English Name—SKEVISH FLEABANE.
French Name—Erigeron de Philadelphie.
German Name—Skewisch Berusungskraut.
Vulgar Names—Skevish, Scabish, Sweet Scabious, Daisy, Cocash, Frostweed, Fieldweed, Squawweed, &c.
Authorities—Linn. Mich. Pursh, Pers. Torrey, Eaton, B. Barton, Depuy, Hales, A. Ives, Bigelow Seq. Thatcher, Coxe. W. Bart. fig. 20.
Genus ERIGERON—Flowers compound radiate. Perianthe imbricated, folioles subulate unequal. Phoranthe naked. Rays ligulate, linear, entire, numerous, pistillate; central flowers of the disk tubular complete or staminate, five toothed. Seeds oblong crowned by a simple pappus.
Species. E. PHILADELPHICUM—Pubescent, leaves cuneate oblong obtuse, lower petiolate, upper semiamplexicaule, nearly entire subciliate: flowers corymbose, rays twice as long as the hemispherical perianthe.
Description—Roots perennial yellowish, formed by many branching thick fibres. The whole plant is pubescent and rises two or three feet, stems one to five, straight, simple, branched and corymbose at the top, a little angular. Radical and lower leaves oblong, base cuneate decurrent on a long petiole nearly obtuse, margin ciliate entire or seldom serrate: upper leaves sessile or nearly amplexicaule, cuneate, narrow oblong, obtuse, entire, alternate remote: floral leaves small lanceolate.
Flowers numerous forming a panicled Corymb, peduncles scattered, slender, bearing one to three flowers. Buds globular. Perianthe or common calix hemispherical, formed by many subulate, adpressed folioles. Flowers radiate, half an inch in diameter, with yellow disk and rays white, bluish or purplish. Rays or radial florets ligular numerous, spreading, crowding, narrow, entire, pistilate. Florets of the disk, convex, crowded, the central ones sometimes staminate and abortive. Phoranthe or common receptacle, bearing all the florets, flat, naked, pitted. Germen of the pistillate and complete florets oblong smooth, having a symphogyne calix forming above a pilose pappus which crowns the seeds. Each floret produces a single seed.
Locality—Found all over the United States, although bearing the name of Philadelphian. It grows in New England, New York, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, and as far South as Louisiana and Georgia. It is a field plant, seldom seen in woods and mountains; but covering sometimes whole fields, dry meadows, commons and glades. In old fields it is deemed a pernicious weed, like the other kinds which commonly accompany it.
History—Three species (if not more) of this genus have similar properties, and will therefore be included in this article, the other two are,
1. Erigeron heterophyllum, (Aster Annuus of Linnaeus) Jagged Fleabane, which merely differs from this by broader jagged difforme leaves, the radical and inferior ovate, sinuate dentate, acute, the upper one lanceolate subpinnatif, and the floral entire—Common in meadows, &c. mixed with E. philadelphicum. Figured by W. Barton, fig. 21. Biennual.
2. Erigeron Canadense, Canada Fleabane. It has linear crowded entire leaves; flowers paniculate, very small, with oblong perianthe and rays exceedingly short. One of the most common weeds from Canada to Kentucky, and yet perhaps the most efficient of the three. It infests old fields, and has been spread in Europe by chance. Very variable, principal varieties 1. Uniflorum, 2. Pusillum, 3. Maritimum, 4. Virgatum, 5. Serratum, 6. Lanceolatum, &c.
A multitude of vulgar names are applied to these plants. Fleabane is the true English name, Daisy alludes to the flowers which are similar to those of the true Daisy or Bellis perennis, but the Bellis integrifolia is the true American Daisy. Scabious is erroneous, since they are nothing like the genus Scabiosa, Skevish derives perhaps from Scabious or from Cocash the Indian name.
They all blossom from July to October, or until frost. They are deemed bad weeds; but are easily extirpated. The E. canadensis is annual.
Erigeron is a genus of the RADIATE Order next to Aster, of which it merely differs by numerous narrow rays. Both belong to Syngenesia Superflua of Linnaeus.
Qualities—These plants have a peculiar smell most unfolded by rubbing them, which is not disagreeable. Their taste is astringent, acrimonious and bitter: the smell and taste are most unfolded in E. canadense and E. philadelphicum. They contain Tannin, Amarine, Extractive, Gallic Acid and an essential Oil. This Oil is very peculiar, as fluid as Water, of a pale yellow color, a peculiar smell somewhat like Lemon, but stronger and a very acrid taste. It holds probably in solution Acrine or a peculiar substance Erigerine.
Properties—These Weeds are valuable medicaments, possessing very active powers; they are Diuretic, Sudorific, Astringent, Styptic, Menagogue, Pectoral and Tonic in a high degree, and act in a mode peculiar to themselves, by means of their acrid quality. Their Oil is so powerful that two or three drops dissolved in Alcohol, have arrested suddenly uterine hemorrhagy, in the hands of Dr. Hales of Troy, who employs the Oil of E. canadense. This kind is most used in New England and New York, the others in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The whole plants are available.
The Diseases already relieved or cured by these plants are Chronic Diarrhoea, Ascites, Disury, Nephritis, Gravel, Gout, Anasarca, Suppressed Menstruations, Dropsy, Hydrothorax, Dry Coughs, Cutaneous Eruptions, Hemorrhagies, Dimness, Rash, Cold hands and feet, &c. The whole plants are used fresh or dried, in infusion, decoction or tincture. Their extract is rather fetid, more astringent than the infusion or tincture; but less than the Oil, which is one of the most efficient vegetable Styptics. This extract and a syrup of the plant have been given usefully in dry coughs, hemoptysis, and internal hemorrhages. The dose is from five to ten grains of the extract, often repeated.
As diuretic the infusion, decoction and tincture are preferable and more active; they have increased the daily evacuation of urine from 24 to 67 ounces. A pint or two of the former may be taken daily; they agree well with the stomach, even when Squill and Digitalis are intolerable: the dose of the tincture is from two to four drachms daily; it is made by digesting one ounce of the leaves in a pound of proof Spirit. They are beneficial in all diseases of the bladder and kidneys, attended with pain and irritation, in which they give speedy relief. Also in all compound cases of gravel and gout. In rheumatism they have not been tried, although they are sudorific. In all Dropsical disorders they act as diuretic. In chronic Diarrhoea as astringent and have cured it without auxiliary.
They are even useful externally in wounds, also in hard tumors and buboes, which a cataplasm of the fresh plants dissolve as it were. But the most valuable property is the astringent and styptic power of the Oil, which has saved many lives in parturition and uterine hemorrhagy. A saturated solution of the Oil in Alcohol is applied and a little given in a spoonful of Water; and an instantaneous stop takes place in the bloody flow.
Since these plants appear to increase as well as to prevent several discharges from the body, they must not act as other diuretic and astringent remedies; but by a peculiar acrid effect on the system, worthy of investigation. I highly recommend these plants to medical attention. They were known to the Northern Indians by the name of Cocash or Squaw-weed as menagogue and diuretics, and are often employed by Herbalists. They may be collected for medical use at any time when in blossom.
Substitutes—Eryngium yucefolium and Aquaticum, or Corn-snake root, said to be the strongest diuretic and sudorific of the Southern States—Botrophis Serpentaria—Pyrola umbellata, maculata, &c.—Daucus Carota and other diuretics.—For astringents Spirea tomentosa—Heuchera Sp.—Statice Caroliniana—Arbutus Uva Ursa—Geranium maculatum—Comptonia asplenifolia, &c.
Remarks—Other species of this genus may possess the same properties: they are very similar to each other. The following might be tried.
E. bellidifolium or Daisy Fleabane, a vernal kind.
E. Integrifolium, or Slender Fleabane.
E. purpureum, or Purple Fleabane.
E. strigosum, or Rough Fleabane, &c.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, 1828, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.