Clary

(Salvia sclarea) Whatever Clary means, it is not "clear-eye", though that has been used as a name for it, with justification, for the seeds swell up when put into water, and are mucilaginous. These can then be put like drops into the eye, to cleanse it (Grigson. 1955). As Gerard said, "the seed of Clarie poudered, finely scarced [sieved, that is] and mixed with hony, taketh away the dimnesse of the eies, and cleareth the sight". Long before his time, though, the seed was being used as an eye salve, and not only the seed, for the leaves are prescribed in a 15th century leechdom, which runs "for the pearl in the eye [cataract?], and the web: take the leaf of Oculus Christi [a common medieval name for clary], peeled downward, and hyssop, with a leaf of sage: and drink the juice of these three days first and last [that is, morning and evening] (Dawson. 1934). The editor does not say how this, or anything else taken internally, could possibly work. Gerard even reported it to be an aphrodisiac!

Clary is cultivated these days for its oil, which is used in the cosmetics industry as a perfume fixer. It is a highly aromatic oil, with a scent resembling ambergris (Clair). Clary was once used apparently by German wine merchants as an adulterant. It was infused with elder flowers and then added to Rhenish wine, so converting it to the likeness of Muscatel. It is still called in Germany Muskateller Salbei (Grieve. 1931).

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