Sunday, April 3, 2011

OUTLANDER Links, Part 13: Plants and Herbs

I've always found the descriptions of plants, herbs, and their medicinal uses in Diana Gabaldon's books very interesting.  Here are a few of the more memorable, colorful, or useful ones mentioned in the OUTLANDER books.  Hope you enjoy these!

Rowan berries

I looked down and saw a layer of fallen rowan berries, gleaming red and black among the grass.  Very appropriate, I thought, vaguely amused.  I had fallen down under a rowan--the Highland protection against witchcraft and enchantment.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 24 ("A. Malcolm, Printer"). Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Mullein leaves

Brianna fizzed with laughter. "I'd hate to see what they used for toilet paper then," she said.

"Actually, it wasn't bad," Claire said, surprisingly.  "Mullein leaves are really very nice; quite as good as two-ply bathroom tissue."

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 2 ("The Plot Thickens"). Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Comfrey - one of Claire's most useful herbs


Boneset - so-called because it was thought to help mend broken bones

I threw several cloves of peeled garlic into the boiling water with some of the witch hazel, then added the cloth strips to the mixture.  The boneset, comfrey, and cherry bark were steeping in a small pan of hot water set by the fire.  The preparations had steadied me a bit.  If I didn't know for certain where I was, or why I was there, at least I knew what to do for the next quarter of an hour.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 4 ("I Come to the Castle"). Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Watercress

"What are you doing, Mr. Fraser?" Grey asked, in some bewilderment.
Fraser looked up, mildly surprised, but not embarrassed in the slightest.
"I am picking watercress, Major."
"I see that," Grey said testily.  "What for?"
"To eat, Major," Fraser replied evenly.  He took the stained cloth bag from his belt and dropped the dripping green mass into it.
"Indeed?  Are you not fed sufficiently?" Grey asked blankly.  "I have never heard of people eating watercress."
"It's green, Major."
In his fatigued state, the Major had suspicions that he was being practiced upon.
"What in damnation other color ought a weed to be?" he demanded.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 9 ("The Wanderer"). Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Stinging nettles

Still holding my eyes with his own, he reached out his free hand, fumbling over the rocks ntil he touched a bunch of nettles.  He drew in his breath as his fingers touched the prickly stems, but his jaw clenched; he closed his fist and ripped the plants up by the roots.

"The peasants of Gascony beat a faithless wife wi' nettles," he said.  He lowered the spiky bunch of leaves and brushed the flower heads lightly across one breast.  I gasped from the sudden sting, and a faint red blotch appeared as though by magic on my skin.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 29 ("To Grasp the Nettle"). Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Tansy

Claire advised Marsali to take tansy oil to keep from getting pregnant, but somehow I don't think she actually did. <g>

Ginseng root

I had been fortunate enough to find four large ginseng roots the week before.  I fetched all four from my medicine chest and pressed them into her hands, smiling.  [Nayawenne] looked back at me, then grinned, and untying the cloth bag from her belt, thrust it at me.  I didn't have to open it; I could feel the four long, lumpy shapes through the cloth.

I laughed in return; yes, we definitely spoke the same language!

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 20 ("The White Raven"). Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
And finally, here's an 18th century book of herbal remedies, from lowland Scotland.  It's fully digitized and indexed.  You can browse through the pages to see the actual 18th century handwritten text, or use the index to go directly to the topic you're interested in. 

For example (from page 193):
"things which strangthens the heart: ar saffron: Rue: borrage: buglosse: herthorn mustard: red roses: violets: mace: good wine: and spirits of wine moderately taken"
The spelling is inventive, to say the least, but it's a fascinating read.  I think Claire would have examined this book very carefully.

If you find these links interesting, check out my previous "OUTLANDER Links" blog entries:

OUTLANDER Links, Part 14: 18th Century Clothing
OUTLANDER Links, Part 12: Standing Stones
OUTLANDER Links, Part 11: Science and Technology
OUTLANDER Links, Part 10: Weaponry
OUTLANDER Links, Part 9: Historical Events
OUTLANDER Links, Part 8: 18th Century Medicine
OUTLANDER Links, Part VII: Gemstones
OUTLANDER Links, Part VI: Wildlife
OUTLANDER Links, Part V: Castles and Palaces
OUTLANDER Links, Part IV: Native Americans
OUTLANDER Links, Part III: All Things Scottish
OUTLANDER Links, Part II: Colonial North Carolina
OUTLANDER Links, Part I: Culloden
What Do These Things Look Like?

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent blog entry AGAIN, Karen!

Carla

Deniz Bevan said...

Wonderful entry. I love that scene between Lord John and Jamie.

Karen Henry said...

Thanks, Carla, glad you enjoyed it!

Karen

Karen Henry said...

Thanks, Deniz! That's one of my favorite LJ/Jamie moments, too. :-)

Karen

menatra said...

Hey Karen, The Mullein leaves grow quite abundanetly on our farm here in Canada. My father refers to them as "the farmers hanky". They are actually quite good to blow your nose with! I have now passed this 'tradition' to my kids.

Mel Cole said...

I like the foliage of that watercress :) Thanks for sharing this. I love plants.

The Lit Bitch said...

I am amazed at how many different meds/treatments can be made from all these herbs and plants!!! IMPRESSIVE!! Great post thanks for sharing :)