REMEDIES DERIVED FROM THE GARDEN PLANTS.
WE are now about to enter upon an examination of the greatest
of all the operations of Nature—we are about to discourse to
man upon his aliments,1
and to compel him to admit that he is
ignorant by what means he exists. And let no one, misled by
the apparent triviality of the names which we shall have to
employ, regard this subject as one that is frivolous or contemptible:
for we shall here have to set forth the state of peace
or of war which exists between the various departments of
Nature, the hatreds or friendships which are maintained by
objects dumb and destitute of sense, and all, too, created—a
wonderful subject for our contemplation!—for the sake of man
alone. To these states, known to the Greeks by the respective
appellations "sympathia" and "antipathia," we are indebted for the
of all things; for hence it is that
water has the property of extinguishing fire, that the sun
absorbs water, that the moon produces it, and that each of
those heavenly bodies is from time to time eclipsed by the
Hence it is, too, descending from the contemplation of a
loftier sphere, that the loadstone3
possesses the property of at-
tracting iron, and another stone,4
again, that of repelling it:
and that the diamond, that pride of luxury and opulence,
though infrangible by every other object, and presenting a
resistance that cannot be overcome, is broken asunder by a
—in addition to numerous other marvels of
which we shall have to speak on more appropriate occasions,
equal to this or still more wonderful even. My only request is
that pardon may be accorded me for beginning with objects of
a more humble nature, though still so greatly conducive to our
health—I mean the garden plants, of which I shall now proceed to speak.
CHAP. 2. (1.)—THE WILD CUCUMBER; TWENTY-SIX REMEDIES.
We have already stated6
that there is a wild cucumber, considerably smaller than the cultivated one. From this cucumber the medicament known as "elaterium" is prepared, being
the juice extracted from the seed.7
To obtain this juice the
fruit is cut before it is ripe—indeed, if this precaution is not
taken at an early period, the seed is apt to spirt8
out and be
productive of danger to the eyes. After it is gathered, the fruit is
kept whole for a night, and on the following day an incision
is made in it with a reed. The seed, too, is generally sprinkled
with ashes, with the view of retaining in it as large a quantity of
the juice as possible. When the juice is extracted, it
is received in rain water, where it falls to the bottom; after
which it is thickened in the sun, and then divided into lozenges,
which are of singular utility to mankind for healing dimness9
of sight, diseases of the eyes, and ulcerations of the eyelids.
It is said that if the roots of a vine are touched with this
juice, the grapes of it will be sure never to be attacked by
too, of the wild cucumber, boiled in vinegar, is
employed in fomentations for the gout, and the juice of it is
used as a remedy for tooth-ache. Dried and mixed with resin,
the root is a cure for impetigo11
and the skin diseases known
it is good, too, for imposthumes
of the parotid glands and inflammatory tumours,14
the natural colour to the skin when a cicatrix has formed.—
The juice of the leaves, mixed with vinegar, is used as an
injection for the ears, in cases of deafness.
CHAP. 3.—ELATERIUM; TWENTY-SEVEN REMEDIES.
The proper season for making elaterium is the autumn; and
there is no medicament known that will keep longer than this.15
It begins to be fit for use when three years old; but if it is
found desirable to make use of it at an earlier period than
this, the acridity of the lozenges may be modified by putting
them with vinegar upon a slow fire, in a new earthen pot.
The older it is the better, and before now, as we learn from
Theophrastus, it has been known to keep16
so long as two hundred
years. Even after it has been kept so long as fifty17
years, it retains its property of extinguishing a light; indeed,
it is the proper way of testing the genuineness of the drug to
hold it to the flame and make it scintillate above and below,
before finally extinguishing it. The elaterium which is pale,
smooth, and slightly bitter, is superior18
to that which has a
grass-green appearance and is rough to the touch.
It is generally thought that the seed of this plant will
facilitate conception if a woman carries it attached to her person,
before it has touched the ground; and that it has the effect of
aiding parturition, if it is first wrapped in ram's wool, and then
tied round the woman's loins, without her knowing it, care
being taken to carry it out of the house the instant she is
Those persons who magnify the praises of the wild cucumber say
that the very best is that of Arabia, the next being
that of Arcadia, and then that of Cyrenæ: it bears a resemblance to
they say, and the fruit, about the
size of a walnut, grows between the leaves and branches. The
seed, it is said, is very similar in appearance to the tail of
a scorpion thrown back, but is of a whitish hue. Indeed,
there are some persons who give to this cucumber the name of
"scorpionium," and say that its seed, as well as the elaterium,
is remarkably efficacious as a cure for the sting of the scorpion. As
a purgative, the proper dose of either is from half
an obolus to an obolus, according to the strength of the patient, a
larger dose than this being fatal.20
It is in the same
proportions, too, that it is taken in drink for phthiriasis21
dropsy; applied externally with honey or old olive oil, it is
used for the cure of quinsy and affections of the trachea.
CHAP. 4. (2.)—THE ANGUINE OR ERRATIC CUCUMBER: FIVE REMEDIES.
Many authors are of opinion that the wild cucumber is
identical with the plant known among us as the "anguine,"
and by some persons as the "erratic"22
sprinkled with a decoction of this plant will never be touched
by mice. The same authors23
say, too, that a decoction of it in
vinegar, externally applied, gives instantaneous relief in cases
of gout and diseases of the joints. As a remedy, too, for lumbago,
the seed of it is dried in the sun and pounded, being
given in doses of twenty denarii to half a sextarius of water.
Mixed with woman's milk and applied as a liniment, it is a
cure for tumours which have suddenly formed.
Elaterium promotes the menstrual discharge; but if taken
by females when pregnant, it is productive of abortion. It
is good, also, for asthma, and, injected into the nostrils, for
Rubbed upon the face in the sun, it removes
and spots upon the skin.
CHAP. 5.—THE CULTIVATED CUCUMBER: NINE REMEDIES.
Many persons attribute all these properties to the cultivated
as well, a plant which even without them would
be of very considerable importance, in a medicinal point of
view. A pinch of the seed, for instance, in three fingers,
beaten up with cummin and taken in wine, is extremely beneficial for
a cough: for phrenitis, also, doses of it are administered in woman's
milk, and doses of one acetabulum for dysentery. As a remedy for
purulent expectorations, it is taken
with an equal quantity of cummin;27
and it is used with hydromel
for diseases of the liver. Taken in sweet wine, it is a
diuretic; and, in combination with cummin,28
it is used as an
injection for affections of the kidneys.
CHAP. 6.—PEPONES: ELEVEN REMEDIES.
The fruit known as pepones29
are a cool and refreshing diet,
and are slightly relaxing to the stomach. Applications are
used of the pulpy flesh in defluxions or pains of the eyes. The
root, too, of this plant cures the hard ulcers known to us as
"ceria," from their resemblance to a honeycomb, and it acts
as an emetic.30
Dried and reduced to a powder, it is given
in doses of four oboli in hydromel, the patient, immediately
after taking it, being made to walk half a mile. This powder
is employed also in cosmetics31
for smoothing the skin. The
rind, too, has the effect32
of promoting vomiting, and, when
applied to the face, of clearing the skin; a result which is
equally produced by an external application of the leaves of all
the cultivated cucumbers. These leaves, mixed with honey,
are employed for the cure of the pustules known as "epinyctis;"33
steeped in wine, they are good, too, for the bites
of dogs and of multipedes,34
insects known to the Greeks by
the name of "seps,"35
of an elongated form, with hairy legs,
and noxious to cattle more particularly; the sting being followed by
swelling, and the wound rapidly putrifying.
The smell of the cucumber itself is a restorative36
fits. It is a well-known fact, that if cucumbers are peeled and
then boiled in oil, vinegar, and honey, they are all the more
CHAP. 7. (3.)—THE GOURD: SEVENTEEN REMEDIES. THE SOMPHUS: ONE REMEDY.
There is found also a wild gourd, called "somphos" by the
Greeks, empty within (to which circumstance it owes its
and long and thick in shape, like the finger: it grows
nowhere except upon stony spots. The juice of this gourd,
when chewed, is very beneficial to the stomach.39
CHAP. 8.—THE COLOCYNTHIS: TEN REMEDIES.
There is another variety of the wild gourd, known as the
this kind is full of seeds, but not so large as
the cultivated one. The pale colocynthis is better than those
of a grass-green colour. Employed by itself when dried, it
acts as a very powerful41
purgative; used as an injection, it is
a remedy for all diseases of the intestines, the kidneys, and the
loins, as well as for paralysis. The seed being first removed, it
is boiled down in hydromel to one half; after which it is used as
an injection, with perfect safety, in doses of four oboli. It is
good, too, for the stomach, taken in pills composed of the dried
powder and boiled honey. In jaundice seven seeds of it may
be taken with beneficial effects, with a draught of hydromel
The pulp of this fruit, taken with wormwood and salt, is a
remedy for toothache, and the juice of it, warmed with vinegar,
has the effect of strengthening loose teeth. Rubbed in with
oil, it removes pains of the spine, loins, and hips: in addition
to which, really a marvellous thing to speak of! the seeds of
it, in even numbers, attached to the body in a linen cloth,
will cure, it is said, the fevers to which the Greeks have
given the name of "periodic."42
The juice, too, of the cultivated
shred in pieces, applied warm, is good for ear-ache,
and the flesh of the inside, used without the seed, for corns on
the feet and the suppurations known to the Greeks as
When the pulp and seeds are boiled together, the
decoction is good for strengthening loose teeth, and for preventing
toothache; wine, too, boiled with this plant, is curative of
defluxions of the eyes. The leaves of it, bruised with fresh
cypress-leaves, or the leaves alone, boiled in a vessel of potters'
clay and beaten up with goose-grease, and then applied to the
part affected, are an excellent cure for wounds. Fresh shavings of
the rind are used as a cooling application for gout, and
burning pains in the head, in infants more particularly; they
are good, too, for erysipelas,45
whether it is the shavings of
the rind or the seeds of the plant that are applied to the part
affected. The juice of the scrapings, employed as a liniment
with rose-oil and vinegar, moderates the burning heats of
fevers; and the ashes of the dried fruit applied to burns are
efficacious in a most remarkable degree.
Chrysippus, the physician, condemned the use of the gourd
as a food: it is generally agreed, however, that it is extremely
for the stomach, and for ulcerations of the intestines
and of the bladder.
CHAP. 9.—RAPE; NINE REMEDIES.
Rape, too, has its medicinal properties. Warmed, it is used as
an application for the cure of chilblains,47
in addition to which,
it has the effect of protecting the feet from cold. A hot decoction
of rape is employed for the cure of cold gout; and raw
rape, beaten up with salt, is good for all maladies of the feet.
Rape-seed, used as a liniment, and taken in drink, with wine,
is said to have a salutary effect48
against the stings of serpents,
and various narcotic poisons; and there are many persons who
attribute to it the properties of an antidote, when taken with
wine and oil.
Democritus has entirely repudiated the use of rape as an
article of food, in consequence of the flatulence49
produces; while Diocles, on the other hand, has greatly extolled
it, and has even gone so far as to say that it acts as an
Dionysius, too, says the same of rape, and more
particularly if it is seasoned with rocket;51
he adds, also, that
roasted, and then applied with grease, it is excellent for pains
in the joints.
CHAP. 10.—WILD RAPE: ONE REMEDY.
is mostly found growing in the fields; it has a
tufted top, with a white53
seed, twice as large as that of the
poppy. This plant is often employed for smoothing the skin
of the face and the body generally, meal of fitches,54
wheat, and lupines, being mixed with it in equal proportions.
The root of the wild rape is applied to no useful purpose
CHAP. 11. (4.)—TURNIPS; THOSE KNOWN AS BUNION AND BUNIAS: FIVE REMEDIES.
The Greeks distinguish two kinds of turnips,55
also, as em-
ployed in medicine. The turnip with angular stalks and a
flower like that of anise, and known by them as "bunion,"56
good for promoting the menstrual discharge in females and for
of the bladder; it acts, also, as a diuretic. For
these purposes, a decoction of it is taken with hydromel, or else
one drachma of the juice of the plant.58
The seed, parched, and
then beaten up, and taken in warm water, in doses of four
cyathi, is a good remedy for dysentery; it will stop the passage of
the urine, however, if linseed is not taken with it.
The other kind of turnip is known by the name of "bunias,"59
and bears a considerable resemblance to the radish and the rape
united, the seed of it enjoying the reputation of being a remedy
for poisons; hence it is that we find it employed in antidotes.
CHAP. 12.—THE WILD RADISH, OR ARMORACIA: ONE REMEDY.
We have already said,60
that there is also a wild radish.61
The most esteemed is that of Arcadia, though it is also found
growing in other countries as well. It is only efficacious as a
diuretic, being in other respects of a heating nature. In Italy,
it is known also by the name of "armoracia."
CHAP. 13.—THE CULTIVATED RADISH: FORTY-THREE REMEDIES.
The cultivated radish, too, in addition to what we have
of it, purges the stomach, attenuates the phlegm,
acts as a diuretic, and detaches the bilious secretions. A decoction
of the rind of radishes in wine, taken in the morning
in doses of three cyathi, has the effect of breaking and expelling
calculi of the bladder. A decoction, too, of this rind in
vinegar and water, is employed as a liniment for the stings of
serpents. Taken fasting in the morning with honey, radishes
for a cough. Parched radish-seed, as well as
radishes themselves, chewed, is useful for pains in the sides.64
A decoction of the leaves, taken in drink, or else the juice
of the plant taken in doses of two cyathi, is an excellent remedy
for phthiriasis. Pounded radishes, too, are employed as a liniment
under the skin, and the rind, mixed
with honey, for bruises of recent date. Lethargic persons66
are recommended to eat them as hot as possible, and the seed,
parched and then pounded with honey, will give relief to
Radishes, too, are useful as a remedy for poisons, and are
employed to counteract the effects of the sting of the cerastes67
and the scorpion: indeed, after having rubbed the hands with
radishes or radish-seed, we may handle68
those reptiles with
impunity. If a radish is placed upon a scorpion, it will cause
its death. Radishes are useful, too, in cases of poisoning by
or henbane; and according to Nicander,70
salutary against the effects of bullock's blood,71
The two physicians of the name of Apollodorus, prescribe
radishes to be given in cases of poisoning by mistletoe; but
whereas Apollodorus of Citium recommends radish-seed pounded
in water, Apollodorus of Tarentum speaks of the juice.
Radishes diminish the volume of the spleen, and are beneficial
for maladies of the liver and pains in the loins: taken, too,
with vinegar or mustard, they are good for dropsy and lethargy,
as well as epilepsy72
mends that radishes should be given for the iliac passion, and
Plistonicus for the cœliac74
Radishes are good, too, for curing ulcerations of the intestines
and suppurations of the thoracic organs,75
with honey. Some persons say, however, that for this purpose they
should be boiled in earth and water; a decoction
which, according to them, promotes the menstrual discharge.
Taken with vinegar or honey, radishes expel worms from the
intestines; and a decoction of them boiled down to one-third,
taken in wine, is good for intestinal hernia.76
in this way, too, they have the effect of drawing off the superfluous
blood. Medius recommends them to be given boiled to
persons troubled with spitting of blood, and to women who are
suckling, for the purpose of increasing the milk. Hippocrates77
recommends females whose hair falls off, to rub the head with
radishes, and he says that for pains of the uterus, they should
be applied to the navel.
Radishes have the effect, too, of restoring the skin, when
scarred, to its proper colour; and the seed, steeped in water,
and applied topically, arrests the progress of ulcers known as
Democritus regards them, taken with the food,
as an aphrodisiac; and it is for this reason, perhaps, that some
persons have spoken of them as being injurious to the voice.
The leaves, but only those of the long radish, are said to have
the effect of improving the eye-sight.
When radishes, employed as a remedy, act too powerfully,
it is recommended that hyssop should be given immediately;
there being an antipathy79
between these two plants. For
dulness of hearing, too, radish-juice is injected into the ear.
To promote vomiting, it is extremely beneficial to eat radishes
CHAP. 14.—THE PARSNIP: FIVE REMEDIES. THE HIBISCUM, WILD MALLOW, OR PLISTOLOCHIA: ELEVEN REMEDIES.
The hibiscum, by some persons known as the wild mallow,80
and by others as the "plistolochia," bears a strong resemblance
to the parsnip;81
it is good for ulcerations of the cartilages, and
is employed for the cure of fractured bones. The leaves of it,
taken in water, relax the stomach; they have the effect, also,
of keeping away serpents, and, employed as a liniment, are a
cure for the stings of bees, wasps, and hornets. The root,
pulled up before sunrise, and wrapped in wool of the colour
known as "native,"82
taken from a sheep which has just
dropped a ewe lamb, is employed as a bandage for scrofulous
swellings, even after they have suppurated. Some persons
are of opinion, that for this purpose the root should be dug
up with an implement of gold, and that care should be taken
not to let it touch the ground.
too, recommends this root to be boiled in wine, and
applied in cases of gout unattended with swelling.
CHAP. 15. (5.)—THE STAPHYLINOS, OR WILD PARSNIP: TWENTY-TWO REMEDIES.
The staphylinos, or, as some persons call it, "erratic84
parsnip," is another kind. The seed