previous next


The asphodel1 is one of the most celebrated of all the plants, so much so, indeed, that by some persons it has been called "heroum."2 Hesiod has mentioned the fact of its growing in rivers, and Dionysius distinguishes it into male and female.3 It has been observed that the bulbs of it, boiled with a ptisan, are remarkably good for consumption and phthisis,4 and that bread in which they have been kneaded up with the meal, is extremely wholesome. Nicander5 recommends also, for the stings of serpents and scorpions, either the stalk, which we have already6 spoken of under the name of "anthericus," or else the seed or bulbs, to be taken in wine, in doses of three drachmæ; and he says that these should be strewed beneath the bed, if there is any apprehension of their presence. The asphodel is prescribed also for wounds inflicted by marine animals of a venomous nature, and the bite of the land scolopendra. It is quite wonderful how the snails, in Campania, seek the stalk of this plant, and dry it by extracting the inside. The leaves, too, are applied with wine to wounds made by venomous animals, and the bulbs are beaten up with polenta and similarly used for affections of the sinews and joints. It is also a very good plan to rub lichens with them chopped up and mixed with vinegar, and to apply them in water to putrid sores, as also to inflammations of the tests or mamillæ. Boiled in lees of wine, and applied in a linen pledged, they are used for the cure of defluxions of the eyes.

Whatever the malady may happen to be, it is generally in a boiled7 state that the bulbs are employed; but for foul ulcers of the legs and for chaps upon any part of the body, they are dried and reduced to powder. The bulbs are usually gathered in autumn,8 a period when their medicinal properties are most fully developed. The juice extracted from them pounded, or else a decoction of them, is good, mixed with honey, for pains in the body: it is employed also with dried iris and a little salt by those who wish to impart an agreeable odour to the person. The leaves are used for the cure of the various maladies above mentioned, as also, boiled in wine, for scrofu- lous sores, inflamed tumours, and ulcers of the face. The ashes of the root are a remedy for alopecy and chaps on the feet; and an extract of the root, boiled in oil, is good for burns and chilblains. It is injected also into the ears for deafness, and, for tooth-ache, it is poured into the ear opposite to the part affected. A moderate dose of the root, taken in drink, acts as a diuretic and emmenagogue; it is good also for pains in the sides, ruptures, convulsions, and coughs, in doses of one drachma, taken in wine. Chewed, the root promotes vomiting, but the seed, taken internally, disorders the bowels.

Chrysermus used to employ a decoction of the root, in wine, for imposthumes of the parotid glands; and he has prescribed it, in combination with cachrys,9 in wine, for the cure of scrofulous sores. Some persons say that if, after applying the root to the sores, a part of it is hung up in the smoke to dry, and not taken down till the end of four days, the sores will gradually dry up with this portion of the root. Sophocles10 used to employ it both ways, boiled and raw, for the cure of gout; and he prescribes it, boiled in oil, for chilblains, and, in vinegar, for jaundice and dropsy. It has been stated, also, that, used as a friction with wine and honey, or taken in drink, it acts as an aphrodisiac. Xenocrates assures us, too, that a decoction of the root in vinegar removes lichens, itchscabs, and leprous sores; and that a decoction of it, with henbane and tar, has a similar effect, and is good also for the removal of bad odours11 of the armpits and thighs: he states, also, that if the head is well rubbed with the root, being first shaved, the hair will curl all the better for it. Simus prescribes a decoction of it, in wine, to be taken for calculi in the kidneys; and Hippocrates recommends the seed for obstructions of the spleen. The root, or else a decoction of it, applied topically, restores the hair in beasts of burden, where it has been lost by ulcerations or scab. It has the effect, too, of driving away rats and mice, and of exterminating them, if placed before their holes.

1 See B. xxi. c. 68.

2 "Plant of the heroes."

3 Mere varieties of the plant, so called with reference, probably, to the relative energy of their properties.

4 Regarded in a medicinal point of view the bulb of the asphodel pos- sesses some emollient properties, and nothing more. As an application to sores and abscesses it may reduce the inflammation, and being rich in mucilage, the pulp may form a nourishing food. All the other statements as to its medicinal properties are, as Fée remarks, quite fabulous.

5 Theriaca, p. 39.

6 In B. xxi. c. 68.

7 This practice, as Fée remarks, was based on sound principles, the acrid properties of the bulbs being removed by boiling.

8 Most medicinal roots are gathered at this period, their properties being, as Pliny says, most fully developed in the autumn.

9 See B. xvi. c. 11.

10 Other readings are Diocles, Socles, and Socrates. If "Sophocles" is the correct reading, all memorials of this physician have perished, beyond the mention made of him by Cælius Aurelianus, Chron. c. i.

11 "Vitia."

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 (4 total)
  • Cross-references to this page (1):
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (3):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: