previous next


The trychnon1 is by some called "strychnon;" I only wish that the garland-makers of Egypt would never use this plant in making their chaplets, being deceived as they are by the resemblance in the leaves of both kinds to those of ivy. One of these kinds, bearing scarlet berries with a stone, enclosed in follicules, is by some persons called the "halicacabum,"2 by others the "callion," and by the people of our country, the "vesicaria," from the circumstance of its being highly beneficial to the bladder3 and in cases of calculus.

The trychnon is more of a woody shrub than a herb, with large follicules, broad and turbinated, and a large berry within, which ripens in the month of November. A third4 kind, again, has a leaf resembling that of ocimum—but it is not my intention to give an exact description of it, as I am here speaking of remedies, and not of poisons; for a few drops of the juice, in fact, are quite sufficient to produce insanity. The Greek writers, however, have even turned this property into matter for jesting; for, according to them, taken in doses of one drachma, this plant is productive of delusive and prurient fancies, and of vain, fantastic visions, which vividly present all the appearance of reality: they say, too, that it the dose is doubled, it will produce downright madness, and that any further addition to it, will result in instant death.

This is the same plant which the more well-meaning writers have called in their innocence "dorycnion,"5 from the circumstance that weapons used in battle are poisoned with it—for it grows everywhere—while others, again, who have treated of it more at length,6 have given it the surname of "manicon."7 Those, on the other hand, who have iniquitously concealed its real qualities, give it the name of "erythron" or "neuras," and others "perisson"—details, however, which need not be entered into more fully, except for the purpose of putting persons upon their guard.

There is another kind, again, also called "halicacabum," which possesses narcotic qualities, and is productive of death even more speedily than opium: by some persons it is called "morio," and by others "moly."8 It has, however, been highly extolled by Diocles and Evenor, and, indeed, Timaristus has gone so far as to sing its praises in verse. With a wonderful obliviousness of remedies really harmless, they tell us, forsooth, that it is an instantaneous remedy for loose teeth to rinse them with halicacabum steeped in wine: but at the same time they add the qualification that it must not be kept in the mouth too long, or else delirium will be the result. This, however, is pointing out remedies with a vengeance, the employment of which will be attended with worse results than the malady itself.

There is a third kind9 of halicacabum, that is esteemed as an article of food; but even though the flavour of it may be preferred to garden plants, and although Xenocrates assures us that there is no bodily malady for which the trychnos is not highly beneficial, they are none of them so valuable as to make me think it proper to speak more at length upon the subject, more particularly as there are so many other remedies, which are unattended with danger. Persons who wish to pass themselves off for true prophets, and who know too well how to impose upon the superstitions of others, take the root of the halicacabum in drink. The remedy against this poison—and it is with much greater pleasure that I state it—is to drink large quantities of honied wine made hot. I must not omit the fact, too, that this plant is naturally so baneful to the asp, that when the root is placed near that reptile, the very animal which kills others by striking them with torpor, is struck with torpor itself; hence it is, that, beaten up with oil, it is used as a cure for the sting of the asp.

1 The Solanum nigrum of Linnæus, or black night-shade. See B. xxiii. c. 108.

2 The Physalis alkekengi of Linnæus; red night-shade, alkekengi, or winter cherry. Fée remarks, that the varieties of this plant in Egypt are very numerous, and that in many places, till very recently, it was employed as an article of food.

3 "Vesica."

4 The Solanum villosum of Lamarck.

5 From δορὺ, a "spear."

6 "Apertius," as suggested by Sillig, is a preferable reading to "parcius."

7 From μάνια, "madness."

8 The Physalis somnifera of Linnæus, the somniferous nightshade.

9 The Solanum melongena of Linnæus.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Latin (Karl Friedrich Theodor Mayhoff, 1906)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

hide References (5 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: