English Name—WHITE AVENS.
French Name—Benoite de Virginie.
Officinal Name—Geum radix.
Vulgar Names—Evan root, Avens, Chocolate root, Bennet, Cure-all, Throatroot.
Authorities—Lin. Mich. Pursh, Kalm, Schoepf, Cutler, A. Ives, Buckhaven, Melandri, Zollickoffer, Bigelow seq. Coxe, &c.
Genus GEUM—Calix ten cleft, spreading, the alternate segments smaller. Petals five on the calix. Many stamina inserted on the base of the calix. Many central pistils, each with a long persistent style and obtuse stigma, and becoming a seed. Seeds forming a cluster, awned by the styles.
Species G. VIRGINIANUM—Pubescent, stem erect, radical and lower leaves ternate, petiolate, upper sessile and simple, folioles ovate, lanceolate, acute, unequally serrate, stipules ovate, serrate or entire: flowers few, erect, petals oboval, shorter than the calix; awns uncinate, hairy, twisted.
Description—Roots perennial, small, brittle, brown, crooked, tuberculated, oblong, horizontal. Stem simple, erect, about two feet high, pubescent, few flowered. Radical leaves on long petioles, without stipules, lower leaves with large stipules and shorter petioles, upper leaves sessile, simple, similar to the folioles of the lower leaves, which are oval, or oval-lanceolate, or lanceolate, base acute, and acuminate, border deeply and unequally serrate: stipules large, broad, sessile, ovate or rounded, serrate or nearly entire.
Flowers terminal, white, few, on, erect peduncles. Calix spreading, ten cleft, segments lanceolate, acute, five alternate smaller. Five yellowish white petals, opposite to the short segments, shorter than the longest, and inserted on the base of the calix, oboval, entire, flat. Stamina many, short, unequal, perigynous; filaments filiform, anthers roundish and yellow. Pistils many, conglomerate, oval, styles long, hairy, stigma hooked. Fruit a small burr or round cluster of achenes or single seeds, oval, brown, smooth, having a long tail or awn, formed by the persistent styles, filiform, hairy, twisted and uncinate at the top.
Locality—Common from Maine to Carolina and Kentucky, in woods, groves, thickets, hills, &c.
History—An estival plant blossoming in June and July, the flowers resemble those of Strawberries, but are smaller; a variety has them yellowish. The varieties are 1. Uniflora, 2. Macrophylla, 3. Lanceolata, 4. Ochroleuca, 5. Ramosa, &c.
The Geum rivale or water Avens, a boreal plant, spread from New England to Canada in damp places, is more commonly employed in the north, and this species in the south; they are both equivalents.
Geum belongs to the natural order of SENTICOSES near Dryas, Dalibarda and Stylypus, and to Icopsandria polygynia of Linnaeus.
Qualities—The whole plant is available, but the root is principally used, it has a bitterish astringent taste, and a pleasant smell, somewhat like cloves, only perceptible in the spring, when it must be collected for use. It contains resin, gum, tannin, extractive, mucilage, fibrine, a volatile oil, &c. The Geum urbanum, a consimilar and equivalent species, has been found to contain out of two ounces, 496 grains of lignine, 118 of tannin, 181 extractive, 61 of saline and soapy matter, 92 of mucilage, 23 of resin, 76 of oil and water. It yields these principles to water and alcohol, and dies them red: the alcoholic preparations are scented, the watery scentless and merely astringent.
Properties—All the Avens have nearly the same properties, they are astringent, styptic, tonic, febrifuge, stomachic, &c. They are much used in the Northern States and Canada. In Connecticut they supersede the Chincona; but they are weaker, although less stimulant, in fevers. They do not increase excitement and are therefore useful in hemoptysis and Phthisis. They are decidedly excellent in dyspepsia and visceral affections; Ives states that its long use, restores to health the most shattered and enfeebled constitutions. They are often used in decoction with sugar and milk, like chocolate or coffee, to which they resemble: and also for dysentery, chronic diarrhea, colics, debility, asthma, sore throat, leucorhea, uterine hemorrhagy. They are the base of the Indian Chocolate of Empirics. The doses are a daily pint of the weak decoction, or about 60 grains of the powder daily, divided into three doses: this powder may be mixed with honey. A table-spoonful of the tincture is also given in some cases. These roots are sometimes put in Ale, as stomachics.
Substitutes—Geranium maculatum and all the plants mentioned as equivalent to it; the Geum rivale and G. urbanum, also the Stylypus Vernus.
Remarks—The G. urbanum does not grow in America, although indicated by some. The G. rivale of America is a peculiar variety. It will be known from this, by its locality in the north, near waters, the radical leaves pinnate, cauline three cleft, and large purplish nodding flowers. It is said to be more efficient than this kind.
My Stylypus vernus is a new annual plant, growing only in the Western States, from Ohio to Tennessee, in woods, and bears small yellow blossoms in March and April. It has the properties of this plant and Agrimony. The generic and specific character are as follows.
G. Stylypus. Calix persistent, campanulate, five cleft, segments reflexed. Five small petals and many Stamina inserted on the top of the calix. Many Pistils in a head borne by a cylindrical gynophore. Several Seeds or Achenes, with persistent smooth Styles.—Stylypus vernus Annual, many decumbent Stems, leaves interrupted pinnate, folioles laciniated, upper leaves simple jagged: flowers terminal, few, peduncled.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, 1828, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.