Bistort, or Snakeweed

IT is called Snakeweed, English Serpentary, Dragon-wort, Osterick, and Passions.

Descript : This has a thick short knobbed root, blackish without, and somewhat reddish within, a little crooked or turned together, of a hard astringent taste, with divers black threads hanging there-from, whence springs up every year divers leaves, standing upon long footstalks, being somewhat broad and long like a dock leaf, and a little pointed at the ends, but that it is of a bluish green colour on the upper side, and of an ash-colour grey, and a little purplish underneath, with divers veins therein, from among which rise up divers small and slender stalks, two feet high, and almost naked and without leaves, or with a very few, and narrow, bearing a spiky bush of pale-coloured flowers; which being past, there abides small seed, like unto Sorrel seed, but greater.

There are other sorts of Bistort growing in this land, but smaller, both in height, root, and stalks, and especially in the leaves. The root blackish without, and somewhat whitish within; of an austere binding taste, as the former.

Place : They grow in shadowy moist woods, and at the foot of hills, but are chiefly nourished up in gardens. The narrow leafed Bistort grows in the north, in Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Cumberland.

Time : They flower about the end of May, and the seed is ripe about the beginning of July.

Government and virtues : It belongs to Saturn, and is in operation cold and dry; both the leaves and roots have a powerful faculty to resist all poison. The root, in powder, taken in drink expels the venom of the plague, the small-pox, measels, purples, or any other infectious disease, driving it out by sweating. The root in powder, the decoction thereof in wine being drank, stays all manner of inward bleeding, or spitting of blood, and any fluxes in the body of either man or woman, or vomiting. It is also very available against ruptures, or burstings, or all bruises from falls, dissolving the congealed blood, and easing the pains that happen thereupon; it also helps the jaundice.

The water, distilled from both leaves and roots, is a singular remedy to wash any place bitten or stung by any venomous creature; as also for any of the purposes before spoken of, and is very good to wash any running sores or ulcers. The decoction of the root in wine being drank, hinders abortion or miscarriage in child-bearing. The leaves also kill the worms in children, and is a great help to them that cannot keep their water; if the juice of Plaintain be added thereto, and outwardly applied, much helps the ghonorrhea, or running of the reins. A dram of the powder of the root, taken in water thereof, wherein some red hot iron or steel hath been quenched, is also an admirable help thereto, so as the body be first prepared and purged from the offensive humours. The leaves, seed or roots, are all very good in decoction, drinks, or lotions, for inward or outward wounds, or other sores. And the powder, strewed upon any cut or wound in a vein, stays the immoderate bleeding thereof. The decoction of the root in water, where unto some pomegranate peels and flowers are added, injected into the matrix, stays the immoderate flux of the courses. The root thereof, with pelitory of Spain and burnt alum, of each a little quantity, beaten small and into paste with some honey, and a little piece thereof put into a hollow tooth, or held between the teeth, if there be no hollowness in them, stays the defluction of rheum upon them which causes pains, and helps to cleanse the head, and void much offensive water. The distilled water is very effectual to wash sores or cankers in the nose, or any other part; if the powder of the root be applied thereunto afterwards. It is good also to fasten the gums, and to take away the heat and inflammations that happen in the jaws, almonds of the throat, or mouth, if the decoction of the leaves, roots, or seeds bruised, or the juice of them, be applied; but the roots are most effectual to the purposes aforesaid.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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