Palsywort

An old name for COWSLIP, which shows that it must have been used for that complaint. It must have been the trembling or nodding of the flowers that suggested it (Grigson. 1955). The Regimen Sanitatus Salernitanum had commended the cowslip as a cure for palsy or paralysis (hence another old name, Herb Paralysy). Gerard repeated the prescription - "cowslips are commended against the pain of the joints called the gout, and slacknesse of the sinues, which is the palsie".

PANACEA is defined as a universal medicine, a "heal-all", like GINSENG. Indeed the generic name for ginseng, Panax, has the same derivation as panacea. Other plants, besides ginseng, have been given the name of All-heal, or Heal-all, MUGWORT, for example, perhaps as a tribute to the esteem with which it was regarded. SELF-HEAL (Prunella vulgaris) is another, as is VALERIAN. MISTLETOE

also bears the name, which is only to be expected, given that it is a magical plant in folklore, endowed with extraordinary powers. PENNYROYAL may as well be included here, for it has been used for so many illnesses and conditions. In fact, they used to say in Iowa that a lotion made from it is good for any ailment (Stout).

TUTSAN (Hypericum androsaemum) is French toute-saine, wholly sound, or perhaps healing all, a concept that was well known in Gerard's time, when it was regarded as a panacea. HOLY THISTLE (Carduus benedictus) has a particular place here, for any plant called "holy" or "blessed" was taken to be a counter-poison. Langham could say "the leafe, juice, seede, in water, healeth all kindes of poyson ...". In addition, everybody knew it as a heal-all. Langham, indeed, had four pages of recipes under this head, for practically every malady, including the plague, for which it was regarded as a specific. CAMOMILE tea is a virtual panacea, used for a remarkable number of unrelated ailments. It is made simply by infusing ^ or 1 ounce of fresh flowers, less of the dried, in a pint of boiling water. Galen prescribed APPLE wine as a cure-all (Krymow).

Panax quinquefolium/Panax schinseng > GINSENG PANSY

(Viola tricolor) There are detailed beliefs about planting pansies in America. Put them on the north side of the house, they say, or they will not flower. They must be planted exactly two inches deep, or they will not grow. Plant them at 6 a.m, and always water them at 6 a.m. (Hyatt).

Like a good many other plants, pansies were once thought to be aphrodisiac. Shakespeare, of course, knew this, for didn't Oberon tell Puck to put a pansy on the eyes of Titania? And it was dedicated to St Valentine; all this accounts for the numerous "love" names, including the one given by Shakespeare -"Cupid's Flower", and a lot of examples of the Kiss-me-love-at-the-garden-gate type. On the principle of homeopathic magic, that which causes love will also cure it. That was why it was prescribed for venereal diseases. Gerard noted the belief, and prescribed "the distilled water of the herbe or floures given to drinke for ten or more daies together, three ounces in the morning, and the like quantitie at night, doth wonderfully ease the paines of the French disease, and cureth the same, if the patient be caused to sweat sundry times". Culpeper too regarded it as "an excellent cure for the French disease, the herb being a gallant Antivenerean", the latter remark being contrary to the accepted belief of his time.

Pansy leaves in the shoe were said to cure the ague. "It is good, as the late Physitions write", said Gerard, "for such as are sicke of an ague, especially children and infants, whose convulsions and fits of the falling sickness it is thought to cure". Langham (The garden of health ... 1578) has this too. Nursing mothers used it, - a handful of the fresh herb, boiled two hours in milk, is to be strained, and taken night and morning (Thornton). American domestic medicine recommended "a tea made of pansy (to) relieve gravel misery" (R B Browne). Herbalists in England still use pansy tea to cure dropsy and the like (Fluck), as well as children's skin eruptions and diarrhoea (Schauenberg & Paris). It has even been used for asthma and epilepsy (Leyel. 1937).

Dreams of pansies means heart's pain, quoted Mackay as one of the popular fallacies of his day, the opposite of heartsease, presumably; and some of the names given to the flower, as Love-in-idleness, which can only mean love-in-vain, a name actually in use (Grigson. 1955). One more odd belief, this time from Wales - if you pick pansies on a fine day (Trevelyan), or while they still have the dew on them (Baker. 1974), then you would cause it to rain very soon, or, much worse, in the latter case, you would cause the death of a loved one (Addison. 1985).

Pansies were used as symbols of remembrance and meditation in Christian art (Ferguson).

Papaver rhoeas > RED POPPY

Papaver somniferum > OPIUM POPPY

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