Description: Natural Order, Plantaginaceae. This is the common plantain so abundant in grassy yards near dwellings, and is to be distinguished from other articles bearing the same common name. Root perennial. Leaves large, broad oval, spring from the root, five to seven strong-nerved ribs, abruptly narrowed into a channeled petiole. Flowers on a spike rising from the midst of the leaves, densely crowded, four-parted, very small; stamens with long capillary filaments. Pod with seven to sixteen seeds. The size of the leaves and length of the spike vary much according to soil, the spike being from four to twenty inches long, elastic and tough.
Properties and Uses: The roots and leaves are diffusively relaxant and stimulant, leaving behind a gentle tonic impression. They are not of strong power, and a concentrated decoction (or fluid extract) is required for internal use. The kidneys and mucous membranes receive their principal influence, and other glandular organs are moderately acted on. The principal use made of them is in scrofula and light cases of secondary syphilis, for which maladies, when of the irritable form, they answer a good purpose; but they may be also used to advantage in subacute and chronic difficulties of the kidneys and bladder, such as aching back, cystic catarrh, and scanty and scalding urine. Generally their use in this direction is overlooked, but they serve an excellent purpose, and possess a power which deserves investigation, especially as they are rather toning than forcing to the kidneys. In bloody urine arising from chronic renal congestion, they are good; and their toning influence on mucous membranes is of some service in leucorrhea and diarrhea of the sub-acute character. A strong decoction, associated with a free outward use of the wilted or bruised leaves, has a wide popular reputation for the bites of snakes, spiders, and other poisoned wounds. R. H. Homer, M. D., of Indiana, tells me the green leaves, applied to the surface and changed often, give great relief in the burning of acute or chronic erysipelas; and a wash of them has been much commended in the same malady, salt rheum, and ophthalmia.
PLANTAGO CORDATE, called water plantain and rib-grass, grows by the sides of rivulets, with large, early heart-shaped and very smooth leaves, and the stems with scattering flowers toward the top. The root is reputed a valuable nervine and antispasmodic of the soothing and gently toning class; and has been spoken of warmly in hysteria, sympathetic vomiting, cholera morbus, and even in cholera. Outwardly, it is commended for indolent and congested swellings and low scrofulous ulcers. It should not be confounded with alisma plantago.
PLANTAGO VIRGINICA, with oblong and obscurely-veined leaves, dioeciously polygamous flowers, and hoary scapes four to nine inches high, is common on sandy soils. The leaves are reputed of superior efficacy on poisoned wounds and boils, and give promise of being a valuable nervine. All of these plants are too much overlooked by the profession; and though I have used only the first one, and that in a limited way, there is abundant reason to believe that these humble articles, literally growing at our doors, are of valuable remedial powers.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com