Pyxis Medicinae

ancient pyxis

A pyxis is a storage compartment for cosmetics, drugs and other things.
It’s also the name of Arcturus’ dog. But that’s another story.

Consider this a peek into Arcturus’ private stores of medicine—mostly herbal.
You’ll learn where to find a plant, what it looks like, and how Arcturus (and less worthy doctors) might use it.

Valeriana Officinalis

Given the frequency of concussion in the investigation business, Arcturus favors particular herbs over others. Here’s one that is still widely used as a beneficial sleep-aid supplement in many countries.

Valerian and its relatives are native to Britain and most of Europe. Though Dioscorides (c.40-90 AD) didn’t know it by that name—he would recognize it as “nard” or “phou”—one or more varieties of the plant had long been used in medicines, perfumes and cosmetics throughout the Greco-Roman world before the great herbalist (and one of Arcturus’ teachers) wrote his De Materia Medica.

A hardy perennial, valerian is a green and leafy plant, with dense heads of small white or pink flowers that bloom from June through September. It is aromatic, with a pungent, sweet smell, and grows in wet or dry soil.

The root is the part used in medicine; Dioscorides recommended it as a poison antidote, a deodorant, a gastric soother of flatulence, and as an ointment base. Arcturus keeps it on hand for sleeplessness and as a sedative, which is how it has been most commonly used for centuries. He prefers to stew dried shavings of the root in a weak mixture of warm wine and water.

Valerian also exerts a peculiar fascination over felines, similar to cat-nip. Their attraction to it was exploited by Agatha Christie in Five Little Pigs (Murder in Retrospect). In another Christie connection, valerian was the sleeping draught imbibed by Richard Widmark in the film version of Murder on the Orient Express. Rats are also attracted to its smell.

The name of the herb derives from valere, the Latin word for “flourish, be strong, be healthy.” The imperatives vale (singular) or valete (plural) mean “goodbye,” as well as an exhortation to “fare thee well.” Officinalis is a late Latin word derived from officina (itself a contracted form of the early opificina), a noun for a workshop or laboratory.

Valerian makes an appearance in NOX DORMIENDA … watch for it.