(Menyanthes trifoliata) The roots used to be pounded up to provide an edible meal (J G D Clark), while the Chinese pickled them to use either as a food or as a sedative (F P Smith). There was one other use, in brewing, and the leaves this time, not the roots -"one ounce will go as far as half a pound of hops" (Thornton). The point is that this is an intensely bitter plant, and that is the reason for its use as a substitute for hops in brewing (C P Johnson). Bitter or not, the leaves used to be shredded and smoked in the Faeroes in times of tobacco scarcity (Williamson). Where bitter tonics were needed medicinally, the root, gathered in August, and the seeds, were used. Gypsies made a leaf infusion to take as a blood purifier (Vesey-Fitzgerald).
Scurvy is the disease with which Buckbean is most often associated. Other skin diseases were treated with it, boils, for example, in Ireland (O Suilleabhain), while in Orkney, the crushed leaves would be applied for scrofula (Leask). A decoction of the seeds was used to treat rheumatism (V G Hatfield. 1994), or to prevent it (Sargent), it was also used for gout and dropsy - there is a recipe from South Uist, in the Outer Hebrides, that involved cleaning and boiling the whole plant, putting the juice in a bottle, to be drunk daily (Shaw). This may be doctrine of signatures, of course, given the plant's preference for wet, marshy ground. Perhaps the same argument could be used to explain its use for malaria. Hill, in the mid 18th century, mentions this use for the dried leaves, and it also crops up in Russian domestic medicine for the same complaint. Four or five tablespoonfuls of the dried herb in a gallon of vodka, kept for two weeks, and one small wineglassful to be taken daily (Kourennoff).
It used to be a Highland remedy for all kinds of stomach pains, and herbalists still give the leaf decoction for stomach disorders, loss of appetite and the like (Schauenberg & Paris), an interesting usage, for the Kwakiutl Indians of the Pacific north-west of America use the water from the boiled roots for some kind of stomach trouble, briefly translated as "when the pit of our stomach is sick" (Boas). Even stomach ulcers were treated, in Scotland, successfully apparently, with infusions from this plant (Beith). They even used it for constipation on South Uist. They took the root, cleaned it and boiled it in water all day until the juice was dark and thick. It was strained, and a teaspoonful given to the patient; it was even given to calves for the same complaint (Shaw), though the dose must have been increased.
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