DANDELIONS are perhaps the best known of diuretics, and some of the vernacular names hammer it home. Pissabed is common enough, though no longer standard English (though pissenlit is still standard French). “Children that eat it in the evening experience its diuretic effects, which is the reason that other European nations as well as ourselves vulgarly call it Pissabed”. Would children have any particular urge to eat dandelions? But it is said that even picking the flowers will bring on the symptoms. Mothers would remove all the dandelions from a child’s bunch of wild flowers, and children tease their fellows by putting the flowers in their pockets. But of course, dandelions are quite often exploited deliberately. “The root fresh gathered and boiled makes an excellent decoction to bring away gravel”. In recent times, Irish country people would brew the leaves, or sometimes the whole plant, roots and all, to incrase the flow of urine. Hence, of course, its use for gallstones, jaundice, etc… Herbalists still prescribe the root tea for stone in the bladder. HORSETAIL tea is rich in silicic acid, and is diuretic, so it can be used for urinary problems, such as bed-wetting, cystitis or inflamed prostrate, or anuresis.
TURNIPS have long been used for retention of urine, apparently still in use among Irish country people in County Mayo. They pulp a turnip and drink the juice to treat the complaint. HEATHER too is a diuretic, still in use in homeopathy for the treatment of infections of the kidneys and urinary tract; so is PARSLEY, the leaves and roots (Parsley root tea is still prescribed for kidney complaints). Gerard wrote that the leaves are good “to take away stoppings, and to provoke urine; which thing the roots likewise do notably perform”. Lupton, in the middle of the 17th century, recommended parsley, stamped in white wine, then strained off, to “cause thee to make water and break the stone”. It is reckoned in Russian folk medicine to be a powerful diuretic. SEA HOLLY, too, was taken to be a diuretic. One of the leechdoms in the Anglo-Saxon version of Apuleius was “for stirring of the mie…” BROOM tea is well-known as a diuretic.
JUNIPER berries, and the oil distilled from them, are said to be diuretic, and the juice from the berries is still used in Irish country medicine as such. It is also recommended for cystitis, and a tea can be made from them, or even small pieces of the wood, to be used as a diuretic. Some of the American Indians used PUMPKIN seeds as a diuretic; so do people in Alabama, still. They say they are excellent in a tea for kidney troubles, but the odd thing is that Alabama children used to be given the same preparation to stop them bed-wetting. VEGETABLE MARROW seeds, too, make an efficient diuretic, and SWEET FLAG had the same reputation. Already, in the Anglo-Saxon version of Apuleius, we can find (in translation) “If one may not pass water, and the water be at a standstill, let him take roots (of Sweet Flag), and let him seethe (them) in water to a third part; give to drink; then within three days he may send forth the urine; it healeth wondrously the infirmity”. Gerard was still able to claim the same virtue a few hundred years later.