Thursday, December 31, 2009


With three blogs, it's surprising how rarely one topic carries over from one blog to the other, but this is one of those times.

Today at a local antique shop I found a rare herbal book, Hearts-Ease, by Mrs. C.F. Leyel, one of the most respected herbalists of the last century. She singlehanded saved the knowledge of natural medicine in the United Kingdom, pushing forward even after the 1941 Pharmacy Act made her practice almost illegal. Wander here for more on that topic.

Meanwhile, this amazing book has detailed line-illustrated plates, and fourteen indexes. Each herb is detailed to a minute degree.

For example, this lovely flower:

Speedwell (the little Speedwell's darling blue) Tennyson

Botanical name: Veronica officinalis (Linn.)

Natural order: Scrophulariaceae

Familiar names: Paul's Betony, Cat's eye, Fluellin

French names: The d'Europe, Veronique,

German names: Ehrenpreis, Speedwelltee

Italian names: Veronic, The d'Europa, Quadernuzzo

Spanish name: Veronica

Turkish names: Yarsan otu, Oropa cayi

Symbolizes: Feminine fidelity

Part Used: herb

Action: Alternative, diuretic, expectorant, tonic, vulnerary (this will make sense to those of you who grow and blend herbs)

Mrs. C.F. Leyel's notes:

The Speedwell is almost the first blue flower to appear in the hedges, and is so truely the colour of the heavens, or as the Chinese say, ;the sky after rain', that it is not surprising that it should have been chosen as a subject for legends.

The old name was forget-me-not, and speedwell means goodbye, the name having been given because when it is picked its petals fly away almost at once. (The sister ship to the Mayflower was the Speedwell, but upon departure the Speedwell leaked so badly that she had to be left behind. As a result, the Mayflower shared the historical spotlight with no other, in addition to carrying twice as many passengers as planned.)

A long account of the healing properties of an allied species, veronica orientalis, was written by Francus in 1690, in which an account was given of a king of France being cured of leprosy by it. A woman who was barren gave birth to children after taking it. A few years later other reports were written by Hanniel, at Dusseldorf, and by Hoffman.

Hoffman considered it a particularily efficacious remedy for catarrhal complaints and recommended it for asthma.

As an herbal goes I can't really ask for any more.

Necessary Disclaimer: the gentle reader should not infer that they are to go out and pick large amounts of speedwell (forget-me-nots) and ingest them. No matter how beautiful they are.

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