TUTSAN - THE ORIGINAL SCENTED BOOK MARK: HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF TUTSAN
TUTSAN, DAIL Y BEIBLAU, SWEET AMBER, HYPERICUM ANDROSAEMUM
Tutsan is now a common sight in most parts of the world as it has beautiful yellow gold flowers, (hence the name Sweet Amber) and red berries which turn glossy black in autumn. It is native to Western Asia, parts of North Africa and Europe and is common in the UK where it can be found in hedgerows and woodland. It is a shrub which grows to about 3 feet tall with semi-evergreen leaves that turn green-purple in autumn, matching the berries. It is often used in flower arrangements, but has medicinal properties too, although the berries are toxic. These begin red and when mature they are black. In France they were made into a compote for a diuretic.
In Welsh it is called Dail y Beiblau, or Bible leaves as the sweet smelling leaves were used as bookmarks and the most common book in Wales was the Bible. The name Tutsan comes from the Norman French, toute saine meaning all healthy. Although it was not thought of as a cure-all like its relative, St. John’s Wort, it was used as a wound cleanser and healer, as an antiseptic, a diuretic and stomachic, with the leaves being used for all such treatments.
It was introduced into Australia in 1865 in Hobart as an ornamental and has since become a noxious weed both there and in New Zealand, where it was not a native species. It doesn’t have any nectar so relies on insects and beetles to pollinate it. It is resilient and attempts to eradicate it often fail.
The Physicians of Myddfai used it along with other herbs in their medicinal preparations, such as the one below: -
“The mugwort, madder, meadow sweet, milfoil, hemp, red cabbage, and the tutsan, all these seven herbs enter into the composition of the medicine required. Whosoever obtains them all, will not languish long from a wounded lung, or need fear for his life.”
“If the disease be gravel, make a medicine of the following herbs, mascerated in strong clear wheat ale, viz. water pimpernel, tutsan, meadow sweet, St. John's wort, ground ivy, agrimony, milfoil, birch, common burnet, columbine, motherwort, laurel, gromwel, betony, borage, dandelion, little field madder, amphibious persicaria, liverwort.”
They also used it for fever medications and as seen here to get rid of stones in the organs. The Portuguese use it to protect the liver and for jaundice, as well as a diuretic.
Culpeper, the British 17th century herbalist believed that it was good for sciatica, gout and “to heal burnings by fire.”
The leaves are good in poultices and healing ointments as they are antiseptic and clean wounds. If you have a cut you can bruise a fresh leaf and rub it on the wound to keep it clean and to heal it.
Not as much research has been carries out on this plant as on the more famous Hypericum, St. John’s Wort, but what has been done shows that it contains xanthones which are used as insect repellant, and a precursor to the bioflavonoid, quercetin. It also contains hyperin (a bioflavonoid) and nonacosane is in the berries. Hyperforin and adhyperforin are found in the young shoots but not in the mature plant. Research is needed to ascertain what medicinal value this plant has given its uses throughout history. The invasive weed may have some benefits for us all.