Williamson's Weekly Nature Notes

FOXGLOVES were the best treatment for a scabby head, thought Mr Nicholas Culpeper. A kindly man, whose Spitalfields herbal shop was open to the ailing and sick for free advice, this father of seven fought with Cromwell against the Royalists. Today he might have been Health Minister in the Labour government.

His contemporary Samuel Pepys, the diarist, who worked in the Admiralty, may have been a customer. He certainly shared the same bright and entertaining method of communication.

Culpeper had plenty more to say on the foxglove in 1650: "The decoction hereof made up with sugar or honey is available to both cleanse and purge the body both upwards and downwards, sometimes of tough phlegm and clammy humours and to open obstructions of the liver and spleen.

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It has been found by experience to be available for the King's-evil, the herb bruised or applied or an ointment made with the juice thereof, and so used; and a decoction of two handfuls thereof, with four ounces of polypody in ale, has been found by late experience to cure divers of the falling sickness ..."

For full feature see West Sussex Gazette 13 Aug