Gypsywort: Lycopus

Here’s a little commentary on what Culpeper wrote about Gypsywort (Lycopus europaeus). The genus Lycopus is used in Europe, North America, and China, and perhaps other places. Do you know of other species used? I have used two North American species (L. americanus and L. asper), the former from the East Coast while the latter is from the West. I have also gathered and used the Chinese species L. lucidus, a much larger species that has proven very easy to grow. This commentary is a little snippet from my forthcoming book, enjoy.

Culpeper says, “The decoction of the leaves and flowers made in wine, and thaken, dissolveth the congealed blood in those that are bruised inwardly by a fall, or otherwise, and is very effectual for any inward wounds, thrusts or stabs in the body or bowels; and is an especial help in all wound-drinks, and for those that are liver-grown (as they call it.)” Here Culpeper is obviously discussing this plants use for blood stasis, and likely has as similar understanding to our Chinese medicinal understanding, at least in these particular cases of injury. At the end he says that it is “and especial help …. for those that are liver-grown,” which means an enlarged liver. This seems to indicate a direct action on the liver. Culpeper also discusses this medicinal by saying, “ It is wonderful in curing all manner of ulcers and sores, whether new and fresh, or old and inveterate;…gangrenes and fistulas …” Here he mentions external application, but is not specific, so it is difficult to say whether he used it both internally and externally, or only externally. It is likely that he was thinking about this as a plant that would quicken the blood and thus bring fresh blood supply to the area and assist healing since this was a common understanding at the time, thus reinforcing the idea that this medicinal quickens the blood.

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