“By nature wild”: gleanings from Gerard’s Herball

Helleborine is like unto white Hellebor, and for that cause we have given it the name of Helleborine. It hath a straight stalke of a foot high, set from the bottome to the tuft of floures, with faire leaves, ribbed and chamfered like those of white Hellebor, but nothing neere so large, of a dark greene colour. The floures be orderly placed from the middle to the top of the stalke, hollow within, and white of colour, straked here and there with a dash of purple, in shape like the floures of Satyrion. The seed is small like dust or motes in the Sun.


Comfrey joyeth in watery ditches, in fat and fruitful meadows; they grow all in my Garden.


The stalke of Clot-burre before the burres come forth, the rind pilled off, being eaten raw with salt and pepper, or boyled in the broth of fat meate, is pleasant to be eaten: being taken in that manner it increaseth seed and stirreth up lust.


The root and seed of the great water Lillie is good against venery or fleshly desire, if one do drink a decoction thereof, or use the seed or root in powder in his meates, for it drieth up the seed of generation, and so causeth a man to be chast, especially used in broth with flesh.


There groweth in Aegypt a kinde of Aron or Cuckow pint which is found also in Africa, and likewise in certain places in Portingale neere unto rivers and streames, that differeth from those of our countries growing, which the people of Castile call Manta de nuestra senora: most would have it to be called Colocasia; but Dioscorides saith that Colocasia is the root of Faba Aegyptia, or the Beane of Aegypt.

The common Cuckow pint is called in Latin, Arum: in Greeke, [aron]: in shops, Iarus, and Barba-Aron: of others, Per-vituli: of the Syrians, Lupha: of the men of Cyprus, Colocasia, as we find among the bastard names. Pliny in his 24. booke, 16. chapter, doth witnesse, that there is a great difference between Aron and Dracontium, although there hath been some controversie about the same among the old writers, affirming them to be all one: in high Dutch it is called , Passen pint: in Italian, Gigora: in Spanish, Yaro: in low Dutch, Calfsuoet: in French, Pied d’veau: in English, Cuckow pint, and Cuckow pintle, wake-Robin, Priests pintle, Aron; Calfes foote, and Rampe; and of some Stratchwoort.


The Caper groweth in Italy, Spaine, and other hot Regions without manuring, in a leane soyle, in rough places among rubbish, and upon old walls, as Dioscorides reporteth.

Theophrastus writeth, that it is by nature wild, and refuseth to be husbanded, yet in these our daies divers use to cherish the same, and to set it in dry and stony places: my selfe at the impression hereof, planted some seeds in the bricke walls of my garden, which as yet do spring and grow green, the successe I expect.


There be found two Aglaophotides, described by Aelianus in his 14.booke; one of the sea, in the 24.Chapter: the other of the earth, in the 27.chapter. That of the sea is a kind of Fucus, or sea mosse, which groweth upon high rocks, of the bigness of Tamarisk, with the head of Poppy; which opening in the Summer Solstice doth yeeld in the night time a certain fierie, and as it were sparkling brightnesse or light.

That of the earth, saith he, which by another name is called Cynospastus, lieth hid in the day time among other herbes, and is not knowne at all, and in the night time it is easily seene: for it shineth like a star, and glittereth with a fierie brightnesse.

And this Aglaophotis of the earth, or Cynospastus, is Paeonia; for Apuleius saith, that the seedes or graines of Peionie shine in the night time like a candle, and that plenty of it is in the night season found out and gathered by the shepheards….

Aelianus saith, that Cynospastus is not plucked up without danger; and that it is reported how he that first touched it, not knowing the nature thereof, perished. Therefore a string must be fastened to it in the night, and a hungrie dog tied thereto, who being allured by the smell of rotting flesh set towards him, may plucke it up by the rootes. Iosephus also writeth, that Baara doth shine in the evening like the day star, and that they who come neere, and would plucke it up, can hardly do that, save that either a woman’s urine, or her menses be poured upon it, and that so it may be plucked up at the length….

But all these things be most vaine and frivolous: for the roote of Peionie, as also of Mandrake, may be removed at any time of the yeare, day or houre whatsoever.


[Peony root] is also given, saith Pliny, against the disease of the minde. The root of the male Peionie is preferred in this cure.

Ten or twelve of the red berries or seeds drunke in wine that is something harsh or sower, and red, do stay the inordinate flux, and are good for the stone in the beginning.

The blacke graines (that is the seed) to the number of fifteen taken in wine or mead, helpes the strangling and paines of the matrix or mother, and is a speciall remedie for those that are troubled in the night with the disease called Ephialtes or night Mare, which is as though a heavy burthen were laid upon them, and they oppressed therewith, as if they were overcome by their enemies, or overprest with some great weight or burthen; and they are also good against melancholicke dreams.

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