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Linozostis1 or parthenion is a discovery attributed to Mer- cury: hence it is that among the Greeks it is known as "hermupoa"2 by many, while among us it is universally known as "mercurialis." There are two varieties of this plant, the male and the female, the last possessing more decided properties than the other, and having a stem a cubit in height, and sometimes branchy at the summit, with leaves somewhat narrower than those of ocimum. The joints of the stem lie close together, and the axils are numerous: the seed hangs downwards, having the joints for its basis. In the female plant the seed is very abundant, but in the male3 it is less so, lies closer to the joints, and is short and wreathed. In the female plant the seed hangs more loosely, and is of a white colour. The leaves of the male plant are swarthy, while those of the female are whiter: the root, which is made no use of, is very diminutive.

Both of these plants grow in cultivated champaign localities. A marvellous property is mentioned as belonging to them: the male plant, they say,4 ensures the conception of male children, the female plant of females; a result which is ensured by drinking the juice in raisin wine, the moment after conception, or by eating the leaves, boiled with oil and salt, or raw with vinegar. Some persons, again, boil the plant in a new earthen vessel with heliotropium and two or three ears of corn, till it is thoroughly done; and say that the decoction should be taken in drink by the female, and the plant eaten for three days successively, the regimen being commenced the second day of menstruation. This done, on the fourth day she must take a bath, immediately after which the sexual congress must take place.

Hippocrates5 has lavished marvellous encomiums upon these plants for the maladies of females, while at the present day no physician recognizes their utility for such purpose. It was his practice to employ them for affections of the uterus, in the form of a pessary, in combination with honey, rose-oil, oil of iris, or oil of lilies. He employed them also as an emmenagogue, and for the purpose of bringing away the after-birth; effects which are equally produced, according to him, by taking them in drink, or using them in the form of a fomentation. It was his practice also, to inject the juice of these plants in cases of fetid odours of the ears, and then to wash the ear with old wine. The leaves also were used by him as a cataplasm for the abdomen, defluxions of the eyes, strangury, and affections of the bladder; a decoction too, of the plants is prescribed by him, with frankincense and myrrh.

For the purpose of relaxing6 the bowels, or in cases of fever, a handful of this plant is boiled down to one half, in two sextarii of water, the decoction being taken with salt and honey: if a pig's foot or a cock is boiled with it, it will be all the more beneficial. Some persons have been of opinion, that as a purgative the two kinds of mercurialis ought to be used together, or else that a decoction should be made of the plant in combination with mallows. These plants act as a detergent upon the chest, and carry off the bilious secretions, but they are apt to be injurious to the stomach. We shall have to speak further of their properties on the appropriate occasions.7

1 The Mercuralis aulnua of Linnæus, male and female; the herb mercury.

2 "Herb of Herues."

3 The male, as Fée suggests, bears no seed at all.

4 A mere absurdity, of course.

5 De Nat. Mul. and De Morb. Mul. B. i. and B. ii.

6 The medicinal properties of the Mercurialis are not by any means energetic, but it is still used, Fée says, as a gentle aperient.

7 B. xxvi. cc, 74, 76, 89.

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