(Golden seal (Hydrastis) is endangered. Don't use it unless you know it's cultivated, not wildcrafted. --Henriette)
The dried rhizome and roots of Hydras'tis canaden'sis Linné. Yielding not less than 2.5 per cent. of ether soluble alkaloids of Hydrastis.
BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS.—Plant about 8 inches high, from a thick, knotty rhizome. The single radical leaf simple, 5-lobed; stem 2-leaved at summit; flowers terminal, single, greenish; calyx of 3-petaloid sepals, regular; fruit a head of 1-2-ovuled berries.
SOURCE.—The area of the country over which hydrastis grows in sufficient abundance to be a commercial source of the drug is embraced in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, and West Virginia. It is also found in other portions of the Eastern United States. Large quantities of the drug are now being cultivated. One of the fields the writer has visited, is located in Douglas, Michigan, "Seal Growers," as they are called, have a cooperative Society to promote their interests. in the growing of this plant and ginseng, especially.
DESCRIPTION OF DRUG.—A knotty, contorted rhizome about 40 mm. (1 3/5 in.) long and 5 mm. (1/5 in.) thick; on the upper side are several scars which mark the positions and detachment of former herbaceous stems; these scars (cup-like projections) have given rise to the name "golden seal." Externally rough, of a dull yellowish-brown color, annulate, and beset with numerous slender rootlets; internally of a lemon-yellow color; breaks with a short, resinous fracture; a cross-section shows a thick bark, narrow wood-wedges, and broad medullary rays which radiate from a large pith. The rootlets show a woody center surrounded by a thick parenchymatous cortical tissue which is bordered by an outer row of compressed cells; odor distinct; taste bitter. Two to three hundred thousand pounds of the drug are annually consumed.
Powder.—Characteristic elements: See Part iv, Chap. I, B.
CONSTITUENTS.—The two alkaloids, hydrastine, C21H21NO6 (colorless and slightly acrid), and berberine (yellow and intensely bitter), are the principal constituents. Berberine, C20H17NO4, is very widely distributed in nature, being found in drugs from several different families of plants. Hydrastine, when pure, is in perfectly colorless, very brilliant, glassy crystals. As a rule, however, they are white and opaque, owing to the presence of numerous fractures. The yellow color of berberine adheres very tenaciously to the hydrastine, so that the absolutely colorless hydrastine is difficult to obtain. Canadine, C20H21NO4, tetrahydroberberine, the sulphate of which is soluble in water and alcohol. The resinoid, hydrastin, should not be confounded with the active alkaloid. This resinoid is made by precipitating a concentrated alcoholic tincture of hydrastis with acidulated water, and is probably, in the main, an impure muriate of berberine. Hydrastinine, which Falk regards as a valuable remedy, is made by decomposing the alkaloid, hydrastine, with dilute nitric acid and gentle heat, when opianic acid is also formed.
Preparation of Hydrastine.—Pereolate drug with water; precipitate berberine by adding HCl; to filtrate add ammonia in excess. The impure hydrastine which then deposits is dissolved in alcohol, filtered through charcoal, and crystallized.
Preparation of Berberine.—(Obtained also from Berberis vulgaris and allied drugs.) Exhaust powdered root with boiling water, evaporating to soft extract; exhaust this with alcohol; add water. Distil off alcohol; add H2SO4 in excess, when berberine sulphate crystallizes in yellow needles.
ACTION AND USES.—Until the introduction of the white alkaloid hydrastine, the drug was used almost exclusively as a local astringent; but of late years, since the many physiological experiments with this alkaloid, it has been used internally in chronic inflammations of the mucous membrane. Hydrastis is now quite largely employed in the treatment of depraved mucous membranes, as, for example, in chronic rhinitis, the atonic stomach of drunkards, chronic intestinal catarrh, catarrhal jaundice, vaginal leucorrhea, and the later stages of gonorrhea. It has been recommended in the treatment of uterine hemorrhages resulting from endometritis, and is said to act well in cases in which Ergot has proved useless.
In dyspepsia it has been used as a stomachic stimulant, and has received praise in the vomiting of pregnancy. Dose: 30 gr. (2 Gm.). Hydrastine is said to have antiperiodic properties and is given in doses of 1/32 gr. (0.002 Gm.).
- OFFICIAL PREPARATIONS.
- Extractum Hydrastis, Dose: 8 gr. (0.5 Gm.).
- Fluidextractum Hydrastis, Dose: 5 to 30 drops (0.3 to 2 Mils).
- Tinctura Hydrastis (20 per cent.), Dose: 10 to 60 drops (0.6 to 4 mils).
- Glyceritum Hydrastis (each mil contains 1 Gm. of drug). Used externally.
A Manual of Organic Materia Medica and Pharmacognosy, 1917, was written by Lucius E. Sayre, B.S. Ph. M.