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Gerard's Herbal

Gerard's Herbal - CHAP. 481. Of White Carline Thistle of Dioscorides.

CHAP. 481. Of White Carline Thistle of Dioscorides.


Fig. 1642. Tall Carline Thistle (1)

Fig. 1643. Red Carline Thistle (2)


The Description.

            1. The leaves of Carline are very full of prickles, cut on both edges with a multitude of deep gashes, and set along the corners with stiff and very sharp prickles; the middle ribs whereof are sometimes red: the stalk is a span high or higher, bringing forth for the most part only one head or knop being full of prickles, on the outward circumference or compass like the urchin husk of a chesnut: and when this openeth at the top, there groweth forth a broad flower, made up in the middle like a flat ball, of a great number of threads, which is compassed about with little long leaves, oftentimes somewhat white, very seldom, red: the seed underneath is slender and narrow, the root is long, a finger thick, something black; so chinked as though it were split in sunder, sweet of smell, and in taste somewhat bitter.

            2. There is also another hereof without a stalk, with leaves also very full of prickles, like almost to those of the other, lying flat on the ground on every side: among which there groweth forth in the middle a round head or knop, set with prickles without after the same maner, but greater: the flower whereof in the middle is of strings, and paled round about with red leaves, and sometimes with white, in fair and calm weather the flowers both of this and also of the other lay themselves wide open, and when the weather is foul and misty, are drawn close together: the root hereof is long, and sweet of smell, white, sound, not nicked or splitted as the other.

Fig. 1644. Dwarf Carline Thistle (3)

            3. This small purple Carline Thistle hath a pretty large root divided oft-times at the top into divers branches, from which rise many green leaves lying spread upon the ground, deeply cut and set with sharp prickles; in the midst of these leaves come up sometimes one, but otherwhiles more scaly heads, which carry a pretty large flower composed of many purple threads, like that of the Knapweed, but larger, and of a brighter colour; these heads grow usually close to the leaves, yet sometimes they stand upon stalks three or four inches high: when the flower is past they turn into down, and are carried away with the wind: the seed is small and greyish. This grows upon Blackheath, upon the chalky hills about Dartford, and in many such places. It flowers in July and August. Tragus calls it Chamæleon albus, vel exiguus; Lobel, Carduus acaulis, septentrionalium, and Chamæleon albus, cordi: Clusius, Carlina minor purpureo flore, and he saith in the opinion of some, it seems not unlike to the Chamæleon whereof Theophrastus makes mention, lib. 6. cap. 3. Hist. plant.

The Place.

            They both grow upon high mountains in desert places, and oftentimes by highway sides: but that which bringeth forth a stalk groweth everywhere in Germany, and is a stranger in England.

The Time.

            They flower and seed in July and August, and many times later.

The Names.

            The former is called in Latin; Carlina, and Cardopatium; and of divers, Carolina, of Charlemagne the first Roman Emperor of that name, whose army (as it is reported) was in times past through the benefit of this root delivered and preserved from the plague: it is called in High Dutch Eberwurtz: in low Dutch, French, and other languages, as likewise in English, Carline, and Carline Thistle: it is Dioscorides his Leucacantha, the strong and bitter roots show the same; the faculties also are answerable, as forthwith we will declare: Leucacantha hath also the other names, but they are counterfeit, as among the Romans Gniacardus; and among the Tuscans, Spina alba, or White Thistle, yet doth it differ from that Thistle which Dioscorides calleth Spina alba, of which he also writing apart, doth likewise attribute to both of them their own proper faculties and operation and the same differing.

            The later writers do also call the other Carlina altera, and Carlina humilis, or minor, low or little Carline: but they are much deceived who go about to refer them both to the Chamæleons; for in Italy, Germany, or France, Chamæleones, the Chamæleons do never grow, as there is one witness for many, Petrus Bellonius, in his first book Of Singularities, who sufficiently declareth what difference there is between the Carlines and the Chamæleons; which thing shall be made manifest by the description of the Chamæleons.

The Temperature and Virtues.

            A. The root of Carline, which is chiefly used, is hot in the later end of the second degree, and dry in the third, with a thinness of parts and substance; it procureth sweat, it driveth forth all kind of worms of the belly, it is an enemy to all manner of poisons, it doth not only drive away infections of the plague, but also cureth the same, if it be drunk in time.

            B. Being chewed it helpeth the toothache; it openeth the stoppings of the liver and spleen.

            C. It provoketh urine, bringeth down the menses, and cureth the dropsy.

            D. And it is given to those that have been dry beaten, and fallen from some high place.

            E. The like operations Dioscorides hath concerning Leucacantha: Leucacantha (saith he) hath a root like Cyperus, bitter and strong, which being chewed easeth the pain of the teeth: the decoction thereof with a draught of wine is a remedy against pains of the sides, and is good for those that have the Sciatica or ache in the huckle bones, and for them that be troubled with the cramp.

            F. The juice also being drunk is of like virtues.

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