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Modern use - An infusion of the leaves is used as a gentle astringent for diarrhoea, and a cleansing diuretic for rheumatism , gout, and arthritis.
The fruit whitens teeth, and at one time the juice was used to remove freckles.
A decoction of the root makes a useful gargle for a sore throat and a vaginal douche.
Past uses - The earliest mention of the strawberry in English is in a Saxon plant list of the 10th century. In 1265, the ì Straberie ì is mentioned in the household roll of the Countess of Leicester.
Strabery ripe, together with Gode peascode and Cherries in the rise were some of the London street cries mentioned by Lydgate in the 15th century.
Ben Jonson wrote A pot of Strawberries gathered in the wood to mingle with your cream
A recipe of the time says Gather strawberry leaves on Lamas Eve, press them in the distillery until the aromatic perfume becomes sensible. Take a fat Turkey and pluck him, and baste him, then enfold carefully in the strawberry leaves. Then boil him in water from the well, and add rosemary, velvet flower, lavender, thistles, stinging nettles and other sweet smelling herbs. Add also a pinte of canary wine, and half a pound of butter and one of ginger passed through the sieve. Sieve with plums and stewed raisins and a lyttle salt. Cover him with a silver dish cover.
No mention of what it tasted like !
Culpeper says Venus owns the herb. He also says ì The berries cool the liver, blood and spleen, or a hot choleric stomach ì Also ì The roots and leaves boiled in water, and drank, cool the liver and blood, and assuage inflammation in the reins and bladder, provoke urine and allay heat and sharpness. This drink also stays the bloody flux and womenís courses and helps the swelling of the spleen.
The water of the berries, distilled, is a remedy and cordial in the panting and beating of the heart, and good for the jaundice. The juice can be dropped into foul ulcers, or the decoction of the herb and root, cleanses and helps cure them.
Lotions and gargles for sore mouths, or ulcers in the mouth, or privy parts are made with the leaves and roots.î
John Parkinson, in 1640, says water distilled form the berries is good for the passions of the heart caused by perturbation of the spirits.
Gerard says they quench thirst, cooleth heate of the stomicke, and inflammation of the liver.î However, eating them on a ìcolde stomicke raised phlegmatic humo W. Foulsham and Co., 1983.
The stalks were used in a concoction called the Antioch drink and vulnerary. The recipe dictated that this drink could only be prepared between the feasts of St. Philip and St. James and the nativity of St. John the Baptist, but cannot find the reason for this criterion.
The Quileute of Western Washington used a poultice of the chewed leaves applied to burns.
In ancient medicine, Fragaria vesca was used in decoctions of leaves, root or fruit ripe or unripe or combinations of these.
The previous medical uses of Fragaria were few; the berries were ordered to be freely eaten of in various calcareous disorders. Many early writers considered the fruit as beneficial in gouty affections; Linnaeus extols their efficacy in preventing paroxysms of gout in his own case; and Rosseau claims that he was always relieved of a calcareous affliction by eating freely of them. The root in infusion has been used in England for dysuria and gonorrhoea. The dried leaves (Strawberry Tea) yield a slightly astringent infusion used in domestic practice as an excitant, and as an astringent in diarrhoea and dysentery.
Gerard writes: "The leaves boyled and applied in the manner of a pultis taketh away the burning heate of wounds: the decoction thereof strengthneth the gummes, and fastneth the teeth. "