Officinal Names—Ipecacuana, Euphorbia radix.
Vulgar Names—Milkweed, Ipecacuana, Picac, Hippo, Ipecac, Persely, Milk-purslain, White-pursely, Indian Physic, Purge-root, Emetic-root, Bowman-root, Apple-root, Snake's milk, and Peheca in Louisiana.
Authorities—Lin. Clayton, Schoepf, Michaux, Pursh, Torrey, M'Keen, Zollickoffer, A. Ives, B. Barton, Coxe, W. Bart. Eberle, Bigelow, fig. 53, and Seq.
Genus EUPHORBIA—Monoical. Perianthe persistent caliciform, ventricose, alternate Segments petaloid. Staminate flowers eight to sixteen in the Involucre, naked each has one bilobe anther with a filament articulated to a pedicel. Pistilate flowers solitary central, stipitate, one germ, three bifid styles. Capsul stipitate, three celled, cells formed by the involved valves, one or two seeded.
Species E. COROLLATA—Stem simple erect; leaves scattered sessile, oblong-cuneate, obtuse, entire; umbel with five rays and leaves, rays trifid with two oblong bracts, flowers pedicellate, rotate, five lobed, corolliform; capsuls smooth.
Description—Root perennial, large, one inch thick, two feet long, yellowish. Several Stems from two to five feet high, simple, round, erect, often smooth. Leaves sessile, entire scattered, often crowded, oblong, obovate, cuneate or linear, flat or revolute, smooth or hairy. A large terminal umbel with five rays, and as many leaves in a whorl, similar to the stem leaves. Rays trifid and next dichotomous, each fork has two oblong bracts. Perianthe (mistaken for the Calix by Linnaeus, &c.) large, rotate, white, with five rounded flat segments, looking like a corol. Five small inner segments (nectaries of Lin.) like obtuse projections at the base of the segments. A dozen of Stamina, evolving gradually, each is a true flower on a pedicel, with an articulate filament and a bilobe anther. Many perianthes without pistil, when existing it is central, stipitate, nodding, rounded, with three bifid Styles. Capsul three cocca or formed by three valves rolled in and making three cells, each with a seed convex outside, angular inside, where it is inserted.
Locality—From Canada to Florida and Louisiana, in dry soils, barren fields, among stones and rocks, also in glades, seldom in woods and never near waters, nor in rich alluvial soils.
History—As in the case of the Erigeron this article shall include three species, which have equivalent properties, the two others are
1. E. Ipecacuana Lin. Ipecacuana Spurge. Perennial, smooth, diffuse or procumbent, dichotome, articulated: leaves opposite, sessile, entire, variable, round, oboval, elliptic, oblong, lanceolate or linear: Flowers solitary at the forks, on long pedicels, perianthe small, campanulate five lobed: capsuls round and smooth.—Confined to the great Atlantic alluvial region extending from New Jersey to Florida and Mexico, along the Sea: very common there in sands and Pine woods. It blossoms from June to August, and affords a multitude of varieties, such as 1. Cespitosa, 2. Prostrata, 3. Rotundifolia, 4. Lanceolata, 5. Uniflora, &c. this last has only a single white flower, with procumbent stem, and obovate leaves. I described it in 1808, as a N. Sp. E. uniflora. 6. Rubra, the whole plant is red, 7. Portulacoides with erect stems and oval leaves, described by Linnaeus as a peculiar species.—Root grey, white inside, very long. It is figured by Bigelow fig. 52 and by W. Barton, fig. 18.
2. E. hypericifolia Lin. (also E. maculata of Lin.) Black Spurge, (or Spotted Pursely, black Pursely, &c.) Annual, smooth, dichotome, erect or procumbent, divaricated: leaves opposite, petiolate, oblique, subfalcate, oblong, serrate, acute; flowers terminal fasciculate, perianthe four lobed and white, capsuls smooth.—Common all over the United States, in fields, &c. Several Varieties, 1. Prostrata, 2. Multiflora, 3. Maculata with a purple spot on each leaf. 4. Simplex, &c.
The varieties of E. corollata are 1. Linearis all the leaves linear obtuse. 2. Pubescens, Stems and leaves pubescent. 3. Rosea flowers tinged with rose color. 4. Pauciflora only 5 or 6 flowers, &c. They all blossom in Summer, from June to September, and make a pretty appearance by their fine umbels of snowy blossoms: they are bad weeds in some fields, and all animals avoid them.
In these plants, we have quite efficient substitutes for the Brazilian Ipecacuana, Calicocca, which is often adulterated or old in our shops. We could even export them as true Equivalents of the officinal Ipecacuana. The E. hypericifolia, however, which is an annual plant is available as an herb, while the E. Ipecacuana has a large root from four to six feet long, which might be exported and afforded cheap. It is a singular coincidence that the name given to these roots by the Indians of Louisiana is Peheca, very similar to the Brazilian native name of Ipeca, both meaning Emetic-root. The Psychotria emetica and Viola Ipecacuana furnish also similar emetics.
The Genus Euphorbia has been named after Euphorbus, physician of Juba, king of Mauritania, who brought the Euphorbium or Juice of the E. officinalis into practice. It is a very extensive and anomalous genus, divided into many sections. Esula, Tithymalus, Characias, Lathyras, &c. It is the type of the Natural Order of TRICOCCA or Euphorbiaceous plants. Linnaeus put it in Dodecandria monogynia, mistaking the perianthe for a Corolla, but it is now properly removed to Monoecia monandria. Most of the species are medical, more or less drastic and emetic, but difficult to manage, and in large doses they bring on violent pains, heat and thirst, debility, cold sweats and even death. The E. helioscopia and a species akin to E. peplus grow also in the United States and have been used in Europe in small doses, as well as the E. esula, dulcis, exigua, characias, palustris, cyparissias, &c. Each has a peculiar mode of action, and the E. officinalis of Africa produces a blistering gum. They are all milky plants.
Qualities—These plants have been analysed by Barton, Bigelow and Zollickoffer; they contain mucilage, sugar, starch, Caoutchouc, Resin, an essential Oil, Tannin, and a peculiar principle similar to Emeta, which is soluble in Alcohol and colors it yellow, but insoluble in Water, forming oxalic Acid with Nitric Acid, it might be called Oxalemis. The analysis of the true Ipecacuana differs from this and gives Starch forty, Gum twenty, Wax six, Fibrine twenty, Oil two, Emetine or Acidified Emeta sixteen parts. The roots and leaves of these Euphorbia have a sweetish taste subastringent and not unpleasant, with a peculiar smell, when rubbed; but no nauseous taste nor smell: the milk is acrid.
Properties—Emetic, cathartic, diaphoretic, expectorant, astringent, rubefacient, blistering, and stimulant. These plants are highly recommended by some physicians as equivalent to the officinal Ipecac, which it is said they ought to supersede; but Bigelow contends that they are less mild and bland, and although equal or even stronger, are not so useful in all indications. They were formerly considered too violent in their operation; but have since been found to be manageable and safe: the action is always proportionate to the quantity taken, which does not happen with common Ipecac. As a cathartic they have been found equal or better than Jalap or Scammony; requiring only half the dose, ten grains will commonly purge well, while twenty-five to thirty grains produce repeated evacuations from the stomach. Given in large doses they excite violent vomiting, attended with heat, vertigo, dizziness and debility. The E. corollata appears to be the most efficient since it purges at the dose of three to ten grains, and vomits at ten to twenty. But a diversity has been noticed in various constitutions, the same doses being sometimes inert, cathartic or emetic, or both in some instances; they often produce nausea even in small doses, and then act as diaphoretics like Ipecac, to which they are preferable by having no unpleasant taste, nor exciting pains and spasms.
The medical properties reside in the thick bark of the root, which forms two thirds of the whole root, and produces one twelfth of watery extract, and one tenth of alcoholic extract. They may be substituted to Ipecac in all the pharmaceutical preparations, wine, tincture, extract, &c.; the emetic dose of the wine is an ounce, of the extract three to five grains. When used as a diaphoretic and expectorant, the dose is three or four grains of the powder: it may be combined with opium, or antimonials. The bruised root applied to the skin, produces vesication in about twelve hours, which lasts two or three days; this property has not yet been applied to practical use; but might be equivalent to that of the officinal Euphorbium used by farriers. The milk of all the species of this genus destroy Warts and cure Herpes, they may afford a kind of black Varnish, or Gum Elastic. The other diseases in which these plants have been occasionally employed are Dropsy, asthma, also hooping cough and fevers, but we have no great evidence of their success, except in Asthma when they act as pectoral sudorifics.
The E. hypericifolia appears to differ in its effects from the two others, it is an annual, the herb being employed instead of the root: it has been brought into notice by Zollickoffer, who says that it is more astringent and slightly narcotic; but it is also purgative, &c. After evacuations, he prescribes it in tea-spoonfuls of the decoction, for Cholera infantum, diarrhea and dysentery. This plant is also one of those producing the salivation of horses, called Slabbering, when eaten by them through chance in meadows, and the remedy for which are Cabbage leaves. All our Spurges are more or less active plants, those with large perennial roots are all emetic, while the annual kinds are alterative or pernicious. One species E. peploides (E. peplus Americana) is said to cause the milk fever, or disease of Cows and cattle which render their milk or flesh pernicious. It grows from New-York to Tennessee, on rocks near streams. By a strange mistake the capsuls of the E. lathyrus (Capper plant of New England) are pickled instead of Cappers, being mistaken for the Capparis Spinosa or true Capper, and are not found unpalatable, although they cannot be a healthy condiment.
Substitutes—Gillenia Sp.—Sanguinaria Canadensis—Lobelia inflata—Asclepias Sp.—Erythronium Sp.—Eupatorium perfoliatum—Officinal Ipecacuana and other active Emetics.
Remarks—The figure of Henry, under the name of Bowman's root is fictitious; the true Bowman's root is the Leptandra.
The helioscopia, which grew in the Northern States, has nearly the properties of the E. hypericifolia, as was well as the E. polygonifolia a small annual plant, growing on the sea shores from New England to Florida, and spreading flat on the sand.
Additions and corrections
37. EUPHORBIA COROLLATA—Used by the Southern Indians in fevers and bowel complaints.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, 1828, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.