Centaury

(Centaurium erythraea) The name is taken as Centaur (Chiron the Centaur is said to have healed a wound with this plant). Another strange belief comes from the pen of Albertus Magnus : "Witches say that this herb hath a marvellous virtue, for if it be joined with the blood of a female lapwing ... and be put with oil in a lamp, all they that compass it about shall believe themselves to be witches, so that one shall believe of another that his hand is in heaven and his feet in the earth ..."

Centaury earned a reputation as a tonic (Vickery. 1995). Gypsies used it as such (Vesey-Fitzgerald). The juice (in whisky?) is described on South Uist as excellent for the one in need of a nerve tonic or for weakness following an illness (Shaw). From an Irish recipe: a cordial was made of one part gentian, two parts of centaury, bruised well together, and mixed with distilled water for a drink (Wilde. 1890). It is, too an Irish remedy for asthma (O Suilleabhain), and it is taken internally for muscular rheumatism (Moloney).The flower or leaf infusion makes a good wash for wounds and sores, for it is strongly antiseptic (Conway). It is also used as a wound salve in the Balkans, and is drunk in decoction to check menstruation. or when blood is found in urine or the spittle, and thus for coughs or chest pains (Kemp). And in early times it had a great reputation for healing snake-bites (see Cockayne, and Dawson. 1934). Topsell [ The history of four-footed beasts (1607), and The history of serpents (1608)] added his weight. For snake-bite, he wrote " ... after cupping glasses and scarifications, there is nothing that can be more profitably applied than centaury, myrrh, and opium ...". Later, "for the trial of the party's recovery, give him the powder of centaury in wine to drink; and if he keeps the medicine, he will live; but if he vomits or casts it up, he will die". Gerard noted that "the juice is good in medicines for the eies ...", and long before his time the Anglo-Saxon version of Apuleius had "for sore of eyes, take this wort his juice; smear the eyes therewith; it heals the thinness of sight ...".

In the 16th century, Lupton offered the advice, "drink the juice of centaury, once every morning four days together, and it will thee sing clear, and speak with a good voice.".

Ceratonia siliqua > CAROB

Cercis siliquastrum > JUDAS TREE

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