English Name—SMALL SPIKENARD.
French Name—Petit Nard.
German Name—Nardwurzel Aralie.
Officinal Names—Aralia radix, Nardus Americanus.
Vulgar Names—Spiknard, Sassaparil, Sarsaparilla, Wild Liquorice, Sweet-root.
Authorities—Linnaeus, Wildenow, Michaux, Pursh, Schoepf, Colden, Dispensaries, Bigelow Sequel.
Genus ARALIA—Calix united or superior fivetoothed. Petals five entire. Stamina five epigyne alternate. Pistil united to the calix, five styles and stigmas. Berry crowned by the calix and styles, five celled, five seeded—Flowers in simple umbels.
Species A. NUDICAULIS—Stem naked, straight, smooth, bearing three umbels without involucrum: leaves radical, biternate; folioles ovate, acuminate, serrulate.
Description—Root perennial, brown, yellowish, cylindrical, creeping twisted, sometimes many feet long, thickness of the finger. One stem and one leaf mostly rising together, and less than two feet high. The stem is straight, leafless, cylindric, with three small simple naked umbels at the end. Leaf biternate or with nine folioles, the lateral ones sessile, the terminal ones petiolate, all ovate, oblong, rounded at the base, end acuminate, margin serrulate, surface smooth. Sometimes some folioles are coalescent.
Flowers from twelve to thirty in each umbel, pedunculate, small, yellowish. Calix greenish, obconical, united to the pistil, crowned with five teeth. Petals five, oboval, obtuse, yellowish white. Five stamina and five styles filiform. Berries small, round, similar to Elder berries in size.
History—The genus Aralia is the type of a natural tribe the ARALIDES, to which Panax or Ginseng belongs likewise; this last differing only by having two styles and two cells instead of five. This family differs from the UMBELLATE by producing berries instead of two seeds. All the plants of this genus and family have active properties. Two other American species A. racemosa and A. hispida, have the same properties as this, and may be used for each other. The A. spinosa or Angelica Tree partakes of the same, and also of the properties of Angelica root and Xanthoxylum.
Aralia belongs to PENTANDRIA pentagynia of Linnaeus.
This species blossoms in summer. It is often called Sarsaparilla, the root being similar to that article, and having similar properties. It might become an article of trade as such, and deserves to be cultivated.
Locality—Found from New-England to Carolina, and Indiana, more common in the north than the south: it delights in deep woods, shady groves and valleys, good soils, &c.
Qualities—The whole plant is balsamic, fragrant, and has a warm aromatic sweetish taste; most unfolded in the root and berries. They contain mucilage, aroma, and an essential milky oil or balsam.
Properties—All the Spikenards or Aralias are popular medical plants throughout the United States: they made part of the Materia Medica of the native tribes, and are extensively used by country practitioners. They are vulnerary, pectoral, sudorific, stimulant, diaphoretic, cordial, depurative, &c. The roots and berries are most efficient; in A. spinosa the bark.
The roots bruised or chewed, or in poultice, are used for all kinds of wounds and ulcers by the Indians. Fomentations and cataplasms are useful for cutaneous affections, erysipels and ring-worms. An infusion or a decoction of the same, are efficient substitutes for those of Sarsaparilla, (and more powerful,) in all diseases of the blood, syphilitic complaints, chronical rheumatism, local pains, cardialgy, bellyache, &c. As a pectoral both roots and berries may be used in syrups, cordials, decoctions, &c. and have been found useful in coughs, catarrh, cachexia, langour, pains in the breast, &c. The cordial of Spikenard berries is recommended for the gout, and the juice or essential oil for the ear ache and deafness.
Substitutes—All the Aralias—Elder—Sarsaparilla—Guayac—Angelica-root—Cunila mariana—Sassafras—Ginseng—Eryngium aquaticum—Xanthoxylum or Prickly Ash—Magnolia Bark—Collinsonia Canadensis, &c. and many aromatic stimulants.
Remarks—Henry calls this plant Nardus Americanus, and his figure is fictitious, being like Fennel.
Since all our species may be substituted to each other, and we can only give the figure of one at present, it may be well to add a short notice of each.
A. racemosa or Large Spikenard—Root larger and thicker. Plant larger. Stem leafy, leaves similar to A. nudicaulis, but with larger and cordate folioles. Flowers in large axillary clusters, formed of many racemose umbels—Common from Canada to Alabama.
A. hispida or Rough Spikenard—Stem hispid, leaves decomposed, folioles small oval, umbels terminal, &c.—Confined to Canada, New-England, New-York, and the Alleghanies.
A. spinosa or Spikenard Tree, called also Angelica Tree, Tooth-Ache Tree, and Prickly Elder—A small tree full of thorns, leaves ample, decomposed, prickly. Flowers terminal, forming an ample panicle of umbels—From New-York to Georgia, and west to Missouri, &c.
Additions and corrections
8. ARALIA NUDICAULIS—All the species of Aralia bear also in New England the names of Life-of-man, Pettymorel, Pigeon weed, &c. and the A. spinosa Shot bush. They act sometimes as a tonic in a relaxed state of the stomach, debility ond loss of appetite; a decoction is used for a kind of eresypelas called Shingles. The roots are also nutrient, carminative and vulnerary: the Indians eat them in their war expeditions: a kind of beer can be made with them. The berries give a fine flavor to beer, and a wine similar to Elder wine can be made with them. The fresh roots and leaves chewed and applied to wounds, heal them speedily.; Dr. Sp. informed me that he was once cured by them alone of a desperate accidental wound by a broad ax. Zollickoffer has erroneously blended the A. spinosa with Xanthoxylum.
ARALIA SPINOSA, L. Prickly Elder, Shot Bush, Pigeon Tree, &c. Valuable medical tree, the bark is emetic, cathartic, sudorific, sialagogue, febrifuge, &c., that of the root is the best, the dry less active than the fresh. It is said to cure the bite of rattle snakes by emesis, &c. the Indians use it for dropsy, syphilis, tooth ache, cholic, rheumatism, &c. in decoction; the extract is also useful, the fresh roots are almost poisonous in the green state, they must be roasted and pounded, even then they act as a violent emetic. The berries are said to be a certain cure for spring intermittents, united to the bark, they have a good smell, and are eaten by wild pigeons. The bark has an aromatic taste, very useful in chronic rheumatism; equivalent of Xanthoxylum, but milder. The leaves and seeds are pectoral.
Add to A. nudicaulis, used for bilious complaints as a ptisan in Canada, and A. racemosa by the Indians as carminative, pectoral and antiseptic, in coughs, pains in the breast, mortification; the root with horse radish, made in poultice for the feet in general dropsy. The juice of the berries and oil of the seeds is said to cure ear ache and deafness, poured in the ears.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, 1828, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.