Plantago lanceolata L.
Bodaich dhubha ('the black men' - archaic children's name), Carl
doddies, Curl Doddy, Fechters (fighters), Headman, Johnsmas-flooer,
Kemp (to fight), Kempseed, Lus an t'slanuchaidh, Rib-grass, Ribwort
plantain, Slàn-lus (healing plant), Snaithlus, Sodgers, Soldiers,
vernacular name 'Carl Doddies' is sometimes said to come from
Charles (the Jacobite 'Bonny' Prince) and George (Hanoverian King).
The argument is this was applied to this plant because of the
'conkers'-like children's game of trying to knock the flowering
spikes off your opponent's chosen stem with a flick of the wrist,
an alternative name for this game, is 'sodgers'. The dictionary
does not agree, it is just a corruption of Curl-doddy=curly head;
this or a similar name is used in colloquial Scots for at least
eight widely diverse species, from Daisies to Early Purple Orchid.
It follows the incantation below may or may not
refer to this plant. I suppose it may even be a miss-translation
of the phrase 'ghroigeanan-cinn', I wish Carmichael had had a
bit more of the ethno-botanist about him and had got his sources
to identify the species they were referring to a bit more precisely.
The 'struan Michael' is a ritual bannock or cake covered in a
custard, prepared for Michaelmas. St Michael and his day (29th
September) took over many of the attributes and rituals of the
god Lug and his feast Lugnasadh. The plant most strongly associated
with this feast is the Wild Carrot (Daucus carota L.).
The Sunday prior to St. Michael’s day the carrots were harvested
by women singing special songs, forked roots being especially
prized. They were typically dug by removing soil in an equal-sided
triangle, using a special three-pronged mattock. They were tied
with a red thread in bundles of three and presented by the women
to their menfolk.
FROM THE BLESSING OF THE STRUAN MICHAEL
(last 4 stanzas)
"Dandelion, smooth garlic,
Foxglove, Woad and Butterwort,
The three Carle-doddies, and the marigold.
Grey cailpeach plucked,
the seven-pronged seven times,
and the mountain yew, ruddy heath,
I will put water on them all,
In precious name of the Son of God,
In the name of Mary the generous,
And of Patrick.
When we shall sit down
To take our food,
I will sprinkle in the name of God
On the children."
- from Alexander Carmichael's Carmina Gadelica.78
- cailpeach (bullock/heifer/colt, poss
origin of Scots word 'kelpie' for the mythical water horse)
- three Carle-doddies, (the original Gaelic
is 'tri ghroigeanan-cinn', I can find no other occurrence
or translation of the word 'ghroigeanan'.).
Non-medical uses of ribwort plantain
As a food, leaves - raw or cooked. Not
really very nice and if you can get them there is liable to be
better eating around. The very young leaves are somewhat better
and are less fibrous. Seed - cooked. Used like sago. The seed
can be ground into a powder and added to flours when making bread,
cakes or whatever.
A fibre is obtained from the leaves, it is
said to be suitable for textiles. A mucilage from the seed coats
is used as a fabric stiffener. It is obtained by macerating the
seed in hot water. Gold and brown dyes are obtained from the whole
Medicinal uses of ribwort plantain
Antibacterial, Antidote, Astringent, Demulcent,
Expectorant, Haemostatic, Laxative, Ophthalmic, Poultice.
of medical actions
Ribwort plantain is a safe and effective treatment
for bleeding, it quickly staunches blood flow and encourages the
repair of damaged tissue. The leaves contain mucilage, tannin
and silic acid. An extract of them has antibacterial properties.
They have a bitter flavour and are astringent, demulcent, mildly
expectorant, haemostatic and ophthalmic. Internally, they are
used in the treatment of a wide range of complaints including
diarrhoea, gastritis, peptic ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome,
haemorrhage, haemorrhoids, cystitis, bronchitis, catarrh, sinusitis,
asthma and hay fever. They are used externally in treating skin
inflammations, malignant ulcers, cuts, stings etc. The heated
leaves are used as a wet dressing for wounds, swellings etc. The
root has been used as a remedy for the bite of rattlesnakes, it
is used in equal portions with Marrubium vulgare L. (White Horehound).
The seeds are used in the treatment of parasitic worms. Plantain
seeds contain up to 30% mucilage which swells up in the gut, acting
as a bulk laxative and soothing irritated membranes. Sometimes
the seed husks are used without the seeds. A distilled water made
from the plant makes an eye lotion.
Carmichael, A. (1997 reprint). Carmina Gadelica:
Hymns & incantations collected in the Highlands and Islands
of Scotland in the Last (19th) century. Floris Books, Edinburgh.
Plants For A Future,
Flora Celtica, www.floraceltica.com/,
Flora Celtica is an international project based at the Royal Botanic
Garden Edinburgh, documenting and promoting the knowledge and
sustainable use of native plants in the Celtic countries and regions
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