Mattioli’s Dioscorides illustrated by Cibo (Discorsi by Mattioli and Cibo)

Mattioli’s Dioscorides illustrated by Cibo (Discorsi by Mattioli and Cibo) European heliotrope (Heliotropium europaeum), f. 44r

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European heliotrope (Heliotropium europaeum), f. 44r

The great heliotrope bears a flower that looks like a scorpion's tail and for this reason it is called scorpion’s tail, and it is called heliotrope because its leaves turn to follow the sun. It has leaves like basil, but hairier, paler and larger. From its roots grow three, four and often five stems, with many axils, from which emerge white or reddish flowers at the top, curved like a scorpion's tail. Its root, soft and not of any use, grows in rugged places. The decoction of one handful of this herb, prepared in water and drunk, purges bile and phlegm by moving the bowels. Both when drunk with wine or applied as a poultice, it is a strong remedy against the scorpion's sting. Bound around [the body], it prevents conception. It is said that four grains of the seed cause quartan fever to end if drunk an hour before the onset, as three grains will do with tertian fever. The seed applied as a poultice dries up warty and pendulous vesicles, the growths of skin called thymuses, as well as pustules that form overnight. A poultice prepared with the leaves is useful if applied to the heads of children with heatstroke, and to dislocated joints or those affected by gout. The leaves induce the menstrual cycle and, applied from below, parturition (f. 43v).

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