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Friday, December 18, 2015


Lily with Buds
Photo by: Lord-Williams
L. Lilium, Eng. lily. This plant is the symbol of purity, chasteness and virginity. The blue lily was one of the most loved plants by 11th C. Hispano Arabs who wrote: ‘It threw off its white dress with repugnance, the color of its brother, to dress in a blue cape. The sparkle appears to have been taken from the celestial dome; if the peacock could wear it, it would be greeted as the king of all other birds.’

Medicinally, the lily was used ground or as an oil. In Spain, it was applied as a deodorant by rubbing it on armpits and groins. In England, the oil was used to treat the retention of mucus secreted in abdominal areas and in the respiratory passage. Physicians in the Middle Ages, attempted to restore heat and dryness to a woman's disposition, i.e. to force menstruation. Normally, this involved vomiting and purging (the evacuation of bowels) of the patient, who afterward took a medicinal bath. Then she was put to bed, massaged with lily oil and consumed a potion. Fumigation followed by applying extremely odiferous fumes at the genital opening and the physician cautioned the midwife not to allow them to penetrate the patient’s nose because of terrible smell. (Physicians were not allowed to treat women patients directly. Only the midwife could examine her and apply remedies he prescribed.) Next, she was bleed; this was to induce the flow from vagina. Finally a pessary (device worn in the vagina to support the uterus, a remedy for malposition or to prevent conception) or a vaginal suppository was inserted. Preferably this operation took place during the first quarter of moon. If did not work, the process was repeated during the second quarter. Although the procedure seems atrocious, it attempted to relieve patient. It is reported that if the midwife exerted effort, she could relieve the pain and help patient become well.

Lily syrup made with honey was drunk for refreshment. Reportedly, the taste is agreeable not repugnant. It purifies to a great extent the stomach and veins, cuts phlegmatic humors and opens up obstructions. These effects are produced with the large leaves used although small ones are more efficacious. Further, they clean the chest, lungs and visceras; nevertheless they weaken the stomach, for they are not astringent or aromatic. If prepared with a little mastic, the result is more effective and still more useful if prepared once every four days. It is also beneficial against prolonged fevers.

In cookery, the bulb was used like other members of the lily family as the onion, turnip, garlic and aloe. Napoleon’s troops are reported to have subsisted on this during their marches throughout Europe. The roots of wild lilies were ground into flour to make bread in times of famine. The flowers were used to garnish dishes and in wine. Caution, smelling lilies causes freckles according to medieval beliefs. See aceite de azucena.

Wines made with flowers were well-known in Al-Andalus cookery. Lilies were used in syrups and sherbets in Granada. They were consumed cold and hot with the flowers, and fruits. They were consumed as purgatories and drunk for the delicious flavor.

[Benavides-Barajas. Nueva-Clásica. 1990:19:51; ES: Calle. “Poetas.” Sep 21, 01; ES: Herbs. Oct 8, 02; and Ibn Zuhr/García Sánchez. 1992:93:102:104-105]

Delicious Fried Lily Buds to Accompany a Main Dish
Photo by: Lord-Williams


1 bunch of lily buds
¼ c butter
salt to taste


Cut lily buds from stalks.  Melt butter in a frying pan. Fry lilies. Add salt to taste. Serve as a side dish.

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