Water Plants (other)

(Water Dropwort, Water Lily, Water Pepper.)

The Water Dropwort--Hemlock (oenanthe crocata) is an umbelliferous

plant, frequent in our marshes and ditches. [604] It is named

from oinos, wine, and anthos, a flower, because its blossoms

have a vinous smell. A medicinal tincture is made (H.) from the

ripe fruit.

The leaves look like Celery, and the roots like parsnips. A country

of this plant is Dead-tongue, from its paralyzing effects on the

organs of the voice. Of eight lads who were poisoned by eating the

root, says Mr. Vaughan, five died before morning, not one of them

having spoken a word. Other names are Horsebane, from its being

thought in Sweden to cause in horses a kind of palsy; (due, as

Linnaeus thought, to an insect, curculio paraplecticus, which

breeds in the stem); and Five-fingered-root, from its five leaflets.

The roots contain a poisonous, milky juice, which becomes yellow

on exposure to the air, and which exudes from all parts of the plant

when wounded. It will be readily seen that because of so virulent a

nature the plant is too dangerous for use as a Herbal Simple, though

the juice has been known to cure obstinate and severe skin disease.

It yields an acrid emetic principle. The root is sometimes applied by

country folk to whitlows, but this has proved an unsafe proceeding.

The plant has a pleasant odour. Its leaves have been mistaken for

Parsley, and its root for the Skirret.

The OEnanthe Phellandrium (Water Fennel) is a variety of the

same species, but with finer leaves. Pliny gave the seeds, twenty

grains for a dose, against stone, and disorders of the bladder. Also

they have been commended for cancer.

In this country Water Lilies, or Pond Lilies, comprise the White

Water Lily--a large native flower inhabiting clear pools and slow

rivers--and the Yellow Water Lily, frequent in rivers and ditches,

with a yellow, globose flower smelling like brandy, so that it is

called Brandy [605] bottle in Norfolk and other parts. Its root and

stalks contain much tannin.

This latter Yellow Lily (Nuphar lutea) possesses medicinal

virtues against diarrhoea, such as is aggravated in the morning, and

against sexual weakness. A tincture is made (H.) from the whole

plant with spirit of wine. The second title, lutea, signifies

growing in the mud; whilst the large white Water Lily is called

Nymphoea, from occurring in the supposed haunts of the

nymphs: and Flatter-dock.

The root stocks of the Yellow Water Lily, when bruised, and

infused in milk, will destroy beetles and cockroaches. The smoke of

the same when burnt will get rid of crickets.

The small Yellow Pond Lily bears the name of Candock, from the

shape of its seed vessel, like that of a silver can or flagon, and this

perhaps has likewise to do with the appellations, Brandy bottle

and Water can: which latter may be given because of the half

unfolded leaves floating on the water like cans.

The root of the larger white Water Lily is acrid, and will redden the

skill if the juice is applied thereto.

An Ointment may be made with this juice to stimulate the scalp so

as to prevent falling out of the hair. The root contains tannin and

mucilage, it is therefore astringent and demulcent. Also the

expressed juice from the fresh leaves of this white Water Lily, the

one sinless flower, if used as a head wash, will preserve the hair.

Oh, destinee des choses d'ici bas! Descendre des austerities du

Cloitre dans l'officine Cancaniere du perruquier!

Dutch boys are said to be extremely careful about plucking or

handling the Water Lily, for, if a boy fall [606] with the flowers in

his possession, he is thought to immediately become subject to fits.

The Water Pepper (Polygonum Hydropiper) or Arsmart, Grows

abundantly by the sides of lakes and ditches in Great Britain. It

bears a vulgar English name signifying the irritation which it causes

when applied to the fundament; and its French sobriquet, Culrage,

conveys the same meaning:--

An erbe is the cause of all this rage,

In our tongue called Culrage.

The plant is further known to rustics as Cyderach, or Ciderage, and

as Red-knees, from its red angular points. It possesses an acrid,

biting taste, somewhat like that of the Peppermint, which resides in

the glandular dots sprinkled about its surface, and which is lost in

drying. Fleas will not come into rooms where this herb is kept. It is

called also lake weed. A tradition says that the plant when placed

under the saddle will enable a horse to travel for some long time

without becoming hungry or thirsty. The Scythians knew this herb

(Hippice) to be useful for such a purpose.

The Water Pepper has its virtues first taught by a beggar of Savoy.

It is admirable against syphilis, and to arrest sexual losses: being

long adored because healing the original sin.

Farriers use it for curing proud flesh in the sores of animals, and

when applied to the human skin, the leaves will serve the purpose of

a mustard poultice. Also, a piece of the plant may be chewed to

relieve toothache, as well as to cure small ulcers of thrush in the

mouth, and pimples on the tongue.

The expressed juice of the freshly-gathered plant has been found

very useful in jaundice. From one to three [607] tablespoonfuls may

be taken for a dose. A hot decoction made from the whole herb

(Water Persicaria) has a sheet soaked in it as an American remedy

for cholera, the patient being wrapped therein immediately when

seized. This herb, together with the Thuja Occidentalis (Arbor

vitoe) makes the Anti-venereo of Count Mattaei.

Another Polygonum, the great Bistort, or Snakeweed, and

Adderswort, is a common wild plant in the northern parts of Great

Britain, having bent or crooked roots, which are difficult to be

extirpated, and are strongly astringent.

This Bistort, twice twisted, on account of its snake-like

root, was at one time called Serpentaria, Columbrina, and


It has been thought to be the Oxylapathum Britannicum and

Limonium of the ancients.

The dose of the root in substance is from twenty to sixty grains. In

the North of England the plant is known as Easter Giant, and its

young shoots are eaten in herb pudding. About Manchester they are

substituted for greens, under the name of Passion's dock. The root

may be employed both externally as a poultice, and inwardly as a

decoction, when an astringent is needed. It is most useful for a

spongy state of the gums, attended with looseness of the teeth.

This plant grows in moist meadows, but is not common. Its roots are

reddish of colour inside.

The Bistort contains starch, and much tannin; likewise its rhizome

(crooked root) furnishes gallic acid. The decoction is to be made

with an ounce of the bruised root boiled in a pint of water; one

tablespoonful of this may be given every two hours in passive

bleedings, and for simple diarrhoea. Other names for the [608] plant

are Osterick, and Twice writhen (bis tort), Red legs, and Man

giant, from the French mangeant, eatable.