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Monday, November 14, 2011


At first glance, this flower looks like a dandelion as does Yellow Goat’s Beard, but closer inspection shows that the flower head is made up of florets. It contains a milky sap as do other hawkweeds but it is less bitter than that of the others and astringent, so has been used in traditional medicine in the different countries to which it is native. It is found throughout Europe and is a native of the British Isles, and is also native to West Asia. It is a member of the daisy family or Asteracea or Compositae. It flowers between May and September and is best harvested when in flower in May and June, and dried for later use. The flowers open around 8m and close in the afternoon around 2 pm, so in this too it is like the Yellow Goat’s Beard. The flowers and leaves are the main parts used. Culpeper, writing in the 17th century has this to say of it in his Complete Herbal: -
  “The juice taken in wine, or the decoction drunk, cures the jaundice, though of long continuance, to drink thereof morning and evening, and abstain from other drink two or three hours after. It is a special remedy for the stone and the tormenting pains thereof; and griping pains in the bowels. The decoction with Succory {chicory} and Centaury is very effectual in dropsy and the diseases of the spleen. It stayeth fluxes of blood at the mouth or nose, and inward bleeding also, for it is a singular wound herb for wounds both inward and outward.... There is a syrup made of the juice and sugar by the apothecaries of Italy, which is highly esteemed and given to those that have a cough, and in phthisis, and for ruptures and burstings. The green herb bruised and bound to any cut or wound doth quickly close the lips thereof, and the decoction or powder of the dried herb wonderfully stays spreading and fretting cankers in the mouth and other parts. The distilled water of the plant is applicable for the diseases aforesaid and apply tents of cloths wet therein.”
  It has been used internally and externally for haemorrhages and relaxes the muscles of the bronchial tubes so stimulating coughing and reducing the production of catarrh. It has been used as a specific to treat whopping cough and is also used for asthma and other problems of the lungs and respiratory tract. It increases the flow of bile and its discharge from the body and has been used to promote sweating in fevers, as a diuretic and tonic. It was also given in cases of ‘flu, enteritis, and an infusion was given for cystitis.
  John Parkinson (1567-1650) who was the apothecary to King James I of England and James VI of Scotland said that if the herb were given to horses before they went to a blacksmith to be shoed, they would not kick out at the blacksmith. He also said that a good shepherd wouldn’t allow his flock to graze in fields were the “Mouseare” grew “lest they grow sicke and leane and die quickly after.”
  Michael Drayton (1563-1631) an English poet wrote these lines about the plant’s properties: -
  “To him that hath a flux, of Shepherd’s Purse be given,
    And Mouse-ear unto him whom sharp rupture grieves.”
This doesn’t exactly fit with what Culpeper says, as he seems to think that Mouse ear is good for “fluxes.” However it is clear that Mouse ear was commonly used in the 16th and 17th century in Britain.
  There have been some clinical trials conducted on this plant and a new flavone glycoside was discovered in it which was subsequently tested. Monika Gawronska-Grzywacz et al (February 2011) “Biological activity of new flavonoid from Hieracium pilosella L.” in the Central European Journal of Biology Vol. 6 (3) pp.397-404 concluded that the Mouse ear flowers’ flavonoid had a “high antiradical activity” against cancer cells in vitro and concluded that it had
 “antioxidant capacity and very promising antibacterial activity and could have uses as an effective antipseudominal agent as well as an antiproliferative agent.”
  Other studies on the Mouse ear have shown that the leaves contain coumarins, flavonoids and terpenes, and studies are underway to determine if this plant can be used in medicine.

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