The Universal Herbal: Galium Verum; Yellow Ladies' Bedstraw, or Cheese-rennet.

The Universal Herbal;
or botanical, medical and agricultural dictonary.
Containing an account of All the known Plants in the World, arranged according to the Linnean system. Specifying the uses to which they are or may be applied, whether as food, as medicine, or in the arts and manufactures.
With the best methods of propagation, and the most recent agricultural improvements.
collected from indisputable Authorities.
Adapted to the use of the farmer - the gardener - the husbandman - the botanist - the florist - and country housekeepers in general.
By Thomas Green.
Vol. I
Printed at the Caxton Press by Henri Fisher.
Printer in Ordinary to His Majesty.
Leaves in eights, linear, grooved; flowering branches short; root perennial, creeping, slender, somewhat woody, of a yellow colour; stem from one to two feet high, upright, slightly four-cornered, somewhat flexuose, scabrous, pubescent, below slightly, above more obviously, pale green, branched towards the top; the joints cylindric, subovate, whitish, surrounded with a slight margin; branches brachiate, opposite, alternately much shorter; flowers in a pa nicle, numerous, small, with a peculiar odour. The panicle about a span in length, interruptedly branched; the branches many-flowered, unequal, leafy, with single leaflets on the pedicels; corolla yellow. It is observed by Dr. Withering, that the segments of the corolla are greatly expanded, that the style is cloven more than half way down, and that not only the corolla, but the stamina and pistil, are yellow. It is an almost universal opinion, that the flowers and herb of this plant will curdle milk. Both Dioscorides and Galen attribute to it this quality; and Matthiolus informs us, that the Tuscans use it for this purpose, in order that the cheese they make from the milk of goats and sheep, may eat the sweeter. Gerarde, who was himself a Cheshire man, says, that in his county, especially about Nantwich, they use it in their rennet, esteeming that to be the best cheese that is made with it; and in some of the Western Isles, they curdle milk with a strong decoction of this herb. Though, says Mr. Miller, no coagulation has followed the experiments which I have seen tried, yet I should not, perhaps, have ventured to dispute the fact, were I not supported by Bergius and Kroclier, who could not succeed in coagulating milk with this herb alone. It has been probably put into the milk designed for cheese-making, not so much for the purpose of curdling it, as of giving it a flavour; or, as Matthiolus expresses it, to make it eat the sweeter. The French prescribe the flowers in hysteric and epileptic cases. Both flowers and leaves are sensibly acid to the taste, and the flowering-tops, committed to the still as soon as gathered, afford, says Lewis, a pretty strong acid liquor, in a moderate heat. Hence it appears, that the restringent and refrigerating virtues ascribed to this plant, are not grounded on mere conjecture. An infusion of the plant in boiling water, is esteemed useful in the gout, rheumatism, and sciatica. The leaves and branches dried, and reduced to powder, are sometimes taken internally for spitting of blood, and other haemorrhages, with success; and have also been said to cure cancerous ulcers. The flowers, digested for six weeks in oil of olives, make it a more efficacious ointment for burns and scalds. Made into syrup, they are said to promote the menses; and a bath or fomentation of them cures the scabs in the heads of children. The flowering-stems, when boiled in alum-water, yield a dye of a good yellow colour. The roots, though small, afford a very fine red dye, not inferior to madder; indeed an ingenious gentleman, who was conversant in dyeing, assured Mr. Curtis, that the roots produced a brighter colour than madder; and, on that account, the experiment of their cultivation may be well worth trying, especially as the rest of the plant may be successfully used in dyeing yellow. They were cultivated a few years since, under the direction of the committee of privy council for trade. The roots were supposed on an average to weigh seven ounces: and the produce, when dried, to be twelve hundred and a half per acre. - This plant is common in most parts of Europe, in pastures, and by the sides of fields and roads, in a dry soil, flowering from June to August and September. It will flourish in the most unremitting drought, when not a blade of grass is to be seen. The best soil for it is a sandy loam; heavy soils will not answer. Prepare the land as for flax: sow four pounds of seed on an acre. In April, hoe out the plants to six inches square. The crop will require three or four hoeings more in the first season. In May or June, take up as inany plants as will leave the rest at the distance of one foot square; and in the fourth, take up the whole crop in March, keeping it always free from weeds. Besides the names set down in the title, Gerarde says, it is called maid's-hair and petty mugweed, which last is derived from the French, petit muguet. The common name, bedstraw, is from the verb to strew or straw, for be fore the invention of feather-beds, a variety of herbs were used to strew beds with, of which this was undoubtedly one.

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