Persimmon

(Diospyros virginiana) Its uses are mainly medicinal, but there is a note that the bark, mixed with that of Red Oak, gives a yellow dye (R B Browne). Like sassafras, persimmon wood is unlucky to burn in the house (they both pop and crackle a lot when burning). If you throw it in a man's fireplace, he will soon move away. So runs a belief that was current in all the southern states of America (Puckett). Another belief, or rather charm, recorded there is to string the seeds and wear them as a necklace, to keep off disease (R B Browne).

But the fruit has got genuine medicinal value. It is astringent, and was listed as such in the US Pharmacopeia for a while (Weiner), though the Cherokee Indians had been using a boiled fruit decoction for diarrhoea a long time before that. Southern states domestic medicine used the sap quite a lot. For teething, the juice from a burned branch was put on the gums, and the same procedure was used for earache; just let the sap drop in a spoon, and then drop this sap into the ear. It was used for thrush, too - stew persimmon bark, mix with honey, and wash the mouth with the juice. Sometimes a small piece of alum would be added in the cooking (R B Browne). Then there is a real oddity; if you have a tootheche, walk round a persimmon tree, and don't think about an opossum, and the tooth will get well. It is a humorous cure, for opossums are nearly always associated with this tree (R B Browne).

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