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Gerard's Herbal - Part 3

Gerard's Herbal - CHAP. 274. Of Cowslips.

CHAP. 274. Of Cowslips.

Fig. 1154. Cowslips (1)

Fig. 1155. Oxlips (2)


The Description.

            1. Those herbs which at this day are called Primroses, Cowslips, and Oxlips, are reckoned among the kinds of Mulleins; notwithstanding for distinction's sake I have marshalled them in a chapter, coming in the rearward as next neighbors to the Mulleins, for that the ancients have named them Verbasculi, that is to say, Small Mullein. The first, which is called in English the field Cowslip, is as common as the rest, therefore I shall not need to spend much time about the description.

            2. The second is likewise well known by the name of Oxlip, and differeth not from the other, save that the flowers are not so thick thrust together as the former, and they are fairer, and fewer in number, and do not smell so pleasantly as the other: of which kind we have one lately come into our gardens whose flowers are curled and wrinkled after a most strange manner, which our women have named Jackanapes-On-Horseback.

Fig. 1156. Double Paigle (3)

Fig. 1157. Double Cowslips (4)

            3. Double Paigle, called of Pena, Primula hortensis anglica omnium maxima, & serotinus floribus plenis; that is, The greatest English garden Cowslip with double yellow flowers, is so commonly known that it needeth no description.

            4. The fourth is likewise known by the name of double Cowslips, having but one flower within another, which maketh the same once double, where the other is many times double; called by Pena, geminata, for the likeness of the flowers, which are brought forth as things against nature, or twins.

Fig. 1158. Primrose (5)

Fig. 1159. Double White Primrose (6)

            5. The fifth being the common white field Primrose, needeth no description.

            6. The sixth, which is our garden double Primrose, of all the rest is of greatest beauty, the description whereof I refer unto your own consideration.

Fig. 1160. Green Primrose (7)

Fig. 1161. Hesketh's Primrose (8)

            7. The seventh kind is also very well known, being a Primrose with greenish flowers somewhat welted about the edges: for which cause Pena hath called it Silvarum primula, floribuss obscure virentidia fimbriatis.

            8. There is a strange Primrose found in a wood in Yorkshire growing wild, by the travail and industry of a learned gentleman of Lancashire called Mr. Thomas Hesketh, a diligent searcher of simples, who hath not only brought to light this amiable and pleasant kind of primrose, but many others likewise, never before his time remembered or found out. This kind of Primrose hath leaves and roots like the wild field Primrose in each respect: it bringeth forth amongst the leaves a naked stalk of a greyish or overworn greenish colour at the top whereof doth grow in the winter time one flower and no more, like unto that single one of the field: but in the summer time it bringeth forth a soft russet husk or hose, wherein are contained many small flowers, sometimes four or five, and oftentimes more, very thick thrust together, which maketh one entire flower, seeming to be one of the common double Primroses, whereas indeed it is one double flower made of a number of small single flowers, never ceasing to bear flowers winter nor summer, as before is specified.

            Besides these, there are kept in our gardens and set forth by Mr. Parkinson (to whose work I refer the curious reader) two or three more varieties; one a double Cowslip hose in hose, naked, without any husk; the other two bear many green leaves on the tops of the stalks, the one of them having yellowish flowers amongst the leaves, and the other only longish narrow green leaves. The first of these he calls Paralysis inodora flore geminato, Double Oxlips hose in hose. The second, Paralysis fatua, the foolish Cowslip. And the last, Paralysis flore viridi roseo calamistrato, the double green feathered Cowslip.

The Place.

            Cowslips and Primroses joy in moist and dankish places, but not altogether covered with water; they are found in woods and the borders of fields: the Primrose found by Mr. Hesketh grows in a wood called Clapdale, three miles from a town in Yorkshire called Settle.

The Time.

            They flourish from April to the end of May, and some one or other of them do flower all the winter long.

The Names.

            They are commonly called Primula veris, because they are the first among those plants that do flower in the spring, or because they do flower with the first. They are also named Arthritica, and Herba paralysis, for they are thought to be good against the pains of the joints and sinews. They are called in Italian, Brache cuculi: in English, Petty Mulleins, or Palsy-Worts: of most, Cowslips.

            The greater sort, called for the most part Oxlips or Paigles, are named of divers Herba s. petri. In English, Oxlip, and Paigle.

            The common Primrose is usually called Primula veris: most herbarists do refer the Primroses to the Verbascula or Petty Mulleins; but seeing the leaves be neither woolly nor round, they are hardly drawn unto them: for Phlomides are described by leaves, as Pliny hath interpreted it, hirsutis rotunda, hairy and round; which Pliny, lib. 25, cap. 12, translateth thus: Sunt & Phlomides duĉ Hirsutĉ, rotundis folii, humiles: which is as much to say in English as, There be also two pretty Mulleins, hairy, round leaved, low, or short. Fabius Columna refers these to the Alisma of Dioscorides and calls the Cowslip Alisma pratorum: and the Primrose, Alisma sylvarum.

The Temperature.

            The Cowslips and Primroses are in temperature dry, and a little hot.

The Virtues.

            A. The Cowslips are commended against the pain of the joints called the gout, and slackness of the sinews, which is the palsy. The decoction of the roots is thought to be profitably given against the stone in the kidneys and bladder; and the juice of the leaves for members that are loose and out of joint, or inward parts that are hurt, rent, or broken.

            B. A dram and a half of the powder of the dried roots of field Primrose gathered in autumn, given to drink in ale or wine purgeth by vomit very forcibly (but safely) waterish humours, choler, and phlegm, in such manner as Azarum doth, experimented by a learned and skilful apothecary of Colchester Mr. Thomas Buckstone, a man singular in the knowledge of simples.

            C. A conserve made with the flowers of Cowslips and sugar prevaileth wonderfully against the palsy, convulsions, cramps, and all the diseases of the sinews.

            D. Cowslips or Paigles do greatly restrain or stop the belly in the time of a great lask or bloody flux, if the decoction thereof be drunk warm.

            E. A practitioner in London, who was famous for curing the frenzy, after that he had performed his cure by the due observation of physic, accustomed every year in the month of May to diet his patients after this manner: Take the leaves and flowers of Primrose, boil them a little in fountain water, and in some Rose and Betony waters, adding thereto sugar, pepper, salt, and butter, which being strained, he gave them to drink thereof first and last.

            F. The roots of primrose stamped and strained, and the juice sniffed into the nose with a quill or such like, purgeth the brain, and qualifieth the pain of the megrim.

            G. An unguent made with the juice of Cowslips and oil of Linseed cureth all scaldings or burnings with fire, water, or otherwise.

            H. The flowers of Primroses sodden in vinegar and applied, do heal the King's evil, as also the almonds of the throat and uvula, if you gargarise the part with the decoction thereof.

            I. The leaves and flowers of Primroses boiled in wine and drunk, is good against all diseases of the breast and lungs, and draweth forth of the flesh any thorn or splinter, or bone fixed therein.

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