The Toadflax, or Flaxweed (Linaria vulgaris) belongs to the
scrofula-curing order of plants, getting its name from linum, flax,
and being termed toad by a  mistaken translation of its Latin
title Bubonio, this having been wrongly read bufonio,--
belonging to a toad,--or because having a flower (as the
Snapdragon) like a toad's mouth: whereas bubonio means useful
for the groins.
It is an
pright herbaceous plant most common in hedges, having
leaves like grass of a dull sea green aspect, and bearing dense
clusters of yellow flowers shaped like those of the garden
Snapdragon, with spurs at their base. It continues in flower until the
late autumn. The Russians cultivate the Snapdragon for the oil
yielded by its seeds.
The Toadflax has a faint disagreeable smell, and a bitter saline taste.
It acts medicinally as a powerful purge, and promoter of urine, and
therefore it is employed for carrying off the water of dropsies, being
in this respect a well known rural Simple. Waller says: Country
people boil the whole plant in ale, and drink the decoction; but the
expressed juice of the fresh plant acts still more powerfully.
In many districts the herb is familiarly known as butter and eggs;
and in Germany though dedicated to the Virgin it is called devil's
Again in Devonshire it goes by the names of Rambling, or
Wandering Sailor, Pedler's Basket, Mother of Millions (the
ivy-leaved sort), Lion's Mouth and Flaxweed.
When used externally an infusion of the herb acts as an anodyne to
subdue irritation of the skin, and it may be taken as a medicine to
modify skin diseases. The fresh juice is attractive to flies, but at
the same time it serves to poison them: so if it be mixed with milk,
and placed where flies resort they will drink it and perish at the
 As promoting a free flow of urine, the herb has been named
Urinalis, or sometimes Ramsted. The flowers contain a yellow
colouring matter, mucilage, and sugar. In Germany they are given
with the rest of the plant for dropsy, jaundice, piles, and some
diseases of the skin. Gerard says: The decoction openeth the
stoppings of the liver, and spleen: and is singular good against the
jaundice which is of long continuance. He advises an ointment
made from the plant stampt with lard for certain skin eruptions, and
a decoction made with four drachms of the herb in eight ounces of
boiling water. The bruised leaves are useful externally for curing
blotches on the face, and for piles.
An old distich says of the Toadflax as compared with the
Esula lactescit: sine lacte Linaria crescit;
Larkspur with milk doth flow:
Toadflax without milk doth grow,
(alluding to the dry nature of the toadflax). To which the Hereditary
Marshal of Hesse added the following line:--
Esoula nil nobis, sed dat linaria taurum,
implying that the herb was of old valued for its good effects when
applied externally to piles as an ointment, a fomentation, or a
poultice, each being made from the leaves and the flowers. The
originator of this ointment was a Dr. Wolph, physician to the
Landgrave of Hesse, who only divulged its formula on the prince
promising to give him a fat ox annually for the discovery.