611. Galium verum. Yellow ladies’ bedstraw.—The foliage affords the dairy-maid a fine rennet for making cheese.
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SECTION XIII.—POISONOUS PLANTS GROWING IN GREAT BRITAIN.
“On the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
I have found it necessary to be particular in my description of the articles in this section, as I find that, although the knowledge of Botany has in some measure increased, yet, in general, we are not better acquainted with the Poisonous Vegetables than we were thirty years ago. Many and frequent are the accidents which occur in consequence of mistakes being made with those plants; but it in general happens that, from feelings easily appreciated, persons do not like to detail such misfortunes; which not only hides the mischief, but prevents, in a great measure, the antidotes becoming so well known as for the good of society we could wish they were. This I experienced in my researches after several facts which I wished to ascertain regarding this subject. However, whilst we have in common use such plants as Foxglove, Hemlock, and Henbane, and which are now so generally sold in our herb-shops, people who sell them ought to be particularly careful not to let such fall into the hands of ignorant persons, and thereby be administered either in mistake or in improper quantities. Our druggists and apothecaries are careful in not selling to strangers the more common preparations of Mercury, or Arsenic, drugs which in themselves carry fear and dismay in their very names; yet we can get any poisonous vegetables either in the common market, or of herb-dealers, which are more likely to be abused in their application than other poisons which are of not more dangerous tendencies.
The effects of Vegetable Poisons on the human frame vary according to circumstances. The most usual are: that of disturbing the nervous function, producing vertigo, faintness, delirium, madness, stupor, or apoplexy, with a consequent loss of understanding, of speech, and of all the senses; and, frequently, this dreadful scene ends in death in a short period.
It is, however, fortunate that these dangerous plants, which either grow wild, or are cultivated in this country, are few in number; and it is not less so, that the most virulent often carry with them their own antidote, as many of them, from their disagreeable taste, produce nausea and sickness, by which their mischief is frequently removed; and when this is not the case, it points out that the best and most effectual one is the application of emetics: and it may be almost considered a divine dispensation, that a plant, very common in all watery places, should be ready at hand, which has from experience proved one of the most active drugs of this nature, and this is the Ranunculus Flammula, Water-Spearwort. The juice of this plant, in cases of such emergency, may be given in the quantity of a table-spoonful, and repeated every three minutes until it operates, which it usually will do before the third is taken into the stomach.