Classif.Nat. Order of Labiate. Didynamia gymnospermia. L.
Genus MONARDA. Calix tubular, five toothed, corolla ringent, with a long tube, upper lip linear, involving the filaments, lower lip reflexed trilobe, two long exert stamina, one style, one lateral stigma, four seeds in the persistent calix.
Sp. Monarda coccinea. Raf. Stem with four acute angles, leaves petiolate, oval or lanceolate, or subcordate, pubescent, subserrate; flowers capitate, involucrate, bracts large, coloured, lanceolate; corolla large and scarlet. Many varieties which have sometimes been deemed species, but all the Monardas with scarlet flowers, appear to me to form only one species, and as the Linnaean name of M. didyma applies to only one variety, I have changed it for a better one.
1. Var. Cordata. Leaves subcordate, oval lanceolate, acuminate.
2. Var. Didyma. Leaves ovate, acuminate, heads double.
3. Var. Prolifera. Leaves oval or lanceolate, heads proliferous.
4. Var. Grandiflora. Leaves oval lanceolate, acute, heads simple, very large. This is figured here.
5. Var. Angustifolia. Leaves ovate lanceolate, acuminate, base attenuated, stem slender.
Description. Root perennial, large fibrose stem, erect, three to four feet high, branched, tetragone, angles acute, somewhat pubescent; leaves opposite, petiolate, commonly oval lanceolate, but sometimes almost ovate, base round or subcordate, end acute or acuminate, margin with remote serratures, surface pubescent and nerved. Flowers in terminal multiflore heads, of a bright scarlet colour, the heads sometimes proliferous, involucrate by large lanceolate bracts, coloured red, acuminate, membranaceous; flowers sessile, crowded, with smaller bracts interjected; calix tubular, cylindrical, striated, with five subulate equal teeth; corolla very large, tube compressed, the two lips elongated narrow, upper curved, channelled, notched, lower with three small lobes; stamina and style long and filiform.
History. One of the handsomest plants of North America, with sweet leaves and many heads of flowers of a bright scarlet. It is cultivated in the gardens of America and Europe for its beauty, and its medical properties give it additional value. The whole genus Monarda is beautiful, and peculiar to North America; it is dedicated to Monard, a French botanist. There are eighteen or twenty species known already, all more or less medical, but the M. coccinea and M. punctata have been best investigated. They are commonly estival planta, blossoming in summer. The M. coccinea is found from Canatia to Pennsylvania, and even further South in the Allegheny mountains; it delights near pure streams and in rich soil.
This genus offers several anomalies, and must therefore be divided into three subgenera, as follows:
1. True Monarda. Calyx with five equal teeth, flowers capitate, involucrate, such as 1. M. coccinea. 2. M. fistulosa. 3. M. oblongata. 4. M. clinopodia. 5. M. purpurea. 6. M. bradburiana. 7. M. scabra. 8. M. rugosa. 9. M. mollis, &c.
2. Cheilyctis. Raf. Calyx with five unequal teeth, flowers verticillate, involucrate. M. punctata.
3. Blephilia. Raf. Calyx bilabiate, upper lip shorter, bidentate, lower tridentate, flowers verticillate, bracteated. 1. M. hirsuta. 2. M. ciliata, 3. M. becki, &c.
I have seen in the Western States many new species or varieties of this genus; but I am not yet prepared to give a complete monography of them. I shall merely indicate here three presumed new species of mine.
1. M. rigida. R. Stem simple, stiff, rough, leaves sessile, amplexicaule, rough, oval, subcordate, nearly entire, acute, head terminal; involucre lanceolate, acuminate, stiff, flowers pale purple. In west Kentucky, among rocky hills. A true Monarda.
2. M. virgata. R. Stems simple, smooth, fistulose, angles acute, leaves very far remote, petiolate, lanceolate, acute, base subcordate, glaucous beneath, nearly entire; head terminal, small; involucre oblong, acute, ciliate; flowers of a pale flesh colour. Prairies of Illinois and Arkansas.
3. M. pratensis. R. (Blephilia.) Stem simple, smooth, angles acute, leaves subsessile, linear lanceolate, entire, smooth, whorls terminal, aphyllous, bracts ovate cordate, acuminate, reticulated, nearly smooth, coloured. In east Kentucky, in meadows and pastures. Flowers purple as well as the bracts.
Properties. The whole plant has a grateful smell, somewhat similar to Dittany and Balm; much stronger when bruised. The taste is pungent, warm, bitterish, &c. It is resolvent, tonic, febrifuge, nervine, sudorific, diuretic, antiseptic, carminative, anti-emetic, &c. It yields a strong aromatic and volatile oil, of an amber colour, in which resides the properties; it contains in solution a camphor of a citron colour. Schoepf has long ago recommended this plant in intermittent fevers; it appears to be equal to camomile, and makes a more palatable tea. It has been called Oswego tea, because first used by the Indians near Oswego lake. It unites the properties of sage, Melissa, and Anthemis, to which it is equivalent; but it is more effectual than either, particularly in fevers, pleurisies, &c. besides being used successfully in many other diseases, such as ardour of urine, piles, rheumatism, hemiplegia, paralysis, coldness of limbs, cholic, &c. The properties have been investigated by Schoepf, Atlee, Eberle, and myself. The oil is become an officinal article, kept in shops, as an excellent rubefacient. The Monarda oil is chiefly made from the M. punctata, as strongest and most pungent, but all the other species yield it.
The M. punctata is easily known by its lanceolate leaves and many whorls of yellow flowers, with red dots. It is plentiful in dry soils from New Jersey to Missouri, and Louisiana. Dr. Atlee, in 1829, published a memoir of it in the Medical Recorder, with a good figure; he recommends the oil chiefly, and states that it is very active, producing heat, redness, pain, and vesication when applied to the skin; he had used it with much advantage as a rubefacient liniment in chronic rheumatism, paralytic affections, cholera infantum, difficulty of hearing, periodical headache, and typhus. It must be dissolved in alcohol, and rubbed. A liniment made with camphor and opium, cured the periodical headache. The simple liniment rubbed on the head, cured a hard hearing similar to deafness; it produces in a few minutes a comfortable glow when the arms, legs, and breast are bathed with it in the sinking state of typhus, with cold limbs. It relieves the gastric irritability in cholera infantum, by bathing the abdomen and limbs. Atlee states that it has cured a maniac. Internally, two drops of the oil in sugar and water, act as a powerful carminative, and stop emesis or profuse vomiting. The plant is used in New Jersey in cholic, and in gravel as a diuretic, being often united to onion juice in gravel and dropsy. The root of M. coccinea is said to be a stronger diuretic yet, and also emenagogue; the Indians use it as such; in strong doses, it acts sometimes as a cathartic on the bowels.
Upon the whole, all the Monardas appear to deserve peculiar attention, having so many powerful combined properties. The M. punctata is the strongest, but the taste is less agreeable. The M. coccinea, M. fistulosa, M. mollis, &c. are somewhat weaker, but more fragrant. The species of the subgenus Blephilia, are the weakest. The Indians, and the empirics Henry and Smith, extol the M. coccinea above all, and I have found it quite efficient in catarrhs, cholic, rheumatism, &c. The M. citrodora of Louisiana, distinguished by its sessile cordate leaves, smelling like citron, and six leaved involucres to the heads, is frequently used as a pleasant stomachic tea, and the dried flowers are strongly errhine; perhaps all the species are such, as their properties appear identical, differing only by more or less intensity.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, Vol. 2, 1830, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.