Description: Natural Order, Compositae. Another member of the Boneset family, though with forms of growth in many respects quite unlike the two preceding articles. The stem is variously from three to six feet high, stout, smooth, erect, with a purple band about an inch wide around the leaf-joint, and sometimes the whole stem purplish on its southern face. Leaves in whorls of threes, fours, and fives, about ten inches apart along the stem, thin, smooth above, slightly downy beneath, coarsely serrate, on short petioles, six to eight inches long by an inch and a half to two inches broad, oval. Flowers in loose terminal corymbs, which are a little nodding, color light- purple varying to almost white; florets tubular, five to ten in each compact involucre. August and September. Common in moist meadowlands.
The root of this stately plant is a thick and short woody caudex, brownish-black without, crowded with long fibers a sixteenth of an inch in diameter. The principal remedial qualities reside in these fibers; which are brownish-gray without, yellowish-white within, of a faint smell and pleasantly-bitterish taste. They yield their virtues pretty freely to hot water, and quite freely to diluted alcohol.
Properties and Uses: The root is largely relaxant, with very moderate stimulating properties; acting rather slowly and somewhat persistently. Its chief influence is expended upon the kidneys, bladder, and uterus; and it impresses the nerves of these parts, and probably the whole sympathetic nervous system, distinctly. Its popularity has been gained from its influence over the kidneys; where it promotes the flow of water, soothes irritation, and is especially beneficial in cases of reddish and reddish-brown urine, and where there is a deposit of reddish sand. (§192.) Such cases constitute the basis of lithic acid gravel; and it is from the decided relief given in these that this article has won its sobriquet of gravel-root; and though it will not dissolve a calculus once formed, it will often give relief from the attacks of pain incident to such conditions, and probably its timely use would nearly always prevent the formation of this class of stone. In oxalic and phosphatic gravel, it is of trifling service; and the same may be said of glutinous mucous deposits in the urine. In all febrile cases, when the urine is scanty and red, and the back painful, it is an excellent agent; though in prostrated typhoid cases it will often prove too relaxing to be suitable, unless combined with a full portion of capsicum. In chronic torpor of the kidneys, it is useful as an ingredient with tonics and diffusive stimulants; and may be given to advantage in company with celastrus, uva ursi, althea rosea, hydrastis, and similar agents, in irritable forms of spermatorrhea, prostatic disease, bloody urine, painful micturation, and subacute gonorrhea. Probably it influences the uterine organs directly, as well as affording them relief through sympathetic action upon the kidneys; as it often answers a good purpose in prolapsus, leucorrhea, and other female weaknesses, especially when the back is weak and painful. By eliminating solids through the kidneys, it is beneficial in some cases of acute rheumatism. It has been used in dropsical affections, and is good so far as the kidneys are concerned; but in such cases it always needs to be combined with tonics and stimulants. By its relaxing property, it relieves irritability, and is not suited to conditions of extreme languor and depression; yet it leaves behind a very gentle tonic impression, and acts well when combined with such diffusives as zingiber and polemonium. Dose, half a drachm of the powder three times a day. It is oftenest given by warm infusion, made of half an ounce of the root digested for twenty minutes in a covered vessel with a pint of hot water; of which the dose is usually a fluid ounce once in two hours for acute cases, and two fluid ounces four times a day in more lingering cases.
Dr. Wm. Daily says the flowers will relieve colic and arrest bleeding of the lungs.
Pharmaceutical Preparations: I. Fluid Extract. Treat one pound of the crushed roots in the usual manner with 60 percent alcohol till six fluid ounces have passed; set this aside, and treat with water till exhausted; evaporate the latter product to ten fluid ounces, and mix the two products. This is a fair representative of the root, yet not perfectly so. It may be used in doses of from ten to thirty drops.
II. Eupurpurin. This has been supposed to be a resinoid, but is properly an alcoholic extract dried and reduced to powder, as in the case of cypripedin. It is comparatively an inert article, and one that is rarely used. The same remarks apply to the solid extract that is sometimes prepared from the roots. Any treatment by continued heat seems greatly to dissipate the good qualities of the agent, whence an infusion made at a low temperature gives the best results.
I have many times prepared the following for irritable bladder and urethra, with a too frequent desire to micturate, and commend it to notice: Eupatorium purpureum and epigea repens, each four ounces; hydrastis and seeds of arctium lappa, each two ounces. Form these into a quart of sirup, using a moderate heat. Dose three to six fluid drachms four times a day.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com