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Poisonous Plants in GB

8 9 blAck bryony Tamus communis Family Dioscoreaceae. Synonyms Blackeye root, chilblain berry, big root. A weak stemmed climber with very shiny heart shaped leaves, pale green flowers and red berries. The root has black bark and is actually a poisonous yam. Once in widespread use as a medicine despite common accidental poisonings, this plant can lead to a very painful death. The acrid root was employed as an external irritant in paralysis, rheumatism and gout stimulating circulation to promoting healing. It was used to clear gravel from the urinary tract, and is still used homeopathically for this purpose. Mrs. Grieve, in her Modern Herbal 1931, tells us that a tincture of the berries was used to treat unbroken chillblains, and the young shoots were prepared like asparagus and eaten by the Greeks and the Moors. It was used in the West Country to condition horses and make their coats shine, but Bryony served too dry, blinded horses when they blew. Black eye root refers to its former use in a poultice to remedy the discolouration of bruising. Plinys Uva taminia is thought to be this plant. Tammuz was the shepherd god of the Sumerians the name means True Son. Mythology recounts his descent into the underworld to release the goddess Inanna, and thereafter he was permitted to return to earth each year for six months at the winter solstice. Black Bryony is also the seal of the Virgin Mary at the Feast of the Nativity. Some species of yams used as staple foods by aboriginal peoples in Africa, Asia and Australia are deadly arrow poisons. Recently, survival expert Ray Mears and archaeobotanist Gordon Hillman have been experimenting to see if our ancestors could have safely used the root of black bryony as a food, using aboriginal methods of preparation.
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