English Name—THREE-LEAVED ARUM.
German Name—Dreyblattrige Aron.
Officinal Name—Arisarum trifolium, Arum radix.
Vulgar Names—Indian Turnip, Dragon Root, Dragon Turnip, Pepper Turnip.
Authorities—Linnaeus, Michaux, Pursh, Elliot, Schoepf, Dispensaries, Bigelow fig. 4, Sequel, &.c.
Genus ARUM—Spathe univalve cucullate, convolute at the base. Spadix naked above: no perianthe. Stamina and pistils naked separated at the base of the spadix: filaments with two or four anthers; berries conglomerate, one celled, few seeded.
Species A. triphyllum—Leaves radical, ternate, folioles sessile, oval, acuminate, entire and smooth: scape with one spathe ovate acuminate, inflexed: spadix club shaped, shorter: flowers polygamous, trioicious.
Description—Root perennial, round, flattened, tuberous, with many white fibres around the base: skin dark, loose, and wrinkled.—Leaves one or two on long sheathing petiols, three folioles very smooth and sharp, pale beneath, oval or rhomboidal or oblong, entire or undulated, with regular parallel nerves. Scape or leafless stem, tunicated at the base by vaginated membranaceous acute sheaths, supporting one large upright spathe, tubular at the base, hooded at the top, either green or purple, or variegated with both colours in stripes within. Spadix cylindric, obtuse at the top, also variable in colour, bearing the flowers at the base where it is contracted. Some plants have only stamina, others pistils, and others have both, wherefore it is polygamous trioicious. Anthers two or four on short crowded filaments. Pistils crowded below, round, without styles, stigma punctiform. Sometimes abortive pistils and stamina intermixed. The upper part of the spadix withers with the spathe, while the pistils grow into a large compact head of— shining scarlet berries.
History—Arum is the type of a natural family, the AROIDES, among Monocotyle plants. In the Linnaean system it has been put in Gynandria or in Polyandria; yet many species are polygamous. Linnaeus did very improperly, and against his own botanical rules, change the previous name of Tournefort Arisarum into Arum, which is a mere termination of many other genera, Asarum, Comarum, &c.: triphyllum means three leaved.
The A. triphyllum blossoms with us from May to July, and in the summer bears its bright scarlet berries. The vulgar names are common to all the North American species, which have similar roots. Their leaves are sensible to a harsh grasp like Onoclea sensibilis, and the A. dracontium coils them when plucked. The seeds and roots may be rendered edible like A. esculentum (notwithstanding their caustic pungency) by long coction; they were eaten by the Indians roasted and otherwise.
Locality—All over North America in woods: it is said to extend to South America as far as Brazil; but probably a different species is found there. All soils and regions appear to suit this plant: it delights however in good, rich, and shady grounds.
Qualities—The whole plant, and particularly the root, is violently acrid, pungent, and even caustic to the tongue, but not to the skin. It burns worse than Capsicum or Cayenne pepper. This active principle is a peculiar substance, Aroine, highly volatile, having no affinity with water, alcohol, oil or acids, and becoming an inflammable gas by heat or distillation. The roots yield one fourth of their weight of a pure amylaceous matter, like starch or arrow-root, or a fine white delicate nutritive fecula, by the same process as Cassava or Jatropha manihot.
Properties—Powerful acrid, stimulant, incisive, restorative, expectorant, calefacient, carminative and diaphoretic. The fresh roots are too caustic to be used internally, unless much diluted, and when dry they are often inert, unless they have been dried very quick, or kept buried in sand or earth. It must be used in substance mixed with milk or molasses, since it does not impart its pungency to any liquor; or the fresh roots must be grated, or reduced to a pulp, with three times their weight of sugar, thus forming a conserve, the dose of which is a tea spoonful twice a day.
In these forms it is used for flatulence, cramp in the stomach, asthmatic and consumptive affections. It quickens circulation, and promises to be a useful topical stimulant when the acrid principle may be rendered available. It has been found beneficial in lingering atrophy, debilitated habits, great prostration in typhoid fevers, deep seated rheumatic pains, or pains in the breast, chronic catarrh, &c.
Substitutes—Capsicum—Salep—Erythronium— Squill—Arrow-root—Polygonum hydropiper—Salvia urticifolia—Cyclamen europeum—Arum dracontium, and other native Arums—besides Ranunculus bulbosus, and some other acrid pungent substances.
Remarks—A. dracontium has a large pedate leaf, with five to fifteen oblong segments, and grows in the Southern and Western States.
A. virginicum has sharp, wide, cordate leaves, and grows in Virginia, &c.
A. sagitefolium has sharp, long, sagittated leaves, and grows from New-York to Carolina. All these have similar roots, seeds, and properties.
Henry has assumed the name and figure of the European A. maculatum for this plant.
Additions and corrections
11. ARUM TRIPHYLLUM—The root is not inert when dry, and even the powder is used by Empirics with honey for coughs, &c. Dr. Mease recommends it for asthma, croup and whooping cough, grated in milk; it is said to promote the flow of mucus. It has been used in mania: it is said to kill snakes. The Indians use it for coughs with Spikenard or Aralia, and for fevers with Snake-roots and Prunus. Burson and Eberle prescribe it for chronic asthma and catarrh, aphthous sore throat, rheumatism, tinea capitis, tetters, &c. in consumption it is only a palliative, lessening the cough and dyspnea. The dose of the powder is from twelve to forty grains; an electuary or emulsion are convenient forms. An ointment is made for external use in rheumatism, tinea, &c. The seeds appear to have all the properties of the root with double the strength, and being less liable to lose their activity, ought to become the officinal substitute in half doses. The vulgar names of Wake robin and Devil's nip are also given to this plant. The A. sequinum or Dumb Cane of Brazil and the West Indies is used for the yaws, dropsy and gout, for which our Arums might be perhaps substituted.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, 1828, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.