English Name—WESTERN DROPWORT.
French Name—Gillenia occidentale.
Officinal Name—Gillenia radix.
Vulgar Names—Indian Physic, Indian hippo, Ipecac, Beaumont root, Bowman's root, Meadow sweet, &c.
Synonyms—Spirea trifoliata Var. Auct.
Authorities—Pursh, Wildenow, Schoepf, Thatcher, Coxe, Duncan, Nuttal, Moench, Eberle, A. Ives, Baum, W. Bart. fig. 6, &c.
Genus GILLENIA—Calix campanulate 5 cleft. Five narrow unequal petals inserted on the calyx. Many short Stamina inserted there also. Five coherent pistils, five Styles. Capsules five connate at the base, opening inside, unilocular, two seeded.
Species G. STIPULACEA—Lower leaves pinnatifid, upper leaves trifoliolate, folioles lanceolate incise serrate; stipules foliaceous, ovate, oblique, jagged: flowers loosely corymbose.
Description—Root perennial, dark brown, amorphous, with large and long fleshy fibres. Several Stems from two to three feet high, slender, smooth, brittle, reddish, branched. Leaves large, alternate, sessile, with three folioles and two large stipules; these last are oblique, ovate, irregularly jagged, acute. Folioles smooth, lanceolate, acute at both ends, with a large nerve, border unequally serrate or jagged, and in the lower leaves often pinnatif.—Flowers in loose thin terminal corymbs, peduncles clingated, calix campanulate with five teeth; petals white, three times as long, linear lanceolate, a little unequal, base cuneiform, and nearly obtuse. Stamina short, inclosed, anthers round yellow. Pistil central free, five parted, five filiform Styles, five obtuse stigmas, five connected Capsuls, &c. &c.
Locality—Found only West of the Alleghany mountains, from Ohio and West Virginia to Missouri and Louisiana; rare in the limestone and alluvial regions, very common in the hilly and sahd-stone regions, growing always in poor or gravelly soils, both in woods and glades.
History—This genus contains two species, this and G. trifoliata, which has similar properties, and will be known by its locality, growing on the mountains Alleghany, or north, east and south of them from Canada to Florida, but never west of them. It is a larger plant, with broader folioles, small linear stipules and fewer flowers, but larger. It has been figured by Barton and Bigelow, but resembles this so much as not to need it.
Both blossom in June and July, and are pretty plants, worth cultivation. They had formerly been united to Spirea, Filipendula, and Ulmaria, Moench proposed long ago the genus Gillenia, but it was only lately adopted. It belongs to the Natural Order of SENTICOSES, family Spireadia, and to Icosandria pentagynia. The G. Stipulacea was only lately described. It offers many varieties, 1. Uniflora, 2. Pinnatifida, 3. Virgata, 4. Variegata, &c. Cattle do not eat it.
Qualities—Roots scentless, taste bitter but not unpleasant. Containing a resin, extractive, lignine, fecula, amarine, and a coloring matter, which dies the solutions red.
Properties—Both species are emetic, cathartic, and tonic; but the G. stipulacea is by far the best and strongest. It has even happened that the G. trifoliata has proved inert, in some cases, when old, or taken from cultivated plants: while the G. stipulacea has never failed, and supersedes the Ipecac in common practice throughout the West. It is as mild and efficient, milder than the Euphorbia corollata. The roots are collected in the fall, and kept in many stores: the bark of the root is chiefly used, but the woody part is not inert as supposed. The dose is from 15 to 30 grains of the powder. It operates often also as a cathartic. In small doses it becomes a tonic, and is used in intermittents. The Indians employed it, and took larger doses or strong decoctions of it, which operated violently; this practice is yet followed and brings on debility: Eberle has successfully used the G. trifoliata in dyspepsia, also in dysentery with opium. It is given in decoction to horses and cattle as a tonic and digestive.
Substitutes—Euphorbia Sp.—Sanguinaria—Ipecacuana and all the mild Emetics.
Additions and corrections
44. GILLENIA STIPULACEA—Found also west of the Mississippi, and used by the Indians as a valuable emetic and sudorific in fevers, bowel complaints, &c.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, 1828, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.