A fungoid cereal disease; fungal bodies obtained from it used in medicine.
Methods used to procure abortions included traditional herbal remedies, savin, ergot of rye, penny royal, slippery elm, squills and hierpicra; compounds of aloes and iron; and compounds of iron and purgative extracts.
Ergot is a very common disease of the cereals. The fungus producing it was discovered in 1853, but for centuries previous its injurious effects upon the human body were recognized, and it was observed that ergot of rye was the most poisonous. Taken in large doses, ergot will produce nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, headache, and weakness of the heart.
F.R. Campbell, Cereal Foods in their Relation to Health and Disease, in Scientific American Supplement, No. 392, July 7, 1883. Amazon
Sufferers experienced hallucinations and some scholars have matched 17th-century witch hunts with thecold, wet summers that produce ergot infection in ripening rye.