The term Ragwort, or Ragweed, is a corruption of Ragewort, as expressing its supposed stimulating effects on the sexual organs. For the same reason the pommes d'amour (Love Apples, or Tomatoes) are sometimes called Rage apples.
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Radishes were celebrated by Dioscorides and Pliny as above all roots whatsoever, insomuch, that in the Delphic temple there was a Radish of solid gold, raphanus ex auro dicatus: and Moschinus wrote a whole volume in their praise; but Hippocrates condemned them as vitiosas, innatantes, acoegre concoctiles.
The Quince may well be included among remedial Herbal Simples because of the virtues possessed by the seeds within the fruit. The tree is a native of Persia and Crete; bearing a pear-shaped fruit, golden yellow when gathered, and with five cells in it, each containing twelve closely packed seeds. These are mucilaginous when unbroken, and afford the taste of bitter almonds.
When immersed in water they swell up considerably, and the mucilage will yield salts of lime with albumen.
Medicinally the primrose possesses similar curative attributes, though in a lesser degree, to those of the Cowslip. Both the root and the flowers contain a volatile oil, and "primulin" which is identical with mannite: whilst the acrid principle is "saponin." Alfred Austin, Poet Laureate, teaches to "make healing salve with early Primroses."
Our invaluable Potato, which enters so largely into the dietary of all classes, belongs to the Nightshade tribe of dangerous plants, though termed "solanaceous" as a natural order because of the sedative properties which its several genera exercise to lull pain.
The Scarlet Poppy of our cornfields (Papaver Rhoeas) is one of the most brilliant and familiar of English wild flowers, being strikingly conspicuous as a weed by its blossoms rich in scarlet petals, which are black at the base. The title Papaver has been derived from pap, a soft food given to young infants, in which it was at one time customary to boil Poppy seeds for the purpose of inducing sleep.
The Plantains (Plantaginacecoe), from planta, the sole of the foot, are humble plants, well known as weeds in fields and by roadsides, having ribbed leaves and spikes of flowers conspicuous by their long stamens. As Herbal Simples, the Greater Plantain, the Ribwort Plantain, and the Water Plantain, are to be specially considered.
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The Clove Pink, or Carnation of our gardens, though found apparently wild on old castle walls in England, is a naturalised flower in this country. It is, botanically, the Dianthus Caryophyllus, being so named as anthos, the flower, dios, of Jupiter: whilst redolent of Caryophylli, Cloves.
The Pimpernel - "Poor Man's Weather Glass" or "Shepherd's Dial," is a very well-known and favourite little flower, of brilliant scarlet hue, expanding only in bright weather, and closing its petals at two o'clock in the day.
All-Spice (Pimento) is another common occupant of the domestic spice box. It is popular as a warming cordial, of a sweet odour, and a grateful aromatic taste; but being a native of South America, grows with us only as a stove plant.
This periwinkle name has been derived either from pervincire, to bind closely, or from pervincere, to overcome. Lord Bacon observes that it was common in his time for persons to wear bands of green Periwinkle about the calf of the leg to prevent cramp.
In Germany this plant is the emblem of immortality.
The Roman housewives made a paste of the Peppermint with honey, which they esteemed highly, partaking of it to sweeten their breath, and to conceal their passion for wine at a time when the law punished with death every woman convicted of quaffing the ruby seductive liquor
Black pepper is said to ward off evil and in the Middle Ages, was burned like incense to protect from the plague.
The Mint Pennyroyal (Mentha Pulegium) gets its name from the Latin puleium regium, because of its royal efficacy in destroying fleas (pulices). The French call this similarly, Pouliot. It grows on moist heaths and pastures, and by the margins of brooks, being cultivated further in our herb gardens, for kitchen and market uses.
A plant belonging to the order of Nettles, the Pellitory of the Wall, or Paritory--Parietaria, from the Latin parietes, walls--is a favourite Herbal Simple in many rural districts.
The Pear, also called Pyrrie, belongs to the same natural order of plants (the Rosacoe) as the Apple. It is sometimes called the Pyerie, and when wild is so hard and austere as to bear the name of Choke-pear. It grows wild in Britain, and abundantly in France and Germany.
The Peach (Amygdabus Persica), the apple of Persia, began to be cultivated in England about 1562, or perhaps before then. Columella tells of this fatal gift conveyed treacherously to Egypt in the first century:--
"Apples, which most barbarous Persia sent, With native poison armed."
"Peas were brought from Holland, and were fit dainties for ladies, they came so far, and cost so dear."
This cultivated Parsnip has been produced as a vegetable since Roman times. The roots furnish a good deal of starch, and are very nutritious for warming and fattening, but when long in the ground they are called in some places "Madnip," and are said to cause insanity.