18th century botanist Sir John Hill, also an apothecary, playwright, actor, novelist, and journalist, was quite an accomplished gentleman. Sir John is also among the most vilified men in Georgian England for his attacks on the Royal Society, with whom he was at odds. Disappointed by the society’s refusal to elect him a fellow, coupled with his disapproval of their scientific standards, Hill wrote many strongly worded reviews of the lauded society. And they weren’t the only ones to come under fire by Hill, outspoken to a fault. He was attacked in turn, but back to his charming and informative work, The Family Herbal.
Hill states his herbal is intended to inform those who live in the country and are desirous of being useful to their families and friends, or charitable to the poor in relief of their disorders, of the virtues of wild plants, and describes his book as, ‘An account of all those English plants which are remarkable for their virtues, and of the drugs which are produced by vegetables of other countries: with their descriptions and their uses, as proved by experience.’
He prefaces his herbal with detailed explanations as to which part of the plant is used and the steps in preparing the desired form for administering its healing properties. I’ve spent hours reading over these and writing them up. Fascinating stuff that now forms a new session in the herbal lore workshops I give, the next one for Celtic Hearts Romance Writers in May (also open to nonmembers).
I love Hill’s many references to the ‘charitable lady’ who is concocting herbal medicines for her family or community and he gives painstaking instructions and recipes for making juices, infusions, decoctions, distilled waters, cordials, tinctures, conserves, syrups, oxymels, vinegar of squills, ointments, plaisters (plasters), essential oils…
His recipe for honey of roses:
“Cut the white heels from some red rose buds, and lay them to dry in a place where there is a draught of air; when they are dried, put half a pound of them into a stone jar, and pour on them three pints of boiling water; stir them well, and let them stand twelve hours; then press off the liquor (liquid) and when it has settled, add to it five pounds of honey; boil it well, and when it is of the consistence of thick syrup, put it by for use. It is good against mouth sores, and on many other occasions.” (Which means it has many other uses.)
If you are desirous of acquiring a copy of The Family Herbal, I came across a copy, reprinted much in the manner of Hill’s original work, at Amazon.
*Image of red rose and larkspur from our garden by daughter Elise. All images royalty free.