Natural History (Rackham, Jones, & Eichholz)/Book 22
I. NATURE and our earth might have filled the measure of our wonder at them in anyone who reviews even the preceding volume only, with all Nature's gifts in it, and all the kinds of plants created for the needs or pleasures of mankind. But how many more kinds remain, and how much more wonderful they are in their discovery! For of the plants mentioned already the greater number, owing to their excellence as food, perfume or ornament, have led to repeated experiments; of the rest it is their efficacy that proves that nothing is created by Nature without some more hidden reason than those just mentioned.
II. Now I notice that some foreign peoples use certain plants on their persons both to make themselves more handsome and also to keep up traditional custom. At any rate among barbarian tribes the women stain the face, using, some one plant and some another; and the men too among the Daci and the Sarmatae tattoo their own bodies. In Gaul there is a plant like the plantain, called glastum; with it the wives of the Britons, and their daughters-in-law, stain all the body, and at certain religious ceremonies march along naked, with a colour resembling that of Ethiopians.
III. Moreover we know that clothes are dyed with a wonderful dye from a plant, and, to say nothing of the fact that, of the berries of Galatia, Africa, and Lusitania, the 'coccum' is specially served to colour the military cloaks of our generals, Transalpine Gaul can produce with vegetable dyes Tyrian purple, oyster purple and all other colours. To get these nobody seeks the murex oyster in the depths, offering his person as bait to sea monsters while he hastens to snatch his booty, and exploring a bottom that no anchor yet has touched, merely to discover the means for a matron to charm her paramour more easily and for a seducer to ensnare another's wife. There one stands on land to harvest dyes as we harvest crops; and though there is a complaint that the dye washes out with use, except for this defect luxury could have bedecked itself in brighter colours, and certainly with less risk to life. It is not my intention now to treat this subject fully, but I shall not pass it over entirely, so that I may, by suggesting cheaper materials, curb luxury by expediency, and on another occasion I shall tell how walls are dyed instead of being painted in mosaics. Yet I should not have left out the craft of dyeing altogether, had it ever been included among the liberal arts. In the meantime I shall take a bolder line, and there shall be assigned even to dull, that is to say, lowly plants all the dignity that is their due, since it is a fact that the founders and enlargers of the Roman Empire derived from this source also an immense advantage, because it was from them that came the tufts used when the State needed cures, and also the vervains required in holy ceremonies and in embassies. At any rate both names mean the same thing, that is, a turf from the citadel pulled up with its own earth; and on every occasion when envoys were sent to the enemy to perform clarigatio, that is to demand in loud tones the restitution of plundered property, one in particular was called vervain bearer.
IV. No crown indeed has been a higher honour than the crown of grass among the rewards for glorious deeds given by the sovereign people, lords of the earth. Jewelled crowns, golden crowns, crowns for scaling enemy ramparts or walls, or for boarding men-of-war, the civic crown for saving the life of a citizen, the triumph crownthese were instituted later than this grass crown, and all differ from it greatly, in distinction as in character. All the others have been given by individuals and personally by generals and commanders to their soldiers, or occasionally to their colleagues, or have been decreed in triumphs by a Senate freed from the anxiety of war and by a people enjoying peace; the grass crown has never been conferred except upon the leader of a forlorn hope, being voted only by the whole army and only to him who rescued it. The other crowns have been conferred by commanders, this alone on a commander by his soldiers. The same crown is called the siege crown when a whole camp has been relieved and saved from awful destruction.
But if the civic crown is deemed a glorious and hallowed distinction because the life has been saved of only one and even maybe the lowliest citizen, what, pray, ought to be thought of the preservation of a whole army by the courage of one man? This crown used to be made from green grass pulled up from the site where the besieged men had been relieved by some one. For in old times it was the most solemn token of defeat for the conquered to present grass to their conquerors, for to do so meant that they withdrew from their land, from the very soil that nurtured them and even from means of burial. This custom, I know, exists even today among the Germans.
V. L. Siccius Dentatus was presented with this crown but once, although he earned fourteen civic crowns and fought out one hundred and twenty battles, victorious in all. So much rarer a thing is it for a decoration to be conferred by rescued men upon the one man who rescued them. Certain commanders have even been decorated more than once, P. Decius Mus, for instance, when military tribune, once by his own army, and again by those who formed the relieved garrison. He showed by a devout act how great a dignity this distinction brought with it, seeing that after the presentation he sacrificed to Mars a white bull, as well as the hundred tawny ones which at the same time had been given to him by the relieved garrison in recognition of his courage. This Decius afterwards when consul with Emperiosus as his colleague sacrificed himself as a victim in order to secure victory. It was also given by the Senate and People of Romethe highest distinction in my opinion that a human being can attain toto that Fabius who 'restored the whole Roman State' by refusing to fight, not however on the occasion when he rescued the Master of the Horse and his army; it was then thought preferable for a crown and a new title, 'Father,' to be given him by those whom he had rescued. The unanimous vote I spoke of gave him the honour when Hannibal was driven from Italy, and the crown was the only one placed on the recipient's head by the hand of the State itself, anda special feature in the case of Fabiusit was the only one given by the whole of Italy.
VI. Besides these the distinction of the grass crown has been won for service in Sicily by M. Calpurnius Flamma, tribune of the soldiers, and in the war with the Cimbri by Cn. Petreius of Atina, the only centurion to receive it up to the present time. Serving as Head Centurion under Catulus, he harangued his legion when it was cut off by the enemy, killed his own tribune when he hesitated to break through the enemy camp, and brought the legion out. I find in my authorities that in addition to this honour the same man, with the consuls Marius and Catulus at his side, offered sacrifice, wearing the magisterial gown, on a brazier placed for the purpose, and to the music of the piper. Sulla the Dictator also has written that he too was presented by his army with this crown before Nola, when he was lieutenant-general in the Marsian war, and moreover had the scene painted in his Tusculan villa, afterwards the property of Cicero. If Sulla tells the truth, it would make me describe him as all the more detestable, because by his proscription he with his own hand tore the crown from his own head, so much fewer were the citizens he saved than those whom he afterwards slew. Let him also add to this distinction the proud surname of Felix, nevertheless he himself resigned to Sertorius this crown when he besieged the proscribed in every part of the world. Scipio Aemilianus also was, according to Varro, presented with the siege crown in Africa when Manilius was consul, having rescued three cohorts with three others led out to rescue them. Such is the story carved under Scipio's statue by Augustus, now in Heaven, in the Forum Augusti. Augustus himself, in the consulship of Marcus Cicero junior, was on the 13th September presented with the siege crown by the Senate; so inadequate was the civic crown thought to be. Nobody else at all, I find, has received this distinction.
VII. There were therefore no special plants used in making this crown, but whatever plants had been found on the site of the peril, however lowly and mean, these gave the honour its nobility. That such ignorance about the composition of this crown is rife amongst us I consider less strange when I see the further indifference to the means of preserving health, of banishing physical pain and of warding off death. But who could not with justice censure modern ways? The cost of living has been increased by luxuries and extravagance; never has there been more zest for life or less care taken of it. We believe that care of our life is the duty of others, that others make it their business on instructions from us, and that physicians have already provided for our needs. The enjoyment of pleasures is our personal affair, but our lives we entrust to the charge of somebody else, thereby incurring what I personally hold to be the worst possible disgrace. Moreover, most people actually laugh at me for carrying on research in these matters, and I am accused of busying myself with trifles. It is, however, a great comfort to me in my vast toil to know that Nature too, not I alone, incurs this contempt, for I shall show that she at least has not failed us, having put remedies even into plants that we dislike, seeing that she has given healing properties even to those armed with prickles and thorns. For these remain to be discussed next after those plants I mentioned in the preceding book, as even in them we cannot sufficiently apprehend and admire the forethought of Nature. She had given already the soft plants I spoke of that make pleasant foods; she had coloured the remedies in flowers, and by the mere sight had attracted our attention, combining the helpful with what is actually delightful. Then she devised some so repellent to look at, so cruel to the touch, that we seem almost to hear the voice of Nature justifying herself as she fashions them, and saying that she so creates them lest any greedy animal browse on her own self, any wanton hands steal, any careless steps crush, or any perching bird break; by defending them with these thorns, by arming them with weapons, she is making a protection and safety for her remedies. This very thing then that we hate in them has been devised for the sake of mankind.
VIII. Especially famous among spinous plants is the erynge, or eryngion, that grows to counteract snake bites and all poisons. For stings and bites its root in doses of one drachma is taken in wine, or in water if (as usually happens) such injuries are also accompanied by fever. It is applied to the wounds, being a specific for those caused by amphibious snakes and frogs. Heraclides the physician is of opinion that boiled in goose broth it is more efficacious than any other remedy for aconite and other poisoning. Apollodorus would boil it with a frog a for poisoning, the other authorities say in water only. The plant itself is hardy, bushy, with prickly leaves and jointed stem, a cubit high or occasionally taller, partly palish in colour, partly dark, and with a fragrant root. While it is a cultivated plant it also grows wild on rough, stony ground and on the sea shore, when it is more hardy and darker, with a leaf like that of celery.
IX. Of these the pale variety is called 'hundred heads' by our countrymen. All kinds have the same properties, and the Greeks make a food of the stem and the root, served in either way you like, boiled or eaten raw. Marvellous is the chnracteristic reported of it, that its root grows into the likeness of the organs of one sex or the other; it is rarely so found, but should the male form come into the possession of men, they become lovable in the eyes of women. This, it is said, is how Phaon of Lesbos too won the love of Sappho, there being much idle trifling on this subject not only among the Magi but also among the Pythagoreans. When used in medicine, however, besides the advantages mentioned above, it relieves flatulence, colic, affections of the heart, stomach, liver and hypochondria, if taken in hydromel, and the spleen if taken in vinegar and water. With hydromel again it helps the kidneys, strangury, opisthotonic tetanus, cramp, lumbago, dropsy, epilepsy, deficiency or excess in menstruation, and all affections of the uterus. With honey it draws out substances embedded in the flesh. Applied with salted axle-grease and wax ointment it heals scrofulous sores, parotid tumours, superficial abscesses, and the falling away of flesh from the bones; fractures also. Taken beforehand it keeps off the after-effects of wine, and checks looseness of the bowels. Some of our countrymen have recommended it to be gathered near the summer solstice and to be applied with rain water for all affections of the neck. Some have recorded that albugo also of the eyes is cured by using it as an amulet.
X. Some with eryngium class acanus also, a thorny, short and broad plant, with rather broad thorns. An application of it is said to be wonderfully good for checking haemorrhage.
XI. Some have incorrectly thought that erynge is the same as liquorice, which therefore should come immediately after erynge in my discussion. The plant itself is undoubtedly among the spinous ones, with prickly, fleshy, gummy leaves, bushy, two cubits high, with a flower like the hyacinth, and fruit the size of the little balls of the plane tree. The finest grows in Cilicia, the next best in Pontus; it has a sweet root, the only part to be used. It is dug up at the setting of the Pleiades, and is as long as lycium root, the boxwood-coloured being superior to the dark and the pliant to the brittle. To be used as a suppository it is boiled down to one-third, for other purposes to the consistency of honey, though occasionally it is pounded, in which form it is applied to wounds and for all affections of the throat. Merely thickened and then placed under the tongue the juice is good for the voice; it is also good for the chest and liver. I have already stated that this root allays hunger and thirst, for which reason some have named it adipsos (thirst-quencher), and prescribed it for dropsy, in order to prevent thirst. Because of this property it is chewed as a mouth medicine, and it is often sprinkled on sores in the mouth and inflammatory swellings of the eyelids. It also cures irritation of the bladder, pains in the kidneys, tumours of the anus, and sores on the genitals. Some have prescribed it in a draught for quartan ague, in doses of two drachmae by weight, with pepper, to be taken in a hemina of water. Chewed, it checks the flow of blood from a wound. Some authorities have asserted that it also expels stone from the bladder.
XII. One kind of caltrop grows in gardens, the other only in rivers. From both the juice is collected to make eye medicines, for it is of a cooling nature and therefore useful for inflammations and abscesses. Mixed with honey it heals sores that break out of themselves, especially those in the mouth, and also sore tonsils. Taken in drink it breaks up stone in the bladder. The Thracians on the banks of the Strymon feed their horses on the leaves of the caltrop, themselves living on the kernel, out of which they make a very pleasant bread, and one to bind the bowels. The root, if gathered in chastity and purity, disperses scrofulous sores; the seed used as an amulet soothes painful varicose veins; pounded, moreover, and sprinkled in water it kills fleas.
XIII. Stoebe, which some call pheos, boiled in wine is specific for suppurating ears, as well as for black eyes. It is injected into the bowels for haemorrhage and dysentery.
XIV. Hippophaes grows on sandy soils and by the sea. It has pale thorns, and clusters, like those of ivy, with berries partly white and partly red. Its root is rich in a juice which is either dispensed by itself or made up into lozenges with vetch meal. An obolus by weight carries off bile, most healthfully if taken with honey wine. There is another hippophaes, consisting only of very small leaves without stem or flower. The juice of this also is wonderfully good for dropsy. They must be well suited to the constitution of horses too, and must also have received their name for this and no other reason. The fact is that certain plants are created to be remedies for the diseases of animals, the Deity being bounteous in producing protections for them, so that it is impossible to admire enough his wisdom, which arranges the aids according to the type of disease, the cause of it, and its season. Each period of the year has its own appropriate remedy, and scarcely can any be found that is without its safeguards.
XV. What can be more hateful than the nettle? Yet this plant, to say nothing of the oil which I have said is made from it in Egypt, simply abounds in remedies. Nicander assures us that its seed counteracts hemlock, and also the poison of fungi and of mercury. Apollodorus says that with the broth of boiled tortoise it is good for salamander bites, and as an antidote for henbane, snake bites and scorpion stings. Moreover, its pungent bitterness itself, by the mere touch, forces to subside swollen uvulas, restoring prolapsus of the uterus, and of the anus of babies, besides waking up lethargus patients if it touches their legs or better still their forehead. The same plant with the addition of salt heals dog bites; pounded and inserted it arrests nose bleeding, the root proving even better. Mixed with salt it heals carcinoma and foul ulcers, likewise sprains, superficial abscesses, parotid abscesses and falling away of flesh from the bones. The seed taken with boiled must relieves suffocation of the uterus, and an application checks bleeding at the nose. Taken in hydromel after dinner in a dose of two oboli it makes vomiting easy, while one obolus in wine refreshes after fatigue. Uterine affections are relieved by an acetabulum of the roasted seed, and flatulence by taking it in boiled must. With honey it relieves asthma, clears the chest by the same made into an electuary, and with linseed cures pain in the side. Hyssop may be added and a little pepper. It is used as an application for the spleen; roasted and taken as food it loosens constipated bowels. Hippocrates declares that taken in drink it purges the uterus, that an acetabulum of it roasted and taken in sweet wine and applied with mallow juice relieves uterine pains, that intestinal worms are expelled if it be taken with hydromel and salt, and that a liniment made from its seed replaces disfiguring loss of hair. For affections of the joints and for gout most prescribe application of it with old oil or of the pounded leaves with bears' grease. The crushed root with vinegar is no less useful for the same purposes, and also for the spleen, and boiled in wine and mixed with old and salted axle-grease it disperses superficial abscesses. The same root dried is a depilatory. Phanias the naturalist has sung its praises, maintaining that either boiled or preserved it is a most useful food for the trachea, cough, bowel catarrh, the stomach, superficial abscesses, parotid swellings and chilblains, that with oil it is sudorific, boiled with shell-fish a laxative, that with barley-water it clears the chest and promotes menstruation, and that mixed with salt it arrests creeping sores. For the juice too a use is found. An extract applied to the forehead checks bleeding at the nose; a draught is diuretic, breaks up stone in the bladder, and used as a gargle reduces the uvula. The seed should be gathered at harvest time, that of Alexandria being most prized. For all these purposes, though the milder and tender nettles are efficacious, the well known wild variety is particularly so, and it has this further merit, when taken in wine, of removing leprous sores from the face. We are told that should an animal resist conception, its parts should be rubbed with a nettle.
XVI. That species of nettle which I have called lamium (dead-nettle), a very mild kind with leaves that do not sting, cures with a sprinkling of salt contusions, bruises, burns, scrofulous sores, tumours, gouty pains and wounds. The middle of the leaf is white, and cures erysipelas. Certain of our countrymen have distinguished nettles by their season, stating that the disease is cured if the root of the autumn nettle is used as an amulet for tertian ague, provided that when this root is dug up the names of the patients be uttered and it be said for what man it is taken up and who his parents are, the same method is effective in quartan agues The same authorities add that the root of the nettle with salt added, extracts bodies embedded in the flesh, that the leaves with axle-grease disperse scrofulous swellings, or, if they have suppurated, cause them to clear up and new flesh to be formed.
XVII. Association has given its name to the scorpion plant. For it has seed that resembles the tail of the scorpion, but only a few leaves. It has moreover power over the creature of the same name. There is also another kind, with the same name and properties, that is leafless, with the stem of asparagus, having on its head the sharp point which has given the plant its name.
XVIII. Leucacantha, also called phyllos, ischas, or polygonatum, has a root like that of cypirus, which when chewed relieves toothache; pains also in the sides and loins, as Hicesius teaches, the seed or juice being taken in drink, and the dose being eight drachmae. The same plant is used for the cure of ruptures and convulsions.
XIX. Helxine, called by some perdicium (partridge plant) because partridges are particularly fond of eating it, by others sideritis, and by a few people parthenium, has leaves that resemble partly those of the plantain and partly those of horehound, stalks small, close together and reddish in colour, and, in bur-shaped heads, seeds that cling to the clothes. Hence is derived, some hold, the name helxine. The characteristics, however, of the genuine helxine I have described in the preceding book, but this helxine dyes wool, cures erysipelas, every kind of tumour or boil, burns and superficial abscesses. Its juice with white-lead cures also incipient swelling of the throat, and a draught of a cyathus cures chronic cough and all complaints in moist parts, like the tonsils; with rose oil it is good for the ears. It is also applied, with goat suet and Cyprian wax, to gouty limbs.
XX. Perdieium or parthenium or, to give it yet another name, sideritis, is another plant, called by some of our countrymen urceolaris, by others astercoin. It has a leaf similar to that of basil, only darker, and it grows on tiles and among ruins. Pounded and sprinkled with a pinch of salt it cures the same diseases as dead-nettle, all of them, and is administered in the same way. The juice too taken hot is good for abscesses, and is remarkably good for convulsions, ruptures, bruises caused by slipping or by falling from a height, for instance, when vehicles overturn. A household slave, a favourite of Pericles, first citizen of Athens, when engaged in building the temple on the Acropolis, crawled on the top of the high roof and fell. He is said to have been cured by this plant, which in a dream was prescribed to Pericles by Minerva; therefore it began to be called parthenium, and was consecrated to that goddess. This is the slave whose portrait was cast in bronze, the famous Entrail Roaster.
XXI. The chamaeleon is called by some ixia. There are two kinds of it. The whiter has rougher leaves, and creeps along the ground raising its prickles as the hedgehog does his quills; it has a sweet root and a strong smell. In some districts it exudes a white viscous substance just where the leaves join the stem, especially about the time the Dog-star rises, in the way frankincense is said to form, and this is why it is also called ixia. Women use it as chewing-gum. The other name chamaeleon comes from the varied colour of its leaves; for it changes its colour with the soildark here, green there, in some places blue, in others saffron yellow, and of other colours elsewhere. A decoction of the root of the white variety cures dropsy, the dose being a drachma taken in raisin wine. Intestinal parasites also are expelled by a dose of an acetabulum of the same juice taken in a harsh wine with sprigs of wild marjoram. It is diuretic. Dogs too and pigs are killed by this juice in pearl barley with water and oil added. It attracts mice to itself, and kills them, unless they swallow water at once. Some people recommend that its root be cut up and kept suspended by cords, and be boiled in food against those fluxes which the Greeks call ρευματισμοί. Of the dark variety that with a purple flower is said by some to be the male plant, that with a violet flower the female. They grow together, with a stem a cubit high and of the thickness of a finger. Their roots, boiled with sulphur together with bitumen, cure lichen; chewed, moreover, or boiled down in vinegar, they tighten loose teeth, and the juice cures the scab in animals. It kills ticks on dogs, as well as bullocks, choking them as a quinsy does, for which reason some call it ulophonon, and it is also called, because of its offensive smell, cynozolon. These plants too produce a viscous substance, which is very good for sores. The roots too of all their kinds are an antidote to the sting of the scorpion.
XXII. Hartshorn is a longish plant with fissures. Sometimes it is cultivated, because its root, roasted in hot ashes, is a splendid remedy for coeliac complaints.
XXIII. Alkanet too has a useful root, which is of the thickness of a finger. It is split into small divisions like the papyrus, and stains the hands the colour of blood; it prepares wool for costly colours. Applied in wax ointment it heals ulcerous sores, especially those of the aged, and also burns. Insoluble in water, it dissolves in oil, and this is the test of genuineness. A drachma of it is given to be taken in wine for pains in the kidneys, or if there be fever, in a decoction of behen nut; also for affections of the liver and spleen and for violent biliousness. It is applied in vinegar to leprous sores and freckles. The pounded leaves, with honey and meal, are applied to sprains, and doses of two drachmae in honey wine check looseness of the bowels. Fleas are said to be killed by a decoction of the root in water.
XXIV. There is also another plant, which being like ilkanet is called bastard alkanet, though some call it echis or doris or by many other names; it is more downy than the other and less fleshy, the leaves are thinner and more flabby. The root in oil does not give out a red juice, by which test it is distinguished from true alkanet. The leaves or seed taken in drink are a very sure antidote to snake bite. The leaves are applied to stings and bites, and their strong smell keeps snakes away. A draught too is made from the plant for affections of the spine. The Magi recommend that a leaf of it should be gathered with the left hand, with a declaration for whom it is being taken, and used as an amulet for tertian fevers.
XXV. There is another plant also, the proper name of which is onochilon, called by some people anchusa, or archebion, or onochelis, or rhexia, and by many enchrysa. It has a short base, a purple flower, rough leaves and branches, a root blood-red at harvest time, though dark at other times, growing on sandy soils, an antidote to the bites of serpents, especially of vipers, both root and leaves being equally efficacious in food and in drink. Its properties are strongest at harvest time. Its leaves when pounded give out the smell of cucumber. It is given in doses of three cyathi for prolapsus of the uterus. With hyssop it also drives out tapeworms, and for pain of the kidneys or liver it is taken in hydromel, should there be fever, otherwise in wine. The root is applied locally for freckles and leprous sores. It is said that while having it on their person people are never bitten by serpents. There is also another plant similar to this, but smaller, with a red flower, which is also used for the same purposes. It is said that if this plant be chewed, and then spat out on a serpent, the serpent dies.
XXVI. Chamomile is most highly praised by Asclepiades. Some call it white chamomile, others leucanthemum, others eranthemis, because it blossoms in spring, others ground-apple (chamemelon), because it has the smell of an apple. A few call it melanthion. Its three varieties differ only in their blossom; they are no taller than a span, with small leaves like those of rue, and with blossom that is white or apple-yellow or purple. It is gathered in spring on thin soils or near footpaths, and put by for making chaplets. At the same season physicians also make up into lozenges the pounded leaves, as well as the blossom and the root. All three are mixed and given in doses of one drachma for the bites of every kind of snake. Taken in drink they bring away the dead foetus, are emmenagogues and diuretic, as well as good for stone, flatulence, affections of the liver, for excessive secretion of bile and for fistula of the eye; chewed it heals running sores. Of all these kinds the most efficacious for stone in the bladder is that which has a purple flower, the leaves and stem of which arc of a rather larger size. Some people give the name eranthemis exclusively to this variety.
XXVII. Those who think that the lotus is only a tree can be refuted even by the authority of Homer, who among the plants that grow up to serve the pleasure of the gods mentions the lotus first. Its leaves with honey cause to disappear scars on the eyes, films on the eyes and argema.
XXVIII. We have also the lotometra, a plant derived from the lotus. From its rotted seed, which is like millet, are made by the shepherds in Egypt loaves that they knead mostly with water or milk. It is said that no bread is more healthful or lighter than this, so long as it is warm, but when cold it becomes heavy and difficult of digestion. It is an established fact that those who live on it are never attacked by dysentery, tenesmus, or any other disease of the bowels. Accordingly it is considered to be one of the remedies for such ailments.
XXIX. I have spoken more than once of the marvel of heliotropium, which turns round with the sun even on a cloudy day, so great a love it has for that, luminary. At night it closes its blue flower as though it mourned. There are two varietiestricoccum and helioscopium. The latter is the taller, although neither is more than half a foot in height, and sends out branches from a single root. Its seed, enclosed in a pod, is gathered at harvest time. It grows nowhere but in a rich, well cultivated soil, but tricoccum grows everywhere. I find it said that, boiled, it is an agreeable sauce, that in milk it is a gentle laxative, and that a draught of the decoction is a most drastic purge. The juice of the taller plant is collected in summer at the sixth hour; it is mixed with wine, which makes it keep longer. Mixed with rose oil it relieves headache. The juice from the leaf, with salt added, takes away warts; or which reason our countrymen have called it wart plant, although it is more worthy to have a name derived from its other properties. For taken in wine or hydromel it counteracts the poison of snakes and scorpions, according to the statements of Apollophanes and Apollodorus. An application of the leaves cures the infantile catarrhs that are called siriasis, and also convulsions, even though caused by epilepsy. It is very healthful, too, to wash out the mouth with a decoction. A draught of the same expels tape-worms and gravel; if cummin be added, it breaks up stone. A decoction should include the root, which with leaves and he-goat suet is applied to gouty limbs. The other kind, called by us tucoccum and having the further name of scorpiuron, has leaves which not only are smaller but also turn towards the ground. Its seed is shaped like a scorpion's tail, which accounts for its name. An application is of great efficacy against the poison of all venomous animals and spiders, but especially against that of scorpions. Those carrying it are never stung, and if with a sprig of heliotropium a circle be drawn on the ground round a scorpion, it is said that it never moves out, and moreover, that if the plant is put on a scorpion, or if a scorpion merely be sprinkled with the wet plant, it dies at once. Four grains of the seed taken in drink are said to be good for quartan ague, three grains however for tertian, or the plant itself may be carried three times round the patient and then placed under his head. The seed is also aphrodisiac, mixed with honey it disperses superficial abscesses. This heliotropium at any rate draws warts out by the root, as well as growths in the seat. Corrupt blood also about the spine or in the loins is withdrawn by an application of the seed, and by a draught or decoction of it in chicken broth, or with beet and lentils. The husk of the seed restores the natural colour to livid patches. The Magi recommend that the patient himself should tie on himself heliotropium, four pieces if the ague be quartan and three if it be tertian, and to say in prayer that he will untie the knots only when the fever has left him, and to lie in bed without taking the plant off.
XXX. Maidenhair too is remarkable, but in other ways. It is green in summer without fading in winter; it rejects water; sprinkled or dipped it is just like a dry plantso great is the antipathy manifestedwhence too comes the name given by the Greeks to what in other respects is a shrub for ornamental gardens. Some call it lovely hair or thick hair, both names being derived from its properties. For it dyes the hair, for which purpose a decoction is made in wine with celery seed added and plenty of oil, in order to make it grow curly and thick; moreover it prevents hair from falling out. There are two kinds: one is whiter than the other, which is dark and shorter. The larger kind, thick hair, is called by some trichomanes. Both have sprigs of a shiny black, with leaves like those of fern, of which the lower are rough and tawny, but all grow from opposite footstalks, close set and facing each other; there is no root. It is mostly found on shaded rocks, walls wet with spray, especially the grottoes of fountains, and on boulders streaming with waterstrange places for a plant that is unaffected by water! It is remarkably good for expelling stones from the bladder, breaking them up, the dark kind does so at any rate. This, I am inclined to believe, is the reason why it is called saxifrage (stone-breaker) rather than because it grows on stones. It is taken in wine, the dose being what can be plucked with three fingers. Diuretic, the maidenhairs counteract the venom of snakes and spiders; a decoction in wine checks looseness of the bowels; a chaplet made out of them relieves headache. An application of them is good for scolopendra stings, though it must be taken off repeatedly for fear of burns. The same treatment applies to fox-mange also. They disperse scrofulous sores, scurf on the face and running sores on the head. A decoction of them is beneficial for asthma, liver, spleen, violent biliousness and dropsy. With wormwood an application of them is used in strangury and to help the kidneys. They promote the afterbirth and menstruation. Taken in vinegar or blackberry juice they check haemorrhage. Sore places too on babies are treated by an ointment of maidenhair with rose oil, wine being applied first. The leaves steeped in the urine of a boy [or girl] not yet adolescent, if they be pounded with saltpetre and applied to the abdomen of women, prevent the formation of wrinkles. It is thought that partridges and cockerels become better fighters if maidenhair be added to their food, and it is very good for cattle.
XXXI. Picris is so called because of its remarkable bitterness, as I have already stated, and has a round leaf. It is excellent for the removal of warts. Thesium too is of a like bitterness, but is a strong purgative, for which use it is pounded in water.
XXXII. Asphodel is one of the most famous plants, so that some have styled it the plant of the heroes; Hesiod said that it also grows in woods, Dionysius that it may be male or female. It is agreed that its bulbs boiled down with barley water are very suitable for wasting bodies and consumptives, and that kneaded with meal they make a very wholesome bread. Nicander too prescribed for the poison of snakes and scorpions either the stalk which I have called anthericum, or the seed, or the bulbs, the dose being three drachmae taken in wine, and he would have them spread under the sleeping place, should there be any fear of venomous creatures. It is also prescribed for poisoning by sea creatures and by land scolopendras. It is strange how in Campania the snails seek its stalk and by sucking shrivel it up. The leaves too in wine are applied to the wounds of venomous creatures. The bulbs are pounded and applied with pearl barley to the sinews and joints. It is a good plan to chop them up and to rub in with them in vinegar; also to put them in water on putrescent sores, and on inflammations too of the breasts and testicles. Boiled down in lees of wine and dabbed on from below with a piece of lint, they cure fluxes of the eyes. In nearly every disease the bulbs are usually boiled before use, but for foul sores on the shins, and for cracks in any part of the body they are dried and reduced to powder. Autumn is the time they are gathered, when their power is at its best. The juice also extracted from crushed or boiled bulbs is, mixed with honey, good for an aching body; and the same, with dried iris and a little salt, helps those who are nicely particular about the odour of their persons. The leaves, boiled down in wine, cure both the complaints mentioned above and also scrofulous swellings, superficial abscesses and sores on the face. The ashes of the root are a remedy for fox-mange and for cracks on the feet or seat, and the juice of the root boiled in oil for chilblains and bums. This is poured into the ears for deafness, and for toothache into the ear opposite to the pain. A moderate dose, one drachma, of the root, taken in wine, is diuretic and an emmenagogue, besides being good for pain in the side, ruptures, convulsions and coughs. Chewing the root acts as an emetic; the seed if taken internally disturbs the bowels. Chrysermus treated parotid abscesses also by a decoction of the root in wine, and scrofulous swellings by the decoction added to cachry in wine. Some say that if, after applying the root, a part of it be hung in the smoke and not taken down before the fourth day, as the root dries up the scrofulous swelling subsides. Diocles used the root for gouty conditions in either way, boiled or raw, and for chilblains a decoction in oil. He prescribed it in wine for violent biliousness and for dropsy. It has also been held that it is aphrodisiac if, with wine and honey, it is used as an ointment or taken as a medicine. Xenocrates also says that a decoction of the root in vinegar removes lichen, itchscab and leprous sores, further that dried and mixed with henbane and melted pitch it does the same for unpleasant odour from armpits and thighs, and that the hair grows again more curly if the scalp be first shaved and then rubbed with this root; Simos says that a draught of the decoction in wine removes stone of the kidneys. Hippocrates holds that for attacks of the spleen it should be given in the form of seed. When beasts of burden too have sores or itch-scab, an application of the root or of a decoction of it restores the hair that has been lost. The root keeps away mice, which also die if their holes be closed up with it.
XXXIII. Some have thought that Hesiod means halimon when he speaks of asphodel, but this view I think is wrong. For halimon is a separate plant with a name of its own, which itself has been the cause of no small confusion among our authorities. For some describe it as a thick shrub, pale, free from thorns, with the leaves of an olive, only softer, saying that these are boiled to be used as food, and that the root, taken in hydromel, the dose being a drachma by weight, is good for colic, and also for ruptures and convulsions. Others have said that it is a salty vegetable of the seashore (hence its name), with long, rounded leaves, and highly esteemed as a food. They add that of the two kinds, wild and cultivated, both are good, taken with bread, for dysentery, even with ulceration, and also, in vinegar, for the stomach; that it is applied raw to chronic ulcers, soothes the smart of recent wounds and of sprained ankles, as well as pains of the bladder; that the wild kind has thinner leaves, but greater effects when used for the same purposes as the other, and in healing itch in both man and beast; moreover that the skin becomes clearer and the teeth whiter, its root be used to rub them with, and thirst is not felt by those who put the seed under their tongue; that this kind too is chewed, and both kinds preserved as well. Crateuas has mentioned a third kind also, with longer and more hairy leaves and the smell of cypress, as growing chiefly under ivy and being good for opisthotonic tetanus and cramp, the dose being three oboli to a sextarius of water.
XXXIV. There are two kinds of acanthus, a plant of the ornamental garden and of the city, which has a broad, long leaf, and covers the banks of borders and the flat tops of the raised portions of gardens. One is thorny and curled, which is the shorter; the other is smooth, and is called by some paederos, by others melamphyllum. Its roots are wonderfully good for burns, sprains, ruptures, convulsions, and those threatened with consumption; for which reason they are boiled for food, mostly in barley water. For gouty limbs too they are applied, pounded and hot.
XXXV. Bupleuron is considered by the Greeks to be among the vegetables growing wild. It has a stem a cubit high, many and long leaves, and the head of dill. Hippocrates recommends it as a food, Glauco and Nicander as a medicine. Its seed counteracts the poison of serpents. The leaves or the juice they apply in wine for the removal of the afterbirth, and the leaves with salt and wine for scrofulous swellings. Its root is given in wine for snake bites and as a diuretic.
XXXVI. Buprestis the Greeks with great inconsistency went to the length of including among their praised foods, and yet they prescribed correctives of it as though it were poison, and the mere name implies that it is poison to oxen at any rate, which it is allowed burst when they taste it. Wherefore it is one of the plants about which I shall not speak at length. Is there indeed a reason why I should describe poisons when dealing with grass crowns, unless there be someone who thinks that for the sake of lust buprestis is desirable, which taken in drink is the most potent aphrodisiac known?
XXXVII. Elaphoboscon (wild parsnip) is a plant like fennel-giant, with a jointed stem of the thickness of a finger, the seed in clusters hanging down like hartwort, but not bitter, and with the leaves of olusatrum. This too has been praised as a foodin fact it is even preserved for future usebeing good as a diuretic, for soothing pains in the side, for curing ruptures and spasms, for dispersing flatulence and colic, and for the wounds of snakes and of all stinging creaturesin fact report has it that deer by eating it fortify themselves against snakes. Fistulas too are cured by the application of the root with saltpetre added, but when used in this way it must first be dried, so that it may not be soaking with its own juice, although the latter does not impair its efficacy as a remedy for snake bites.
XXXVIII. Scandix (chervil) too is classed by the Greeks as a wild vegetable, as Ophion and Erasistratus report. A decoction of it too tones up loose bowels, its seed in vinegar immediately checks hiccough. It is applied to burns and is diuretic. The juice of the decoction is good for stomach, liver, kidneys, and bladder. This is the plant that Aristophanes uses to poke fun at the poet Euripides, implying that his mother had not been a seller of even proper vegetables, but only of scandix. It would be the same sort of plant as enthryscurn, were its leaves thinner and more fragrant. Its special merit is that it gives strength to a body exhausted by sexual indulgence, and revives sexual virility when flagging through old age. It checks leucorrhoea in women.
XXXIX. Iasine (bindweed?) too is considered to be a wild vegetable. It creeps on the ground, is full of milky juice, and bears a white flower called conchylium. This plant too has the same merit of exciting to sexual intercourse. Eaten raw in vinegar with food it brings also a rich supply of milk to nursing mothers. It is health-giving to those suffering from consumption. Applied to the head of babies it makes the hair grow, and the scalp more retentive of it.
XL. Caucalis too is edible, a plant like fennel, with a short stem and a white flower. It is good for the heart; its juice too is taken as a draught, being especially good for the stomach and urine, for expelling stone and gravel, and for irritation of the bladder. It alleviates also catarrhs of the spleen, liver and kidneys. The seed promotes menstruation, and dries up bilious secretions after childbirth. It is also prescribed for seminal fluxes in men. Chrysippus is also of opinion that it greatly helps conception. It is taken in wine fasting. It is also applied to the wounds caused by poisonous sea creatures, as Petrichus points out in his poem.
XLI. With these is also classed sium, broader than celery, growing in water, rather thick and dark, with an abundance of seed and the taste of cress. It is good for the urine, kidneys, spleen, and for menstruation, whether it is taken as food, just as it is, or in the form of a decoction, or the seed may be given with wine, the dose being two drachmae. It breaks up stone, and neutralizes the water that causes them. An infusion is good for dysentery, and a liniment of it for freckles. An application at night removes spots from women's faces, while made into ointment it clears the skin, soothes hernia, and is a good dressing for scab in horses.
XLII. Syllibus, a plant like white chamaeleon, and equally prickly, is not thought to be worth boiling even in Cilicia or Syria or Phoenicia, the places where it grows, so troublesome is the cooking of it said to be. As a medicine it is of no use at all.
XLIII. Scolymus too has been adopted as a food in the East, where it has the further name of limonia. It is a shrub never more than a cubit high, with tufts of leaves and a dark but sweet root; Eratosthenes too praises it as a valuable food for those of moderate means. It is said to be highly diuretic, to cure lichen and leprons sores when applied in vinegar, and according to Hesiod and Alcaens, to be an aphrodisiac when taken in wine. They have written that when it is in blossom the song of the cricket is shrillest, women are most amorous and men most backward in sexual unions, as though it were through Nature's providence that this stimulant is at its best when badly needed. Offensive odour from the armpits is corrected by an ounce of the root, without the pith, in three heminae of Falernian wine boiled down to one third, to be taken fasting after the bath and again after food, the dose being a cyathus at a time. Xenocrates assures us of a remarkable thing, that he has proved by experiment, that the offensive smell passes off from the armpits by way of the urine.
XLIV. Sow-thistle too is edibleat any rate. Callimachus makes Hecale set it before Theseusboth the pale kind and the dark. Both are like lettuce, except that they are prickly, with a stem a cubit high, angular and hollow inside, which on being broken streams with a milky juice. The pale kind, which shines because of the milk in it, is good for asthma if taken with salad-dressing as is lettuce. Erasistratus informs us that it carries away stone in the urine, and that to chew it purifies foul breath. Three cyathi of the juice warmed in white wine and oil aid delivery, but the expectant mother must take a walk immediately after drinking it; it is also given in broth. A decoction of the stem itself makes the milk abundant in nurses and improves the complexion of the babies, being very useful to those women who are subject to curdling their milk. The juice is injected into the ears, and a cyathus of it is drunk warm for strangury, for gnawing pains of the stomach with cucumber seed and pine nuts. It is used also externally for abscesses at the anus. It is taken in drink for the poison of snakes and scorpions, but the root is used as an external application. Boiled in oil and in the skin of a pomegranate the root is also a remedy for complaints of the ears. All these preparations must be made from the white kind. Cleemporus says that the dark kind must not be eaten, because it causes diseases, but he agrees to the use of the white. Agathocles asserts that its juice counteracts even the poison of bull's blood, yet since it is agreed that the dark kind has cooling properties, pearl barley must therefore be added to the application. Zeno recommends the root of the white kind for strangury.
XLV. Condrion or condrille has leaves like those of endive, eaten away as it were round the edges, a stem less than a foot and moist with a bitter juice, and a root like a bean, occasionally manifold. Next to the ground it grows a gum, an excrescence the size of a bean, a pessary of which is said to promote menstruation. The whole with the roots is pounded and divided into lozenges as an antidote for snakebites, for which treatment good reason can be adduced, for field mice wounded by snakes are said to eat it. A decoction of the plant in wine checks looseness of the bowels. The same makes an excellent substitute for gum to keep the eyelashes tidy, however disordered these may be. Dorotheus declares in his verses that it is good for the stomach and the digestion. For the rest, it has been supposed to be bad for women, for the eyes, and for the virility of men.
XLVI. Among the things which it is rash to eat I would include mushrooms, as although they make choice eating they have been brought into disrepute by a glaring instance of murder, being the means used to poison the Emperor Tiberius Claudius by his wife Agrippina, in doing which she bestowed upon the world, and upon herself in particular, yet another poisonher own son Nero. Some of the poisonous mushrooms are easily recognized by their being of a pale-red colour, of a putrid appearance and of a leaden hue inside; the furrows of the striated parts are mere chinks, with a pale rim all round the edge. Not all the poisonous kinds are like this, and there is a dry sort, similar to the genuine mushroom, which shows as it were white drops on the top, standing out of its outer coat. The earth in fact produces first a matrix for this purpose, and afterwards the mushroom itself in the matrix, like the yoke inside the egg; and the baby mushroom is just as fond of eating its coat as is the chick. The coat cracks when the mushroom first forms; presently, as the mushroom gets bigger, the coat is absorbed into the body of the foot-stalk, two heads rarely ever springing from one foot. The first origin and cause of mushrooms is the slime and the souring juice of the damp ground, or often of the root of acorn-bearing trees, and at first is flimsier than froth, then it grows substantial like parchment, and then the mushroom, as I have said, is born. How chancy a matter it is to test these deadly plants! If a boot nail, a piece of rusty iron, or a rotten rag was near when the mushroom started to grow, it at once absorbs and turns into poison all the moisture and flavour from this foreign substance. Who can be trusted to have detected the affected specimens except country-folk and those who actually gather them? Other infections even these cannot detect; for instance, if the hole of a serpent has been near the mushroom, or should a serpent have breathed on it as it first opened, its kinship to poisons makes it capable of absorbing the venom. So it would be well not to eat mushrooms until the serpent has begun to hibernate. Indications of this will be given by the many plants, trees, and shrubs, that are always green from the time that the serpent comes out from his hole to the time that he buries himself in it; or even the ash tree will serve, whose leaves do not grow after, nor fall before, the hibernating period. And of mushrooms indeed the whole life from beginning to end is not more than seven days.
XLVII. The texture of fungi is rather flabby, and there are several kinds of them, all derived only from the gum that exudes from trees. The safest have firm red flesh less pale than that of the mushroom; next comes the white kind, the stalk of which is distinguished by its enduing in a kind of flamen's cap; a third kind, hog fungi, are very well adapted for poisoning. Recently they have carried off whole households and all the guests at banquets; Annaeus Serenus, for instance, Captain of Nero's Guards, with the tribunes and centurions. What great pleasure can there be in such a risky food? Some have classified fungi according to the kind of tree on which they grow, one class including those growing on the fig, fennel-giant, and the gum-exuding trees; inedible, as I have said, are those on the yew, the robur and the cypress. But who guarantees such things in the market? They all have a leaden colour. This will give an indication of poison, the closer it approximates to that of the bark of the tree. I have pointed out remedies for these poisonous fungi and shall do so again later on; in the meantime let me say that even this plant produces some remedies. Glaucias considers that mushrooms are good for the stomach. Hog fungi are hung up to dry, skewered on a rush as we see them come from Bithynia. These they use as a remedy for the fluxes of the belly that are called bowel catarrh, and for fleshy growths on the anus, which they reduce and in time cause to disappear; they do the like to freckles and spots on women's faces. They are also steeped in water, as lead is, to make an application for diseases of the eyes. They are applied to septic sores and to rashes on the head, and in water to dog bites. I should like also to give some pieces of advice about cooking all kinds of mushrooms, since they are the only kind of food that exquisites prepare with their own hands, feeding on them in anticipation, and handling amber knives and equipment of silver. Those I fungi will be poisonous which become harder in cooking; comparatively harmless will be those that are cooked with some soda addedat any rate if they are thoroughly cooked. They become safer when cooked with meat, or with pear stalks. Pears too are good to take immediately after them. The nature of vinegar too is opposed to them and neutralizes any poisonous action.
XLVIII. All these fungus growths spring up with showers, and silphium too, as has been mentioned, first grew with a shower. At the present day it is imported chiefly from Syria, this Syrian silphium being not so good as the Parthian, though better than the Median; the silphinm of Cyrene, as I have said, is now wholly extinct. The leaves of silphium are used in medicine to purge the uterus and to bring away the dead unborn baby; a decoction of them is made in white, aromatic wine, to be drunk after the bath in doses of one acetabulum. The root is good for soreness of the windpipe, and is applied to collections of extravasated blood; but it is hard to digest when taken as food, causing flatulence and belchings. It is injurious to the passing of urine, but with wine and oil most beneficial for bruises, and with wax for scrofulous swellings. Warts in the seat fall off if fumigated with it several times.
XLIX. Laser, which is distilled from silphium in the way I have said, being reckoned one of the most precious gifts of Nature, is used as an ingredient in very many medical prescriptions; but by itself it warms after chills, and taken in drink it alleviates affections of the sinews. In wine it is given to women, and on soft wool is used as a pessary to promote menstruation. Mixed with wax it extracts corns from the feet after they have been cut round with the knife. A piece the size of a chick-pea, diluted, is diuretic. Andreas assures us that, though taken in copious doses, it causes no flatulence, and is a great aid to digestion for the aged and for women; also that it is more beneficial in winter than in summer, and even then more so b to teetotalers. Care, however, must be taken that there be no internal ulceration. Taken in the food it is a great help in convalescence; for given at the right time it possesses all the qualities of a caustic medicine, being even more beneficial to those accustomed to it than to those unfamiliar with it. Its employment externally provides sure proofs of its healing power. Taken in drink it neutralizes the poisons of weapons and of serpents; it is applied in water around such wounds, only for the stings of scorpions is oil added. For sores not yet coming to a head it is applied with barley meal or dried fig, for carbuncles with rue, or with honey, or by itself, smeared over with some sticky substance to make it adhere, and, similarly prepared, for dog bites; a decoction in vinegar with the rind of the pomegranate for growths around the anus; for corns commonly known as mortified corns some soda must be mixed with the laser. Mange should be first thoroughly treated with soda, and then the hair is restored by an application with wine, saffron or pepper, mouse dung, and vinegar. Chilblains are treated by fomentations of it with wine and by applications of the decoction in oil. It is used in like manner for callosities, and for corns on the feet, which must first be pared down. It is of especial value against bad waters, unhealthy districts or unhealthy weather, and is used for cough, affections of the uvula, chronic biliousness, dropsy, and hoarseness; for immediately clearing the throat it restores the voice. Diluted with vinegar and water and applied with a sponge it soothes gouty limbs. It is given in gruel to patients with pleurisy who are going to drink wine, and in pills the size of a chick pea, coated with wax, to sufferers from cramp and tetanus. For quinsy it is used as a gargle; for wheezing and chronic cough it is given with leek in vinegar, and with vinegar to those who have swallowed curdled milk. With wine it is given for tubercular affections of the hypochondria and for epilepsy, in hydromel for paralysis of the tongue. Boiled down with honey it is used as liniment for sciatica and lumbago. I should not approve of the advice of the authorities, who say that an aching hollow tooth should be plugged with a stopping of laser and wax, because of the startling proof provided by the man who, as a result of this, threw himself down from a height. The truth is that it enrages bulls to have their muzzles rubbed with it, and mixed with wine it makes serpents burst, so very greedy are they for the wine. For this reason I should not advise the teeth to be cleaned with it, although it is recommended to do so with laser and Attic honey. The uses of laser mixed with other ingredients it would be an endless task to record, and I am dealing with remedies each of one substance for in these their essential nature is manifest. In compounds, however, there is usually risk of misleading guessing, for nobody is sufficiently careful, in making mixtures, to observe the sympathies and antipathies of the essential natures of the ingredients. I shall go more into detail later.
L. The value of honey in popular esteem would be no less than that of laser, were not honey produced everywhere. Granted that Nature herself created the one, she yet created an insect, as I have said, to make the other for countless uses, if we try to reckon the compounds of which it is an ingredient. First there is bee-glue in the hives, about which I have spoken; it extracts stings and all substances embedded in the flesh, reduces swellings, softens indurations, soothes pains of the sinews, and heals sores when it seems hopeless for them to mend. Honey itself has a nature that prevents a body from decaying, with a pleasant and not harsh taste, essentially different from salt, very good for the throat, tonsils, quinsy, all complaints of the mouth, and for tongues parched by fever; moreover, the decoction is excellent for pneumonia and pleurisy, while for wounds, snake bites, poisons, fungi and paralysis, it is prescribed in honey wine, although that has peculiar virtues of its own. Honey and rose oil are injected into the ears, and kill nits and offensive parasites on the head. Honey is improved by being skimmed, but it causes flatulence, biliousness and nausea; some think it of itself injurious to the eyes, though there are others on the other hand who recommend that ulcers in the corners be touched with honey. How honey is produced, the different kinds of it, the countries famous for it and the signs of its value, I discussed when treating of the nature of bees and again when I came to flowers, since the plan of my work necessitated the division of things that have to be afterwards combined again by those who wish to learn thoroughly the works of Nature.
LI. In dealing with the benefits of honey I must include those of hydromel. There are two kinds of it: one is made for the occasion and used fresh, and the other is the matured. Occasional hydromel, made from skimmed honey, is extremely useful as an ingredient of the light diet of invalids (that is strained wheat) for restoring the strength, for soothing the mouth and stomach, and for cooling feverish heat. For it is cold hydromel that is better to be given for loosening the bowels. My authorities state that it should be given to drink to persons subject to chill, and also to those of a poor, weak spirit, whom the same authorities called μικρόψυχοι in harmony with the very ingenious theory that had its origin in Plato. This says that the atoms of things, being smooth or rough, angular or round, are accordingly more or less adapted to the nature of different individuals, and that therefore the same things are not bitter or sweet to everybody; and so, when we are tired or thirsty we are more prone to anger. Therefore also this roughness of the mind, or rather I should say of the soul, is made smoother by a sweeter flavour, which soothes the windpipe and makes more gentle the passage of the breath, so that neither inhalation nor exhalation is violently broken. Each of us may make trial for himself. There is no one who does not find that by food can be softened his anger, grief, sadness, and every violent emotion of the mind. Accordingly I must take notice not only of things which give healing to our bodies, but also of those which heal our character.
LII. Hydromel is also said to be useful for coughs, but when warmed it provokes vomiting. With oil it is beneficial in eases of white-lead poisoning, also with milk, especially asses' milk, for henbane, and, as I have said, for poisoning by halicacabum. It is poured into the ears, and into fistulas of the genitals. It is applied with soft bread to the uterus, to sudden swellings, to sprains and to all complaints needing soothing treatment. The use of matured hydromel has been condemned by recent authorities as being less harmless than water and keeping less well than wine. When however it has been kept for a long time, it turns into a wine which, as all are agreed, is most injurious to the stomach and bad for the sinews.
LIII. The best honey wine is always made with old wine, it and honey combining very easily, which never happens when the wine is sweet. Made out of dry wine it causes no flatulence in the stomach, nor does it do so when the honey is boiled, and the usual inconvenience with honey wine, a sense of fullness, is not experienced. It also revives a failing appetite. Drunk cold it relaxes the bowels; taken warm it binds them in most cases, and puts on flesh. Many have lived to a very great age on no other food but a mash made with honey wine, as in the well-known case of Pollio Itomilius. He was more than a century old when Augustus, now in Heaven, who was his host, asked him what was the chief means whereby he had kept such vigour of mind and body. His reply was: 'By honey wine within and by oil without.' Varro relates that the rainbow disease (jaundice) has been styled the royal disease because it is treated with the royal drink of honey wine.
LIV. How melitites used to be made out of must and honey I have set out in my account of wine. I believe that this kind of honey has not been made now for generations, so liable was it to cause flatulence. When well matured, however, it used to be given in fever because of its action on the bowels, and also to sufferers from gout and from feebleness of the sinews, and to women who are teetotallers.
LV. Honey is by nature closely related to wax, the source of which, its virtues, and the districts that produce it, I have discussed in the proper places. All wax however is emollient, warming, and restorative of flesh; the fresher it is the better. It is given to sufferers from dysentery in their gruel, and the whole comb in a porridge of groats that has been previously roasted. Wax and milk are of opposite natures, and ten pills of wax, of the size of a grain of millet will, if swallowed, prevent milk curdling in the stomach. Should the groin swell, the application of white wax to the pubes is a remedy.
LVI. The uses that wax can be put to in combination with other substances would more than fill a pharmacopoeia, and the same is true of other materials that combine usefully with others. These, as I have said, are due to man's ingenuity. Wax salves, poultices, plasters, eye-salves, antidotes, were not made by the divine Mother who created the Universe: they are the inventions of the laboratory, or more correctly of human greed. Nature indeed brings forth her works absolutely perfect; a few ingredients arc chosen a with a purpose, not by guesswork, so that dry substances may be modified by some fluid to facilitate their passage, or moist things by a more substantial body to give the required consistency. But for a man to weigh out, scruple by scruple, the active ingredients that he gathers together and blends, is not human guesswork but human impudence. I myself shall not touch upon drugs imported from India and Arabia or from the outer world. Ingredients that grow so far away are unsatisfactory for remedies; they are not produced for us, nay, not even for the natives who in that case would not sell them. Let them be bought if you like to make perfumes, unguents and luxuries, or even in the name of religion, for we worship the gods with frankincense and costmary. But health I shall prove to be independent of such drugs, if only to make luxury all the more ashamed of itself.
LVII. But having discussed medicines from flowers, garland and garden, as well as herbs which are chewed, how can I possibly omit medicines from cereals? Indeed it would be fitting to mention these as well. In the first place it is a well known fact that those animals that feed on grain are the most intelligent. Grains of common wheat well roasted and then crushed, applied in Aminean wine to the eyes soothe fluxes; moreover, well roasted on an iron plate grains of naked wheat are a quick remedy for frostbite. The flour of naked wheat boiled in vinegar is good for cramp; the bran moreover and rose oil, dried figs and sebesten plums, all boiled down, make a good gargle for tonsils and throat. Sextus Pomponius, father of a man who was praetor, himself the most distinguished man in Nearer Spain, was superintending the winnowing in his barns when he was seized with the pains of gout. Burying himself above his knees into the wheat he was relieved of the pain, and the water in his feet dried up in a wonderful way, so that afterwards he adopted this procedure as a remedy. The absorbent power of wheat is so great that it dries up casks full of liquid. Experienced authorities also prescribe the chaff of wheat or barley to be applied warm for hernia, and the water in which it has been boiled to be used for fomentations. There is to be found in emmer-wheat a little worm like the woodworm. If this be plugged with wax into the hollow of a decayed tooth, it is said that the tooth comes out, or even if the affected part be rubbed with it. Olyra (two-grained wheat) is, as I have said, also called arinca. With a decoction of it a medicine is made which the Egyptians call athera, very beneficial for babies, though adults too use it as a liniment.
LVIII. Barley meal, both raw and boiled, disperses abscesses and inflamed gatherings; it softens them and brings them to a head. At other times a decoction of it is made in hydromel or with dried figs, but for pains in the liver, when pus needs to be matured, it should be decocted in wine; when there is difficulty in deciding whether maturing or dispersal is necessary, then it is better for the decoction to be in vinegar, in lees of vinegar, or in boiled down quinces or pears. It is used with honey for multipede stings, in vinegar for snake bites and to stop suppuration, but for bringing away suppurating matter with diluted vinegar to which Gallic resin has been added. For maturing of abscesses, however, and for chronic sores it must be used with resin, for indurations with pigeons' dung or dried fig or ashes, for inflammations of the sinews or of the intestines or pains in the sides with poppies or melilot, and also when the flesh falls away from the bones, for scrofulous swellings with pitch and the urine of a boy below the age of puberty added to oil. With fenugreek it is prescribed for swellings of the hypochondria, and for fevers with honey or stale fat. For suppurations wheat flour is much more soothing. To sinews it is applied with juice of henbane, for freckles, in vinegar and honey. Meal of emmer-wheat, out of which as I have said alica is made, seems to be more efficacious even than barley meal, the three-month variety being the more soothing. It is used warm, in red wine, for the stings of scorpions, spitting of blood, and for tracheal affections. For a cough, goat-suet or butter is added. Fenugreek meal, the most soothing of all, boiled with wine and soda, cures running sores and scurf on the body, stomach ache, and affections of the feet and of the breasts. Darnel meal clears up chronic ulcers and gangrenes more than do the other kinds; for lichens radishes, salt and vinegar must be added, for leprous sores native sulphur, and for headache it should be applied with goose-grease to the forehead. Boiled in wine, with pigeons' dung and linseed, it matures scrofulous swellings and superficial abscesses.
LIX. About the various kinds of pearl barley I have said enough in the discussion of cereals. Physicians are of opinion that its difference from barley meal is due to its being roasted, which makes it wholesome for the stomach, it cheeks looseness of the bowels and inflamed swellings. Combined with mint or other cooling herb it is applied to sore eyes and aching heads, as well as to chilblains and to snake wounds, while for burns it is applied in wine, and it also checks pustules.
LX. Flour reduced to fine powder has the power of drawing out moisture to such an extent that it extracts blood from bloodshot areas, even to soaking the bandages; if boiled must be added the application is still more efficacious. It is put on callosities and corns on the feet. But when boiled with old oil and pitch, and applied as hot as possible, fine flour is wonderful treatment for eondyloma and all other affections of the anus. Made into pottage it puts on flesh. The flour with which papyrus sheets are stuck together is effectively given in lukewarm drink to those who suffer from spitting of blood.
LXI. Alica is peculiarly Roman, and a discovery of recent date, or the Greeks would not have sung the praises of barley water in preference. It was in my opinion not yet used in the age of Pompey the Great, and for that reason scarcely anything about it has been written by the school of Asclepiades. Its extreme usefulness nobody doubts, whether it is given in hydromel after straining or boiled down to gruel or to thick pottage. For arresting looseness of the bowels alica is roasted, and then honeycomb wax is cooked with it, as I have said above. It is however specially useful for those who by long illness have been reduced to a consumptive condition; the dose is three cyathi put into a sextarius of water and gradually boiled down until all the water has evaporated, when a sextarius of sheep's or goats' milk is added, and the mixture taken daily; after a while honey also is added. By a course of this gruel decline is arrested.
LXII. Common millet checks looseness of the common bowels and removes gripings, for which purposes it is first roasted. For pains of the sinews, and for other pains it is applied hot in a bag. No other application is more useful, for it is very light, very soothing and very retentive of heat. Accordingly it is much used in all cases where the application of heat is likely to prove beneficial. Millet meal and liquid pitch are applied to the wounds inflicted by snakes and multipedes.
LXIII. Italian millet was called by the physician Diocles the honey of cereals. It produces the same results as common millet. Taken in wine it is good for dysentery. In like form it is applied hot where warm fomentations are called for. Looseness of the bowels is checked if a decoction in goats' milk is taken twice a day. In this form it is also good for gripings.
LXIV. Sesame ground and taken in wine checks vomiting. It is applied to inflammation of the ears and to bums. It has the same effect even while it is in the blade. For this reason it is more copiously applied, decocted in wine, to the eyes. As a food it is injurious to the stomach and causes the breath to smell offensive. It neutralizes the bites of the gecko, and is beneficial to the sores known as malignant the oil made from it, as I have said, is good for the ears. Sesamoides has received its name from its likeness to sesame; it has a smaller leaf, and the grain is bitter. It grows on gravelly soils. Taken in water, it carries away bile. The seed is used as an application for erysipelas, and it disperses superficial abscesses.
There is also another sesamoides, which grows at Antieyra, and is therefore called by some Anticyricon. It has the seed of sesame, but in other respects is like the plant erigeron, about which I shall speak in the proper place. A three-finger pinch is given in sweet wine as a purge. There they mix with it also one and a half oboli of white hellebore, administering it principally as a purgative for melancholic madness, epilepsy and gouty pains. Taken by itself too in doses of one drachma it empties the bowels.
LXV. The best barley is the whitest. The juice from a rainwater decoction is worked up into lozenges to be used as suppositories for ulcerations of the intestines and of the uterus. Barley ash is applied to bums, to flesh that comes away from the bones, for eruptions of phlegm and for bites of the shrewmouse. The same added to honey and a sprinkling of salt makes the teeth white and the breath smell sweet. It is said that those who use barley bread never suffer from gout in the feet. They also say that, if a man, taking nine grains of barley, trace three times with each of them a circle round a boil, using the left hand, and then throw all the grains into the fire, the boil heals at once. There is also a plant, called phoenicea by the Greeks and mouse barley by our countrymen. This pounded and taken in wine is an excellent emmenagogue.
LXVI. To ptisan, which is prepared from barley, Hippocrates devoted a whole volume, lavishing on it praises which today are all given instead to alica, a far more wholesome preparation. Hippocrates however praises ptisan for its merits as a broth, because (as he says) being lubricant it is easily swallowed, quenches thirst, does not swell in the belly, is easily evacuated, and is the only food that can be given twice a day to those fever patients who are in the habit of taking two meals, so different is Hippocrates from those, who treat their patients with a starvation diet. However he forbids the broth to be swallowed whole, or any part of it other than the juice; he says also that it must never be given so long as the feet are cold; indeed that then no drink of any kind should be given. Ptisan can also be made from wheat, when it is more viscous and more beneficial to an ulcerated trachea.
LXVII. Starch dulls the eyes, and is injurious to the throat, though that is not the general belief. It also checks loose bowels, arrests fluxes from the eyes, healing ulcerations of them as well as pustules and flows of blood. It softens hard eyelids. With egg it is given to those who have spit blood; in pain of the bladder moreover half an ounce of starch with egg and three egg-shells of raisin wine are given lukewarm after the bath. Moreover, oatmeal boiled in vinegar removes moles.
LXVIII. The very bread which forms our staple diet has almost innumerable medicinal properties. Applied in water and oil or in rose oil it softens abscesses; in hydromel it is very soothing to indurations. In wine it is given to disperse or to compress as need may be, and, if greater strength be called for, in vinegar for those violent fluxes of phlegm which the Greeks call rheumatism, as well as for bruises and sprains. For all purposes, however, leavened bread, of the kind called autopyrus, is the more beneficial. In vinegar it is also applied to whitlows and to callosities on the feet. Stale bread or sailors' bread, pounded and then baked again, checks looseness of the bowels. For those anxious to improve the voice and for catarrhs it is very beneficial to eat dry bread at breakfast. Sitanins, that is bread made of three-month wheat, applied with honey is a very good cure for bruises on the face or scaly eruptions. White bread soaked in warm or cold water affords a very light food for invalids. In wine it is applied to swollen eyes, and in this form or with the addition of dried myrtle to pustules on the head. Persons with palsy are recommended to eat bread soaked in water, fasting, and immediately after the bath. Moreover, bread burnt in bedrooms removes the close smell, and put in the strainers any unpleasant odour in wine.
LXIX. The bean too supplies helpful remedies. For roasted whole and thrown hot into strong vinegar it heals colic. Crushed in a sieve and boiled with garlic it is taken with the daily food for incurable coughs and suppurations of the chest; chewed in the mouth of one fasting it is also applied to ripen or disperse boils, and boiled down in wine for swellings of the testicles and for troubles of the genitals. In the form of meal too, boiled down in vinegar it ripens tumours and breaks them, besides healing contusions and burns. That it is good for the voice we are assured by M. Varro. The ashes too of beanstalks and of the pods are good for sciatica, and with old pigs' lard for chronic pains of the sinews. The husks by themselves boiled down to one third check looseness of the bowels.
LXX. Those lentils are best which are most easily boiled, and in particular those which absorb most water. Although they dull the sight and cause flatulence, yet taken with the food they check looseness of the bowels, especially when thoroughly boiled in rain water; lightly boiled however they relax the bowels. They break the pustules of sores; sores in the month they cleanse and dry up. An application of lentils soothes all abscesses, and especially those that are ulcerated and cracked, but for fluxes of the eyes melilot or quinces must be added. For suppurations lentils are applied with pearl barley. The juice of boiled-down lentils is applied to ulcerations of the mouth or of the genitals; for complaints of the anus rose oil or quinces must be added, and when a stronger remedy is called for pomegranate peel with a little honey as well. At this point, to prevent this mixture from drying quickly beet leaves also are added. Thoroughly boiled in vinegar they are applied also to scrofulous swellings, and to superficial abscesses whether mature or maturing; in hydromel to chaps and with pomegranate peel to gaagrenes; with pearl barley also to gouty feet, the uterus, kidneys, chilblains, and to sores that are slow in forming scars. For looseness of the stomach thirty grains of lentils are swallowed. In cholera too and dysentery lentils are more efficacious when boiled iu three waters; when so used it is always better to roast them first and pound them, that they may be administered in as fine a state as possible, whether by themselves or with quinces, or else with pears, or myrtle, or wild endive, or dark beet, or plantain. Lentils are injurious to the lungs, in headache, in all pains of the sinews and in biliousness, nor are they good for sleep; boiled in seawater however they are beneficial for pustules, erysipelas, and affections of the breasts, while boiled in vinegar they disperse indurations and scrofulous swellings. As a stomachic they are sprinkled in drinks as is pearl barley. They are good for burns if half-cooked in water and then pounded and passed through a sieve to remove the bran, honey being added presently as the burn heals. They are boiled in vinegar and water for sore throats. There is also a marsh lentil that grows wild in stagnant water. These lentils are of a cooling nature, and so are applied to abscesses and in particular to gouty feet, both by themselves and with pearl barley. They also close up prolapse of the intestines.
LXXI. There is a wild lentil called elelisphacos by the Greeks [sphacos by others], smoother than the cultivated lentil, with a smaller, drier and more scented leaf. There is also another kind of it wilder still, and with a heavy smell. The other, the more cultivated variety, has leaves like those of a quince, but smaller and pale, which are boiled with the branches. It promotes menstruation and urine, and heals the wounds of the stingray, numbing the region affected. It is also taken in drink with wormwood for dysentery. With wine it also brings on delayed menstruation, while a draught of its decoction checks any excess. The plant applied by itself stanches the blood of wounds. It also cures snake bite, and if boiled down in wine allays pruritus of the testicles. Our modern herbalists call this plant elelisphacus in Greek and salvia in Latin, a plant like mint, hoary and aromatic. An application brings away the dead unborn baby, as well as worms in sores and ears.
LXXII. There is also a wild chickpea, with leaves like the cultivated kind and a heavy smell. Too copious a dose relaxes the bowels, and causes flatulence and colic. Roasted it is supposed to be more healthy. The small chickpea is even more beneficial to the bowels. The meal of each kind heals running sores on the head, though the wild is more efficacious, as well as epilepsy, swollen liver and snake bites. It promotes, the grain in particular, menstruation and urine; it is good for lichen, inflammation of the testicles, jaundice and dropsy. All kinds of chickpea are injurious to ulcerated bladder and to the kidneys. They are more beneficial with honey for gangrenous sores, especially for those called malignant. Warts of every kind some treat by touching each wart with a single chickpea at the new moon; the chickpeas they tie in a linen cloth and throw behind them, believing that so the warts go away. Roman authorities recommend that ram's-head chickpeas be thoroughly boiled in water with salt, two cyathi of it to be taken at a time for strangury; they hold too that this treatment brings away stone from the bladder and cures jaundice. The water in which the leaves and stalks of the chickpea have been boiled, if used as hot as possible to foment the feet, soothe gouty pains, as does an application of the plant itself, pounded up and warmed. The water from boiled columbine chickpea is believed to lessen the rigors of tertian and quartan agues. The dark kind, however, pounded up with half a gall-nut and applied in raisin wine, cures ulcers of the eyes.
LXXIII. About the bitter vetch I have said a few things in my note concerning it, a pulse to which, applied in vinegar, old authorities attributed a power no less than that they did to cabbage for snake bites and for those of crocodiles and of men. If anybody eats it fasting every day, the spleen, according to very reliable authorities, is reduced in size. Its meal removes not only pimples from the face but also spots from the skin on all parts of the body. It does not allow sores to spread, being very efficacious when they are on the breasts. Applied in wine it makes carbuncles burst. Strangury, flatulence, affections of the liver, tenesmus, and atrophy, when food cannot be assimilated, are relieved by swallowing the roasted grain, held together by honey of the size of a filbert, and so are skin eruptions by a decoction in vinegar, allowed to remain on the affected part till the fourth day. An application in honey prevents superficial abscesses from suppurating. Fomentation with the water of a decoction cures chilblains and pruritus. Moreover it is thought that the whole body assumes a more healthy complexion if this decoction be taken daily on an empty stomach. At the same time this vetch makes unwholesome human food, causing vomiting, disturbing the bowels, and causing heaviness in the head and stomach, besides enfeebling the knees. Soaked, however, for several days it mellows, and is very good for cattle and beasts of burden. The pods of it, pounded green before they harden, with their own stalk and leaves, dye the hair black.
LXXIV. There are also wild lupins, with weaker properties than the cultivated in every respect except their bitterness. Of all the things that are eaten, none is less heavy or more useful than lupins when dried. They mellow when cooked in hot ash or in hot water. Taken frequently as food they freshen the human complexion; bitter lupins are an antidote for the wound of the asp. Dried lnpins, peeled and pounded, make new flesh on black ulcers if applied in a linen cloth. Boiled in vinegar they disperse scrofulous swellings and parotid abscesses. A decoction with rue and pepper is given to persons under thirty, even when feverish, to drive out intestinal worms, while in the case of children they are also applied to the bowels, the patient fasting; another method is to roast them, and to give them either in boiled must as a draught or else in honey. Lupins increase the appetite, and remove squeamishness. Their meal kneaded with vinegar and applied in the bath removes pimples and pruritus, and by itself dries up ulcers. It heals bruises, and, with pearl barley, soothes inflammations. Wild lupins are more efficacious than cultivated for weakness of the hips and loins. A decoction of the same removes freckles and improves the complexion of those who use it as a fomentation. If however they are boiled down to the consistency of honey, they cure even black eruptions and leprous sores. An application of cultivated lupins also causes carbuncles to break; boiled in vinegar they reduce or mature superficial abscesses and scrofulous swellings, and restore to scars the original white of the skin; if however they are thoroughly boiled in rain water, the decoction makes a detergent with which it is good to foment gangrenes, eruptions of rheum, and running ulcers; and it is also good to drink it for splenic affections and, with the addition of honey, for retarded menstruation. Pounded raw with dried fig they are applied in vinegar to the spleen. The root too boiled in water is diuretic. Lupins boiled with the herb chamaeleon cure sick cattle, the water being strained off into their drink. The itch on all quadrupeds is cured by lupins boiled in lees of olive oil, or by a mixture of the lees with a decoction of lupins. The smoke of burnt lupins kills gnats.
LXXV. Irio I have said when dealing with cereals to be like sesame, and to be called by the Greeks erysimon. The Gauls call it vela. It is a bushy plant with leaves like those of rocket, but a little narrower, and with a seed like that of cress, being with honey very good for coughs and for expectoration of pus. It is also given for jaundice and for affections of the loins, for pleurisy, colic and coeliac troubles. It is applied moreover to parotid abscesses and to cancerous sores, in water or sometimes with honey to inflamed testicles, and is also very good for babies. With honey and figs it is used for cornplaints of the anus and for diseases of the joints, besides being when taken in drink efficacious against poisons. It also cures asthma, and fistulas also if mixed with old axle-grease, but care must be taken not to let the application touch the interior.
LXXVI. Horminum (clary) has a seed like cummin, as I have already said, but in other respects it is like the leek. Nine inches high it is of two kinds: one has a darker seed which is oblong, being used as an aphrodisiac and for white spots and films on the eyes.; the other has a paler and a rounder seed. Both when pounded draw thorns from the flesh, if applied by themselves in water; the leaves applied by themselves or with honey disperse superficial abscesses, as also boils before they come to a head, and all acrid humours.
LXXVII. Moreover, the very pests of the crops are of use. Virgil called darnel unfruitful, and yet when ground and boiled in vinegar it cures impetigo, the quicker the more often the application is changed. It is also used with oxymel for gouty and other pains. The following is the prescription: in one sextarius of vinegar are melted two ounces of honey; the right proportion is to take three sextarii of this mixture and boil down with it two sextarii of darnel meal until it reaches a certain consistency, and then it should be applied warm to the painful limbs. Darnel meal is also used to draw out splinters of bone.
LXXVIII. Miliaria is a plant so called because it kills millet. Pounded and poured with wine into a horn it is said to cure gouty pains in beasts of burden.
LXXIX. Bromos is the seed of an ear-bearing plant, growing among the weeds of the corn crop, in fact a species of oat, with leaves and stalk like those of wheat, and having as it were little locusts hanging down at the head. The seed is as useful for plasters as is that of barley and similar grain. A decoction is good for coughs.
LXXX. Dodder I have mentioned as a plant that kills vetches and leguminous plants; some call it cynomorion from its likeness to a dog's genitals. Its stem is leafless, fleshy and red. It is eaten by itself or, when young, boiled in a saucepan.
LXXXI. There are poisonous insects, a species of venomous ant, that breed in leguminous plants, stinging the hand and endangering life. For these stings the same remedies are good as have been mentioned for spiders and the phalangium. These then are the cereals that are used in medicine.
LXXXII. From the cereals are also made beverages zythum in Egypt, caelia and cerea in Spain, cervesia and several other kinds in Gaul and in other provinces; the froth of all these is used by women as a cosmetic for the face. But to come to beverages themselves, it will be best to pass on to a discussion of wine, beginning with the vine our discussion of medicines from trees.