Description: Natural Order, Polygalaceae. This is a low Peruvian plant, shrubby, with numerous procumbent and branching stems about an inch in diameter. Leaves alternate, sessile, oval, silky. Flowers single, axillary or terminal, on pedicels subtended by two bracts; calyx of four silky sepals; corolla of five unequal, spreading, lake-colored petals; stamens three. Fruit a one-celled globular drupe, covered with stiff, reddish hairs.
The root of rhatany comes to market in cylindrical pieces of various lengths, and in diameters from an eighth of an inch to two inches. The bark is reddish-brown, brittle, and easily separable from the yellowish-red center. The chief medicinal strength lies in the bark, which contains about forty percent of tannic acid. It has a pleasant smell; and yields its properties to water and diluted alcohol, which it colors dull-red.
Properties and Uses: The root is a pleasant but decided astringent, mildly tonic in action, and quite styptic. It is soothing rather than exciting in its action, and generally well received by the stomach. Like other tonic astringents, it is of service in profuse and somewhat passive mucous discharges, as old leucorrhea, diarrhea, humid catarrh, etc.; also in passive hemorrhage from the stomach, bowels, or uterus, and locally upon bleeding vessels. Combined with orris root and chalk, it forms a good tooth-powder for those with spongy or bleeding gums. Adulterators of liquors often use it to give color and astringency to factitious port wines. The powder may be used in doses of from ten to twenty grains.
An infusion is made by digesting half an ounce of crushed bark in ten fluid ounces of boiling water; of which a fluid ounce may be used as a dose.
The tincture is prepared by treating two and a half ounces of the root with proof-spirit for forty-eight hours; then percolating and using pressure so as to obtain a pint. It is rarely used alone, but added to chalk mixtures or to tonics. Dose, one to two fluid drachms.
A sirup may be made by treating twelve ounces of the root till two quarts of water have passed by percolation; evaporating this to seventeen fluid ounces, and dissolving in it two pounds of sugar at a low heat. It is best adapted to children; and from ten to twenty-five drops may be given to a child a year old, or four fluid drachms or more to an adult.
An extract is prepared with water in the usual way; and may be dried and powdered, and given in doses of five grains or more. While it is a good and pleasant astringent, it is very liable to be over-used, like other articles of the same class. As with other astringents containing tannin, no iron vessel must be used in making its pharmaceutical preparations, but only glass or porcelain.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com