This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Thymelaea Pharm, Paris. A shrubby plant; with smooth uncut leaves; and mono-petalous flowers set thick together: each flower is cut into four acute sections, and followed by an oblong, red, yellow, or black berry, containing one seed, which resembles a hemp-seed.
Empl. thuris Ph. Lond.
1. Thvmelaea: Thymelaea foliis lini C. B. Daphne Gnidium Linn. Spurge-flax: with the stalks and branches clothed with evergreen leaves like those of flax; and white flowers in clusters on the tops.
2. Laureola feu Chamalaea: Laureola sem-pervirens flore viridi, quibusdam laureola mas C. B. Daphne laureola Linn. Spurge laurel: with evergreen shining bay-like leaves, standing se-veral together, only at the tops of the branches; and greenish flowers on pedicles in their bosoms.
3. Mezereum Pharm. Lond. Mezereon Pharm. Edinb. Laureola folio deciduo, flore pur-pureo, officinis laureola femina C. B. Daphne Mezereum Linn. Spurge-olive, widow-wail: with pale purplish or white flowers clothing the branches; on the tops of which appear, after the flowers have fallen, bay-shaped leaves not shining.
The first of these plants grows on mountainous places in the southern parts of Europe: the second in most woods in some parts of England: the third, a native of Germany (a), is cultivated in our gardens, on account of the elegance and earliness of its flowers, which sometimes appear in the end of January: the berries of all the sorts ripen in August or September.
The leaves of these plants have little or no smell, but a nauseous, acrid, very durable taste: taken internally, in small doses, as ten or twelve grains, they are said to operate with violence, by stool, and sometimes by vomit, so as not to be ventured on with safety un-less their virulence be previously abated by long boiling, and even then they are much too precarious to be trusted to.
(a) The mezereon has of late been observed to be a native of England also, being found plentifully in some woods near Andover in Hampshire.
The flowers are of a different nature, being in taste little other than mucilaginous and sweet-ish, and of a light pleasant smell.
The pulpy part of the berries appears also to be harmless; but the seeds, called coccognidia or grana cnidia, are as acrid, and as virulently purgative as the leaves.
*The bark of the spurge laurel, macerated in water, has of late been much employed in France as a topical application to the skin, for the purpose of excoriating and exciting a discharge. That of the mezereon has been recommended for the same purpose.
The root of the mezereon has lately been used with succecs in cases of venereal nodes. Dr. RulTel, to whom the public is obliged for the communication of its efficacy in this frequently obstinate complaint, observes, in the medical inquiries above-mentioned, that the cortical part of the root, on first chewing, is not pungent, but after a little time proves greatly so; and that the disagreeable stimulus in the fauces lasts for many hours: that a decoction of an ounce of the fresh cortical part in a gallon and a half of water (the boiling being continued till half a gallon is wafted, and an ounce of diced liquorice added towards the end) may be taken to the quantity of half a pint four times a day, is not nauseous to the taste, and has not been found to disagree with any stomach or constitu-tion, or to remarkably increase any of the secre-tions; but that on doubling the quantity of the mezereon, the decoction proved so pungent, that no stomach could bear it. He recommends the above decoction principally in those venereal nodes that proceed from a thickening of the membrane of the bones, which appears to be the cause of greatest part of these tumours, at lead when recent: when there is an exostosis, nothing is to be hoped for from this medicine; and when the bone is carious, no cure is to be expected without an exfoliation, though even here it sometimes disperses the tumour, as appears from some of the cases which he relates. In a thickening of the periosteum from other causes, it has likewise had good effects.