The root and herb of Senecio aureus, Linné.
COMMON NAMES: Life root, Ragwort, False valerian, Golden senecio, Squaw weed, Female regulator.
Botanical Source.—This plant has an erect, smoothish, striate stem, 1 or 2 feet high, floccose-woolly when young, simple or branched above, terminating in a kind of umbellate, simple or compound corymb. The radical leaves are simple and rounded, the larger mostly cordate, crenate-serrate, and long-petioled; the lower cauline leaves lyre-shaped, the upper ones few, slender, cut pinnatifid, dentate, sessile, or partly clasping, the terminal segments lanceolate. The peduncles are subumbellate and thick upward. Corymb is umbel-like. Rays from 8 to 12, 4 or 5 lines long, and spreading. Flowers golden-yellow. Scales linear, acute, and purplish at the apex (W.—G.).
History.—This is an indigenous, perennial plant, growing on the banks of creeks and on low, marshy grounds, throughout the northern and western parts of the Union, flowering in May and June. The root and herb are the medicinal parts, and the medicine is peculiar to Eclectic practitioners. It yields its properties to water or alcohol. It has not been analyzed, but appears to contain both an acrid and bitter principle, and tannin.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Senecio is diuretic, pectoral, diaphoretic, tonic, and exerts a peculiar influence upon the reproductive organs, and particularly of the female, which has given to it, especially the S. gracilis, the name of Female regulator. This is one of our valuable remedies in the treatment of female diseases. It relieves irritation and strengthens functional activity. Ovarian or uterine atony, with impairment of function, increased mucous or muco-purulent secretions, or displacements of the womb and vaginal prolapse, are the chief guides to its use. It is very efficient in promoting the menstrual flow, and may be given alone, in infusion, or combined with equal parts of asarum and savine, in amenorrhoea, not connected with some structural lesion. It will also be found valuable in dysmenorrhoea, sterility, and chlorosis. In menorrhagia, combined with cinnamon and raspberry leaves, it has been found very serviceable, when administered during the intermenstrual period, as well as at the time of ovulation. Tenesmic and painful micturition of both sexes is often relieved by it. Senecio often cures leucorrhoea when associated with weakness of vaginal walls, allowing uterine displacements, and accompanied with vascular engorgement and pelvic weight. Senecio is of value in many genital disorders of the male, the indications being pelvic weight and full, tardy, or difficult urination and sensation of dragging in the testicles. Senecio aids digestion when tardy from congested or relaxed conditions of the gastric membranes. It is also useful in capillary hemorrhage, especially in hematuria, and in albuminuria, with bloody urine. Pulmonary hemorrhage has also been checked by it. It has proved an excellent diuretic in gravel and other urinary affections, either alone, or given in combination with other diuretics, and is said to be a specific in strangury. In pulmonary and hepatic affections it has proved advantageous, and, taken freely, the decoction has effected cures of dysentery. This remedy produces its effects slowly in chronic disorders. Dose of the decoction, 4 fluid ounces, 3 or 4 times a day; specific senecio, 1 to 30 drops.
Specific Indications and Uses.—Atony of the reproductive organs, with impairment of function; uterine enlargement, with uterine or cervical leucorrhoea; difficult tenesmic micturition; dragging sensations in the testicles; perineal weight and fullness.
Varieties of Senecio and Related Species.—There are several varieties of the above species, which possess similar medicinal virtues, as the Senecio balsamitae, or Balsam groundsel with the stem and peduncles villous at base; leaves few, small distant, pubescent; radical ones oblong, spatulate, or lanceolate, sometimes cut-toothed, tapering into the petiole; cauline ones lyrate or pinnatifid; flowers subumbellate. This variety grows in pastures and on rocky hills (W-G.).
Another, the Senecio gracilis, Unkum, or Female regulator, a slender state of the species, is found on rocky shores. Radical leaves orbicular, on long petioles, subcordate, crenate; cauline ones very few, remote, linear-oblong, dilated at the base, incisely dentate; peduncles very short, pilose, subumbelled; involucre smooth; rays few, very short.
The Senecio obovatus, a variety of the S. aureus, with the radical leaves obovate, crenate-serrate, petioled; cauline ones pinnatifid, toothed; flowers subumbelled, long-peduncled, bracted, with a cavity under the receptacle like some other of the genus; stem somewhat glabrous. Found in the meadows, etc. (W.). This plant, in infusion, has cured several cases of amenorrhoea. Several cases of abortion are stated to have followed its use, and it has been recommended as a substitute for ergot. It certainly deserves further investigation.
Senecio lanceolatus.—Found in shady cedar swamps in Vermont. It has all the leaves lanceolate-oblong, thin, sharply and unequally toothed, either wedge-shaped or somewhat cordate at the base, the upper cauline ones being pinnatifid-cut toward the base.
Among these varieties, the Senecio gracilis is considered the most efficient in uterine difficulties, and it is from this that the oleoresin, improperly called senecin, was at first prepared. The whole herb is used. The root grows just below the surface of the ground, and runs along horizontally. It is from 3 to 6 or 8 inches in length, and about 2 lines in diameter, reddish or purplish externally, white-purplish internally, with an aromatic taste, and having scattered fibers. When dried and mixed with the herb, it is found of various lengths, from 1/4 to 1 or 2 inches, greenish-brown or yellowish-brown externally, with very fine longitudinal lines, a few fibers attached, short fracture, presenting under the microscope a shining, waxy surface, with a central pale-purple substance, surrounded by a greenish-yellow one, with a light-yellowish ring between the two. It is inodorous, and has a faintly bitter, herbaceous, peculiar, resinous taste, with a very slight degree of pungency. It yields its properties best to alcohol.
Senecio Doronicum, Senecio Saracenicus, Senecio vulgaris, and Senecio Jacobaea, are among the European species which have been employed in medicine, while, in Mexico, the maturin (S. cervariaefolius. and matrique (S. grayanus. are said to furnish a dog-poison. Exalted temperature, pupillary dilatation, and convulsions are the reputed effects of these species, which, according to Henckel (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1891, p. 6), contain a glucosidal body, resembling digitalin in its action; resin, volatile oil, tannin, etc., are likewise present. Another Mexican dog-poison is Yerba de la Puebla, or Senecio canicida, and contains a poisonous organic acid, senecic acid (Rio de la Loxa, Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1886, p. 170).
King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.