External Use As An Astringent

Before moving to current practice, we can trace long usage of tormentil as an astringent in external remedies. Dioscorides advises the decoction of root, boiled down to one third, held in the mouth to relieve toothache, used as a rinse to control putrid humours in the mouth and as a gargle for hoarseness of the trachea. These are also given by Dodoens, who suggests the root and the leaf together. Dioscorides then gives a long list of indications and recommends a preparation of boiled root, ground up in vinegar to keep shingles in check, restrain herpes, disperse scrophulous swellings in glands, indurations, swellings, aneurysms, abscesses, erysipelas, fleshy excrescences in fingers, callous lumps and mange. Galen recommends pentaphyllum to dry wounds. Apuleius advises the juice of the herb bruised and mixed with egg yolk, rubbed on painful feet to take away the pain in 3 days. This usage also is given by Dalechamps and Bauhin, and reappears as a balm for the feet in Gloucestershire. The Salernitan herbal refers to tormentil, which resembles cinquefoil, and recommends the juice of the root placed inside a fistula and the juice mixed with white wine applied for fleck in the eye. Turner finds it similar to bistort Polygonum bistorta and recommends it in running sores and the powder on a wound as a styptic and an extract in wine for ‘green wounds without and within’. Green wounds may be taken to mean fresh wounds; this phrasing is similar to Culpeper’s recommendation in ruptures within and without. Dodoens also advises leaves and root, decoction or juice, for wounds inwardly and outwardly. Dalechamps recommends juice of leaves to weeping fistulas, to the eyes to disperse blemishes and the herb and root chewed for putrescent ulcers. Bauhin advises tormentil for all wounds as a plaster or ointment or a wash decocted in water or wine for putrid wounds, hardnesses and swelling, especially around the ear. He then gives a preparation in vinegar for hip pain, haemorrhoids and scabies, a preparation with amber for defluxions (discharge) in the eyes and the fresh juice applied morning and evening for vertigo. Culpeper lists bruises, falls, ruptures, wounds, sores and ulcers of mouth and genitals, scabs, itches, scrophula and sciatica. Hill gives loose teeth, haemorrhages of nose and mouth, and falling of the uvula. Grieve proposes external use as a gargle for sore and ulcerated throat, in leucorrhoea, ulcers, long standing sores and the decoction, soaked in lint, regularly applied to remove warts. The modern authors also give a range of external usage. Wren describes tormentil as a tonic lotion in ulcers and old sores, and recommends the fluid extract as a styptic. The National Botanic Pharmacopoeia recommends a gargle for sore, relaxed ulcerated throat, to remove purulent mucus and as an injection for leucorrhoea (formerly referred to as the whites). The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia recommends use as a stypic and vulnerary as a gargle for the mouth and mucous membranes of the throat and a lotion for haemorrhoids. Williamson advises usage in pressure sores and ulcers etc. Menzies-Trull recommends a poultice to ease pain and use in haemorrhoids with witch hazel Hamamelis virginiana. Chevalier advises use as a styptic and use in mouth ulcers and infected gums. Barker (2001) advises use of the powder as a styptic and up to 10 mL of tincture (1:5 45%) in sore throat, gingivitis and pyorrhoea, and use of a lotion in burns, warts and sunburn. Taken together, there is a substantial amount of external usage.