Classif.Nat. Order of Labiate. Diandria monogynia L.
Genus LYCOPUS. Calix four or five cleft, corolla tubula, four cleft, nearly equal, upper segment broader and emarginate, two distant stamina, four retuse seeds; flowers verticillate.
Sp. Lycopus virginicus. Stem simple, angles obtuse, leaves broad lanceolate, serrate, base attenuated, entire, end acuminate, surface rough, dotted beneath, calix quadrifid, acute, shorter than the seeds.
Description. Root perennial, creeping, and fibrous, stem erect, commonly simple, somewhat rough, with four furrows and four obtuse angles, leaves opposite, sessile, acuminate, or attenuated and entire at both ends, remote serrate in the middle, broad lanceolate, as long as the internodes, somewhat rough, covered with glandular dots beneath; flowers sessile, in small axillary whorls, very small, two small subulate bracteas under each flower, calix with four ovate-lanceolate and acute segments, corolla white, tubular, with four small round lobes, upper larger and notched, two stamina, hardly exert, filiform, style exert, four seeds longer than the calix, obovate, compressed, crenate at the top.
History. The genus Lycopus merely differs from Mentha, or mint, by having only two stamina instead of four. The name means Wolf-foot. This species must form a peculiar sub-genus, which I call Euhemus, meaning good for the blood, distinguished from all the other species by the four cleft, short calyx, and crenulate long seeds. It affords many varieties, some of which might even be deemed species, they are:
1. Var. Gracilis. Stem simple, one or two feet high, slender, leaves remote.
2. Var. Microphylus. Rough, glaucous, leaves small, oval lanceolate, crowded, stem branched, six to ten inches high.
3. Var. Ruber. Rough, leaves oval lanceolate, rugose, tinged with red, crowded, whorls multiflore.
4. Var. Latifolius. Rough, glaucous, afoot high, leaves ovate, with large teeth, very crowded, whorls multiflore, seeds large, almost cristated above.
5. Var. Sylvaticus. Stem smooth, two feet high, often branched, flexuose, leaves subpetiolate, twice as long as the internodes, oval or obovate, acuminate, with large teeth. In the woods of Kentucky and Ohio.
All these agree in the calix and seeds, as well as the medical properties, and must be distinguished from the other species of the genus, which have somewhat different properties, and may be easily known, although their habit is similar, by noticing the calix with five long and spinose segments, seeds shorter and obtuse, not crenulated. As they are also medical, I shall give their characters.
1. Lycopus vulgaris, Pers. or L. sinuatus E. (Europeus L.) Smooth, stem branched, with four sharp angles, leaves crowded, sinuate, lanceolate, with long acute teeth, both ends attenuated. Several varieties: 1. Trachigonus with rough angles, teeth lanceolate. 2. Repens (Lyc. sinuatus of Elliot.) Creeping, leaves rugose, deeply sinuated. 3. Angustifolius. Leaves narrow lanceolate, upper ones less sinuated. 4. Latifolius. Leaves broad, lanceolate, sinuate, serrate. Common to Europe and. America.
2. Lycopus heterophyllus, Raf. (Exaltatus, Elliot, not L.) Stem tall and branched, angles acute, leaves petiolate, pinnatifid, segments narrow, subserrate, upper leaves sessile, linear lanceolate, subserrate. Varieties 1. Bipinnatifidus. 2. Dissectus. 3. Angustatus.
3. Lycopus longifolius, Raf. (angustifolius, Elliot.) Stem simple, hispid, angles striated and acutem all the leaves sessile, linear, lanceolate, elongated, remote serrate, attenuated at both ends. Var. 1. Gracilis. 2. Linearifolius. In the South and West.
4. Lycopus pauciflorus, Raf. (Pennsylvanicus, Mg.) Stem nearly simple and smooth, angles striated and acute, leaves all similar, lanceolate, remote, serrate, subpetiolate, acuminate, whorls pauciflore. Var. 1. Hirsutus. 2. Flexuosus.
5. Lycopus uniflorus, Mx. Leaves lanceolate, subserrate, smooth, suckers pecumbent, flowers nearly solitary.
6. Lycopus obtusifolius, Vahl. Leaves lanceolate, obtuse, with remote obtuse teeth. These two last are boreal plants.
All the species are estival plants, blossoming in summer, and growing near water, ditches, creeks, swamps, &c. Although so similar to mint, their properties are totally different, not being at all stimulant nor heating. All the species have minute glandular dots under the leaves, affording the smell and a peculiar essential oil. To this oil, probably, the plants owe their active properties: it is easily soluble in hot or boiling water. They contain also a little tannin, although they are scarcely astringent, yet Schoepf says they dye black with vitriol.
Properties. The L. virginicus is an excellent sedative, subtonic, subnarcotic, and subastringent. It has only lately been taken notice of, when the L. vulgaris was extolled in Europe for fevers. Schoepf only mentions its qualities, and it is omitted in all the books of Materia Medica, except Ives and Zollickoffer. The first inquirers on its properties were Drs. Pendleton and Rogers, of New York, who have published several cases of Hemoptysis and incipient phthisis cured by it. This has been confirmed by Drs. J. M. Smith, Ives, Lawrence, and myself. It is now much used in New York and New Jersey. The whole plant is employed; it has a balsamic terebinthaceous smell, peculiar to itself, when bruised, which is stronger in the seeds. The taste is pleasant, balsamic, and slightly bitter, but to some it appears mawkish and nauseating. It is described as partaking of the properties of Digitalis, Sanguinaria, Botrophis, and Spigelia; but it is neither emetic nor anthelmintic, and is rather one of the mildest and best narcotics in existence. It acts somewhat like Digitalis, and lowers the pulse, without producing any of its bad effects, nor accumulating in the system. It is, therefore, altogether preferable to it, and not only an equivalent, but even a valuable substitute, as I have ascertained upon myself and many others. Volumes have been written on the Digitalis, a rank poison, and this excellent substitute is hardly noticed yet. It has, however, been used in the New York Hospital, and found very beneficial; it lessens the frequency of the pulse, allays irritation and cough, by equalizing the blood. It is said to be most useful when febrile excitement has been subdued; but I have seen it to subdue it by itself, or with other tonics. I have made many experiments on this plant, and the results are, that although it does not cure the consumption, nor heal the lungs, it is very useful in hemoptysis, a plethoric habit, and internal inflammation. I consider it as a very good substitute to all narcotics, Prussic acid, and even to bleeding, since it produces the same state of the pulse and arterial system, without inducing any debility, nor acting on the heart or brain in any injurious manner.
It may be used in many diseases, and whenever it is required to quell inordinate actions of the blood, or even other fluids. I have been informed that it is commonly used in New Jersey for diarrhoea and dysentery, which it helps to cure. It is a good adjunct to tonics in fevers. It is also peculiarly useful in the inflammatory diseases of the drunkards, in diseases of the heart, &c. I deem it the best sedative in almost all cases; it does not appear to act on the nervous system, but chiefly, over the blood vessels. The usual way to take it has been in the form of a warm infusion, allowed to cool, taken as a diet drink, and without much nicety about the quantity. In hemoptysis, I prefer a lemonade made with a weak tea of it, or a syrup made with it. A very strong infusion may also be used, by putting one or two spoonsful of it in tonic or refrigerant drinks.
The Lycopus vulgaris has lately been extolled in Europe in fevers, and is said to have cured intermittents alone. As its qualities are very near alike those of L. virginicus, being only a little more tonic and astringent. and a little less narcotic and sedative: they may, perhaps, be tried as mutual equivalents in fevers and inflammatory disorders. All the species appear to have somewhat similar qualities and properties; but it is best to trust to the L. virginicus alone as a sedative. The dried plants preserve their properties for many years. I have prepared a compound syrup of it with Eupatorium and other tonics, which I have found very useful in catarrhs, pneumonia, hemoptysis, &c. It induces diaphoresis without debility, and acts as a tonic sedative, an article till now almost unknown in materia medica. Cutler says that the L. virginicus is used in New England to dye wool, linen, and silk of a black colour. I cannot tell why this plant has received the name of Bugle, which properly belongs to the Ajuga reptans of Europe.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, Vol. 2, 1830, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.