Rest Harrow

(Ononis repens) Cammock is the proper English name for this plant. Rest Harrow is actually 'arrest harrow', brought in from 'remore aratri', literally plough hindrance. There is also 'resta bovis', "because it maketh the Oxen whilst they be plowing to rest or stand still" (Gerard), and of course, it is only pulled up with some effort.Thus, in the Carpathians, it was deemed to possess great power. So if a new-born baby is bathed in water in which this plant had been put, the child will get a portion of the power of the plant (Bogatyrev). Another reason why farmers disliked the plant was because it tainted dairy produce (Grigson. 1955). There is a Wiltshire name for that - cammocky, or gammotty (Dartnell & Goddard). But it is a favourite food of donkeys (hence the generic name Ononis, from Greek onos, ass) (Grieve. 1931), and Gerard recommended it for human consumption: "The tender sprigs or crops of this shrub before the thornes come forth, are preserved in pickle, and be very pleasant sauce to be eaten with meat as a sallad". The thorns he spoke of make this one of the many plants from which legend says the Crown of Thorns was made (Leyel. 1937).

Wild Liquorice, Liquory-stick and Spanish-root are names given to this plant in the north of England and Scotland, for children used to dig up the root and eat it, and not just children either, for labourers would suck the juice from the roots to quench their thirst (Vickery. 1995). Sometimes the children would put the root in a bottle of water, shake it up, and then drink the result - Spanish water.

Rest Harrow is still used medicinally; herbalists prescribe it for dropsy and related conditions (Fluck), just as the early herbalists did. It had been used for dysentery, too, for which one extraordinary leechdom has survived: "take cammocks, roots and all, and seethe it in water, and wash thy feet therewith to the ankle, and take the seed of cress a penny-weight, and drink it with red wine and be whole" (Dawson. 1934). The leaf juice was used in Ireland to apply to chapped and rough hands (Moloney).

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