A WILD grass, very common about way-sides, and distinguished by its stubborn stalks and low growth. It is not above a foot high, often much less. The leaves are narrow, short, and of a dusky green. The stalk is thick, reddish, somewhat flatted, and upright. The ear is flat; and is composed of a double row of short spikes: this, as well as the stalk, is often of a purplish colour. The root is composed of a great quantity of whitish fibres.
The roots are to be used; and they are best dried and given in powder. They are a very excellent astringent; good against purging, overflowing of the menses, and all other fluxes, and bleeding; but the last operation is slow, and they must be continued. 'Tis a medicine fitter, therefore, for habitual complaints of this kind, than sudden illness.
There is an old opinion that the seeds of darnell, when by chance mixed with corn, and made into bread, which may happen, when it grows in corn fields, occasions dizziness of the head, sickness of the stomach, and all the had effects of drunkenness: they are said also to hurt the eyes; but we have very little assurance of these effects; nor are they very probable. They properly belong to another kind of darnell, distinguished by the name of white darnell; which is a taller plant, and more common in corn-fields than the red; but this is very much to be suspected upon the face of the account. The ancients make frequent mention of this kind of darnell, growing, to their great distress, among the wheat; but by the accidental hints some have given about its height, and the shape of its ear, they seem to have meant the common dogs grass or couch grass, under that name; though others have seemed to understand the distinction. In this uncertainty, however, remains the matter about which particular kind of grass was really accused of possessing these bad qualities: but it is most probable that they belong to neither; and that fancy, rather than anything really known, gave birth to the opinion.
The Family Herbal, 1812, was written by John Hill.