By H. H. RUSBY, M.D., Detroit, Michigan.
The following information is taken from the author's paper, based upon a report and collection of plants sent him by Dr. E. W. Lane, Scarboro, Ga.
1. Sarracenia variolaris, Mx., Spotted Trumpetleaf, Spotted Pitcher Plant, Spotted Side-saddle Flower, or Small-pox Plant, reported under the additional name of the "Hood-topped Fly-catcher." The last name possesses interest as being the first reference in the common names to a peculiarity of this and other species of the genus, which has lately been the subject of special scientific investigation, namely, their carnivorous habits. A narrow line of sugary secretion is deposited on the outside of the pitcher-shaped leaves, running from near the ground up to the edge of, and a little way down into, the cup. Insects ascending and feeding from this viscid line, become intoxicated by the time they have reached the interior, and fall into the fluid contained within the leaf. This fluid contains a substance closely akin to the gastric juice, by means Of which certain portions of the insects' bodies are digested. This proteid matter is then absorbed. The only medical virtue heretofore attributed to this genus is that of a small-pox specific, which, as pointed out by Dr. Lyons, is probably on the "absurd theory of signatures." But Dr. Lane describes it as tonic and slightly anodyne, and of use in dysenteries. These properties would seem to accord well with the physiological habits above given. A secreted substance capable of intoxicating insects would be likely to give it "slightly anodyne properties," and its digestive principle would be likely to render it tonic. As to its use in dysenteries, its abundant astringency would render it serviceable in diarrhoeas which often assume a dysenteric type, but scarcely in a real dysentery. The same remarks are applicable to the next and other species of Sarracenia.
2. Sarracenia flava, L., the Yellow-flowered Pitcher-plant, etc., now reported as the "Umbrella-topped Fly-catcher."
3. Calycanthus laevigatus, Willd. Sweet-scented Shrub. Reported as "Southern Peruvian;" the bark said to have done good service as a tonic and anti-periodic.
4. Phaseolus diversifolius, Pers. Wild Bean. Reported under the name of "King Cure-all." It grows in sand, from an immense, stout club-shaped root, which abounds in starch. It is reported as beneficial to dyspeptics, the root being chewed and the saliva swallowed. The doctor judges the benefit to be derived from the increased amount of saliva swallowed.
5. Galium pilosum, Ait., var. Hairy Bed-straw. Reported as "Snake-bite-weed" and "Flux-weed," and the absurd name "Four-corners-of-the-earth," which last it has probably received in allusion to its four-angled stem. It is one of the innumerable weeds, of which every village has one or more, said to be a specific for the bite of the rattlesnake and other venomous creatures, and without much doubt worthless in this respect. Belonging to a family which yields the cinchonas and other powerful stimulants, and being so near to the Galium aparine, L., it very possibly has medicinal properties; but the objection to the property here proposed rests on our knowledge of the nature of the rattle-snake's venom.
6. Eupatorium foeniculaceum, Willd., the Fennel-like Boneset. Reported as the "White-flowered Dog-fennel" (but the true Dog-fennel is Anthemis Cotula, L.). Dr. Lane testifies to it as a strong diuretic and one used with success for both man and beast. One pint of the strong decoction is an effectual drench for horses afflicted with "what is commonly called gravel."
7. Eupatorium perfoliatum, L. Boneset or Thoroughwort.
8. Eupatorium rotundifolium, L. Reported under the name of "Wild Horehound."
9. Eupatorium aromaticum, L. Reported as "Upland Wild Horehound." The report on the three last confirms the well-known properties of these plants. It is a noteworthy fact that E. foeniculaceum should possess such marked diuretic power, while its congeners are nearly or quite deficient in that respect.
10. Sericocarpus tortifolius, Nees. One of the White-topped Asters. Reported as "Edgeweed," and said to be useful for colic in horses.
11. Solidago odora, Ait., the Odorous Golden-Rod. Used as a styptic; in the case of wounds, by applying the bruised plant; in the case of epistaxis, by snuffing up the powdered dried leaves. It may be noted here that attention has recently been called to the fact that in certain parts of the country an infusion of the leaves of this plant is very generally used as a beverage, as a substitute for tea, a regular trade in the article having sprung up in the shops.
12. Chrysopsis graminifolia, Nutt., the Grass-leaved Silver Aster. Reported as "Blue-grass" and "Fevergrass." Used as a poultice to sprains.
13. Helenium nudiflorum, Nutt., the Naked-flowered Sneeze-weed. Report refers to its well-known irritating properties when applied to the nostrils.
14. Gnaphalium purpureum, L., the Purple-flowered Everlasting. Reported as "Cough-weed," and as a remedy for coughs and colds.
15. Gnaphalium polycephalum, Mx., the Sweet-scented Life-everlasting. Reported as a diaphoretic and a poultice in tympanitis.
16. Pterocaulon pycnostachyum, Ell., the Indian Black-root. Said to posses tonic and emmenagogue and oxytocic properties. The latter is an interesting announcement as bearing on its well-known narcotic properties.
17. Gentiana ochroleuca, Froel., the Sampson Snake-root. Dr. Lane confirms its value as a substitute for the other gentians.
18. Gelsemium sempervirens, Ait., the Yellow Jessamine. Concerning this, the most important and valuable upon the list, and one of the most valuable plants in the entire materia medica, the doctor speaks in no stinted terms. In his hands, and in the hands of his acquaintances, it has sustained the reputation it has generally gained. An interesting fact is that a majority of the country practitioners in that section prepare their own extracts, using eight ounces of the bark of the green root to the pint of dilute alcohol. If this practice is general throughout the south, it would materially affect the estimate of the consumption of this drug.
19. Telanthera polygonoides, Moq. Reported under the name "Piss-a-bed," and as a diuretic and anti-spasmodic, used in cases of strangury.
We would repeat that it is most desirable that similar reports, accompanied in all cases by specimens showing as much as possible of the plant, mailed flat between sheets of pasteboard, should be contributed, particularly from the south and southwestern regions.—Therap. Gaz., Dec., 1884, p. 546.
The American Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. 57, 1885, was edited by John M. Maisch.