This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Hermodactylus Pharm. Paris. Her-modactyl: the root of a species of colchicum, brought from Turkey; of the shape of a heart, flatted on one side, with a furrow on the other; of a white colour; compact and solid, yet easy to cut or powder.
This root has a viscous, sweetish farinaceous taste, and no remarkable smell. It was ranked by the ancients among the cathartics, but such as we now meet with in the shops does not appear to have any purgative virtue. Alpinus relates, that hermodactyls, the same with what are fold in Europe, are eaten by Egyptian women to the quantity of several roots at a time; that they do not move the belly, or produce any ill effect: that they are supposed to be very nutritious, and contribute to procure the satness and plumpness there admired (a). Those, who report them to be purgative, have probably ascribed to the hermodactyls a part of the effects of the substances which were joined to them; for, being acknowledged flow in operation, they have been commonly acuated with aloes and other cathartics. They have long been an entire stranger to practice, and the colleges both of London and Edinburgh have now deserv-edly expunged them from their catalogues of officinals.
(a) De medicina aegyptiorum, lib. iii cap. 16. & lib. iv. cap. I.