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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 first principles2 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 other.

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 he-goat's blood5—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.


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 birds.

The root,10 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 as "psora"12 and "lichen:"13 it is good, too, for imposthumes of the parotid glands and inflammatory tumours,14 and restores 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.


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 delivered.

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 the heliotropium,19 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 and dropsy; applied externally with honey or old olive oil, it is used for the cure of quinsy and affections of the trachea.


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 cucumber. Objects 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 the jaundice.24 Rubbed upon the face in the sun, it removes freckles25 and spots upon the skin.


Many persons attribute all these properties to the cultivated cucumber26 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.


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 in fainting 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 pleasant eating37 for it.


There is found also a wild gourd, called "somphos" by the Greeks, empty within (to which circumstance it owes its name),38 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


There is another variety of the wild gourd, known as the "colocynthis:"40 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 immediately after.

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 gourd43 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 "apostemata."44 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 good46 for the stomach, and for ulcerations of the intestines and of the bladder.


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 which it 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 aphrodisiac.50 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.


Wild rape52 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 barley, wheat, and lupines, being mixed with it in equal proportions.

The root of the wild rape is applied to no useful purpose whatever.


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 is good for promoting the menstrual discharge in females and for affections57 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.


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."


The cultivated radish, too, in addition to what we have already said62 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 are good63 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 for inflammations65 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 asthmatic patients.

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 fungi69 or henbane; and according to Nicander,70 they are salutary against the effects of bullock's blood,71 when drunk. 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 and melancholy.73 Praxagoras recom- mends that radishes should be given for the iliac passion, and Plistonicus for the cœliac74 disease.

Radishes are good, too, for curing ulcerations of the intestines and suppurations of the thoracic organs,75 if eaten 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 Employed 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 phagedænic.78 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 fasting.


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.

Celsus,83 too, recommends this root to be boiled in wine, and applied in cases of gout unattended with swelling.


The staphylinos, or, as some persons call it, "erratic84 parsnip," is another kind. The seed

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