MoneywortBotanical Name: Lysimachia nummularia (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Primulaceae
Synonyms: Creeping Jenny. Creeping Joan. Wandering Jenny. Running Jenny. Wandering Tailor. Herb Twopence. Twopenny Grass. Meadow Runagates. Herbe 2 pence. Two Penigrasse. String of Sovereigns. Serpentaria.
Part Used: Whole herb, dried or fresh.
The Moneywort is far more often known by the familiar names of Creeping Jenny, Wandering Jenny, Running Jenny, Creeping Joan and Wandering Sailor - all names alluding to its rapid trailing over the ground. 'Meadow Runagates' has the same reference, and tells us also of its favourite home in damp pastures and by stream sides.
The earliest English Herbal, that of Turner, speaks of it as 'Herbe 2 pence' and 'Two penigrasse,' and it is still known in some localities as Herb Twopence and Twopenny Grass, the allusion here being to the leaves, which are set two and two on the stem, and rounded (though each has a short, sharp tip), and Iying always faces turned to the sky, look like rows of pence. 'Moneywort' and 'Strings of Sovereigns,' though names based on the same idea, are probably suggested by the big golden flowers, rather than by the leaves. The leaves sometimes turn rose-pink in autumn. The specific name, Nummularia, is from the Latin nummulus (money).
Description: The leaves and stems of the plant are all quite smooth, the stems being quadrangular. The flowers, which blossom through June and July, spring singly on slender stalks, just where each leaf joins the stem. Their five sepals are large, pale green and heart-shaped, somewhat 'frilly' round the base, perhaps as a protection against small creeping insects, which might otherwise make their way into the flowers, which are only just off the ground. The five petals are so deeply cut into that they appear separate, but are joined at the base to form a golden cup. The stamens, as in the Scarlet Pimpernel and others of this family, face their corresponding petals, instead of being alternate with them, and are also joined at their base to form a low ring. Their filaments, or little stalks, are covered with tiny golden hairs or knobs.
The ovary in the centre of the flower is so placed that the pollen from the stamens must fall on its stigma, but the flower is not only absolutely sterile to its own pollen, but also pollen from other Moneywort flowers seems to have little effect on its ovules, for as a rule no fruit follows the flowers. It has been thought, therefore, that the plant may not be a true native, and that there is something in our climate that does not suit it. It is probable, however, that it does not trouble to set seed, because it has adopted a simpler method of propagation. It frequently happens that plants which increase much in other ways seldom produce ripe seeds. This simple method of propagation lies in its trailing shoots - its 'stolons.' A stolon may be defined as a creeping stem which dies off every year, and is beset by leaves not very far apart. Close to the tip of each stolon, in the angle formed by little leaf-stalks, buds appear, which produce roots which pass into the ground. When winter comes, the stem and leaves die down between the old root and the new one, but when spring arrives, a new plant exists where the little roots entered the ground. In this way from a single plant which sends out stolons in various directions, many new plants appear by this so-called 'vegetative' method of reproduction.
In a damp situation, no plant thrives better in a garden, or requires less trouble to be taken with it.
Part Used: The whole herb, used both dried and fresh. For drying, collect in June, and proceed as in Scarlet Pimpernel.
Medicinal Action and Uses: The Moneywort in olden days was reputed to havemany virtues. It was like the last species, one of the many 'best possible woundworts.' 'In a word, there is not a better wound-herb, no not tobacco itselfe, nor any other whatsoever,' said an old herbalist.
We are told by old writers that this herb was not only used by man, but that if serpents hurt or wounded themselves, they turned to this plant for healing, and so it was sometimes called 'Serpentaria.'
The bruised fresh leaves were in popular use as an application to wounds, both fresh and old, a decoction of the fresh herb being taken as a drink in wine or water, and also applied outwardly as a wash or cold compress to both wounds and inveterate sores. An ointment was made also for application to wounds.
The leaves are subastringent, slightly acid, and antiscorbutic. Boerhaave, the celebrated Dutch physician, recommended their use, dried and powdered, in doses of 10 grains in scurvy and haemorrhages. Culpepper tells us:
'Moneywort is singularly good to stay all fluxes . . . bleeding inwardly or outwardly, and weak stomachs given to casting. It is very good for the ulcers or excoriations of the lungs.' Again, it was a specific for whoopingcough 'being boyled with wine or honey . . .it prevaileth against that violent cough in children, commonly called the chinne-cough, but it should be chine-cough for it doth make as it were the very chine-bone to shake. '