Herbs & Oils
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Chamaelirium luteum (A. GRAY)
---Synonyms---Starwort. Helonias. Helonias dioica (Pursh.).
Helonias lutea (Ker-Gawl). Chamaelirium Carolinianum (Willd.).
Veratrum luteum (Linn.).
---Description---A herbaceous perennial found in low moist
ground east of the Mississipi and flowering in May and June. Stem 1
to 3 feet high, simple, smooth, angular; leaves alternate,
spatulate below, lanceolate above, radical leaves, 8 inches long,
1/2 inch wide, narrow at base and formed into a whorl; flowers
numerous, small, greenish white, bractless, dioecious, in a dense,
terminal raceme, nodding like a plume, 6 inches long, petals of
such flowers narrow, stamens longer than the petals, filaments
tapering; anthers terminal, two lobed; petals of female flowers
linear; stamens short; ovary ovate, triangular, furrowed; stigmas
three-capsule, oblong, three-furrowed, opening at summit; fruit
many, compressed, acute; rhizome bulbous, terminating abruptly, 1
inch long; odour faint; taste bitter. Solvents: alcohol,
---Constituents---Chamaelirin, fatty acid.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Emetic, tonic, diuretic,
vermifuge. In large doses a cardiac poison. Of the greatest value
in female disorders of the reproductive organs. The indication for
its use is a dragging sensation in the extreme lower abdomen. It is
useful in impotence, as a tonic in genito-urinary weakness or
irritability, for liver and kidney diseases. Especially in diseases
due to poor action of the liver and not to weakness of the heart or
circulation. It is a good remedy in albuminaria.
---Preparations---Fluid extract, 5 to 30 drops. Helonin, 2 to 4
grains. Specific helonias, 1 to 20 drops.
Aletris farinosa (LINN.)
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Colic-root. Stargrass. Starwort. Star-root.
Blazing Star. Ague-root. Aloeroot. Ague Grass. Black-root. Bitter
Grass. Crow Corn. Bettie Grass. Devil's Bit.
Used---Root, dried rhizome.
---Habitat---North America. Found at edges of swampy or wet
sandy woods, from Florida northward, specially on
low-growing, spreading perennial herb, with tuberous cylindrical,
somewhat horizontal root, having many fibres from its lower
surface. No stem, leaves lanceolate, acute, ribbed, sessile, or
slightly sheathing at base, smooth and flat, pale coloured, thin
and coriaceous. Flower-stem simple with remote scales, 1 to 3 feet
high, topped with a spiked raceme of short-stalked, white,
bell-shaped oblong flowers blooming May to August; the outer
surface of these has a mealy frosted appearance. Fruit is an ovate,
tapering, coriaceous capsule, enclosed in a persistent envelope.
Seeds numerous, ovate, ribbed, albuminous, fleshy, and
commerce the rhizome is found dried in pieces about 2 inches long
and 2/5 inch thick, light brown colour, flattish on upper surface
and densely tufted with the remains of the leaves, fracture yellow
and slightly fibrous; the roots from the rhizome are wiry about 3
inches long and of a glossy black colour, but when first dried
brownish. Taste intensely bitter, peculiar; it loses a great part
of its nauseous bitterness with age. Odour very faint.
---Constituents---The bitter principle in the root has not yet
been determined. Its best solvent is alcohol. It contains a large
percentage of bitter extractive, colouring matter and resin, and a
quantity of starch.
and Uses---The fresh root in large doses is somewhat narcotic,
emetic and cathartic; when dried, these properties are lost. In
smaller doses it gives colic in hypogastrium, and a sense of
stupefaction and vertigo. When dried it becomes a valuable bitter
tonic and its tincture or decoction has been used in flatulence,
colic, hysteria, and to tone up the stomach; of value in dyspepsia
and where there is an absence of urinary phosphates. Its most
valuable property is its tonic influence on the female generative
organs, proving of great use in cases of habitual miscarriage and
as a general tonic. Extraction Aletridis alcoholicum is the
dried powdered root, 5 to 10 grains. Saturated tincture, 5 to 15
drops in water. Fluid extract, 1/2 to 1 drachm.
Parts Used Medicinally
Medicinal Action and Uses
---Synonyms---Arbutus Uva-Ursi. Uva-Ursi.
---Habitat---The Bearberry (Arctostaphylos Uva-Ursi, Sprengel),
a small shrub, with decumbent, much branched, irregular stems and
evergreen leaves, is distributed over the greater part of the
Northern Hemisphere, being found in the northern latitudes and high
mountains of Europe, Asia and America. In the British Isles, it is
common in Scotland, on heaths and barren places in hilly districts,
especially in the Highlands, and extends south as far as Yorkshire;
it grows also on the hills of the north-west of Ireland. In America
it is distributed throughout Canada and the United States as far
south as New Jersey and Wisconsin.
It is very
nearly related to the Arbutus, and was formerly assigned to the
same genus - in Green's Universal Herbal, 1832, it will be found
under the name Arbutus Uva- Ursi - but it differs from Arbutus in
having a smooth berry with five one-seeded stones, whereas the
Arbutus has a rough fruit, each cell of the ovary being four to
other British species assigned to the genus, Arctostaphylos, the
Black Bearberry (A. alpina), with black berries, found on barren
mountains in northern Scotland, and not at all in England, is the
badge of the clan of Ross.
generic name, derived from the Greek, and the Latin specific name,
UvaUrsi, mean the same: the Bear's grape, and may have been given
to the plant, either from the notion that bears eat the fruit with
relish, or from its very rough, unpleasant flavour, which might
have been considered only fit for bears.
---Description---The much-branched trailing stems are
short and woody, covered with a pale brown bark, scaling off in
patches, and form thick masses, 1 to 2 feet long. The long shoots
rise obliquely upward from the stems for a few inches and are
covered with soft hairs
evergreen leaves are of a leathery texture, from 1/2 inch to an
inch long, like a spatula in form, being rounded at the apex and
tapering gradually towards the base to a very short stalk or
petiole. The margin is entire and slightly rolled back and the
young leaves fringed with short hairs. The upper surface of the
leaf is dark, shining green, the veins deeply impressed, the lower
side is of a paler green, with the veins prominent and forming a
coarse network. The leaves have no distinctive odour, but they have
a very astringent and somewhat bitter taste.
waxy-looking flowers are in small, closely-crowded, drooping
clusters, three to fifteen flowers together, at the ends of the
branches of the preceding year, appearing in early summer, May -
June, before the young leaves. The corolla, about two-thirds inch
across, is urn-shaped, reddish white or white with a red lip,
transparent at the base, contracted at the mouth, which is divided
into four to five short reflexed, blunt teeth, which are hairy
within. There are ten stamens, with chocolate-brown, awned anthers.
The berry, which ripens in autumn, is about the size of a small
currant, very bright red, smooth and glossy, with a tough skin
enclosing an insipid mealy pulp, with five one-seeded
Medicinally---The dried leaves are the only part of the plant
used in medicine. The British Pharmacopceia directs that the leaves
should be obtained only from indigenous plants. They should be
collected in September and October, only green leaves being
selected and dried by exposure to gentle heat.
must be gathered only in fine weather, in the morning, after the
dew has dried, any stained and insect-eaten leaves being rejected.
Drying may be done in warm, sunny weather out-of-doors, but in
half-shade, as leaves dried in the shade retain their colour better
than those dried in direct sun. They may be placed on wire sieves,
or frames covered with wire or garden netting, at a height of 3 or
4 feet from the ground to ensure a current of air, and must be
taken indoors to a dry room, or shed, before there is any risk of
damp from dew or showers. The leaves should be spread in a single
layer, preferably not touching, and may be turned during
sun, which in the case of leaves collected like the Bearberry in
September and October cannot be relied on, any ordinary shed,
fitted with racks and shelves can be used, provided it is
ventilated near the roof and has a warm current of air, caused by a
coke or anthracite stove. Empty glasshouses can readily be adapted
into dryingsheds, especially if heated by pipes and the glass is
shaded; ventilation is essential, and there must be no open tank in
the house to cause steaming. For drying indoors, a warm sunny attic
or loft may be employed, the window being left open by day, so that
there is a current of air and the moist, hot air may escape: the
door may also be left open. The leaves can be placed on coarse
butter-cloth stented, i.e. if hooks are placed beneath the window
and on the opposite wall, the buttercloth can be attached by rings
sewn on each side of it, and hooked on so that it is stretched
taut. The drying temperature should be from 70 to 100 degrees
leaves should be packed away at once in wooden or tin boxes, in a
dry place as otherwise they re-absorb moisture from the
Bearberry leaves are usually quite smooth, and entirely free from
the hairs that are present on the margins of the growing leaves and
on the foot-stalks, which drop off during the drying
commercial drug frequently consists of the entire plants, and
therefore contains a large quantity of stems, but the latter should
not be present, according to the official definition of the United
States Pharmacopoeia, in greater amount than 5 per
of other plants have been mistaken for Bearberry leaves, notably
those of the Cowberry (Vaccinium Vitis-idaea) and of the Box
(Buxus sempervirens), and have occasionally been used to
adulterate the drug, but Bearberry leaves are readily distinguished
by the characteristics given, viz. the spatulate outline, entire
margin and rounded apex. Those of the Box have a notch cut out at
the apex (emarginate) and have the epidermis loose and separable on
the under surface of the leaf, and are, moreover, quite devoid of
astringency. The leaves of the Cowberry may be distinguished by the
glandular brown dots scattered over their under surface and the
minute teeth on their margins. They have only a very slight
---Constituents---The chief constituent of Bearberry
leaves is a crystallizable glucoside named Arbutin. Other
constituents are methyl-arbutin, ericolin (an ill-defined
glucoside), ursone (a crystalline substance of resinous character),
gallic acid, ellagic acid, a yellow colouring principle resembling
quercetin, and probably also myricetin. Tannin is present to the
extent of 6 to 7 per cent. On incineration, the leaves yield about
3 per cent. of ash.
Action and Uses---In consequence of the powerful astringency of
theleaves, Uva-Ursi has a place not only in all the old
herbals, but also in the modern Pharmacopoeias. There are records
that it was used in the thirteenth century by the Welsh 'Physicians
of Myddfai.' It was described by Clusius in 1601, and recommended
for medicinal use in 1763 by Gerhard of Berlin and others. It had a
place in the London Pharmacopoeia for the first time in 1788,
though was probably in use long before. It is official in nearly
all Pharmacopceias, some of which use the name
form of administration is in the form of an infusion, which has a
soothing as well as an astringent effect and marked diuretic
action. Of great value in diseases of the bladder and kidneys,
strengthening and imparting tone to the urinary passages. The
diuretic action is due to the glucoside Arbutin, which is largely
absorbed unchanged and is excreted by the kidneys. During its
excretion, Arbutin exercises an antiseptic effect on the urinary
mucous membrane: Bearberry leaves are, therefore, used in
inflammatory diseases of the urinary tract, urethritis, cystisis,
the simple infusion (1 OZ. of the leaves to 1 pint of boiling
water), the combination of 1/2 oz. each of Uva-Ursi, Poplar
Bark and Marshmallow root, infused in 1 pint of water for 20
minutes is used with advantage.
in the leaves is so abundant that they have been used for tanning
leather in Sweden and Russia.
ash-coloured dye is said to be obtained from the plant in
berries are only of use as food for grouse. Cattle, however, avoid
Species---Manzanita, the leaves of A. glauca from
California, are employed like Uva-Ursi.
of A. polifolia from Mexico and A. tomentosa
(madrona) are also used in medicine.