The rhizome and roots of (1) Aristolochia serpentaria, Linné, and of Aristolochia reticulata, Nuttall (Nat. Ord. Aristolochiaceae). Eastern half of the United States; the latter chiefly in the southwest. Dose, 1 to 30 grains.
Common Names: (1) Virginia Snakeroot; (2) Red River or Texas Snakeroot.
Principal Constituents.—A volatile oil containing borneol (C10H18O) and a terpene (C10H16), and resins.
Preparation.—Specific Medicine Serpentaria. Dose, 1 to 30 drops.
Specific Indications.—Renal torpor, the result of cold; fullness of chest with dyspnea; sensation of weight and dragging in the loins, with scanty renal secretion; severe sore throat, with tendency to destruction of tissue; cutaneous torpor.
Action and Therapy.—In small doses Virginia snakeroot stimulates the appetite and promotes digestion; long continued it tends to derange digestion producing nausea, emesis and intestinal griping and tenesmus. In full doses it stimulates to a considerable degree, but may occasion gastrointestinal discomfort with nausea, vomiting, headache, and drowsiness, but with disturbed sleep. The warm infusion is decidedly diaphoretic. Under the latter action it is sometimes useful to hasten the eruption in tardy exanthemata. Small doses, given for a brief period, are beneficial in atonic dyspepsia. After periodic fevers it may be administered with cinchona or quinine to overcome depression and give tone to the debilitated system. When renal torpor or menstrual tardiness is due to cold, serpentaria will act as a stimulant diuretic and as an emmenagogue. The best use for serpentaria, in our opinion, is for the severely congested but sluggish and very sore angina of scarlatina. It may be used both as a gargle and internally. As a rule, serpentaria is contraindicated by active fever or severe inflammation; but is a remedy of much value in atonic states.
The Eclectic Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 1922, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D.