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elecampane


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The roots of this plant were widely used in folk medicine and particularly veterinary medicine—for curing hydrophobia in cows and skin diseases in horses and sheep. In Wiltshire, at least, the plant was called ‘Horseheal’ (Wiltshire, 1975: 18). For human use, the traditional ways of processing the plant often involved mixing with sugar, honey, or wine. In this form it eventually became available as a sweet, and the name lived on even after the plant ceased to be an ingredient:So now its medical virtues are forgotten, and it is sold merely as a candy in confectioners’ shops, with no more of the plant in it than there is of barley in what is now sold as barley-sugar.

So now its medical virtues are forgotten, and it is sold merely as a candy in confectioners’ shops, with no more of the plant in it than there is of barley in what is now sold as barley-sugar.

One writer in Notes & Queries equates elecampane with the liquorish-concoction made and drunk by children on a special day in certain parts of the country (see under Spanish Sunday). The other way in which the plant is remembered, after a fashion, is in the Doctor's speech in many versions of the mummers play, in which the name is garbled in all manner of ways such as Allikan-pane or Hokumpokum-hellican-pain) but it is quite clear that elecampane was the ‘original’ word used.Vickery, 1995: 126; N&Q 4s:5 (1870), 595; 4s:6 (1870), 103, 205, 264; 4s:7 (1871), 243, 314.


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