Figwort

(Scrophularia nodosa) Figwort has had its uses, not least in beer-making, where the bitter principle was once a valued asset (Wood-Martin). In the Hebrides, more stress was put on its magical qualities, especially in its use to protect cows (Carmichael), for when put in the byre, it has the power of ensuring the milk supply (J A MacCulloch. 1905). On mainland Scotland, on the other hand, it was the medicinal use that was more important. The "fig" of figwort means piles. ". it is reported to be a remedy against those diseases whereof it tooke his name, as also the painefull piles and swelling of the haemorroides... Some do stampe the root with butter, and set it in a moist shadowie place fifteeene daies together: then they do boile it, straine it, and keepe it, wherewith they anoint the hard kernels, and the haemorrhoid veines, on the piles which are in the fundament, and that with good successe" (Gerard). It seems that the tincture of the fresh plant is still recommended for piles, as well as for eye complaints and mastitis (Schauenberg & Paris).

The name of the genus, Scrophularia, is the indication of the other medicinal usage in ancient times. The name comes from the Latin scrofulae, meaning that swelling of the neck glands we know as scrofule. It is more than likely that the doctrine of signatures showed the way to this usage, the signature in this case being the knobbly tubers (Dyer. 1889). That is what the name Kernelwort (Gerard) implies, too, and Scrofula-plant is another name given to it.

On mainland Scotland, the leaf would be applied to cuts and bruises, and the tuber to sores and tumours (Carmichael), and in some places to burns (C P Johnson), probably because it is an anodyne, and eases pain wherever it is applied (Mitton), and that includes toothache and babies' teething (Gerard). It probably accounts for its reputation in the Channel Islands for being an efficient remedy for cramps (Garis).

Filago germanica > CUDWEED FILBERT

A name given to HAZEL nuts, of either Corulus avellana, or, more accurately, C maxima. It appears in various guises, as Filbeard, widely recorded in the south and Midlands, sometimes shortened to Beard-tree, and Filberd, or Filbord, as Evelyn had it. Brouk suggested that filbert means 'full beard' (from the fringed husk?), but the usual explanation is that it comes from a non-existent King Philibert, or from St Philibert, whose feast day falls on 22 August, when, it is claimed, the nuts are ripe. But they are certainly not ripe as early as that. Perhaps we are talking about St Philibert, old style, giving a date in September, when there is more likelihood of the claim being true. Anyway, filbert is a Norman-French word, written as philbert in the 13th century, and still in use in Normandy patois at the beginning of the 20th century (Skeat).

Filipendula ulmaria > MEADOWSWEET Filipendula vulgaris > DROPWORT FIRE-MAKING

MAORI FIRE (Pennantia corymbosa) is a New Zealand tree, called kaikomako by the Maori, who used it for friction fire-making, as the common name implies. Maui was the deity who taught the people how to do this (Andersen). See MAORI FIRE for a version of the myth.

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