aevensis, L. - Scarlet Pimpernel.
Compiled and edited by Ivor Hughes
This is a three part
1. United States Dispensatory 1926 Part II
2.. Boericke's Homoeopathic Materia Medica
3. Mrs M. Grieve F.R.H.S. A Modern Herbal
1. United States
Dispensatory 1926 Part II
Anagallis. Anagallis arvensis, L. Scarlet Pimpernel.
Red Chickweed. Weather-glass. Mouron rouge, Fr. Gauchheil, Bothe Miere, G.
An, annual plant, growing in Europe and the United States.
It has little odor, but a bitterish, somewhat acrid taste. The ancients
esteemed it a counter-poison, and Orfila found three drachms of its
extract to cause fatal gastroenteritis in a dog. It has been recommended
as a local application to old and ill-conditioned ulcers, and has been
used as a folk-remedy in visceral obstructions, consumption, dropsy, etc.
J. A. Heintzelman obtained from it a volatile oil of a strong, peculiar
odor, a pungent and somewhat acrid taste, and the sp. gr. 0.987. Four
drops (0.25 cc.) of it produced intense headache and nausea, lasting for
twenty-four hours, with pains throughout the body. According to Daccomo
and Tommasoli, anagallis contains an active ferment, which rapidly digests
raw meat (Rassegna di 8ci. Med,, 1892, No. 4). A. cerulea, (Schreb.)
Ledeb., having blue petals, is a variety of A. arvensia, and shares its
medicinal uncertainties obstructions, consumption, dropsy, etc. J. A.
Heintzelman obtained from it a volatile oil of a strong, peculiar odor, a
pungent and somewhat acrid taste, and the sp. gr. 0.987. Four drops (0.25
cc.) of it produced intense headache and nausea, lasting for twenty-four
hours, with pains throughout the body. According to Daccomo and Tommasoli,
anagallis contains an active ferment, which rapidly digests raw meat
(Rassegna di 8ci. Med,, 1892, No. 4). A. ccerulea, (Schreb.) Ledeb.,
having blue petals, is a variety of A. arvensia, and shares its medicinal
Homoeopathic Materia Medica.
ANAGALLIS (Scarlet Pimpernel)
Marked action on skin, characterized by great itching and tingling
everywhere. Favors expulsion of splinters. An old medicine for hydrophobia
and dropsy. Possesses power of softening flesh and destroying warts.
Head. � Great hilarity;
headache over supra-orbital ridges, with rumbling in bowels and
eructations; better from coffee. Sick headache. Pain in facial muscles.
Extremities. � Rheumatic and gouty pains. Pain in shoulder and
arm. Cramp in ball of thumbs and fingers.
Urine. � More or less irritation in urethra, inclining to
coition. Burning pain on urinating, with agglutination of orifice. Urine
passes in several streams; must press before it passes.
Skin. � Itching; dry, bran-like eruption, especially on hands and
fingers. Palms especially affected. Vesicles in groups. Ulcers and
swellings on joints.
Relationship. � Anagallis contains Saponin, q. v.
Compare: Cyclamen; Primula obcon.
Dose. � First to third potency.
3. Mrs M. Grieve F.R.H.S.
A Modern Herbal
PIMPERNEL, SCARLET Anagallis arvensis (LINN.) N.O. Primulacese
Synonyms. Shepherd's Barometer. Poor Man's Weatherglass. Adder's Eyes
(Old English) Bipinella
Parts Used. Leaves, herb
Habitat. The Scarlet Pimpernel grows on the roadside in waste places
and on the dry sandy edges of corn and other fields; it is widely
distributed, not only over Britain, but throughout the world, being found
in all the temperate regions in both hemispheres.
Description. Its creeping, square stems, a foot in length at most,
have their egg-shaped, stalkless leaves arranged in pairs. The edges of
the leaves are entire (i.e. quite free from indentations of any sort), and
in whatever direction the stem may run, either along the ground, or at an
angle to it, the leaves always keep their faces turned to the light. The
Pimpernel flowers from May until late into August. The flowers appear
singly, each on longish, thin stalks, springing from the junction of each
leaf with the stem. The little flower-stalks are erect during flowering,
but curved backward when the seed is ripening. The corolla is made up of
five petals, joined together at their base into a ring. A purple spot
often appears in the centre of the flower. The petals are very sensitive,
the flowers closing at once if the sky becomes overcast and threatens
rain. Even in bright weather, the flowers are only open for a
comparatively short time � never opening until between eight and nine in
the morning and shutting up before three o'clock in the afternoon.
As the petals are only brilliantly coloured on their upper
faces, the flowers when closed disappear from view among the greenness of
the leaves. Inside the petals are five stamens, each standing exactly
opposite to a petal. Upon the stamens are a number of delicate, violet
hairs, which seem to serve as a bait to insects, taking the place,
perhaps, of honey, of which the Pimpernel has none.
As the autumn comes on, the fruit in the centre of each flower swells and
ripens. It is in the form of a little urn or capsule, full of tiny seeds.
When the latter are quite ripe, the urn splits round its circumference
into two halves - the upper half lifts up like a lid and the seeds are
shaken out with every movement of the wind. Propagation is entirely by
seeds, as the plant is an annual, completely dying at the end of each
season, both above and below ground. A blue variety of an intense deep
colour is occasionally found in Great Britain, and more commonly in
central and southern Europe.
A number of scientific experiments have been made on these blue and red
Pimpernels by Darwin, Henslow and others. Henslow found that of the
offspring of the blue, some had red and some blue petals, while Darwin
discovered that by crossing the red and blue, some of the offspring were
red, some blue, and some an intermediate colour. Gerard thought that the
scarlet variety was the male plant, and that the blue was the female. This
blue variety (Anagallis ceruled) is described as growing in beautiful
little tufts about the hills of Madeira.
The common variety (A. arvensis) is mentioned in lists of plants growing
in Persia, Nepaul, China, New Holland, Mauritius, Cape of Good Hope,
Japan, Egypt, Abyssinia, U.S.A., Mexico, and Chile. It is to be found in
all the temperate regions in both hemispheres, but shuns the Arctic cold
and hardly bears more than the sub-tropical heat. Occasionally
flesh-coloured and pure white blossoms have been found as varieties of
The plant appears in the Herbals and Vocabularies of the sixteenth
century as 'Bipinella,' a name originally applied to the Great and Salad
Burnet. It was much used as a cosmetic herb. Howard, in The Old Commodore,
1837, says: 'If she'd only used my pimpernel water, for she has one
monstrous freckle in her forehead.' The plant was also said to be a remedy
for the bites of mad dogs and to dispel sadness. This plant once had a
great reputation in medicine, and was used as a universal panacea. 'No
heart can think, no tongue can tell The virtues of the Pimpernel'.
Pliny speaks of its value in liver complaints, and its generic name
Anagallis (given it by Dioscorides) is derived from the Greek Anagelao,
signifying 'to laugh,' because it removes the depression that follows
liver troubles. The Greeks used it for diseases of the eye, and Gerard and
Culpepper affirm that 'it helpeth them that are dim-sighted,' the juice
being mixed with honey and dropped into the eyes. It is 'a gallant, Solar
herb, of a cleansing attractive quality, whereby it draweth forth thorns
and splinters gotten into the flesh.' 'Used inwardly and applied
outwardjy,' Culpepper tells us, 'it helpeth also all stinging and biting
of venomous beasts or mad dogs.' And again, 'the distilled water or juice
is much celebrated by French dames to cleanse the skin from any roughness,
deformity or discolourings thereof." Another old writer says 'the
Herb Pimpernel is good to prevent witchcraft, as Mother Bumby doth
Part Used. The whole herb, gathered in the wild condition, when the
leaves are at their best, in June, and used both fresh and dried.
Pimpernel has no odour, but a bitter taste, which is rather
Constituents. The plant possesses very active properties, although
its virtues are not fully understood. It is known to contain Saponin, such
as the Soapwort also specially furnishes. The leaves are sufficiently
inert to be eaten in salads, of which they often form a component part in
France and Germany, but Professor Henslow tells us that caged birds have
died from eating them instead of Chick-weed, which it somewhat resembles.
Experiments have shown that it contains some injurious properties which
neither drying nor boiling destroys. Though too small to be eaten in
quantities by browsing animals, an extract made from it has been found to
have a strong narcotic effect on them and to be of such a poisonous nature
as to cause the deaths of some dogs to whom it was experimentally given in
Medicinal Action and Uses. Diuretic, diaphoretic and expectorant.
The ancient reputation of Scarlet Pimpernel has survived to the present
day, especially in dealing with diseases of the brain. Doctors have
considered the herb remedial in melancholy and in the allied forms of
mental disease, the decoction or a tincture being employed. John Hill
(British Herbal, 1756) tells us that the whole plant, dried and powdered,
is good against epilepsy, and there are well authenticated accounts of
this disease being absolutely cured by it. The flowers alone have also
been found useful in epilepsy, 20 grains dried being given four times a
It is of a cordial sudorific nature, and a strong infusion
of it has been considered an excellent medicine in feverish complaints,
which it relieves by promoting a gentle perspiration. It was recommended
by Culpepper on this account as a preservative in pestilential and
contagious diseases. The same simple preparation has also been much used
among country people in the first stages of pulmonary consumption, it
being stated to have often checked the disorder and prevented its fatal
The dried leaves may be given in powder, or an infusion made of the whole
plant dried, but according to Green (Universal Herbal, 1832) nothing
equals the infusion of the fresh plant. The expressed juice has been found
serviceable in the beginnings of dropsies and in obstructions of the liver
and spleen. A tincture has also been used for irritability of the urinary
passages, having been found effective in cases of stone and gravel. In
Gerard's days, a preparation of this herb, called 'Diacorallion.'was used
for gout, and in California a fluid extract is given for rheumatism, in
doses of 1 teaspoonful with water, three times a day.
Modern authorities consider that caution should be exercised in the use of
this herb for dropsy, rheumatic affections, hepatic and renal complaints.
The tincture is made from the Fresh leaves, in the proportion of 10 oz. to
a pint of diluted alcohol; the dose is from 1 to 5 drops. A homoeopathic
tincture is also prepared from the flowers. The powder of the dried leaves
is given in 15 to 60 grain doses. The seeds of the plant, which are very
numerous, and enclosed in small capsules, are much eaten by birds.
Other Species. The BOG PIMPERNEL (A. tenella) is another of
this species. Its blossoms are larger than those of the Scarlet Pimpernel,
and of a pale rose colour, and the leaves which are numerous, are very
small in proportion to the blossoms. It is found on marshy grounds, but is
rare: it is a perennial; whereas the scarlet variety is an annual. Gerard
speaks of the 'pimpernel rose in a pasture as you goe from a village hard
by London called Knightsbridge unto Fulham, a village thereby."
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