Pellitory-of-the-WallBotanical Name: Parietaria officinalis (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Urticaceae Synonym: Lichwort.
Part Used: Herb.
Pellitory-of-the-Wall is a humble, inconspicuous plant belonging to the same group as the Stinging Nettle and the Hop. It is the only representative of its genus in Britain. The name of this genus, Parietaria, is derived from the Latin word paries (a wall), for it is very commonly found growing from crannies in dry walls, as its popular English name also tells us, and will frequently luxuriate in the midst of stony rubbish.
Description: It is a much-branched, bushy, herbaceous, perennial plant, 1 to 2 feet high, with reddish, brittle stems and narrow, stalked leaves 1 to 2, inches long. The stems and veins of the under surface of the leaves are furnished with short, soft hairs, the upper surface of the leaves is nearly smooth, with sunken veins. The small, green stalkless flowers grow in clusters in the axils of the leaves and are in bloom all the summer. The filaments of their stamens are curiously jointed and so elastic that if touched before the expansion of the flower, they suddenly spring from their incurved position and scatter their pollen broadcast.
Constituents: All parts of the plant contain nitre abundantly.
Medicinal Action and Uses: Diuretic, laxative, refrigerant and slightly demulcent.
Pellitory-of-the-Wall is a most efficacious remedy for stone in the bladder, gravel, dropsy, stricture and other urinary complaints. Its action upon the urinary calculus is perhaps more marked than any other simple agent at present employed.
It is given in infusion or decoction, the infusion - the most usual form - 1 OZ. to 1 pint of boiling water being taken in wineglassful doses. Frequently it is combined with Wild Carrot and Parsley Piert.
Fluid extract: dose, 1 drachm. The decoction, says Gerard, 'helpeth such as are troubled with an old cough,' and 'the decoction with a little honey is good to gargle a sore throat.' He gives us many other uses: 'The juice held awhile in the mouth easeth pains in the teeth; the distilled water of the herb drank with sugar worketh the same effect and cleanseth the skin from spots, freckles, pimples, wheals, sunburn, etc.... 'The juice dropped into the ears easeth the noise in them and taketh away the pricking and shooting pains therein.' In the form of an ointment he tells us it is capital for piles and a remedy for gout and fistula.
The leaves may be usefully applied as poultices.
The juice of the fresh herb, made into a thin syrup will stimulate the kidneys in the same way as the infusion of the dried herb.
Ben Jonson says:
'A good old woman . . . did cure me
With sodden ale and pellitorie o' the wall.'