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Laser, a juice which distils from silphium, as we have already1 stated, and reckoned among the most precious gifts presented to us by Nature, is made use of in numerous medicinal preparations. Employed by itself, it warms and revives persons benumbed with cold, and, taken in drink, it alleviates affections of the sinews. It is given to females in wine, and is used with soft wool as a pessary to promote the menstrual discharge. Mixed with wax, it extracts corns on the feet, after they have been first loosened with the knife: a piece of it, the size of a chick-pea, melted in water, acts as a diuretic. Andreas assures us that, taken in considerable doses even, it is never productive of flatulency, and that it greatly promotes the digestion, both in aged people and females; he says, too, that it is better used in winter than in summer, and that even then, it is best suited for those whose beverage is water: but due care must be taken that there is no internal ulceration. Taken with the food, it is very refreshing for patients just recovering from an illness; indeed, if it is used at the proper time, it has all the virtues of a desiccatory,2 though it is more wholesome for persons who are in the habit of using it than for those who do not ordinarily employ it.

As to external maladies, the undoubted virtues of this medicament are universally acknowledged: taken in drink, it has the effect, also, of neutralizing the venom of serpents and of poisoned weapons, and, applied with water, it is in general use for the cure of wounds. In combination with oil, it is only used as a liniment for the stings of scorpions, and with barley- meal or dried figs, for the cure of ulcers that have not come to a head. It is applied topically, also, to carbuncles, with rue or honey, or else by itself, with some viscous substance to make it adhere; for the bites of dogs, also, it is similarly em- ployed. A decoction of it in vinegar, with pomegranate rind, is used for excrescences3 of the fundament, and, mixed with nitre, for the corns commonly known as "morticini."4 In cases of alopecy which have been first treated with nitre, it makes the hair grow again, applied with wine and saffron, or else pepper or mouse-dung and vinegar. For chilblains, fo- mentations are made of it with wine, or liniments with oil; as also for callosities and indurations. For corns on the feet, if pared first, it is particularly useful, as also as a preservative against the effects of bad water, and of unhealthy climates or weather. It is prescribed for cough, too, affections of the uvula, jaundice of long standing, dropsy, and hoarseness, having the effect of instantly clearing the throat and restoring the voice. Diluted in oxycrate, and applied with a sponge, it assuages the pains in gout.

It is given also in broth5 to patients suffering from pleurisy, when about to take wine; and it is prescribed for convulsions and opisthotony, in pills about as large as a chick-pea coated with wax. For quinsy, it is used as a gargle, and to patients troubled with asthma or inveterate cough, it is given with leeks in vinegar; it is prescribed, also, with vinegar, after drinking butter-milk.6 It is recommended with wine for con- sumptive affections of the viscera and epilepsy, and with hy- dromel for paralysis of the tongue; with a decoction of honey, it forms a liniment for sciatica and lumbago.

For my own part, I should not recommend,7 what some authors advise, to insert a pill of laser, covered with wax, in a hollow tooth, for tooth-ache; being warned to the contrary by a remarkable case of a man, who, after doing so, threw himself headlong from the top of a house. Besides, it is a well-known fact, that if it is rubbed on the muzzle of a bull, it irritates him to an extraordinary degree; and that if it is mixed with wine, it will cause serpents to burst—those reptiles being extremely fond of wine. In addition to this, I should not advise any one to rub the gums with Attic honey, although that practice is recommended by some.

It would be an endless task to enumerate all the uses to which laser is put, in combination with other substances; and the more so, as it is only our object to treat of simple remedies, it being these in which Nature displays her resources. In the compound remedies, too, we often find our judgment deceived, and quite at fault, from our comparative inattention to the sympathy or antipathy which naturally exists between the ingredients employed—on this subject, however, we shall have to enlarge on a future occasion.8

1 In B. xix. c. 15. Asafœtida, Fée says, if it bears any relation to the laser of the ancients, had till very recently the reputation of being an menagogue, a hydragogue, a vermifuge, and a purgative. Applied topically, too, it is emollient, and is used for the cure of corns and tumours. Whatever Laser may have been, there is little doubt that much that is here stated by Pliny is either fabulous or erroneous.

2 "Cauterium."

3 What Pliny here says of Laser, Dioscorides, B. iii, c. 94, says of the- root of Silphium.

4 "Dead" corns.

5 Or pottage—"In sorbitione."

6 Probably to prevent it turning sour on the stomach.

7 Dioscorides, however, gives this advice, B. iii. c. 94.

8 In c. 56 of this Book.

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