648. MERCURIALIS perennis. Dog’s Mercury.—This plant is of a soporific deleterious nature, and is said to be noxious to both man and beast. Many instances are recorded of its fatal effects.
Mr. Ray acquaints us with the case of a man, his wife, and three children, who were poisoned by eating it fried with bacon: and a melancholy instance is related in the Philosophical Transactions, Number CCIII., of its pernicious effects upon a family who ate at supper the herb boiled and fried. It produced at first nausea and vomiting, and comatose symptoms afterwards; two of the children slept twenty-four hours; when they awoke, they vomited again, and recovered. The other girl could not be awakened during four days; at the expiration of which time she opened her eyes and expired.
It appears that the different species of Chenopodium have been mistaken for this plant. I do not see myself any very near likeness: but as all the species of Chenopodium have been called English Mercury, it is possible that the name may have been the cause of the mistake.
649. MERCURIALIS annua. Annual dog’s Mercury.—Persons who are in the habit of gathering wild herbs to cook, should be careful of this. It grows plentifully in all rich grounds, and is common with Fat Hen and the other herbs usually collected for such purposes in the spring, and from which it is not readily distinguished: at least, I cannot describe a difference that a person ignorant of botany can distinguish it by.
650. Periploca graeca.—This is an ornamental creeping plant, and commonly grown in gardens for covering verandas, and other places for shade.
I once witnessed a distressing case. A nurse walking in a garden gathered flower of this plant, and gave it to a child which she had in her arms. The infant having put it to its mouth, it caused a considerable swelling and inflammation, which came on so suddenly, that, had it not been that one of the labourers had met with a similar accident, no one would have known the cause. The child was several days before it was out of danger, as the inflammation had reached the throat.
651. Veratrum album. White hellebore.—The roots of this plant, and also of the Veratrum nigrum, have been imported mixed with the roots of yellow gentian, and have proved poisonous.—Lewis’s Materia Medica.
* * * * *
The deleterious effects of these generally show themselves soon after they are in the stomach. Vomiting should be immediately excited, and then the vegetable acids should be given; either vinegar, lemon-juice, or that of apples; after which, give ether and antispasmodic remedies, to stop the excessive bilious vomiting. Infusions of gall-nut, oak-bark, and Peruvian bark, are recommended as capable of neutralizing the poisonous principle of mushrooms. It is however the safest way not to eat any of these plants until they have been soaked in vinegar. Spirit of wine, and ether, extract some part of their poison; and tanning matter decomposes the greatest part of it.