Orris

(Iris germanica "Florentina ") Mixed with anise, orris was used in England as a perfume for linen as early as 1480 (see Wardrobe accounts of Edward IV). It smells like violets, and in fact is sometimes called violet powder (Hemphill). The root was also crushed and used as a substitute for dried violet in sachets and powder. It was once used for scenting tooth powders, too (Rimmel). It was used for this purpose in Alabama until quite recently - a tablespoonful of orris with seven tablespoonfuls of chalk; mix thoroughly, and dampen before use (R B Browne).

Orris-root would be thrown into the fire to produce a pleasant smell, and it was chewed to neutralize the smell of liquor, garlic or tobacco on the breath

(Moldenke & Moldenke). Another use for the root was as an aid to babies' teething, as a "coral" (Bloom), and in Illinois a root worn round the neck served the same purpose (H M Hyatt). In London, too, Whitechapel Jews used it, but only if the piece of root had some fancied resemblance to the human figure, more or less suggestive of male or female forms - the he-root was used for girl babies, and the she-root for boys (letter published in Folk-lore. vol 24; 1913 p 120).

It was once popular for bronchitis and oedema (Camp), and Hill recommended it as "good against disorders of the lungs, coughs, hoarseness, and all that train of ills ...". Gerard also prescribed it for oedema, and for cramp, convulsions, and snakebite, as well as for gonorrhea. Earlier still, there was advice "to cause hair to grow. Take water of flower-de-luce, and washe thy head therewith, and it shall cause hayre to grow" (see Gentleman's Magazine Library: popular superstitions 1884).

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