Sea Holly.

Botanical name: 

Sea Holly. (Eryngium Maritimum).

Also see Hool, 1918: Sea Holly.

The above is a common sea-coast plant, and one which seems to be very little known, either as to its ornamental or its medicinal uses.

Sea Holly, or Sea Eringo, is a beautiful wild plant found growing all around our sea coast, a plant belonging to the Natural Order Umbelliferae, and in the Linnean system of classification to Class 5, named Pentandria, and the 2nd order, named Digynia.

The root is from 4 to 6 feet long, cylindrical and round, with a brownish bark outside and a whitish inside. The root leaves are roundish, plaited, and thorny. The stem grows from 1 foot to 18 inches high, and is round and branched. The heads of flowers are stalked and the petals a bright blue. The scales of the receptacle are three-cleft. The whole plant is of a bluish-white colour. It flowers from July to October. It is a perennial—that is, it grows more than two years from the same root stock.

Sea Holly is very useful as an ornamental plant when growing, and as a cut plant it can be effectively used for decorating the dining-room table and other parts of the house, even to the sick-room.

After it has been used for these decorative purposes it may be kept and used medicinally, as it is one of the most useful medicinal plants known, and one which has been found very useful in curing disease in certain forms.

The therapeutic principles of Sea Holly are three in number, viz., a resin and two alkaloids.

The extractive principles of this plant are:—Nitrate of soda, potash, nitrate of potash, phosphorus, salicylic acid, ozonic acid, and sulphur. The properties of these extractive principles are:—Stimulant, aromatic, pectoral, expectorant and corroborant, diaphoretic, diuretic, nervine, hepatic, mildly astringent, and antacid.

The complaints for which it may be employed are as follows: Coughs, bronchitis, asthma, consumption, liver affections, kidney diseases, yellow jaundice, stone and gravel, dropsy, rheumatism (acute or chronic), sciatica, nervousness, fits, palpitation of the heart, loss of vital force, and as an antacid for correcting bile or a general debilitated state of the tissues.

The whole plant, including root, is used, and it may be used either in the crude herb or root, or in powder, and made into tincture, infusion, decoction, fluid extract, solid extract, syrup, pills.

In essaying to treat upon the properties and employment of this truly invaluable remedy my mind misgives me upon two points—first, as to whether my statements will receive that credence to which they are entitled, or, second, be passed over with that indifference which too frequently characterises minds obsessed with self-sufficiency. Nevertheless, I shall endeayour to fully, fairly, and truthfully detail such positive knowledge as I may possess; acquired, as it has been, from the private resources of personal clinical experience, and from the public acknowledgments of those who have used the remedy, relying upon its capability to accomplish all that I shall claim for it.

Were mankind as ready and willing to investigate, comprehend, appreciate, and acknowledge, as they are to doubt, disbelieve, condemn, and repudiate, there would be more truth and harmony in the affairs of life. Education, habit, and custom—begetting, as they do, a reprehensible confidence in and slothful dependence upon the sayings, doings, doctrines, and practices of former ages—form a sad bar to the progress of innocuous medication.

I am among those who believe that a benign and all-wise Creator has endowed the earth with inexhaustible resources wherewith to meet all the necessities of its inhabitants. It is in this light that I look upon the Sea Holly and kindred remedies, holding the conviction that all remedial agents should be conservative, and never destructive, in their influences.

Sea Holly I have for a long time used in the crude state as an efficient remedy in the treatment of the disorders of the liver. In cases where the liver shows symptoms of sluggishness and allows large quantities of uric acid to accumulate, it has been proved to be an excellent remedy, when combined with Wild Carrot and made into a strong decoction, and given in 2-oz. doses four times a day. I have seen wonderful success in the removal of uric acid from the liver, and a complete correction of sluggishness, by the use of this prescription.

In all cases of jaundice gratifying results will follow the use of the following preparation:—

Sea Holly, ½ oz.
Barberry Bark, ½ oz.

Boil together in 1 pint of new milk for 10 minutes, and then strain. The dose is 2 wineglassfuls every 3 hours. Relief will be experienced after but a few doses have been taken, and a complete cure may be confidently looked for at the end of from 7 to 14 days' use of the preparation.

It is in all such cases as aforementioned that the alkaloid and acid properties are brought into play, as they break up the gallstones and resolve the uric acid accumulations, causing them to be passed through their natural channels from the body.

In kidney diseases, stone in the bladder, gravel, and dropsy, the same properties (the alkaloids and acid) are brought into action, the same applying in liver affections. It may be used in the same way as recommended in liver and jaundice complaints.

In all cases of coughs, bronchitis, asthma and consumption I have found Sea Holly exceedingly useful, either alone or combined with Black Horehound, Bur-Marigold, and crushed Ginger, made into a strong decoction and given in 1-oz. to 2-oz. doses 4 or 5 times a day. Excellent results have been secured.

In the cure of both acute and chronic rheumatism I have seen some of the grandest results it is possible to achieve by the use of Sea Holly alone, given in the following manner:—Place 1 oz. of Sea Holly in a quart jug, fill up with boiling water, stew well, and then take half a teacupful 3 or 4 times a-day.

Here is a case in illustration:—A man living in Bolton, known as an electrician, making his own machines, batteries, &c, tried the electric treatment in all the ways his knowledge of electricity and its uses could suggest in a case of chronic nervous rheumatism, but without any satisfaction. He then tried medicine costing 9s. (There were 12s (shilling) to the pound, so this was 3/4£. -Henriette.) per bottle. After the use of nine bottles of this medicine had failed to give relief, he came to me, having then another 9s. bottle in his pocket. He said that he once heard me speak about the virtues of Sea Holly, and asked me if I thought it would be of any use in such a case as he had in hand. After having received a full description of his patient's disease and symptoms, I advised him to try it. He purchased 2s. 6d. worth of Sea Holly from me. I gave him at the same time full instructions as to how it had to be prepared and administered. He persevered, with the result that after a third 2s. 6d. worth had been used, a complete cure was effected. I did not see this man again for eight months. I then asked him whether the cure had proved to be permanent, and his reply was an emphatic "Yes," adding that he had never seen anything so grand and marvellous, for he had concluded that in this particular case a cure was impossible.

Sea Holly exercises a remarkable influence over the nervous system, giving tone and harmony of action, and awakening its latent energies to healthful activity. This peculiar stimulative property is of very great service in those cold and passive conditions which sometimes attend the development of strumous diseases; besides which Sea Holly has a special influence on the organs of generation, independent of its general constitutional influence, and for this reason it has proved of value in cases of prolapsus uteri, tendency to miscarriage, atony of the generative organs, sterility, and impotence—all of which have been cured by Sea Holly.

But in consequence of the value of Sea Holly in the treatment of the above-named affections, it has been classed as aphrodisiac, and it has been said that its continued use induces an abnormal sexual desire. Such statements are the outcome of either ignorance or a prurient imagination. I have probably used the Sea Holly as much as, and possibly more than, any other practitioner, and I have not yet discovered these particular properties.

Common Plants and their Uses in Medicine was written by Richard Lawrence Hool, F.N.A.M.H., in 1922.