GROUNDSEL, “the leaves stamped and strained into milke and drunke, helpe the red gum and frets in children”, or for teething babies. Babies with teething difficulties were given FENNEL tea in America. IVY has been used, too, but as a charm, for in the Gironde, in France, ivy-root necklaces (they had to be green, and an odd number of pieces) used to be put round a baby’s neck, to help teething. So were the stalks of CAROLINA NIGHTSHADE (Solarium carolinense) in America, or, sometimes, a necklace of ALLSPICE, and WOODY NIGHTSHADE, or DEADLY NIGHTSHADE stems and PEONY root, in England. And the juice of the latter, mixed with oil of roses, was a 16th century medicine for teething pains (Phaer, The boke of chyldren 1545, quoted in FLS News. 35; Nov 2001). A piece of the root of BITTER GOURD (Colocynthus vulgaris) set in a gold or silver case, was at one time hung round a baby’s neck as a teething amulet, a charm certainly known as early as the 6th century AD. In Alabama, the necklace was made from nine PAWPAW seeds. In Iowa a bag of ASAFOETIDA tied round the baby’s neck will help it to cut teeth without pain. Domestic medicine in the southern states of America used PERSIMMON sap for teething, the juice from a burned branch was dropped on the gums. Mothers from South Uist once made a liquid from RED POPPY flowers to help babies in their teething, and OPIUM POPPY was used, too, probably with more effect. Fenland mothers gave them “Poppy tea”, or a few poppy seeds to suck, tied in a piece of linen, or even a dummy dipped into poppy seeds. FIGWORT has a certain anodyne value, and will ease pain wherever it is applied, and that will include babies’ teething.

Hochets de Guimauve, that is, pieces of dried Marsh Mallow roots, used to be sold in French chemists’ shops as teethers. They are hard and fibrous enough for a baby to chew on, but slowly soften on the outside as their mucilage is released. Bits of the dried rhizome of BLUE FLAG were once given to babies to help their teething. ORRIS-ROOT was used in Warwickshire, as a “coral”.