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The Heather in Lore, Lyric and Lay
Economics of the Heather - Medicinal Virtue


The old English herbals contain several references to the medicinal properties of Heather. "The tender tops and flowers, saith Dioscorides, are goode to be laide upon the bitings or stingings of any venomous beast;" and Gerarde adds, "The barke and leaves of Heath may be used for and in the same causes that Tamarisk is used."

In Parkinson's "Theatrum Botanicum" (The Theatre of Plants), published in 1640, occurs the following: "Heath is somewhat drying and a little bitter withall, except the berryed sorts, as Clusius hath related by the taste of most of them. Galen saith it hath a digesting quality, resolving the malignity of humors, by transpiration or sweating, which a decoction of the flowers being drunke, doth perform, and thereby giveth much ease to the paines within the body, and expelleth the worms therein also; the leaves and flowers made into a decoction is good against the stings or bitings of serpents and other venomous creatures; and the same being drunke warm, saith Mathiolus, for thirty days together, morning and evening, doth absolutely breake the stone and drive it forth; the same, also, or the destilled water of the whole plant, being drunke easeth the chollicke; the said water or the juyce of the herbe dropped into the eyes helpeth the weaknesse of the sight: Clusius saith that Rondeletius at Montpelier used the oyle made of the flowers of Heath with good successe against the Wolfe in the face or any other foule or fretting and eating canker spreading over the whole face; the same also doth dissolve tumours: a bathe made by decoction of the herbe and flowers is good for them to sit in that are troubled with the stone, or with the gout, for it giveth much ease to their bath: the white berryes of the Heath, saith Clusius, are brought to the markets in Spaine and

there sold to give to those that have hot agues, to coole the heate and quench their thirst; and besides are much desired saith bee, of women and children, to please their pallate; the honey that the Bees take from the flowers of Heath is called Mel improbum, but we have not found any ill quality therein in our Land; only it will be higher coloured than in those places where no Heath groweth."

Doedens, in his "Historie of Plants," relates as follows of the value of the Heath in lithotrity: "The learned Mathiolus in his commentaries upon Dioscorides lib. j. doubteth not of this plant but that it is the Erica of Dioscorides whereunto he bath set two other figures of strange heath sent unto him by one Gabriel Fallopius, a !earned physician. Moreover, he commendeth much the decoction of our common heath made with faire water to be drunken warm both morning and evening, in the quantity of five ounces, three houres before meat, against the stone in the bladder, so that it be used by the space of thirtie dayes; but at the last the patient must enter into a bath made of the decoction of Heath and whiles he is in the said bath, he must sit upon some of the Heath that made the foresaid bath, the which bath must be oftentimes repeated and used. For by the use of the said bath and dyet or decoction, bee bath knowne many to be holpen, so that the stone bath come from them in very small pieces. Also Turner saith that for the diseases of the Milt (spleen) it were better to use the barkes of Heath (in steed of tamarisk) than the barke of Quickbene."

Lightfoot tells us that Bilberries or a decoction of Heather roots in milk were given for diarrhcea and dysentery. A spirituous extract of Heather roots was given for sea scurvy.


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