French Name—Anserine Vermifuge.
German Name—Wurmsamen Gansefuss.
Officinal Name—Chenopodium seu Botrys Anthelminticum.
Vulgar Names—Jerusalem Oak, Wormwood, Worm seed, Stinking weed.
Authorities—Linnaeus, Michaux, Pursh, Schoepf, B. Barton, Mease, Wilkins, Coxe, Thacher, Chapman, Stoker, Big. seq. W. Bart. Mat. Med. fig. 44.
Genus CHENOPODIUM—Perigone simple persistent, caliform, five parted, Stamina five perigyne. Pistil free with a bifid style. Seed single, lenticular, covered by the perigone.
Species CH. ANTHELMINTICUM.—Leaves oval-oblong, sessile, sinuate-toothed; flowers terminal, sessile, in glomerules, forming leafless panicled slender spikes.
Description—Root perennial and branched—Stem upright, grooved and branched, branches fastigiate, giving a shrubby appearance to the whole plant, which rises from two to five feet in height—Leaves sessile, alternate or scattered; attenuated at both ends, oval or oblong, rather thick, dotted beneath, margin sinuate by large unequal obtuse teeth, nerves very conspicuous.
Flowers very small, numerous and yellowish green like the whole plant, forming large, loose leafless terminal panicles, composed of many slender alterning small spikes, and these of many small scattered unequal glomerules, containing from five to twelve sessile flowers. Calix or simple perigone with five short oval segments; stamina opposite to the segments, and protruding. Styles bifid or trifid, filiform, longer than the stamina. Seed flat, lenticular, shining, covered by the persistent calix.
History—The whole plant has a strong, pungent smell, somewhat like valerian, which is disgusting to many persons; this smell is easily known and enables to distinguish it from some other consimilar species, which are often blended with it: such are the Ch. ambrosioides & Ch. botrys, whose smell is agreeable and fragrant, although strong.
The genus belongs to the natural order of ATRIPLICES, and to PENTANDRIA digynia of Linnaeus. The generic name means Goosefoot in Greek, the specific refers to its value against worms.
It blossoms from July to September, at which time the plant may be collected and dried; but if the seeds are wanted, October is the best time, although they ripen in succession during all the autumn. The plant is now sometimes cultivated for medical uses, both in America and Europe. The dried plant retains the peculiar smell.
Locality—From New England to Missouri and Georgia, more abundant and larger in the South: common in old fields, along fences, in alluvions, gravel, rubbish, and even in streets; but never in woods nor mountains.
Qualities—The strong and lasting smell of the whole plant, is owing to an essential oil, very penetrating or pungent, and in which resides the medical property. It is diffused throughout the plant, particularly in the globular dots of the leaves, and the seeds. The taste is bitter, acrid and aromatic.
Properties—A powerful vermifuge used both in America and Europe; found equal to the officinal wormseed, which is the Artemisia Santolina, a very different plant, native of Syria and Africa. It expels speedily, the Lumbrics and other worms of the intestines. It must be given in repeated small doses, and the most palatable form: the seeds and their essential oil are the most efficacious, eight or ten drops of the oil, mixed with sugar are a common dose for a child, or a table spoonful morning and night fasting, of an electuary mode of the pulverized seeds with honey. A conserve, marmelade, syrup, beer, decoction in milk, of the leaves, (or even their juice,) are also used. Children often dislike the strong smell of this medicine, and it must be disguised by orange peel or sweet substances. The seeds and oil are now kept in the pharmacies but the last is often adulterated with oil of Botrys or of Turpentine; which lessen its power; it may then be known by a less pungent smell.
This plant has only been employed against worms, as yet, but it possesses probably all the properties of the Ch. Botrys and ambrosioides, which are pectoral, resolvent, carminative and emcnagogue: useful in asthma, suppressed menstrations, &c.
Substitutes—Spigelia or Pinkroot—Lobelia cardinalis—Wormwood—Silene Virginica—Polanisia graveolens, and all other vermifuges.
Remarks—Many other species of Chenopodium are medical; but none vermifuge like this: those which approximates in appearance and smell are the following; which must not be mistaken for this although useful in other respects.
Ch. botrys or sweet Jerusalem oak, has oblong obtuse sinuate leaves, and crowded panicles. Common all over the United States, in sand and gravel near streams.
Ch. ambrosioides or Fragrant Jerusalem oak, has narrow or lanceolate toothed leaves, and leafy panicles, with a very fragrant smell, stronger than in the foregoing. Grows promiscuously with Ch. anthelminticum.
The whimsical name of Jerusalum oak has been given fo these plants, from a fanciful similitude to the leaves of the oak.
Henry's figure represents probably the Ch. botrys.
Additions and corrections
21. CHENOPODIUM ANTHELMINTHICUM—Not perennial as stated, but annual. It is said to extend to Mexico and South America. It is antispasmodic like Ch. olidum, used in hysteria, and a tolerable substitute for Assafetida. Called sometimes Sowbank in New England.
CHENOPODIUM, L. Lamb's quarter, Pig weed, Sow bank. Several species, native or naturalized, eaten boiled as greens, such as Ch. album, Ch. bonus, &c. cooling; vulnerary externally, useful in gout, pleuritis, oedema, varix, fistula.
Correct in the article of Ch. anthelminthicum, two species equally medical are blended under that name. The southern and western species, which I now call Ch. rugosum, Raf. is well described by Elliot, it is really perennial, stem furrowed 4 or 5 feet high, leaves rugose, glandular beneath, &c. The Ch. ambrosioides or Mexican tea, used in Europe for hemoptysis, and to help parturition.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, 1828, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.