Description: Natural Order, Amaryllidaceae. Genus AGAVE: This splendid genus of the amaryllids is native to America, and several species are cultivated for their beauty. Perianth tubular-funnel-form, adherent to the ovary, six-parted. Stamens six, exserted. Capsule btusely triangular, coriaceous, three-celled, many-seeded. Leaves mostly radical, thick, rigid, channeled, often spiny. A. VIRGINIANA: Acaulescent, herbaceous. Leaves linear-lanceolate, fleshy, glabrous, with cartilaginous serratures on the edges, acute. Scape three to six feet high, simple, glabrous, with leaf-like scales. Flowers sessile, one inch long, greenish-yellow, very fragrant, arranged in a loose spike at the end of the slender scape. It blooms in September, and is often cultivated for its fragrance; and is quite common on rocky banks from Pennsylvania southward.
Properties and Uses: The root of this plant is fleshy and premorse. It is intensely bitter, and is pronounced laxative and carminative. Probably it is relaxing and stimulating. A tincture is used in flatulent colic; and in some parts of the South it is popularly reputed to be an antidote to the poison of serpents. Probably it may aid the elimination of virus by sustaining the nervous system, and. increasing the action of the skin.
Agave Americana, or century plant, is an evergreen, the leaves of which abound in a saccharine juice, and which the Mexicans ferment into a kind of spirituous drink called pulque.
When evaporated nearly to dryness, this juice is sometimes used as a substitute for soap. The fresh juice is said to be diuretic, laxative and emmenagogue; but it has not been introduced to general practice. It is quite probable that both these plants deserve more attention from the profession.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com