This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Satyrion Pharm. Edinb. Orchis morio mas foliis maculatis C. B. Cynoforchis & testi-cuius caninus quibusdam. Orchis mascula Linn. Orchis: a plant with six or seven long smooth narrow leaves, variegated with dark-coloured streaks or spots, issuing from the root; and one or two embracing the stalk, which is single, roundish, and striated: on its top appears a long loose spike of irregular, naked, purplish red flowers, confiding each. of six petala; one of which is large, cut into three sections, hanging downwards; the others smaller, forming a kind of hood above it, with a tail behind: the root consists of two roundish whitish tubercles, about the size of nutmegs, one plump and juicy, the other fungous and somewhat shrivelled, with a few large fibres at the top. It is perennial, grows wild in shady grounds and moist meadows, and flowers in the beginning of May or sooner.
The plump roots or bulbs (the only part directed for medicinal use) have a faint somewhat unpleasant smell, and a viscid sweetish taste. They abound with a glutinous slimy juice, in virtue of which they have been found service-able, like althea root and other mucilaginous vegetables, in a thin acrid state of the humours and erofions of the intestines. They have been celebrated also for aphrodisiac virtues,, to which they appear to have little claim.
The substance brought from the eastern countries under the names of Salep, falleb, and serapias, and recommended, like our orchis root, in bilious dysenteries, defluxions on the breast, and as a restorative, appears to be no other than the prepared roots of some plants of the orchis kind, of which different species are said to be taken indiscriminately. The salep comes over in oval pieces, of a yellowish white colour, somewhat clear and pellucid, very hard and almost horny, of little or no smell, in taste like gum tragacanth. The common orchis root, boiled in water, freed from the skin, and afterwards suspended in the air to dry, gains exactly the same appearance: the roots thus prepared do not grow moist or mouldy in wet weather, which those, that have been barely dried, are very liable to: reduced into powder, they sften or dissolve as it were in boiling water into a kind of mucilage; which may be diluted, for use, with a larger quantity of water, or with milk.
* The following process for the preparation of salep from the English orchifes, by Mr. Moult, of Rochdale, is published in the Philof. Tranfact. vol. lix. "The new root is to be washed in water, and the fine brown skin which covers it is to be separated by means of a small brush, or by dipping the root in hot water, and rubbing it with a coarse linen cloth. When a sufficient number of roots have been thus cleaned, they are to be spread on a tin plate, and placed in an oven heated to the usal degree, where they are to remain six or ten minutes, in which time they will have lost their milky whitenes, and acquired a transparency like horn, without any diminution of bulk. Being arrived at this state, they are to be removed, in order to dry and harden in the air, which will require sveral days to effect; or by usng a very gentle heat, they may be finished in a few hours."