Chap. 033. Of Garden Asarabacca.


I. The Names. It is called by the Arabians, 'Asaron: in Greek, Ασαρον, ϗ Νάρδος αγε αγρλία: in Latin, Asarum, Nardus Sylvestris, Nardus Rustica (because of its Aromatick or Sweet Smell;) by Macer, Vulgago, as by his Verse, Est Asaron Grace, Vulgago dicta Latine quod Vulgam vel Bulgam seu Ventrem moveat : and in English ), Asarabacca. I suppose our English Name came by a mistake, taking this Plant for Baccharis or Plowmans Spicknard, which it is not; and so out of the two names, of Asaron and Baccharis, they made the name of Asarabacca. Others thought Asarum and Baccharis to be one Plant, and so compounded the name out of them both; and called it Asarabaccara, as it is called in Spain at this day.

II. The Kinds. It is twofold,
1. Garden.
2. Wild. of which in the next Chapter.

The Garden kind is also twofold;
1. Asarum hortorum Vulgare, Common Garden Asarabacca, (Asarum europaeum. -Henriette. )
2. Asarum Virginianum, Virginian Asarabacca. (Hexastylis arifolia or Hexastylis virginica. -Henriette. )

III. The Descriptions. Our Common Garden Asarabacca has small Roots, and whitish, spreading many ways in the Ground, and increasing into divers Heads, but not running or creeping under Ground, as many other creeping Herbs do; they are sweet in Smell, resembling Spicknard, but more when they are dry than when green, and of a sharp, but not unpleasant, taste : from these Roots rise up many Heads, from whence comes many smooth Leaves, every one upon his own Foot-stalk, which are smoother, rounder and bigger than Violet Leaves, thicker also, and of a darker green shining colour on the upper side, and of a paler yellow green underneath, little or nothing denied about the edges, from among which, rise up many Heads, from whence comes many smooth Leaves, every one upon his own Foot-stalk, which are smoother, rounder,and bigger than Violet Leaves, thicker also, and of a darker green shining colour on the upper side, and of a paler yellow green underneath, little or nothing dented about the edges; from among which, rise up small, round, hollow, brownish, green Husks, upon Stalks of about an Inch long, divided at the brims with five divisions, very like the Cups or Heads of the Henbane Seed, but that they are smaller: and these are all the Flower it has, which being smell'd unto, are somewhat sweet, and wherein, when they are ripe, are contained small covered rough Seeds, very like the Kernels or Stones of Grapes or Raisins.

IV. The Virginian Asarabacca, grows very like the former; but its Roots are somewhat greater, and fuller of substance, spreading in the same manner, and something more fragrant, and a little hot in taste, biting a little the Tongue: From this Root springs up the Leaves as the former, but they are a pretty deal larger, stiff also, and thick, somewhat crumpled about the edges, of a dark green colour, and not so much shining at the former; nor yet so round, but a little pointed at the end, very much resembling the flat shape of an Heart; some of which Leaves will be spotted or straked. The Flowers have but three divisions or points, and of a paler green colour.

V. The Places. The first grows naturally Wild under the shades of Trees, and upon shady Hills in Pontus, Phrygia, (Turkey bordering the Black Sea. -Maggie Meister) and other places of the East: The other grows Wild in Virginia ; but they are both of them Nursed up in Gardens with us, of which the first is very common.

VI. The Times. They both keep their Leaves green all the Winter, but shoot forth new in the Spring ; and with them come forth those Heads or Flowers, which give ripe Seed about Midsummer, or in July or August, but their Roots and Leaves are gathered in the Spring.

VII. The Qualities. They are hot and dry in the second Degree, or rather in the third. They Open, Incide, Attenuate, and Resolve, and are Cathartic, Emetic, and Diuretic; and are appropriated to the Head, Stomach, Liver, Spleen, Reins (kidneys -Maggie Meister), Womb, and Joints.

VIII. The Preparations. In the Shops there are,
1.The Roots in Pouder.
2. The Leaves in Wine.
3. An Infusion.
4. A Decoction.
5. An Extract.
6. An Essence.
7. Diasarum Fernelij, an Electuary.
8. A Saline Tincture.
9. An Oil by Insolation.
10. A Cataplasm.
11. The Juice.
12. A Conserve.

The Virtues

X. The Roots. They Vomit, working both upwards and downwards, but not so strongly as the Leaves Dose from half a dram to j. dram in Pouder : Being given in White Wine, a little before the Fit of an Ague, it takes away the shaking Fit, and thereby causes the hot Fit to be more remiss, and in twice or thrice taking, it is said to cure it, whether it is Quotidian, Tertian or Quartan. Dioscorides saith, that vj. drams of the Root in infusion in honied water, being drunk, powerfully provoke the Terms: I fear the Dose is very much too large in substance, iij. or iv. drams may be infused in the Mead, and so drunk: Parkinson says, it will work like Black Hellebor : It is good also against the Bitings of Serpents, and other Venomous Creatures. The Pouder, the finer it is, the more it purges by Vomit and Urine; the coarser it is, the more it purges by Stool. Dose j. dram in Pouder, as Authors say.

XI. The Leaves. Wine being made of the Leaves, by steeping them therein, is an Emetic, and provokes Urine, as Dioscorides saith, eases the Pains of the Stone, and an old Sciatica, and is profitable against Dropsies. Mesue (Johannes Mesue the Elder (d. 857) -Maggie Meister) says, it not only Vomits, but works downwards, and by Urine also, purging both Choler and Flegm, but it purges Flegm more manifestly than Choler. It wonderfully helps the Obstructions of the Liver and Spleen, and therefore is excellent against the Dropsie and Yellow Jaundice, and stubborn Agues, which come from plenty of Evil Humors. You may steep 6, 7, 8, or 9, of the Leaves in Wine for one Dose, according as the Age and Strength of the Patient may be, and repeat it twice or thrice a Week.

XII. The Infusion. Made of the Leaves in Mead or Whey, with the Addition of some Spikenard to Correct it, it performs all that the Wine doth, and is very effectual for those that are afflicted with a Sciatica, and other like Pains of the Joints.

XIII. The Decoction, Made in Whey, Mead, or Wine, of the Leaves, adding also a little Mace, Cinnamon, or Spikenard, by Boiling, which ought not to be much, because then the Virtue will be lost; it mightily prevails against Quotidian, Tertian and Quartan Agues, and performs all that the Wine, or Infusion can do: this may be given every other day, anointing also the Back Bone and Soles of the Feet with the following Oil. Now here is to be noted, that in making this Decoction, the Liquor in which the Leaves are put, ought first to boil, that they may not remain long in the Decoction, because of losing their Virtue, as aforesaid.

XIV. The Extract, Made of the Roots, being Green, and beaten into a Mass, and the Juice Extracted with Wine, till the whole Virtue is drawn forth, and then evaporated to the due thickness of an Extract. Being thus made, it will keep all the Year, and is more safe than the simple Pouder of the Root; and may be given from 15 grains to half a dram. But Schroder has an Alcalisate (Alcalizate or Fixed Salt (Alchem.) -Maggie Meister) Extract, which is called also Coagulum Asari, thus made. Rx: Take Roots and Leaves of Asarum, extract a strong Tincture with Spirit of Wine rectified, which filter through brown Paper, to which add the fixed Salt of the Ashes, made by elixiviation, and calcined again, even to melting; digest a while, then abstract the Spirit, till the Extract becomes of the thickness of Honey. Dose from 1 scruple to 3 scruples. It may be given against the Bitings of Serpents, and mad Dogs, King's Evil, Asthmas, Quartans, Worms in Children, and in any of the Cases which the Pouder of the Roots, or Wine, Infusion or Decoction of the Leaves, are intended for.

XV. The Essence. It is a good Emetic and Cathartic, but works not so strongly Upwards as the simple Juice, or the former Pouders, Wine, Infusions, or Decoctions; and after it has done working, it commonly provokes Sweat powerfully, expelling the Relics of the Disease that way. Dose from 1 dram to 2 or 3 drams in Wine or Mead, as the Patient is in Age and Strength.

XVI. The Electuary. You may see the Preparation of it in our London Dispensatory, lib. 4. cap.22. sect. 95. It may be given from 2 drams to 4 to evacuate by Vomit all sorts of Humors from the Stomach, and Parts adjacent: 'tis so gentle that Aged People, and Women with Child may safely take it;; give it in Mead or Wine.

XVII. The Saline Tincture. It is Extracted from the green, or fresh gathered Roots and Herbs. This works more by Urine and Sweat, and is gentler than many of the other Preparations. Dose from 1 dram to 2 drams; it carries off the Morbifick Matter of many inveterate Diseases, as the Dropsie, Jaundice, Gout, Sciatica, King's Evil, Agues, Cachexies, Green-sickness, Apoplexies, Lethargies, Megrims, Surfeits, &c. by all the ways, as Vomit, Stool, Urine and Sweat. The Head washed or Bathed therewith, comforts the Brain and Nerves, which are disaffected with taking Cold, and strengthens a weak Memory.

XVIII. The Oil by Insolution. The Herb and Roots well bruised, and put into a sufficient quantity of Oil, with the addition of 1 ounce of Labdanum, to every pound of Oil; and insolated for two Months in a hot Sun, then pressed forth; (for want of a hot Sun, a Sand heat may do better, which will be continually Night and Day the same.) This Oil warm, being anointed upon all the Back, from the Neck to the Hips, as also upon the Soles of the Feet, in a warm Bed, it provokes Sweating; and being upon the access of an Ague, it prevents the cold and shaking Fit, and thereby cures those who have been long afflicted with Quotidians, Tertians or Quartans; it is good also against Cramps, and other disaffections of the Sinews, and an old Cough.

XIX. The Cataplasm. The Leaves bruised, and applied as a Cataplasm, to the Forehead and Temples, eases the Head-ache, and causes Sleep: and applied to the Eyes, it takes away their Inflammation.

XX. The Juice. The common use of this Herb is, to take the Juice of 5, 6, or 7 Leaves (according to the Age and Strength of the Patient) and to mix it with as small draught of Ale, Mead or Wine and so drink it to cause Vomiting. It works very strongly, cures Surfeits, and has all the Virtues of the Pouder of the Root, Wine, Infusion, Decoction, Extract, or Essence. Mixed with a little Tutia (solution of zinc vitriol. -Maggie Meister) prepared and dropt into the Eyes, it clears the Eye-sight, and helps the Dimness and Mists, which are often before them.

XXI. The Conserve, Made of the Flowers, with refined Sugar or Honey. This being eaten is found by Experience to strengthen very much the Auditory Nerves, and to help difficulty of Hearing, Deafness, and a bad Memory. Dose from 1 dram to 4 drams, in the Morning Fasting.

XXII. Nota. That most of the Preparations of this Plant are not to be given to Women with Child, for that through their Violence, they cause Miscarriage.

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