White bryony is a rapidly growing perennial plant having a thick tuberous root that is dirty white, fleshy and encloses a milky juice that has a disgusting smell. The plant has branching stems that bear heart-shaped, five-lobed and rough leaves. The white bryony is a climber and often grows to a height of 10 feet using spiral tendrils emerging opposite to the leaves. The plant is found in many European vineyards. White bryony bears small greenish-yellow or yellowish flowers with green veins that grow in cluster at the axil between June and August.
In fact, bryony is the general name given to any of the 12 species belonging to the genus Bryonia. The white bryony bears berry-like thin-skinned smooth surfaced and globular fruits that usually enclose one or two seeds. The berries are of the size of a pea and often orange or reddish-orange in color and there is also a variety of the plant that bears black berries, which are considered to be highly toxic.
As the story goes, Julius Caesar's adopted son and successor, Augustus Caesar put on a headdress prepared with the white bryony climbers as protection from lightening during thunderstorms. During the 16th century, John Gerard, a botanist and the chief secretary of state to Queen Elizabeth I, had advocated the utilization of bryony for tanning leather. Since the roots of wild bryony bear a resemblance to the mandrake root, both of which look like a person, generally people related the white bryony with the mandrake plant and believed that it invited bad fortune. An 18th century botanist and physician, renowned for his success with digitals, had recommended the use of bryony in preparing veterinary medications.
During the 14th century, the while bryony was a very popular herbal medication among the ancient Greeks and Romans, who utilized medicines prepared from the plant to treat leprosy. The herb was also prescribed by Galen and Dioscorides for this curative purpose. Presently, herbalists recommend the use of white bryony to treat conditions, such as respiratory, gastrointestinal and rheumatic problems. White bryony functions as an irritant and usually results in inflammation where it is applied topically. Different extracts obtained from the white bryony demonstrates an anti-tumoral consequence. The white bryony is considered to be toxic in nature and ingesting the herb or products prepared with it may result in kidney damage, vomiting, seizures and even undesired abortion. As a result of its toxic nature, the herb is basically prescribed by homeopathic practitioners for topical use in measured dosages. When the herb is used as a homeopathic medication, it is effective in treating fevers with symptoms of dry mouth and intense thirst.
In addition to what has been discussed above, white bryony is highly effective in treating a number of physical conditions, including suffering or pain in severe inflammatory ailments that are intensified by movement augmented by pressure, high body temperature with firm, recurrent and vibratory pulse rate, aching muscular structure as they are when bruised, harsh lung or bronchial problems without any sign of exuding accumulated cough, dry cough, soreness heightened by continuous coughing, flushed right cheek frontal pain spreading to the basilar area and irritating cough. In fact, there was a time when the herb was used internally in small doses to treat conditions like asthma, bronchitis, intestinal ulcers, and hypertension. In addition, medications prepared with white bryony were once also used externally as a rubefacient (a substance for external application that produces redness of the skin) for joint pains and aching muscle, and also for pleurisy.
Among the several other therapeutic properties of bryonia, the herb encourages the riddance of surplus heat from the body and similar to aconite, it also resists the dehydration of the mucous membranes caused by inflammation that defers secretion. In addition, it has been established that bryonia directly works on all serous (containing or secreting serum) membranes. The herb also works on the viscera (intestines and bowels) that are usually wrapped by the serous membranes. Owing to these functions of white bryony, it is considered to be effective in treating enteritis, inflammation of the glandular organs as well as pulmonary and bronchial inflammations. The use of white bryony in such conditions helps in alleviating symptoms like soreness on pressure, pain aggravated by movement or insignificant shooting pains. Several herbalists have often used bryonia in combination with other useful herbs for the treatment of the gastro-intestinal tract, arthritis, respiratory tract, metabolic disorders and liver problems. At times, the herb has also been used as part of therapy for chronic and acute contagion.
Treatment using bryonia facilitates the absorption of all inflammatory products, irrespective of whether they are pertaining to serum (serous) or blood (sanguineous). This herb as well as medications prepared with it resists disintegration of tissues as well as formation of pus. In some cases, the impact of white bryony on inciting processes and also on the consequences of inflammation is considered to be more effective compared to aconite.
As mentioned earlier, bryonia is effective in the treatment of several medical conditions and below is a brief discussion regarding the case specific utilities of the herb and remedial products prepared with it, especially the tuberous root of the plant.
It has been found that bryonia is effective in alleviating any type of inflammation and is particularly useful when it is used early, as soon as the first symptoms occur. Moreover, it has also been seen when bryonia is used in combination with aconite, it smoothes the progress of controlling as well as suppressing the inflammatory processes. In addition, the use of bryonia is said to yield the best results when the inflammatory conditions are intense and the condition is accompanied with debility and prostration or heat exhaustion.
White bryony is found in abundance in the southern regions of England and also in the eastern and south-eastern parts of Europe. This plant, a climber, may be cultivated easily as it thrives in all types of soil, barring acidic soils in nature. The plants also grow quickly and usually grow to a height of 10 feet attaching themselves to nearby trees with the help of their tendrils. White bryony plants may be grown easily by dispersing ripened seeds at the bottom of hedgerows. White bryony plants growing in the northern region are usually monoecious (having one sex), while those in the southern region are dioecious (possessing elements of both the sexes). It is advisable to grow both male and female plants near each other with a view to facilitate pollination as well as producing seeds of the plant.
The white bryony is usually propagated by means of its seeds. It is best to sow the seeds in a cold frame as soon as they are ripe. If you are using stored seeds, they should be sowed in the latter part of winter in a cold frame. When the seedlings have grown sufficiently so that they can be handled, take them out individually and plant them in separate containers. The young plants should be grown in a greenhouse, at least for the first winter of their existence, with a view to protect them from frost. In the latter part of the following spring or early summer, the plants may be put in their permanent positions outdoors after the last expected frost is over. Those who want to grow the plant through root division should do it during the early part of spring.
As discussed earlier, the white bryony encloses toxic properties and, hence, when the plant is used in huge measures it turns into an active hydragogue cathartic and now and then may result in the tenderness of the stomach and bowels. If taken in large doses, the herb is poisonous and may result in a sharp drop in temperature, lightheadedness, hallucination, cold perspiration, expanded pupils, weak pulse rate as well as other depressive actions on the nerves. Freshly harvested roots of the white bryony may lead to extreme irritation when used topically and may also result in the vesicles to rise or form blisters on the surface of the skin where it is applied. Findings from the laboratory examinations of this herb do not recommend that it should be adapted clinically in any extent. These facts have been established following very close clinical observation of white bryony. In fact, white bryony should be used only in an emergency and always under the supervision of a qualified physician.