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Thursday, March 15, 2012


This plant is semi-aquatic as it can grow in ponds and along river banks and in streams, where it grows with watercress. It is a relative of the common speedwell (Veronica officinalis), and as a member of the Scrophulariacea family, it is related to great mullein, (Verbascum thapsus), foxgloves, snapdragons or antirrhinum, buddleia the butterfly bush and  toadflax. As the family name suggests it was once used for skin diseases and scurvy (lack of vitamin C).
  This plant is native to Europe including the whole of the British Isles, from Scandinavia down through to North Africa and across temperate Asia to Japan and the Himalayas. It is thought that the genus name beccabunga (wonderful isn’t it?) came from the Flemish words, bech and punge, which mean mouth-smart an allusion to the fact that the edible leaves can do that. They may be eaten with other pungent green leaves such as watercress in salads and can be cooked (steamed) with other leafy green vegetables such as spinach.
  In Britain the plant flowers between May and September and is sometimes cultivated in garden ponds. At one time its sap was an ingredient of “spring juice” a tonic made with this, the juice of Seville or bitter oranges and scurvy-grass  to combat scurvy after the winter months when there was little in the way of vitamin C to be had.
 Apart from using the plant for scurvy, the leaves were bruised and placed on burns, sores and ulcers and used to heal wounds, although Self-heal and All-heal have a much better wound-healing action. They have diuretic activity too and were used for urinary tract infections, as well as to promote sweating in fevers and to stimulate the menstrual flow.
  Nicholas Culpeper has this to say about the herb:-
Government and virtues. It is a hot and biting martial plant: brooklime and water-cresses are generally used together in diet-drinks, with other things serving to purge the blood and body from ill-humours that would destroy health, and are helpful for the scurvy: they do also provoke urine, and help to break the stone, and pass it away; they provoke women's courses, and expel the dead child. Being fried with butter and vinegar, and applied warm, it helpeth all manner of tumours, swellings, and inflammations.
Such drinks ought to be made of sundry herbs according to the malady offending.”
  It is not recommended to eat this plant’s leaves as a vegetable as they are said to have purgative effect, and they should not be used by pregnant or breast-feeding women.

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