Classif. Nat. Order of Spiracea. Icosandria pentagynia L.
Genus SPIREA. Calyx 5 cleft. Five petals, equal rounded. Many stamens on the calyx, exserted. Pistils 3 to 12. Capsules 3 to 12, one celled, bivalve, each 1 or two seeded.
Sp. Spirea tomentosa. L. Stem simple, shrubby, erect; leaves ovate lanceolate, unequally serrate, tomentose beneath: spikes terminal compound, flowers erowded, pentagynous.
Description. Small shrub, with many stems, 2 or 4 teet high, simple, upright, purplish, downy, terete. Leaves alternate, crowded, on very short petioles, oblong or oval lanceolate, subacute at both ends, with unequal acute serratures, dark green or brownish above, and rugose, white and tomentose beneath. Flowers terminal, in a kind of terminal panicle, of a handsome red color, formed by compound spikes of small subsessile flowers. Calyx campanulate, with 5 acute segments. Five round petals. Five pistils and capsules.
History. A fine genus, containing several pretty shrubs; this is one of the prettiest, and is very ornamental, by its leaves of two colors, and large panicles of red blossoms. It blossoms in July and August, and is common from New England to Carolina and Kentucky, in moist grounds, meadows, &c. The varieties are, 1. Pumila. 2. Paniculata. 3. Albiflora. 4. Ferruginea. 5. Virgata.
Properties. The whole plant is inodorous, but the taste is pleasantly bitter and powerfully astringent. It contains tannin, gallic acid, bitter extractive, &c. all soluble in water. Formerly used by the Mohegan tribe of Indians and the herbalists; brought to notice only towards 1810, by Dr. Cogswell, of Hartford. Schoepf and Cutler have omitted it. Drs. Mead, Ives, and Tully have since recommended it as a very good astringent and tonic. The whole plant may be used, but the root is the least valuable part. The extract of it, prepared by the Shakers and others, is the best form; dose 4 to 6 grains, every two or three hours, in dysentery and chronic diarrhoea, cholera infantum, debility of the bowels and the system, hemorrhage of the bowels, and other diseases where astringents are required. It appears to be equal if not superior to Kino and Catechu, because it never disagrees with the stomach, all its virtues are soluble in water, is a bitter tonic, and can be had pure and genuine. It is peculiarly useful in the secondary stages of bowel complaints, when the inflammation has been partly subdued, either alone or combined with ipecac, opium, &c. It has been used abroad by seamen, with great benefit, in the cholera morbus and chronic diarrhoea of the tropical climates, even in the first stage. United to milk and sugar, it forms a very pleasant drink for the protracted stage of cholera. It is said to be equivalent to Geranium maculatum and Cornus circinata in most cases, but the first is less tonic, and the last a better tonic. The Honskokaogacha of the Osage Indians is probably this shrub; they use the dry root and stems as powerful styptic and astringents, to stop blood and hemoptisis, by chewing them, or drinking the cold infusion; the women use it in tea and as a wash for female complaints, as a restringent, &c.
The Spirea opulifolia, a larger shrub, growing on the banks of streams, with trifid leaves and white corymbose trigynous blossoms, and commonly called Ninebark, has nearly the same properties, and is an equivalent. I have used the extract with equal success. It is chiefly used by the herbalists in external applications for fomentations, poultices, burns, mortification, swellings. If it is the Sindesneni of the Osages (or is it Prinos? or Hydrangea?) it is also cathartic, febrifuge, sudorific, and anthelmintic; the roots, bark, and twigs are used in asthma, colds, fevers, bowel complaints, &c. chiefly in warm infusions. But many shrubs bear the name of Ninebark in the United States.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, Vol. 2, 1830, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.