Botanical Source.—Xanthium spinosum is a weed known as "Spiny clotbur," and is naturalized in the United States, in many places near the seacoast, the seed having been introduced in ballast. The stem is an annual, from 1 to 3 feet high, much branched, and armed with numerous spines. The spines are of a light straw color, and are divided, about a quarter of an inch from the base, into three slender, sharp, diverging branches. The leaves are lanceolate, acute, tapering to a short leaf-stalk at the base; they are entire or have 2 teeth, or often lobes, near the base. The under surface is covered with a close, white tomentum. The flowers are small, monoecious, the sterile being borne near the apex, the fertile at the base, of the branchlets. The fruit is a rough, oblong bur, armed at the apex with a short beak, and densely covered with equal hooked prickles.
Chemical Composition.—In 1876 (Jahresb. der Pharm., p. 117) Dragendorff communicated the result of an analysis of the plant made by him in 1866. He obtained small quantities of a probably evanescent alkaloid soluble in alcohol and water. The herb contains considerable quantities of potassium nitrate. Yvon (ibid.) believes the alkaloidal reactions to be due to a non-alkaloidal resin soluble in ether and alcohol. About 10 per cent of starch is present.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—This plant was recommended as a specific in the treatment of hydrophobia by Dr. Grzyvala; the assertion being made that in one hundred cases and upward of persons who bad been bitten by rabid dogs, the administration of this article effected recovery without a single failure. The dose was 10 grains of the plant, in powder, repeated several times a day. Experiments by other physicians have failed to sustain this assertion, and for this purpose the plant has passed into disrepute. It, however, is reputed sialagogue, sudorific, and somewhat diuretic, resembling to a considerable extent the action of pilocarpus, besides being antiperiodic. Prof. Scudder (Spec. Med., p. 266) writes of it, that it "may be employed as a prophylactic against ague, as an antiperiodic when the patient is subject to profuse sweatings, and to prevent the recurrence of chills when they have been broken. It may be employed in any disease where there is nervous excitement attended by sweating." Clot-bur has a soothing action upon the urinary tract, and has recently proved a good remedy for passive hematuria. Some have reported success with it in postpartum hemorrhage, but it is not likely to supplant other well-known remedies for this purpose. Dr. George W. Homsher, of Camden, Ohio, attributes a specific action to this agent in irritable conditions of the bladder, particularly chronic cystitis. In cases benefited by it there is an excess of mucus and a uric acid diathesis, the bladder walls are thickened, urination is tenesmic and frequent, and gravel or minute calculi may pass continually. It is frequently used with red onion. Prof. Bloyer has used this combination with success in similar conditions, with bloody urine. Clot-bur was long ago employed in the treatment of gonorrhoea. Dose of the powder, 5 to 10 grains; of the tincture (fresh plant in flower, ℥viij to strong alcohol, Oj), 1/4 to 10 drops; specific xanthium spinosum, 1/10 to 10 drops.
Specific Indications and Uses.—Ague, with profuse sweatings; prophylactic against ague, and to prevent a recurrence of chills; nervous excitation, with copious sweating. Bloody urine; urine heavily loaded with mucus and gravelly deposit; urination painfully tenesmic and frequent.
Related Species.—Xanthium strumarium, Linné, Cockle-bur, Clot-bur. A common weed growing in wastes throughout Europe, north Asia and North America. Our indigenous plant has two varieties, the echinatum, Gray, and canadense, Miller. The fruit has been analyzed by Zander (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1881, p. 271), who isolated 1.27 per cent of a yellow, non-crystalline glucosid, xanthostrumarin, soluble in alcohol, chloroform, ether, benzene, and water. With the group reagents for alkaloids it forms precipitates, except with gelatin and tannin. Among other constituents were found albuminoids, 36.64; fatty matter, 38.6; ash, 5.18; sugar and resin. A peculiar principle, differing perhaps from xanthostrumarin of Zander, and about 14.5 parts of fixed oil were obtained by Chatham in 1884 (ibid., p. 134).
King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.