The root of Gentiana quinqueflora, Lamarck.
COMMON NAMES: Five-flowered gentian, Gall-weed.
ILLUSTRATION: Botanical Magazine, Plate 3496.
Botanical Source.—This is an annual plant, found in woodland pastures and other open situations in the eastern section of the United States. The stem is smooth, erect, 4-angled, and from 1 to 2 feet high. The leaves are opposite, entire, sessile, slightly cordate, clasping the stem at the base, and acute at the apex. They are about 1 inch long, and have from 3 to 5 veins proceeding from the base. The flowers, which appear late in the summer, and open only in sunshine, are of a bright-blue color, and erect. They are borne on loose panicles, in axillary and terminal clusters of 3 to 5, on pedicels shorter than the flowers. The calyx is about one-quarter the length of the corolla, and is deeply 5-parted, having very narrow, linear lobes. The corolla is smaller than in the other native species of Gentiana, being slightly less than an inch in length. It is narrowly bell-shaped, and has 5 acute, short lobes. The stamens are 5, and attached to the corolla tubes; they have versatile anthers, which are introrse when the flower expands, but at length turn away from the pistil. The pistil consists of a 1-celled ovary, supported on a slender stipe, and bears 2 distinct, sessile stigmas. The fruit is a dry capsule, opening by 2 valves, and filled with very numerous small seeds. The plant above described is the form of Gentiana quinqueflora occurring in the eastern section of the United States. A western variety (var. occidentalis, Gray) differs in being more robust, and in having the calyx-lobes half the length of the corolla. It occurs in the prairies of Illinois, and throughout the neighboring states, and southwardly.
History and Description.—This plant was recommended as a substitute for quinine, the root being employed. As found in the market, under the above name, it is about the size of senega, has the general appearance of this root, excepting the angled form and ridge. It has a smooth bark, which is light-yellow externally, and white within. It breaks with a clear fracture and is hard and woody. The taste is very bitter, resembling the Apocynums rather than Gentiana lutea. It has never been chemically examined. The plant grows in woods and pastures, flowering in September and October, and is found from Vermont to Pennsylvania.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Gentiana quinqueflora, Five-flowered gentian, sometimes called Gall-weed, on account of its intense bitterness, has been found of much service in headache, liver affections, jaundice, etc., and is greatly superior in its action to the official root. This is certainly a valuable tonic and cholagogue, and deserves further investigation. It is regarded a valuable agent in chronic gastro-intestinal atony. Dose of a saturated tincture of the recent root, from 5 to 40 drops.
King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.