In between digging jobs in the garden I have found a little time to do some reading about the plant and its uses in folk medicine. I found it interesting, so I thought I'd post about it.
First of all, why the strange name - well it seems that the leaves were used to wrap butter. At the time I found the flowers there were no leaves visible, but apparently they can grow to a metre in diameter, on a stalk of up to 1.2 metres. I can't wait to go back and have another look - it will probably be a jungle in there by now.
There are many other common names for it, Bog Rhubarb, Butterdock, Devil's Hat, and Pestilence Wort (my favourite), Umbrella leaves, Flapperdock and many others. It was well known to country folk!
Nicholas Culpeper, the great herbalist, called it a great preserver of the heart and reviver of the spirits and documented the use of Butterbur to provoke sweat and fight the plague, and fevers.
|Borrowed image of Nicholas Culpeper|
The roots were dried, beaten to a powder and drunk in wine. Not sure how effective it was. Please do not try this at home Knatolee!
Folk medicine applications include use as a diuretic, to treat coughs, wounds, hayfever, asthma, stress and stammering. It was used mashed into a poultice and applied to wounds and broken skin. Warning: Butterbur contains liver-toxic and possibly carcinogenic components.
In a lighter vein, historically the seeds have been used for love divination. So, according to English folk lore, a young maiden should sow the seeds of Butterdock/Butterbur on the grass on a Friday morning, in a lonesome place, half an hour before sunrise, saying:
"I sow, I sow,
Then, my own dear,
Come here, Come here,
And mow, and mow."
|A painting by Walter Hunt|
Once the seed is scattered she will see her future husband mowing with a scythe, at a short distance from her. She must not be frightened, for if she says "Have mercy on me!" he will immediately disappear.
This is said to be an infallible method, if somewhat desperate and bold!