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Pernese Herbs A-Z

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Raspberry - Raspberry has bristly, biennial stems with many weak prickles, pinnate leaves, small white flowers, and delicious red fruits. Immature fruits are greenish white. Raspberry grows up to 5ft (1.5m) in moist, fertile soils.
Raspberries are a food and flavoring in jams, jellies and wines, yeild a red dye, and give a facial mask for reddened skin. They reduce anemia and sometimes are prescribed for kidney problems and bedwetting. The leaves (properly dried to avoid toxins), contain tannin. Leaf tea is taken during late pregnancy to tone uterine and pelvic muscles. The toning effect may be helpful for the prostate gland in men, also. Some women have used raspberry to correct infertility, aid labor, an ease muscle cramps and afterpains. It is anti-abortifacient. Raspberry also nourishes breast milk and is rich in magnesium, iron, and niacin. It provides vitamin C and manganese, both which may help tone the abdominal wall and make labor less painful. The tea reduces menstrual pain.

Red willow salic - (Neshomeh's remark: "Salic" is not a word unless you're referring to the
Salic Law of which the Pernese have no knowledge. The word probably came about through degeneration of the word salix, the Latin name for willow, over the Turns, despite the Harpers' best efforts.)
Perhaps a Pernese variation of the Salix species, red willow has properties similar to Earth's white and pussy willows. It may also be assumed to have the same growth patterns: long, whippy branches, narrow leaves, growing near water.
Willow bark contains salicylic acid from which aspirin was made. It is an analgesic good for aches and pains and a febrifuge all in one. Certain bark extracts are good for arthritis; heartburn; food poisoning; and used as a gargle for sore throats. Infused leaves are added to baths to ease rheumatism and make a tea for nervous insomnia.
This medication is most often administered as a tea, although it may also be given as a powder. The tea is bitter, though effective, and may be improved by the addition of mint or wintergreen. Large batches of this tea may be brewed and distilled to produce concentrated doses, which may be conveniently stored in small vials. A healer who keeps a supply of such doses on hand for occasions such as gathers or flights will save herself a lot of trouble when patients begin straggling in the next morning complaining of headaches from over-indulgence. This remedy may also be given to pregnant women and children without the dangers posed by fellis.
It is noted that Salix species provide the best-quality artists' charcoal and the branches are good for weaving.

Redwort - Redwort grows in clumps low to the ground. The thick stem has reddish veins running through it and produces flat-topped purple or rose flowers.
This clean-smelling herb is used as an antiseptic wash and protects the skin from being affected by numbweed salve. Redwort wash leaves a characteristic red stain on the skin.


Rice - An annual grass with long, narrow leaf blades and arching stems carrying gouped spikelets of grains encased in husks. Grain in the husk is called "paddy." Rice grows up to 6ft (180cm) in uplands and lowlands.
Easily digested, rice is a huge food staple. It comes in long-, medium-, or short-grained varieties. Brown rice contains vitamin B and protiens, is chewier, and needs longer cooking time. Converted rice (probably used less on Pern) is parboiled, then milled to give a white rice with the vitamins and nutritional value of brown rice. Rice congee (porridge) counters heavy feasting and is a cooling dish with medicinal uses. Rice is fermented into sake (rice wine). Rice flour is a face powder base, the ripe stems yeild rice oil, the roots treat fever sweating, and the sprouts relieve indigestion and strengthen the stomach and spleen. The straw is made into hats.

River grains - See rice.

Rowan - Formerly known as European mountain ash on Old Earth. The rowan tree bears dense clusters of cream spring flowers and bright red berries in autumn, when the leaves may turn red. The deciduous leaves are opposite and serrated with an asymmetrical base. Rowan trees grow up to 50ft (15m) in upland woodlands.
The berries, rich in vitamin C, can be made into a tart jelly, ground into flour, fermented into wine, or distilled into spirit. The seeds should be removed as they can contain hydrocyanic acid. The berries are also made into a skin mask or a sore throat gargle. The bark and leaves are used in a gargle for thrush.

Rosemary - A dense, evergreen, aromatic shrub with resinous, stemless, needlelike dark green leaves and soft, blue, pollen-rich spring flowers loved by bees. Rosemary grows up to 6.5ft (2m) in well-drained soils with sun.
Rosemary leaves are an ancient savory herb, especially popular with shellfish, pork, and lamb. They are rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, and potassium, all of which are needed by the nerves and the circulatory system. The antiseptic, antioxidant leaves help preserve food and aid digestion of fat. The flowers can be used fresh as a garnish or crystallized as decoration. Distilled flower water makes a soothing eyewash. The leaves and flowers can be made into a tea and used as a hair rinse for treating dandruff. Rosemary stimulates circulation and eases aching joints by increasing blood supply. The distilled oil of the flowering tops is invigorating, antibacterial, and antifungal. It stimulates the central nervous systemand blood circulation, relieving muscular pain.
Rosemary can raise blood pressure.

Rue - An evergreen subshrub with yellow summer flowers and deeply divided, aromatic, blue-green leaves. The oil glands on the leaves emit a powerful, distasteful odor. Rue grows up to 24in (60cm) tall in dry, rocky soil, especially Crom.
The leaves are bitter, rich in iron and other minerals. They are used sparingly to add a musky tang to food and some alcoholic drinks. The dried leaf is a powerful insecticide, used against fleas. A distillation of the leaves in water may also be used as an insecticide.

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Sage - An aromatic evergreen shrub with gray-green, textured leaves, and mauve-blue, sometimes white or pink flowers in summer. The aromatic leaves are oval and pointed and the stems are square. There are many varieties of sage. They grow up to 32in (80cm) in dry, well-drained soil.
Sage leaf has a strong taste that increases when dried. Used sparingly to flavor and aid the digestion of fatty meats, it is popular in poultry stuffing and combines well with strongly flavored foods. The flowers are tossed in salads and are brewed for a light, basalmic tea. The leaves have an affinity for the mucus membranes and, therefore, make an excellent herbal remedy for laryngitis. Sage also aids the nervous system, making it even more valuable for stress-induced laryngitis. You can rub the oil of the sage plant around your throat area for some relief, or you can make a decoction and use it as a gargle to stop mucus drainage that could be causing the throat irritation. Taken internally, sage is helpful for digestion and intestines, and it also tends to "go to the head," making it great for sinus trouble, memory, inflamed gums, mouth sores, and headaches. In addition, sage is high in calcium, potassium, vitamin B1, and zinc. It contains hormone precursors that help irregular menstruation and menopause symptoms. It has drying properties, which is why it is good for laryngitis caused by excess mucus irritation.
Do not take sage internally if breast-feeding--its drying properties can dry up breast milk. Avoid large doses during pregnancy.

Soy - A bushy, hairy annual with three-part leaves, white or violet flowers, and hairy seed pods. Also called soya. The leaflets are oval and pointed. The flattish pods contain two to four yellow, green, red, or black seeds. Soy grows up to 6.5ft (2m) in cultivated warm temperate zones.
Soya beans contain 48 percent protein, plus lecithin, vitamins, and minerals. Low in cholesterol, they help prevent heart disease and are valuable for diabetics, as the sugars remain unabsorbed. The beans are made into "miso," a fermented flavoring paste, bean curd (tofu), soy sauce, and soya "milk," and are sprouted from their shoots. Soya is ground into flour. The beans yield a cooking oil and lubricant; they stimulate blood circulation, detoxify and lower fever, and treat food poisoning.

Spearleek - A febrifuge. See garlic. (Neshomeh's remark: Apparently "garlic" comes from an Anglo-Saxon word, garleac, meaning "spearleek." It was named for its leaves.)

Spearmint - Most mints, including the best known spearmint and peppermint, are creeping plants that hybridize easily, producing infinite variations. They have erect, square, branching stems, aromatic foliage, and flowers in leaf axils. They grow up to 47in (120cm) in rich soils, sun, and moisture.
Like peppermint, spearmint flavors sauces, vinegar, vegetables, desserts, and julep, and is crystallized. It flavors candy, drinks, toothpastes, and medicines. Its leaves have been used to rid the intestines of gas and to rid the body of excess water. Spearmint can aid circulation and bring stimulation to the body and mental processes. It is a great anti-spasmodic and is also especially soothing to the stomach, which makes its properties ideal for countering the effects of vomiting. This is especially true when someone is suffering from "dry heaves." A sip of spearmint, or a dab of spearmint essential oil on the tongue can ease the spastic stomach. You can also rub some of the essential oil of spearmint directly onto the skin over the stomach or rub a little near the temples to relax you.
Keep in mind that because spearmint belongs to the mint family, it is very strong--and the essential oil is stronger. Make sure to dilute the oil before applying it to individuals with sensitive skin.

Sweatroot - Also known as abscess root. Sweatroot is a branchy plant bearing pinnate leaves with six or seven pairs of leaflets. The nodding, blue flowers are in loose, terminal bunches. It has creeping roots, by which it multiplies very quickly. The slender rootstock, when dried and used as the drug, is 1 to 2 inches long and 1/8 inch in diameter, with the bases of numerous stems on the upper surface, and tufts of pale, slender, smooth, wiry, brittle roots on the underside. The rootstock has a slightly bitter and acrid taste. It grows in woods, damp grounds, and along shady river-banks.
Sweatroot is astringent, alterative, diaphoretic, and expectorant. The drug has been recommended for use in febrile and inflammatory eases, in bowel complaints requiring an astringent, for the bites of venomous snakes and insects, for bronchitis and laryngitis and whenever an alterative is required. It is reported to have cured tuberculosis (consumption); an infusion of the root in wineglassful doses is useful in coughs, colds and all lung complaints, producing copious perspiration. The tincture of the root is made of whisky. Dosage is 1 to 2 fluid ounces, two or three times a day.

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Tansy - Perennial tansy has an invasive rootstock, erect stems, and pungent, pinnately lobed leaves with a rosemary-scented undertone. The stems are ridged and fainly hairy. It has clusters of flat, mustard yellow flower heads in summer. The flower heads yeild a golden dye. Tansy grows up to 4ft (120cm) in hedges, dry soil, sun or light shade.
The bitter, spicy leaves are used sparingly in "tansy" (a custard pudding). Meat can be wrapped in tansy leaves to flavor it and repel flies. They are a powerful insect repellent placed in pets' beds to ward off fleas and in doorways against ants and mice (or the Pernese equivalents). The aerial parts give a facial steam and a poultice for bruises, rheumatism, and varicose veins. It is used in homeopathy to expel worms.
Tansy may be poisonous internally. Use with care.

Tarragon - This many-branched perennial has greenish flowers and glossy, narrow leaves whose bittersweet, peppery taste has anise undertones. Tarragon grows up to 39in (1m) in scrub, wasteland, and sun.
Essential to French cuisine, it flavors savory foods and is part of the fine herbs mix. The leaves contain iodine, mineral salts, and vitamins A and C. Leaf tea stimulates the appetite, is a digestive, and a general tonic. Chewing leaves numbs the taste buds before taking bitter medicine. The root reduced toothache.

Thymus - (Neshomeh's remark: "Thymus" is part of the scientific name of thyme plants. Common thyme is discussed here, though many varieties probably exist on Pern.)
Common thyme is a much-branching perennial subshrub with woody stems; numerous small, pointed, strongly aromatic, medium green leaves; and small, two-lipped, pale lilac summer flowers. Thyme grows up to 4in (10cm) in light, well-drained soil and sun.
Culinary thyme aids the digestion of fatty foods and is part of bouquet garni and Benedictine liqueur. It is ideal for the long, slow cooking of stews and soups. Thyme oil is distilled from the leaves and floweing tops and is stimulant and antiseptic. It is a nerve tonic used externally to treat depression, colds, muscular pain, and respiratory problems. The oil is added to acne lotions, soaps, and mouthwashes. Thyme is also especially useful in boosting the immune system, making it an excellent cold and flu remedy for children and helpful in ailments of the respiratory system (sinuses, lungs, bronchials).
Avoid high doses during pregnancy. Be wary: different species of thyme can vary in potency by 10,000 times.

Tussilago - Also known as coltsfoot. This perennial has a creeping rhizome and scaly stems of dull yellow spring flowers before the rosettes of large, toothed, heart-shaped leaves appear. The flowers are licorice-scented and turn to fluffy off-white seed heads. White hairs on the undersides of the leaves are used as tinder. Tussilago grows up to 12in (30cm) in damp habitats.
The leaves are tender, rich in vitamin C and zinc. They are eaten in salads and soups and provide a salty flavor. The leaves are also used to treat coughs, skin ulcers, and sores. The flowers reduce phlegm and inflamation, and stimulate immune cells.
Internal use should be done with caution as tussilago may contain tiny amounts of potentially damaging alkaloids, but most of these are destroyed by boiling.

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Verbena - See lemon verbena.

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Walnut - A deciduous tree with smooth silver bark that fissures with age, dark green leaves, and male catkins in spring or early summer. The sturdy, green autumn fruits appear singly, in pairs, or in threes. The leaf stalks are green and bear 5-9 pointed, aromatic leaflets each. The bark, leaves, and husks yield a brown dye. Walnut trees grow up to 100ft (30m) in open woodland.
Walnut consumption reduces cholesterol. The nuts are enjoyed fresh in salads and sweets, or are pickled before their shells harden. They give edible walnut oil which is a nondrying oil also used in soap production. The nuts may treat wheezing, back and leg pain, and constipation. Crushed leaves treat skin eruptions and repel insects.

Watercress - An aquatic herb with pungent, compound leaves, a large terminal leaflet, and racemes of small white flowers in spring and summer. The leaves are shiny and bright green. Watercress grows up to 32in (80cm) in moving water, ditches, streams.
Popular in salads and soups, watercress is a diuretic, an expectorant tonic for anemia, and it prevents scurvy. It cleanses the blood and clears the skin. It is an expectorant and a folk treatment for tuberculosis (consumption) and internal tumors. The juice dissolves nicotine. The leaves contain manganese, iodine, iron, phosphorus, and calcium.

Whitebulb - A febrifuge. See garlic.

Whitethorn - A shrub, typically growing to 6 feet tall (occasionally a tree to almost 20 feet tall), evergreen in warm areas, partly deciduous in colder or more arid conditions. As the name implies, it is armed with many small white thorns. Fragrant yellow puffball flowers occur in late spring, and again in the summer. On irrigation plants become very lush and large. Spination is variable. Sometimes plants will be thornless while others, very spiny. Pods that emerge after blooming will twist upon maturity.
The Seri Indians used the crushed seeds and leaves to relieve upset stomach and diarrhea. The same, powdered, has been used to treat rashes, and roots have been used to make a medicinal tea.

Wintergreen - A creeping shrub that flowers in summer and bears aromatic scarlet pseudoberries from autumn into spring. The bell-shaped flowers are white to pale pink and usually appear singly from the base of a leaf. The evergreen leaves group at the end of stiff, pale shoots and have short, red stems. Wintergreen grows up to 6in (15cm) in woodland, acid, sandy moorland.
Wintergreen oil, with its rich, refreshing scent, is distilled from the leaves after 24 hours of macceration and used to flavor candy and toothpaste. The oil, present in the leaves and fruit, contains methyl salicylate, related to aspirin. Easily absorbed through the skin, the oil is astringent, diuretic, and stimulant and is used externally for muscle aches, especially in foot balms and treatments for rheumatism. Aromatherapists use the oil with others to reduce cellulite. The leaves are brewed for mountain tea and were used on Old Earth by the Inuit of Labrador to treat paralysis, headaches, aching muscles, and sore throats. They also ate the raw berries, which can be added to jams.
Wintergreen oil can irritate the skin and should only be taken internally under close supervision by a healer.

Witch hazel - A deciduous shrub with smooth brown bark, fragrant, golden winter flowers, and woody fruit capsules that eject two seeds up to 13ft (4m) away when ripe. The broad, slightly lobed oval leaves turn yellow in autumn. Witch hazel grows in temperate zones.
A distillation from the leaves and flower-bearing twigs is included in skin products for its disinfectant and astringent properties. It is used on chapped and sunburned skin, cold sores, bruises, swellings, and rashes; to stop bleeding; and to reduce varicose veins and hemorrhoids. Witch hazel contains flavonoids, natural substances found in plants that are powerful antioxidants that can strengthen blood vessels. The seeds are edible, and the leaves can be brewed for a warming tea.

Woodruff - A woodland herb with a red-brown, creeping rootstock, attractive "ruffs" of six to nine elliptic leaves at intervals on the stem, and small clusters of brilliant white flowers in late spring. Woodruff grows up to 171/2in (45cm) in light woodland.
The leaves develop a sweet, new-mown hay scent only when they dry out, so they must be picked several hours before use. They are added to liquers, white wines, and punch and also flavour sorbets and fruit salads. The refreshing leaf tea is a diuretic liver tonic, gives antispasmodic relief for stomach pains, and is a gentle sedative for children and elderly people. Bruised fresh leaves are an anticoagulant for wounds. Dried leaves deter insects, act as a fixative in potpourri, and scent linen. The rhizome yeilds a red dye.

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Yarrow - Yarrow has a creeping rhizome; erect, downy stems; soft, pungent, feathery leaves; and dense, flat, dull white or pink-tinged umbels of flowers from summer to autumn. The flowers are musk-scented. Yarrow grows up to 39in (1m) in hedges and pastures.
The peppery leaf is finely chopped into salads and, with the flowers, used to flavor liqueurs. The flowering tops are a digestive and cleansing tonic and a diuretic and are used to reduce high blood pressure. Fresh leaves arrest bleeding and are applied as a poultice to wounds or are placed on shaving cuts. Flowers treat eczema and catarrh from allergies. Yarrow is especially useful as a diaphoretic in treating fevers. Children respond well to it. It has an affinity for the skin and will diffuse blood to the surface of the skin and open up pores, letting out inner heat and eliminating waste products that could be causing the fever. For treating fevers with yarrow, a tea or decoction is best. It is also useful in any combination of herbs used to treat colds, the flu, and respiratory ailments.
Overuse can make the skin sensitive to sunlight, and it should be taken in small doses. Avoid during pregnancy.

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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.