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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

18th Century Herbal Remedies by Katherine Bone!

Katherine, here to talk about some research I've been doing on herbal remedies. Throughout time, herbs have made the difference between life and death on the battlefield and in every day living before the age of antibiotics. It’s hard to believe that people in previous centuries died from simple ailments like colds, fevers, and sinus infections, all minor inconveniences we take for granted every day.

Several of the characters in my historical romance books have needed treatment from medical professionals. (I shiver thinking about a diagnosis which led to bleeding or the application of leeches when we know today that blood cells increased the ability to fight off disease.) Thankfully, medicine has come a long way during the 20th Century, and strides are being made in the 21st Century on a day-to-day basis. But since my books take place during the Napoleonic Wars, 1795-1815, my characters are limited to what was available to them at the time.

Here are just a few herbs I’ve discovered in my research, and their medicinal properties:

Adder’s Tongue: Well-known by country folk. Fresh leaves bring down swelling and limit inflammation. When gathered with morning dew, the leaves can be set in a room filled with fleas. Fleas are drawn to leaf and can then be cast out. Found growing in April and May. Seeds ripened in September.

Archangel/Dead Needle: Heals ulcers and fresh wounds and keeps them from spreading. Helps draw out splinters and soothes burns. Bruise herb with salt, vinegar and hog’s grease. Found almost everywhere, but prefers wet ground.

Bifoil: Sweet herb used for wounds, new and old. Found in woods and copses.

Bird’s Foot: Small herb that cures ruptures. Ingest as a drink or apply to surface. Good when ingested to break up kidney stones. Best used as ointment or plaster on wounds. Found on heaths and untilled land.

Blessed Thistle/Carduus Benedictus: Cures sores, boils, and itch. Drink concoction.

Borage and Bugloss: Well-known to gardeners. Leaves and roots used in fevers to defend the heart and expel poison or venom. Juice is made into a syrup and is used with other cooling, opening, cleansing herbs to open obstructions and cure yellow jaundice, and mixed with fumitory, to cool, cleanse and temper the blood. Found in the wild and grows plentifully near London between Rotherhithe and Deptford by the ditch.

Colewart/Herb Bonnet: Wholesome herb. Good for chest or breast disease, pains, stitches in the side, and expels crude and raw humors from the stomach. Congeals blood resulting from falls and/or bruises. Good for healing wounds. Roots are boiled in wine and imbibed. The herb is also good for washing and bathing wounds to remove infection. Found in the wild, under hedges, and pathways in shadowy fields.

Devil’s Bit: Grows two feet high with narrow, smooth, dark green leaves. Herb or root is boiled in wine and ingested for plague, disease and fever, and poison. Add honey of roses for swelling. Eases a woman’s pain during menses, helps resolves gassy issues, and expels worms. Found in wild dry meadows and fields about Appledore, near Rye, in Kent.

Elecampane Root: Dried root made into powder and mixed with sugar is good for kidney stones, bladder issues, and stopping woman’s courses. Boil root in vinegar, beat afterward, and then make an ointment with hog’s suet or oil of trotters for scabs and itching. Heals putrid sores. Found in shadowy, moist ground in dry open borders and fields. Flowers end of June-July. Seeds ripe in August.

Foxglove: Used by Italians to heal wounds. Bruise leaves and bind wound. Juice used to cleanse sores. Combine sugar or honey to purse/cleanse body, and tough phlegm and to open liver and spleen. Found growing on dry sandy soil. Flowers July. Seed ripe in August.

One Blade Root: Half a drachm/powder of roots. Add to wine or vinegar. Good for poison and infection. Make a compound balsam for wounds and burns.

White Briony Root/Tetter Berries: Wild, rampant in hedges. Leaves, fruit, and root, cleanse old sores, and combat running cankers, gangrenes, and tetters (Called Tetter Berries by country folk) Use powder of dry root. Apply to skin of broken bones, foul scars, scabs, mange, and gangrene.

Wood Betony: Bruise the green herb and apply to wound, or make a juice and ingest. Good for any wound in the head or body. It will heal and close up veins or cuts, and mend splinted broken bones. Found in the woods and shady places.

Or if you’re Cornish, you might prefer to try these remedies:

Mundic ore: Miners applied Mundic to a cut and always washed an injury in water that ran through mundic ore.

Chamomile: Dry flowers and make into a tea to cure an upset stomach.

Mustard: Boil mustard with a pint of beer to cure rheumatism.

Dock Leaf: Rub dock leaf over the stings of nettles.  

Boosening: The cure for madness is to immerse a person in water to the point of drowning, and then repeat.

I pray we never have to resort to picking herbs to combat disease and discomforting ailments. But if we do, I’d like to have these herbs in my garden. Wouldn’t you?


Culpeper’s Complete Herbal by Nicholas Culpeper

Are there any herbal remedies you’d like to add?



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