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Gith1 is by some Greek writers called "melanthion,"2 and by others "melaspermon."3 That is looked upon as the best which has the most pungent odour and is the darkest in appearance. It is employed as a remedy for wounds made by serpents and scorpions: I find that for this purpose it is applied topically with vinegar and honey, and that by burning it serpents are kept at a distance.4 It is taken, also, in doses of one drachma for the bites of spiders. Beaten up, and smelt at in a piece of linen cloth, it is a cure for running at the nostrils; and, applied as a liniment with vinegar and injected into the nostrils, it dispels head-ache. With oil of iris it is good for defluxions and tumours of the eyes, and a decoction of it with vinegar is a cure for tooth-ache. Beaten up and applied topically, or else chewed, it is used for ulcers of the mouth, and combined with vinegar, it is good for leprous sores and freckles on the skin. Taken in drink, with the addition of nitre, it is good for hardness of breathing, and, employed as a liniment, for indurations, tumours of long standing, and suppurations. Taken several days in succession, it augments the milk in women who are nursing.

The juice of this plant is collected5 in the same manner as that of henbane; and, like it, if taken in too large doses, it acts as a poison, a surprising fact, seeing that the seed is held in esteem as a most agreeable seasoning for bread.6 The seed cleanses the eyes also, acts as a diuretic, and promotes the menstrual discharge; and not only this, but I find it stated also, that it thirty grains only are attached to the body, in a linen cloth, it will have the effect of accelerating the after-birth. It is stated, also, that beaten up in urine, it is a cure for corns on the feet; and that when burnt it kills gnats and flies with the smell.

1 Or fennel-flower: the Nigella sativa of Linnæus. Fée suggests that its name, "gith," is from the ancient Egyptian.

2 "Black flower."

3 "Black seed."

4 It is no longer used in medicine, but it is esteemed as a seasoning in the East. All that Pliny states as to its medicinal properties, Fée considers to be erroneous. The action of the seed is irritating, and reduced to powder, it causes sneezing.

5 See B. xxv. c. 17.

6 See B. xix. c. 52.

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