Barren wort.

Botanical name: 

Plate 03. Epidemium.

A SINGULAR and very pretty plant, native of England, but not common. It grows in woods, and has beautiful purple and yellow flowers. It is a foot high. The leaves are oval and heart-fashioned, deeply indented at the edges, and of a dusky green. The stalks which produce the flowers, are weak, brittle, and generally crooked; the flowers stand in a kind of very loose spike, ten or a dozen upon the top; they are small, but very singular and conspicuous; they are purple on the back with a red edge, and yellow in the middle. The root is fibrous and creeping.

It was an opinion with the old writers, that this plant produced no flowers; but the occasion is easily known. When it stands exposed to sun, it seldom does flower; we see that in gardens where it is planted in such situations, for it will stand many years without flowering; but our woods favour it, being dark and damp: the old people saw it in warmer climates, and under an unfavourable exposure. They called it from this circumstance, as well as from its virtues, by a name, which expressed being barren and fruit less.

The people in the north give milk in which the roots have been boiled, to the females of the domestic animals when they are running after the males, and they say it has the certain effect of stopping the natural emotions. Plain sense leads these sort of people to many things. They have from this been taught to give it to young women of robust habits, subject to violent hysteric complaints, and I am assured with great success; they give the decoction of the root made strong and sweetened. 'Twas a coarse allusion that led them to the practice, but it succeeds in cases that foil all the parade of common practice. It is said that, if they take it in too large quantity, it renders them stupid for some hours, but no ill consequence has attended this.

The Family Herbal, 1812, was written by John Hill.