Kidneywortotanical: Cotyledon Umbilicus
Family: N.O. Crassulaceae
Synonyms: Wall Pennywort. Penny Pies. Wall Pennyroyal.
The Kidneywort or Navelwort (Cotyledon Umbilicus) is a remarkably succulent plant, mostly to be found on moist rocks and walls in the high-lying districts in the west of England.
The whole plant is a pale bright green and very smooth. The rootstock from which it springs is a small, roundish tuber, varying according to the size of the plant, from the dimension of a small pea to that of a large nut. The leaves, most of which grow directly from the rootstock, are in shape some what like those of the garden Nasturtium, being circular, their stalks, 2 to 6 inches long, springing from about the centre of their undersurfaces, an arrangement that is termed botanically peltate. The succulent blades of the leaves are about 1 to 3 inches across, slightly concave, having a depression in the centre, where joined to the foot-stalk; and from this feature the generic name, Cotyledon has been given, derived from the Greek cotyle (a cup). Some of the English names of the plant, Wall Pennywort, Wall Pennyroyal and Penny Pies, are references to the round form of the leaf suggesting a coin.
At the end of May or early in June, stout reddish flowering stems arise, decumbent for a greater or less distance at the base, but then growing very erect to the height of 6 to 18 inches or more. They bear leaves which pass by intermediate gradation from those of a round peltate form to a shortly stalked, wedge-shaped one, and are terminated by a long raceme, or spike, of numerous, pendulous, bell-shaped, yellow-green flowers, with corollas about half an inch long. The calyx is small and, like the corolla, is five-cleft. The plant is in blossom from June to August, and the leaves often remain green most of the winter.
The juice and extract of the Kidneywort had an old reputation for epilepsy, especially among herb doctors in the west of England, where it is most frequently found; its use as a remedy in epilepsy was revived last century even in regular practice, but it has obtained no permanent reputation as a remedy.
It is applied by the peasantry in Wales to the eyes as a remedy in some diseases. The leaves, bruised to a pulp and applied as a poultice, are said to cure piles, and are also recommended as an application for slight burns or scalds. A decoction of the leaves is considered cooling and diuretic, and the juice when taken inwardly to be excellent for inflammation of the liver and spleen. Culpepper tells us that: 'the juice or distilled water being drunk is very effectual for all inflammations, to cool a fainting stomach, a hot liver or the bowels; the herb, juice or distilled water outwardly applied healeth pimples, St. Anthony's Fire (erysipelas) and other outward heats.' He also recommends the juice or distilled water for ulcerated kidneys, gravel and stone, and an ointment made with it for 'painful piles' and pains of the gout and sciatia. In addition, 'it heals kibes or chilblains if they be bathed with the juice or anointed with ointment made hereof and some of the skin of the leaf upon them: it is used in green wounds to stay the blood and to heal them quickly.' See STONECROPS.