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The helenium, which springs, as we have already1 stated, from the tears of Helena, is generally thought to have been produced for improving the appearance, and to maintain unimpaired the freshness of the skin in females, both of the face and of other parts of the body. Besides this, it is generally supposed that the use of it confers additional graces on the person, and ensures universal attraction. They say, too, that, taken with wine, it promotes gaiety of spirit, having, in fact, a similar effect to the nepenthes, which has been so much vaunted by Homer,2 as producing forgetfulness of all sorrow. The juice of this plant is remarkably sweet, and the root of it, taken fasting in water, is good for hardness of breathing; 'it is white within, and sweet. An infusion of it is taken in wine for the stings of serpents; and the plant, bruised, it is said, will kill mice.

1 In c. 33 of this Book.

2 Od. iv. 1. 221. This has been supposed by many commentators to have been opium. The origin of the word is νή, "not," and πένθος, "grief;" and, as Fée says, it would seem to indicate rather a composition than a plant. Saffron, mandragore, nightshade, and even tea and coffee, have been suggested by the active imaginations of various writers. Fée is of opinion that it is impossible to come to any satisfactory conclusion, but inclines to the belief that either the poppy or a preparation from it, is meant. In confirmation of this opinion, it is a singular fact, that, as Dr. Paris remarks (in his Pharmacologia), the Nepenthes of Homer was obtained from Thebes in Egypt, and that tincture of opium, or laudanum, has received the name of "Thebaic tincture." Gorræus, in his "Definitiones Medicæ," thinks that the herb alluded to is the Inula Campania, or Elecampane, which was also said to have derived its name of "Helenium" from Helen. Dr. Greenhill, in Smith's Dictionary of Antiquities, inclines to the opinion that it was opium. See the article "Pharmaceutica."

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