A VERY singular plant, native of America, i yet got into our gardens. It consists only of leaves rising from the root, upon single footstalks, and flowers of a singular kind, standing also on single and separate footstalks, with no leaves upon them. The leaves are large, oblong, very broad, and deeply divided on each side; their colour is a dusky green; and the footstalks on which they stand are small and whitish, and often bond under the weight of the leaf. The stalks which support the flowers, are shorter and weaker than these; and the flowers are of a very peculiar kind; they are disposed together in a kind of flat form, and are very small and inconsiderable, The bed on which they are situated is of an oval figure, and is called the placenta of the plant; it is of a pale colour and thin.
We are told of another plant of the same kind; the leaves of which are less divided, and the placenta is square, but the roots of both are allowed to be exactly alike and it is therefore more probable, that this is not another plant, but the same in a different stage of growth.
We use the roots: our druggists keep them, and they are the principal ingredient in that famous powder, called, from its being rolled up into balls, lapis contrayerva. It is an excellent cordial and sudorific, good in fevers, and in nervous cases; and against indigestions, colics, and weaknesses of the stomach. It may be taken in powder or in tincture; but it is better to give it alone, than with that mixture of crab's claws and ether use less ingredients, which go into the contrayerva stone. In fevers and nervous disorders, it is best to give it in powder; in weaknesses of the stomach, it is best in tincture. It is also an excellent ingredient in bitter tinctures; and it is wonderful the present practice has not put it to that use. All the old prescribers of forms for these things, have put some warm root into them; but none is so proper as this; the most usual has been the galangul, but that has a most disagreeable flavour in tincture: the contrayerva has all the virtues expected to be found in that, and is quite unexceptionable.
The Family Herbal, 1812, was written by John Hill.