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What plant can there possibly be that is more an object of our aversion than the nettle?1 And yet, in addition to the oil which we have already mentioned2 as being extracted from it in Egypt, it abounds in medicinal properties. The seed of it, according to Nicander, is an antidote to the poison of hem- lock,3 of fungi, and of quicksilver.4 Apollodorus prescribes it, too, taken in the broth of a boiled tortoise,5 for the bite of the salamander,6 and as an antidote for the poison of henbane, serpents, and scorpions. The stinging pungency even of the nettle has its uses; for, by its contact, it braces the uvula, and effects the cure of prolapsus of the uterus, and of procidence of the anus in infants. By touching the legs of persons in a lethargy, and the forehead more particularly, with nettles, they are awakened.7 Applied with salt, the nettle is used to heal the bites of dogs, and beaten up and applied topically, it arrests bleeding8 at the nostrils, the root in particular. Mixed with salt, also, it is employed for the cure of cancers and foul ulcers; and, applied in a similar manner, it cures sprains and inflamed tumours, as well as imposthumes of the parotid glands and denudations of the bones. The seed of it, taken with boiled must, dispels hysterical suffocations, and, applied topically, it arrests mucous discharges of the nostrils. Taken with hydromel, after dinner, in doses of two oboli, the seed produces a gentle vomit;9 and a dose of one obolus, taken in wine, has the effect of dispelling lassitude. The seed is prescribed also, parched, and in doses of one acetabulum, for affections of the uterus; and, taken in boiled10 must, it is a remedy for flatulency of the stomach. Taken in an electuary, with honey, it gives relief in hardness of breathing, and clears the chest by expectoration: applied with linseed, it is a cure for pains in the side, with the addition of some hyssop and a little pepper. The seed is employed also in the form of a liniment for affections of the spleen, and, parched and taken with the food, it acts as a laxative in constipation of the bowels. Hippocrates11 says that the seed, taken in drink, acts as a purgative upon the uterus; and that taken, parched, with sweet wine, in doses of one acetabulum, or applied externally with juice of mallows, it alleviates pains in that organ. He states also that, used with hydromel and salt, it expels intestinal worms, and that a liniment made of the seed will restore the hair when falling off. Many persons, too, employ the seed topically, with old oil, for diseases of the joints, and for gout, or else the leaves beaten up with bears'-grease: the root, too, pounded in vinegar, is no less useful for the same purposes, as also for affections of the spleen. Boiled in wine, and applied with stale axle-grease and salt, the root disperses inflamed tumours, and, dried, it is used as a depilatory.

Phanias, the physician, has enlarged upon the praises of the nettle, and he assures us that, taken with the food, either boiled or preserved, it is extremely beneficial for affections of the trachea, cough, fluxes of the bowels, stomachic complaints, inflamed tumours, imposthumes of the parotid glands, and chilblains; that, taken with oil, it acts as a sudorific; and that, boiled with shell-fish, it relaxes the bowels. He says, too, that taken with a ptisan,12 it facilitates expectoration and acts as an emmenagogue, and that, applied with salt, it prevents ulcers from spreading. The juice of the nettle is also used: applied to the forehead, it arrests bleeding at the nose, taken in drink it acts as a diuretic and breaks calculi in the bladder, and, used as a gargle, it braces the uvula when relaxed.

Nettle-seed should be gathered at harvest-time: that of Alexandria is the most highly esteemed. For all these different purposes the milder and more tender plants are the best, the wild nettle13 in particular: this last, taken in wine, has the additional property of removing leprous spots on the face. When animals refuse to couple, it is recommended to rub the sexual organs with nettles.14

1 See B. xxi. c. 55. Only two species of the nettle, Fée remarks, were known to the ancients, the Urtica urens and the U. dioica; and these have been confounded by Pliny and other writers.

2 In B. xv. c. 7. the Urtica urens has no oleaginous principles, and the oil of nettles, as Fée says, must have been a medicinal composition, the properties of which are more than hypothetical. The plant boiled, he remarks, can have no medicinal properties whatever, and it is with justice excluded from the modern Materia Medica. It is, however, still employed by some few practitioners, and the leaves are used, in some cases, to restore the vital action, by means of urtication.

3 "Cicutæ."

4 Mercury, as already mentioned in a previous Note, is not poisonous.

5 "Testudinis." He may, possibly, mean a turtle.

6 See B. x. c. 86.

7 The process of "urtication." alluded to in Note77.

8 Fée considers this extremely doubtful.

9 An abominable refinement (if we may use the term) in gluttony, which would appear to have been practised among the Romans; though Fée thinks it possible that such a practice may have been considered advisable in the medical treatment of certain maladies. Be this as it may, the system of using vomits has prevailed to some extent in this country. and during the present century, too, among persons in the fashionable world, when expected to play their part at several entertainments in one evening.

10 "Sapa" Grape-juice boiled down to one-third.

11 De Morb, Mul. text. 47.

12 See B. xviii. c. 13.

13 See B. xxi. c. 55.

14 See Hippocrates, Hippiatr.

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