Viscum album. N.O. Loranthaceae.
Synonym ► European Mistletoe, Birdlime Mistletoe.
Habitat ► Parasitic on the Oak, Hawthorn, Apple and many other trees.
Features ► This familiar evergreen is a true parasite, receiving no nourishment from the soil, nor even from the decaying bark. The leaves are obtuse lance-shaped, broader towards the end, sessile, and grow from a smooth-jointed stem about a foot high. The flower-heads are yellowish and the berries white. The plant is tasteless and without odour.
Part used ► Leaves.
Action ► Highly valued as a nervine and antispasmodic.
Mistletoe leaves are given in hysteria, epilepsy, chorea and other diseases of the nervous system. As an anti-spasmodic and tonic it is used in cardiac dropsy.
Culpeper is at his most “Culpeperish” in discussing this plant, as witness ►
“The birdlime doth mollify hard knots, tumours and imposthumes, ripeneth and discuteth them; and draweth thick as well as thin humours from remote parts of the body, digesting and separating them. And being mixed with equal parts of resin and wax, doth mollify the hardness of the spleen, and healeth old ulcers and sores. Being mixed with Sandarack and Orpiment, it helpeth to draw off foul nails; and if quicklime and wine lees be added thereunto it worketh the stronger. Both the leaves and berries of Mistletoe do heat and dry, and are of subtle parts.”
While some truth may be hidden behind all this quaint terminology, it is feared that the modern herbal consultant would encounter serious difficulties if he attempted to follow the Culpeperian procedure too literally—although certain people still believe, or affect to believe, that he does so!
The birdlime mentioned in the quotation and also in the synonyms is the resin viscin, from the Latin viscum, birdlime.
Linum cartharticum. N.O. Linaceae
Synonym ► Purging Flax.
Habitat ► Heaths, moorlands; occasionally meadows and pastures.
Features ► Stem simple, up to eight inches high. Leaves opposite, small, lower obovate, higher lanceolate, entire. Flowers small, white (June to September), five-parted with serrate sepals, pointed petals. Taste, bitter and acrid.
Part used ► Herb.
Action ► Laxative, cathartic.
In constipation, action similar to Senna, and sometimes preferred to the latter; rarely gripes. Occasionally prescribed with diuretics, etc., for gravel and dropsy. Combined with tonics and stomachics such as Gentian and Calumba root, makes a first-rate family medicine. Dose, wineglass of the ounce to pint infusion.