023. Daphne Mezereum. Mezereon.

Botanical name: 

023. Daphne mezereum. 023. Daphne mezereum. C. Synonyma. Mezereum. Pharm. Lond. & Edin.
Thymelaea spica cylindrica, superne foliosa. Hal. Stirp. Helv. n. 1024.
Chamelaea Germanica. Dodon. Purg. p. 130.
Chamelaea Germanica sive Mezereon. Gerard. Hist. 1402. Park. 201. Raii Hist. 1587.
Laureola folio deciduo, flore purpureo; officinis Laureola foemina. Bauh. Pin. 462.
Daphnoides. Camer. Epit. 937.
Daphne floribus sessilibus, infra folia elliptica lanceolata. L. Fl. Lap. 105.
Daphne Mezereum, Flor. Dan. 268. Withering's Bot. Arrang. 402.
Varietates sunt, [Dr Ruffel found no difference in the effects of these varieties, by the trials made with the rind, which is the only part of the root now in use.]
α Floribus rubris.
β Thymelaea Lauri folio deciduo, flore albo, fructu flavescente. Du Hamel Arb. 2. p. 325. n. 4. Du Roi Hort. 1. p. 213. Vide Hort. Kew.

Class Octandria. Ord. Monogynia. L. Gen. Plant. 485.
Ess. Gen. Ch. Cor. 4-fida corollacea, marcescens, stamina includens. Bacca 1-sperma.
Spec. Char. D. floribus sessilibus ternis caulinis, foliis lanceolatis deciduis.

The Mezereon is a hardy shrub, which usually grows to the height of five or six feet, and sends off several branches; the exterior bark is smooth, and of a grey colour; the root is of a fibrous texture, of a pale colour, and covered with smooth olive-coloured bark; the leaves are few, tender, lance-shaped, sessile deciduous, and appear at the terminations of the branches after the flowers are expanded; the flowers surround the branches in thick clusters, they are sessile, monopetalous, tubular, having the limb divided into four oval spreading segments, commonly of a purple colour; the stamina are eight, alternately shorter, and concealed within the tube of the corolla; the style is very short, the stigma flat, and the germen, which is oval, becomes a reddish berry, containing a round seed. This shrub is a native of England, though not very common. It is said to grow plentifully in some woods near Andover in Hampshire, and also about Laxfield in Suffolk; but it is generally cultivated in gardens, on account of the beauty and earliness of its flowers, which appear in February and March.

This plant is extremely acrid, especially when fresh, and if retained in the mouth excites great and long continued heat and inflammation, particularly of the throat and fauces; the berries also have the same effects, and, when swallowed, prove a powerful corrosive poison, not only to man, [Mulierculae ruri baccas Coccumgnidii propinant in morbus rebellibus, saepe effectu deleterio. Bergius M. M. p. 307. A woman gave twelve grains of the berries to her daughter, who had a quartan ague; she vomited blood, and died immediately. Wither. l. c. As the acrimony of these berries is not immediately perceived upon being tasted, the ignorant and unwary are the more easily betrayed to swallow them.] but to dogs, [Haller. l. c.] wolves, foxes, [Lin. Fl. Lap. p. 105.] &c. The bark and berries of Mezereon, in different forms, have been long externally used to obstinate ulcers and ill-conditioned sores. In France the former is strongly recommended as an application to the skin, which under certain management [As some may wish to try this practice, which is unknown to this country, and promises beneficial effects in several complaints, we shall briefly recite the usual mode in which it has been conducted:—A square piece of the recent bark, about an inch long, and three quarters of an inch broad, macerated a little in vinegar, is applied to the skin, over which is bound a leaf of ivy or plantane. This application is at first renewed night and morning till it cauterizes the part and brings on a serous discharge, when a renewal of the bark once in 24 hours is found sufficient to continue the issue for any length of time. By means of suitable plasters, we conceive that it might be applied behind the ears to relieve the eyes, and on a larger scale prove an useful practice in sundry diseases. — It must be observed however, that it sometimes produces cutaneous eruptions, which Bergius attributes to the absorption of the acrid particles of the bark. l. c. vide Essai sur l'usage & les effets de l'écorce du Garou.] produces a continued serous discharge, without blistering; and is thus rendered useful in many chronic diseases of a local nature, answering the purpose of what has been called a perpetual blister, while it occasions less pain and inconvenience.

In this country the Mezerion is principally employed for the cure of some syphilitic complaints, and in this way Dr. Donald Monro was the first who gave testimony of its efficacy in the successful use of the Lisbon diet drink. [Ess. & observ. phis. & lit. p. 402. vol. 3.] A few months after this, several cases were published by Dr. Ruffel, then physician to St. Thomas's Hospital, fully establishing the utility of the cortex mezerei in venereal nodes. [Med. Observ. & Inquir. vol. 3, p. 189.] He says, "the disease for which I principally recommend the decoction of mezereon root as a cure, is the node, that proceeds from a thickening of the membrane of the bones, which appears to be the cause of the greatest part of those tumours, at least when recent.—In a thickening of the periosteum from other causes I have seen very good effects from it." But in the nocturnal pains, accompanying syphilis, unless occasioned by the node itself, he found it necessary to join a solution of sublimate to the decoction. [Dr. R. first joined sarsaparilla to the mezereon, but afterwards used the following only: Rx Cort. rad. Mezerei ℥j, Aq. fontan. cong. iss, Coc. ad cong. j sub fin. addend, rad. glycyrrhiz. incis. ℥j. dos. lbss quater in die. And by this many of the patients were entirely cured without ever taking mercury.] We may also remark, that Dr. R. never found the decoction to increase any of the natural evacuations. Dr. Cullen observes, that "Dr. Home has not only found this decoction to cure scirrhous tumours, which remain after the lues venerea, and after the use of mercury, but that it healed also some scirrhous tumours from other causes; and that he has employed it in several cutaneous affections, and sometimes with success." [M.M. vol, 2. p. 215.]

The considerable and long continued heat and irritation that is produced in the throat when Mezereon is chewed, induced Dr. Withering to think of giving it in a case of difficulty of swallowing, seemingly occasioned by a paralytic affection. The patient was directed to chew a thin slice of the root as often as she could bear it, and in about a month recovered her power of swallowing. This woman had suffered the complaint three years, and was greatly reduced, being totally unable to swallow solids, and liquids but very imperfectly. [l. c.]

Medical Botany, 1790-1794, was written by William Woodville, M. D., and illustrated by James Sowerby.