A very pretty plant, of the nature of our common ochis, native of the East, but growing to a greater height and producing larger roots than with us, though it seems very nearly allied to what we call the tall female orchis, with large flowers, which is frequent in our meadows. It grows in damp ground, and is a foot high. The stalk is round, juicy, and tender. The leaves are eight inches long, and not an inch broad, of a dark green colour, and also juicy. The flowers stand at the tops of the stalk, in a spike of two inches long: they are moderately large, and of a pale red colour. The root is composed of two roundish bodies, of the bigness of a pidgeon's egg, and of a white colour, with some fibres
We use the root, which we receive dry from Turkey. They have a peculiar method of curing it; they make it clean and then soak it four and twenty hours in water; after this, they hang a quantity of it in a coarse cloth, over the steam of a pot in which rice is boiling; this softens it, but it gives it a sort of transparence, and qualifies it for drying; these juicy roots otherwise growing mouldy. When they have thus far prepared it, they string it upon a thread, and hang it in an airy place to dry; it becomes tough as horn, and transparent. This is a practice common in the East with the roots they dry for use, and it would be well if we would practise it here; the fine transparent kind of ginseng, which we have from China, is dried in this manner. It is highly probable, nay it is nearly a certainty, that the roots of our common orchis have all the qualities and effects of this salep, but we do not know how to dry them. If we tried this method, it might succeed; and in the same manner, our own fields and meadows might afford us many medicines, what at present we purchase at a great price, from the farthest parts of the earth.
The dried root is the part used; and it is an excellent restorative, to be given to persons wasted with long illnesses: the best way is to put a small quantity of it in powder, into a bason of warm water, which it instantly turns into a jelly, and a little wine and sugar are to be added. The Turks use it as a provocative to venery: they take it dissolved in water, with ginger and honey.