The fresh stems, leaves, and blossoms of Clematis virginiana, Linné.
COMMON NAMES: Virgin's bower, Ladies' bower, Love vine, Traveler's ivy.
ILLUSTRATION: Lloyd's Drugs and Med. of N. A., Vol. I, Pl. 1.
Botanical Source.—Clematis virginiana is a perennial, climbing plant, with a stem from 8 to 15 feet or more in length, supporting itself on shrubs, fences and brushwood, by means of its long petioles. The leaves are opposite, deep-green, and ternate; the leaflets ovate, cordate, acuminate, lobed, cut-dentate, from 2 to 3 inches in length by 1 or 2 in breadth. The flowers are in paniculate clusters, and dioecious; the panicles being large, axillary, and dichotomous. Sepals 4, white, spreading, oval-oblong, obtuse-petaloid. Stamens from 28 to 36. The fruit is furnished with long, plumose tails, appearing in large, downy tufts. The seeds are compressed (W.).
History.—The Clematis virginiana is a native of the United States, and grows by river banks, in hedges and thickets, from Canada to Georgia and the Mississippi. It flowers in July and August; the parts used are the bark, leaves, and blossoms, which yield their virtues to water or alcohol. The leaves should be gathered when they are fully grown, say in August. The fresh drug only should be employed, as most of its properties are dissipated in drying. Clematis is not found as a drug in commerce. Alcohol takes up the properties of clematis, yielding a green tincture, which, upon exposure to light, turns brown. This and all of the below-mentioned species of Clematis have been used in medicine to some extent, but only this species and Clematis recta are now employed, and chiefly in domestic practice and by Homoeopathic physicians. Though never favorite remedies, they have probably fallen into undeserved neglect on account of having been used in the dried instead of the fresh state. They should be given a proper trial, and their worth or worthlessness established.
Description.—The leaves and flowers are described above. "The stem attains a diameter at the base from 1/2 inch to 1 inch, and has a spongy, ligneous texture. When recent, it is covered with a thin brown bark. The wood is coarsely divided into distinct medullary rays, between which, when the plant is recent, are deposited layers of a greenish substance, which contains the acrid principles." (J. U. Lloyd, in Drugs and Med. of N. A., Vol. I, p. 7).
Chemical Composition.—According to Rafinesque (1830) a peculiar body resembling gluten, and known as clematin, exists in the flowers of C. virginiana and C. Viorna. The fresh plant (Clematis virginiana), according to Prof. J. U. Lloyd, who examined it chemically, has a peculiar, unpleasant odor, and a taste at first rank and disagreeable, but, after prolonged chewing, becomes acrid and irritating, not followed by pain, but rather leaving "a dry, metallic-like roughness of the tongue and mouth." When distilled with water a neutral distillate, having an odor recalling that of skunk-cabbage, was obtained. This odor may be removed by agitation with chloroform or benzol. If this solution be spontaneously evaporated, "a colorless, oily substance remains, which is the characteristic principle of the plant, but which evaporates by exposure." He found the distillate, when inhaled, to be a pulmonary irritant, giving a sensation similar to that produced by sulphurous acid gas. No alkaloid, either volatile or fixed, was found. Besides the usual plant constituents the plant contains grape-sugar. (See paper by Prof. J. U. Lloyd, in Drugs and Med. of N. A., Vol. I, p. 10).
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—The various species of clematis, when applied to the skin in a fresh state, blister it; and if taken internally, act as corrosive poisons. Both drying and boiling destroy the virulent property. They have been used externally in the treatment of several cutaneous affections, and in form of a liniment, made with oil, for the cure of itch; internally, as diuretics and sudorifics in chronic rheumatism, palsy, etc., in minute doses. The extract, in doses of 1 or 2 grains, is recommended for osteocopic pains. The green leaves bruised are sometimes employed to produce vesication, also, as an escharotic and detergent for venereal and other foul and indolent u1cers.
Clematis virginiana has been highly spoken of as a nervine in uterine diseases. Place 2 drachms of the dried leaf into a cup filled with hot water, cover it, and allow it to stand until the liquid is cool enough to drink; strain, sweeten with sugar if desired, and let the patient drink it at once. Repeat as often as may be required, the doses being regulated by its effects upon the system.
Like Clematis recta (which see), this species produces painful eczema-like eruptions, which may result in small painful ulcerations. Prof. E. M. Hale, M.D., has found it fully equal to Clematis recta, being particularly useful in nervous insomnia, neuralgic and rheumatic headache, toothache, reflex neuroses of women from ovarian or urinary irritation, neuroses of men with pain in testicles and bladder, cystitis, urethritis, gonorrhoea, orchitis, and swellings of the inguinal glands. Following the law of similia, he also found it useful in "eczema, herpes zoster, and pustular eruptions on the scalp and face of children." A good tincture may be prepared as follows: Clematis (fresh stem, leaves, and flowers), 1 part; alcohol, 2 parts; bruise to an even pulp, add the alcohol, mix thoroughly, and allow to macerate in a close vessel for 10 days. Express and filter (D. and M. of N. A.). Ɣ As clematis acts very much after the manner of pulsatilla and its congeners, it should be tried in fractional doses in the complaints for which such drugs have an established reputation. (For uses of other species see Related Species). Dose, 1/10 to 5 drops, well diluted.
Related Species.—Prof. Landerer, of Greece (1877), reported a case of epilepsy cured after futile attempts with other medicine, by a species of Clematis, either C. cirrhosa or C. sylvestris. Also rubefacient and vesicant.
Clematis recta (erecta), Linné. Upright Virgin's bower.—The Flammula Jovis of old medical writers and the first species introduced as a medicine (D. and M. of N. A.). This species, like others of its family, will produce a painful pustular, eczema-like eruption, which may result in blebs or bullae, and even develop into small painful ulcers. It has been used to some extent in Homoeopathy, and is mentioned by Prof. Webster (Dynam. Therap.) in the conditions named below. It appears to affect both the male and female reproductive organs, influencing both the testes and ovaries. Ovarian indurations and chronic gonorrhoeal orchitis are said to be relieved by it. It is also reputed useful in other after-effects of gonorrhoea, as gleet and incipient stricture. It relieves irritation of the urinary tract, especially the vesical irritation of nervous women with ovarian derangements. Dysuria and urinal retention are also occasionally benefited by it. Homoeopathists employ it in chronic scrofulous and syphilitic skin diseases, especially when mercurialization has been carried too far. Foul, vesicular, and pustular eruptions, ulcers, syphilitic excrescences, eczema, and irritated and swollen eyelids, involving the meibomian glands, are conditions in which they claim success from its use. A Homoeopathic tincture may be used in the proportion of 10 to 15 drops to 4 fluid ounces of water, the dose of which is a teaspoonful several times a day. Störck (1769) employed Clematis recta in old ulcers, secondary syphilis headache, and carcinoma. He also pointed out its diuretic action, a view confirmed by Sauveur, in 1866, who claims to have cured Bright's disease with its infusion.
Clematis Vitalba, Linné.—The common species of Europe and only one in England. "Virgin's bower, Traveler's joy, Love vine, White vine, Ladies' bower, Old Man's beard, Smoke wood, Wild vine, Bind-with, Hedge vine, and Climbers" (D. and M. of N. A.), Wild clematis. Gaube extracted a principle from this plant to which he gave the name clematine. It is alkaline, and forms a neutral compound with sulphuric acid, which crystallizes in hexagonal needles. Besides this principle, he also detected an essential oil, to which it owes it properties, tannin, mucilaginous substances, and a small amount of earthy salts.
The seeds of clematis, given in infusion, have been found serviceable in albuminuria, even when general anasarca, amblyopia, incipient hypertrophy of the left ventricle, without valvular lesion, and which condition is, as M. Traube has shown, always a result of abnormal conditions of the kidneys, and other symptoms peculiar to this disease were present. The effects of the remedy were quite prompt, a profuse diuresis, followed by a gradual diminution of albumin in the urine, and a rapid disappearance of the anasarca, and other symptoms. This infusion has likewise proved efficient in other serous affections due to other maladies of the abdominal viscera (Prof. Sauveur, 1886). The roots of the C. Vitalba, boiled for a short time to diminish their acrimony, and then infused in boiling oil, were applied to the skin several times a day, in itch, and a cure was effected in 12 or 15 applications. The plant, boiled in oil and mixed with wax and verdigris, was formerly esteemed a remedy for tinea.
Clematis Viorna, Linné, or Leather flower, which is more common in the western states, and may be found growing in woods from Pennsylvania southward, may, probably, be employed as a substitute for the above. It differs from it in having a cylindrical, striate stem; with opposite, decompound, pinnately divided leaves, consisting of from 9 to 12 ovate-lanceolate leaflets, acute at each end, entire or 3-lobed; flowers large, purple, nodding, solitary, axillary, campanulate; sepals thick, leathery, acuminate, and peduncles from 3 to 6 inches long, with a pair of small, simple, entire leaves near the middle (W.).
Clematis Pitcheri, Torrey and Gray.—From Illinois westward. This and above species are probably varieties of the same species. It has single, dull-purple flowers, having thick, leathery, valvate sepals. It is also known as Leather flower.
Clematis crispa, Linné.—Southern United States. This is thought to be the most acrid of the indigenous species. It is known in the south as Blue jasmine and Curled Virgin's bower. It has single nodding flowers, with "purplish-blue sepals, with dilated thin margins" (D. and M. of N. A.).
Clematis Flammula, Sweet-scented Virgin's bower.—France and other parts of south Europe. Has fragrant white flowers and is cultivated for ornamentation (D. and M. of N. A.).
Clematis Viticella, Linné; Blue clematis.—South Europe, particularly France. Cultivated, and has blue flowers (D. and M. of N. A.). Formerly esteemed in itch and leprosy.
Clematis verticillaris, De Candolle; Whorl-leaved Virgin's bower.—Rare northern species. "It has large, 4-sepaled, purple flowers, with thin, spreading sepals" (D. and M. of N. A.). Cultivated for ornament.
Clematis alpina, Miller.—Southern Europe, in mountainous regions. Analogous to preceding (D. and M. of N. A.).
Clematis ligusticifolia, Nuttall; Wild sarsaparilla.—Western United States. Closely resembles Clematis virginiana. Root used by New Mexico Indians as an alterative (D. and M. of N. A.)
Clematis dioica, Linné.—Jamaica. Used as a rubefacient (D. and M. of N. A.). The root, boiled with sea water, acts as a powerful hydragogue cathartic, and is useful in dropsy; and an infusion of the leaves and flowers removes spots and freckles from the skin.
Clematis mauritiana, Linné.—Madagascar. "Probably the most acrid of all the genus" (D. and M. of N. A.). Employed by the negroes of the Isle of France to blister the cheek for the relief of toothache.
King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.