Classif. Nat. Order of Rubiacea. Tetrandia monogynia L.
Genus GALIUM. Calyx superior 4 toothed. Corolla rotate 4 cleft. Stamens 4. Stigmas 2. Seeds 2 globose, smooth or hispid, leaves in whorls.
Sp. Galium Verum. L. Stem erect; whorls commonly of 8 leaves, linear, grooved, scabrous; flowers in dense terminal panicle and yellow: seeds smooth.
Description. Root perennial. Stem upright, slender and weak, 1 or 2 feet high, somewhat branched, angular. Leaves small sessile in whorls of 8, seldom 7 or 9, linear acute, grooved above, rough, often reflexed. Flowers small in large terminal, dense and yellow panicles, with small leaves interposed: each flower pedunculate, small calyx with 4 acute crowning the adherent pistil. Corolla quite flat and rotate, with 4 spreading acute segments. Stamens 4 short. Two short styles, stigmas capitate. Fruit bipartible into two globular smooth seeds.
History. Tournefort called this genus Aparine. A very good name, improperly changed to Galium by L. too similar to Allium! The species with rough seeds form now the subgenus Aparine. We have many species of this genus in North America, 20 or more; several are yet undescribed. I am not yet prepared to give their monography. This species being common to Europe and America, is one of the best known. It grows from Canada to New York and Ohio, in pastures, meadows and river banks, blossoming in June and July. Many other species are probably medical, but we only use the G. verum and G. aparine, common in woods, trailing, rough, with white lateral flowers and rough seeds. The circezans has sweet leaves, tasting like liquorice. The G. tinctorium and G. boreale, called Savoyan in Canada, are useful plants, the creeping red roots dye of a beautiful red like madder with acids; the Indians use them for their beautiful red dye. Schoepf says that G. tinctorium coagulates milk like G. verum, and is useful for diseases of the skin.
Properties. The G. verum and also G. aparine are ancient medical plants; the whole plants are used; as subastringent, discutient, antiscorbutic, aperient, diuretic, nervine, &c. Although neglected lately by medical writers, because apparently inert; they are by no means so. The taste is bitterish and acid. The flowers have an acid, their property of coagulating milk, to which the name alludes, is now ascertained to be false; and it is no longer used for that purpose. In the South of Europe, Artichokes are now used instead of Rennet, which spoils the taste of milk, and sweet congealed milk is thus procured, very palatable and healthy. Externally applied in poultice, it is a good discutient for indolent tumors, strumous swellings and tumors of the breast. Internally it is used in decoction sweetened with honey, for suppression of urine and gravelly complaints, in scurvy, dropsy, hysterics, epilepsy, gout, &c. There are instances on record of having cured these diseases. Useful also in bleeding of the nose and stomach. Lately found peculiarly beneficial in scorbutic, scrofulous, and dropsical complaints, acting mildly, but effectually. The flowers are of a fine yellow or golden color, and have a peculiar smell, somewhat like Melilotus; they are used in some parts of Europe, to give a rich sweet taste and a fine yellow color to milk, butter, and cheese, by being put in the pails when the cows are milked. The peculiar color and taste of green cheese is produced by the Melilotus or Sweet Luzerne, used in the same way. Cows and cattle are very fond of the G. verum and Melilotus.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, Vol. 2, 1830, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.