LEPROSY

2010

In the second edition of Gerard, there is “Bauhine saith that he heard the use of these (POTATO) roots was forbidden in Burgundy (where they call them Indian artichokes) for that they were persuaded the too frequent use of them caused leprosie”. Bauhine is Caspar Bauhin, whose Prodromos of 1620 set out the theory. As late as 1761 this prejudice against the potato was still apparent in that area, and its cause was probably to be accounted for by the doctrine of signatures, the skin of a potato reminding someone of the effects of leprosy.

Dioscorides asserted that the leaves of ELM, “beaten small with vinegar, and soe applied are good for the leprosie…” (Apuleius Madaurensis). Wesley, too, associated elm with a leprosy cure, but it was the bark he prescribed. The leaves of PHYSIC NUT are used, externally, in Chinese medicine, to make an ointment to treat skin diseases, even leprosy (Chinese medicinal herbs of Hong Kong). In southern India, the dried root of SCARLET LEADWORT (Plumbago indica) used to be highly regarded as a leprosy (and syphilis) cure.

SNAKE’S HEAD LILY (Fritillaria meleagris) has the name in some areas of Leopard Lily, which looks very strange, until another name, Lazarus Bell, is considered. It is named after the small bells that lepers were made to carry about with them, so that they could warn the healthy of their approach. Leopard Lily is just a corruption of leper’s lily.