Frederick (Jamie) Anderson ’19: Book XI, Chapter 3 (On the Herb the Indians Call Y)

Book XI, Chapter III

On the herb that the Indians call y, and of its uses and properties.

Translated by Frederick Anderson ‘19

On this island and in many parts on the Mainland there is an herb called y. It is very common and found in great abundance, and the fields are filled with it. In some areas it grows on its own without any human labor or work. Its branches are long, like those of bindweed or ivy, and the leaves are made in the same way, except that the y’s leaf is quite thin. This makes great pasture, especially for pigs, and they become very fat. It seems to suit them even better than the acorn in Spain, because in its roots they find much taste and sustenance. In some parts men purge themselves with it, especially in the Mainland. Once, I saw it taken by various Christians in the city of Darién. It is so safe that it can be given to a child or a pregnant woman, because it is not harsh and does nothing more than persuading the afflicted person to purge three or four times. It is used in this manner: they mash this herb and strain the juice through a clean linen cloth, and to get rid of the herb’s green color and humid flavor they throw in an ounce of sugar into a bowl that holds up to four or five ounces, and it is drunk on an empty stomach and the sick person is not allowed to sleep until after they have purged. Even if they do not add sugar, the mixture does not become bitter. But if there is no sugar, they add a little bit of honey to taste. It can be taken even without one or the other. I saw this manner of purging praised highly by those who availed themselves of it.

That herb has some delicate flowers, akin to bellflowers, about four fingers in width, longer and of the same shape as those of the liana, as I’ve described elsewhere, except that the liana’s flowers are white and these are blue, a very fine and pleasant color. It is an herb that I have seen many times and in massive quantities on this island and on many parts of the Mainland and that far-flung gulf. As I have said, I have seen fields covered with it, obscuring the ground itself from view, because it grows thickly and its branches cover everything. And to make it better understood, I determined to paint it as it truly is.[1]

[1] See Appendix 2 for illustration listed as Illus. 4, figure 3 in AR edition. [EE]