Natural History (Rackham, Jones, & Eichholz)/Book 24
I. NOR even the woods and the wilder face of Nature are without medicines, for there is no place where that holy Mother of all things did not distribute remedies for the healing of mankind, so that even the very desert was made a drug store, at every point occurring wonderful examples of that well-known antipathy and sympathy. The oak and the olive are parted by such inveterate hatred that, if the one be planted in the hole from which the other has been dug out, they die, the oak indeed also dying if planted near the walnut. Deadly too is the hatred between the cabbage and the vine; the very vegetable that keeps the vine at a distance itself withers away when planted opposite cyclamen or wild marjoram. Moreover, trees, it is said, that are now old and being felled are more difficult to cut down, and decay more quickly, if man's hand touch them before the axe. There is a belief that beasts of burden know at once when their load consists of fruit, and unless it is first shown to them straightway begin to sweat, however small their load may be. Fennel-giant makes very agreeable fodder for the ass; to other beasts of burden, however, it is a quick poison. For this reason the animal is sacred to Father Liber, as is also fennel-giant. Lifeless things also, even the most insignificant, have each their own special poisons. By means of linden bark and fine flour cooks extract excessive salt from food; salt reduces the sickliness of over-sweet things; water that is nitrous or bitter is sweetened by the addition of pearl barley, so that within two hours it is drinkable, and for this reason pearl barley is put into linen wine-strainers. The chalk of Rhodes and the potter's earth of our own country possess a similar property. Affinities show their power when pitch is taken out by oil, both being of a greasy nature. Oil alone mixes with lime, both hating water. Gum is more easily removed by vinegar, ink by water, and countless other examples besides will be carefully given in their proper place.
Hence sprang the art of medicine. Such things alone had Nature decreed should be our remedies, provided everywhere, easy to discover and costing nothingthe things in fact that support our life. Later on the deceit of men and cunning profiteering led to the invention of the quack laboratories, in which each customer is promised a new lease of his own life at a price. At once compound prescriptions and mysterious mixtures are glibly repeated, Arabia and India are judged to be storehouses of remedies, and a small sore is charged with the cost of a medicine from the Red Sea, although the genuine remedies form the daily dinner of even the very poorest. But if remedies were to be sought in the kitchen-garden, or a plant or a shrub were to be procured thence, none of the arts would become cheaper than medicine. It is perfectly true that owing to their greatness the Roman people have lost their usages, and through conquering we have been conquered. We are the subjects of foreigners, and in one of the arts they have mastered even their masters. But of this more elsewhere.
II. In their proper places I have already spoken of the plant called lotus, and also of the Egyptian plant called by the same name, sometimes known also as the tree of the Syrtes. The berries of this lotus, which by our countrymen is called the Greek bean, cheek looseness of the bowels. Shavings of the wood, boiled down in wine, are good for dysentery, irregular menstruation, giddiness and epilepsy. They also prevent the hair from falling out. It is strange that nothing is more bitter than these shavings or sweeter than Lotus fruit. From the sawdust also of the wood a medicine is prepared by boiling it down in myrtle water; it is then kneaded and cut into lozenges, which make a very useful medicine for dysentery, the dose being one vietoriatns to three cyathi of water.
III. Pounded acorns with salted axle-grease cure the indurations that are called malignant. More potent are those of the holm-oak, and in all acorns the more potent parts are the peel itself and the skin just under it. A decoction of the latter is good for coeliac affections. In cases of dysentery also even the acorn itself is applied. The same decoction is a remedy for snake bites, fluxes and suppurations. The leaves and berries, or the bark, or the liquid of a decoction, counteract poisons. A decoction of the bark in cows' milk is applied to snake bites, and the bark in wine is given for dysentery. The holmoak has the same properties.
IV. The scarlet berry of the holm-oak is applied to fresh wounds in vinegar and to fluxes of the eyes in water; it is dropped into eyes that are blood-shot. There is also a kindred berry, found commonly in Africa and Asia, quickly turning into a little worm; for this reason it is called seoleeium, and is in low esteem. The main varieties of it I have already! given.
V. We have classified just as many varieties of gall-nutthe solid and the perforated, the white and the dark, the larger and the less. The properties of all are alike, although the best kind comes from Commagene. They remove excrescences of flesh, and are good for the gums, the uvula, and an ulcerated mouth. Burnt and then extinguished with wine they are applied for coeliac affections and dysentery, in honey to whitlows, scabrous nails, hangnails, running sores, eondylomata, and the sores called 'phagedaenie.' A decoction moreover in wine is dropped into the ears and also used as an application the eyes; with vinegar it is used for eruptions and superficial abscesses. The inner part of the nut when chewed relieves toothache, and also chafing of the skin and burns. Taken unripe in vinegar gall-nuts reduce a swollen spleen; then again, burnt and extinguished in salt and vinegar, they check excessive menstruation and prolapse of the uterus if used as a fomentation. All kinds of gall-nut blacken the hair.
VI. I have already said that the choicest mistletoe is thought to come from the hard-wood oak, and I have given the way of preparing it. Some crush it and boil in water until none of it floats on the surface; others chew the berries and spit out the skins. The best birdlime from mistletoe is without any skin, and very smooth, yellow on the outside and leek-green within. Nothing is more sticky than this birdlime. It is emollient, disperses tumours, and dries up scrofulous sores; with resin and wax it softens superficial abscesses of every sort. Some add galbanum also, equal in weight to each of the other ingredients, and this mixture they use also for the treatment of wounds. The lime smoothes scabrous nails, but the application must be taken off every seven days and the nails washed with a solution of soda. Some superstitiously believe that the mistletoe proves more efficacious if it be gathered from the hard-wood oak at the new moon without the use of iron, and without its touching the ground; that so it cures epilepsy, helps women to conceive if they merely a carry it on their persons; that chewed and applied to sores it heals them most effectively.
VII. The globules growing on the hardwood oak mixed with bear's grease restore hair lost through manges The leaves, bark and acorns of the Turkey oak dry up gatherings and suppurations, and check fluxes. Paralysed parts of limbs are strengthened by fomenting with a decoction of it, which as a sits bath is useful for drying and bracing these parts. The root of this tree counteracts the poison of scorpions.
VIII. The bark of the cork-tree, pounded and taken in hot water, arrests haemorrhage from either part of the body, and the ashes of the same taken in heated wine are highly praised as a cure for spitting of blood.
IX. Beech leaves are chewed for affections of the leaves. gums and of the lips. The ashes of the beech nut make a liniment for stone in the bladder, and with honey for mange.
X. The pounded leaves of the cypress are applied to fresh wounds, and with pearl barley to the head in cases of sunstroke; they make an application also for hernia, for which too they are taken in drink. With wax they make an ointment also for swollen bread and kneaded in Amminean wine, soothe pains in the feet and sinews. The globules on this tree are taken in drink for snake bites or for the bringing up of blood, and used as an application for gatherings. Gathered while soft, and pounded with axle-grease and bean meal, they are also good for hernia. For the same purpose they are taken in drink. Mixed with meal they are applied to parotid tumours and to scrofulous sores. Pounded with the seed these globules yield a juice, which mixed with oil takes away films on the eyes. Taken too in doses of one victoriatus in wine and used as an ointment with a rich dried fig, from which the seeds have been removed, it cures affections of the testicles, disperses tumours, and with leaven heals scrofulous sores. Cypress root, pounded with the leaves and taken in drink, cures affections of the bladder and strangury, and counteracts the poison of spiders. The shavings taken in drink act as an emmenagogue, and neutralize the stings of scorpions.
XI. The big cedrus, which they call cedrelate, yields a pitch which is called cedria, very useful for toothache; for it breaks the teeth and brings them out, easing the pain. I have already described how cedrus juice is extracted from the wood, of great use for book-rolls were it not for the headache it causes. It preserves dead bodies uncorrupted by time, but causes living ones to decaya strange inconsistency, to rob the living of their life and to give a quasi-life to the dead! It also makes clothes decay and kills animal life. For this reason I should not think it ought to be used as a remedy for quinsy, or for indigestion, as some have recommended, taken by the mouth. I should also be afraid to rinse the teeth with it in vinegar, when they ache, or to drop it into the ears for hardness of hearing or worms. Gossip records a miracle: that to rub it all over the male part before coition prevents conception. I should not hesitate to use it as an ointment for phthiriasis or for scurf. It is also recommended to take it in raisin wine to counteract the poison of the sea hare, but more readily it might be used as liniment for leprosy. For foul sores and excrescences in them, and for spots and films on the eyes, certain authorities have prescribed it as an ointment, and have directed that a cyathus of it be drunk for sores on the lung, as well as for tapeworm. There is prepared from it an oil also, which they call 'pisselaeoni' used for all the same purposes, but of greater potency. It is well ascertained that snakes are kept away by the sawdust of cedrus, and that to rub the body with the crushed berries mixed with oil has the same result.
XII. Cedrides, that is the fruit of the cedrus, cure a cough, are diuretic, arrest looseness of the bowels, and are useful for ruptures, sprains, spasms, strangury and uterine affections, forming an ingredient of antidotes for the poison of sea hares and those poisons mentioned above, and being used for gatherings and inflammations.
XIII. About galbanum I have already spoken. The best kind is considered to be that which is neither moist nor dry, and such as I have indicated. It is taken in drink by itself for chronic cough, asthma, ruptures and sprains; it is used as an application for sciatica, pains in the sides, superficial abscesses, boils, separation of flesh from bones, scrofulous sores, knotty lumps at the joints, and tooth-ache. With honey too it makes an ointment for sores on the head. With rose oil or nard it is injected for pus in the ears. Its smell is beneficial for epilepsy, choking of the uterus, and for weakness of the stomach. A pessary or fumigation brings away the foetus when there is a miscarriage, and so will a branch of hellebore smeared with it and laid under the woman. I have said that snakes are kept off by the fumes caused by burning it; they do not come either near persons rubbed with galbanum. It heals also scorpion stings. A piece the size of a bean is taken in a cyathus of wine for difficult deliveries, and it reduces a displaced uterus; while with myrrh and wine it brings away a dead foetus. With myrrh and wine it also counteracts poisons, particularly those used on arrows. Mixed with oil and spondylium it kills snakes if it but touches them. It is supposed to make urination difficult.
XIV. Similar is the nature of ammoniacum and of its tear, which should be tested in the way I mentioned. It softens, warms, disperses, and dissolves. In eye salves it promotes clearness of vision. It removes itch, scars, and white spots on the eyes, and relieves toothache, more effectively when it has been set alight. It is good for difficulty of breathing, pleurisy, affections of the lungs and bladder, blood in the urine, diseases of the spleen, and sciatica, if it be taken in drink thus administered it also loosens the bowels and, boiled with an equal weight of pitch or wax and with rose oil, it makes a good ointment for diseases of the joints and for gouty pains. It brings superficial abscesses to a head, and extracts corns, when mixed with honeyso applied it also softens indurations and combined with vinegar and Cyprian wax or rose oil it makes a very effective application for diseases of the spleen. A rubbing with ointment made up of this gum, with vinegar, oil and a little soda, is a good remedy for fatigue.
XV. The nature of storax also I have spoken of in my account of foreign trees. In addition to the qualities there mentioned, the most esteemed kind is very rich, unadulterated, and breaks up into white fragments. It cures coughs, affections of the throat, chest diseases, and obstructions or indurations of the uterus; by the mouth or as a pessary it acts as an emmenagogue; it loosens the bowels. I find in my authorities that a moderate dose dispels melancholy, but that a larger one causes it; that an injection cures singing in the ears, a local application scrofulous sores and knotty lumps on the sinews. It counteracts poisons that harm by chilling, and therefore, among others, hemlock.
XVI. Spondylium, which I described at the same time, is with old oil poured on the heads of sufferers from phrenitis, lethargus and headache of long standing. It is also taken in drink for affections of the liver, for jaundice, epilepsy, asthma, and choking of the uterus; for these fumigation is also beneficial. It loosens the bowels. With rue it is used as a liniment for spreading sores. The blossom is injected with good results into purulent ears, but the juice, when it is being extracted, must be covered over, since it has a wonderful attraction for flies and such-like insects. The shavings of the root inserted into fistulas eat away their callosities. They are also dropped with the juice into the ears. The root also itself is given for jaundice and for affections of the liver and of the uterus. If the head is rubbed with it; the hair becomes curly.
XVII. Sphagnos, or sphacos, or bryon, grows also, as I have pointed out, in Gaul. It is useful in the sits bath for uterine affections, and beaten up, and mixed with cress and salt water, it is also good for the knees and for swellings on the thighs. Taken in drink moreover, with wine and dry resin, it very quickly acts as a diuretic. Beaten up and drunk with wine and juniper berries, it drains off the water in dropsy.
XVIII. The leaves and root of the turpentine-tree are applied locally to gatherings; a decoction of them strengthens the stomach. The seed is taken in wine for headache and strangury; it is a gentle aperient and an aphrodisiac.
XIX. The leaves of pitch-pine and of the larch pin crushed and boiled down in vinegar are good for toothache, and the ash of their bark for chafing and burns. Taken in drink it checks looseness of the bowels, is diuretic, and as a fumigation reduces a displaced uterus. The leaves of pitch-pine are specific for affections of the liver, the dose being a drachma by weight taken in hydromel. It is well known that woods consisting only of those trees from which pitch and resin arc scraped off are very beneficial to consumptives, or to those who cannot convalesce after a long illness, and that the air in districts so planted is more health-giving than a sea-voyage to Egypt, or than draughts of milk from cattle that have grazed along summer pastures in the mountains.
XX. The ground-pine, the Latin name of which is abiga, because it causes abortion, and to some known as 'earth-incense,' has branches a cubit in length, with the flowers and the smell of the pine. A second species is shorter and bent, with leaves like those of aizollm. A third variety has the same smell, and therefore also the same name; it is rather small, with a stem as thick as a finger, and with rough, slender, pale leaves, growing on rocky soils. All three are plants, not trees, but should be considered here because their names are derived from that of the pine. They are good for the stings of scorpions, and also for the liver when applied with dates or quinces, as is a decoction of them with barley meal for the kidneys and bladder. Decoctions of them in water are taken also for jaundice and for strangury. The last mentioned kind mixed with honey counteracts the poison of serpents, and in this form too purges the uterus when used as a pessary. Taken as drink it draws away extravasated blood. Rubbing with it promotes perspiration, and it is particularly good for the kidneys. It is also made up into pills with figs for dropsy; these purge the bowels. In doses of one victoriatus by weight in wine it ends lumbago, and also coughs if taken in good time. A decoction in vinegar taken as a drink is said to expel at once the dead foetus.
XXI. For a like reason honourable mention shall be made of pityusa also, which some include in the same class as tithymalus. It is a shrub like the pitch-pine, with a small, purple flower. Bile and phlegm are earned off in the stools by a decoction of the root, the dose being one hemina, and by suppositories made of a spoonful of the seed. A decoction of the leaves in vinegar removes scaly eruptions on the skin and, mixed with a decoction of rue, is good for affections of the breasts, for griping pains, for snake bites and for gatherings in general in their early stages.
XXII. That resin is derived from the trees mentioned above, with its various kinds and native regions, I have stated in my account of wine, and afterwards when dealing with trees. The most general classes are twothe dry resin and the liquid. Dry resin comes from the pine and the pitch-pine, the liquid from the terebinth, larch, lentisk and cypress. For in Asia and Syria these last also produce it. They are mistaken who think that the same resin comes from the pitch-pine as comes from the larch. For the pitch-pine exudes a resin that is rich, and like frankincense in consistency, while the larch produces a thin resin with the colour of honey and a very offensive odour. Medical men use liquid resin only occasionally, generally that from the larch and administered in egg, for coughs and ulcerated bowels, nor is that from the pine much used; the others are only employed after boiling. The various ways of boiling I have fully explained. Of the various trees producing resin, the favourite is the terebinth, which yields one highly scented and very light; of the regions, Cyprus and Syria are most favoured; both resins are of the colour of Attic honey, but the Cyprian is thicker, with more body in it. In the dry kind the qualifies looked for are whiteness, purity and transparency; in every kind, however, that from a mountain soil is preferred to that from the plains, and a north-east aspect produces more highly esteemed resin than any other. Resin is dissolved in oil for the treatment of wounds and for poultices; by means of bitter almonds when used for draughts. Its medical properties are to close wounds, to act as a detergent, and to disperse gatherings; terebinth resin is also good for chest complaints. The last when warmed is used as an ointment for pains in the limbs; it is removed after a walk has been taken a in the sun. Slave-dealers especially are anxious to use this ointment for rubbing over the whole bodies of their slaves, with the object of correcting thinness; by walks afterwards they loosen the skin of every limb, and they have the further object of making possible the assimilation of a greater quantity of food. Next in popularity after terebinth resin comes that from the lentisk, which has an astringent quality and is more diuretic than the others. The rest of the resins loosen the bowels, cure indigestion, relieve chronic coughs, and also, when used as a fumigation, remove obstructions in the uterus. These are specific for the poison of mistletoe, and with beef suet and honey they heal superficial abscesses and similar affections. Lentisk resin is a most excellent remedy for turning outwards ingrowing eyelashes, and is also very useful for fractures and for pus in the ears, and also for irritation of the genitals. Pine resin is a very good remedy for wounds in the head.
XXIII. Pitch too, its source and the methods of preparing it, I have already mentioned, as well as its two kinds, the thick and the thin. Of the thick pitches the most useful in medicine is the Bruttian, because being both very rich and very resinous it combines the useful properties of both, the yellow-red kind being of higher value than any other because of this combination. For the further opinion about pitch, that the male tree produces a better kind, cannot I think be entertained. The nature of pitch is to warm, and to fill out the flesh. Mixed with pearl barley it is a specific antidote for the bite of the horned viper, and with honey a good remedy for quinsy, catarrhs and sneezing caused by phlegm. Mixed with rose oil it is poured into the ears, and with wax it is compounded into an ointment. It heals lichen and relaxes the bowels; expectoration it eases if used as an electuary or applied to the tonsils in combination with honey. So used it also cleanses sores and fills them out. With raisins and axle-grease it cleanses carbuncles and festering sores; for creeping sores, however, it is combined with pine bark or sulphur. Some authorities have prescribed it in doses of one cyathus for consumption and chronic cough. It cures chaps in the seat, and on the feet, superficial abscesses, scabrous nails, indurations and displacements of the uterus, and lethargus by inhalation. Scrofulous sores it causes to suppurate if boiled with barley meal and the urine of a child not yet adolescent. Dry pitch is also used for mange; Bruttian pitch heated in wine, with wheat meal, is applied to the breasts of women, the applications being as hot as can be borne.
XXIV. How liquid pitch and the oil called pisselaeon are made has been described already. Some boil it down twice and call it palimpissa. Liquid pitch is employed for painting quinsy internally. It is good for earache, for promoting clearness of vision, for use as a lip-salve, for asthmatics, the uterus, chronic cough, frequent expectoration, cramp, nervous tremors, opisthotonic tetanus, paralysis, pains in the sinews, and most effectively for itch-scab in dogs and beasts of burden.
XXV. There is also pissasphaltos, that is pitch combined with bitumen, found in a natural state in the territory of Apollonia; it is sometimes made artificially. It is a specific for itch-scab in cattle and for the sores caused by the young on the teats of their mothers. The best part of it is that which floats on the surface when it is boiled.
XXVI. Zopissa, as I have said, is scraped off ships, wax being soaked in sea brine. The best is taken from ships after their maiden voyage. It is also added to poultices to disperse gatherings.
XXVII. A decoction in vinegar of pitch pine makes an efficacious wash for aching teeth.
XXVIII. Of the lentisk tree the seed, bark and gum-drops are diuretic, and astringent to the bowels. A decoction of them is a useful fomentation for creeping sores. It makes a liniment for moist sores and also for erysipelas, and it rinses the gums. The leaves are rubbed on the teeth when they ache; loose teeth are rinsed with the decoction, which also dyes the hair. The gum-drops are good for troubles of the seat, when there is a call for a drying and warming remedy. The decoction too of the gum is useful for the stomach, being carminative and diuretic, and is also applied with pearl barley for headache. The tender leaves are applied to inflamed eyes. The mastic of the lentisk is applied for bending back the eyelashes, for filling out and smoothing the skin of the face, being also useful for spitting of blood, chronic cough, and in all cases where the medical properties of gum acacia are called for. Abrasions are treated by applying the oil made from the seed of lentisk mixed with wax, or a decoction of the leaves in oil; or they may be fomented with these preparations and water. I know for a fact that when the illness of Considia, daughter of Marcus Servilius, a consular, long a resisted all rigorous treatment, it was cured by the physician Democrites, who used the milk of goats which he fed on the lentisk.
XXIX. The plane tree neutralizes the poison of the bat; its seed-globules taken in wine in a dose of four denarii act similarly on all poisons of serpents and scorpions, besides healing burns. Pounded moreover with strong vinegar, especially squill-seasoned vinegar, it checks all bleeding, and with the addition of honey removes freckles, cancerous sores and chronic pustules on the neck. The leaves moreover and bark make ointment for gatherings and suppurations, and so does a decoction of them; a decoction of the bark in vinegar is a remedy for sore teeth, but for the eyes a decoction of the most tender leaves in white wine must be made. The down of the flowers is harmful both to the ears and to the eyes. The ashes of the burnt globules heal burns and frost-bites. The bark in wine allays the stings of scorpions.
XXX. The power of the ash-tree to neutralize the poison of snakes I have already mentioned. The seed lies between its leaves which in wine are used for pains in the liver and sides, and draw off the subcutaneous water of dropsy. They lessen corpulence, gradually reducing the body to leanness. These leaves are also beaten up with wine in proportion to the strength of the body; for a child five leaves are soaked in three cyathi of wine, for stronger patients seven leaves in five cyathi. I must not forget the warning of some authorities, who declare that the shavings and sawdust of the ash are to be avoided.
XXXI. The root of the maple crushed in wine makes a very efficacious application for pains of the liver.
XXXII. The clusters of the white poplar, as I have already described, are used in making unguents. A draught made from the bark is good for sciatica and strangury, and the juice of the leaves, warmed, for earache. Those who hold in their hand a twig of poplar need not fear chafing between the legs. The black poplar that grows in Crete is considered the most efficacious; the seed in vinegar is good for epilepsy. It also discharges a small quantity of resin, which is used for poultices. A decoction of the leaves in vinegar is applied locally for gout. The moisture exuding from the hollows of the black poplar, and giving out an odour when applied with rubbing, removes warts and pimples. Poplars also produce on their leaves drops from which bees make bee-glue. With water these drops also have the same healing properties as bee-glue.
XXXIII. The leaves, bark and branches of the elm are styptic, and have the property of closing wounds. The inner bark in particular relieves leprous sores, as also does a local application of the leaves soaked in vinegar. One denarius of the bark, taken in a hemina of cold water, purges the bowels, being specific for carrying off phlegms and watery humours. Its tear is also applied locally to gatherings, wounds and burns, which it is good to foment with a decoction. The moisture forming in the pods of this tree brings a brightness to the skin and makes the looks more pleasing. The tips of the little stalks of the leaves boiled down in wine cure tumours and draw out the pus through fistulas. The same property is shown by the inner barks. Many hold that the bark when chewed is very good for wounds, and that the leaves, pounded and sprinkled with water, are so for swollen feet. An application of the moisture too, that exudes, as I have said, from the pith of the tree when lopped, restores hair to the scalp and prevents it from falling out.
XXXIV. The linden tree is good for practically the same purposes as the wild olive, but its action is milder. Only its leaves, however, are used both for babies' sores and for those in the mouth; they may be chewed or a decoction may be made of them; they are diuretic. Applied locally they check menstruation; taken in drink they draw off extravasated blood.
XXXV. The elder has a second, a much smaller species, growing wilder and called by the Greeks chamaeacte, by others helion. A decoction in old wine of the leaves, seed, or root, of either species, taken as drink up to two cyathi for a dose, is bad for the stomach, though carrying off watery humours from the bowels. It also reduces inflammation, especially that of a recent burn, and a dog-bite is relieved by a poultice of its most tender leaves with pearl barley. An application of the juice softens gatherings on the brain, being specific when these are on the membrane that surrounds it. Its berries have weaker properties than the other parts. They dye the hair. A dose of one acetabulum taken in drink is diuretic. The softest of the leaves are eaten with oil and salt to bring away phlegm and bile. For all purposes the smaller kind is the more efficacious. A decoction of the root in wine, taken in doses of two cyathi, draws off the water of dropsy; it also softens the uterus, as does also sitting in baths of a decoction of the leaves. The tender stalks of the cultivated elder boiled in a saucepan relax the bowels; the leaves taken in wine also counteract the bites of snakes.
An application of young shoots with goat-suet is very good for gout; these are also steeped in water to kill fleas by sprinkling. If a place is sprinkled with a decoction of the leaves flies are killed. Boa is the name given to a disease when the body is red with pimples; beating with a branch of elder is administered as a remedy. The inner bark pounded and taken in white wine relaxes the bowels.
XXXVI. The juniper, even above all other remedies, is warming and alleviates symptoms; for the rest, it resembles the cedrus. Of it there are two species, one smaller than the other. Either kind when set on fire keeps off snakes. The seed is beneficial for pains in the stomach, chest and side, dispels flatulence and the feeling of chill, relieves coughs and matures indurations. Applied locally it checks tumours; the berries taken in dark wine bind the bowels, and a local application reduces tumours of the belly. The fruit is also an ingredient of antidotes and of digestive remedies, and is diuretic. It is also applied locally to the eyes for fluxes, and it is used for sprains, ruptures, colic, uterine disorders and sciatica, either in doses of four berries with white wine, or a decoction of twenty in wine. There are also some who smear the body with an extract of the seed as a protection against snakebite.
XXXVII. The fruit of the willow before maturity develops a kind of cobweb, but if it be gathered earlier it is good for the spitting of blood. Mixed with water, the ash from the burnt bark of the tips of the branches cures corns and callosities. It removes spots on the face, more thoroughly when mixed with willow juice. This juice, however, is of three kinds: one exudes like gum from the tree itself; the second flows from an incision, three fingers wide, made in the bark while the tree is in blossom. This sort is useful for clearing away humours that obstruct the eyes, also for thickening where that is necessary, for promoting urine and for draining outwards all gatherings. The third kind of juice is obtained by lopping off the branches, when it drips under the sickle. One, then, of these juices warmed in a pomegranate rind with rose oil is poured into the ears, or a local application is made of the boiled leaves beaten up with wax. For gout too it is most useful to foment the sinews with a decoction of the bark and leaves in wine. The blossom beaten up with the leaves removes scurf on the face. The leaves thoroughly pounded and taken in drink check over-lustful desire; too many doses produce absolute impotence. The seed of the black willow of Ameria with an equal weight of litharge, applied after the bath, acts as a depilatory.
XXXVIII. The agnus castus is not very different from the willow, either for its use in wickerwork or in the appearance of its leaves, but it has a more pleasant smell. The Greeks call it lygos, sometimes agnos, because the Athenian matrons, preserving their chastity at the Thesmophoria, strew their beds with its leaves. There are two kinds of it. The larger grows up to be a tree like the willow; the smaller is branchy, with paler, downy leaves. The first bears pale blossom with some purple in it, and is called the white agnus; the other, which bears only purple blossom, is called the dark agnns. They grow on marshy plains. The seed taken in drink has a taste somewhat like wine; it is said to reduce fevers, to stimulate perspiration when applied as embrocation with oil, and also to dispel lassitude. The trees furnish medicines that promote urine and menstruation. They go to the head like winefor the smell too is similardrive flatulence into the lower bowels, check diarrhoea, and greatly benefit dropsy and splenic diseases. They encourage abundant rich milk, and neutralize the poisons of serpents, especially those that bring on chill. The smaller kind makes the more effective remedies for the bite of serpents; one drachma of the seed, or two of the most tender leaves, is taken in wine, or in vinegar and water. Either kind makes a liniment for the bites of spiders; mere smearing drives away poisonous creatures, as does fumigation also, or placing some of the plant under the bed. They check violent sexual desire, and for this reason in particular they act as antidotes to the venomous spider, the bite of which excites the genitals. The blossom and tender shoots mixed with rose oil clear away headache due to intoxication. The seed takes away by fomentation with a decoction the more severe type of headache, purges the uterus also by fumigation or a pessary, and the bowels if drunk with pennyroyal and honey. Boils and superficial abscesses that refuse to come to a head are softened by an application of it with barley meal. With saltpetre and vinegar the seed cures lichens and freckles, with honey sores of the month and of eruptions, those of the testes with butter and vine leaves, chaps in the seat when applied with water, dislocations when applied with salt, soda and wax. With the seed the leaves too are added to plasters for the relief of painful sinews and of gout. A decoction of the seed in oil is poured in drops on the head of sufferers from lethargus or phrenitis. It is said that those who keep a twig in their hand or in their girdle do not suffer from chafing between the thighs.
XXXIX. The Greeks call erice (heath) a shrub differing only a little from the agnus castus; it has the same colour and very nearly the same leaf as rosemary. Report says that it counteracts the poison of serpents.
XL. Genista also is used for cords, and has a flower of which bees are very fond. I wonder whether this is the plant that Greek writers have called sparton, because, as I have mentioned, from it the Greeks are wont to make their fishing lines, and whether Homer had it in mind when he said that 'the ships' cords (sparta) were loosed.' It is certain that the Spanish or African esparto grass was not yet in use, and though ships were made with sewed seams, yet it was with flax that they were sewed and never with esparto. The seed of this plant, which the Greeks call by the same name, grows in pods like those of the cowpea, and purges instead of hellebore if a drachma and a half with four cyathi of hydromel are drunk on an empty stomach. The branches, together with the leaves, soaked in vinegar for several days and then beaten up, yield a juice beneficial for sciatica in doses of one cyathus. Some prefer to soak them in seawater and inject as an enema. The same juice with the addition of oil is used as an embrocation for sciatica. Some too use the seed for straugury. Pounded genista with axle-grease cures painful knees.
XLI. Lenaeus calls the myrice (tamarisk) erica (heath), comparing it to the brooms of Ameria. He says that boiled in wine, beaten up with honey, and applied to cancerous sores it heals them. Some authorities consider it to be the same as tamarice. But it is specific for splenic trouble if its juice is extracted and drunk in wine; so wonderful do they make out its antipathy to be to this internal organ, and to this only, that they affirm that if pigs drink out of troughs made of this wood they are found to be without a spleen. And for that reason they give to a man also, if he has an enlarged spleen, food and drink in vessels made of tamarisk. A respected medical authority, moreover, has asserted that a twig, broken off from it without its touching the ground or iron, relieves bellyache, if it be so applied as to be pressed to the body by the tunic and the girdle. The common people, as I have said, call this tree unlucky, because it bears no fruit and never is planted.
XLII. Corinth and the part of Greece around it call brya a tree of which they distinguish two kinds: the wild, which is absolutely barren, and the cultivated. The latter in Egypt and Syria bears, and that abundantly, large-stoned fruit bigger than a gall-nut and bitter to the taste, which physicians use instead of gall-nuts in the medical mixtures which they call antherae. The wood also, and the blossom, leaves and bark, are used for the same purposes, although they are less potent. The pounded bark is given for the spitting of blood and for excessive menstruation, also to sufferers from coeliac disease. An application of the same bark pounded checks all kinds of gatherings. From the leaves is extracted a juice employed for the same purposes. The leaves are also decocted in wine; but by themselves with honey added they are applied to gangrenous sores. A decoction of them taken in wine or the leaves themselves applied locally with rose oil and wax are soothing. So used they also cure epinyctis; a decoction of them is healing to toothache and earache; the root is similarly used for the same purposes. The leaves furthermore are applied with pearl barley to spreading ulcers. A drachma by weight of the seed is taken in drink for the poison of phalangia and other spiders; it is applied however with chicken fat to boils. It is an antidote also to the poison of serpents except that of the asp. It is also good for jaundice, phthiriasis and nits, if a decoction is used as a liniment, and this too checks excessive menstruation. The ash from the tree is good for all the same purposes. They say that if it is mixed with the urine of a castrated ox and taken in either drink or food it is antaphrodisiac. A burning coal of this wood is quenched with the urine mentioned and kept in the shade. This, when you want to light it, crumbles to powder. The Magi have recorded that the urine of a eunuch also has the same effect.
XLIII. Nor is the red-twigged tree considered more lucky. Its inner bark opens scars which have healed too soon.
XLIV. The leaves of siler applied to the forehead relieve headache. The seed of it too crushed in oil checks phthiriasis. Serpents keep away from this shrub also, and for this reason rustics carry a walking stick made of it.
XLV. Privet, if it is the same tree as the cypros of the East, has its own uses in Europe. Its juice benefits sinews, joints and chills; its leaves everywhere are used to treat chronic ulcer and, with a sprinkling of salt, sores in the mouth; the berries are employed for phthiriasis, and the berries or the leaves for chafing between the thighs. The berries also cure the pip in chickens.
XLVI. The leaves of the alder in very hot water are a remedy for tumours.
XLVII. I have pointed out twenty kinds of ivy. The medicinal properties of all are twofold in action. Ivy deranges the mind and also clears the head when taken too copiously in drink; taken internally it injures sinews, while an external application does them good. All kinds of ivy, being of the same character as vinegar, are of a cooling nature. They are diuretic when taken in drink; they relieve headache; especially beneficial to the brain and to the membrane enclosing it is an application of soft leaves pounded and boiled with vinegar and rose oil, more rose oil being added afterwards. They are also applied to the forehead, and a decoction of them is used to foment the mouth and to rub the head. They are good for the spleen whether taken in drink or used as liniment. They are also boiled or beaten up in wine for the shivers of ague and for outbursts of phlegm. Clusters also of ivy berries cure splenic trouble, either taken in drink or applied locally; for liver trouble, however, they must be applied. Pessaries of berries promote menstruation. Ivy juice, especially that of the white cultivated ivy, cures complaints and offensive smell of the nostrils. The same poured into the nostrils clears the head, more thoroughly if soda is added. It is also poured with oil into purulent or painful ears. It furthermore removes the ugly marks of scars. For troubles of the spleen the juice of the white kind warmed with hot iron is more efficacious. A sufficient dose is six berries taken in two cyathi of wine. Berries of white ivy taken three at a time in oxymel expel tapeworms, and in this treatment it is also beneficial to apply the berries to the belly. The ivy that I have called golden-berried a draws off in the urine the subcutaneous water of dropsy, if twenty of the golden berries are beaten up in a sextarius of wine and the mixture is drunk in doses of three cyathi. Erasistratus prescribed five berries of the same ivy, pounded in rose oil and warmed in the rind of a pomegranate, for toothache, the injection to be made drop by drop into the ear opposite to the pain. If the berries that have a saffron juice are taken in drink beforehand, they keep off the headache that follows drinking; they are likewise good for the spitting of blood and for colic. The whiter clusters of the dark ivy taken in drink make even men sterile. A decoction in wine of any kind of ivy is applied locally to every kind of ulcer, even if it is malignant. The tears of the ivy act as a depilatory and remove phthiriasis. The blossom of any sort of ivy, taken in dry wine twice a day, a three-finger pinch at a time, corrects dysentery and looseness of the bowels. With wax it is useful as an ointment for bums. The clusters turn the hair black. The juice of the root, taken in vinegar, is good for the bite of poisonous spiders. I find also that patients with diseases of the spleen are cured if they drink from a vessel made of this wood. They crush too the berries, then burn them, and in this way apply them to burns that have previously been bathed with warm water. There are also some who make incisions in ivy for the sake of the juice, which they use for decayed teeth; they say that the teeth break off, those nearest being protected by wax lest they should be injured. They obtain also a gum from ivy, which in vinegar is recommended as very useful for the teeth.
XLVIII. The Greeks give the name cisthos, which is very like cissos (ivy), to a shrub larger than thyme and with leaves like those of ocimum. There are two kinds of it; the flower of the male is rose-coloured, of the female, white. Both are good for dysentery and looseness of the bowels, the dose being as much of the blossom as can be taken in three fingers, this quantity to be swallowed in a dry wine twice a day; for chronic ulcers and for burns the blossom is applied with wax, and by itself for ulcers in the mouth. It is especially under these shrubs that there grows the hypocisthis, which I shall describe when I treat of herbs.
XLIX. The plant called cissos erythranos by the Greeks is like ivy. Taken in wine it is good for sciatica and lumbago; so strong is the property of the berry that it brings away blood in the urine. Chamaecissos again is the name they give to an ivy that never rises from the ground. This too crushed in wine and taken in doses of an acetabulum cures splenic trouble; the leaves with axle-grease are applied to bums. The milax also, which has the further name of anthophoros (flower-bearer), has a likeness to the ivy, though the leaves are more slender. A chaplet of it made with an odd number of leaves is said to be a cure for headache. Some authorities have declared that there are two kinds of milax. One is very nearly everlasting, grows in shaded valleys, is a climber of trees, bears berries in luxuriant clusters, and is most efficacious against all poisonous things to such a degree that, if the juice of the berries is repeatedly administered in drops to babies, no poison will hereafter do them any harm. The other kind is said to be fond of cultivated ground and to grow there, having no medicinal value. The former milax they state to be the one the wood of which, we said, gives out a sound when placed close to the ear. Like it is the plant that some have called elematis, which climbs along trees and is itself jointed. Its leaves cleanse leprous sores; its seed loosens the bowels if an acetabulum of it is taken in a hemina of water or in hydromel. A decoction of it is administered for the same purpose.
L. I have pointed out twenty-eight kinds of reed, and nowhere is more obvious that force of Nature which I describe in these books one after another, if indeed the root of the reed, crushed and applied, draws a fern stem out of the flesh, while the root of the fern does the same to a splinter of reed. To increase the number of the various reeds there is that which grows in Judea and Syria and is used for scents and unguents; boiled down with grass or celery seed this is diuretic, and when made into a pessary acts as an emmenagogue. A cure for sprains, for troubles of the liver and of the kidneys, and for dropsy, is two oboli taken in drink; for a cough also inhalation is used, the addition of resin being an improvement; for scurf and running sores is used a decoction with myrrh. Its juice also is collected and made into a drug like elaterium. Of all reeds the parts nearest the root are the most efficacious, and the joints are more efficacious than other pads. The Cyprian reed, called donax, has a bark which, reduced to ash, is a remedy for mange and also for festering sores. Its leaves are used for extracting splinters, and are also good for erysipelas and for all gatherings. The common reed has the power to extract if freshly pounded, and not the root only, for many hold that the reed itself too has this property. The root applied in vinegar cures dislocations and pains of the spine; the same ground fresh and taken in wine is aphrodisiac. The down on reeds placed in the ears deadens the hearing.
LI. Akin to the reed is a plant growing in Egypt, the papyrus, which, when it has been dried, is especially useful for expanding and drying fistulas, and, by swelling, for opening them to admit medicaments. The paper made from it is, when burnt, one of the caustic remedies. Its ash taken in wine induces sleep. The plant itself applied with water cures callosities.
LII. Not even in Egypt does the ebony-tree grow, as I have stated, and in my medical research I omit foreign regions; yet I must not pass it by, as it is a great marvel. Its sawdust is said to be a sovereign remedy for the eyes; its wood, ground on the whetstone and mixed with raisin wine, to dispel dimness of vision; its root, applied however in water, to disperse white specks on the eyes; cough too to be cleared away if an equal measure of draeunculus root is added along with honey. Physicians include ebony among erosive remedies.
LIII. The rhododendros has not even found a Latin name among the Romans, names for it being rhododaphne or nerium. It is a strange fact that, while its leaves are poisonous to quadrupeds, to man on the other hand, if rue is added and the mixture taken in wine, they are a protection against the poison of snakes. Sheep too and goats, if they drink water in which these leaves have been steeped, are said to be killed by it.
LIV. Neither has rhus received a Latin name, although many uses are made of it. For it is both a wild plant with myrtle-like leaves and short stems, which expels tapeworms, and also the shrub called 'the tanner's', of a reddish colour, a cubit high, and of the thickness of a finger, the leaves of which when dried are used as is pomegranate rind in the tanning of leather. Physicians moreover use the leaves of rhus for bruises, likewise for coeliac trouble, sores in the seat and for what they call eating (phagedaenic) ulcers. Pounded with honey and applied with vinegar ... a decoction of them is dropped into suppurating ears. A decoction of the branches makes a mouthwash, which is used for the same purposes as that made from mulberries, but it is more efficacious when mixed with alum. This is also applied to dropsical swellings.
LV. What is called rhus erythros (red sumach) is eryta, the seed of this shrub. It has astringent and cooling properties. It is sprinkled on viands instead of salt when the bowels have been relaxed, and with silphium added makes all meat sweeter. With honey it cures running sores, roughness of the tongue, and livid or excoriated bruises; applied in the same way it very quickly causes wounds on the head to cicatrize. Taken as food it checks excessive menstruation.
LVI. A different plant is erythrodanum, called by some ereuthodanum, and rubia by the Romans, which is used to dye wool and to tan leather. As a medicine it is diuretic, and taken in hydromel cures jaundice (lichen too if applied with vinegar), sciatica and paralysis if the patient bathes daily while taking the draught. The root and the seed are emmenagogues, check diarrhoea and disperse gatherings. The branches with the leaves are applied for snakebites. The leaves also dye the hair. I find in some authorities that jaundice is cured if this shrub is merely looked at while worn as an amulet.
LVII. The plant called alysson differs from the last only in having smaller leaves and branches. It has received its name because it prevents persons bitten by a dog from going mad if they take it in vinegar and wear it as an amulet. The authorities add the wonderful marvel that the mere sight of this shrub dries up sanies.
LVIII. Radicula too prepares wools for the dyers; I have said that it is called struthion by the Greeks. It cures jaundice both when taken by itself in drink and in the form of a decoction, and likewise chest troubles; it promotes urine, loosens the bowels and purges the uterus, for which reason physicians call it `golden goblet'. With honey too it is a splendid remedy for a cough, and in doses of a spoonful for orthopnoea; but with pearl barley and vinegar it removes leprous sores. Again, with panaces and caper root it breaks up and expels stone in the bladder, and a decoction with barley meal and wine disperses superficial abscesses. It is used as an ingredient of poultices, and of eye-salves to improve the vision; it is especially useful for making the patient sneeze, and also for troubles of the spleen and liver. The same plant taken in hydromel in doses of one denarius by weight cures asthma and pleurisy and all pains in the side.
Dog's-bane is a shrub having a leaf like that of ivy but softer; the tendrils are shorter, and the seed is pointed, grooved, downy, and strong smelling. If given in their food this seed in water kills dogs and all other quadrupeds.
LIX. Rosemary has been mentioned already. There are two kinds of it; one is barren, and the other has a stalk and a resinous seed called cachrys. The leaves have the smell of frankincense. A local application of the fresh root heals wounds, prolapsus of the anus, condylomata, and haemorrhoids. The juice both of the shrub and of the root cures jaundice and such conditions as call for cleansing. It sharpens the eyesight. The seed is given in drink for chronic complaints of the chest and with wine and pepper for uterine trouble; it is an emmenagogue, and with darnel meal is applied locally for gout; an application also clears away freckles, and is used when a calorific or sudorific is called for, also for sprains; milk is increased when it, and when the root, is taken in wine. The herb itself is applied with vinegar to scrofulous sores, and with honey is good for a cough.
LX. There are, as I have said, many kinds of eachrys. But the one growing on rosemary, the plant just described, is resinous if rubbed. It neutralizes poisons, and the venom of all creatures except snakes. It promotes perspiration, dispels colic, and produces a rich supply of milk.
LXI. Sabine herb, called brathy by the Greeks, is of two kinds. One has a leaf like that of the tamarisk, the other like that of the cypress, for which reason some have called it the Cretan cypress. Many use it instead of frankincense for fumigations; in medicines moreover a double dose is said to be equivalent in strength to a single dose of cinnamon. It reduces gatherings and checks corroding sores; an application cleanses ulcers, and used as a pessary or for fumigation it brings away the dead foetus. With honey it is used as an ointment for erysipelas and carbuncles; taken in wine it cures jaundice. By fumigation sabine herb is said to cure the pip in chickens.
LXII. Like this sabine herb is the plant called selago. It is gathered without iron with the right hand, thrust under the tunic through the left arm-hole, as though the gatherer were thieving. He should be clad in white, and have bare feet washed clean; before gathering he should make a sacrificial offering of bread and wine. The plant is carried in a new napkin. The Druids of Gaul have recorded that it should be kept on the person to ward off all fatalities, and that the smoke of it is good for all diseases of the eyes.
LXIII. The same authorities have called samoius (brook-weed) a plant growing in moist regions, which (they say) is to be gathered with the left hand by fasting persons to keep off the diseases of swine and oxen. As one gathers it one must not look at it, nor place the plant anywhere except in the trough, where it should be crushed for the animals to drink.
LXIV. I have mentioned a the different kinds of gums. The better the sort of each kind the more potent its effect. Gums are injurious to the teeth, coagulate blood and therefore benefit those who spit blood; they are also good for burns though bad for affections of the trachea; they promote urine and lessen the bitter taste in things. Gums generally are acrid, but the gum that comes from bitter almonds, and is more efficacious for giving astringency to the internal organs, possesses heating properties. The gums from plums, cherries and vines are less esteemed. An application of gum has drying and astringent properties, in vinegar moreover it cures lichens on babies, and four oboli taken in must are good for a chronic cough. Gums are believed to improve the complexion and also the appetite; they are good for stone when taken with raisin wine. They are especially useful for the eyes and for wounds.
LXV. The Arabian thornI have mentioned the merits of the Egyptian thorn in my section on scentseven by itself by its thickening nature checks all fluxes, spitting of blood and excessive menstruation, and there is even more potency in its root.
LXVI. The seed of the white thorn is a help against the stings of scorpions, and a crown of it when worn lessens headache. Like it is the plant called acanthion by the Greeks, but this has much smaller leaves, which have prickly points and are covered with down like cobweb. In the East this is even gathered to make a silk-like cloth. The leaves by themselves, or the roots, are taken in drink as a cure for opisthotonic tetanus.
LXVII. A gum also is produced in Egypt from the acacia-thorn, from a pale tree and a dark, and likewise from a green tree, which is far better than the former two. Gum is also produced in Galatia; it is very inferior, and comes from a more thorny tree than the others. The seed of all the trees is like the lentil, only both grain and pod are smaller. It is gathered in autumn; if gathered earlier, its tonic properties are too powerful. The pods are steeped in rainwater and then pounded in a mortar. The juice is then extracted from them by presses, and finally thickened into lozenges by exposure to the sun in basins. A juice is also extracted from the leaves, but it is less efficacious. For tanning leather they use the seed instead of gall-nuts. The juice of the leaves and of the Galatian acacia is very dark, and considered of little value, as is also the juice of the deep-red kind. The purple gum, the dun-coloured, and that which dissolves most easilythese have the highest tonic and cooling qualities these are particularly useful for eye-salves. For purposes the lozenges are washed by some, roasted by others and by others thoroughly burnt. They dye the hair, and cure erysipelas, creeping ulcers, moist complaints of the body, gatherings, bruised joints, chilblains and hangnails. They check excessive menstruation in women and are good for prolapsus of the uterus and anus, also for the eyes and for sores of the mouth and of the genitals.
LXVIII. Our common thorn also, from which the fullers' coppers are filled, has a root with uses. Throughout the Spains, many use it as a scent and as an ingredient of ointments, calling it aspalathus of this name in the East, white, and as big as an ordinary tree,
LXIX. but it is also the name of a shrub, lower in height but equally thorny, that grows in the islands Nisyrus and Rhodes, called by some ervsisceptrum, by others sphagnos, and by the Syrians diaxylon. The best is that least like fennelgiant, of a red colour or inclining to purple when the bark has been removed. It grows in several regions, but not everywhere has it a perfume. I have described its powerful scent when the rainbow rests extended over the shrub. It cures foul ulcers in the mouth, polypus, ulcerated genitals and those with carbuncles, and also chaps; taken in drink it clears away flatulence and strangury. The bark is good for those who bring up blood, and a decoction of it checks looseness of the bowels. The wild shrub also is thought to have similar properties.
LXX. There is also a thorn with the name of appendix, because the bright red berries hanging from it are called appendixes. These, either raw by themselves or dried and boiled down in wine, check looseness of the bowels and colic. The berries of pyracantha are taken in drink for the bites of serpents.
LXXI. Paliurus too is a species of thorn. Its seed the Africans call zura; it is very efficacious for scorpion sting, and likewise for stone and cough. The leaves have an astringent quality. The root disperses superficial abscesses, gatherings and boils; taken in drink it is diuretic. A decoction of it in wine checks looseness of the bowels and neutralizes the poison of serpents. The root especially is given in wine.
LXXII. The leaves of the holly, crushed and with the addition of salt, are good for diseases of the joints, while the berries are good for menstruation, coeliac trouble, dysentery and cholera. Taken in wine they check looseness of the bowels. An application of the decocted root extracts objects embedded in the flesh, and is very useful for dislocations and swellings. A holly tree planted in a town house or country house keeps off magic influences. Pythagoras has recorded that by its blossom water is solidified, and that a holly stick, cast at any animal, even if through want of strength in the thrower it falls short of the quarry, of its own accord rolls nearer the mark, so powerful is the nature of this tree. The smoke of the yew tree kills rats and mice.
LXXIII. Not even brambles did Nature create for harmful purposes only, and so she has given them their blackberries, that are food even for men. They have a drying and astringent property, being very good for gums, tonsils and genitals. They counteract the venom of the most vicious serpents, such as the haemorrhois and prester; the bloom or the berry counteracts that of scorpions. They close wounds without any danger of gatherings. Their stalks are diuretic, being pounded when young and the juice extracted, which is then condensed in the sun to the thickness of honey, and is considered to be, whether taken by the month or used as ointment, a specific for affections of the mouth or eyes, for spitting of blood, quinsy, troubles of the uterus or anus, and for coeliae affections. For affections of the mouth, indeed, even the chewed leaves are efficacious, and they are used as ointment for running sores, or for any kind of sore on the head. Even prepared thus without other ingredient they are applied near a the left breast for heart-burn, also to the stomach for stomach-ache, and to the eyes for procidence. The juice of them is also dropped into the ears. Added to rose wax-salve it heals condylomata. A decoction in wine of its tender shoots is a quick remedy for affections of the uvula. The same shoots, eaten by themselves like cabbage sprouts, or a decoction of them in a dry wine, strengthen loose teeth. They check looseness of the bowels and discharges of blood, and are good for dysentery. They are dried in the shade and then burnt so that the ash may reduce a relaxed uvula. The leaves also dried and crushed are said to be useful for sores on draught animals. The blackberries which grow on them can furnish a better mouth-medicine than even the cultivated mulberry. Made up on the same prescription or with hypocisthis and honey only, they are taken in drink for cholera, for heart-burn, and for the stings of spiders. Among the medicines that are called styptics, there is none more effective than the root of a bramble bearing blackberries boiled down in wine to one third, so that sores in the mouth and the anus may be rinsed with the decoction and fomented; so powerful is it that the very sponges used become hard as stone.
LXXIV. A second kind of bramble, on which a rose grows, produces a little round growth like a chestnut, an excellent remedy for the stone. It is different from the dog-rose, about which I shall speak a in the next book.
The cynosbatos is called by some cynapanxis, by others neurospastos. It has a leaf like a man's foot-print. It also bears a black cluster, in the berry of which it has a string, whence the whole shrub is called neurospastos. It is different from the caper that the physicians have called cynosbatos. The stalk of this, pickled in vinegar, is chewed as a remedy for affections of the spleen and for flatulence. The string of it chewed up with Chian mastic cleanses the mouth. The rose-blossom of brambles with axle-grease clears away mange; the berries mixed with oil of unripe grapes dye the hair. The blossom of the blackberry is gathered at harvest-time. The white blossom taken in wine is excellent for pleurisy and also for coeliac affections. The root, boiled down to one-third, checks looseness of the bowels and haemorrhage; the decoction also makes a wash that strengthens the teeth. With the same juice are fomented sores of the anus and of the genitals. The ash from the root replaces a relaxed uvula.
LXXV. The Idaean bramble was so called because no other grows on Mount Ida. It is, however, more delicate than other brambles and smaller, with the canes farther apart and less prickly; it grows under the shade of trees. The blossom of it with honey is applied to fluxes of the eyes and to erysipelas, and in water it is given as a drink to patients with disordered stomachs; its other properties are the same as those mentioned above.
LXXVI. Among the different kinds of brambles is one called rhamnos by the Greeks, paler, more bushy, throwing out branches with straight thorns, not hooked like those of other brambles, and with larger leaves. The other kind of it is wild, darker and inclining to red, bearing a sort of pod. A decoction of the root of this in water makes a drug called lycium. The seed of it brings away the afterbirth. The other, the paler kind, is more astringent, cooling, and more suitable for the treatment of gatherings and wounds. The leaves of either kind, raw or boiled, are made up into an ointment with oil.
LXXVII. A superior lycium is said to be made from the thorn which is also called chironian, a boxthorn, the characteristics of which I have described among Indian trees, for Indian lycium is considered by far the best. The pounded branches and roots, which are of extreme bitterness, are boiled in water in a copper vessel for three days; the woody pieces are then taken away and the rest boiled again until it is of the consistency of honey. It is adulterated with bitter juices, even with lees of olive oil and with ox gall. The froth, which may be called the flower of the decoction, is an ingredient of remedies for the eyes. The rest of the juice is used for clearing spots from the face and for the cure of itch, chronic fluxes of the eyes and corroding sores in their corners, pus in the ears, sore tonsils and gains, cough and spitting of blood. For these a piece the size of a bean is swallowed, or if there is discharge from wounds it is applied locally, as it is to chaps, ulcers of the genitals, excoriations, fresh, spreading and also festering ulcers, excrescences in the nostrils and suppurations. It is also taken in milk by women for excessive menstruation. The Indian variety is distinguished by the lumps being black outside and red inside, quickly turning black when they have been broken. This kind is very astringent, and bitter. It is useful for all the same purposes as are the other kinds, but especially for treating the genitals.
LXXVIII. Some think that sarcocolla is the tear-like drop of a thorn. It is like powdered frankincense, sweet with a touch of harshness, and gummy. It checks fluxes, and is used especially as an ointment for babies. It too grows black with age, and the whiter it is the better its quality.
LXXIX. There is still one famous remedy, called oporice, to be included among the medicines that are obtained from trees. Used for dysentery and stomach troubles, it is made in the following way. In a congius of white grape-juice are boiled down over a slow heat five quinces, seeds and all, five pomegranates, one sextarius of sorb-apples, an equal quantity of what is called Syrian sumach, and half an ounce of saffron. The boiling continues until the consistency is that of honey.
LXXX. To these remedies I will add those which, because the Greeks have given the same name to different objects, we might be led to suppose came from trees.
The chamaedrys ('ground oak') is a plant whose Latin name is trixago. Some have called it chamaerops, and others the Trojan plant. It has leaves of the same size as mint leaves, coloured and indented as are those of the oak. Some have called it 'saw-shaped,' saying that it gave rise to the invention of the saw; its blossom is almost purple. It is cropped in rocky localities and is full of juice, being a very efficacious remedy, either by the mouth or as an ointment, for the poison of serpents, and also for disordered stomach, chronic cough, phlegm collected in the throat, ruptures, sprains and pain in the side. It reduces the spleen, promotes menstruation, and is diuretic, being for this reason efficacious in incipient dropsy, a handful of its sprays being boiled down to one-third in a sextarius and a half of water. It is ground in water to make lozenges for the purposes mentioned above. With honey it also heals abscesses and chronic sores, even when foul. There is also made from it a wine, which is useful for troubles of the chest. The juice of the leaves with oil clears away dimness of vision; for the spleen it is taken in vinegar. Used also as embrocation it is warming.
LXXXI. The chamaedaphne ('ground bay') consists of a single small stem, about a cubit high; the leaves are more slender than those of the bay; the seed, of a red colour, is attached to the leaves. It is applied fresh to the head for headache, it cools feverishness, and for colic it is taken with wine. Its juice when taken by the mouth promotes menstruation and urine, and applied as a pessary in wool it makes easier difficult childbirth.
LXXXII. The chamelaea ('ground olive') has leaves which resemble those of the olivethey are bitter, however, and scentedgrowing in rocky places and not exceeding a span in height. It purges the bowels, and draws away phlegm and bile; a decoction is made of the leaves with twice the quantity of wormwood, this juice being drunk with honey.
An application of the leaves also cleanses ulcers. It is said that if anyone before sunrise says while plucking it that he does so 'to cure white spots in the eyes,' it disperses this affection if worn as an amulet; but that, in whatever way it is gathered, it is beneficial for the eyes of beasts of burden and of cattle.
LXXXIII. The chamaesyce ('ground fig') has leaves like those of the lentil, and not rising above the ground. It is found in dry and rocky localities. Very useful for clearness of vision and for arresting cataract, an ointment prepared from it is also used most beneficially for scars, dimness of sight and films over the eyes. Applied as a pessary on a bit of linen it soothes pains of the uterus. Warts too of every kind are removed by an ointment made from it. It is also beneficial for orthopnoea.
LXXXIV. The chamaecissos ('ground ivy') is a plant with ears like those of wheat, with about five little branches and many leaves. When in blossom it might be taken for the white violet. The root is slender. For sciatica three oboli of the leaves are taken in two cyathi of wine for seven days, but it is a very bitter draught.
LXXXV. The chamaeleuce ('ground poplar') is called by us Romans farfarum or farfugium. It grows by the side of rivers, and has leaves like those of the poplar, but larger. Its root is placed on live coals of cypress wood, and the fumes of it inhaled through a funnel for chronic cough.
LXXXVI. The chamaepeuce ('ground larch') has leaf resembling that of the larch and is specific for lumbago and pains in the spine. The chamaecyparis ('wound cypress') taken in wine is a powerful antidote to the poisons of all serpents and scorpions. The ampeloprason ('vine leek') grows in vineyards, has the leaves of a leek, causes violent belching, but is an antidote for the bites of serpents. It promotes urine and menstruation. Taken in drink and applied externally it checks discharges of blood from the genital organ. It is also administered to women after child-birth and for the bites of dogs. That plant also which is called stachys bears a resemblance to the leek, but has longer and more numerous leaves, a pleasant smell and a colour verging on saffron yellow. It is a powerful emmenagogue.
LXXXVII. Clinopodium also called cleopiceton, zopyrontion or oeimoides, is like wild thyme, ligneous, a span high, and found on rocky soils; the flowers are arranged in a round circuit, giving the appearance of the feet of a couch. It is taken in drink for sprains, ruptures, strangury and the bites of serpents; the juice of a decoction is likewise employed.
LXXXVIII. I shall now append some plants, wonderful indeed but not so well known, postponing more famous ones for succeeding books.
Roman authorities give the name centuneulus to a plant with leaves resembling the hood of a mantle, found lying on the ground in cultivated fields, and called by the Greeks elematis. Taken in a dry wine it is very good for arresting looseness of the bowels. Bleeding too is arrested by this plant pounded and taken in doses of one denarius by weight to five cyathi of oxymel or warm water; this prescription also helps the afterbirth.
LXXXIX. But the Greeks have also other kinds of clematis, one of which some call aetites, others lagioe, and others the 'slender scammony.' It has branches two feet long, leafy, and not unlike those of scammony, except that the leaves are darker and smaller. It is found in vineyards and cultivated fields, is eaten as salad with oil and salt, and relaxes the bowels. With linseed it is also drunk in a dry wine by sufferers from dysentery. The leaves with pearl barley are applied to fluxes from the eyes, a damp rag being first placed underneath. An application draws scrofulous sores to suppuration, and then a further application with axle-grease completes the cure. With green oil also they are beneficial for haemorrhoids, and with honey for consumptives. Taken as a food they also promote an abundant supply of human milk, applied to the heads of babies they stimulate the growth of hair, and eaten with vinegar. They act as an aphrodisiac.
XC. There is another clematis, called also the Egyptian, by some daphnoides and by others polygonoides, with a leaf like that of the bay; it is long and slender, and taken in vinegar is efficacious against the bite of serpents, being specific for that of asps.
XCI. It is Egypt especially that produces this clematis, and also the aron, which I have mentioned in my section on bulbs; about it and dracontium there has been sharp controversy, for some have asserted that the two are the same. Glaucias distinguished them by their mode of reproduction, declaring that dracontium is wild aron. Some have called the root aron, but the stem dracontium, though the latter is a totally different plant, if at least it is the same as that called by the Romans dracunculus. For the aron has a black root, broad and round, and much larger, large enough to fill the hand, but dracunculus a reddish one like a coiled snake, from which its name is derived.
XCII. The Greeks themselves moreover have put a wide difference between the two plants. They describe the seed of dracunculus as hot, with so foul a stench that the smell causes pregnant women to miscarry; aron they have lauded to the skies as an excellent food, preferring however the female plant, on the ground that the male is harder, and slower to cook, adding that it clears the chest of disorders, and that dried and sprinkled in drink or made into an electuary it is diuretic and an emmenagogue, as it is also when drunk in oxymel. They prescribed it to be drunk in sheep's milk for ulcerated stomach and bowels; cooked on hot ash and taken in oil they gave it for a cough. Others boiled it in milk for the decoction to be drunk. Thoroughly boiled it was applied by them to fluxes from the eyes, and likewise to bruises and to affected tonsils. Glaucias injected it in oil for troublesome piles, using it with honey as an ointment for freckles. He recommended it also as an antidote against poisons, and, prepared as for coughs, for pleurisy and pneumonia. The seed pounded up with olive oil or rose oil is injected for earache. Dieuches administered it, thoroughly mixed with the powder from a loaf, for coughs, asthma, orthopnoea, and the spitting of pus. Diodotus gave it in the form of an honey electuary for consumption and complaints of the lungs, and even used it as an application for broken bones. Applied round the sexual parts it helps delivery of all animals. Dimness of vision and disorders of the stomach are removed by the juice of the root with Attic honey, and cough by the broth of a decoction with the addition of honey. The juice is a wonderful remedy for ulcers of all kinds, whether corroding, cancerous, spreading, or polypus in the nostrils. The leaves, boiled in wine and oil, are good for bums. Taken in salt and vinegar they are a strong purge, boiled with honey they are good for dislocations, and also fresh or dried, with salt added, for gouty joints. Hippocrates applied them, fresh or dried, with honey locally to boils. As an emmenagogue two drachmae of the seed or root in two cyathi of wine are sufficient, and the same draught, if cleansing after delivery is not effected, also brings away the afterbirth. Hippocrates also used the root by itself as a pessary. It is said too that in times of plague it is healthful to take it in one's food. It dissipates the effects of drunkenness. The fumes arising from it when it bums keep away serpents, especially asps, or make them so tipsy that they are found in a state of torpor. Serpents are also kept off if the body is thoroughly rubbed with aron in oil of bay. For this reason it is also considered beneficial for snakebites if one takes aron in a draught of dark wine. It is said that cheese keeps very well if wrapped in leaves of aron.
XCIII. The dracunculus I have referred to is dug up when the barley is ripening and the moon is crescent. Merely to have it on the person keeps away serpents. So beneficial a draught is it said to be to those who have been bitten; and its potency to be greater if iron does not touch the plant. Earache too is relieved by its juice.
That plant, however, which the Greeks call dracontium has been pointed out to me in three illustrations; the first has leaves like those of beet, a thyrsus and a purple flower; this is like the aron. Others have pointed out a kind with a long root, which is as it were stamped and knotted, and with three stems in all, prescribing a decoction of its leaves in vinegar for the bite of serpents. The third plant pointed out had a leaf larger than that of the cornel and a root like that of a reed, the knots on it being, they said, as many as the plant is years old, the leaves too being also equal in number. They prescribed this plant in wine or water for snakebite.
XCIV. There is also a plant called the ails, which too is a native of Egypt. It is similar to the aron, only itself and its leaves are smaller, as is also the root in particular, though it is as big as a full-sized olive. The white kind puts out twin stems, the other kind one only. Either is good for running sores as well as for burns, and for fistula also if a suppository made of it be inserted. Corroding ulcers are arrested by an application of their leaves boiled in water and then beaten up with the addition of rose oil. But there is one great marvel connected with this plant: if it touches the sexual organs of any female animal she is driven to destruction.
XCV. The myriophyllon, which our people call millefolium, has a tender stem like that of fennel, with abundance of leaves, which have also given the plant its name. It is found in marshy districts, and with vinegar makes a splendid treatment for wounds. Iu drink it is taken for strangury, affections of the bladder, asthma, and falls from a height. It is also very efficacious for toothache. In Etruria the name is given to a slim meadow-plant, with many leaves at the sides like hair, and extremely beneficial for wounds; the people declare that applied with axle-grease it unites the tendons of oxen when cut by the ploughshare and closes the wound.
XCVI. The pseudobunion has the leaves of the navew; it grows into a bush about a span in height, the most esteemed being found in Crete. For colic, strangury and pains in the sides or hypochondria doses of five or six sprays are taken in drink.
XCVII. The myrris, also called myrriza or myrra, is very like hemlock in stem, leaves and flower, but smaller and more slender, and not unpleasant as a food. With wine it promotes menstruation and facilitates delivery. It is said that it is also healthful to take it in drink in time of plague. Given in broth it helps consumptives. It sharpens the appetite and allays the bite of poisonous spiders. Sores too on the face or head are cured by its juice obtained by steeping the plant in water for three days.
XCVIII. The oenobreches has leaves like those of the lentil, but a little longer, a red flower and a small, slender root. It grows round springs. Dried till it is like flour, and sprinkled in white wine, it stops strangury and checks looseness of the bowels. Rubbing with its juice mixed with oil causes perspiration.
XCIX. My proposed task of discussing wonderful plants suggests that I also say a few words about those that are magical. For what plants are more wonderful than they? These were first brought to the notice of our part of the world by Pythagoras and Democritus, who followed as their authority the Magi. Pythagoras declares that water is congealed by the plants coracesia and calicia; but I find no mention of them in other authorities, nor does Pythagoras tell us anything else about them.
C. The same authority gives the name of minyas, or corinthia, to a plant of which, he says, the decocted juice, used as a fomentation, immediately heals the bites of serpents. He adds that if it is poured on the grass and a person happens to tread on it, or if by chance it is sprinkled on the body, inevitable death ensues; so absolutely devilish is the poison of this plant, except that it counteracts other poisons.
CI. The same Pythagoras calls aproxis a plant whose root catches fire at a distance like naphtha; I have spoken about it in my section on the marvels of the earth. He also informs us that the symptoms of diseases which have attacked the human body when the cabbage a is in blossom, even though the patient has been cured, are felt to recur every time this plant blossoms; he speaks of a similar peculiarity following diseases which have attacked when wheat, hemlock or the violet is in flower. I am aware that this book of his is ascribed by some to the physician Cleemporus, but an ancient and unbroken tradition assigns it to Pythagoras. Were the author anyone else, the mere fact that he has considered the result of his labour worthy of that great thinker enhances the authority of a book; but who would believe that Cleemporus acted so, since he published other works, and that under his own name?
CII. That Democritus was the author of the book called is a well-attested tradition; yet in it this famous scientist, the keenest student next to Pythagoras of the Magi, has told us of far more marvellous phenomena. For example, the plant aglaophotis, which received its name from men's wonder at its magnificent colour, being native, he says, to the marble quarries of Arabia on the Persian side, is therefore also called marmaritis. The Magi use it, he tells us, when they wish to call up gods.
The achaemenis, he reports, is of an amber colour, leafless and found among the Taradastili of India; criminals, according to him, if they drink it in wine, confess all their misdeeds because they suffer tortures from divers phantoms of spirits that haunt them; he also called it hippophobas, because mares have an intense aversion to it.
The theombrotion grows, says Democritus, thirty from the Choaspes, being like a peacock in its colourings and of a very fine scent. He goes on to state that the kings of Persia take it in drink for all bodily disorders and for instability of intellect and of the sense of justice, and that it is also called semnion from the majesty of its power.
Democritus goes on to mention another plant, the adamantis, a native of Armenia and Cappadocia; if it be placed, he says, near lions they lie on their backs and wearily yawn. The reason for the name is because the plant cannot be crushed, Ariana is given as the home of the arianis, a plant of the colour of fire. It is gathered, he says, when the sun is in Leo, and pieces of wood soaked in oil catch fire at its touch.
Democritus says that the therionarca, growing in Cappadocia and Mysia, makes all wild beasts become torpid, and that they cannot be revived unless sprinkled with the urine of a hyena.
He tells us that the aethiopis grows in Meroh, that therefore its other name is the merois, that it has the leaf of the lettuce and that it is very beneficial for dropsy if taken in honey wine.
The ophiusa he speaks of as growing in Elephantine, which also belongs to Ethiopia, a plant livid in colour and revolting to look at, to take which in drink causes such terrible visions of threatening serpents that fear of them causes suicide; wherefore those guilty of sacrilege are forced to drink it. An antidote is palm wine.
The thalassaegle we are told is found along the river Indus, and is therefore also called potamaugis to drink which causes men to rave, while weird visions beset their minds.
The theangehs Democritus says, grows on Mount Lebanon in Syria, on Mount Dicte in Crete, and in Babylon and Susa in Persia; the Magi take it in drink to gain power to divine.
The gelotophyllis grows in Bactria and along the Borysthenes. If this be taken in myrrh and wine all kinds of phantoms beset the mind, causing laughter which persists until the kernels of pine-nuts are taken with pepper and honey in palm wine.
According to the same authority the hestiateris is a Persian plant, so named from its promotion of good fellowship, because it makes the company gay; it is also called protomediap from its use to gain the highest position at Court; casignete, because it grows only in company with its own species, and not with any other plants; also dionysonymphas, because it goes wonderfully well with wine.
Helianthes is the name given to a plant with leaves like those of the myrtle, growing in the district of Themiscyra and on the mountains along the coasts of Cilicia. A decoction of it in lion's fat, with saffron and palm wine added, is used, he says, as an ointment by the Magi and the Persian kings to give to the body a pleasing appearance, and therefore it is also called heliocallis.
The same authority gives the name hermesias to a means of procreating children who shall be handsome and good. It is not a plant, but a compound of ground kernels of pine nuts with honey, myrrh, saffron and palm wine, with the later addition of theombrotion and milk. He prescribes a draught of it to those who are about to become parents, after conception, and to nursing mothers. This, he says, results in children exceeding fair in mind and body, as well as good. Of all these plants he adds also the magical names.
Apollodorus, a follower of Democritus, added to these plants one that he called aeschynomene, because on the approach of a hand it contracts its leaves, and another called crocis, whose touch, he declares, kills poisonous spiders; Crateuas added the onothuris, by the sprinkling of which in wine he asserted that the fierceness of all animals is calmed; and a little while ago a well-known grammarian added anacampseros, by the mere touch of which, he said, love was restored, even though the lovers parted in hatred. These few remarks are quite enough to have been said for the present about the wonderful powers ascribed to plants by the Magi, as I shall speak of them again on a more fitting occasion.
CIII. Many have described the eriphia. It has a me beetle running up and down inside its stem, making a noise like that of a kid; hence also comes its name. It is said that nothing is better than this plant for improving the voice.
CIV. The wool-plant given to fasting sheep produces an abundance of milk. Equally well known generally is the lactoris, plant full of milk taste of which produces vomitings. Some say that this is the same plant (others say one like it) as that called the military plant, because there is no wound made by iron which is not cured within five days by an application of it in oil.
CV. Another plant highly popular among the Greeks is the stratiotes, but it grows only in Egypt when the Nile is in flood; it is like the aizoum, only its leaves are larger. It is wonderfully cooling, and applied in vinegar heals wounds, as well as erysipelas and suppurations. It also arrests haemorrhage of the kidneys in a marvellous way if taken in drink with male frankincense.
CVI. A plant that grows on the head of a statue, gathered into piece taken from some garment and tied on with red thread, is said to relieve headache immediately on being applied.
CVII. Any plant whatsoever, gathered before sunrise out of streams or rivers, provided that nobody sees the gatherer, if it is tied as an amulet to the left arm, is said to keep away tertian agues, provided that the patient does not know what is going on.
CVIII. The plant called 'tongue' grows around springs. Its root, burnt and pounded with pig's fatthey add that the pig should be black and barrencures mange if the patients use it as embrocation in the sunshine.
CIX. If the plants that sprout up inside a sieve thrown away on a cross-path are plucked and used as an amulet, they hasten the delivery of lying-in women.
CX. A plant growing on the top of country dung-heaps is, if taken in water, a very efficacious remedy for quinsies.
CXI. A plant near which dogs make water, if uprooted without the touch of iron, is a very quick remedy for dislocations.
CXII. In my account of vine-supporting trees the tree called rumpotinus received a notice. When it does not support a vine there grows near it a plant called by the Gauls rodarum. It has a stem with knots, like a twig of a fig-tree; the leaves are those of a nettle, whitish in the centre, but in course of time becoming red all over; the blossom is silvery. If the leaves are beaten up with old axle-grease, without being touched by iron, they are a sovereign remedy for tumours, inflammations and gatherings. After being rubbed with it the patient spits to his right three times. They say that the remedy is more efficacious if three persons of different nationalities do the rubbing from left to right.
CXIII. What is called the unfilial plant is of a hoary white, in appearance like rosemary, clothed with leaves like a thyrsus and terminating in a head, from which sprout up little branches that also terminate each in a little head of its own. This is why the plant has been called unfilial, because the children out-top their parent. Others have thought that it has been so named rather because no animal touches it. Crushed between two stones this plant gives out an effervescing juice, which added to milk and wine is a sovereign remedy for pansies. Attributed to it is this wonderful property; that they who have tasted it are never attacked by quinsy. Accordingly, they say, it is also given to pigs, and those refusing to swallow the medicine are cut off by that complaint. There are some who think that a little of it is woven into birds' nests, and that this is why chicks are not choked by gulping their food too greedily.
CXIV. Venus' comb is so named from its resemblance to combs; its root pounded with mallows extracts all foreign bodies lodged in the flesh.
CXV. The plant called exedum dispels lethargy. The plant notia is well known under various names in the curriers' work-shops; I find that taken in wine or vinegar and water it is most efficacious for the sting of scorpions.
CXVI. Philanthropos is a name which the Greeks in witty sarcasm give to a plant because it sticks to the clothes. A chaplet made out of it and placed on the head relieves headaches. But what is called dog-bur, if beaten up in wine with plantain and millefolium, heals cancerous sores, the plaster being taken off every third day. It also cures pigs, if dug up without iron; it is added to their swill before they go to feed, or else given them in milk and wine. Some add that as he is getting it up the digger should say: 'This is the plant argemon, which Minerva discovered to be a remedy for the pigs that shall taste of it.'
CXVII. Some have said that tordylon is the seed of sili, others that it is itself a plant, which they have also called syreon. I find nothing recorded of it except that it grows on mountains, that burnt and taken in drink it promotes menstruation and expectoration, the root being even more efficacious, that its juice, swallowed in doses of three oboli, cures ill-orders of the kidneys, and that its root is also an ingredient of emollient plasters.
CXVIII. Grass, itself the very commonest of plants, trails its knotted blades along the ground, and from them and out of the head sprout many new roots. Its leaves in the rest of the world grow to a fine point, and only on Mount Parnassus sprout leaves thicker together than anywhere else, of the appearance of ivy, and with a white, scented flower. To draught-cattle no other plant is more attractive, whether fresh, or dried into hay and sprinkled with water when it is given them to eat. Its juice too, which is sweet, is said to be collected on Parnassus because of its richness. Over the rest of the world a decoction is used in its place to close cuts; the crushed plant by itself has the same effect and also prevents wounds from becoming inflamed. To the decoction are added wine and honey, by some, equal parts also of frankincense, pepper and myrrh, and the whole is again boiled in a bronze vessel to make a remedy for toothache and eye-fluxes. A decoction of the root in wine cures colic, strangury and sores of the bladder, breaking up stone. The seed causes a stronger flow of urine, and checks looseness of the bowels and vomiting. It is also specific for the bites of the draco. Some prescribe nine knots either from one plant or from two or three to make up that number of joints, rolled up in black wool with the grease still in it, as a remedy for scrofulous sores and superficial abscesses. The person gathering it, they add, ought to be fasting, and in this state he should proceed to the house of the patient while he is away, and on his appearance say three times: Fasting I give a cure to a fasting patient, and so fasten the nine joints as an amulet. This is to be done on three days running. The kind of grass that has seven spaces between knots makes a very effective amulet for headache. For severe pains in the bladder some authorities prescribe a decoction of grass in wine, boiled down to one half, to be drunk after the bath.
CXIX. There are some who speak of three kinds of pointed grass. When on each head there are at most five points they call it fixiger grass.; These points plaited together they insert into the nostrils and draw them out again to cause bleeding. The second kind, which is like the aizotim, they use with axle-grease for whitlows, hangnails, and when flesh has grown over the nails, calling it finger grass, because it heals the fingers. There is a third kind of finger grass, but it is slender, growing on ruins or tiles. Its properties are caustic, and it checks creeping ulcers. Grass put round the head checks copious bleeding at the nose. It is said that in the district of Babylon camels are killed by the grass that grows by the side of the roads.
CXX. Held in no less honour is fenugreek, which is also called telis, carphos, bucerasp and aegoceras because its seed is shaped like small horns; the Roman name for it is silicia. The method of sowing it we have described in its proper place. Its properties are to dry, to soften and to dissolve. The juice of the decoction is of help in several ailments of women: whether it is hardness, swelling or contraction of the uterus, the treatment is fomentation and the sitz bath. Injections are also of value. It checks scaly eruptions on the face. Splenic troubles are cured by a local application of a decoction to which soda has been added; the decoction may also be made with vinegar. Such a decoction is also good for the liver. In cases of difficult childbirth Diocles prescribed an acetabulum of its crushed seed in nine cyathi of concentrated must; three-quarters were to be drunk, then the patients were to bathe in hot water, next, as they were sweating in the bath, he gave further half of what remained, and then the rest after the bath. In this way the maximum benefit was obtained. A decoction in hydromel of fenugreek meal with barley or linseed was used by the same physician to make a pessary for violent pains in the uterus; he combined this treatment with a plaster at the base of the abdomen. He treated leprous sores and freckles with equal parts of sulphur and fenugreek meal, the skin having been prepared beforehand with soda, applying the mixture several times a day and not allowing the patient to be rubbed with it. Theodorus treated leprous sores with fenugreek and one-fourth part of cleaned cress steeped in the strongest vinegar. Timon prescribed as an emmenagogue a draught of half an acetabulum of fenugreek seed with nine cyathi of concentrated must and water, and there is no doubt that a decoction of it is very good for ulcerated uterus and intestines, as the seed is for the joints and hypochondria. If, however, it is boiled down with mallows, and honey wine be afterwards added, a draught is praised as a pre-eminent remedy for troubles of the uterus and intestines, seeing that the steam also from the decoction is of the highest value; a decoction of fenugreek, too, removes offensive smells of the armpits. The meal with wine and soda quickly removes scurf and dandruff on the head. A decoction too of the meal in hydromel, mixed with axle-grease, cures complaints of the genitals, likewise superficial abscesses, parotid tumours, gouty affections of feet or hands, affections of the joints and the receding of flesh from the bones; but the meal is kneaded in vinegar for dislocations. A decoction of the meal in vinegar and honey only is used as a liniment for splenic trouble. Kneaded in wine it cleanses cancerous sores; if honey is afterwards added a complete cure is effected. A gruel also of this meal is taken for ulceration of the chest and for chronic cough. It is boiled down for a long time until the bitterness disappears; afterwards honey is added. I shall now proceed to the peculiar glory of plants.