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Gerard's Herbal - Part 2

Gerard's Herbal - CHAP. 70. Of Balsam Apple, or Apple of Jerusalem.

CHAP. 70. Of Balsam Apple, or Apple of Jerusalem.

Fig. 566. Male Balsam Apple (1)

Fig. 577. Female Balsam Apple (2)


The Description.

            1. The Male Balsam Apple hath long, small, and tender branches set with leaves like those of the vine; and the like small clasping tendrils wherewith it catcheth hold of such things as do grow near unto it, not able by reason of his weakness to stand upright without some pole or other thing to support it. The flowers consist of five small leaves of a mean bigness, and are of a faint yellow colour: which being past, there do come in place long apples, something sharp toward the point almost like an egg, rough all over as it were with small harmless prickles, red both within and without when they be ripe, and cleave in sunder of themselves; in the apple lieth great broad flat seeds, like those of Pompion or Citrull, but something black when they be withered. The root is thready, and disperseth itself far abroad in the ground.

            2. The Female Balsam Apple doth not a little differ from the former: it bringeth forth stalks not running or climbing like the other, but a most thick and fat trunk or stock full of juice, in substance like the stalks of Purslane, of a reddish colour and somewhat shining. The leaves be long and narrow, in shape like those of Willow or the Peach tree, somewhat toothed or notched about the edges: among which grow the flowers of an incarnate colour tending to blueness, having a small spur or tail annexed thereto as hath the Lark's Heel, of a fair light crimson colour: in their places come up the fruit or apples rough and hairy, but lesser than those of the former, yellow when they be ripe, which likewise cleave asunder of themselves and cast abroad their seeds much like unto Lentils, saith mine author. But those which I have from year to year in my garden bring forth seed like the Cauliflower or Mustard seed; whether they be of two kinds, or the climate do alter the shape, it resteth disputable.


The Place.

            These plants do prosper best in hot regions: they are strangers in England, and do with great labour and industry grow in these cold countries.


The Time.

            They must be sown in the beginning of April in a bed of hot horse dung, even as Musk Melons, Cucumbers, and such like cold fruits are; and replanted abroad from the said bed into the most hot and fertile place of the garden at such time as they have gotten three leaves apiece.


The Names.

            Diversly hath this plant been named; some calling it by one name, and some by another, every one as it seemed good to his fancy. Baptista Sardus calleth it Balsamina Cucumerina: others, Viticella, and Charantia, as also Pomum hierosolymitanum, or Apples of Jerusalem: in English, Balsam Apple or Balm Apple: in Italian, Caranza: in the German tongue, Balsam opffel: in French, Merveille: some of the Latins have called it Pomum mirabile, or Marvellous Apples. It is thought to be named Balsamina, because the oil wherein the ripe apples be steeped or infused, is taken to be profitable for many things, as is Opobalsamum, or the liquor of the plant Balsamum.

            The female Balsam Apple is likewise called Balsamina, and oftentimes in the neuter gender Balsaminum. Gesner chooseth rather to name it Balsamina amygdaloides: Valerius Cordus, Balsammella: others, Balsamina fœmina: in English, the Female Balsam apples.


The Nature.

            The fruit or apples hereof, as also the leaves, do notably dry, having withal a certain moderate coldness very near to a mean temperature, that is after some hot, in the first, and dry in the second degree.


The Virtues.

            A. The leaves are reported to heal green wounds if they be bruised and laid thereon; and taken with wine they are said to be a remedy for the colic; and an effectual medicine for burstings and convulsions or cramps.

            B. The leaves of the male Balsamina dried in the shadow, and beaten into powder and given in wine unto those that are mortally wounded in the body, doth cure them inwardly, and helpeth also the colic.

            C. The oil which is drawn forth of the fruit doth cure all green and fresh wounds as the true natural Balsam: it helpeth the cramps and convulsions, and the shrinking of sinews, being anointed therewith.

            D. It profiteth women that are in great extremity of childbirth in taking away the pain of the matrix, causing easy deliverance being applied to the place, and anointed upon their bellies, or cast into the matrix with a syringe, and easeth the dolour of the inward parts.

            E. It cureth the hæmorrhoids and all other pains of the fundament, being thereto applied with lint of old clouts.

            F. The leaves drunken in wine, heal ruptures.

            G. I find little or nothing written of the property or virtues of the female kind, but that it is thought to draw near unto the first in temperament and virtue.

            H. Olive oil in which the fruit (the seed taken forth) is either set in the sun, as we do when we make oil of roses, or boiled in a double glass set in hot water, or else buried in hot horse dung, taketh away inflammations that are in wounds. It doth also easily and in short time consolidate or glue them together, and perfectly cure them.

            I. It cureth the ulcers of the dugs or paps, the head of the yard or matrix, as also the inflammation thereof being injected or conveyed into the place with a syringe or mother pessary.

            K. This apple is with good success applied unto wounds, pricks and hurts of the sinews. It hath great force to cure scaldings and burnings: it taketh away scars and blemishes, if in the mean time the powder of the leaves be taken for certain days together.

            L. It is reported that such as be barren are made fruitful herewith, if the woman first be bathed in a fit and convenient bath for the purpose, & the parts about the share and matrix anointed herewith, and the woman presently have the company of her husband.


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