Scrofula

Irish people used to apply the bruised leaves of WATERCRESS as a poultice to scrofulous swellings (Egan), and in the southern states of America, CHINABERRY TREE (Melia azedarach) roots and POKE-ROOT (Phytolacca decandra) made a cure for scrofula. They were boiled together, with a piece of bluestone in the water, and then strained off. The sores had to be salved with this mixture, and then anointed with a feather dipped in pure hog lard. This would bring the sore to a head, so that the core could be pressed out (Puckett). In Orkney, the crushed leaves of BUCKBEAN were once applied (Leask). NASTURTIUM, too, has been used in folk medicine against the disease (Schauenberg & Paris). Lady Wilde recorded a much more complicated scrofula cure from Ireland. It required burdock roots, common dock, buckbean and rose-noble [probably figwort] boiled in water, of which the patient had to drink three times a day (Wilde. 1890). The very name of the genus (Scrophularia) to which WATER BETONY and FIGWORT belong, proclaim their efficacy against this disease, once known here as the King's Evil, for the touch of the anointed monarch was taken as the only cure for the condition. The shape of the root tubers "signal ORPINE [ to be] with virtue against the King's Evil" (Grigson. 1955). In the Balkans, WATER MINT is used, cooked in water, and the hot plant applied externally, while the liquid is drunk (Kemp).

A Pennsylvania charm for scrofula was to wear MARJORAM roots as a necklace. They would dig the roots, cut them crosswise, and thread an odd number of pieces. The necklace had to be removed on the ninth day, and other pieces of root threaded on. This was repeated twice, and each time they had to be buried under the eaves (Fogel).

Scrophularia auriculata > WATER BETONY

Scrophularia nodosa > FIGWORT

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