St. Ignatius's Bean.
Faba sancti Ignatii.
A plant common in the West Indies, and very ill called a bean, being truly a gourd. The name bean was given to the seeds of this plant before it was known how they were produced, and some have continued it to the plant. It grows to a great height, when there is a tree to support it, for it cannot support itself. It has a stalk as thick as a man's arm, angulated, light, and not firm. The leaves are very large, oblong, and undivided, and they have the ribs very high upon them: they are broad at the base, and grow narrower to the point, and are of a deep green colour. The flowers are very large, and of a deep blood red; at a distance, they have the aspect of a red rose. The fruit is large and roundish; it has a woody shell, and over that a thin skin, bright and shining.
Within there are twenty or thirty seeds; they are of the bigness of a small nutmeg, when we see them: they are roundish, and very rough upon the surface: each is of a woody substance, and, when tasted, is of the flavour of citron seeds, but extremely bitter and nauseous. The colour is of all grey or brownish.
These seeds are what we use in medicine, and call the St. Ignatius's bean. It is a medicine, to be given with great caution, but it has many virtues: the most powerful remedies, when in ill hands, are naturally the most dangerous; the powder given in a small dose occasions vomiting and purging, and often, if the constitution be tender, convulsions; it is much better to give it in tincture, when no such effects happen from it. 'Tis of an excellent effect against nervous complaints: it will cure the falling-sickness, given in proper doses, and continued for a long time: the tincture is best for this purpose. Some have given the powder in very small quantities against worms, and that with success; its extreme bitter makes it very disagreeable, and the taste continues in the throat a long time, whence it occasions vomiting. We neglect it very much at present, because of its roughness; but it would be better we found the way of giving it with safety. There are gentler medicines, but none of them so efficacious: it will do service in cases that the common methods do not reach.