Preparations: Fluid Extract of Verbena
The root of Verbena hastata, Linné.
COMMON NAMES: Common vervain, Wild hyssop, Simpler's joy, Vervain.
Botanical Source.—Vervain, sometimes known by the names of Wild hyssop, or Simpler's joy, is an erect, tall, elegant, and perennial plant, with an obtusely 4-angled stem, 3 or 4 feet high, having opposite, paniculate branches above. The leaves are opposite, petiolate, lanceolate, acuminate, rough, and incisely serrate; the lower ones are often lobed, or somewhat hastate. The flowers are small, purplish-blue, sessile, tetrandrous, in long, erect, slender, imbricated, terminal and axillary, panicled spikes. Calyx 5-toothed; corolla funnel-form; limb 5-cleft, and nearly equal; seeds 4 (W.—G.).
History and Description.—Vervain is indigenous to the United States, growing along roadsides, and in dry, grassy fields, flowering from June to September. The root is the part used; it is woody and fibrous, faintly odorous, and of a bitter, somewhat astringent, nauseous taste, and imparts its properties to water. Sometimes the leaves are used instead of the root, but they are less active.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Vervain is tonic, emetic, expectorant, and sudorific. In small doses a tincture of verbena relieves gastric irritation. As an emetic and sudorific it has proved beneficial in intermittent fever, given in warm infusion or in powder. In all cases of colds and obstructed menstruation it may be used as a sudorific. Taken cold, the infusion forms a good tonic in some cases of debility, anorexia, and during convalescence from acute diseases. It has been reputed valuable in scrofula, visceral obstructions, gravel, and worms. The following application has been recommended as effectual in promoting the absorption of the blood effused in bruises, and in allaying the attendant pain: Take of vervain, senna, and white pepper, of each, equal parts. Make a cataplasm by mixing with the white of eggs. Dose of the powdered root, from 20 to 40 grains; of the infusion, from 2 to 4 fluid ounces, 3 or 4 times a day, or oftener if it is desired to cause emesis.
Related Species.—There are several species of Verbena, as the V. urticaefolia, Linné, or Nettle-leaved vervain, with white flowers; the V. officinalis var. spuria, Linné, with blue flowers, and others, the roots of which possess similar properties, but in a milder degree than the V. hastata. The root of V. urticaefolia, boiled in milk and water, with the inner bark of Quercus alba, and the decoction drank freely, is said to be efficacious in cases of poisoning by Rhus Toxicodendron. The root of V. urticaefolia, Linné, according to R. M. McFarland (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1892, p. 401), contains a glucosid having the nauseous, bitter taste of the drug; it is insoluble in ether and petroleum ether, soluble in alcohol and chloroform. Resins and an acid crystalline principle, mucilage, sugar, etc., were also present. The V. officinalis, Linné, is a European plant, possessing similar properties with the above, but less active. (Regarding useful plants of Verbenaceae, see Prof. Maisch, Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1885, pp. 330-335.)
Agnus Castus (Vitex Agnus Castus, Linné. (Nat. Ord.—Verbenaceae), Chaste tree.—Mediterranean Europe. A small plant of disagreeable odor, bearing terminal spikes of blue or purple flowers, and having berries somewhat like peppercorns, also possessing a pungent taste. Landerer (1835) found the fruit to contain a volatile principle, an acrid oil, and a crystalline, bitter substance named viticin and castin (see Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1885, p. 332). A tincture of the fresh berries is employed. This agent is reported galactagogue and emmenagogue, and is also said to repress the sexual passions, for which purpose the ancient Athenian women employed it. It has been suggested in small doses in impotence and sexual melancholia. It is probably a remedy for sexual irritability, with nervousness, or melancholia, or mild dementia. A tincture of the root of Castus indicus has been employed as an antidote to venomous bites and stings, and in drop doses has been given for giddiness and salivation.
King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.