons has reported

the gradual disappearance of a growth (malignant, sarcomatous,

twice recurrent, and of a bad type), since steadily applying

poultices of this root to the tumour. I know nothing, says

Professor Thomson, of the effects of Comfrey root: but the fact that

this growth has simply disappeared is one of the greatest surprises

and puzzles I have met with.