Celery

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(Apium graveolens, which is Wild Celery; Garden Celery is A graveolens 'Dulce'). Poisonous in its wild state, at least to cattle (Kingsbury. 1964) but blanching is the simple process that turns a poisonous plant into an edible one, though eating it will bring bad luck, at least according to Kentucky belief (Thomas & Thomas), but to dream of it is said to be a sign of robust good health (Raphael). On the other hand, it did appear, according to Graves, in an English formula for witches' flying ointment. Jacob says it was used by witches to prevent their getting cramp while flying. Why not? Celery was quite a common medieval remedy for cramp, at least, the earthbound kind.

The seeds are a food, as well as the stems (celery spice, celery salt, etc.,), and the seed has been used in medicine, too, since medieval times. The prescription for "aching of the hollow tooth", given by Dawson, dates from the 15th century: "Take the seed of apium, a scruple, that is to say, a pennyweight, and of the leaves of henbane and of the seeds of avens two scruples, and grind it small with aqua vitae and make pellets thereof of the size of a vetch and lay on the tooth that acheth and it shall cease anon for it be proved that it hath ceased the ache in half an hour". It is still being used; a decoction of the seeds relieves lumbago and rheumatism, so it is claimed (Newman & Wilson), or the medicine is sometimes taken in the form of a tea (Browning). An American rheumatism cure was to use celery seed worn in a bag round the neck. A wedding ring in the bag would clinch the cure (Whitney & Bullock). Russian folk medicine agrees that celery is good for rheumatism, but here it is the stem that is used. Half a pound of celery, without the roots, is simmered in a quart of water, strained, and this provides a day's dose divided into three, and taken hot (Kourennoff). Indiana home remedies agree, too, that lots of celery, boiled in milk or water, will give relief (Tyler).

Medieval medical receipts were quite keen on celery, as it was prescribed for widely differing complaints -"ache of wound" (Dawson), for example. Topsell suggested that "apium seed" was used for snakebite, even. Other conditions included a stroke (a blow in this case), heart disease, or "who that spitteth bloud", backache, and so on. Gerard was just as keen, as were other herbalists of his generation, recommending it for agues, jaundice, mouth ulcers, whitlows, etc., It has well-known diuretic effects, and would certainly help anyone suffering from kidney stone, strangury, etc., Lastly, sufferers in Norfolk would cure a hangover by the simple expedient of chewing celery (V G Hatfield. 1994), and eating it is a simple Irish remedy for indigestion (Maloney).

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