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Pernese Herbs A-Z

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Aconite - A hardy perennial with tall racemes of helmet-shaped purple flowers in early summer. The leaves are deeply divided, alternate on the stem, and have a spikey appearence. The root is tuberous. Aconite grows up to 5ft (1.5m) tall in shaded, moist soil.
The root of this perennial can be prepared and used as an anodyne, but only externally for nerve-related pain (rheumatism, neuralgia, sciatica). It may also be used as a sedative or febrifuge, but this is not recommended.
Caution: all parts are poisonous. Use with extreme care.

Adonis - A perennial with a dark, stout rhizome, feathery leaves on smooth, pale green stems, and singular, bright yellow spring flowers. The flower opens fully only in sunshine. Adonis grows up to 8in (20cm) in lime-rich soil; dry, grassy areas.
All parts of adonis are toxic, so use of this plant should be limited. An infusion of the flowering tops may be used under close supervision as a sedative and heart stimulant.

Alfalfa - This deeply rooting herb with trifoliate, serrated leaves has racemes of violet-blue, clover-like flowers, followed by spiraling seed pods. It is a perennial. Alfalfa grows up to 32in (80cm) in grassland on chalk soils.
Alfalfa may be used to treat arthritis, or "joint-ache." The plant is rich in vitamins and minerals that may be deficient in the arthritic person. It has been used to neutralize uric acid in the body (arthritis sufferers are commonly over-acidic in body chemistry). Alfalfa also seems to prevent cholesterol accumulation in the veins, provides enzymes for better digestion and assimilation, rebuilds decayed teeth, and helps relieve pain and inflammation.
Alfalfa leaves and sprouts may be eaten in a salad or blended into a healthful drink. They have the flavor of fresh garden peas.

Almond - Like all members of the genus prunus, almond trees have attractive flowers and bear finely toothed deciduous leaves and single-stoned fruits. Almond's early spring flowers may be any shade of pink from rose to white. The dry-fleshed fruit is downy green. Inside the fruit is a pitted stone containing a nutritious nut. Almond trees grow up to 30ft (9m) in temperate, mountainous woodland.
The nut oil is used in massage oils, aromatherapy and medicines.
Aloe vera - A stemless, evergreen perennial with a dense rosette of tapering, fleshy leaves with irregular white marks and a spike of yellow flowers. The leaves, sometimes tinged pink, become unmarked with age and bear pale, spiny teeth on their edges. Aloe grows up to 35in (90cm) (with the flower spike) in warm, arid conditions.
The clear gel-like pulp from the center of the leaf is used to treat all manner of burns, rashes, and dry skin. It cools the skin, promotes new cell growth, and reduces scarring. However, it does not keep well so is best used fresh. Any place that can grow aloe is encouraged to do so. It will do well indoors provided it gets enough sunlight.
Ash bark - A diuretic. (Neshomeh's remark: It is impossible to say more about this tree herb as there are several varieties with medicinal uses. These include Manna or Flowering Ash; European Mountain Ash, also known as Rowan; Northern and Southern Prickly Ash; and Japanese Prickly Ash. My references do not indicate diuretic properties for any of them.)

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Barley - An annual grass with straight stems, long, sheathed leaves, and grouped spikeltes that produce husk-covered seeds with a characteristic upward "bristle." The stems ripen from green to golden brown. Barley grows up to 35in (90cm) in cultivated land.
This cereal grain can also be brewed as a tea to combat the symptoms of cystitis, which is a common complaint of female dragonriders.

Basil - (Neshomeh's remark: There are many varieties of basil. Sweet basil is discussed here.)
This annual or short-lived perennial has square stems, long-stemmed pointed and toothed oval leaves that give a strong, fresh, clove-like scent, and whorls of six small, scented white flowers that bloom in late summer. Basil grows up to 24in (60cm) in well-drained soil and sun.
This herb has many uses. The leaves can be used to add a warm, spicy flavor to salads and other dishes, while the leaf wine is a tonic and an aphrodisiac. The leaves also repel certain biting insects. An infusion of basil aids digestion and is antibacterial. Furthermore, inhaling the essential oil is refreshing and can clear clogged nasal passages. When used in massage oils, it soothes jangled nerves and eases overworked muscles.
Basil should be avoided on sensitive skin and during pregnancy.

Blackberry - A biennial shrub with bristly stems with many sharp spines, serrated leaves, small white flowers, and juicy purple-black fruits. Blackberry bushes grow up to 5ft (1.5m) in moist, fertile soils.
Blackberries are a food and flavoring and yeild a blue-gray dye. A leaf decoction is a blood and skin tonic, and a poultice treats eczema. The astringent root tea can stop sudden and unexpected cases of diarrhrea. The fruits are flavorful and rich in fiber and vitamin C.

Borrago - Also known as borage. It has oval leaves and hairy stems which each smell like cucumbers when crushed. The star-shaped flowers, each with five petals, are blue with black stamens. Borrago grows up to 24in (60cm) in open, sunny positions in well-drained soil.
The mineral-rich leaves flavor drinks and dips; however, they should be eaten in moderation. An infusion of the leaves and flowers, can be used to ease stress and depression. It is also a febrifuge and expectorant, reduces dry skin rashes and stimulates milk flow. Pressed seed oil can be used for menstrual and irritable bowel problems, eczema, blood pressure, arthritis, and hangovers.

Box - An evergreen shrub or small tree. The form is variable. Box has yellow-green flowers in the spring, berries with black seeds, and leafy stems. The leaves are obovate, widening from the branch to a blunt end, which is occasionally notched. box bushes grow up to 20ft (6m) in woodland; limestone.
Generally considered too toxic except in homeopathic doses, the leaves can nonetheless be used as a diaphoretic. The wood is narcotic and sedative.

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Cherry, black - Like all members of the genus prunus, black cherry trees have attractive flowers and bear finely toothed deciduous leaves and single-stoned fruits. Black cherry's late spring flowers grow in cream colored, "bottle-brush" racemes. The fruits, which grow in pairs, are smooth-skinned and dark red to purple-black in color. Black cherry trees grow up to 80ft (25m) in temperate, mountainous woodland.
Black cherry fruits flavor alcoholic drinks and preserves. The inner bark is a digestive and a sedative expectorant for coughs.
Caution: the seed, bark and leaves contain prunasin, which converts into toxic hydrocyanic acid during digestion or on contact with water.

Cinquefoil - Also known as five-leaf grass, cinquefoil is a creeping plant with large yellow flowers on solitary stalks, each one springing from the leaf axils. Each leaf is divided into five (up to seven, in rich soil) obovate, serrated leaflets. It spreads rapidly over wide areas. The stem-runners can reach up to five feet (1.5m) in length. Cinquefoil grows in mostly in dry, temperate soils, especially Crom.
This herb is astringent and a febrifuge. A decoction of the root is used to treat diarrhea; bleeding of the nose, lungs, and bronchial tubes; and as a gargle or mouthwash. About a gram of powedered root in wine treats ague.
The roots should be harvested in mid-spring, the outer bark removed and dried, and the rest discarded.

Citron - Most citrus plants are evergreens with perfumed flowers and segmented, aromatic fruits.
A citrus fruit that contains vitamin C.

Coltsfoot - See tussilago.

Comfrey - Also known as knitbone. Deep taproot; oval, pointed, stem-clasping, rough-textured leaves; and tubular, blue-mauve flowers in late spring. Comfrey grows up to 4ft (120cm) in damp grassland; riverbanks; woodland.
Leaf tea treats inflamed, ulcerated digestive tracts and coughs. A leaf poultice reduces swelling and bruising around arthritic joints and sprains. It also speeds the healing of burns, cuts, bones, open sores and eczema. The leaves make very good fertilizer.
Internal use of roots and large amounts of leaves should be avoided.

Coriander - Every part of this annual is pungently aromatic. The lower leaves, sometimes called cilantro, are broad and incised. The upper leaves are feathery and finely cut. Coriander has summer flowers and round seeds in ribbed beige coats. Coriander grows up to 20in (50cm) in wasteland; rich soil; sun.
The pungent leaves were widely used on Old Earth in Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine. The sweet-spicy, mildly narcotic seed is popular in pickles, curries, and liquers. The root is added to curries and the stem to beans and soups. It was an Egyptian aphrodisiac and a wine flavoring for the Greeks. The seed is a mild sedative, aids digestion, reduces flatulence, and eases migraines. The spicy essential oil, distilled from the seeds, is used in perfumes and incense, flavors medicines, and is added to massage oil for facial neuralgia and cramps.

Corn - An annual grass with a thick stem, bladelike leaves, a late summer top raceme of male spikelets, and leaf-bract-covered seed cobs in the leaf axils. Corn grows up to 13ft (4m) in warm, sunny, sheltered sites.
Corn gives us sweet corn, popcorn, corn meal, hominy, corn oil, corn flour, and bourbon. Corn starch is used in cosmetics, laundry starch, suppository bases, and as an antidote to iodine poisoning. Corn strengthens bones, teeth, and hair and tones the liver. The corn silk is stimulant, diuretic, and soothing, and treats liver weakness and hypertension. A silk and bract poultice draws pus from wounds. Roots and leaves treat urinary difficulties. The empty cob treats bleeding.

Cotton - A shrub with showy cream flowers changing to pink-purple and a beaked seed capsule that opens as a cotton boll with tan or white seed hairs. The leaves are dark green with 3-5 pointed lobes on long leaf stalks. Cotton grows up to 61/2ft (2m) in temperate and tropical zones with rich soil.
The fruit capsule contains seed hairs, which have been woven into cotton for time immemorial. The seeds are pressed for an edible oil, with residual oil used as stock food. Gossypol, extracted from untreated seed oil, is a possible source of hormones and has potential as a male contraceptive. It is antiviral and eases menstrual pain.

Cress - See watercress.

Cucumber - A trailing annual with rough stems, broad, hairy leaves with irregular margins, tubular yellow flowers and cylindrical, slightly curved, dark green fruit. The pale flesh is rich in vitamin C while the dark skin contains iron. Cucumber plants vary in height, growing in well-drained soil.
The cucumber fruit is a cooling, thirst-quenching and tasty treat. The immature fruit is eaten raw, pickled or cooked. Fresh slices give cooling eye compresses; pressed seed oil is edible; and the pulped flesh is soothing to sunburn. The leaves treat fever and intestinal flu.

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Dragon's tongue (Pernese aloe) - For burns. (Neshomeh's remark: This is completely arbitrary and speculative, but I imagine this to look like a taller, darker, spiky-er version of aloe vera. Its leaves would be longer and the spines would be sharper. Perhaps the leaves would split in two from a common base, giving the impression of forked tongues. Its properties would be almost identical to aloe vera.)

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Ezob - A diaphoretic. See hyssop. (Neshomeh's remark: Some research reveals that ezob is an old Hebrew word for hyssop. I also turned up some things pointing to the spice caper, but hyssop was already listed as growing on Pern and seemed most likely besides.)

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Featherfern - A low-lying leafy plant that grows in damp areas from mid-spring to early fall. The broad green leaves are soft to the touch, hence the name featherfern. The leaves resemble giant feathers of a wherry or similar flying (non-draconic) animal.
Featherfern is used as a tonic, probably in the form of an infusion of the aerial parts.

Fellis - Fellis trees are branchy and small and have easily recognizable yellow blossoms with pointed petals. The juice boiled from the leaves and stems is a narcotic painkiller. An herb that commonly grows nearby is a cure for the addiction that can result from the constant use of fellis, but the healers are aware of the tendency and keep an eye open for overdosing.
Fellis juice is extremely bitter, and as such is rarely given undiluted, although this can be done in an emergency. It is most often given in wine, as this best disguises the taste, although it may be diluted in juice, klah, or any other liquid. It has strong sedative
properties and is occasionally used in cases of severe emotional trauma; it is also used in cases where it is desirable for the patient to be unconscious or extremely unaware of his surroundings, such as surgery or the re-opening and cleansing of an infected wound. Fellis is an extremely strong drug, and as such should always be used with caution. It is not used for minor injuries and aches, or in any situation where a lesser remedy is sufficient. A healer who is uncertain whether a case calls for fellis should consult with his superior; however, as a rule of thumb, if one is not certain that a case requires the use of fellis, it probably doesn't.
Two cautionary statements should be kept in mind with respect to the use of fellis juice:
1) Fellis juice should not be given to pregnant females except in cases of extreme emergency, as the effects on the unborn child are unknown. 'Extreme emergency' would include cases where some sort of surgical procedure is necessary to save the life of the mother, or where the healer feels the risk of losing the child from emotional stress is greater than the risk of harm to the child from fellis.
2) Fellis juice is extremely addictive, and its chronic use should be limited to terminally-ill patients. All healers should keep a careful eye on their supply of distilled fellis, and report any unexplained shortages to their Holder or Weyrwoman, as appropriate. In the case of addiction, an herb which is found growing near fellis provides an effective cure.
There are several alternatives to fellis for minor to moderate aches and pains. See glovecap, meadowsweet, mint, red willow salic.

Flax - Also known as linseed. Flax is an annual that has slender stems with linear green leaves, beautiful, flat blue flowers, and oily brown seeds. Flax grows up to 4ft (120cm) in moist, well-drained soil and sun.
The stems yield durable fibers used to make linen and twine. The vitamin- and mineral-rich seeds yield cold-pressed oil used for cooking and hot-pressed linseed oil for artists' and industrial use (i.e., oil painting). The seeds contain a soothing mucilage. The oil contains fatty acids that help remove heavy metals from the body, reduce the risk of thrombosis, and treat nutritional deficiencies.
Internal overdose may cause poisoning.

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Garlic - This perennial has a clustered bulb made up of several bulblets (cloves) enclosed in a papery tunic. It has a single stem with long, thin, spear-like leaves and an umbel of rose-tinted white, edible summer flowers, some of which are replaced by sterile bulbils. Garlic grows up to 39in (1m) in well-drained soils in temperate zones.
The cloves add flavor to savory dishes, especially in hot holds where the plants develop the best flavor. Garlic is sometimes not suitable for sensitive stomachs, but it is a wonderful all-around food beneficial for the immune system, circulatory system, and respiratory system. Garlic purifies the the blood, helps control acne, and reduces blood pressure, cholesterol, and clotting. Antibiotic activity has been confirmed against candida, cholera, staphylococcus, salmonella, dysentery, and typhus; and a mild antifungal action. Garlic clears phlegm, thus providing treatment for colds, bronchitis, pulmonary tuberculosis, and whooping cough. Some tests suggest it has a role in treating lead poisoning, some carcinomas, and diabetes. Garlic repels insects and can be applied to their bites and stings.

Ging - A tree with autumn flowers and thick, spongy fronds.
Sap from the leaves can seal small wounds such as those incurred while gathering needlethorn. Needlethorn and ging are always found growing together, and ging leaves are commonly used to package needlethorn barbs for transport.

Ginger - (Neshomeh's remark: The inclusion of ginger in this herbal was originally based on the conjecture that "pink root" referred to the root. This has since proven likely to be false. However, I simply can't imagine a world without ginger, so it stays.)
Ginger has an aromatic rhizome, leafy, reedlike stems with two ranks of lance-shaped leaves, and spikes of white flowers. The hollow stem has a reddish base. The fresh rhizome is knobbly and yellowish. Ginger grows up to 5ft (1.5m) in lowland rain forest.
Ginger rhizome is used fresh, dried, pickled, and preserved. It is essential to some dishes and used elsewhere in desserts, cordials, and candies. The shoots, leaves, and inflorescences are eaten raw or cooked. Crystallized or infused ginger suppresses nausea. A steam inhalation treats colds and lung infections. Ginger tea eases indigestion and flatulence, and reduces fever. One drop of the root essential oil in a massage blend helps relieve muscular pain, rheumatism, lumbago, and fatigue.
To prevent morning sickness, use only in small to moderate doses.

Ginko - The elegant ginko tree has notched, fan-shaped leaves that turn butter-yellow in autumn. Female trees produce a fleshy fruit with an edible kernel if a male tree is nearby. The yellow-green fruit ripens to orange-brown. A hard seed coat protects the kernel, which is ivory colored when fresh. Gingko trees grow up to 130ft (40m) with hot sun in rich, sandy, sheltered soil.
The leaves and seeds are used for lung problems. An extract from the autumn leaves contains a vitamin that strengthens blood vessels and reduces production of tissue-damaging "free radicals," and terpenes, which reduce clump-forming blood platelets. It is known to improve brain efficiency and cellular energy. Ginko has been shown to greatly slow the degeneration caused by Alzheimer's disease and even to restore a better memory to others. Ginko increases blood supply to the brain, which helps bring the brain needed nutrients such as oxygen and glucose.

Glovecap - A flowering grey-green plant. The blue flower is contained within a system of leaves, one of which rises up and over the flower similar to a cap. A second serrated leaf almost touches the 'cap'. The flowering season is mid-spring to early summer.
Glovecap's flower contains a potent anodyne.

Gooseberry - A thorny shrub with deeply toothed leaves, pink-green flowers, and prickly yellow-green fruit.
Gooseberries flavor jam and wine, and are used in face masks. The leaves treat dysentery and act as a wound dressing.

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Sources for this page were:

Bremness, Lesley. Herbs. Great Britain: Dorling Kindersley Ltd., 1994.

Dragonsfire - Herbs. June 2004.
Featherfern, glovecap.

Greive, Mrs. M. Botanical.com - A Modern Herbal. August 2004.
Abscess root (Sweatroot), cinquefoil, pink root.

Menai. All the Plants of Pern. June 2004.

Nye, Jodie Lyn (with Anne McCaffrey). The Dragonlover's Guide to Pern, second edition. New York: Ballantine Books, 1997. 15-16, 85-89, 111, 136.

P'ter. Igen Weyr: Herbs and Medicines. September 1999.
Fellis, numbweed.

Shortman, Jared R. The White-thorn Acacia: Tough and Underused. Suite101.com, July 1999.
Whitethorn.

Wolfe, Frankie Avalon. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Herbal Remedies. USA: Alpha Books, 1999-2001.


All pictures are by Neshomeh (Eleanor R.)

All references to worlds and characters based on Anne McCaffrey's fiction are copyright ©
Anne McCaffrey 1967, 2001, all rights reserved, and used by permission of the author.