Toadflax

(Linaria vulgaris) The name has been rather a puzzle. Gerard's explanation is that it has a "mouth like unto a frog's mouth ...". Skinner's offering is that it was originally bubonina, because it cured buboes, then becoming corrupted into bufoanium, from bufo, toad, and so to the meaningless toadflax. Neither of these sounds very convincing. We would expect to find Toad's Mouth if Gerard's elucidation were correct, but there is nothing - plenty of other "mouth" names, but not a toad's. So let us pass on to more enlightened expositions. One is that "toad" means "dead", i.e., it is the German word tot, conveying the idea of flax that is dead, that is, useless for the purpose to which proper flax is applied (A S Palmer). Grigson comes to the same kind of conclusion, but says the name is a simple translation of Kr5tenflachs, a wild, useless, flax, a flax for toads. It was, of course, at one time a destructive weed of the flax fields, as is implicit in Gerard's name of Flaxweed.

It has had its medicinal uses in the past, even though strongly derivative of the doctrine of signatures. As Grigson put it, yellow suggests yellow, so one should not be surprised to find the early herbalists prescribing it for bladder problems. Parkinson. 1640, for instance, said, "the Tode Flaxe is accounted to be good, to cause one to make water". Earlier, Gerard had claimed that the decoction would "provoke urine, in those that pisse drop by drop", and it would unstop the kidneys and bladder. The same decoction was used for a second ailment, jaundice, also obviously from the same doctrine. Gerard produced yet another "yellow" remedy - "the decoction of Tode-flax taketh away the yellownesse and deformitie of the skinne, being washed and bathed therewith". It can be used for warts, too - just rub it on (Tongue. 1965).

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