Description: Natural Order, Araceae. This plant grows in moist, rich woods, throughout America. Root a turnip-shaped corm, half an inch to an inch and a half in diameter, covered with a light-brown and wrinkled epidermis. Early in the spring it sends up a very large spathe, or cowl, tubular below, ovate- acuminate above, bent over forward near the top; dark-green, with purple and black stripes and spots. Leaves one or two, on long sheathing petioles, divided into three elliptical-ovate leaflets; smooth, entire, dark green. Flowers sessile upon a fleshy and club-shaped spadix, which rises into the throat of the spathe; dioecious or monoecious, no floral envelopes; sterile flowers above the fertile, consisting of whorls of four or more stamens with very short filaments; fertile flowers of a one-celled ovary with a depressed stigma. May. Fruit a compact bunch of shining scarlet berries.
The tuberose-looking corm is intensely acrid when fresh; and produces a severe burning sensation in the mouth, which is followed by persistent soreness. This property depends upon a volatile oil, which seems to be insoluble in water, alcohol, acids, or oils, but is wholly driven off by heat. When dried in a kiln, it will furnish a starchy powder as fine as arrow-root.
Properties and Uses: The root, when green, is too utterly acrid to use. When dried, it is a rather mild and diffusive stimulating relaxant. It influences the respiratory organs chiefly–promoting expectoration; and employed in dry asthma, hooping-cough, and dull pains in the chest. Not proper in any inflamed or irritable case; and not a very reliable agent at any time. Usually given in powder; five to ten grains three times a day.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com