Classif. Nat. Order of Labiate. Didynamia gymnospermia L.
Genus SCUTELLARIA. Calyx bilabiate, persistent, upper lip with a lid covering the seeds like an operculum. Corolla bilabiate, upper lip concave entire, lower trilobe. Stamens didynamous. Four seeds in the closed calyx.
Sp. Scutellaria lateriflora. L. Branched and smooth; leaves petiolate and thin, ovate dentate, the lower ones subcordate: racemes axillarv, leafy.
Description. Root perennial, fibrous, yellow. Stem erect, one to three feet high, much branched, diffuse, smooth, quadrangular: branches opposite divaricate. Leaves on long petioles, thin or nearly membranaceous, opposite distichal, subcordate on the stem, ovate on the branches, dentate, acute, somewhat rugose. Flowers pale blue, on long lateral axillary racemes, bracteated by bracts ovate acute, entire, subsessile, each flower axillary to one bract and pedunculated, bracts distichal, flowers unilateral. Calyx scutellate. Seeds oval verrucose.
History. A remarkable natural genus, with many species, easily known by the calyx. This species is found all over the United States, in woods, meadows, near waters, &c; it blossoms in summer. The juice of the plant is a little colored of red. It has hardly any smell, and the taste is vapid bitterish. The varieties are: 1. Membranacea. 2. Pumila. 3. Ramosissima. 4 Rubescens &c.
Properties. Schoepf states the S. lateriflora, S. galericulata, S. integrifolia, and S. hyssopifolia, to have similar properties, being abstergent and tonic; useful in intermittent fevers. The S. lateriflora is laterly become famous as a cure and prophylactic against hydrophobia. This property was discovered by Dr. Vandesveer, towards 1772 who has used it with the utmost success, and is said to have till 1815, period of his death, prevented 400 persons and 1000 cattle from becoming hydrophobous, after being bitten by mad dogs. His son is stated to have thus relieved or cured 40 persons in three years, in New York and New Jersey. Many empirics, and some enlightened physicians have employed it also successfully. But several sceptical physicians have since denied altogether these facts, and pronounced the plant totally inert, because it has no strong action on the system, and has failed in their hands. Dr. W. Barton and Dr. Tully nave strenuously asserted this, but without analyzing the plant, and denying, instead of proving. This plant has since been carefully analyzed by Cadet, in Paris, and found to contain many powerful chemical principles, which evince active properties.
The dried plant gave one fourth of soluble matter, and a very active extract. The substances found in it by Cadet were: 1. A yellow-green oil, fixed and soluble in ether, 2. A bitter principle, soluble in water, alcohol, and ether. 3. Chlorophylle. 4. A peculiar volatile matter, smelling and tasting like the principle of antiscorbutic plants. 5. An essential oil. 6. Albumine. 7. A sweet mucous substance. 8. A peculiar astringent principle. 9. Lignine. When burnt, the ashes afford the chlorure of soda, and seven other salts. It is, therefore, preposterous to deem such a plant inert. The facts already known prove that it is tonic, astringent, anti-spasmodic, and anti-hydrophobic at least. It has been used chiefly of late, in all nervous diseases, convulsions, tetanus, St. Vitus' dance, tremors, &c. and has availed in many instances. In hydrophobia, it appears to be a good prophylactic, if not a certain cure: a physician, (Dr. White, of Fishkill) bitten by a mad dog, has assured me that himself alone avoided the disease by using it, while others bitten by the same dog died. Many instances of the same kind are on record: nay, many who believe in this property, say that it never fails. We lack, however, a series of scientific and conclusive experiments, made by well informed men; they have been discouraged by the ridiculous denial of sceptics; but let us hope may yet be performed. The plant was used fresh or dry, in infusion or tea, a gill four times a day, and the plant applied to the wound. A purgative of flour of sulpher is often given at the same time. This plant is now almost neglected like the Anagallis phenicea and Alisma plantago, which enjoyed once a reputation for hydrophobia; but we have so few presumed remedies for this dreadful disease, and it is so desirable to confirm the properties of those supposed available, that it is needful to encourage rather than discourage every attempt to throw light on the subject.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, Vol. 2, 1830, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.