English Name—WILD CAMOMILE.
French Name—Camomile Puante.
German Name—Stinkende Kamille.
Officinal Names—Cotula, Camomila Spuria.
Vulgar Names—May-Weed, Dog's Fennel, Dilly, Dilweed, Field weed, &c.
Authorities—Linnaeus, Wildenow, Pursh, Lamark, Schoepf, Dispensaries, Bigelow Seq. W. Barton Mat. Med. fig. 14.
Genus ANTHEMIS—Flowers compound radiate. Perianthe hemispherical imbricate. Rays above five, female. Phoranthe conical, chaffy. Seeds naked.
Species A. COTULA—Annual puberulent, stem angular, furrowed, branched. Leaves bipinnatifid, sessile, cari—nate, pinnules linear, acute. Peduncles grooved, naked, thicker above; chaff bristly, seeds obovate, four sided, furrowed.
Description—Root annual, crooked, fibrous. Stem and leaves covered with short, adpressed, wooly hairs. Stem from one to two feet high, erect and very much branched, irregularly angular and striated; branches corymbose. Leaves alternate sessile, flat, doubly pinnatifid, or almost pinnate, cari—nate beneath in the middle; pinnules flat unequal, linear, acute, entire or trifid.
Flowers many, forming a terminal corymb; each on a naked peduncle, erect, grooved and thicker upwards. Perianthe or common calyx, hemispherical, imbricated hairy, rough; scales linear, pale green, nearly equal, scariose on the margin and end. The central florets of the disk are numerous and bright yellow; those of the rays are ligular, from seven to twelve, and white. Phoranthe or common receptacle conical, covered with short bristly chaff, or palea.
Central florets tubular, glandular, five-toothed, with five stamina, anthera united. Germ inferior obovate. Style filiform bifid. Stigmas two filiform reflexed.
Rays or ligular florets without stamina, oblong, two nerved, bidentate or tridentate at the end.
Seeds brown, obovate, four sided, grooved and tuberculated.
History—The genus COTULA of Tournefort has been blended with ANTHEMIS by Linnaeus, from which the naked seeds, without a membranaceous appendage, and the conical instead of convex phoranthe, partly distinguish it, so as to allow of a subgenus or section at least.
There appears to be some differences between the A. Cotula of the north and south of Europe and our American plant; but although the various botanical descriptions offer several trifling diversities, they hardly amount to specific distinctions. Our description applies to the American plant. The European is smoother, more fetid, and sometimes described with bipinnate leaves, and trifid folioles. I have seen both, and once had distinguished this by the name of A. Cotuloides; but being unwilling to innovate in this work, I have followed our Botanists in uniting the plants of both continents, although I greatly doubt the botanical propriety of it.
It blossoms from June to November, affording a profusion of flowers in succession, of the size of Camomile, but never double. The whole plant has a strong graveolent smell, disagreeable to some persons, but not fetid. It is not eaten by cattle nor domestic animals.
The name of Anthemis is Greek, and applies to the profusion of flowers. Cotula is a diminutive of Cota, another plant of the same genus.
Anthemis belongs to the natural tribe of RADIATES, section of Anthemides. In the Linnean system it is placed in class SYNGENESIA. Order Polygamia Superflua.
Abundant as it is, the collection of it becomes easy; the whole plant may be dried when in bloom, or the blossoms alone may be collected.
Locality—Our plant is indigenous and not naturalized as mentioned by some Botanists. It is spread all over the United States from Maine to Louisiana; but confined almost every where to open fields. It is never found in woods, but delights in the sun, road sides, stony places and old fields, or near towns and villages. It is scarce in mountains, but prefers the limestone soils and plains. It is extremely abundant on the Ohio and in the Western States, covering neglected fields, and alternating in fallows with the Ironweed or Vernonia. It is deemed a troublesome weed, although being annual it is easily destroyed by early ploughings
Qualities—Graveolent, bitter, and nauseous; the smell of the plant resides in a Volatile Oil, possessed of a strong or graveolent aroma, and diffused throughout the plant, although more concentrated in the flowers. It is similar to the smell of Camomile, but more pungent, and less balsamic. This oil is bitter and communicates a bitterish acrid taste to the whole plant.
Properties—The same as those of Camomile, but weaker and less pleasant to the taste: it may be substituted thereto with safety. It is an active tonic, sodorific, stimulant, anodyne, emetic, and repellent; extensively used throughout the country for rheumatism, hysterics, epilepsy, dropsy, asthma, scrofula, &c. both internally and externally. The external use in warm baths or fomentations is proper in rheumatism, hysteric fits, suffocations, hemorrhoidal swellings, pains and contusions. The decoction and infusion are given for colds, fevers, rheumatism, asthma, &c. but a single cupful, if too strong, may produce vomiting, and even a weak infusion nauseates the stomach. It acts always as a sudorific, promoting copious sweating, and is often beneficial as an auxiliary to an emetic. In large doses it becomes emetic: in small ones it is a gentle tonic and diaphoretic, useful whenever it is needful to promote perspiration in fevers. Its advantages in epilepsy, dropsy and scrofula, are doubtful. The European plant is said to blister the hands, which is not the case with ours.
Substitutes—Camomile or Matricaria Chamomila—Eupatorium perfoliatum—Ruta vulgaris or Rue—Hedeoma pulegioides or Penny-royal— Marrubium Vulgare or Horehound—Achillea millefolium or Yarrow—Tanacetum or Tansey, with all the graveolent bitter tonics and sudorifics.
Remarks—The figure in Henry's, under the name of Mayweed, is quite fictitious, having entire leaves; but his article applies to this plant.
Additions and corrections
6. ANTHEMIS COTULA—Other names, Wild Camomile, Pissweed, &c. The essential oil is bluish as that of Camomile. It contains also resin, extractive and amarine; boiling dissipates the active principles. The flowers and the disk florets particularly, are most active; they are impaired by keeping. A weak or cold infusion is anti-emetic, while a strong or warm one is emetic. They are sometimes used as an external discutient, and are beneficial in injections for dysentery, spasmodic cholics, &c.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, 1828, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.