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We have already stated1 that there is a wild cucumber, considerably smaller than the cultivated one. From this cucumber the medicament known as "elaterium" is prepared, being the juice extracted from the seed.2 To obtain this juice the fruit is cut before it is ripe—indeed, if this precaution is not taken at an early period, the seed is apt to spirt3 out and be productive of danger to the eyes. After it is gathered, the fruit is kept whole for a night, and on the following day an incision is made in it with a reed. The seed, too, is generally sprinkled with ashes, with the view of retaining in it as large a quantity of the juice as possible. When the juice is extracted, it is received in rain water, where it falls to the bottom; after which it is thickened in the sun, and then divided into lozenges, which are of singular utility to mankind for healing dimness4 of sight, diseases of the eyes, and ulcerations of the eyelids. It is said that if the roots of a vine are touched with this juice, the grapes of it will be sure never to be attacked by birds.

The root,5 too, of the wild cucumber, boiled in vinegar, is employed in fomentations for the gout, and the juice of it is used as a remedy for tooth-ache. Dried and mixed with resin, the root is a cure for impetigo6 and the skin diseases known as "psora"7 and "lichen:"8 it is good, too, for imposthumes of the parotid glands and inflammatory tumours,9 and restores the natural colour to the skin when a cicatrix has formed.— The juice of the leaves, mixed with vinegar, is used as an injection for the ears, in cases of deafness.

1 In B. xix. c. 24: so, too, Dioscorides, B. iv. c. 154. The wild cucumber of Pliny, as Fée observes, is in reality not a cucumber, but a totally different plant, the Cucumis silvestris asininus of C. Bauhin, the Momordica elaterium of Linnæus, or squirting cucumber.

2 Elaterium, Fée says, is not extracted from the seed, but is the juice of the fruit itself, as Pliny, contradicting himself, elsewhere informs us. Theophrastus commits the same error, which Dioscorides does not; and it is not improbable that Pliny has copied from two sources the method of making it.

3 Meaning the juice and seed combined, probably. Fée thinks that it is to this the medicament owes its name, from ἐλάυνω, to "drive" or "impel." It is much more probable, however, that the medicine was so called from its strong purgative powers; for, as Galen tells us, ἐλατήριον was a name given to purgative medicines in general.

4 Dioscorides, B. iv. c. 154, states to this effect. Fée remarks that, singularly enough, most of the antiophthalmies used by the ancients, were composed of acrid and almost corrosive medicaments, quite in opposition to the sounder notions entertained on the subject by the moderns.

5 Dioscorides says the same; and much the same statements are made by Celsus, Apulcius, Marcellus Empiricus, and Plinius Valerianus The different parts of the plant, dried, have but very feeble properties, Fée says.

6 A sort of tetter or ring-worm. Celsus enumerates four varieties.

7 Itch-scab, probably.

8 A disease of the skin, in which the scab assumes the form almost of a lichen or moss.

9 "Panos." "Panus" was the name given to a wide-spreading, but not deeply-seated, tumour, the surface of which presented a blistered appearance.

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    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), AMULE´TUM
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