Monday, March 28, 2016

Daffodil Medicine - Scholar's Project #1

Daffodil Medicine (photo by Jason Armond)
Recently I shared a project I've been working on for months, an entry on Daffodil Medicine for the "Daffodil in Any Medium Contest", which takes place during Seagirt's annual tournament. During the event I also submitted my application to Baron Conall to enter into the Seagirt Scholar's evaluations, and this was the first of my projects to be judged.

Photo by Kimberly Grigg.
I have long been interested in the study of herbs and apothecary, having mundanely studied with several well known herbalists, and when we jumped back into the SCA last year, I began to study more about the period medicinal uses of plants. Although daffodils are quite toxic when ingested, they were indeed used for a variety of medicines from antiquity, and even today a compound found in the bulbs is being used to treat Alzheimer's disease. 

For my project I re-created three medicinal remedies: an impotence ointment from 7th century Greece from The Seven Books of Paulus Aegineta, a plaster for spots on the face from Gerard's 1597 Herbal, and a medicine for clearing out filthy ears from Culpeper's 17th century book, The English Physician. All the preparations used the roots of the daffodil as an active ingredient. I tried to find a good mix of period containers for my remedies, and also those that would enable the final products to be seen. I had a lot of fun making the beeswax linen covers for the pots.

Since none of the remedies could actually be tried, I also made a plain beeswax salve with rose oil (leaving out the lead the original called for), using the same ratio as my impotence ointment, so that there would be something for a more 'hands on' experience. This worked really well, I received some very positive feedback on it and a request for a jar made with lavender.

Warning & 'Try Me' salve (photo by Jason Armond).
One of the most interesting things about this project was that daffodils have several names within the medieval period, including Daffodilly, Daffodowndilly, Lide Lily, Primrose Pearls, and Affodil. The last one is particularly interesting as William Turner states in his 1551 A New Herball that narcissus' are indeed called both Daffodils and Affodils, but he also goes on to identify that the Affodil is actually a completely different plant - the Asphodel, and that it should be called, "The Ryght Kind of Affodil". In Turner's entries about the virtues of the Affodil, he writes, “It is also good for matery ears brused with frankincense, honye, wyne, and myrr, the same put in to the contrary ear sooageth the tuthake".

Culpeper, writing a hundred years later, writes of a similar remedy, "…the juice, mingled with honey, frankincense, wine, and myrrh, and dropped into the ears, is good against the corrupt filth and running matter of the ears”. But here, Culpeper is referring to the Daffodil, not the Asphodel, though the ingredients and the remedy are virtually identical, and enough to believe that this is not merely coincidence.

One of my hand-colored pamphlets (photo by Jason Armond).
I also created a short herbal pamphlet on the historical uses of daffodils in a period style entitled, The Ryght Kynde of Daffodil which can be downloaded along with my documentation here:

The Ryght Kynde of Daffodil: Herbal Pamphlet
Daffodil Medicine Documentation

The more I learned, the harder it was to keep a tight focus (and I believe this is going to be an ongoing challenge for me). I could easily have written an entire paper on daffodils and their varied medicinal uses, and I struggled with keeping my documentation to just five pages. The judges' feedback was very useful, and I see some of the gaps that I will remember to include for my next project. For now, I am very pleased to have passed my first Scholar's project, and to have won the contest in the advanced category as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment