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CHAP. 30.—THE ADIANTUM, CALLITRICHOS, TRICHOMANES, POLYTRICHOS, OR SAXIFRAGUM; TWO VARIETIES OF IT: TWENTY-EIGHT REMEDIES.

Equally marvellous, too, in other respects, is the adiantum;1 it is green in summer, never dies in the winter, mani- fests an aversion to water, and, when sprinkled with water or dipped in it, has all the appearance of having been dried, so great is its antipathy to moisture; a circumstance to which it owes the name of "adiantum,"2 given to it by the Greeks. In other respects, it is a shrub which might he well employed in ornamental gardening.3 Some persons give it the name of "callitrichos,"4 and others of "polytrichos," both of them bearing reference to its property of imparting colour to the hair. For this purpose, a decoction of it is made in wine with parsley-seed, large quantities of oil being added, if it is desired to make the hair thick and curly as well: it has also the property of preventing the hair from coming off.

There are two kinds of this plant, one being whiter than the other, which last is swarthy and more stunted. It is the larger kind that is known as the "polytrichos," or, as some call it, the "trichomanes." Both plants have tiny branches of a bright black colour, and leaves like those of fern, the lower ones being rough and tawny, and all of them lying close together and attached to footstalks arranged on either side of the stem: of root, so to say, there is nothing.5 This plant frequents umbrageous rocks, walls sprinkled with the spray of running water, grottoes of fountains more particularly, and crags surrounded with streamlets, a fact that is all the more remarkable in a plant which derives no benefit from water.

The adiantum is of singular efficacy in expelling and breaking calculi of the bladder, the dark kind in particular; and it is for this reason, in my opinion, rather than because it grows upon stones, that it has received from the people of our country its name of "saxifragum."6 It is taken in wine, the usual dose being a pinch of it in three fingers. Both these plants are diuretics, and act as an antidote to the venom of serpents and spiders: a decoction of them in wine arrests looseness of the bowels. A wreath of them, worn on the head, alleviates head-ache. For the bite of the scolopendra they are applied topically, but they must be removed every now and then, to prevent them from cauterizing the flesh:7 they are employed in a similar manner also for alopecy.8 They disperse scrofulous sores, scurf on the face, and running ulcers of the head. A decoction of them is useful also for asthma, affections of the liver and spleen, enlarged secretions of the gall, and dropsy. In combination with wormwood, they form a liniment for strangury and affections of the kidneys; they have the effect also of bringing away the after-birth, and act as an emmenagogue. Taken with vinegar or juice of brambleberries, they arrest hæmorrhage. Combined with rose-oil they are employed as a liniment for excoriations on infants, the parts affected being first fomented with wine. The leaves, steeped in the urine of a youth who has not arrived at puberty, and beaten up with saltpetre, compose a liniment which, it is said, prevents wrinkles from forming on the abdomen in females. It is a general belief that partridges and cocks are rendered more pugnacious if this plant is mixed with their food; and it is looked upon as particularly beneficial for cattle.

1 Fée identifies it with the Asplenium trichomanes of Linnæus, spleen- wort, or ceterach. The Adiantum of Hippocrates and other Greek writers, he takes to be the Adiantum capillus Veneris of Linnæus. Venus' hair, or maiden hair. Though Pliny would seem not to have been acquainted with the latter plant, he ascribes to the first one many of its properties and characteristics deriving his information, probably, from a writer who was acquainted with both. See B. xxi. c. 60.

2 From , "not," and διαίνω, "to wet." This is owing, Fée remarks, to the coat of waxen enamel or varnish with which the leaves are provided. The same is the case also with the leaf of the cabbage and other plants.

3 The Aspienium trichomanes, Fée says, would not admit of being clipped for ornamental gardening.

4 "Fine hair," and "thick hair." These names originated more probably in the appearance of the plant than in any effects it may have produced as a dye for the hair.

5 On the contrary, Fée says, the root is composed of numerous fibres.

6 "Stone-breaking."

7 Fée is of opinion that they possess no such property.

8 Loss of the hair.

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