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Friday, February 24, 2012

WALL OR COMMON GERMANDER, NO LONGER RECOMMENDED FOR INTERNAL USE: HISTORY OF USES OF WALL GERMANDER


WALL OR COMMON GERMANDER, TEUCRIUM CHAMAEDRYS 
Wall Germander is native to Europe and the Mediterranean region. It grows to about a foot high and wide, and is an evergreen shrub, naturalized in Britain because it was widely cultivated for medicinal purposes. It is a member of the mint family, (Labiatae or Lamiaceae family) and as such is related to marjoram, basil, Holy basil, oregano, savory, thyme, lavender, lemon balm, bugle, motherwort, self-heal, cat nip, the chaste tree, ground ivy, Jupiter’s sage and hyssop, among many other plants.
  It was used in Elizabethan and Jacobean knot gardens and planted as an ornamental. Bees love this plant and will ignore others and go to it in a herb garden. It usually has pink through to pale purple flowers, although these can be white, but this is rare.
  It has been found to cause hepatitis and jaundice so its use is not recommended. However in the past it was used as a diuretic for gout and as a diaphoretic (promoter of sweat in fevers); it was also used in tonic wines and as a stimulant, with the leaves generally being used, although the whole herb can be collected in July when the flowers are still blooming, and dried for later use.
  Germander is believed to be a corruption of chamaedrys, which means ground oak- so named because the leaves look like those of an oak tree. (Chamai means ground and drys oak in Greek.) The genus name, Teucrium is thought to refer to King Teucer of Troy, who was famed as an archer. One of the uses of the leaves is in an infusion to heal wounds as these have astringent qualities. This infusion can also be used as a mouth wash for bleeding gums, and was once used as an antidote to snake bites.
  The leaves have been used to flavour vermouths, and bitters, as well as liqueurs, and it has also been used in much the same ways medicinally as the bitter herb, horehound.
  It is said that King Charles V the Holy Roman Emperor was cured of gout after taking a treatment involving germander for 60 days. Today the plant is mixed with wild celery (Apium graveolens) and meadowsweet and Guaiacum officinale to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
  In one trial it exhibited analgesic (pain-relieving) and anti-inflammatory properties (“Analgesic and Anti-inflammatory Activity of Teucrium chamaedrys Leaves Aqueous Extract in Male Rats” Ali Pourmatabbed et al. Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences Vol.13 (3) pp119-125, summer 2010.)
  Culpeper, writing in the 17th century has this to say of the plant:-
  “Government and virtues. It is a most prevalent herb of Mercury, and strengthens the brain and apprehension exceedingly when weak, and relieves them when drooping. This taken with honey (saith Dioscorides) is a remedy for coughs, hardness of the spleen and difficulty of urine, and helps those that are fallen into a dropsy, especially at the beginning of the disease, a decoction being made thereof when it is green, and drank. It also brings down women's courses, and expels the dead child. It is most effectual against the poison of all serpents, being drank in wine, and the bruised herb outwardly applied; used with honey, it cleanses old and foul ulcers; and made into an oil, and the eyes anointed therewith, takes away the dimness and moistness. It is likewise good for the pains in the sides and cramps. The decoction thereof taken for four days together, drives away and cures both tertain and quartan agues. It is also good against all diseases of the brain, as continual head-ache, falling-sickness, melancholy, drowsiness and dullness of the spirits, convulsions and palsies. A dram of the seed taken in powder purges by urine, and is good against the yellow jaundice. The juice of the leaves dropped into the ears kills the worms in them. The tops thereof, when they are in flowers, steeped twenty-four hours in a drought of white wine, and drank, kills the worms in the belly.”

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