Brooklime { its past and present medicinal uses }

Veronica becca bunga { Brooklime}

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American brooklime. Veronica americana

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Introduction

Brooklime belongs to the order of plants known as the Lamiales and the family Plantaginaceae and placed in the genus Veronica. The plant has one of my very favourite specific names of becca bunga..The Latin name has a nice ring to it Veronica becca bunga. The specific name is believed to have derived of German origin, from bachbunge, bach signifying a beck {stream} + bunge meaning a bunch.Other say it is of Flemish origin,beccapungen meaning 'mouth smart' alluding to the pungency of the leaves.

The common name Brooklime was in old English broklempe or lympe from its growing in lime or mud of the brooks. The Anglo-Saxon word lime coming from the Latin limus a word at that time which alluded to mud, used in the primitive buildings in Anglo Saxon times.

Among the rank and luxuriant vegetation that frequently grows along the edge of streams the Brooklime is often encountered. However, because of the manner of its growth and relatively inconspicuous flowers it is often passed unnoticed amid the towering rushes and the great sword like leaves of the yellow flag, and other herbage that finds the soft muddy banks an ideal medium in which to grow.

Even when it is found it is often ignored because at first sight in has the appearance of the common Forget-me-not, and because it has not the charms and associations of that flower its own beauty is slighted and ignored.

In North America it grows, from Canada to Virginia and Kentucky,near waters and brooks, flowering from June. There are also many other European species of Veronica growing all over the USA.

Here we look at the species and its past and present medicinal uses which will include notes and observations from past herbalists and physicians. As always we will start with a description of the species under review.

Components of Brooklime

Billeder of Norden's Flora
Billeder of Norden's Flora

Water speedwell is somewhat similar to the brooklime

Taken in California USA  Other licenses 2.5,2.0 1.0 generic
Taken in California USA Other licenses 2.5,2.0 1.0 generic | Source

Description of brooklime

The root of this species is perennial, creeping,whitish and fibrous. The creeping stems root at intervals from their lower portion. The stems are smooth and succulent, procumbent, rooting, of a reddish colour at the base, and rise from one to two feet high.The stems are hollow. Because of their creeping nature this species can at times become invasive in some water courses.

The leaves are arranged opposite to each other, broad and elliptical, glabrous, succulent, with short stalks and somewhat serrated at the margins {wavy edged} The whole plant is very smooth and shining in appearance.

The flowers are in axillary clusters, each flower standing on a slender stalk with two bracteae {small bracts} at the base. They are arranged in pairs. The calyx is persistent,with four divisions. The corolla is wheel shaped and bright blue . The stamens and style project from the flowers which form a 'landing stage' for insects. The petals open in the sun but only partly expand in dull weather. There is a reddish ring around the white center of the flower. The flowers are 5-8ml wide.

Two species of beetle and the larvae of a moth Athalia annulata feed on the flowers. The seed capsule is round, flat, notched and contain smooth winged seeds.

The Water speedwell Veronica anagalis bears a resemblance to this species, but can be told by its longer leaves and racemes of flowers are on an erect stem.

Brooklime can be invasive in water courses

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Brooklime past medicinal and culinary uses with some historical observations.

The Brooklime was once commonly employed in salads, gathered and eaten with water cress. The leaves and stems have a bitterish taste which is somewhat astringent.

Boerhaave, Simon Pauli and Vogel ,speak of its efficacy in the highest terms and it was long a favoured remedy in cases of Scorbutic {scurvy} and cutaneous {of or affecting the skin} affections. However, it seems that more was expected of this plant that sober opinion would justify. By the 1850's it had fallen into disuse according to Dictionnaire des Sciences Medicales tom iii page 66.

Dr. Guersent, an eminent French Physician of that time describes its characters. " In early spring, when its growth is just commencing and towards the end of summer,when frutification is proceeding, the brooklime is merely aqueous, or astringent and almost tasteless, but when the plant is fully developed and ready to flower it has a slightly bitter and acid flavour, rather more acrid and biting than water cress These sensible properties are much more apparent in those plants which grow on the banks of rivulets and are exposed to the sun, than those which vegetate under the water or in the shade".

Whatever, may be its natural affinities, it has certainly less analogy, in a medical point of view, with the Veronicae,than with the family of the Cruciferae, it agrees with them in its oily principal, which is pungent and volatile, and only differs from them in being less acrid and a little astringent. For this reason it is sometimes preferred to more active stimulants, which may occasion too much irritation and heat.It was not infrequently added to the juice of Cruciferous plants to modify their effects.

The brooklime acts in the same manner as those plants which are designated as antiscorbutics, though it does not appear to be endowed with any special advantages. On account of its exacting and slightly tonic properties, it is suitable in some cutaneous and scorbutic affections. It also appeared to be serviceable " in some kinds of phthisis { causes wasting of the body } ,and, engorgemants of the abdominal vicera {intestines} which have supervened to irregular gout.

As an antiscorbutic, the expressed juice, has been recommended in the quantity of two to three ounces taken every morning, either alone or in a little milk. A conserve made of the fresh foliage or a syrup of the juice, were formerly substituted for the above as being more palatable, but again by the 1800's wereseldom used. The bruised herb has been applied externally, for the purpose of cleansing foul ulcers, and to relieve whitlows and burns.

Etmuller recommended vapour baths prepared from the plant, together with its external use, in scorbutic affections;he also extols its application of it externally in the form of a poultice,combined with Chamomile flowers. In order to obtain the expressed juice the fresh plant was pounded in a marble mortar. The juice was then squeezed through a coarse linen cloth by means of a press.

It appears that in the 14th century brooklime was widely and generally used for a variety of complaints including swellings and gout.

The above information is for historical interest only and not meant as a guide to self medication.

Components of Brooklime

Familiar wild flowers {1878} Edward Hulme
Familiar wild flowers {1878} Edward Hulme

Modern day uses

Their seems to be different opinions about the uses of this plant. One modern herbal states that it is not recommended to eat the plants leaves as a vegetable as they say it could have a purgative effect. Pregnant women or nursing mothers are also advised not to eat the leaves.

Another equally as modern herbal states that the entire plant has numerous uses both as a food and as medicine. This herbal recommends the fleshy leaves can be eaten raw or after cooking. However, it does also state that the leaves although nutritious ,'but they are not very pleasant to consume'

The main medicinal uses of brooklime these days seems to be in the form of a poultice, applied externally to burns and ulcers. if you are trying a herb {any herb} for the first time try just a little to test your body tolerance.

Brooklime and the garden

In the garden brooklime species such as Veronica beccabunga 'Puddlepants' are used as marginal pond species.'Puddlepants' is an evergreen edging plant with pretty blue flowers that blooms in May through to September. it is regarded as valuable plant providing egg-laying sites for adult dragonflies, also for perching and roosting sites. The larvae use the stem to climb out of the water.

It grows to the height of 10-30 cm {one foot} and is happy planted on a shelf up to 10 cm {four inches deep}, or very wet soil. The plants are complimented with species such as Bugle {Ajuga}, Betony and Agrimony. Water Lilies also compliment these semi aquatic blue flowers.

The succulent leaves were once eaten with or as a substitute for watercress.

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Comments 4 comments

D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 2 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

aviannovice,

Hi Deb, you are so right,and the flowers are small but beautiful. However, they can be invasive. Best wishes to you.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

I was thinking that this would be wonderful around a marshy area, and you confirmed it. Great plants!


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 2 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

DDE,

Hello Devika, Thank you once again for being the first to visit, your kind comments, vote up,interesting and useful are very much appreciated,thank you my friend. Best wishes to you.


DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Greatly mentioned with such lovely photos. I think such plants have always been wonder to life. The old and new herbs are so interesting and helpful.You always come up with useful information and a lesson for me. Voted up, interesting, and useful.

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