Tansy, Feverfew and Mullein. Receptaria: Hildegard von Bingen

Hildegard von Bingen. Line engraving by W. Marshall. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Tansy emmenagogue

A woman who is in pain from obstructed menses should take TANSY (Tanacetum vulgare) and equal weight FEVERFEW (Tanacetum parthanium), a bit more MULLEIN (Verbascum) than either of the others.

She should cook these in water FROM A FREELY FLOWING STREAM which is tempered by the SUN AND AIR.

Then she should put tiles in a fire, make a sauna bath with the aforesaid water and herbs. When she enters the bath she should place the warm herbs on the bench and SIT ON THEM. If they become cold she should warm them again as she sits in the sauna, so the skin and flesh as wel as her womb may be SOFTENED by the HUMOURS (fumes) of these herbs, and the veins which were closed might be opened.

Then she should take BEARBERRIES (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) and add a third as much of YARROW (Achillea millefolium) and RUE (Ruta graveolens)(a third as much as the yarrow) and as much BIRTHWORT (Aristolochia clematitis) as there is bearberries and yarrow, and a bit more DITTANY (Dictamnus albus / Origanum Dictamnus).

She should pound these in a mortar and COOK THEM IN A JAR with good pure WINE. Then she should put this in a LITTLE SACK.

Further she should crush as many CLOVES as she has, with a smaller amount of of WHITE PEPPER, and fresh HONEY, which is free of impurities. She should boil this in a new pot and pour it on the forenamed sack of herbs and so prepare CLARET.

She should drink this every day, before or after eating, but not while in the aforesaid bath, since a bath constricts one somewhat. She should do this until she is well.

But while she suffers this constriction of blood, she should avoid beef and other strong foods, eat agreeable foods, and drink wine. When she drinks water, she should drink well water and avoid waters from leaping, flowing springs, since these are a bit harsher than other waters.

Hildegard von Bingen’s Physica. The Complete English Translation of Her Classic Work on Health and Healing. Translated from the Latin by Priscilla Throop. Healing Arts Press, Rochester, 1998.