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There are numerous kinds of absinthium; the Santonic,1 for instance, so called from a city in Gaul, and the Pontic,2 which comes from Pontus, where the cattle are fattened upon it—a diet which causes them to be destitute of gall.3 The Pontic wormwood, we may remark, is of the finest quality, superior to that of Italy,4 and much more bitter; the pith, however, of the Pontic wormwood is sweet. As to its general utility, a plant so commonly found and applied to such numerous uses, people are universally agreed; but with the Romans more particularly it has been always held in the highest esteem, from the fact of its being employed in their religious ceremonials. Thus, for instance, upon the Latin5 Festival, it is the custom to have a race of four-horsed chariots in the Capital, and for the conqueror to be presented with a draught of wormwood; from the circumstance, no doubt, that our forefathers were of opinion that good health was the most valuable reward they could bestow upon his skill.

This plant is very strengthening to the stomach, and hence it is that wines are flavoured with it, as already6 stated. A decoction of it in water is also taken, the following being the method employed in preparing it. Six drachmæ of the leaves are boiled, with the branches, in three sextarii of rain water, and the preparation is then left to cool in the open air a day and a night. Salt, too, should be added to it. When old, it is utterly useless. A dilution of wormwood steeped in water is also used, such being the name7 given to this method of preparing it. This dilution is made by leaving the vessel covered up for three days, any kind of water being used. Pounded wormwood is but rarely employed, and the same with the extracted juice of the seed.8 In cases, however, where it is extracted, the seed is subjected to pressure as soon as it begins to swell, after which it is soaked for three days in water, if used fresh, and seven, if dry. It is then boiled in a copper vessel, in the proportion of ten heminæ to forty-five sextarii of water, after which it is strained off and boiled gently to the consistency of honey, in the same way as the juice is extracted from the smaller centaury. The juice, however, of wormwood, thus extracted, is bad for the head and stomach; whereas the decoction, on the other hand, is wholesome in the highest degree, as it acts astringently upon the stomach, carries off bile, is a powerful diuretic, has a soothing effect upon the bowels, and assuages pains in the intestines. With the addition of sile,9 Gallic nard, and a little vinegar, it dispels nausea and flatulency, and expels intestinal worms. It removes qualmishness, promotes the digestion, and, with the addition of rue, pepper, and salt, disperses crudities of the stomach.

The ancients were in the habit of giving wormwood as a purgative, the dose being six drachmæ of the seed with three of salt and one cyathus of honey, in one sextarius of sea water kept for some time. This preparation, however, is rendered more efficacious by doubling the proportion of salt; the seed, too, must be bruised with the greatest care, as there is considerable difficulty in pounding it. Some authorities have prescribed the dose above mentioned to he given in polenta,10 with the addition of pennyroyal; while others recommend the leaves to be given to children in a dried fig, to disguise their bitterness. Taken with iris,11 wormwood acts as a detergent upon the thoracic organs: for jaundice it is used raw, with parsley or adiantum.12 In cases of flatulency, it is sipped every now and then, warmed in water; for liver complaints it is taken with Gallic nard, and for diseases of the spleen, with vinegar, pap,13 or figs. Taken in vinegar it neutralizes the bad effects of fungi and of viscus:14 in wine it is an antidote to the poison of hemlock, and to the bite of the shrew-mouse, and is curative of wounds inflicted by the seadragon15 and the scorpion. It contributes also very greatly to the improvement of the sight, and is used as an external application, with raisin wine, for defluxions of the eyes, and with honey, for bruises.

The steam of a decoction of wormwood is curative of affections of the ears; and when they are attacked with running sores, a liniment of wormwood bruised with honey is applied. Three or four sprigs of wormwood, with one root of Gallic nard, taken in six cyathi of water, act as a diuretic and as an emmenagogue; indeed, if taken with honey, or employed as a pessary with wool, it has especial virtues as an emmenagogue. In combination with honey and nitre it is useful for quinzy, and an infusion of it in water is good for epinyctis. A topical application is made of it for recent wounds, provided always they have not been touched with water: it is employed also for ulcers upon the head. In combination with Cyprian wax or figs, it is highly recommended as a plaster for the iliac regions: it is curative also of prurigo, but it must never be administered in fevers. Taken in drink, it is a preventive of sea sickness; and, worn attached to the body, beneath an apron, it arrests inguinal swellings. The smell of it16 induces sleep, a similar effect being produced by placing it under the pillow unknown to the party. Kept among clothes it preserves them from worms, and used as a liniment, with oil, or burnt as a fumigation, it has the effect of driving away gnats.

Writing ink, mixed with an infusion of wormwood, effectually protects the writings from the attacks of mice. Ashes of wormwood, mixed with rose unguent, stain the hair black.

1 The Artemisia Santonica of Linnæus, Tartarian southernwood.

2 The Artemisia Pontica of Linnæus, Little wormwood, or Roman wormwood.

3 See B. xi. c. 75.

4 The Artemisia absinthium of Linnæus, Common wormwood.

5 Upon which occasion a sacrifice was offered on the Alban Mount. See further as to this Festival, in B. iii. c. 2.

6 In B. xiv. c. 19. Wine of wormwood is still used medicinally.

7 "Dilutum." An infusion.

8 It contains a small quantity of essential oil.

9 See B. xx. c. 18.

10 See B. xviii. c. 14.

11 See B. xxi. c. 19.

12 See B. xxii. c. 30.

13 "Puls." See B. xviii. c. 19.

14 From a passage in Scribonius Largus, c. 191, it has been concluded that by the word "visco," he means the juice of the Ixias or Chameleon, mentioned in B. xxii. c. 21.

15 See B. ix. c. 43, and B. xxxii. c. 53.

16 This, Fée observes, is not the case.

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