Cornelius Osborn’s Materia Medica, ca. 1768





Tamarack         (Larix spp.; locally, Larix americana)

      “inside bark of Tarmerack”          Consumption: p. 9

      For making a syrup to be taken with Balsam.

The common name Tamarack refers to several trees generically referred to as Larch trees.  The Shakers made use of the New York species Larix americana for treating liver problems and rheumatism. 

Gerard and Parkinson note the Larch tree in their herbals; it is not found in the official dispensatories.  Gerard describes Larch but fails to mention any of its medicinal values.  Parkinson appreciates Larch for its rosin which he notes was used to produce the Venice Turpentine.  Clear turpentine like this was considered to be a form of manna. It was used to treat a number of disorders.  Parkinson wrote of it:  “(it) is very effectuall to cleanse the reines, kidneys, and bladder, both of gravell and the stone, and to provoke urine:  it is also of especiall property for the gonorrhea, or running of the reines, with some white Amber mixed therewith.”   As for the treatment of lung disorders like Osborn suggests, Parkinson notes:  “In an Electuary, it is singular good for to expectorate rotten flegme, and to ghelpe consumption of the lungs.  It is used in Plaisters and Salves as the best sort of Tirpentine.  The Agaaricke that is used in physicke, is taken from the bodies and arms ofthis tree.”

Tamarack is not found in Lewis’s book



Tansy  (Tanacetum vulgare  Linn.)

“Tansey”                                  Decay State: p. 15

      Made into a Tincture or Syrup.

      Used for the spitting of blood.

“Tansey”                                        Dropsy: p. 29

      Poultice, dressing or fomentation for

      treating Mortification.

“Tansey”                “Barring Down of ye Matrix”: p. 74

      Suffumigation Bath.

“Tansey”                            The Epilepticks: p. 80


Tansy is originally native to Europe.  It was grown in herb gardens in the New World and has since escaped.

Tansy is not discussed by Dioscorides or Gerard in their herbals.  Parkinson notes the delectibility of its leaves, and their value as a food that treated the stomach by aiding digestion, removing bad humours, and cleansing the intestines.  He also recommended it for treating weak reines and kidneys.

      Culpeper recognised Tansy as Venus’s herb.  As a result, he wrote:  “Venus was minded to please women with child by this herb.”  The bruised herb was applied to the navel to prevent miscarriages; a beer or decoction made with Tansy was given to improve the condition of the uterus, and “procure Women’s courses, and expel windiness in the matrix.”  Smelled by the patient they were felt to have many of the same therapeutic effects.    As for its virtues as a food, Culpeper noted:  “It consumeth the phlegmatic humours, the cold and moist constitution, that winter most usually affects the body with, and that is the reason for eating Tansies in the spring.” 

      The uses for Tansy hadn’t undergone much change by the eighteenth century.  Cullen noted it to be bitter and not as strong as chamomile, thereby leading to a gain in its popularity as a treatment for gout.  Lewis warned against this strong, and rather disagreeable flavor that it often had.   He recommends it for use as an emetic and a treatment for hysteric disorders and “supression of the uterus.”

      Osborn valued the Tansy for its aromaticity and therefore employed it in his recipe for treating Decay with a spitting of blood.  As a treatment for Epilepsy, his reasoning may have had a similar foundation; the Tansy may have served as a form of “smelling salts”, a pleasant aromatic medicine (versus the more fetid types used for uterine problems), or a buffer for combatting the strong smell of the patient and taste of his his medicine. 

      Estes notes its additional values as an anthelminthic, a deobstruent, and a tonic. 




“Tarter”                                    Pleurisy: p. 36

      “Tarter”                            Continual Fever: p. 62

      See Sal Tartar.



Terebinth minor

      “Terbeth minr”                      Scieica/Hip Gout: p. 49

      See Oleum Terebinth.



Theriaca Andromachi

“Trac. Andro”                           Common Colic: p. 54

“Trecle”                                        Whites: p. 66

The words “Treacle” and “Theriac” are used synonymously.  “Theriac”, “Treacle”, and “Theriacle”  come from “Theriakos”, a Greek word pertaining to the flesh of a wild animal such as a wildebeast or reptile.   It became closely associated with the viper (Greek  “Therion”, or “Thyrion”). 

Treacle was first discussed in a work entitled “Theriaca”, written by Nicander of Colophon.  In this work he details antidotes for bites of venomous animals.  From this list of simple remedies came lengthy, more complex formulas for treating venomous bites.  The first consisted of wild thyme, opopanax, aniseed, fennel, and parsley and was inscribed on a stone in the Asclepian Temple.  Over time, lengthier formulas were developed leading to other names of this famous medicine.  Attempting to treat King of Pontus of Asia minor, Mithridates VI (132-63 B.C.) invented his recipe, a decoction of 54 ingredients including cinnamon, gentian, valerian root, and blood of a special duck that inhabited the local waters.

      Numerous versions of the Theriac recipe would follow.  Mithridate’s recipe was later altered into a second popular version by Andromachus, later referred to as Theriaca Andromachi Senioris by Galen.

      During the sixteenth century Pietro Andrea Matthiolus published a formula containing two-hundred and fifty ingredients including vipers, pearls, red coral, and emeralds.  Theriaca is first found in the London Pharmacopoeia in 1618.  It continued to be an official medicine until the mid eighteenth century.

      During the late 17th century, it was felt that only an expert could produce a decent Treacle.  The Treacle was an apothecarian’s masterpiece.  An entire book was written by Mr. Charas describing the Andromachus Treacle and its ingredients.   Due to the secrecy of most highly-respected Theriac formulas, it was only in several cities, to be shipped worldwide.   These cities included Bologna, Cairo, Constantinople, Florence, Genoa, and Venice.  The Theriac of Venice, or Venice Treacle became the most popular and well known of the Theriac recipes. 

      The recipe for Andromachus’s Treacle is lengthy and gives the reader a feeling for the skills required of a master pharmacist.  Fuller’s Dispensatory details a formula for Theriaca Andromachi, (Galens’ Theriaca Andromachi Senioris–originally considered a specific remedy for the plague):

“Theriac Andromachi.  The Treacle of Andromachus, usually called Venice Treacle.  Take of the Troches of Squills, six Ounces; those of the Vipers and Hedichroi, long Pepper and Opium, of each three Ounces; dried red Roses, cleared of their white Part, fragrant Sclavonian Orrice Root, Juice of Liquorise, the Tops of Agaric, of each an Ounce and half; Myrrh, sweet Costus (or Zedoary), Saffron, true Cassia lignea, Indian Spikenard, Squinanth, white and black Pepper, Male-Frankincense, Cretan Dittany, Rhapontic, Arabian Stoechas, Hore-hound, Macedonia Parsley-seed, Calamint, Cyprus Turpentine, The Roots of Cinquefoil, and GInger, of each six Drams;  the Tops of Cretan Polymountain, the Seeds of Stone-Parsley, solid Storax, the Root of Spignal, the Tops of Germander, the Roots of Pontic, Phu, Lemnain Earth, Indian Leaf, calcined Chalcitis (or Roman Vitriol), Gentian Root, Gum-Arabic, the Juice of Hypocistis,  Carpobalsamum (or Nutmegs, or Cubebs), the Seeds of Anise, Cardamoms, Fennel and Hartwort, Acacia, (or in its stead, the inspissated Juice of common Sloes) the Seeds of Treacle-Mustard, Bishop’s Weed, the Tops of St. Jon’s Wort and Sagapenum, of each a half an Ounce; of the best Castor, Jew’s Pitch (or Amber), the Root of the long Birthwort, th Seeds of Cretan Daucus, Opopanax, the lesser Centory, Galbanum, of each two Drams; of clarified Honey, thrice the Weight of the Powders, and as much old Canary Wine, as will deserve to dissolve the Gums and Juices; Mix all together, and make the whole into an Electuary….” 

      Due to its popularity, the Treacle often underwent adulteration or was counterfeited.  Of this, Pomet wrote:  “If I was to publish the Frauds that are committed in preparing this Antidote, I am satisfied the Magistrates would presently put a Stop to the Abuse…Though, not withstanding it is sold at such a low Price, those who seal with it get considerably, because what they sell is nothing but the worst Honey, into which it is incorporated a Parcel of rotten worm-eaten Roots and Drugs, that are no better than the Sweepings of Shops; to promote of recommend the Sale of this, they cover the Pots with a printed Paper, whereupon two Vipers that compose a Circle, crowned with a Fleur-del-Lis, which contains this Title, Fine Venice Treacle, though it is made at Orleans or Paris.”

      The Treacle was used by Osborn for treating Common Colic and the Whites.  Estes notes that by the eighteenth century, Treacle preparations contained opium and served as narcotics.  

      See Venice Turpentine.



Tincture of Black Hellebore

      “Tinct: of black heleber”  Stoppage of the Terms: p. 70

      See Black Hellebore (Helleborus nigrum).



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Tincturum Castoreum/Castor fetid

      “Tinct Caster”                         “High Stericks”: p. 73

      “Caster fetted”                        “Lying-In”: p. 76

      Castor or Castoreum probably refers to the Russian and American Beavers (Castoris spp.).  The Russian Beaver was originally considered the best source for this medicine.  Long after the establishment of colonies in North America, imports were few and afar between, forcing the colonists to depend upon local sources such as the American Beaver for their medicine.

      The other possibility for Osborn’s “Tinct: Caster” is the Castor Bean plant  (Ricinus castoreum).  This can be ruled out, for its seed bears an oil that is not fetid as Osborn suggests by the term “fettid Caster”.  Further, the use of Castor Oil for Lying-In and treating Hystericks is not found in the literature.  On the other hand, the use of Castoreum for treating feminine disorders can be found and is well supported.

      Fuller’s Dispensatory describes Tinctura Castorei,  or Tincture of Castor:  “Take of Russia Castor, half an Ounce; Spirit of Castor, eight Ounces; digest them together without Heat for ten Days; then strain off the Tincture.  It has the same Virtues as Spirit of Castor.”  James’s recipe for Tincture of Castor is pretty much the same, only he recommends Spirit of Wine as a solvent, and a digesting period of four days. 

      In his book, Lewis repeats Fuller’s recipe for preparing this medicine.  He recommends it for treating all kinds of nervous complaints and hysteric disorders, noting it to sometimes be ineffective in treating the latter. 

      Estes notes that this recipe was often strengthened (or adulterated?) with Asafoetida. 

      It is also important top realize that several local equivalents for many of the official animal products used as medicine could be provided using local resources.  The Deer, Elk, Civet Cat (for which Muskrat was considerfed a possibility) and Beaver had their substitutes.  As noted in the History of New York series by O’Callaghan, “Description of New Netherland,” 1671 ( Translated from De Nieuwe en Onbekend Weereld: of Beschryving van America en’t Zuidland: door Arnoldus Montanus. Amsterdam, 1671., O’Callaghan,  p. 78:  “The pure Castor, so highly prized by physicians consists of oblong follicles; resembling a wrinkled pear which are firmly attached to the os pubis of the female beaver…”  The Civet Cats are also noted, and identified as “muskcats.”

      See Spirit of Castor.

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Tincturum Guaiacum (Tincture of Guaiac)

      “Tinct: Guac:”                              Rheumatism: p. 46

      See Guaiac.




Tincturum Hiera Picra (Holy Bitter Tincture)

      “Tinct Hpicre”                        “High Stericks”: p. 73

            Added to a Tea.

Like the Theriaca Andromachi, Hiera Picra is an ancient remedy over two-thousand years old.  The inventor of the Holy Bitters (Hiera Picra) is unknown.  The earliest formula comes from Syria, around 43 B.C., and is:  Aloes, 100 drams, Mastic, Saffron, Indian Nard, Carpobalsam, and Asarum, of each one Ounce, mix together.  This medicine served as a valuable remedy in the Asclepian Temples.  It was generally kept as a powder and made into an electuary or bolus by mixing the powder with treacle or honey. 

      Later recipes would differ, but share the use of a strong laxative such as Aloes or Colocynth. 

      According to historian Thompson, “Hiera” is a generic term used by early Greek physicians who tended to alter their formulas greatly.  Famous physicians such as Themison (ca. 43 B.C.), Pachius (ca. 50 A.D.), Scribonius Largus (ca. 52 A.D.), Archigenes (100 A.D.), Theodoretus (ca. 110 A.D.), and Galen (ca. 130 A.D.) had their own recipes for this medicine. Its recipe would change many times in the centuries to come.  Therefore the exact formula to which Osborn is referring is uncertain. 

      In 55 A.D., Alexander of Tralles produced his own version of this recipe.  He added scammony to the list of possible laxatives that may be employed and conveyed to his fellow physicians “that it (his recipe) should not be carried immediately through the system, but detained in the body and conveyeed to the remote parts so as to correct the various humours, open the passages, and remove the obstructions of the nerves, and make way for the motion of the spirits.”   This formula can be found up until the eighteenth century, and was named “Hiera Doacolocynthidis”.  

      Osborn’s “Hpicre” was probably a simpler version of these recipes.  Quoting from the Edinburgh and London Dispensatories, Lewis gives one such recipe for Hiera Picra, also known as Tinctura Sacra:

Soccotrine Aloes  8 Ounces

Canella alba            2 Ounces

Mountain Wine           10 Pints

According to both Dispensatories, the Aloes and Canella are powdered and then added to wine.  The recipe in the London Dispensatory recommends that one add Ginger, Virginia Snakeroot and Cochineal.

      Lewis felt that this medicine was excellent for treating “languid, phlegmatic habits” and attenuating and dissolving the viscid juices.  As a specific, he recommends it for promoting “uterine purgations”.

      Historian Estes notes the value of this medicine primarily as a cathartic.

      See Hiera Picra.



Tincture of Opium

In general the production of this tincture makes use of Crude Opium, and wine (i.e. French Wine; French Brandy; Spanish White Wine, Ref. Edinburgh).  The mixture is then heated gently over a fire in a Balnaeo Mariae, and then filtered.  Tinctures lack the bitterness of the more crude preparations.  The Tincture of Opium is better known as Laudanum. 

      Osborn’s chief mentor, Sydenham, had a special way of preparing a strong version of Laudanum.  Whereas traditional recipes contained approximately 6 – 10% opium (1% Morphine), Sydenham’s Paregoric contained approximately 11% Opium.  Whereas aromatics such as Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Mace, Juniper, Succin, Musk, and Ambergris were often added to help alleviate the odor and taste of the Laudanum.  Sydenham added English Saffron 1/2 Ounce, Cloves 1/2 Dram, and Cinnamon 1/2 Dram to his recipe. 

      Other Opium recipes that Osborn made use of include Tully’s Powder.    

      See Opium.




0_Untitled-13 copy  Tincture Peruviana

      “Tinct pru:”                                    Ague: p. 59

      “Tinct:pru:”                        “3d Day Agues”: p. 61

      “Cort:prue/pruv”(?)               Continual Fever: p. 63   

      Cortex Peruviana, or bark of Peruviana (Quina Quina) is used to produce this medicine.  The London Dispensatory gives a recipe for the simple “Tinctura Corticis Peruviani Simplex Volatilis”: 

“Take of Peruvian Bark 4 Ounces, or Proof Spirit a Quart.  After Digestion strain the Spirit off.”

            See Quina Quina for a lengthier discourse on    Cinchona, Quinine and Malaria.



Tinctura Sulphuris (Tincture of Sulphur)

      “Tinct Sulph”                                   Decay: p. 20

      Lewis gives a recipe for Tinctura Sulphuris:

      Produce Hepar Sulphuris by mixing Sulphur in a fixed alkaline solution; melt the two together.   Place four ounces of this resulting product into One Pint of Rectified Spirit Wine.  Digest twenty-four hours, then pour off the feces (sediment). 

      The medicine is rich, golden in color and has a “not ungrateful smell” and aromatic flavor.  It is considered to be a warm, attentuating, aperient, anti-acid remedy, and is recommended for use as a “last resource in phthisics and ulcerations of the lungs.”

      See Flower of Sulphur.



Tormentil        (Potentilla spp., esp. P. tormentilla (Neck.);

            locally P. canadensis)

“Tormintill”                              Dysentery: p. 51

      Powdered root is used in the form of a Decoction      and as part of a powder mix.

“Tormintil”                         Dysentery: p. 52 

      Powdered root is used in the form of a Decoction      and as part of a powder mix.

“Tormintil” “Ye Overflowing of the Terms”: p. 67

      Powdered for addition to a powder mix; to serve as    a strong astringent.

“Tormintil”                     Green Purges: p. 77

      Decoction or Powder recipe.

A number of species of Potentilla grow wild in New England and New York state.  Historian Ann Leighton notes Potentilla canadensis as the local species most likely to have been used as a medicine.  The official Tormentil was shipped from Europe and therefore probably seldom appeared in the colonists’ recipes.

      Another herb with similar medicinal applications is Storksbill or Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum).  Whether of not Osborn is referring to this is uncertain although it appears to be less likely.  Gerard wrote about “Setfoil, or Tormentill”, referring to it as “one of the Cinkefoiles”.  So it is assumed for this presentation that Osborn is referring to Potentilla.

      According to Gerard, the root “doth mightily dry and is binding” and was used to “strongly resisteth putrefaction and procureth sweat.”  If powdered and taken in water “from a smith’s forge where hot steel has been quenched”, it was felt to cure “the laske and bloudy flix.”  In addition, Tormentil was used to heal the liver and liungs, stop all issues of blood, and cure jaundice. 

      Culpeper suggested Tormentil for very much the same, commending it by stating it is “a gallant herb of the Sun…most excellent to stay all fluxes of blood or humours, whether at nose, mouth, or belly.”  As for use in treating feminine disorders, he added: “It restrains the whites and reds, both to drink it, or inject it, with a syringe.”

      This use of Tormentil would continue into the next century.  In his eighteenth century writing, Lewis describes its root or rhizome suggesting the Doctrine of Signatures to have been at work here.  He notes the root to be:  “crooked and knotty, of a blackish colour on the outside, and reddish within.”   He considered it one of the most effective vegetable astringents.  Therefore it was found in Cardiack and Alexipharmic medicines and added to many astringent recipes.   



Tully’s Powder

      “Tulleys pouder”  “ye Fever, an Ague, ye Cure”: p. 59

      “Tuleys pouder”                     “3d Day Ague”: p. 61

This later became known as Compound Powder of Morphine.  Potter’s Materia Medica gives as its recipe:

Morphine Sulphate             1 part

Camphor                       32 parts

Licorice                      33 parts

Calcium Carbonate             33 1/2 parts

An older recipe is given by historian Estes and consisted of Opium, Camphor, Licorice and Lime-water.

Another patent medicine sold during the eighteenth century, Dover’s Powder, consisted of a similar recipe to which Ipecac was added. 




      “Trecle”                                  Whites: p. 66

      See Theriac Andromachi.



Turlington’s Balsam (of Life)

      Consumption                                     p. 5

            Noted by Osborn as “Turlington Bals of Life”.

            Balsam for a Pectoral expectorant. 

      “astumac Disorders and Consumption”             p. 10

            Noted as “the balsam…”           

      Turlington’s Balsam is a proprietary medicine invented in 1744 be Robert Turlington.  The original recipe consisted of twenty-seven ingredients.  Basically, this medicine is a Compound Tincture of Benzoin.  Its advertising, its uses, and, at times, its success, led to its fame as a panacea.  Other names have included Balsamum Catholicum, Balsamum Commendatoris, Jesuit’s drops, and Balsamum Equitis Sanctis Victoris (Balsam of the Holy Victorius Knight.  It became an official medicine in 1746 when it was accepted as a Wound Balsam and was given the official name Balsamum Traumaticum.  Other uses for this medicine included as a cure for the stones, colic, and assorted “inward weaknesses.”   

      Early on, during his presentation on how to treat Consumption and “other Astumac Disorders”, Dr. Osborn describes his version of Turlington’s Balsam.  He lists as its ingredients Aloes, Gum Benzoin, Gum Styrax, Myrrh, and Angelica (root?) and St. John’s Wort, all of which are added to West India Rum and then left to ferment in the sun for ten days. 

      The simplest recipe is found in Remington’s Pharmacy and consists of Benzoin, Aloe, Storax, and Balsam Tolu.  Other recipes noted in the literature are much lengthier.

      Osborn’s recipe compares best with those given in Hoblyn’s and Estes Dictionaries.  Unlike these, he excludes Balsam Tolu and Balsam Peru.  Whereas Hoblyn’s Dictionary notes an extract of Glycyrrhiza, Osborn’s recipe included powdered St. John’s Wort, the reason for which is unknown.   



Unguent alba camphorated (sic); Unguentum album camphoratum   (White Camphorated Unguent/Ointment)

      “ungt alba Camphorated”   “St. Anthony’s Fire”: p. 57

            Unguent or Ointment.

White Ointment, or Unguentum album, can be made with 5 pints of Olive Oil and 2 pints of Cera Alba (White Wax), to which is added Litharge (White Lead). [Estes].

Another recipe is given by Fuller in his Dispensatory. Fuller instructs the apothecarian to: “Take of white Wax, two Ounces; melt it over the Fire in nine Ounces of Oil of Roses, and then stir into it three Ounces of Ceruse, that has been washed, dried, and reduced to Powder; and make an Ointment thereof according to Art.”  The white camphor ointment was made from this by adding “two Drams of Camphire, rubbed with a few Drops of Oil.”  The London Pharmacopoeia made use of Oil of Almonds. 

      Fuller felt this medicine was “cooling, drying, healing and repelling” and recommends it for treating inflamations, burns, excoriations, chafings, moist eruptions, and pimples. 

      This medicine is found on the Requisitions Lists for Apothecary Materials for the Revolutionary War.



0_Untitled-13 copy   Unicorn Root (Aletris farinosa)

      “Unicorn root”                            Pleurisy: p. 34

            Decoction recipe for a sudorific.

      “Unicorn” roots                     Dysentery: p. 51

            Decoction recipe for a strong astringent.

      “Unicorn root”                      Dysentery: p. 52

            Decoction recipe for a strong astringent.

      This is one (or more) of several herbs:

            Colic Root (Aletris farinosa)

            Blazing Star      (Chamaelirium luteum)

            Swamp Pink Azalea  (Rhododendron nudiflorum)

            Swamp Pink  (Calopogon pulchellus)

            Swamp Pink  (Helonia bullata)

Colic Root is the most likely candidate for this herbal medicine.  Also known as Star Grass, Ague Grass, and Unicorn-root, it is peculiar to North America.  Although it can be found in New England, it was more abundant in the southern colonies.   The roots are used to produce a stomachic tonic due to their intensely bitter resin.  These toncis can cause nausea with vomiting, and may be narcotic. 

      Osborn recognises its value for treating and toning up the intestinal tract in cases of dysentery.  His addition of this herb to his formula for treating Pleurisy is probably related to beliefs that it performed well in treating cases of Ague and acted as an emetic. 



Venice Turpentine

“venis Turpentine”                  Decay State: p. 16

      Used for making pills and boluses.

Terebinth, or Turpentine, traditionally came from the Larch tree (Larix spp., esp. L. europea).  Lewis notes Terebintha veneta to be less viscous than other turpentines.  According to Lewis, True Venice Turpentine came from the Alps and the Pyrenean Mountains and was produced by a tree identified as “larix folio deciduo conifera F.B..”  This tree was not uncommon to English Gardens.  Colonial physicians and apothecarians probably depended most upon the local varieties of Larch for their medicinal Turpentines.  

      Typically, Terebintha Laricis is a nearly transparent. yellow-green, viscous liquid that its heavier than water.  It has a bitter taste and distinctive odor that led to its use as a medicine.  It was felt to serve as a stimulant, diphoretic, and diuretic.  Osborn uses it in part due to its medicinal effects but also to help form pills with his given recipe. 

      See Pitch Pine.



0_Untitled-13 copy   Virginia Serpentaria (Virginia Snakeroot)    (Aristolochia serpentaria (Linn.)) 

      “Rad virgine Serpentin”       Continual Fever: p. 64

      Part of a Decoction Recipe.

The distinction between Rattlesnake Weed (Polygala senega) and Virginia Snakeroot (Aristolochia serpentaria) is uncertain.   It is assumed that Rattlesnake Weed and Virginia Snakeroot are distinct herbs.  Both were in use by American Indians and hence noted by colonists during the eighteenth century. 

      Virginia Snakeroot (Aristolochia serpentaria) was introduced into colonial medicine around 1632.  It is found growing in shady woods, from New England to Florida, and westward to what is now Missouri.  It grows most abundantly in the Cumberland and Alleghany Mountains.   Wooster Beach notes a half dozen local species in the New York/New England area.  

      Lewis described it as an aromatic herb with a smell much like that of Valerian, but more agreeable.  Its root imparts a warm, bitterish, pungent taste.  This led to its use as a diaphoretic and diuretic.  His statement “one of the principle remedies in malignant fevers and epidemic diseases” accurately predicts its use as a medicine.  Over time, its would become a very popular medicine added to potentiate the effects of the  Cinchona in many recipes.

      According to Pomet, this herb, “the Contrayerva of Virginia”, was used against all sorts of poisons and venomous creatures, and felt it to be “Very Proper against all epidemical diseases.”  Lemery also wrote of its value in treating bites and stings, stating “It is known to cure the Biting of the Rattlesnake up on the Spot…”  He recommends it for treating the bites of mad dogs and wounds made from poison arrows.  In sum, he writes “It is on of the best Alexitericks in the World.”   Other uses noted by Lemery include use in the treatment of measles, small pox, spotted fever, and the plague.  He considered it most valuable as a remedy for “all manner of Burning and Pestilentiall Fevers…for which there is no Vegetable, or any other Recipe that I know of.” 

      Both the London and Edinburgh Dispensatories included a spirit made from this plant as an official medicine.  The Edinburgh Dispensatory also gives the recipe for a compound decoction.  Lewis includes it in several other recipes as well including the cephalic tincture, compound tincture of Peruvian bark, a sudorofic tea, tinctura sacra, and a stomachic elixir.  Cullen agrees with its value as an Alexipharmic and suggested that its bitter, aromatic principles are responsible for its ability to prevent mortification.  In agreement with many of his colleagues, he wrote “the same qualities will account for its cure of intermittent fevers, especially when combined with Peruvian Bark and astringents.”  He adds, “(it) may be useful in some cases of continued fevers.”



Vitriol/Sal Vitriol



Water Lilies/Pond Lilies

      (Nymphaea spp. esp. N. alba, N. odorata)

“water Lilleys”                     Pleurisy: p. 37

      Added to a Poultice made of New Milk;

      to treat swelling.

“pond lileys” roots                       Rheumatism: p. 46

      Unguent made with Hog’s Lard.

“wite Lilley” roots                             Piles: p. 44      Poultice; made by boiling them in New Milk.            

The common name Water Lilies, in general, refers to two common varieties of pond weeds; both of which are quite abundant locally.  Local Historians Roberts and Shaw note one other to occur locally: Water Shield (Brassenia schreberi).  They refer to the White and Yellow Pond Lilies, respectively, as:  Sweet-scented Water Lily (Castalia odorata) and Cow Lily (Nymphaea advena). 

      The White Water Lily (Nymphaea sp.) produces a white flower that is highly noticeable and often associated with the famous Lotus (Nelumbo lutea).   Yellow Water Lily (Nuphar advena) produces a yellow flower with a corolla that does open as much as that of the White Water Lily.  Both have rhizomes measuring up to five inches in diameter and reticulate on pond or shallo lake floors for hundreds of feet in length.  Both are quite common on riveredges, ponds and lakes where the water remains fairly stagnant. 

      When Osborn mentions “wite Lilley” he may not be referring to White Water Lily, but rather to the White Garden Lily (Lilium album), noted in Gerard’s Herbal.  In a Materia Medica written only a few decades later by Wooster Beach, the “White Lily” is identified as Lilium candidum.  He recommends it for its mucilaginous qualities for the treatment of swellings in the form of a lard-based preparations. ointments, and poultices. 

      Osborn probably used “pond lileys” and “water Lilleys” to refer to the same plant.  The Shakers are later noted to have used the common name “Pond Lily” when referring to the Sweet-scented or White Water Lily (Nymphaea odorata). 

      Dioscorides notes both the white and yellow water lilies, but provides the best detail regarding medicinal value for the yellow water lily.  Gerard fails to mention the water lily as a medicinal herb.

      In his first book A Garden of Pleasant Flowers Parkinson described a white Lily (Lilium album) with a medicinal root, but fails to describe the Pond or Water Lily.  His second text Theatrum Botanicum he does cover the “white Water Lilly” and describes its black roots as being “more effectuall to coole, binde, and restraine all Fluxes of defulxations….”

      Culpeper felt the Water Lily to be under the a cooling herb.  In particular, he felt its roots were cold and dry, and thus helped to “stay all fluxes of blood or humours in wounds and in the belly” adding “but the roots are most used, and more effectuall….”   The leaves were used to cool inflammations, and an oil made from the flowers “to cool all hot tumours, and to ease pain and heal sores.”

      As time progressed, herbalists felt the Water Lily also served as a narcotic.  By the eighteenth century, many authors like Lewis and Cullen began to question this virtue.  Cullen felt “I regret tis standing in my catalogue, as it is now omitted in both the British dispensatories, and justly, as it has no virtues in its flowers; and though the roots have some astringency and bitterness, they have not so much as to desire any place in our practice, when we have so many substances more powerful for the purposes for which these might be employed.”



Scultetus, Johann Christian Gebhard (1635 – 1700)

Waxed Cork       

      “waxt Cork”         Barring Down of the Matrix: p. 75

            Used as part of a Pessary device.

Ambrose Pare, a late 16th century physician, designed oval-shaped pessaries of hammered brass and waxed cork for uterine prolapse.  These were held in place by belts.

In his A Set of Anatomical Tables, William Smellie gives “two Views of a new kind of Pessary for the Prolapsus Uteri…”   A pessary meant to be introduced into the Vagina that can be made from Wood, Ivory or Cork.  When made from Cork, Smellie notes it should be “covered with cloth and dipt in Wax.”  This pessary is kept in place with belts, drawn through two holes in the small end of the pessary and attached to an external belt “that surrounds the Woman’s Body.”

      See Whale Bone.




Whale bone, (ring made of)

      “whail bone”              Barring Down of the Matrix: p. 75

            Used as part of a Pessary device.

Johannes Scultetus (1595-1645) described an instrument in his The Chyrurgeons Store-House… Scultetus describes “circles for the matrix.”  He recommends their use “after the womb fallen down is put back again”.  He continues, “(they) are thrust into the sheath, that the womb may not fall down any more.  The Chyrurgian or Physitian must have alwaies ready at least four rings for the matrix, which must differ only in magnitude, that he may use tham as the neck of the matrix is greater or smaller.”  This method of supporting the uterus was later improved by the invention of the pessary.

      See Waxed Cork. 


Whale Bone Pessary


West India Rum

“with good rum”                     Consumption: p. 4

      Used to make a tincture of Maidenhair fern.

“in good rum”, “west inda rum”      Consumption: p. 5

      Used to make a tincture of several herbs.

      For Turlington’s Balsam of Life recipe.

“rum”                               Decay State: p. 14

      To treat Spitting of Blood.

      Used to make a tincture.     

“a litil rum”                              Rheumatism: p. 48

      Added to decoction recipe (for Diet drink)      incorporating prickly ash and white ash.

“rum”                       Sciatica/Hip Gout: p. 50

      Used to make a Diet drink with Horseradish,     Mustard Seed and Garlic.

“rum”                                  Epilepsy: p. 80

      Used to make a fomentation for “the part affected”.

Rum was one of the essential ingredients in an physician’s or apothecary’s home.  It was considered important to the diet in some cases and was used by itself as a medicine.  Along with wine, it also served as the basic solvent for making many diet drinks. 

      As its name implies, most rum was imported from the West Indies.  Along with Sugar, another West Indies product, it served as a valuable additive to medicines and, much later, diets. 

      Rum was made in the West Indies in plantations where the Sugar cane was harvested.  After the processing of cane in the copper kettles, the skimmings of this extraction process are used to produce rum.  In his story of the history of the Barbadoes, Oldmixon describes it as “a hot Spirit, and has an offensive Smell and Taste with it; it is said to be very wholesom, and therefore it has supplied the Place of Brandy and Punch.  Indeed it is much better than Malt spirits, and the sad Liquors sold by our Distillers.”

      Most important to the art of pharmacy was the use of alcoholic beverages for making tinctures.  Before tinctures were discovered, many medicines had short shelf-lives.  By incorporating alcohol into an otherwise traditional recipe, stronger preparations could often be made, and fungi and bacteria were less likely to infest and/or ferment the medicine.  The fact that stronger medicines could be made also became important.  Suddenly a number of plants, originally ineffective, could be added to the materia medica.  In the case of Peruvian Bark, a tincture made of the bark concentrated the active constituent of the bark–Quinine–thereby making this medicine very effective in treating the Agues.  A similar story can be told regarding the production of stronger Opium medicines. 




“whay”                                    Rheumatism: p. 47

“wha”                               Rheumatism: p. 48

An inspissated residuum made from New Milk and Madiera Wine, used to make a diet drink/food by adding fine mustard seed.

In his (Dispensatory) James describes the value of “sweet Whey” to delicate and tender patients.  He recommends that the patient be instructed to drink “every Morning, for some Weeks”…about a half a Pint of such a medicated Draught”.  This Draught was to be produced by adding a decoction of flowers of a mild laxative quality, such as Egyptian Thorn, Peaches, Violets, and Roses, to the whey. 

Historian Estes notes Sour Whey (Lac) to be valued for its ability to promote natural secretions and its anti-scorbutic activity. 

See New Milk.



0_Untitled-13 copy   White Ash

      (Fraxinus americana; F. excelsior?)

“wite ash bark of ye root”          Decay State: p. 15

      To make a syrup for Spitting of Blood.

“wite ashs bark of the root”        Rheumatism: p. 48

      To make a medicinal drink.

Medical historian J. Worth Estes notes Fraxinus excelsior to be the official medicine; According to  local plant ecologists, Roberts and Shaw, Fraxinus americana occurs locally. 

General uses of Ash bark take advantage of its astringent effects; the seeds were felt to be aperient.  Renaissance herbalists fail to mention much about the medicinal virtues of this tree.  According to botanist-historian Grieve, strong decoctions of the leaves and  bark were made for use as a Peruvian Bark substitute.   Lewis felt the seeds to be most effective as aperitives, but adds:  “There are so many other medicines more agreeable… that all the parts of the ash tree have long been neglected.” 

      Grieve also notes that joint pains associated with cases of Rheumatism were also treated with this medicine, explaining Osborn’s given recommendation. 

      Nineteenth century Eclectic physician Wooster Beach refers to another possiblity–the Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), also known as White Poplar and White Wood.  This was also considered a viable substitute for Peruvian Bark for treating intermittent fevers.



0_Untitled-13 copy   White Hemp


“wite hemp”           “A Stoppage of the Terms”:p. 70

      Roots used as part of a tea recipe.

The name Osborn used for this plant makes it difficult to determine its identity.  Numerous plant, valued for their use as fiber sources included the word “hemp”  in their common name.  Several of these have other features eluding to their being referred to locally, or in writing as “white hemp”.   

      Nettles (Urtica spp.) was used to produce fiber, but this was not popular in the British colonies.  The fiber produced by Nettles is white, resulting in the possibility of it being called white hemp. 

      Another fiber-producing plant is Water Hemp or Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum), recognised by eighteenth century writers for its medicinal effects.  Lewis describes this plant as being quite pungent, capable of strengthening the tone of the stomach and acting as an aperient.  He believed it had “excellent effects in the dropsy, jaundice, cachexies, and scorbutic disorders.”  

      For a discussion of some of the other varieties of Hemp known worldwide see Hempseed.

      Most likely, Osborn is referring to either a Milkweed (Asclepias spp.) or Dogbane (Apocynum spp.).  Of the Milkweeds, several are noted to exist in Dutchess County.  In her Flora, Jane Colden wrote about “Silkgrass” (Asclepias tuberosa), so-named due to the use of its plumes as a stuffing for beds, pillows, cachets, and the like.   

      Colden also described the medicinal value of this herb, noting it to be good for treating colic and bloody flux.  In a textbook on the use of herbs by Shakers during the late 1700s and early 1800s, the author notes that Silk-weed (Asclepias incarnata), Butterfly-weed (Asclepias tuberosa), and White Indian Hemp (Asclepias incarnata) were in use, the latter seeming to be the likely candidate.  

      Another likely candidate for “white hemp” is Apocynum cannabinum, which goes by the common names Dogbane, Indian Hemp, and Indian Physic.  The similarities between this herb and the Milkweeds at certain times of the year suggests that fraud and adulteration may have been practiced at a time when “white hemp” was being sold as a medicine. 

      Apocynum cannabinum is noted in the Dutchess County Flora by Roberts and Shaw.  Historian Estes notes this to have been a popular medicine, of which the root was used as an emetic, cathartic, diuretic, expectorant, and diaphoretic; none of which directly relate to Osborn’s recommendation of this herb for treating “a Stopage of ye Terms.” 

      He may have employed either or both of the last two herbs as medicine.  



White Lead

“wite Lead”                 St. Anthony’s Fire: p. 58 Fomentation/Ointment.  

Several Lead compounds were used during the eighteenth century as dyes, and medicines.  Mnium of the Emplastrum de Minio is deep-red in colour and was used to produce a plaster.  Litharge is yellow to red and has a somewhat sweetish taste.  Therefore it is also known as Sugar of Lead. It too was used for making plasters.  Cerusa, or Ceruse, is a fine white powder commonly referred to as White Lead.

      Dioscorides discussed “Psimithios” (White Lead) in his Materia Medica.  The recipe he gave for its production was changed very little.  A leaden plate is placed is an earthen urn and covered with a strong vingar.  After it has been allowed to breakdown and/or dissolve, the remaining lead is then beaten into a powder and re-immersed in a new batch of vinegar.  This is repeated several times.  The remaining powder is dried by removing the top of the alembic; the end product is the official white lead.  Both the vinegar and the powder were considered medicinal.  The vinegar was used as an eye-medicine.  The white ash is formed into troches, cerates, and plasters and was felt to be cooling, drying, mollifying, attentuating, and cictratizing.  It was recommended for excrescences, sores, and open-pores.  

      Much later, Pomet and Lewis would write very much same.  Pomet’s recipe for preparing Ceruse involved a Lead plate that was “half dissolved by a Vapour of Vinegar, and reduced to a very white Substance that is heavy and friable.”  White Lead was produced and was formed into pastilles for storage.  Later they were powdered for use.  Pomet warns of adulterants made with Chalk or Marble.   The uses for white Lead were very much the same as those mentioned earlier by Dioscorides.  Lewis added that it was an excellent medicine to be sprinkled on sores and ulcers.

            See Emplastrum de Miniol, Leaden Mortar. 



White Lily        (perhaps a Lilium sp.; i.e. L. candidum;  alternatively Nymphaea alba)

      “wite Lilley”                                  Piles: p. 44

Herbalists such as Gerard and Parkinson described the white Lily (Lilium album) and its medicinal values.   In his Materia Medica, Lewis discusses the White Water Lily (Nymphaeae Albae) as well as Lilii alba.  Of the latter, he notes its popularity in gardens as a decorative flower, more than as an herbal medicine.  Lewis felt that both Lilies were cephalic and nervine.  Their roots abound in mucous, making them applicable as external emollients and cataplasms.  No mention is made specifically of treating the piles as Osborn has suggested. 

 There is a petite white lily-like flower of the lily family that grows along the creeks in Dutchess County.  Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum) may also have been considered medicinal and used as a substitute for traditional Lilium white lilies; its speckled leaves bear a reddish tone and resemble blood.

      See Water Lily.



White Oak        (Quercus spp. esp. Q. alba)

“wite oak Stick Sawd off”                 Piles: p. 43

      Used as an astringifying Cautery stick.

“wite oak bark”                      Dysentery: p. 52

      Astringent decoction recipe.

Medicines made using parts of the oak trees are in general effective astringents due to their tannic acids.  Their bitter flavor has led some to suggest their use as a febrifuge for the Agues, and later as a Quinine substitute.  Other uses include to stop diarrhea and other fluxes, to treat piles, and to help sore throats.  Older herbals note oak to be a cure for poisons.  Osborn uses the Oak twig as a caterizing agent and effective astringent for piles;  he employs the bark for making an astringent decoction for treating Dysentery. 

      The official medicine was produced from English Oak (Quercus robur), but in the colonies this was not always available; White Oak served as the substitute  [Estes].  Roberts and Shaw note several species of Oak local to Dutchess County including the White Oak:

               Black Oak   (Q. velutina)

               Bur Oak           (Q. macrocarpa)

              Chestnut Oak      (Q. Muehlenbergii)

               Chestnut Oak      (Q. Prinus)

               Pin Oak           (Q. palustris)

               Post Oak          (Q. stellata)

              Red Oak           (Q. rubra)

              Scarlet Oak (Q. coccinea)

               Scrub Oak  (Q. ilicifolia)

               Swamp White Oak (Q. bicolor)

               White Oak         (Q. alba)

Of these, the Chestnut and White Oaks were both medicinal and edible.  Their acorns were boiled for use  as a flour, cereal or meal.   Along with others types of Oaks, these may have been harvested by local herbalists and passed on to physicians for use as a medicine.  Osborn favored the White Oak, the domineering species of many nearby Oak forests.

      Dioscorides wrote of the medicinal values of Dyer’s Oak  and the Oak Apple Galls.  the other name for Dyer’s Oak, Tanner’s Oak, reveals its use throughout history for tanning hides.  As for its medicinal virtues, Dioscorides wrote:  “Each part of the oake hath an astrictive power…”  Suggestive of the Doctrine of Signatures, he related these medicinal virtues to the tree’s ability to hold its bark to its stock, and its the acorn to its cup.   He recommends “ye Decoction…given to ye Coeliaci and ye Dysentericall & to ye blood-spitter, and being beaten small they are put in Pessums for women troubled with ye flux of ye wombe.” 

      Of the Oak, Gerard wrote mainly of the “Oke Apples”; few medicinal virtues were mentioned. 

      Culpeper agreed with others writing “The leaves and bark and acorns dry very much.”  He recommended a decoction of the bark and cups to stay vomitings,  spitting of blood, diarrhea, and “other fluxes in men of women.”  It was used both inwardly and outwardly  “to assuage inflammation”, “ccoleth the heat of the liver” and “stayeth womens courses.”

      By the eighteenth century, practitioners were relying heavily upon other methods of using this plant as a medicine.  The value of Oak Galls as an astringent was emphasized by some writers.  Pomet and Lemery gave a description of the use of Oak Galls paralleling Osborn’s application of the Oak Twig.  Referring to the “Fruits”, Lemery wrote “…the Insect whose Puncture produces them, is a small black Ichneumon Fly, which leaves its Eggs within them, which afterwards hatches into a Maggot, and from that, after a Week’s Rest in the Chrysalis State, becomes a fly, like that whose Egg produced it.”   For treating the hemorrhoids with this “Fruit”, he adds “A fumigation in Claret is good for Women to sit upon… and furthermore of the Ashes quenched in Wine or Vinegar, being apply’d, staunch Blood….” 

      Concerning the use of Oak bark for treating Dysentery, Pomet recommended it to be taken “inwardly in Decoctions to stop Diarrheas and Hemorrhages.”  Lewis recommended Quercus for “alvine fluxes; and other praeternatural secretions.”



White Pine        (Pinus strobus)

“wite pine” bark                    Consumption: p. 9

“wite pine” bark                    Consumption: p. 15

      Spitting of Blood Recipe.

“insid bark of wite pine”                 Dropsy: p. 29

      Poultice recipe.

Robert and Shaw note three species of Pine trees (Pinus spp.) to exist locally:

Pitch Pine (P. rigida)

Red Pine (P. resinosa)

White Pine (P. strobus)

Several medicine came from the Pine Trees:  Terebinth (Turpentine), Tar or Pitch, and Bark.  Estes refers to the Scotch Pine (Pinus sylvestris) as being the official medicine that served as a source for Pix Liquida, or Pine Tar. 

      See Oleum Terebinth, Pitch Pine.



Wild Bramble  (Rubus spp.)

“wild bramble” roots                      Gravel: p. 55


Osborn is probably referring to one or more of the Rubus species.  Estes briefly describes three species of Rubus, noting one to have the common name Bramble:  Rubus idaeus (Raspberry), Rubus strigosus (Raspberry) and Rubus fruticosus (Bramble or Blackberry).  For the first two, the fruit is used as a refiregerant, visceral tonic and diaphoretic; use of the roots is not mentioned.  For the Bramble, again, only the fruit is note; it served as a mild astringent.  

Roberts and Shaw give the following as Dutchess County species:  Raspberry (Rubus idaeus; R. alleghaniensis; R. hispidus; and R. recurvans), Dewberry (R. villosus), Purple-flowering Raspberry (R. odoratus), and Dwarf Raspberry (R. triflorus). 

      Dioscorides wrote of two kinds of Rubus:  “Batos” (Rubus fruticosus or R. ulmifolius), and “Batos idaia” (R. Idaeus).  He notes that both are somewhat binding and work on the eyes, gums, and digestive tract as astringents. 

      Gerard called Bramble “the Blacke-berry Bush”; his Red “Raspis” is the “Batos Idaia” (Rubus idaeus) discussed by Dioscorides.  He notes “the young buds or tender tops…stay all manner of bleedings.”  Parkinson also wrote of the “Raspis” (Rubus idaeus), stating “The leaves of Raspis may be used…in gargles, and other decoctions that are cooling and drying… The conserve or Syrupe made of berries, is effectualle to coole an hot stomacke, helpeth to refresh and quicken those that are overcome with faintnesse.”  It took Culpeper to finally discuss the use of Rubus for dealing with Gravel.  He noted its values in treating the bloody fluxes, fevers, and “hot distempers of the body.”  But he added, “the decoction or powder of the root being taken is good for gravel and stone in the reins and kidneys.” 

      The use of Rubus for gravel would scarcely appear in later writings including those of Lewis, Pomet, and Cullen.   

      Of the varieties found growing in Dutchess County Rubus idaeus may have been the one used by Osborn, with the others serving as substitutes of adulternants.  Notes on the Shakers indicate they used Rubus villosus and Rubus occidentalis as medicines; to which their common names included Brambles.   Wooster Beach notes the Blackberry (R. villosus), accepting the fact that its roots may be of some value as a medicine, but fails to mention any use of this plant for treating gravel.



Wild Cherry        (Prunus virginiana; P. serotina)

      “wild Chery bark”                         Jaundice: p. 31

      Part of a decoction recipe.

Estes notes several kinds of cherry trees in use as medicines during the eighteenth century:

            Common Plum (Prunus gallica, or P. domestica)

            Peach (Prunus persica)

            European Cherry Laurel (P. laurocerasus)

            Chokecherry (P. virginianus)

            Prunus sylvestris, or P. spinosa

According to Estes, the Common Plum was used as a refrigerant, emollient, and cathartic.  The flowers, seeds and leaves of the Peach Tree were used as a cathartic, sedative, and anthelminthic.  European Cherry Laurel became well known due to an epidemic of poisonings it caused In Europe in 1731; as a medicine it served as a narcotic and digestant.  Chokecherry was introduced by American botanist John Bartram and was used as a tonic and a circulatory calmative.  Finally, Prunus sylvestris/spinosa served as an astringent.

It is important to note that Roberts and Shaw mention the following as occuring locally (some of which may have been introduced):  Choke Cherry (P. virginiana), Dennison Plum (P. instititia), Black Choke Cherry (Pyrus melanocarpa), Choke Cherry (Pyrus arbutifolia var. atropurpurea), and P. cuneata.  Of these, Prunus virginiana originated locally and is probably the species to which Osborn is referring.  It was and still is very common in New York and references to it as “Wild-Cherry” can be found in numerous references, especially those written by the turn of the century by the Shakers, Dr. Wooster Beach, and Hoblyn’s Dictionary. 

      Early mention of medicinal uses for the cherry trees were made by Dioscorides, Gerard, Parkinson and Culpeper.  Dioscorides wrote of fruit of “Kerasia” (Prunus cerasus) noting “being dried they stop the belly”.  The gum of Cerasia, he claimed, “heales and old Cough.”  Taken with wine he felt “it is for such as are troubled with the stone.”  Gerard described many varieties of Cherry trees.  He commends the fruit from which “Many excellent Tarts and other pleasant meats are made…”  As a medicine, he tells the reader of how dried cherries are steeped in a little warm water to cause them to “swell and plumpe as full and fresh as when they did grow upon the tree.”  This medicine was then given to those suffering from “hot and burning fevers.”  Parkinson also felt Cherry was pleasing to the palate.  He notes “All Cherries are cold…”; the sour ones were dried and administered to those suffering from all hot diseases.  He felt they helped to please the stomach “by reason of their tartnesse…(and) passing well.”  The gum of the tree is commended for treating the gravel and stirring up the appetite.  Culpeper also recommends Cherry as a stomachic and apetite stimulant.  He felt that when dried, they were more effective at promoting urine flow and dissolving the stones.  None of these herbalists recommend Cherry specifically for Jaundice.

      Pomet discusses  “the Wild Cherry, called Mahalep” which is probably the Middle Eastern mahalep or mahlab cherry popular today, Prunus mahalep.   Lewis described the Black, Red and Morella Cherries.  He repeats much of what the herbalists have already written , noting his fondness of cherries and recommending them for hot, bilious, and febrile distempers.  



Wild Hollyhock        (Malva spp.?; Althaea sp.?; Hibiscus sp.?)

Osborn may be referring to one or more species of the following Genera:  Abelmoschus, Althaea, Hibiscus, and Malva.  Of these Malva and Abelmoschus are native to North America.  Althaea, or Marshmallow served as the official medicine in Europe.  According to Estes, the seeds of Abelmoschus, or Musk Mallow, was an official medicine.

      Dioscorides mentions the “Malache agria” (Mallow, Malva sylvestris) and “Malache kepaia” (Hollyhock, “Alcea rosea”) in his Materia Medica.  He recommends their use for soothing the skin and other sensitive areas.  John Gerard described “The garden Mallow called Hollyhocke” but ascribed to it no medicinal values.  Parkinson described “Alcea” and Malva noting their slimy quality “that helps to make the body soluble, and cleanse the urinary tract….to ease the paines of the stone and gravell, causing them to be more easily voided.” 

      Little is mentioned in later materia medica guides and herbals regarding the hollyhock except in reference to the imported Althaea and domestic Malva.  Osborn is porbably referring to Althaea, although Estes notes Abelmoschus (Hibiscus esculentus) as being a popular medicine.  Additional evidence comes from historian Leighton, who wrote that “hollihocks seeds” (Althaea?) were often ordered for planting in herb gardens.  Perhaps later, these hollyhocks escaped and were established as one of Osborn’s medicines.   Later, the Shakers would make plentiful use of what they called “Hollyhock”, and was later identified as Althaea rosea, for treating problems of the urinary system such as stones and infection.



Wines, Assorted

“wine”                                    Decay/Hectic: p. 13

      For making a Stoamch Bitters

      Appetite Stimulant and anti-febric.

      Used with Cardamom.

“medara wine”                                   Piles: p. 44

      Flowers of Sulphur recipe.

“medara wine”                             Rheumatism: p. 47

      New Milk recipe; to make whey.

      Nutrient made with whey and mustard seeds.

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

      Quin Quina and fine bole recipe.

“Madara wine”           “A Stoppage of the Terms”: p. 68

      For making a Steel Wine.

Several kinds of wine were popular during colonial times:  Mountain Wine (Vinum album Hispanicum), Canary Wine (V. Canarium), Rhine Wine, (V. Rhenanum), and Red Port Wine (V. Rubrum).  These differed not only in where they were produced but also in their contents of water, tartar, gummy resinous matter, astringency, and alcoholic strength.    Madiera is located in …?

      Of the wines, Estes notes they were used to “stimulate the stomach, cheer the sprits, warm the habit, promote perspiration, raise the pulse, and quicken the circulation.”  Overall, they served as a tonic, stimulating the circulatory system and helping to raise body temperature.  Others served as astringents. 

      Wine served as the base for making many medicines and many could not be administered without it.  The wine served not only as a relaxant, but also helped the patient take what were otherwise obnoxious medicines such as the bitters, the nauseants and the (caustics).   Like other alcoholic beverages. wine may also be served as part of a therapeutic dietary regimen.  During periods of fasting, it served as the basis for making diet drinks.  Osborn is doing this when he uses it to make the (stomach bitters.)  Finally, the wine may be used to make the food itself.  In the case of treating Rheumatism, Osborn is accomplishing this by using the wine to make whey from New Milk, and then adding Mustard Seed to the curds.  

      Other interesting applications for wine are found in sections covering Chalybeatus, Steeled Wine, Ens Veneris, Rust of Iron, and West India Rum.  



Wormwood        (Artemisia absinthium)

“ashes of wormwood”                             Dropsy: p. 27

      Added to a decoction; as a diuretic.

      Dia Drink/Constant Drink recipe.

“wormwood”                                Dropsy: p. 29

      Fomentation for mortification. 

“worm wood” Dr. Ferdinand’s for Consumption: p. 78

“wormwood”                    The Epilepticks: p. 80

      Part of a decoction recipe.

      Used to foment the affected part.

      Wormwood and other Artemisias originated in Europe.  They were grown in local herb gardens and dried for use.

      The Artemisias are valued for their aromaticity.  Wormwood is so named because it was discovered to be effective for treating intestinal worms.   Dioscorides wrote about two Artemisias, neither of which is Wormwood.  Bancke’s Herbal claims that it was used to comfort the heart and cleanse the stomach, ridding the stomach of its evil.  Gerard described Wormwood as being hot, dry, bitter, and cleansing.  He noted it to have the powder to bind and strengthen, and also recommended it for strengthening a weak stomach.  Culpeper adds little to this saga.

      See Sal Absinthii, Southernwood (A. abrotanum), Mugwort (A. vulgaris), and Sage (Salvia spp.).



Yarrow        (Achillea millefolium)

“Yarrah”                                  Consumption: p. 4

Part of a Tincture or Syrup recipe

for a Spitting of the Blood.

Throughout history this has been a highly esteemed herb.  It has served as a vulnerary due to its highly a styptic properties, and as a salad green when young due to its bitter taste, once considered to be very good for health.  

      To Dioscorides, Millefolium, or “Muriophullon”, was good for treating inflamed ulcers of the skin.  Gerard recommended Yarrow for staying the terms in women by putting it in the baths.  He adds, “Being drunke it helpeth stay the bloody flixe…”  Culpeper also valued it as an astringent for the treatment of nosebleeds (thus he called it Nose-Bleed), wounds, inflammations, green ulcers and fistulas.  He recommended a decoction for treating colds, influenza, and wrote:  “there is an ancient charm for curing tertian agues with yarrow..”  Its is called herba militaris because of a legend which claims Achilles forst learned of it from his master, Chiro, the Centaur, thus also associating with its use for treating injuries on the battlefield. 

      By the eighteenth century, writers such as Lewis noted it to serve well as an astringent.  Lewis recommended it for treating internal and external hemorrhages, diarrhoea, spasmodic hysterical affections, and “debility and laxity of the fibres.”  He claimed the roots to be like those of Contrayerva–agreeable, warm, and pungent. 

      Water-based extractions were bitter.  The aromatic flavor that yarrow produces was extracted in alcohol form.  Thus tinctures were often made using a rectified spirit.  The flowers are considered stronger and when distilled, yielded an essential oil of “an elegant blue color”.  



Zedoary        (Curcuma zedoaria)

“Zidor”                                     Decay State: p. 13

      Part of a Stomach Bitters Recipe.

      Appetite stimulant and anti-febric.

      Bitters recipe recommended later for Dropsy.

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

This plant is closely related to Ginger and like most plants in the Ginger Family, produces has a very aromatic rhizome.  This rootstock is camphoraceous, of a warming quality, and somewhat bitter.  It was used as a stimulant, and for treating digestive problems.

      Pomet described it along with Ginger (Zingiber officinalis) and the closely related Zerumbeth (Zingiber zerumbet).  The Zerumbeth was considered of little use in Physick;  Ginger and Zedoary were highly esteemed as medicines.  He recommends Zedoary as a Cordial, and felt it was “of great Efficacy against all Venoms and Contagion.” 

      According to Lewis, the essential oil was distilled from Zedoary, the remaining decoction he claimed was an effective bitter.  A spirit could also be made using an alcohol; this was also not very bitter.  The recipe for Confectio cardiaca utilized and extract made from this spirit.  Confection Paulina, Mithridates Treacle, and Theriaca also made use of this herb.

      By the end of the eighteenth century, Cullen claims Zedoary to be obnoxious and therefore less not as useful and effective as Ginger.  He recommends that it be removed from the listing of official medicines.