Herbal Medicine Used in Regency Period

There is a scene in the The Earl Claims His Comfort where my heroine, who is what was known as a “white witch,” meaning she was a healer dealing in herbs and potions, was treating a leg wound of one of the estate’s servants. 

To create the scene, I was determined to discover what choice the young lady would have at her disposal. Naturally, I went first to Culpepper’s Complete Herbal: Consisting of a Comprehensive Description of Nearly All Herbs with Their Medicinal Properties and Directions for Compounding the Medicines Extracted from Them (W. Foulsham & Co., Ltd.) If you do not know this book or anything of Nicholas Culpepper, it would be well worth your search when it comes to natural remedies.

Okay, so here are some of the suggested remedies for treating wounds:

Alkanet (Green) - Wild Flower Finder wildflowerfinder.org.uk

Alkanet (Green) – Wild Flower Finder

Alkanet has a thick root of a red color and long narrow, hairy leaves. In ointment form can be used for ulcers and burns. It is used for leprosy if made into a vinegar. It is also good for yellow jaundice and gravel in the kidneys. Alkanet works well wether taken internally or applied directly to the wound made by a venomous varmint. Some believe if the victim chews the leaves and then spits into the mouth of the serpent, the snake will die. It can be mixed with wine to help with back pain. Unfortunately for my writing, Alkanet is found in Kent, Devonshire, and Cornwall. As my story takes place in Yorkshire, this herb was eliminated.

Benefits Of Adder’s Tongue For Health | Tips Curing Disease www.tipdisease.com

Benefits Of Adder’s Tongue For Health | Tips Curing Disease

Adder’s Tongue is an herb with one leaf. It grows in moist meadows. It Adder’s tongue is mixed with distilled water of horse-tail is proves as a remedy for all manner of wounds in the breasts, bowels, etc.Those experiencing vomiting or bleeding at the mouth or nose will find it of use. It is used for eye infections. The plant flourishes in April and May, but it dries out soon afterwards. As my book starts in late August, the herb is also not to my liking for story purposes. 


Goldenrod Plants - Wildflowers With Golden Flowers landscaping.about.com

Goldenrod Plants – Wildflowers With Golden Flowers








Goldenrod flowers in July and last until August, which was a plus for the story purposes. In distilled water, goldenrod works well for bruises or as a diuretic or for kidney stones. It is good “to stay the immoderate flux of women’s courses, the bloody flux, ruptures, ulcers in the mouth or throat, and in lotions to wash the privy parts in venereal cases.” None of these fit my storyline, but I will keep this herb in mind for future use. 

 Privet - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia en.wikipedia.org

Privet – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Privet is a bush that grows in divers woods. It flowers in June and July, and the berries ripe in August and September. In a lotion it is used to wash sores and sore mouths to cool inflammations and to dry up fluxes. Sweet water made from the flowers heals all the diseases needing cooling and drying. It assists in the fluxes of the belly and stomach, bloody fluxes, and women’s courses, if drunk or applied, and the voiding of blood at the mouth or for distilling rheum from the eyes. My character has a several puncture wounds in his thigh. Again, this one did not work for my storyline.

medicine lore - a 14th century medicine chest medicinelore.weebly.com This delicate ground cover may also be referred to as Herb True Love, or True-lover's Knot. A relative of Trillium, it is found in woodland settings.

medicine lore – a 14th century medicine chest
This delicate ground cover may also be referred to as Herb True Love, or True-lover’s Knot. A relative of Trillium, it is found in woodland settings.

Herb-True Love has a small creeping root running under the uppermost crust of the earth, shooting forth stalks with leaves and berries. This plant grows in woods and copses throughout England, but is more plentiful in Kent. They spring up in late April or early May, and the berries ripen in May and June. The berries can be administered for a variety of poisons, especially aconites and pestilential disorder. Colic can be relieved if the roots are turned to a powder form and mixed with wine. The leaves are helpful with sores and ulcers. They are “powerful to discuss all tumors and swellings in the privy parts, the groin, or any other part of the body, and to allay all inflammations.” It also works with healing the nails on feet or hands. This one had promise, but not exactly for what I was looking.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA - Purple Loosetrife — Faculty of Arts & Science www.artsci.utoronto.ca

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA – Purple Loosetrife — Faculty of Arts & Science

Loosestrife has brown hairy stalks, yellowish-green leaves (usually two at each joint), and flowers that stand several together on top of the branches. It grows in watery places and along riverbanks and flower in June to late August. Loosestrife can be used for all manner of bleeding of the mouth or nose, as well as fluxes of the belly. It can be taken either as a drink or by clyster. It also assists women with difficult courses. It is good for green wounds to stay the bleeding and quickly closing up the sides of a wound if the herb is bruised and the juice only applied. It also works well as a gargle for sore-throats. If one burns the plants, the some will drive troublesome gnats and flies. This one had real promise.

I also researched Alehoof, Avens, Beans, Bishop’s Weed, Blackberry bush, Buck’s Horn Plantain, Clown’s Woundwort, Coralwort, Cudweed, Daisies, Down, Elm tree, narrow leafed and Welsh forms of Goldenrod, Knotgrass, Moneywort, Mouse-ear, Garden Rue, Saracen’s Consound, Solomon’s Seal, Tansy, Tutsan, and Yarrow.

Random Plant: Cleavers/stickywilly/catchweed bedstraw | The Life of Your Time thelifeofyourtime.wordpress.com

Random Plant: Cleavers/stickywilly/catchweed bedstraw | The Life of Your Time

At length, I chose to make reference to Cleavers. It is an annual succulent plant, which grows two to six feet high and is hairy at the joints. It can be found growing by hedge and ditches, and it can easily overrun a person’s garden if not kept in check. It flowers in late June to early July, with the seed ripening and falling off the plant in late July or August (only to spring up another plant). The juice of the herb and its seed can be used again venom. In a broth, it can assist those who wish to lose weight. Drinking it in distilled water twice daily will help with yellow jaundice. The herb can also be used for bloody fluxes. The juice of the leaves (if bruised) can be applied to bleeding wounds to stay the blood flow. The juice, as well as the powder, can also help with closing up green wounds. It can help with old ulcers. Boiled in a hog’s grease it helps all sorts of hard swellings or kernels in the throat. The juice was also used as a drop for the ears. It was often chopped small and boiled well in a water gruel to cleanse the blood and strengthen the liver (an herbal cleanse).

The Earl Claims His Comfort: Book 2 of the Twins’ Trilogy

Hurrying home to Tegen Castle from the Continent to assume guardianship of a child not his, but one who holds his countenance, Levison Davids, Earl of Remmington, is shot on the road and left to die. The incident has Remmington chasing after a man who remains one step ahead and who claims a distinct similarity—a man who wishes to replace Remmington as the rightful earl. Rem must solve the mystery of how Frederick Troutman’s life parallels his while protecting his title, the child, and the woman he loves.

Comfort Neville has escorted Deirdre Kavanaugh from Ireland to England, in hopes that the Earl of Remmington will prove a better guardian for the girl than did the child’s father. When she discovers the earl’s body upon road backing the castle, it is she who nurses him to health. As the daughter of a minor son of an Irish baron, Comfort is impossibly removed from the earl’s sphere, but the man claims her affections. She will do anything for him, including confronting his enemies. When she is kidnapped as part of a plot for revenge against the earl, she must protect Rem’s life, while guarding her heart.

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Here is how “Cleavers” were used in the story…

Comfort rushed through Marwood Manor toward the kitchen. A maid had brought an urgent message that one of Lord Swenton’s grooms had suffered an injury to his leg. Bursting from the servants’ entrance, she paused to catch her hand against the doorframe as she gulped for air.

“Where?” she panted. “Where is he?”

“Mr. Silverman and the others be bringing Tavis up from the barn,” his lordship’s cook said as she cleared items from the table. “Ye kin tend him here.”

Comfort dropped her bag of salves and powders upon a shelf. She had restocked the bag only yesterday. She assisted Cook with removing the last of the bowls and cloths from the table.

“Do you know how Tavis was injured?” she asked.

“Silverman not say. Jist ask that we send for ye. Doc Morgan be in the next village.”

Before the woman could finish her explanation, Silverman, the estate’s steward, and three of Lord Swenton’s grooms carried the injured Tavis into the room.

“On the table,” Comfort instructed.

The men eased Tavis, who was the head groomsman’s eldest son, onto the rough-hewed table.

Ignoring the others gathered about, Comfort examined the wound, first by ripping the opening farther in the youth’s loose trousers and then by dabbing away the blood with a clean, soapy cloth. She bent over the groom’s leg for a closer inspection. “Are you in pain, Tavis?”

“It burns of Hades, ma’am,” Tavis said through clenched teeth. He propped himself up on his elbows to view her actions.

“You must lie back,” she instructed. “Mr. Silverman, I will require your assistance. Where is Tavis’s father?”

“In one of the fields,” Silverman explained. “I sent for him.”

“Very well,” she said while pouring a tanker of ale from the Cook’s supply for the servants and adding two drops of laudanum. “Assist Tavis with this while I make up a potion.”

“What have ye there, miss?” Silverman asked as he lifted the youth’s shoulders to encourage Tavis to drink.

“It is cleavers,” Comfort explained as she milked the leaves for their juice. “I found it several days prior growing under the hedgerows. I thought to share it with Mrs. Glenton. A mixture of the dried leaves and distilled water is excellent for yellow jaundice.”

“And the juice?” Silverman asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Dried leaves or these that I have bruised stay the bleeding of a wound.”

At length, Comfort had arranged her tools. A quick glance at the young groom said the ale mix had brought Tavis some peace.

“Mr. Silverman, you and the others must assist Tavis to remain still.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

When the others were in place, Comfort again washed the wound. “There are several punctures,” she murmured as she washed away the dirt upon the groom’s leg.

“Yes, ma’am. As best as I can tell, a shelf collapsed. A knocked over pitchfork and some sort of sharp blade fell upon the boy.”

Comfort removed a curved needle and soft thread from her bag. “The one on the left is too deep just for a bandage,” she explained softly so as not to frighten Tavis. “Even with the laudanum, this will be uncomfortable.”

Silverman motioned the others to take a strong hold on the youth. “Understand, miss.”

She handed a wad of cloth to Silverman. “Permit Tavis to chew on this,” she explained.

Silverman nodded and slipped the roll of cotton into Tavis’s mouth. She was well aware how often men screamed out in pain, while women suffered through childbirth without anything more than clenched fists.

All but one man, she amended her supposition. Lord Remmington never complained of my ministrations. For the briefest of seconds Comfort permitted herself the memory of the fire in the earl’s touch. But a groan from Tavis returned her to the task at hand. Comfort dabbed at the seeping blood again before she swiftly and efficiently stitched the edges of the wound together. Then she cleaned the opening another time before adding the leaves of the cleavers and a bandage.

“Thank you, ma’am,” Silverman said through what appeared to be real gratitude. “Lady Swenton must be infinitely proud of her cousin. Marwood Manor is blessed to claim your allegiance.”

Comfort noted the change in Mr. Silverman’s tone. Her actions had piqued his interest. Other men had taken their gratitude too far, and Comfort prayed it would not be so with Mr. Silverman. Although he was a gentleman in manners and education, Comfort would prefer to remain alone rather than to accept any man not Lord Remmington.



About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
This entry was posted in American History, British history, Great Britain, herbs, Living in the Regency, Regency era and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Herbal Medicine Used in Regency Period

  1. carolcork says:

    Fascinating post, Regina.

  2. lilmarek says:

    You don’t really need to worry too much about what’s out of season. Herbs were stored dried or in tinctures and kept for whenever they would be needed. Most large houses had a still room, and even in the regency period these might be used for making medicines as well as jams and jellies.

  3. With respect, Green Alkanet (Pentaglottis sempervirens) is not the Alkanet that Culpepper referred to. He was referring to the Common Alkanet (Alkanet Officianalis) or possibly the Alkanet Tinctoria (or dyers’s bugloss) that provides the red dye. Green alkanet is a rogue cousin to Comfrey but doesn’t have the same healing properties and doesn’t look like the picture in this article.

    Given that the period is defined as Regency – I have to assume it is set in Britain – Goldenrod is a North American native plant that didn’t see the light of day in this country until the 20th century.

    Your Adder’s tongue fern again is an Americanism that doesn’t fit the period.

  4. Thank you, Regina, this is very timely for the mystery I am writing right now 🙂

  5. Alana White says:

    This is a terrific post. Thank you for it. I came to it via the Historical Novel Society.

  6. helenajust says:

    I think cleavers is a good choice, because it’s very common and plentiful in England now, so was probably also so in the Regency. The leaves have tiny hooks on them which make the plant adhere to clothes, and it even feels as though it’s clinging to the skin.

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