Sex. Syst. Triandria, Digynia.
Virana, Asiat Res. i v. 306; A. squarrosus, Linn., Suppl. 433; Phalaris zizanoides, Linn. Syst. Veg. v. 104; Anatherum muricatum, Beauv., Agrost. 128, t. xxii f. 10; Vetiveria odorata, Virey, Journ. de Pharm. xiii. 499; Bena (Bengalee), Roxburgh, Fl. Ind. i. 265; Vittie-Vayr (Tamool), Ainslie, Mat. Indica, ii. 470; Woetiwear (Tamool), Roxb., op. supra cit.
—Coromandel, Bengal: very common on every part of the coast.
—Its root, called cuscus, or khus-khus (radix vetiveriae), is imported from Bombay: it is long, fibrous, brownish or yellowish-white; has a fragrant aromatic odour, [The odour is said by Martius (Buchner's Repertorium, Bd. xxxix. S. 230, 1831) to be between that of galbanum and of violet-root, and to approach that of serpentary; while Geiger considers it to be between that of calamus and of yellow water iris-root, and similar to myrrh.] and a feeble bitterish, aromatic taste. Iodine colours it bluish-black.
In 1809, Vauquelin [Ann. du Muséum xiv.28; and Ann. de Chimie, lxxii. 302.] analyzed it under the name of schoenanthus. It was analyzed in 1828 by Henry, [Journ. de Pharm. tom. xiv. p. 57, 1828.] and in 1831 by Geiger; [Quoted by Goebel, Pharm. Waarenkunde, Bd. ii. S. 265.] the latter found volatile oil, resin, bitter extractive, starch, traces of hydrochloric and calcareous salts and woody fibre. Cap [Journ. de Pharm, t. xix. p. 48, 1833.] submitted the root to distillation with water, and obtained two volatile oils: one limpid, amber coloured, and lighter than water; another, in larger quantity, which was heavier than water, opake, and adhered to the bottom of the receiver.
The dried roots, when slightly moistened, emit a pleasant kind of fragrance, and are employed in India for making vissaries (large fans) and door- and window-screens (composed of a frame-work of bamboo covered by cuscus root). During the hot winds, the outsides of these screens are kept watered by natives, and the air that passes through is thereby rendered both cool and fragrant. Cuscus root is imported into England for perfumery purposes. It serves to make scented baskets, and is put into drawers to guard linen and woollen goods from the attacks of insects.
This root has also been employed in medicine. It acts as a gentle excitant and diaphoretic. In India, an infusion of it is used as a diaphoretic and gentle stimulant in febrile cases. The warm infusion has been employed as an antispasmodic, diaphoretic, diuretic, and emmenagogue. An ointment of the root has also been applied to destroy pediculi on the heads of children. [Lemaire Lisancourt, Bull. de la Soc. Phil. vii. 43, 1822.] In 1831, it was used in Paris as a preservative against the cholera: it was worn by the ladies; bundles of it were hung up in the rooms; and fumigations were prepared with it. [Kunze, Pharm. Central Blatt für 1831. S. 660.] In Hamburgh, it was used by Dr. Buchheister [Bull. gén. de Thérap. Fev. 1834.] and others in cholera. A weak infusion has been used by Foy [Dierbach, Die neuest. Entd. in d. Mat. Med. Bd. i. S. 166, 1837.] in rheumatism and gout.
It may be employed in the form of powder, infusion, tincture, or volatile oil.
The dose of the powder (pulvis vetiveriae) is about a scruple, in the form of pills. A weak infusion or tea is prepared with one or two drachms of the root and two pints of water; this may be drank ad libitum. A strong infusion, prepared with one ounce of the root to half a pint of water, may be administered in doses of a tablespoonful. A tincture (tinctura vetiveriae), made with one ounce of the root and half a pint of proof spirit, is given in doses of a teaspoonful.
The Elements of Materia Medica and Therapeutics, Vol. II, 3th American ed., was written by Jonathan Pereira in 1853.