DYSENTERY

2010

An early remedy shows a great mixture of magic and medicine, for it required the herbalist to dig up a BRAMBLE of which both ends were in the earth, and then to take the newer root, cut nine chips on the left hand and sing three times, Miserere mei Deus, and nine times the Our Father. Having completed that part of the preparation, “take then MUG WORT and everlasting and boil these three in several kinds of milk until they become red. Let him then sup a good bowl of it fasting at night, some time before he takes other food. Make him rest in a soft bed, and wrap him up warm…”. Astringent as they are, bramble leaves and roots, have always been used for diarrhoea and dysentery, and that includes the AMERICAN BLACKBERRY (Rubus villosus). A syrup made from the root is an American country medicine for the complaint, and the juice from the fruit, spiced and laced with whisky, is a well-valued carminative drink in Kentucky, the original of the well-known “Blackberry Cordial”. Gerard recommended MYRTLE (“the leaves, fruit, buds and juyce”) for dysentery.

A root infusion of the African tree CATCHTHORN (Zizyphus abyssinica) is taken for dysentery. There is a lot of tannin in the bark, so that is probably the reason for this treatment. Maoris set great store in HEBE, particularly Hebe salicifolia, for curing diarrhoea and dysentery, so much so that the young leaf tips, the astringent part used, were collected and sent out to Maori troops in the Middle East during World War II. GREAT BURNET root is used in Chinese medicine for the complaint, as well as for haemorrhages and other conditions.