In country medicine, the root is the only part still used, being rich in tannin (20%). It is said to be the best herbal medicine for a sore throat (Conway), and, of course, being so rich in tannin, the root is a strong astringent ("one of the best astringents in the world" was Hill's opinion), great for diarrhoea (Fluck), and it was used for staunching wounds, and internal haemorrhages. "The root doth glew wounds together..." (Langham). As an astringent, it is still used as a mouthwash (V G Hatfield. 1994). The infusion of the dried herb is used in Russian folk medicine for jaundice (Kourennoff). And it was used in Scotland, too, for urinary complaints (Beith). The root is regarded as a sure cure for incontinence (Mitton & Mitton). Gypsies use it for diphtheria (Vesey-Fitzgerald), and bistort tea is drunk in Cumbria to get rid of a headache (Newman & Wilson). There were old recipes for snakebite, but they were doctrine of signatures, from the twisted roots. Bistort is from the Latin bis, twice, and torta, twisted. It is the roots that are twice-twisted, or writhed, like a nest of snakes, which explains names like Snakeweed (Gerard) and Snakeroot (Clapham, Tutin & Warburg), and which also explains the use for snakebite. One veterinary use, from East Anglia, has been recorded. The juice from the leaves is rubbed round horses' teeth to prevent decay (V G Hatfield. 1994).
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