Worms

AMERICAN WORMSEED (Chenopdoium ambrosioides), by its common name, proclaims its use for worms, and has long been used for the purpose. Care has to be taken, though, for an overdose could be dangerous, fatal even (Tampion). Another American remedy is the use of JERUSALEM OAK (Chenopodium botrys). An Alabama prescription runs: for worms, one teaspoonful of the seed or the stalk tea mixed with syrup, three times a day (R B Browne). GARLIC, "Garlyke ... doth kyll all maner of wormes in a man's body" (Boorde), even if its effectiveness operates in strange ways. Louisiana traiteurs give the patient a little ball of garlic to wear round the neck. The worms, they say, are afraid of the smell. ROWAN berries were used in Irish country districts at one time for worms. The prescription suffocates and kills them (Dorson). In Brittany, a necklace of garlic cloves was put round children's necks to keep them free from worms (Sebillot), and some garlic wrapped in a cloth round a child's waist would be the norm in Louisiana, though domestic medicine there sounds more reasonable. There they mash up garlic with sugar and feed that to the patient (R B Browne), while in Trinidad a tea made from the cloves serves the same purpose (Laguerre). CHIVES has also been used for worms, both in Europe and America, and so have TURNIPS. Gerard recommended that the oil pressed from the seeds should be given "to young children against the worms, which it both killeth and driveth forth". Logan records the Irish use of boiled NETTLE roots for worms - it probably is a strong purgative. Even GROUNDSEL has been tried - there are records from Germany of its use as a child's vermifuge (Fernie), and gypsies use an infusion of the leaves and flowers for the purpose (Vesey-Fitzgerald). Of course CASTOR OIL is as efficient a vermifuge as it is a laxative. One of the more notorious cures for worms in children was by the use of STINKING HELLEBORE. Thornton wrote that "a decoction of about a drachm of the green leaves, or 15 grains of the dried, is given to children and repeated three mornings, when it seldom fails expelling the round worms, or a tea-spoonful of the juice, mixed with syrup, may be given for that purpose". Gilbert White mentions the cure, and recognized it as "a violent remedy ... to be administered with caution". By the mid-l^ century it was condemned, not surprisingly, as all the hellebores are very poisonous, as "far too uncertain in the degree of its action to be safely administered" (C P Johnson). Other hellebores were used in the same way, and are just as dangerous (CHRISTMAS ROSE, for example, or GREEN HELLEBORE). SAVIN (Juniperus sabina), too, is another poisonous substance once regularly used for worms; even children were regularly wormed with it, a dangerous practice that survived well into the 19th century. Earlier, Gerard published a receipt that required the physician to "anoint their bellies therewith" - safer, even though ineffectual. MUGWORT too has been used - the dried flower heads used to be sold by herbalists as "wormseed" (Earle). BALSAMINT seed "expelleth all manner of wormes out of the belly" (Gerard), "wormes both small and great", in Langham's words. TANSY, Balsamint's near relative, has always been used for the purpose. The infusion of the young tops and seeds is a gypsy remedy(Vesey-Fitzgerald). Martin mentions this use in the Isle of Skye, and so does Leask in Orkney, and it is certainly used that way in Ireland (Moloney); it is common enough in America, too (Bergen. 1899) (a tansy bag round children's necks used to be quite common in New England (Beck)). ELECAMPANE has been used since ancient times for worms, even, apparently, by laying the preparation on the stomach. It is not very clear what Gerard wanted his patients to do with it - presumably drink "the juyce ... boyled", for it "driveth forth all kinde of wormes of the belly ..." LEVANT WORMSEED (Artemisia cina) proclaims by its name its use in this context. The medicine is obtained from the flower heads (Hutchinson & Melville), tiny as they are, and often called seeds. They are quite often made up into tablets, but large doses have been known to be fatal (Le Strange) - to the patient, that is.

ROWAN berries were used in Irish country districts at one time for worms. The prescription was to eat a few of them before breakfast for a day or two (Egan). Another Irish usage was given to children and horses. In the first case, it was enough to boil a handful of GORSE flowers in milk, and give that to the child to drink (Vickery. 1995). For horses, the tops were cut with a sickle and pounded on a block with a mallet, and this would be given to the horse, often with a pint of linseed oil (Logan). Gerard reckoned that WALNUTS "with a Fig and a little Rue, prevent and preserve the body from the infection of the plague, and being plentifully eaten they drive wormes forth of the belly". Even in recent times, chopped walnut leaves have been used for worming horses. The root of MALE FERN (Dryopteris filix-mas) once served as a vermifuge, and in the 19th century it was possible to buy 'Oil of Fern' for this purpose. The root was apparently marketed in the 18th century by a Madame

Niuffleen "as a secret nostrum", for the cure of tapeworm. After he had paid a lot of money to buy it, Louis XV and his physicians discovered that it had been used ever since Galen's time (Paris). PUMPKIN seeds, crushed and made into a paste with milk and honey are efficient for worming, when taken three times before breakfast (Page. 1978), and CUCUMBERS are also useful as an anthelmintic (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk). PEACH leaves were once recommended for children with worms (Black). Gerard wrote that "the leaves of Peach Trees . being applied plaisterwise unto the navel of young children, they kill the worms, and drive them forth. The same leaves boiled in milke do kill the worms very speedily". the dried and powdered leaves of WATER GERMANDER have been used, too (C P Johnson).

Martin gave an example of a cure in Harris for drawing "worms" out of the flesh. It involved applying a "Plaister of warm BARLEY-dough to the place affected". Eventually the swelling went down, and it drew out "a little Worm, about half an inch in length, and about the bigness of a Goose-quill, and many little feet in each side". They called this creature, whatever it was, a Fillan. BITING STONECROP must have been used for worms, for among its many names are Jack-of-the-buttery, or Jack-in-the-buttery. According to Prior, these are corruptions of Bot-the-riacque, to Buttery Jack. He went on to point out that the plant was used as a theriac, or anthelmintic, particularly for Bots and other intestinal worms. SLIPPERY ELM could be taken to deal with worms - "makes the intestines so slippery the worms can't hold on" (H M Hyatt). EDIBLE VALERIAN (Valeriana edulis) was used by some native Americans as a tapeworm remedy, the Menomini being one. After the worm was expelled it was washed clean, pulverized, and swallowed again, to make the patient fat and healthy once more! (H H Smith. 1923). Tobacco seeds taken in molasses were recommended in Indiana (Brewster).

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