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Poisonous Plants in GB

40 41 herb pAris Paris quadrifolia Family Melanthaceae. Synonyms True love, true lovers knot, one berry. This low carpeting perennial of damp ancient woodlands prefers chalk and limestone soils, growing to around one foot in height. Four leaves are arranged symmetrically towards the top of a single stem that bears a central greenishyellow flower, later becoming a single plump blueblack berry. Special care must be taken if this plant grows in your vicinity as the berries are sometimes attractive to children and can prove fatal in sufficient dose. The whole plant is an emetic and narcotic poison. Paris means equal, and may refer to the attractive fourfold symmetry of this plant. Alternatively, we are told in Homers Illiad how Paris, Prince of Troy abducted Helen from her husband Menelaus, precipitating the Trojan War, after Aphrodite had led Helen to become obsessed with him. Our herb certainly had a reputation as an aphrodisiac in former times Charles Johnson 1856 likens the effects of herb paris to the deadly nightshade, whereas Mrs. Grieve 1931 likens it to opium poppy, and recounts its use in Russia to treat madness. Paris is cooling, antispasmodic and sedative, and was traditionally used to treat sore eyes, cramp, bronchitis, rheumatism and colic, and made into an ointment for the treatment of gangrene, ulcers and tumours. The active ingredient is a glucoside known as paradin. During the late 17th and early 18th centuries, when mercuric chloride and arsenic were used to treat syphilis, and arsenic was added to boiled sweets, herb paris came to the rescue as antidote to both mercury and arsenic poisoning. It is also the source of a fine yellow dye which can be fixed with alum.
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