Classif. Nat. Order of Cnestides. Pentandria trigynia L.
Genus XANTHOXYLON. Calyx 5 parted. No corolla. A central disk bearing 3 or 5 stamens and 2 to 5 pistils, becoming 2 to 5 capsules, bivalve one seeded. Commonly polygamous. Trees or shrubs with pinnate or temate leaves.
Sp. Xanthoxylon fraxineum. Prickly. Leaves pinnate with 9 or 11 folioles opposite, ovate acute, subentire: umbels lateral, 3 or 4 stipitate pistils and capsules.
Description. Shrub 5 to 10 feet high, branches alternate, with scattered prickles, sharp, strong and straight. Leaves alternate, oddly pinnate, petiole round, often inerme, folioles 9 or 11 opposite, nearly sessile, ovate very sharp, with slight glandular serratures, somewhat downy beneath. Flowers in small sessile umbels, near the origin of young shoots, small and greenish. Diclinous polygamous, some shrubs bearing pistillate flowers, and others two kinds, both staminate and complete or perfect. These last have a 5 parted calyx with segments erect, oblong obtuse. Five stamens on the base of the gynophore, filaments subulate, anthers sagittate, 4 celled. Central gynophore divided into the stipes of the pistils, which are 3 or 4, oval, with a converging terete style and obtuse, stigma. Staminate flowers with an oval trifid abortive gynophore. Pistillate flowers with a smaller calyx. Capsules stipitate, elliptical punctate, reddish green, two valved, with one seed, oval and blackish.
History. This genus, whose name means yellow wood, and which many botanists write Zanthoxylum by mistake, has many anomalies, because accuracy appears of very little moment to the Linnaean botanists. It must be divided in at least 4 subgenera or genera, thus:
1. Dimeium. Raf. 1815. No corolla, 3 stamens, 3 pistils and capsules, type X. spinosum, X. emarginatum, X. acuminatum.
2. Herculium. Raf. No corolla, 5 stamens, 5 pistils and capsules, type X. clava, X. punctatum, &c.
3. Thylax. Raf. 1815. No corolla, 5 stamens, anthers 4 locular, 3 to 4 stipitate pistils and capsules, stylos connivent, twisted. Dioical polygamous. Type X. fraxineum.
4. Pseudopetalon. Raf. Fl. lud. 1817. Five parapetals opposed to the segments of the calyx, 5 stamens alternate with them, anthers bilocular, 2 or 3 pistils and capsules sessile divical, type P. glandulosum, Fl. lud. and X. tricarpum of Michaux.
They all appear to form a natural family along with the genera Cnestis, Triphaca, Tetradium, Tenorea, Raf. as stated by me in 1815. The X. or Thylax fraxineum is found from New England to Florida and Missouri, in groves. The flowers are vernal, anterior to the leaves, green and inconspicuous. Four species are found in the United States all equally medical, this, the 2 species of Pseudopetalon, and the X. clava; but this last, found in Carolina and Florida, appears to me different from the X. clava of the West Indies; it maybe called X. catesbianum.
Properties. The whole shrub is possessed of active properties; the leaves and fruit smell and taste like the rind of lemons, and afford a similar volatile oil. The smell of the leaves is more like orange leaves. The bark is the officinal part, the smell and taste are acrid, pungent, aromatic. It is sialagogue, stimulant, pellent, astringent, sudorific, antisiphyhtic, odontalgic, &c.
The chemical analysis by Dr. Staples, has given two oils, one volatile, another fixed and green, resin, gum, fibrine, a colored matter, and a peculiar substance Xanthoxyline, which crystallizes, resembles Piperine, and is soluble in warm alcohol. The leaves contain chiefly mucilage, gallic acid and a volatile oil. This article appears to be equivalent to Mezereon and Guayacum in properties. The acrimony is not felt at first, when the bark or liquid is taken in the mouth, but unfolds itself gradually by a burning sensation on the tongue and palate. It is deemed like them very useful in chronic rheumatism, producing a sense of heat in the stomach, a tendency to perspiration and speedy relief, when given in full doses of 10 to 20 grains, 3 times daily, or the decoction of one ounce in 4 or 5 doses. It seldom produces nausea or effects on the bowels. It however has failed in some obstinate cases. In small doses it becomes diaphoretic, and removes rheumatic pains. This is a great article in the Materia Medica of our Indians; it is called Hantola by the western tribes; they prefer the bark of the root, and use it in decoction for cholics, gonorrhea, syphilis, rheumatism, inward pains, chewed for tooth-ache, and applied externally in poultice, with bear's grease, for ulcers and sores. It is a great topical stimulant, changing the nature of malignant ulcers. In toothache, it is only a palliative, as I have ascertained on myself, the burning sensation which it produces on the mouth, merely mitigating the other pain, which returns afterwards. Some herbalists employ the bark and seeds in powder, to cure intermittent fevers. A tincture of the berries has been used for violent cholics in Virginia. It is very good in diseases connected with a syphilitic taint. The long use of it often brings on salivation like mercury.
The X. clava of the South has all the same properties, and even to a higher degree. The chewed bark is said to cure tooth-ache in a few minutes, to be beneficial in sore throat and mouth, also in palsy of the tongue or any muscle of the throat. In the West Indies, where it is called Prickly Yellow Wood, the wood, bark and roots are deemed excellent internally and externally in syphilitic complaints and ulcers; wonderful cures have been performed there and with us by the herbalists, of venereal buboes, venereal sorethroat, crab yaws, malignant and phagedenic ulcers, &c. It appears also a valuable remedy in epilepsy and dry belly-ache, nay, is said to have cured fevers like Peruvian Bark. The juice of the roots or their decoction was chiefly used. The X. fraxineum has probably all the same effects.
The X. glandulosum (Pseudopefalon) of Louisiana, a tree 40 feet high, has a white bark, of a strong smell and burning taste: it is used for aromatic baths, to cure rheumatism; delicate persons are apt to feel indisposed by its use. The roots are employed successfully as a vermifuge for horses. This tree will be known by its terminal digynous flowers. Many ignorant herbalists, and even Zollickoffer, call likewise Prickly Ash, the Aralia Spinosa, whose true name is Prickly Elder or Angelica tree, and use them indifferently. But the Aralia, although a valuable stimulant, diaphoretic and even emetic, has by no means all the properties of this shrub.
N. B. This concludes the first part of this work, or the selected articles; but two articles omitted in the alphabetical series of the first volume, will be added in a supplement, after which shall follow the monography of the Vitis or American Grape Vines, with 8 figures.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, Vol. 2, 1830, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.