Syn: Arbutus uva-ursi.
Description: Natural Order, Ericaceae. An evergreen shrub, of the heath family; common to the Northern parts of America, Europe, and Asia; preferring sandy and elevated positions. Stem prostrate, trailing, round, woody, several feet in length, covered with a deciduous bark; young branches erect, three to eight inches. Leaves, alternate, on short petioles, thick and leathery, entire, dark-green and smooth above, paler and veined beneath, obovate, half inch to an inch long. Flowers nearly white, tinted rose-pink; in short, terminal, drooping clusters. Calyx small, red, persistent; five-parted. Corolla ovoid, swollen at the base; with five small, reduced segments on the limb. Stamens ten, on the base of the corolla, with downy filament and red anthers. Fruit deep red, resembling a cranberry, nearly as large as a currant, tasteless, with five long and closely united seeds in the nucleus. Flowers June to September. Berries ripen during the winter.
The leaves of this plant are used in medicine. They have a bitter-astringent taste, and a faint but pleasant smell; yield their properties to water and alcohol; and will yield tannic and gallic acids; and resinous material. They are often adulterated with other leaves; but may be distinguished by their obovate or spathulate shape, leathery feeling, entire edges, and reticulated under-surface.
Properties and Uses: These leaves are principally astringent, with which they combine mild tonic and soothing properties. They increase the flow of urine; and while their powers are more or less expended upon all mucous membranes, they particularly show their influence upon the urino-genital structures. In chronic and sub-acute mucous discharges–such as catarrh of the bladder, leucorrhea, gonorrhea, and gleet–they serve an admirable purpose in lessening the discharge gradually, and giving tone to the parts. We have cured several cases of lingering gonorrhea, in females, with them alone; and have found them a valuable addition to the usual tonics, in leucorrhea. So, in aching of the kidneys and bladder, congestion and ulceration of the bladder and prostate gland, involuntary seminal emissions, and incontinence of urine, they serve a good purpose. They may be used in chronic diarrhea and dysentery; and are especially suited to an ulcerated condition of the bowels in such cases–when they may advantageously be combined with hydrastis. They are more grateful to the stomach than nearly any other astringent and give relief to the achings that usually accompany the above maladies. I have used them as a tonic and astringent in a bleeding stomach, bowels and kidneys, to very good advantage–being careful at the same time to distribute the blood to the surface. They are reputed good in diabetes, gravel and strangury, but of these connections I know nothing.
They unquestionably influence the uterus, and give tone to it. This action is of service in the treatment of leucorrhea, especially when connected with a flaccid condition of the womb and vagina, and with prolapsus. Also in parturition, when the parts are very moist and flaccid and the pains trifling, an infusion of the leaves will secure very positive uterine contractions. They also prepare the parts against flooding, under such conditions; and will be found of use in passive menorrhagia. As a parturient, they may be combined with some diffusive stimulant, as ginger or xanthoxylum. Dose, in powder, one to three scruples three times a day. They are seldom administered in this form, the decoction being preferable. Dr. M. S. Davenport, of Illinois, tells me he has used it as a local application to the bites of poisonous reptiles; and says it abstracts the poison, relieves the pain, and quiets nervous agitation.
Pharmaceutical Preparations: I. Decoction. One ounce of the leaves to a pint and a gill of water; simmer till a pint remains, or about fifteen minutes. Dose, two to three tablespoonfuls four times a day. In parturition, one tablespoonful, warm, every half hour.
II. Extract. An alcoholic extract is a very good article, but that made on water is not so good. It may be given in pill, from three to six grains three times a day.
III. Fluid Extract. This is a concentrated article, made as are the other preparations of this class. It may be given in doses of half to a whole teaspoonful, as desired; or may be added in suitable quantities to sirups. I employ this as a very valuable addition to the emulsion of copaiba, in the treatment of sub-acute gonorrhea–half an ounce of the extract in four ounces of emulsion; and to the compound sirup of mitchella in all gonorrheas. Like other astringents, the preparations of this article must not be made in vessels lined with iron.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com