Cornelius Osborn’s Materia Medica, ca. 1768



Oak tree–See White Oak.

Oil of Amber–See Ol Succin.



Oil of Sweet Almond (Ol Sweet Almonds)

      (Prunus amygdala)

“ol: Sweet almons”                          Consumption: p. 3

Thickener (and flavorant) for an Electuary/Linctus.

Cullen gave a description of Amygdalae Amarae (Sweet Almonds), along with Lauro-cerasus and Cerasa nigra.  An account of poisoning by Lauro-cerasus, published 1n 1733, was also discussed by Cullen.

      The almond was felt to have sedative effects much like those of opium and “other narcotic poisons.” Cullen cautioned about administering these medicines to children but noted that it has some value “both in diet and medicine”, in particular as a remedy for intermittent fevers.  Pomet felt the oil was to be made chiefly for external use and felt it to be a good treatment for “Roughness and Soreness of the Breast and Stomach, Pleurism, Coughs, Asthma, Wheezings, Stitches, hectic Fevers…”. 

      Pomet felt the almond oil compares with the oils produced by other nuts including hazel nuts, walnuts, white-pine kernels, and Castor beans.   The oils were extracted by blanching and pounding the nuts and then obtaining the oil though a technique known as expression. 


Oleum Anis/Ol. annis/Oil of Aniseed

“ol: anis”                          Common Colic: p. 54

“ol annis”

See Anise seed.


Oleum Juniper/Oil of Juniper

      (Juniperus spp.)

“ol Juniper”                                   Jaundice: p. 32

      Pill Coche recipe

“ol annis or Juniper”                Common Colic: p. 54

      Taken for effects as a carminative.

“ol Junip”                                  Gravel:   p. 55

      Taken on a lump of Sugar.

See Juniper.


Oleum Succin/Ol. Sucin/Oil of Amber

      “ol Succin”                                  Colic: p. 54

“ol: Sucin”             A Stoppage of ye Terms: p. 69

      Added to a Tea.

“ol Succin”                        High Stericks: p. 73

      Added to Pill Recipe.

“ol: Succin”                    Lying in, or Delivery: p. 76

Amber is formed from the resin of an extinct pine, Pinites succinifera, commonly found along the Baltic Coast. 

      The destructive distillation of amber removes its succinic acid or salts, once used as a cathartic and a treatment for hysteria.  The remaining Oil of Amber or Oleum Succini was re-distilled before it was used.  The final product was a light yellow liquid, bearing a warm, acrid taste and an empyreumatic aroma.

      Amber was valued for its use in perfume and incense prearations.  As for its medicinal virtues, Pomet noted: “The Spirit is esteemed an excellent Aperitive or Deobstruent…As for the Oil, it is chiefly in use to allay and drive down Vapours, being put on Silk or Cotton, and rubbing the Wrists, or Pulse, or Nose therewith.”  In general, Ol. Succin served as a tonic, and a treatment for rheumatism and hysteria.


Oleum Terebinth/Oil of Turpentine

(Assorted evergreens)

“ol Terebinth”                               Rheumatism: p. 46

      Unguent Recipe.

“Terbeth minr”                  Sciatica, or Hip Gout: p. 49

      Plant is used in an Emetic recipe.

“ol Terbinth”           Dr. Hill’s Pleurisy Formula: p. 79

Terebinth or Turpentine is a concrete oleoresin obtained from a number of trees.  It occurs as as yellowish masses that are yellow in color.  They were refined into oils, spirits, and added to wax-based preparation and pill recipes. 

      Estes gives the following sources for Turpentine:

       Scotch Pine       Pinus sylvestris        Europe

       Larch       Larix caricina          North America

       Larch       Larix decidua           North America

       Pine              Pinus taeda       South America

       Pine              Pinus palustris   South America

       Balsam Fir  Abies balsamea          Canada

Another resin/oleoresin known as Chian Turpentine came from a relative of the Pistacio tree (Pistacia Terebinthus).  This plant is native to Southern Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia.  The Terebinth minor that Osborn is referring to is probably one of the Pinus species, especially Pinus palustris, one of several Pines known to grown in abundance locally.

      The colonists made heavy use of Pine products during their earliest years in North America.  Aside from using Pine for building their homes and producing ship masts, they used its resin to waterproof their boats and coat the masts. Turpentine was produced in large quantities by placing parts of the Pine trees in large boiling vessels.  This turpentine was even shipped back to England. 

      As for its medicinal properties, turpentine was generally used as a stimulant, diuretic, diaphoretic, and cathartic.

      See Pitch Pine, White Pine.


Oleum Vitriol/Vitriol–See Vitriol



Olibanum        (Boswellia carteri)

“Olaban”                                  Consumption: p. 10

This is the famous frankincense. 

In his introduction to Olibanum, Pomet describes its origin: 

“The Olibanum, which we usually call the Male-Frankincense, is a Gum that flows, by Incision, from the Trunk of several Shrubs which are found plentifully in the Holy Land, and in Arabia Felix, where they grow in great Quantities, especially at the Foot of Mount Lebanon, from whence came its Name.  Thus Libani Oleum, and by Corruption of the Language, Olibanum.” 

It was called Frankincense because of its use as “an Incense for the Gods.”  Due to the religious values placed on Frankincense, after the shrub was cut, nobody “except those who are of a reputed Holy Family” could gather it.  

      The finest Frankincense occured as white tears with “somewhat of a gold Colour”, and when chewed, they “make the Spittle white as Milk…” 

      According to Pomet, this gum “strengthens the Bowels, stops Fluxes and the Gonorrhea in Men, with the Fluor Albus in Women…It is cephalick, cardiack, and pectoral, comforts the Head, and revives the Memory, suppresses the Melancholy and the Vapours, and abates vehement Coughing, Hoarseness and  Catarrhs. The Fume taken up the Fundament, cures the Piles.”  Its other use was primarily as an ingredient for suffumigations and plasters.

      Osborn chooses it as one of the ingredients for a constant drink for treating Consumption due to its aromaticity, making one feel as though it were acting as an effective clearing agent for the consumed lungs.


Olive Oil/Oleum Oliva        (Oliva europaea)

“Olive Oil”                                 Piles: p. 44

In a Poultice preparation.

Olive trees are native to southern Europe and northern Africa; they are cultivated elsewhere in Europe in regions extending from Spain to Italy.

      Pomet commented about the popularity of Olive Oil:  “Olive Oil is so much used, that we have no Sort of Commodity whereof we make a greater Consumption.  …(and) so necessary to Life that we may bring it in Competition with Bread and Wine.” 

      Olive Oil also served as a popular basis for numerous medicinal recipes.  By itself, it was considered “a natural Balsam for the Cure of Wounds, being beat up with Wine: and it is of Wine and this Oil, that the Samaritan Balsam, with which the Good Samaritan in the Gospel, heal’d the Wounds of the Traveller…”.  It is also added to recipes for Plasters, Ointments, Enemas, Conserves, Linctuses, and Emulsions.

      As a base for the ointment Osborn used to treat the Piles, it was felt to be cooling, drying and binding, and a healer of inflammation. 

      Sulphated Olive Oil was also a popular remedy.  (See the Balsams of Sulphur.)


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Opium (Opii)    (Papaver orientale)

“opii”                                          Pleurisy: 34

      Sudorific therapy.

“opii”                                    Dysentery: 51, 52

      Decoction/Astringent-decoction recipes.


Opium is indigenous to Asia, and has been cultivated throughout Europe and America.

      The latex of Opium was considered the official medicine.  From this a variety of preparations were made include many proprietary medicines whose contents were kept secret. 

      The Edinburgh Pharmacopoeia gives a recipe for tincture of Opium:

Tincture of Opium, or liquid Laudanum.

      Crude Opium       1 Ounce

      Spanish White Wine  10 Ounces

      With a gentle heat in Balneo Mariae,      extract a tincture; filter. 

      Dr. Sydenham had his own recipe which became highly popular in the years to come and was practiced by many physicians; Osborn probably was one of these.

      For his recipe, Sydenham added: 

            English Saffron   1/2 Ounce

            Cloves                  1/2 Drachm

            Cinnamon                1/2 Drachm

      James’s version of the Edinburgh recipe notes the standard Tincture of Opium to have English Saffron.

      The purpose of producing the tincture was to dissolve the medicinal constitutents of the opium whilst avoiding those causing the ill flavor.  Liquid Laudanum also became known as Paregoric, or Tincture of Thebiaca.  Estes estimates that it contained approximately 6 to 10 percent Opium, and 1 percent Morphine.  Later recipes also included Nutmeg, Mace, Juniper, Musk, and Ambergris as flavorants.  Sydenham’s recipe differed for most others in that it contained higher amounts of Opium, approximately 11%, and included Cloves, Cinnamon and Crocus.

      Other Opium-containing recipes include Tully’s Powder, mentioned by Osborn, and McMunn’s Elixir (a deodorized tincture of Opium).

      See: McMunn’s Elixir; Tully’s Powder.


Parsley        (Petroselenium vulgaris;  P. macedonium)

“perseley” roots                    Consumption: p. 10

      Decoction for Dia-Drink/Constant Drink

“persley” roots                           Dropsy: p. 24

      Decoction for Dia-Drink/Constant Drink

The same recipe, later recommended for Jaundice: p. 33

“perseley” roots                          Gravel: p. 55

      Decoction recipe.

Parsley originated in southern Europe.  Due to its cultivation in many herb gardens, it often escapes and could be found naturalized in the United States.

      The roots, leaves and seeds of Petroselenium vulgaris were considered medicinal, whereas only the seeds of P. macedonium were accepted by Lewis.  Parsley seeds are highly aromatic, those of Macedonium being the strongest; both functioned as a carminative. 

      The root was an important medicine and was considered one of the five aperient roots by classic herbalists.  It is found in many diet drink recipes. Macedonium Parsley is found in the Mithradites and Theriac treacles; Common Parsley is in the Bayberry Electuary. Both are faintly aromatic, warming, and of a sweetish taste.

      Herbalists such as Parkinson and Culpeper recommended Parsley for its ability to expel urine.  Parkinson felt it helped “to open obstructions of the livers, reines, and other parts, helping much to procure urine.”  Culpeper went further, adding it “expelleth the dropsy and jaundice by urine.”

      Lemery also recommends it for the urinary tract, noting it “excites to urine”, provokes the Monthly Course, expels the Wind, and “is Lithontriptic, or a powerful Breaker of the Stone in the Kidneys.”  Thus we see Osborn’s use of it in recipes for treating dropsy and the gravel.

      In the years to come, Cullen would write about the virtues of their roots noting “but in their decoction, which I have often tried, I have not found such a virtue, and possibly because their active parts are dissipated by boiling.”

      As an ingredient for a constant drink, Osborn was possibly employing Parsley as a diaphoretic.  He follows through with its more predictable uses as a jaundice remedy, and a diuretic for treating the Dropsy and the Gravel.


Partridge Feathers

      (Perdix sp.; Perdix perdix: European/Hungarian variety of partridges)

“poteridge fethers”        Barring Down of ye Matrix: p. 74

Suffumigation therapy.

Of the virtues of the common Partridge, James notes:

“Perdix, Offic.  The Common Partridge.

      The Parts of this Animal, used in Medicines, are the Flesh, Marrow, Blood, Liver, Gall, and the Feathers…The Feathers are used by Way of Fumigation, and applied to the Nostrils, are beneficial in a Suffocation of the Uterus, as, also, for alleviating, mitigating, and removing Colics, and other Pains of a like Nature.”

By mentioning “Suffocation of the Uterus”, he is referring to what is today known as the lack of flow of a period or menses.   But it is possible that this suffocation was a response of the philosophy Osborn possible had about the flow of “energy” (for lack of a better word)  through the body.  This ideology would very much follow the teachings of Theophilis Borden, a vitalism or vital force of life philosophy common from about 1740 to 1760 (see info on Borden and other pathology theorists elsewhere on this site as a single section).  In Borden’s philosophy, energy (think of this as anima or animal spirit, though this is a term he did not use) flows throughout and around the core abdominal and chest organs systems, from one organ to the next, creating one new disease after another.  This internal energy has two counter parts, the spirit of the individual’s nervous system, brain and mind (perhaps the entia in Osborn’s terms, or the ens veneris promoted by George Starkey, 1649, and later reiterated by Boyle) and the soul.  This trinity does pretty much adhere to the metaphysical  teachings Paracelsus, Jakob Bohme, Hermann Boerhaave and Johannes von Helmont.

 Osborn’s mention of “Barring Down of the Matrix” refers to prolapsed uterus.  Both used burning Partridge feathers to treat the uterus due to the popular premise that the unfriendly odor produced by burning feathers excites the proper flow of spirits/energies in the body, depending upon where it is exposed to the smoke. In this case a lower exposure caused the energy of the body, possibly stagnated in the lower torso, to flow back in an upwards direction.  Thus reinstituting normal, healthy flow patterns in what was a troubled, disabled body.   


Peperidge  (Berberis vulgaris)

(Alternatively: Nyssa sylvatica (Black Tupelo))

“peperidge” inner bark              Consumption: p. 9

For a Syrup to be taken with Balsam.

Barberry is naturalised from Europe and was commonly cultivated for its berries, roots and barks.  The latter two were used to dye wool yellow.  The barks were valuable as medicines.

      Nearly all herbalists during and since the Renaissance wrote about the use of Barberry for treating Jaundice due to the influence of the Doctrine of Signatures.   Its use for treating Consumption was not mentioned.  Osborn does make note that Jaundice can occur along with Consumption which may explain why he uses this herb here.  The European Barberry may also act as a tonic, refrigerant and purgative which amy also explain Osborn’s use of Peperidge.  (See Barberry.)

      The second possibility is that Peperidge is referring to Black Tupelo, also known as Sour Gum or Black Gum.  This tree is native to the Eastern-central and Southern portions of North America.  No medicinal virtues for it could be found in the references.


Peruvian Bark–See Quinquina (Cinchona spp.); Balsam Peru.

Peroyal–See Pyrrol; Ens Veneris.


Pill Coche/Pilule Cochiae/Pill Cochiae majores, or minores

“pil coche”                              Jaundice: p. 32

This term is used by Osborn in the generic sense, rather than in reference to a specific remedy.  He then goes on to give his recipe for a “pil coche”, or “lesser purgative pill”:  Ivory Castile Soap, Gum Myrrh, and Aloes.

      This pill is based upon the initial recipe for Aloe Pills, to which Colocynth is added.  Two kinds of Pill Coche existed, the Pill Cochiae minores being much milder.  Pill Cochiae majores also had Rhubarb in it.

      The Edinburgh recipe given in James’s book for “Pilulae Cocciae” is:

Of Succotrine Aloes


Scammony                      each 8, 8888 grains

Vitriolated Tartar                  2, 2222 grains

Distill’d Oil of Cloves       1, 1111 grains

Syrup of Buckthorn,

      a sufficient Quantity   _______________

                                  29, 9999 grains

He adds: “They are of very little Use, and work pretty roughly.”

      In his Materia Medica, Fuller added to this list of possible ingredients Diagrydium, Terebinth, Oil of Rosemary, and Syrup of Violets.  The last two being used, like the Syrup of Buckthorn above, to form a mass that could be formed into pills.   

      Lewis described a slightly different method for forming the mass into pills.  The powdered herbs were mixed with oil and syrup.  The mix was then poured out into a sheet and allowed to dry.  Once dry, it was cut with shears into small pieces.  These “pills” could then be stored for a long time although he adds:  “When kept long, they become so hard, as to have sometimes passed through the intestine undissolved.” 

      The addition of syrups such as Syrup of Violets, and aromatic oils such as Cloves, Rosemary and Absinthe, may have been done to make these strong laxatives more tolerable. 


Pilule Foetidae/Foetid Pills

“pil fett”              “Stoppage of ye Terms”: p. 70

“pil fett”                      “High Stericks”: p. 73

“pil fett”      “Barring Down of the Matrix”: p. 75

In common terms, the pilule foetidae was known as the “Stinking Pill”.  It was designed for use as an emmenagogue and a treatment for hysteria. 

      The recipe originated as that of a strong purgative.  By the 18th century, several more ingredients were added to make it more fetid.   A simple recipe given by James for Pilule Foetidae is:

“Take of Assa Foetida, a Dram and a half, Russian Castor, a Dram, Camphire, half a Dram; distill’d oil of Hartshorn, a sufficient Qunatity:  Beat the m together into a Mass for Pills….This is intended as a Antihysteric.”

Lewis also recommends it for hysteria noting it to be most valuable after bleeding and purging, and “where a sanguine and plethoric habit indicates these evacuations…”

      This use of the fetid pill by Osborn is similar to other protocols he gives for treating feminine disorders.  See: Asafoetida, Partridge feathers, Spiritus Cornu Cervi, Spiritus Lavandula; Stinking Orris, Tincturum Castoreum.


Pine–see Pitch Pine, White Pine, and Oleum Terebinth  (Terebinth minor).


Pitch Pine       (Pinus spp.; esp. P. rigida (Pitch Pine);  P. strobus (White Pine)  northern; and P. palustris  (Yellow Pine) southern)

“pitch pine mass”                Consumption: p. 5, (9)

Used to make a Balsam and a Pectoral Expectorant.

Most species of Pine were recognised as having medicinal qualities regarding lung or chest diseases.  Their effectiveness depended upon the amount of turpentine they contained.  The best pitch probably came from the white and yellow pines.  The White Pine could most easily be found in the northern region;  Yellow Pine was more of a southern species.  Both are present in Dutchess County. 

      Pine tres were was a major source for the valuable medicine Turpentine or Oleum Terebinth.  The pitch pine mass Osborn refers to is perhaps synonymous with the resin gathered for making Ol Terebinth.  Estes refers to this pitch as Pix Nigra, for Black Pitch.  The tar or oil distilled from its roots is Pix Liquida, which as a medicine was considered to be a warm, stimulating expectorant. 

      Estes also identifies a Pitch known as Terebintha, from the Balsam Fir tree (Balsamum canadense) and Pix Burgandica (Spruce Gum), which was obtained from the Spruce tree (Abies spp.). 

      In general, Pitch had many of the same virtues as Oleum Terebinth.  It was used as a rubefacient and in addition served as a thickener for preparing balsams.  Cullen recommended it for treating the rheum and gout, adding “the same medicines which pass by perspiration through the skin will also pass by the exhalation through the lungs…”  Therefore it is found in balsams for treating “diseases of the breast”.

      See: Oleum Terebinth; White Pine.


Plantain  (Plantago major)

“plantain”        ye Overflowing of the Terms: p. 67

Juice of Plantain; mixed with Bole Armeniac.

Plantain is a common weed that can be found growing wild in gardens, fields, pastures, and along roadsides.

      There were numerous applications for plantain, many of which may be centered on the appearance of its leaf.  Lewis noted two varieties of what he referred to as “Plantaginis latifolia” or Broad-leaf Plantain.  The first was a septinervia, due to its bearing seven nerves or ribs in a typical leaf; the second bore five ribs and was known as quinquenervia.  Thus, the Doctrine of Signatures for blood-related problems (?).

      Plantain has been used as an astringent, and a poultice for application to bites, wounds, sores, and external ulcers.  In addition, it has been used to treat internal problems dealing with the blood such as spitting of blood, dysentery, ulcers, piles, and certain urinary disorders. 

      Dioscorides’s recommendations are a reiteration of the Doctrine of Signatures.  He felt this herb was good for treating bloody fluxes of all kinds, as well as “a wombe troubled with a flux” whereby he mentions its use as a pessum (a suppository) made with wool.   Culpeper claims this to be an herb of Venus and therefore recommends it for treating feminine disorders.  Here, the herb’s astrology came first for he noted its primary virtue to be the staying of all fluxes and profuse menstruation; and then for its second virtue, the treatment of all other disorders involving the blood.  He recommends that the juice of Plantain be used to make drinks. 

      Osborn’s use of Plantain again closely follows the phytognomonics and astrology regarding the herb, leftovers from a century before.  By mixing the juice of Plantain with the bole armeniac, he is producing a bright-red bolus made from an iron-rich clay of Armenia and the juice extracted from the veins of Plantain, considered for centuries a sure cure for any blood-related disorder. 


Pond Lilies        (Nymphaea spp. esp. N. albae, N. odorata)

      “pond lileys”                             Rheumatism: p. 46

      Unguent made from roots, in hog’s lard.

      See Water Lilies.


0_Untitled-13 copy  Poppel/Poplar  (Populus spp.; in particular Balsam Poplar (P. balsaminifera), or perhaps Trembling Aspen (P. tremuloides) of certain elevated woodlands or Large-toothed Aspen (P. grandidentata) of the Chestnut Forest areas)

“inside bark of popel”              Rheumatism: p. 46

Used to make an Unguent.

“Poppel” is an Middle English name given to Poplar trees, several of which may have been the source for Osborn’s medicines.  The official medicine, Poplar buds, comes from the Black or Lombardy Poplar (Populus nigra).  Occasionally Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) was used as a substitute.  If local Poplar was gathered as a medicine, then the locally occuring Populus balsaminifera is also a possible herbal medicine.

      Poplar buds were used in the preparation of a tincture, a rectified spirit, and an ointment; their yellow, resinous coating was considered highly medicinal.  Preparations of these buds were considered to be narcotic.  Culpeper felt an extract of “the clammy buds…is very good for the inflammation in any part of the body and tempereth the heat of wounds.”  Because of this, Poplar bud extracts were used to treat bruises, swelling, rheumatism, intermittent fevers and chronic diarrhea.  Several references note the preparation of the ointment Unguentum Populeum.  Estes gives a recipe for this:  Poplar, Poppy, Mandrake, Lactuca, Burdock, Violets, etc., placed in Hog’s Lard to form the unguent.

      Poppel makes up part of Osborn’s barks recipe for the treatment of rheumatism, to be applied as an unguent (or poultice?).  The bark of poplars was felt to be cooling, relating perhaps this use. 



(As an alternative to Anti-hectic Poteria; Poterium sanguisorba; P. canadense (Wild Burnet))

“anty hectic poteara”               Decay Fever: p. 21

Probably Anti-hectic Poteria.

Used in a Decoction.

See: Anti-hectic Poteria; Burnet.


0_Untitled-13 copy   Prickly Ash

(Eastern: Zanthoxylum (Xanthoxylum) americanum and

 Western: Z. (X.) clava-herculis)

“pricer ash” bark                     Consumption: p. 9

      Used to make a Syrup to be taken with a Balsam.

“pricere ash” bark                           The Decay: p. 12

      Dia-Drink Beer for all Decay.

“pricere ash” bark                        Decay State: p. 15

      Syrup recipe for the Spitting of Blood.

“pricere ash” bark                               Dropsy: p. 24

“pricere ash bark”                     Rheumatism: p. 47, 48

      Drinks made with Rum and Cider, then

      placed in the oven and cooked with bread.

These Zanthoxylum species are indiginous to North America.  The Eastern Prickly Ash grows especially well in Dutchess County.  It is found as colonies in young forests, and meadows, swamps, and low, moist ground.   The Western Prickly Ash is found growing further south and westward.

      Prickly Ash was considered analagous to Mezereon in its medicinal virtues.  (See Leatherbark.)  Therefore it was used to treat Rheumatism.

      The warm feeling one got from swallowing a tonic made from the root bark of this plant led to its use as a tonic and for treating digestive disorders.  The root-bark was felt to resemble Guaiac in its medicinal values.  It is also found in treatments for fevers, ague, pains, and bad circulation.


Pyrrol Water

“Peroyal water”         A Stoppage of ye Terms: p. 69

Although Pennyroyal (Pulegium) has served as a medicine for the treatment of menstrual disorders, Osborn is probably not referring to this herb.  Not only is it misspelled and mispronounced, it cannot be as directly related to the Ens Veneris as Pyrrol Water can.

      The Pyrrol water was a popular remedy produced during the age of alchemy.  It was made by heating a rusty Iron rod until it is red hot; the Iron rod is then quenched in water.  This is repeated until the water becomes red due to its enrichment with Iron.  The result is a beverage known as Steeled Wine or Chalybeatus.  It was considered to be rich in alchemical, pyrotechnic, and astrological energies associated with its purported usefulness for the treatment of a multitutde of disorders.  (The blood-like in appearance of this drink is reminiscent of the Doctrine of Signatures.)

      See Ens Veneris for a lengthy presentation on this and related medicines.


0_Untitled-13 copy   Quin Quina/Quin Qui/Peruvian Bark        (Cinchona spp.)

“Tinct prue”                                    Consumption: p.

“Q Qui”                                     Decay State: p. 13

      For a Stomach Bitters:

            to serve as an Appetite Stimulant,

            and anti-febric.

“Quin Qui”                      Dropsical Fever: p. 21      For a Tincture.

“Quin Qui”                                  Dropsy: p. 26

“Q Qui”                     Overflowing of the Terms: p. 67

      …in a quart of wine.

Several possibilities exist for what Osborn is refers to as “Q Qui” or “Quin Qui”.  The Latin name for what later became known as Peruvian tree is Cinchona, derived from the Peruvian native’s name for this plant “Quinquinina”.  Alternatively, there is “Quinquino”, a name given by natives for Myroxylon perierae, the producer of Balsam Peru.   Upon initial investigation of the literature, either of these plants may have been referred to; a more detailed analysis leads one to conclude that Osborn was referring to Cinchona. 

      A review of Cadwallader Colden’s work in medicine and New York plants suggests the use of the traditional New Spain name for cinchona was not atypical for the Hudson valley during the 1720s to 1750s, retained by old timers even longer during the 18th century.  Colden refers to this and several other plants using their New Spain names.  The claims of Florida as a part of New Spain were still being made by the Spanish as late as 1756-1760, so the local reference to New Spain is also not unexpected.  A number of New York plants did come from New Spain, and are mentioned by Colden in his listing of New York plants recorded in the late 1730s and published by Linneaus more than a decade later.  The most common plant related to New Spain in the New York region is the Prickly Pear cactus, Opuntia, possible brought to Long Island by explorers, but also possibly imported for gardening and medicinal purposes, only to later escape the garden setting.  Colden mentions Waltheria, a plant from New Spain not at all typical to the Hudson valley region currently.  This suggests this species was also imported into New York by 1737 (the time of Colden’s research and writings), perhaps as a garden plant, perhaps as a seed adhering to livestock, hay or some other imported tropical America plant derived product.

      As for the medicinal uses for cinchona, Lemery gives in detail a description of how Quinquina came to be accepted by the Spaniards after learning of its accidental discovery by the Peruvians:  “an Indian, in a Fever, accidentally drinking the Water of a Pond, into which several of these Trees were fallen, was cur’d by it.”   Peruvian bark was considered to be best when it is “of the most lively Colour, and enclining to a dark Cinnamon, most curled up, as coming from the smaller Branches from the Tree, that breaks of a shining Colour, is of a bitter Taste, very astringent, or rough and styptic upon the Tongue and whitish outwardly…”

      According to Pomet, Peruvian bark was first brought into Europe through France where it was introduced by Cardinal Logo, a Jesuit, who sold it for an equivalent weight in Gold.  Estes states that it was introduced to Europe during the late 18th century and soon thereafter established itself as an important tonic, astringent and antiseptic medicine and became highly recognised for its effects upon intermittent and continual fevers and a variety of chest disorders. 

      Pomet and Lemery recommend it for treating the fevers.  They warn against its use for treating continual fevers because it “fixes the morbisick Matter, stops the Pores, and so increases the Heat, and concentrates it.” 

      In one of his treatments for the Consumption Osborn recommends tincture of “Prue”, which phonetically sounds like Balsam of Peru.  In fact, he is probably referring to a tincture announced by Dr. John Huxham of Plymouth, England during the 1750s.  It consisted of Peruvian bark, Orange rind, Cochineal, Serpentaria (Rattlesnake Weed), and Saffron. 

      See: Tincture of Peru; (Huxham’s Tincture).


Radish       (Raphanus sativus)

“Radishes”                                  Gravel: p. 55

As part of a Decoction to be taken with Haarlem Oil.

Valued as a medicine as well as a food, Radish was grown primarily in gardens.

      The Radish is native to China, Cochin-china and Japan.  It did not come into Europe until 1548 A.D..  Soon thereafter, Gerard wrote his 1597 herbal in which he discusses four types of Radish, one of which is horseradish.  Parkinson also described these in his Garden of Pleasant Flowers in 1629. 

      Parkinson wrote of the value of Radish not only as a food, but also as a medicine noting its ability “to break the stone, and avoyde gravel.”  Culpeper discusses Radish alongside Horseradish.  He felt the juice was used as a treatment and preventative for Scurvy, and notes that poultices made from it are much like Mustard Plasters.  As a remedy for the Gravel and Stones, Culpeper recommends “the juice of the root, in a syrup if you please.”

      See Horseradish.


Radix Contrayerva/Root of Contrayerva

      “Rad: Contryer”               Continual Fever: p. 64

      See Contrayerva.


0_Untitled-13 copy  Radix Virginae Serpentina/Root of Virginia Snakeroot

      “Rad: virgine Serpentin”            Continual Fever: p. 64

      See Virginia Snakeroot.


0_Untitled-13 copy   Rattlesnake (root)  (Prenanthes alba;  Alternatively, Polygala seneka)

“ratil Snak” root                     Consumption: p. 8

      recommended with Species Diascordium.

“ratl Snake”                                Decay State: p. 13

      powder of

      Dia-drink recipe.

Understanding Osborn’s preparation of this medicine begins with the assumption that he is referring to an herb, rather than the Rattlesnake.  Although the practice of medicine or pharmacy was full an examples of animal-derived medicines, any uses of the more unusual examples of medicines such as dried skulls, powdered mummies, rare earths, and unique animal parts   were becoming few and far between.  The Rattlesnake was present in Dutchess County and available to Dr. Osborn for use as a medicine during the eighteenth century.  If he were to use it though, one suspects that he may have relied more upon dried material already prepared and ready for purchase from an apothecary shop, general store, or ship captain.  Such medicine may or may not be authentic, and could have come from the southern colonies, Europe and other parts of the world.

It is more likely that Osborn is referring to a medicinal plant bearing this common name.  An assortment of herbs exist with the common name “Snakeroot” and “Rattlesnake root”.  Examples of those that are medicinal include:

       Prenanthes alba                 S’eneca or Snake root

       Polygala seneka/senega        Rattlesnake root

       Aristolochia serpentaria      Virginia Snakeroot

       Eupatorium urticaefolium      White Snakeroot

       Goodyera pubescens             Rattlesnake root

       Actaea/Cimicifuga racemosa    Black Snake-root

                   (better known as Black Cohosh)

       Trillium latifolium            Rattlesnake root       (better known as Beth root or Trillium)

      Of these, Osborn is most likely referring to one of the first two.  Polygala was more popular than Prenanthes as an herbal medicine and is mentioned in several herbals and Materia Medica guides.  It was discovered by a physician in Virginia shortly before Osborn began writing his manuscript.   Both Polygala and Prenanthes are noted to occur locally and are noted in a botanical reference written by Dutchess County’s own botanists (Edith A Roberts & Margaret F. Shaw, in The Ecology of Plants Native to Dutchess County).  As a final argument for his use of Polygala, another of Dutchess County’s botanists and herbalists of the eighteenth century, Jane Colden, makes note of the medicinal virtues of Polygala (as a treatment for Pleurisy) in her notebook.  She notes it to be a valuable treatment for pleurisy.

      Polygala, also known as Seneka, was introduced into medicine by Dr. John Tennant of Virginia during the 1730s.  It was found growing in the wild in Virginia and Pennsylvania and harvested for its rhizome.  The Doctrine of Signatures applied to the use of its rhizome for treating the bites of rattlesnakes which it was felt to resemble.  Lewis described this rhizome: “as if composed of joints, whence it is supposed to resemble the tail of the animal whose name it bears.”  He noted its use by Senegaro Indians who used it to prevent “the fatal effects which follow from the bite of the rattle-snake.”

      The root or rhizome is of an acrid and then  bitter taste, and capable of provoking salivation with coughs and sneezing.  This led to its use for treating lung problems such as pleurisy, pneumonia, and the Croup.  Aside from serving as an expectorant, it was valued as a laxative for dropsy, a diuretic, a diaphoretic and an emetic.  Parkinson recommended that its powdered root be used as a remedy for “the quartaine ague within three times taken, viz, half a drame, or if need be a whole dramme at a time before the accesse of the fit, and any other ague or pestilentian feaver, or the pestilent itself.”

      Lewis recommends it for a variety of lung-related disorders including pleurisy and pneumonia.  Cullen also mentions its use for treating pleurisy and pneumonia, recommending it for rheumatism and the dropsy as well.


Rhei/Rheum/Rhubarb        (Rheum spp.; esp. R. palmatum)

“Rhei” powder                       Consumption/Decay: p. 18

      “as a purge and if vessels are clogged…”

“Rhei” powder                           Dysentery: p. 51, 52

“Rheii” powder                    Whites/Fluor albes: p. 65

“Rheubarb”            Dr. Ferdinand’s Formula: p. 78

Different species of Rheum can be found growing throughout the world.  Rheum rhaponticum is the Garden variety often grown for its edible leaf stalks.  Turkish Rhubarb (Rheum palmatum) has served as the medicinal variety.  It came from the East Indies across to China.  The root is generally used as a medicine.

      Rhubarb root was used in roasted form, infusion preparations, and tinctures; it was added to other popular recipes such as Syrup of Senna, a dysentery electuary, stomachic pills, and cephalic pills.  Estes notes that Rhubarb was often mixed with other ingredients, especially Cardamom, Ginger, Virginia Snakeroot, and Saffron.   The Composite Remedy of Rhubarb consisted of Rhubarb, Aloe, Myrrh, and Peppermint Oil.  By itself, Rhubarb was often too strong to be used as a laxative.

      Dioscorides felt Rhubarb was useful for a variety of disorders including all of those mentioned by Osborn.  Parkinson’s comment that “the roote is often used in Diet-beere, or ale, or in other drinkes made by decoction, to help purge the liver and cleanse the bloods” was eluded to by Osborn.  Culpeper felt the  uses for Rhubarb centered on the its reddish leaf veins.  He recommended it for staying the bloody fluxes, opening the liver, and cleansing the blood.  During the 18th century authors would suggest it for pretty much the same. 

      Eighteenth century physicians used Rhubarb as a mild cathartic and a hepatic.  The powdered root was given to strengthen and tonify the stomach and intestines, thereby stopping diarrhea and other disorders felt to develop due to “laxity of the fibers.”  The powder was described by Lewis as a fine, bright yellow powder.  Acting as a sialagogue, it caused one to produce spittle with a yellow tinge, and colored the urine.  This led to its use for treating liver disorders (i.e. to remove the excess bile), some of which Cullen protests:  “It has been said to operate upon the liver, and to be useful in jaundice; but I cannot find any foundation for this either in theory or practice; and I believe the opinion has arisen entirely from the ridiculous doctrine of signatures.”   Cullen  did go on to mention its use as a laxative, a styptic for the digestive tract, and for the treatment of Fluor albus. 

      Osborn uses it as a drastic purgative (a strong laxative) to clear the intestines and cleanse the body before the other treatments were administered.  Then it was used to keep the patient cleansed.  He had similar practices for use of the laxatives Calomel and Jalap.


Rock Polypodium   (Polypodium vulgare)

“rock poly pod”                       Consumption: p. 10

      Tops and roots used in a Syrup recipe;

      to be taken with a Balsam.

“Rock polypod”                              Decay State: p. 12

      As part of the recipe for Dia-drink Beer,

      for lingering disorders of the Hectic kind.

Herbalists as far back as Dioscorides noted this fern’s habit of growing on rocks that have moss and in places where the branches of oak trees are forked.   Pomet recommends that one select plants that grow upon old walls; Lemery recommends that which “grows up on old Oaks”, for which reason he refers to it as “Polypody of the Oak.”   

      Polypody is noted for its roots and fronds which are “somewhat of a sweet taste” and inclining to a liquorice taste.  The fronds of this fern have been used to produce a mucilaginous decoction.  The roots and fronds, placed in water with some sugar are used to produce a lozenge.

      These lozenges were used by Culpeper to treat coughs, wheezing, a shortness of breath, and “those ditillations of thin rheum upon the lungs, which cause phthisic, and oftentimes consumption.”  Lemery and Pomet also gave accounts of the use of this fern for treating lung disorders.  Lemery is specific, he notes: “they also help to abate an inveterate Cough, when it is attended witha saltish Spittle.”  He also recommends it for Scurvy, Rickets, and “Hypochondriack Passions”.

      Another effect of Rock Polypodium is that it works as a purgative.  Thereby, according to Dioscorides, it can be used to expel the phlegm and choler.  Lewis notes that during ancient times, it was considered a powerful perger of melancholy humours and an evacuator of all humours in general.  It served to loosen the belly, but later was claimed by Boerhaave to act as a styptic.  In closing, Lewis adds “it is probable that…the fresh root may loosen the belly, and that it has not this effect when dry.”

      Polypody roots is also found in recipes for the Lenitive Electuary (which see.)


Rosemary  (Rosemarinus officinalis)

“rosmary”                                 Consumption: p. 15

Although native to the warmer countries in Europe and Arabia, Rosemary was later grown in many herb gardens in the colonies, and has since naturalised in some areas.

      Rosemary has had numerous applications to medicine due to its value as a flavorant and aromatic.  Dioscorides felt it had “a warming facultie, curing of ye Icterus…”.   Gerard mentions the use of its oil for flavoring beverages and use in treating “injuries of the cold winters.”  Parkinson applied it “Inwardly for the head and heart; outwardly for the sinewes and ioynts (joynts).”  He recommends the oil “for the heart, rheumaticke braines, and to strenghthen the memory, outwardly to warme and comfort cold and benummed sinewes…”.   Culpeper claimed Rosemary to treat many of the same diseases mentioned by earlier herbalists.  He notes as well the use of the dried leaves, smoked, to help those who have a cough of consumption.  Aside from this, little mention is made of its useas a specific treatment for the consumption.  Instead Osborn may be incorporating it into his recipes as an aromatic, flavorant, and possibly as a diaphoretic/febrifuge.

      Estes notes many of these for Rosemary as given by earlier herbalists.  He also describes another “Rosemary” with applications that relate more to pulmonary disorders such as Consumption.  The Marsh Rosemary or Statice (Limonium nashii) served as an astringent, antiseptic and expectorant.  Whether or not Osborn was referring to this plant when he wrote “rosmary” cannot be told with certainty; it is interesting to note that on several occasions he appears to use the common names in a non-traditional sense.


0_Untitled-13 copy    Rose Willow       (Cornus sericea; local variant–C. stolonifera)

“Rose wilo”                         Decay State: p. 12

Dia-Drink Beer for all Decay

for all Lingering Disorders of the Hectic Kind.

This small tree is also known as Flowering Cornel, Swamp Dogwood, Red Osier, and Squaw Bush.  Locally, a related species Cornus stolinifera, known by the same common name, is found growing in wet fields and moist swampy regions.

      Due to its bitterness, the bark of this plant was considered an effective tonic, astringent, expectorant, and nauseant.  Its similarity in flavor with that of Peruvian bark led to its use as a substitute in many recipes and their use for the treatment of similar diseases.  Later, American herbalists would prefer Rose Willow to Peruvian bark. 

      Rose Willow was used to treat diarrhea, fevers, vomiting, and indigestion.

      See Dogwood.


Rum–See West India Rum

“Rushes such as they Scower with”–see Scouring Rush.


Rust of Iron

“Rust of Iron” powder                     Dropsy: p. 25

“rusty Iron”                  Stoppage of ye Terms: p. 69

Throughout history, Rust of Iron has served as a medicine.  Dioscorides referred to it as “Ios Siderou” and wrote:

“ye rust of iron doth bind, being put to doth stay ye womanish flux, & being drank it causeth inconception, but being anointed with vinegar it heals Exanthemata & is fit use for ye Paronychia, & ye Pterygia, and scabrous eye-lids.” 

Dioscorides goes on to describe a technique similar to the one used by Osborn for producing his Ens Veneris tonic: 

“But iron made burning hot, squenched in water, or wine, & drank, is good for ye Coelicall dysentericall, splenicall, cholericall, & for a dissolved stomach.” 

      To 17th century alchemist Lemery, Iron had many virtues.  His work led to his discovery of Iron in the Blood.  This led to numerous inferences regarding its use as a medicine.  Many alchemists at that time referred to Iron as Ferrum or Mars which Lemery explains:  “Astrologers pretend that this Metal receives Influences from the Planet of that Name…It is naturally composed of vitriolic Salt, Sulphur, and Earth, very ill digested, and bound together, which makes it rust so easily.”

      There were several ways in which rust was made from Iron.  Iron filings could be added to a vinegar, a wine, the juice of Quinces, or “any other astringent Juice, a Tincture, Syrup, or Extract…”.  Iron could be made to rust “by Help of Tartar and boiling Water” thereby forming a blackish tincture that had to be evaporated down.  The “Mars Diaphoretick” made use of Iron Rust mixed with “an equal Quantity of Sal Armoniack”, and then allowing a powder to crystallize out of solution by adding Oil of Tartar.  The first recipe served as an aperient, the second an astringent, the third an anti-inflammatory, the fourth a febrifuge.

      Iron preparations have also served as tonics and diuretics, thus Osborn’s use of Rust of Iron for the treatment of Dropsy.

      (See: Crocus Martis; Ens Veneris)