FRENCH MERCURY NOT RECOMMENDED FOR USE BY CULPEPER: HISTORY AND MEDICINAL USES OF FRENCH MERCURY
FRENCH, GARDEN OR ANNUAL MERCURY, MERCURIALIS ANNUA
This Mercury, like dog’smercury is a member of the Euphorbiaceae or spurge family of plants along with Ricinis communis or the castor oil plant, cassava or manioc, and Croton tiglium or jamalgota among others. It is sometimes confused with Good-King-Henry, which is often called English Mercury to distinguish it from this plant which is poisonous. Garden mercury or French mercury has been used dried as a decoction in injections by the French, possibly for STDs, this is unclear, but it is best to take the advice of Nicholas Culpeper, the 17th century English herbalist and stay away from Mercuries. He had this to say of them: -
“This species of mercury has been confounded with others of the same name, with which it has been thought to agree in nature. But there is not a more fatal plant, native of our country, than this. The common herbals, as Gerard's and Parkinson's, instead of cautioning their readers against the use of this plant, after some trifling, idle observations upon the qualities of mercuries in general, dismiss the article without noticing its baneful effects. Other writers, more accurate, have done this; but they have written in Latin, a language not likely to inform those who stand most in need of this caution. This is one of the reasons for compiling of this work.”
It is said that the young leaves can be used as a spinach substitute, as it would appear that they lose their poisonous principle if heat is applied to them. However to be on the safe side, don’t use this herb or dog’s mercury either. Raw leaves are poisonous. It is said that this herb was once used as a pot herb but I find this very hard to believe.
The leaves have been chopped and boiled or fried in lard to make a moisturizing cream for dry skin, and the herb has been used for a number of purposes in ancient medicine. However it doesn’t smell at all pleasant, so why would anyone want to use it when sweeter smelling herbs can be employed for all the purposes it was used for. I guess it wasn’t terribly popular unless one was desperately in need of a purge, in which case it was less noxious to use than dog’s mercury.