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Wyrtig - For gardeners with a sense of history
Many thanks to the
British Library for providing this image from
c. 1300 CE.
pennyroyal in your garden
Dweorgedwesle, dwurgedwesle, dwyrgedwysle, hylwyrt,
dwarf; dwosle may
suggest magical power; may be the name of a plant family,
with "dwarf dwosle"
being a smaller form; or may be related to the Swedish dvale,
in the sense of protecting against dwarf-caused illness.
Capitulare de Villis
Dweorge dweosle, dweorge dwoslan, dweorge dwosle,
Dweorgedwoslan, dweorgedwosle, dweorgedwostlan
dweorge dwostle, dweorge dwostlan;
pollegia hylwyrt oşşe dweorgedwesle; pollegia hylwyrt oşşe
dwyrgedwysle; pollegia hylwyrt oşşe dwyrgedwysle; poleium
hylwyrt; pollegia hulwyrt
takes its name from the Latin pulex,
and is so-called because it repels
modern name for this plant, pennyroyal,
evolved from the Latin pulegium regale, royal pulegium.
Dweorge dwosle, dwarf dwosle, is the
Old English name for this small, pungent plant.
Early healers believed pennyroyal should be
harvested, without any root, on Whitsun (the seventh Sunday
after Easter) or the Eve of St. John the Baptist (Midsummer's eve),
and dried in the shade.
Anglo-Saxon Herbal (LXCV.i) says of pennyroyal:
This plant that is named by some pollegium and by others dweorge
dwosle has many healing powers, though many people know them not *
Further this plant is of two kinds, male and female * The male has
white blossoms and the female has red or brown
Either is useful
and wonderful and they have within them wonderful power blooming
with greatest beauty when nearly all other plants shrink and wilt.
Other medieval herbals recommend pennyroyal for a
variety of uses:
If anyone suffers nausea on shipboard let that person take the same
plant pennyroyal & wormwood pound them together with oil & with
vinegar Smear this on the body frequently.
To treat a woman who suddenly becomes unable to speak take
pennyroyal & rub to dust wind it up in wool lay under that
woman it will soon be well with her.
For stomach pain and if the innards be flatulent wring
pennyroyal in cold water or in wine give to the patient to drink
and soon all will be well.
II. Puliole dronken in leuke [warm] wyn wole bringe oute women
flowi3, 7 in Şe same wyse delyuere women of Şer after-burden
[afterbirth]. Şe after-burden of women is clepid in latin secunda or
secundina. But for Şis name is unknown to many folkys as I trowe it,
I wole expoune and declare what it be-tokenyŞ by Şis name. As a chik
Şat is not 3it come forŞ hauyŞ Şe ey3 shelle going a-boute hym, ri3t
so a child in his moder wombe is keuered a-boute wiŞ a Şynne skyn
Şat is maad Şer of Şe moder seed, Şe which skyn Şe child brekiŞ
comynely in his birŞe ri3t as Şe chike bekeŞ Şe e3e
shelle whan it comeŞ forŞ. Şis skyn hauyn leches clepid secunda or
secundina for-Şi anon aftirward Şat Şe child is out of Şe modre
wombe, Şis skyn comyŞ out after be right of kynde. and if Şe skyn
tarie behynde in Şe moder wombe after Şe child lenger Şan Şei shulde,
deŞ folowiŞ in Şe moder, or ellis sum oŞer grete sekeness.
Pennyroyal drunk in warm wine will bring on a woman's menstrual
flow, and in the same way deliver women of the placenta. The
afterbirth of women is called in Latin secunda or
But because this name is unknown to many folks as I believe, I will
expound and declare what is meant by this. As a chick that has not
hatched has the egg shell going around it, just so a child in the
mother's womb is covered about with a thin skin which the child
breaks commonly in birth, as the chick breaks the egg shell when it
comes forth. This skin healers have called secunda or secundina
because after the child is out of the mother's womb, this skin comes
out afterward, as is appropriate for our kind. And if this skin
tarries behind in the mother's womb longer than it
should after the child, death follows in the mother, or else some other great
Many plants have
been used in past and present times for medicinal purposes, and as
one of the focuses of Wyrtig is the history of gardening, these uses
are discussed here. However, common sense
requires that you consult your family physician or other
health care provider before using any plant materials for medicinal
purposes. The old saying that "A doctor who treats him- (or her-)
self has a fool for a patient" is no less true in herbal medicine
than in any other branch of the healing sciences. Herbal remedies
should not be used by the uninformed; medical advice should be
sought before using any herbal remedy.