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Chap. 008. Of Alkanet.

Alkanet. I. The Names. It is called in Greek Αγχφσα. in Latin Anchusa, Onocleia, Buglossa Hispanica, and in English Alkanet.

II. The Kinds. It is said to be a Species of Bugloss; but of this there are several kinds, as,

  • 1. The great yellow Alkanet, called simply ανχοσα, Anchusa. ( (Anchusa ochroleuca? -Henriette)
  • 2. The lesser Alkanet, with purple Flowers, called ανχοσα ετεζα, Anchusa altera. ( (Anchusa officinalis? A. tinctoria? -Henriette)
  • 3. The small Alkanet, with yellow Flowers called ανχοσα τζιτη, Anchusa tertia. ( (I have no idea what this might be. Help? Thanks! -Henriette)
  • 4. Anchusa Lignosior, Woody Alkanet. ( (I have no idea what this might be. Help? Thanks! -Henriette)
  • 5. Anchusa humilis Cretica, Low Alkanet of Candia. ( (I have no idea what this might be. Help? Thanks! -Henriette)
  • 6. Anchusa arborea, Great or Tall Alkanet. ( (I have no idea what this might be. Help? Thanks! -Henriette)

Of these, we shall only discourse of the three first, as being only useful for our purpose.

III. The Description. The first kind has a great and thick Root, of a dark reddish colour, with many Branches from the same. The leaves are long, narrow, hairy and green, like the Leaves of Bugloss, which lye very thick upon the Ground: the Stalks rise up, and are compassed round about thick with Leaves, which are lesser and narrower than the former; they are tender, and slender, not much above a foot and half high, at the tops whereof stand small yellow Flowers, with a small Leaf at the foot of every Flower, which are somewhat long and hollow, very like to Comfrey Flowers, but a little opening themselves at the brims like unto Bugloss Flowers, with a Pointel in the midst, after which come in their places, small, long, blackish Seed, not unlike to Bugloss and Comfrey Seed. The Root is as big as ones Finger or Thumb, and about two Fingers long, whose outward Bark is somewhat thick, and of an excellent orient red colour, ready to colour ones Hands and Fingers with its red colour, if handled: its inner Pith is white and woody, and the whole Plant is of a Styptick or Astringent Taste.

IV. The second kind has a Root pretty large and thick, and of a dusky red colour, with many Branches from the same; the Leaves are greater and longer than the next kind, narrow, hairy and green, like Bugloss Leaves, and somewhat like to the former, but yet lesser and narrower, but more plentiful, as well those which lye upon the Ground, as those which rise up with the Stalks, which are many, slender and tender, of about a foot and half high, whose Flowers are like the others, save that they are of a reddish purple colour, and the Seed following more gray, the whole being of a rough and astringent Taste.

V. The small yellow Alkanet is like unto the first, having a Root great in respect to the Plant, red, and tender whilst it is young, but growing blackish and woody when it is old, and lives and abides after Seed time, which some others do not; its Leaves also are narrower and shorter than the first, and covered with an Hoaryness, as are also the Stalks, which in some are but a foot, in others a foot and half high, with smaller Leaves thereon: the Flowers are hollow and yellow like the first, but lesser, the Seed also is like the Seed of the first. These Plants are famously known throughout all Europe, for the beautiful red colour contained in the Roots, which will colour White Wine of the delicate colour of deep Clarret.

VI. The Places. They are nourished up with us, chiefly in Gardens, but the second of them, Lobel says, grows near Rochester in Kent; as also in the West of England, as in Devonshire and Cornwall.

VII. The Times. They flower in July and August, and the Seed is ripe not long after; and the Roots yield their glorious red or purple Juice or Tincture in Harvest time, as Dioscorides saith.

VIII. The Qualities. It is Temperate as to heat and cold, but is dry in the second degree. It is Repercussive, Abstersive, Styptick, Astringent, and Traumatick or Vulnerary. And by Appropriation it is Stomatick, Cardiack, Hysterick and Nephritick: of the Stock of Alteratives.

IX. The Specification. It is peculiar in resisting of Poyson, of all kinds, and stopping Fluxes.

X. The Preparations. The Shops keep nothing hereof, but the Root; but these Preparations may be made therefrom,

  • 1. An Essence of the whole Plant.
  • 2. A Juice.
  • 3. A Decoction.
  • 4. A Wine.
  • 5. A Vinegar.
  • 6. A Spirituous Tincture.
  • 7. A Saline Tincture.
  • 8. An Oil.
  • 9. A Cataplasm.
  • 10. A Cerote.
  • 11. A Pessary.
  • 12. Sanguis Veneris.

The Virtues.

XI. The Root. It is used to colour Wines with, Syrups, Waters, Gellies, and such like things: and boiled in Wine, and taken with sweet Butter, it helps Bruises by falls, &c.

XII. The Essence of the whole Plant. It is binding and strengthening, and stops Fluxes of all kinds, and allays the heat of Choler: and by its Traumatick Property, is good for the healing of Wounds, running Sores and old Ulcers, prevails against the Yellow Jaundice, the Spleen, Agues, and Diseases of the Reins and Bladder: it is good against all sorts of Inflamations, burning Heats, Erysipelas, and the bitings of Venomous Beasts; it strengthens a weak Back, and is good against Fits of the Mother. Dose j. or ij. ounces.

XIII. The Juice. It has the Virtues of the Essence, but not so pleasant to be taken, because it is not of so fine and pure a body: it may be kept either in a liquid form or inspissated, as is the Spanish Juice of Liquorice.

XIV. The Decoction. It has the Virtues of the Essence, but not so powerful; it is of good Use in the Yellow Jaundice, and stopping Fluxes of the Bowels or of the Womb. Dose iv. vj. or viij. ounces, sweetned with treble refined Sugar.

XV. The Wine. It is made by Infusion of the Root, either fresh or dry, so long or so often, till the Tincture is as deep as Blood. It is a Specifick in the Hepatick Flux, and in stopping all other kinds of Fluxes whatsoever. It is also a most singular Wound-drink, scarcely inferior to any other. It is good against the bitings of Mad Dogs, Serpents, and other Venomous Creatures: it strengthens a weak Back, and stops the Whites in Women, and helps to bring forth the Measles and Small-Pox in Children. Dose ij. iij. or iv. ounces.

XVI. The Vinegar. It has the Virtues of the Wine, but is peculiar against Morphew, Scurff, Leprosie, and other Defilements of the Skin; and prevails against the bitings of Venomous Creatures, being inwardly taken, and outwardly applyed: Dose j. or ij. ounces in any fit Vehicle.

XVII. The Spirituous Tincture. This is made only of the red part of the Root; and has all the Virtues of the Essence and Wine; but is much more fit in cold Constitutions, and where the Plague or any other infectious Disease is feared. Dose ij. drams, more or less in Wine.

XVIII. The Saline Tincture. It is made from the whole Plant, and has all the Virtues of the Plant in it; but this is more peculiar in opening some Obstructions, chiefly of the Reins; for it brings away Sand and Gravel, kills Worms, and is good against Fits of the Mother. Dose ij. or iij. drams.

XIX. The Oil. ℞. Oil Olive j. pound, Oil of Spike vj. ounces, Oil of Juniper-berries ij. ounces, Alkanet Roots vj. ounces; make an Oil by a gentle Digestion, in a Sand-heat, till it is very red. It is an excellent thing for deep Punctures, Wounds made with pointed Weapons, and Punctures or Wounds of the Nerves.

XX. The Cataplasm. Take of the red part of the Root iv. ounces: beat it soft in a Stone Mortar; then add to it Oil of Mace by Expression iij. ounces, Mithridate ij. ounces, Oil of Spike half an ounce; mix them. It is an excellent thing against deep Punctures, chiefly of the Nerves. A Cataplasm made of it with Whey or Cream, is good against Burnings.

ΧXI. The Cerote. A Cerote being made of the pulp of the Root with a little Oil and Wax, Cures old Ulcers: and made with Barley Meal, it prevails against an Erysipelas, Leprosy, Tettars and Ringworms.

XXII. The Pessary. A Pessary being made of the Root, viz. Of its pulp, with Wax, Turpentine and Barley-flower, it is said to bring away the Dead Child, and the After-birth.

XXIII. Sanguis Veneris. It is thus made: ℞ Oil Olive lb. ij. Alkanet Root 3. or 4. ounces, Earth-Worms cleansed or purged, number 40. boil them well together, then strain out whilst hot, and keep it close for use. This was Invented by John Ardern, and is a most singular Vulnerary in deep Wounds and Punctures of the Nerves, made with Thrusts, Stabs or Pricking with any pointed Weapon, &c. it eases the Pain, and prevents Convulsions.

Botanologia, or The English Herbal, was written by William Salmon, M.D., in 1710.
This chapter has been proofread by Lisa Haller.

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