This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Beta vulgaris Linn. Beet: a plant with large, smooth, broad-ribbed, juicy leaves; and slender, striated, branched stalks; bearing spikes of imperfect flowers standing in five-leaved cups, followed each by a roundish, rough, warty seed-vessel. Different sorts of this plant, supposed by Linnaeus to be varieties of the wild beet found on some of the sea coasts of England and Holland, are cultivated in our culinary gardens: a whitish-leaved called sicula or cicla, a green-leaved, and a reddish-leaved, all with long thick white roots; and a long-rooted, and a turnep-rooted, all over red. They are all biennial.
Beets, used as food, are difficult of digestion, and afford little nourishment: taken in quantity, they tend to loosen the belly, and are supposed by some to be prejudicial to the stomach. Their emollient or laxative virtue is extracted by boiling in water, and may be concentrated, though not without considerable diminution, by infpiffating the decoction. The red sorts give out their colour along with their aqueous juice upon expression, and by infusion tinge rectified spirit as well as water of a deep red. The juice, both of the roots and the leaves, of the red and the white beets, snuffed up the nose, is said to be a powerful errhine, occasioning a copious discharge of mucus without provoking sneezing.
The roots of the beets have, when dry, an agreeable sweetish taste, which is totally extracted by boiling in rectified spirit: the tinctures, on standing some weeks in a cool place, deposite whitish saline concretions, of a saccha-rine sweetness. Mr. Marggraf observes, that the red beet loses in drying seven eighths of its weight, and the white six eighths; that the dry beet root yields nearly one twenty-sixth its weight of the saccharine salt, and the white sort one sixteenth; and that a good sugar is obtainable from the juice of the fresh roots, by the method practiced abroad for preparing it from the sugar cane (a).