"The rhizome of Geranium maculatum, Linné."—(U. S. P).
COMMON NAMES: Cranesbill, Wild cranesbill, Crowfoot, Spotted geranium, Alumroot, etc.
ILLUSTRATIONS: Bentley and Trimen, Med. Plants, 42; Johnson's Med. Bot. of N. A., Plate 4.
Botanical Source.—Geranium has a perennial, horizontal, thick, rough and knobby root, with many small fibers. The stems are grayish-green, erect, round, clothed with reflexed hairs, angular, dichotomous, and 1 or 2 feet high. The leaves are spreading, hairy, palmate, with 3, 5, or 7 deeply cleft lobes, 2 leaves at each fork; lobes cuneiform, entire at the base, and incisely serrate above. The radical leaves are on long petioles, erect and terete; leaves at the top opposite, subsessile, those at the middle of the stem opposite, petiolate, and generally reflexed. Stipules linear or lanceolate. The flowers are large, generally purple, mostly in pairs, on unequal pedicles, sometimes umbelled at the ends of the peduncles. Peduncles long, round, hairy, tumid at the base, and at the forks of the stems 2-flowered. The calyx consists of 6 obovate, ribbed, mucronate sepals, the outermost hairy. The petals are 5, obovate, entire, light purple, and marked with green at the base. The stamens are erect or curving outward, alternately longer, furnished at the base with glands, terminated by oblong, convex, deciduous, purple anthers. Ovary ovate; style straight, as long as the stamens; stigmas 5, at first erect, and afterward recurved. The capsules are 5, together, and each I-seeded (L.—W.).
History and Description.—Geranium is a native of this country, growing in nearly all parts of it in low grounds, open woods, etc., flowering from April to June. There are several varieties of this species which are probably equivalent in medicinal virtues to the G. maculatum. The dried root is the official part. It is officially described as follows: "Of horizontal growth, cylindrical, 5 to 7 Cm. (2 to 3 inches) long; about 1 Cm. (2/5 inch) thick; rather sharply tuberculated, longitudinally wrinkled, dark-brown; fracture short, pale reddish-brown; bark thin; wood-wedges yellowish, small, forming a circle near the cambium line; medullary rays broad; central pith large; roots thin, fragile; inodorous; taste strongly astringent" (U. S. P.).
Chemical Composition.—Geranium was analyzed, in 1829, by Dr. Staples, who found it to contain a large quantity of gallic acid, tannic acid, mucilage, red coloring matter, principally in the external covering of the root, a small amount of resin, and a crystallizable vegetable substance (Jour. Phil. Col. Pharm., Vol. I, p. 171). The Messrs. Tilden have more recently made a quantitative analysis of the root, and found it to contain a resin soluble in alcohol, a resin soluble in ether, an oleoresin soluble only in ether, tannin, gallic acid, gum, pectin, starch, sugar, albumen, lignin chlorophyll, etc. (Pharm. Jour., 1863, Vol. V., p. 22). H. K. Bowman, in 1869, found in the root of Geranium maculatum about 13 and 17 per cent, and Chas. F. Kramer, in 1882, about 17 per cent of tannin; while Henry J. Mayers, who made a complete analysis of the root (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1889, p. 238), obtained only 4.28 per cent, with much decomposed tannin (phlobaphene); from another specimen he obtained about 11.5 per cent. He also confirmed the presence of gallic acid. More recently (Bull. Kew. Gardens, 1896, No. 109, p. 30) Henry R. Procter found as high as 25.7 per cent tannin. These contradictory results are sufficiently explained by the researches of Prof. Trimble and Mr. J. C. Peacock (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1891, p. 265). In these experiments moisture and tannin were determined in samples which were obtained from 14 collections systematically extending over a period of two years. The principal result of this work may be summarized as follows:
I. Root collected in January had 11.72 per cent tannin, calculated on absolutely dry drug. The amount rose to 27.85 per cent in spring, just before bloom, and fell to 9.72 per cent in October.
II. The tannin obtained yields pyrogallol, upon heating, hence is related to gallotannic acid.
III. The tannin obtained is a glucosid; when heated with 2 per cent hydrochloric acid it easily decomposes into gallic acid, glucose, and geranium red, a phlobaphene, which also forms as a red-brown precipitate when a 1 per cent solution of the tannin is allowed to stand.
IV. No gallic acid is present in the fresh root, nor in the decoction made therefrom; only after the rhizome is dried is gallic acid present, due to the decomposition of the tannin.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Geranium is a powerful astringent. Used in infusion with milk in the second stage of dysentery, diarrhoea, and cholera infantum. In bowel disorders it is the chronic or subacute states in which it is applicable, and especially where the discharges are abundant and debilitating. The relaxation of membranes following the inflammatory stage is an indication for its use. In dysentery it is not adapted to the first and acute stage, but should be used, after a laxative, as magnesium sulphate, where the disease tends to chronicity. The infusion or the specific geranium in milk may be employed. Both internally and externally it may be used wherever astringents are indicated, in hemorrhages, indolent ulcers, aphthous sore mouth, ophthalmia, leucorrhoea, gleet, hematuria, menorrhagia, diabetes, and all excessive chronic mucous discharges; also, to cure mercurial salivation. Relaxation of the uvula may be benefited by gargling with a decoction of the root, as well as aphthous ulceration of the mouth and throat. Chronic pharyngeal catarrh has been cured with it, while recently an old-school authority claims for it restorative properties in incipient pulmonary consumption. From its freedom from any nauseous or unpleasant qualities, it is well adapted to infants and persons with fastidious stomachs. In cases of bleeding piles, a strong decoction of the root may be injected into the rectum, and should be retained as long as possible. Hemorrhoids are said to be cured by adding of the root in fine powder, 2 ounces, to tobacco ointment, 7 ounces, and apply to the parts, 3 or 4 times a day. Troublesome epistaxis, bleeding from wounds or small vessels, and from the extraction of teeth, may be checked effectually by applying the powder to the bleeding orifice, and, if possible, covering with a compress of cotton. With Aletris farinosa in decoction, and taken internally, it has proved of superior efficiency in diabetes, and in Bright's disease of the kidney. A mixture or solution of 2 parts of hydrochlorate of berberine and 1 part of extract of geranium, will be found of unrivaled efficiency in all chronic mucous diseases, as in gleet, leucorrhoea, ophthalmia, gastric affections, catarrh, and ulceration of the bladder, etc., etc. A decoction of 2 parts of geranium and one of sanguinaria forms an excellent injection for gleet and leucorrhoea. Dose of the powder, from 20 to 30 grains; of the decoction, from 1 to 2 fluid ounces; of specific geranium, 5 to 30 drops.
Specific Indications and Uses.—Relaxed mucous tissues, with profuse, debilitating discharges; chronic diarrhoea, with mucous discharges; chronic dysentery; diarrhoea, with constant desire to evacuate the bowels; passive hemorrhages.
Related Species.—Geranium Robertianum, Linné, or Herb Robert, grows wild both in Europe and in the United States, but is rare in this country; and Pursh states that the American plant is destitute of the heavy smell by which the European is so well known, though the two agree in all other respects. It has a tapering root, with several round, leafy, branched, reddish, brittle, succulent, and diffuse stems, hairy, chiefly on one side (L.—W.). The plant flowers from May to September, and has a strong, unpleasant smell. The herb has a disagreeable, bitterish, astringent taste, and imparts its virtues to boiling water. A bitter principle and tannin are among its constituents, It has been used internally in intermittent fever, consumption, hemorrhages, nephritic complaints, jaundice, etc., and has been employed as a gargle in affections of the throat, and applied externally as a resolvent to swollen breasts and other tumors.
Erodium cicutarium, L'Héritier (Geranium cicutarium, Linné). Storksbill.—Southern Europe and common in Western United States, though scarce in Atlantic states. A valuable nutritious forage plant, and, though neither a clover nor a grass, is known as Alfilaria (from Spanish alfilerilla, signifying pin; hence pin-weed), Pin-clover, Pin-grass, and Filaree. Cold weather does not kill it and it is the only green vegetable substance available for stock in dry seasons. It is said to impart a fine flavor to butter and milk (see Agr. Grasses and Forage Plants of U. S., by Vasey, 1889). Diuretic for dropsy.
Erodium moschatum, Aiton.—Mediterranean Europe, north and south Africa, and California. Valuable forage plant in dry seasons. It has the odor of musk. Therapeutically it is diaphoretic. Other astringents are:
Oroxylum indicum.—East India. Bark contains an acrid substance and a yellow crystalline principle, oroxylin (Pharm. Jour. Trans., 1890, Vol. XXI, p. 257). Bark a powerful sudorific, astringent and tonic. Employed in diarrhoea.
King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.