Description: Natural Order, Celastraceae. Allied to the shrubby bittersweet. Genus EUONYMUS: Tall shrubs, almost small trees, six to fifteen feet high; bark smooth, dark-grayish; branches dull-green, with the smaller ones quite four-sided and four-angled. Leaves opposite. Flowers in loose cymes on axillary peduncles, perfect; sepals four or five, forming a short and flat calyx; petals four or five, rounded, spreading; "stamens very short, inserted on the upper face of a broad and flat four to five-angled disk, which coheres with the calyx and is stretched over the ovary." (Gray.) Pod of three to five lobes, with one to two seeds in each cell, and the seeds inclosed in a brilliant red aril. E. ATROPURPUREUS: Leaves petioled, oval-oblong, pointed, two to four inches in length. Flowers small, dark-purple, usually in divisions of four. Fruit a four-angled, four-valved, and four-celled capsule, on long and drooping peduncles, remaining on the shrub through the winter, and very showy in consequence of their persistent and brilliant-red arils. Common in damp woods from New York westward and southward, and much cultivated in many sections.
Euonymus Americana (burning-bush, strawberry-bush,) is a smaller species; distinguished by its thick and almost sessile leaves, greenish-purple flowers, and the five divisions of its flowers and ripe capsules.
The bark of the root of both the above shrubs appears in market indiscriminately, under the common name of wahoo. Water and alcohol extract their virtues, though water alone will not do so perfectly. They are bitter and permanent in taste.
Properties and Uses: This root bark is very largely relaxant, and moderately stimulant, quite slow in action, but very positive and reliable in its influence. Its principal power is expended upon the gall-ducts and liver, and from these upon the bowels; but it also exerts a gentle influence upon the stomach and the secretion of the kidneys. It is especially valued for its influence on the hepatic apparatus, for which (in its own kind) it has few equals and no superiors in the whole Materia Medica. It secures a persistent and not excessive discharge of bile, and leaves behind a very gentle tonic impression upon these organs. It is thus available in all cases of biliousness, chronic liver complaints, persistent constipation, and eruptions of the skin, where a slow and laxative hepatic is indicated; forms an excellent agent for the intermediate treatment of agues; and is valuable for its action on the biliary apparatus in dropsies, and many other affections where torpor and tension of the liver is a prominent trouble. A free use of a strong decoction will induce slow but rather free catharsis and so effectually will this purge the remotest tubuli of the liver,. that it is said to be reliable treatment for ordinary cases of ague, scarcely requiring any antiperiodic after it. In chronic coughs dependent upon hepatic torpor and congestion, it is an excellent article; and so far as indigestion is dependent upon sluggishness of the liver, it is also of service.
The slowness with which it acts, and the predominance of its relaxing powers, are favorable to its free and general use in all the cases above indicated, and in all the consequences directly and indirectly connected with such cases. It is neither so slow, so almost purely relaxant, nor so cathartic, as leptandra; but is more tonic, and a much better general alterative. It should not be depended on as a prompt evacuant, but as a slow hepatic and cholagogue, best suited for sub- acute and chronic cases. It not unfrequently needs to be combined with more stimulating agents such as hydrastis and gentiana among the tonics, and menispermum among alteratives. Its range of combination with various classes of more stimulating agents, is very wide; and although some physicians fully appreciate its value, the profession at large seems scarcely aware of the true worth of this agent. Disappointment will arise if it is given with the hope of securing prompt and vigorous results; for its gentleness and reliable persistency are what give it such value in many cases where remedial measures are often urged too violently.
This article is too bulky to be used in powdered form, but is given in some one or other of its preparations.
Pharmaceutical Preparations: I. Decoction. Crushed bark of euonymus, two ounces; boiling water, a quart. Digest at a fair heat for an hour, strain with pressure, add two ounces of sugar, and enough water to make a quart. This is quite laxative in doses of two fluid ounces every four hours; but is mentioned chiefly on account of its great popularity in some sections for "breaking the ague"a pint drank at intervals several hours before an anticipated chill, being pronounced almost infallible. So far as hepatic action is concerned, it will be found of the first efficacy: but no judicious physician would omit following it with a sound stimulating tonic.
II. Extract. Treated with water and alcohol, the root yields a pretty abundant extract, and a valuable one. In habitual costiveness, it forms a fine basis for a laxative pill, especially if combined with extract of juglans and the mass stiffened with powdered xanthoxylum. From five to ten grains of the extract may be used night and morning.
III. Fluid Extract. This is prepared after the manner of the fluid extract of menispermum. It is one of the best preparations of this class, and may advantageously be added to sirups when its action is needed. Dose, half a drachm or more, three times a day.
A pleasant and very serviceable liver pill may be made by using extract of euonymus, softened with a little essence of peppermint, and stiffened into a pill mass with equal parts of powdered bitter root and golden seal, and one-tenth part capsicum. They are laxative without being distinctly cathartic. This agent enters into a variety of compounds with aralia hispida, hydrastis, fraxinus, gentiana ochroleuca, artemisia, juglans, etc. I have employed it to excellent advantage for biliousness and the intermediate treatment of agues, by making a sirup of four parts euonymus, two parts balmony, one part hydrastis, and one-fourth part xanthoxylum.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com