Among Curative Simples, the Goosefoot, or Chenopod order of
British plants, contributes two useful herbs, the Chenopodium
bonus Henricus (Good King Henry), and the Chenopodium
vulvaria (Stinking Goosefoot).
This tribe derives its distinctive title from the Greek words,
cheen, a goose, and pous, a foot, in allusion to the resemblance
borne by its leaves to the webbed members of that waddling bird
which raw recruits are wont to bless for their irksome drill of the
goose-step. Incidentally, it may be said that goosegrease, got from
the roasted bird, is highly emollient, and very useful in clysters;
it also proves easily emetic.
The Goosefoot herbs are common weeds in most temperate climates,
and grow chiefly in salt marshes, or on the sea-shore. Other plants
of this tribe are esculent vegetables, as the Spinach, Beet,
and Orach. They all afford soda in abundance.
The Good King Henry (Goosefoot) grows abundantly in waste
places near villages, being a dark green, succulent plant, about a
foot high, with thickish arrow-shaped leaves, which are cooked as
spinach, especially in Lincolnshire. It is sometimes called Blite,
from the Greek bliton, insipid; and, as Evelyn says, in his
Acetaria, it is well named, being insipid enough.
Why the said Goosefoot has been named Good King Henry, or,
Good King Harry, is a disputed point. A French writer declares
this humble plant which grows on our plains without culture will
confer a more lasting  duration on the memory of Henri
Quatre than the statue of bronze placed on the Pont Neuf, though
fenced with iron, and guarded by soldiers. Dodoeus says the
appellation was given to distinguish the plant from another, a
poisonous one, called Malus Henricus, Bad Henry. Other
authors have referred it to our Harry the Eighth, and his sore legs,
for which the leaves were applied as a remedy; but this idea does
not seem of probable correctness. Frowde tells us the constant
irritation of his festering legs made his terrible temper still more
dreadful. Warned of his approaching dissolution; and consumed
with the death-thirst, he called for a cup of white wine, and, turning
to one of his attendants; cried, 'All is lost!'--and these were his
last words. The substantive title, Henricus, is more likely derived
from heinrich, an elf or goblin, as indicating certain magical
virtues in the herb.
It is further known as English Marquery, or Mercury, and Tota bona;
or, Allgood, the latter from a conceit of the rustics that it will
cure all hurts; wherefore the leaves are now a constant plaster
among them for every green wound. It bears small flowers of
sepals only, and is grown by cottagers as a pot herb. The young
shoots peeled and boiled may be eaten as asparagus, and are gently
laxative. The leaves are often made into broth, being applied also
externally by country folk to heal old ulcers; and the roots are given
to sheep having a cough.
Both here and in Germany this Goosefoot is used for feeding
poultry, and it has hence acquired the sobriquet of Fat-hen.
The term, English Mercury, has been given because of its excellent
remedial qualities against indigestion, and bears out the proverb:
Be thou sick or whole, put  Mercury in thy koole. Poultices
made from the herb are applied to cleanse and heal chronic sores,
which, as Gerard teaches, they do scour and mundify. Certain
writers associate it with our good King Henry the Sixth. There is
made in America, from an allied plant, the oak-leaved Goosefoot
(Chenopodium glaucum), or from the aphis which infests it, a
medicinal tincture used for expelling round worms.
The Stinking Goosefoot, called therefore, Vulvaria, and Garosmus,
grows often on roadsides in England, and is known as Dog's
Orach. It is of a dull, glaucous, or greyish-green aspect, and
invested with a greasy mealiness which when touched exhales a
very odious and enduring smell like that of stale salt fish, this being
particularly attractive to dogs, though swine refuse the plant. It has
been found very useful in hysteria, the leaves being made into a
conserve with sugar; or Dr. Fuller's famous Electuarium
hystericum may be compounded by adding forty-eight drops of oil
of amber (Oleum succini) to four ounces of the conserve. Then a
piece of the size of a chestnut should be taken when needed, and
repeated more or less often as required. It further promotes the
monthly flow of women. But the herb is possessed odoris virosi
intolerabilis, of a stink which remains long on the hands after
touching it. The whole plant is sprinkled over with the white,
pellucid meal, and contains much trimethylamine, together with
osmazome, and nitrate of potash; also it gives off free ammonia.
The title, Orach, given to the Stinking Goosefoot, a simple of a
most ancient, fish-like smell, and to others of the same tribe, is a
corruption of aurum, gold, because their seeds were supposed to
cure the ailment known popularly as the yellow jaundice. These
plants afford no nutriment,  and, therefore, each bears the
name, atriplex, not, trephein, to nourish:--
Atriplicem tritum cum nitro, melle, et aceto
Dicunt appositum calidum sedare podagram
Ictericis dicitque Galenus tollere morbum
Illius semen cum vino saepius haustum.
With vinegar, honey, and salt, the Orach
Made hot, and applied, cures a gouty attack;
Whilst its seeds for the jaundice, if mingled with wine,
--As Galen has said--are a remedy fine.
Orach is cooling, writes Evelyn, and allays the pituit humors.
Being set over the fire, neither this nor the lettuce needs any other
water than their own moisture to boil them in. The Orach hails
from Tartary, and is much esteemed in France. It was introduced