Botanical Source.—This plant, likewise called Swamp, or False sunflower, is an indigenous, perennial herb, having a fibrous root, and several erect, branching, angular stems, 2 or 3 feet high, and strongly winged by the decurrent leaves. The leaves are alternate, smooth, or slightly pubescent, elliptic-lanceolate, more or less deeply serrate, and often sprinkled with bitter and aromatic resinous globules. The flowers are large, numerous, bright yellow, terminal in loose, showy corymbs, with flat, drooping, wedge-shaped rays, each ending in 3 obtuse teeth, longer than the large, globose disk. The involucre is small, reflexed, with the scales linear or subulate. The receptacle is globose or oblong, naked in the disk, and chaffy in the ray only. Achenia top-shaped and ribbed. Pappus of 5 thin and 1 nerved chaffy scales, the nerve extending into a bristle or point (G.—W.).
History and Chemical Composition.—Sneezewort is a plant common to the United States, growing in low, damp fields and meadows, and on alluvial river banks, flowering from August to October. It is nearly inodorous, with a rather acrimonious, amarous taste. It has been analyzed by F. J. Koch (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1874, p. 221). It contains a trace of tannin and volatile oil, malic acid, and, besides the ordinary plant principles, an amorphous glucosid to which the bitter taste of the herb is due. When boiled with diluted acid it splits into a bitter, non-crystalline body of acid reaction, and glucose. This glucosid is soluble in boiling water, alcohol, and ether.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Tonic, diaphoretic, and errhine. Reputed valuable in chills and fever and other febrile diseases. The whole plant possesses errhine properties, but the flowers, particularly the florets of the disk, are the most active, and may be used, in powder, as a snuff, in headache, incipient coryza, catarrh, deafness, and other affections where errhines are desired.
Related Species.—Helenium tenuifolium, Nuttall. United States, from Georgia west to Texas and north to Kansas (for illustration, see Meehan's Native Flowers and Ferns, II, 37). This species is poisonous. According to Galloway (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1872), spasms, with delirium and unconsciousness, were produced in four negroes by this plant, while in animals it resulted in twitching of the muscles, violent convulsions, and death.
Helenium parviflorum, Nuttall.—Georgia. Properties similar to those of Helenium autumnale.
King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.