057. Teucrium scordium. Water germander.
(Some Teucriums contain livertoxic neo-clerodane diterpenoids. Their use is discouraged. --Henriette.)
Also see 056. Teucrium marum. Marum germander, or Syrian herb mastich.
Synonyma. Scordium. Pharm. Lond. & Edinb. Gerard. Emac. p. 661. Bauh. Pin. p. 247. J. Bauh. Hist. iii. p. 292. Raii Hist. p. 576. Synop. p. 245.
Scordium legitimum. Park. Theat. p. 111.
Chamaedrys foliis mollibus, hirsutis, ellipticis, crenatis, verticillis paucifloris. Hal. Stirp. Helv. n. 288.
Teucrium Scordium. Withering. Bot. Arrang. p. 591. Flor. Dan. 593.
Class Didynamia. Ord. Gymnospermia. Lin. Gen. Plant. 706.
Ess. Gen. Ch. Corolla labium superius (nullum) ultra basin 2-partitum, divaricatum ubi stamina.
Spec. Char. T. foliis oblongis sessilibus dentato-serratis, floribus geminis axillaribus pedunculatis, caule diffuso.
The root is perennial, fibrous, creeping: the stems are branched, trailing, square, hairy, and more than a foot in length: the leaves are serrated, hairy, oblong, veined, of a dusky-green colour, without footstalks, and placed in pairs: the flowers stand in verticilli or whorls of two, three, or four together, upon short peduncles, placed at the base of the leaves: the corolla is monopetalous, consisting of a short tube, which divides at the mouth into two lips, but the upper is extremely short, and cleft in the middle, and therefore appears to be wanting: the under lip is long, of a purple colour, dentated at the sides, and terminated by a large roundish expanded segment: the calyx is tubular, hairy, and cut at the extremity into five short teeth: the filaments are four, two long and two short, slender, bent, and crowned with simple anthers: the germen divides into four parts, from the centre of which rises a slender style, furnished with a bifid stigma: the seeds are four, naked, of an irregular shape, and lodged in the bottom of the calyx. It is a native of England, in marshy situations, and flowers in July and August.
The leaves of Scordium have a smell somewhat of the garlick kind, [From this smell it is supposed to take the name Scordium, or (greek), which signifies Garlick; and the milk of animals, which seed upon this plant, is said to acquire a similar flavour.] and to the taste they are bitterish, and slightly pungent. "When moderately and newly dried they give out their smell and taste both to water and to rectified spirit. In distillation their peculiar flavour arises with water, but the impregnation of the distilled fluid is not strong, nor could any essential oil be obtained on submitting to the operation several pounds of the herb." [Lewis Mat. Med. p. 596.]
The ancients, to whom Scordium was well known, [We are far from being certain that the plant we have figured is really the Scordium of the ancients, and on this account we have not referred it to the Greek writers.] attributed to it a peculiar antiseptic [Of the fabulous accounts of its antiseptic powers, we may mention the following from Galen: Scriptum autem est a quibusdam viris gravissimis, cum in bello interemptorum cadavera multos dies insepulta jacuissent, quaecunque supra scordium forte fortuna ceciderant, multo minus aliis computruisse, ea praefertim ex parte quae herbam contigerat. Lib. de Antidot. 6. cap. 12.] and alexipharmic power, and for many ages it had the character of being remarkably efficacious in all pestilential and putrid diseases; with a view to this, it was afterwards directed in the composition of several officinal medicines, [The Mithridate and Theriaca have but lately been expunged from our dispensatories; and though often experienced to be useful remedies, yet with Haller we may say, "Sed ex farragines sunt medicamentorum, in quibus non dignoscas, cui tribuas eventa." l. c.] supposed to be antidotes to various kinds of poisons and infections; and we are told, even at a date not very remote from the present, of its successful use in the plague, which raged in Turkey. [Vide Lettres par De Foy. t. 1. p. 198. and Chenot de peste, p. 132.] But notwithstanding the Scordium was formerly considered such a celebrated remedy, and still has place in both the Pharmacopoeias, yet it appears to be a very insignificant article of the Materia Medica, and is therefore very justly fallen into disuse; and in this opinion we have the authority of Dr. Cullen, who says, "this plant has a bitter, joined with some volatile parts; but neither of these qualities is considerable enough to retain it in the present practice." [Mat. Med. vol. 2. p. 82.] Bergius however states virtus to be antiputredinosa, tonica, diaphoretica, diuretica, resolvens; [Mat. Med. p. 505.] and some others recommend it to be employed externally in antiseptic cataplasms and fomentations.