Description: Natural Order, Compositae. This peculiar plant is common along the roadsides in many portions of the United States, the root being perennial and the stem annual. In the spring it sends up a number of leaves from the root; and these are about two feet long by eight inches broad, dull green above, hoary and downy beneath, with a fleshy midrib. The stem subsequently rises in the midst of these, three to five feet high, somewhat downy, with smaller and half-clasping leaves, and large heads of flowers looking somewhat like the sunflower. Ray florets large, spreading, ligulate, yellow; disk florets short, tubular, five-cleft. Seeds four-sided, smooth; pappus rough. July and August.
The root of this plant is thick, whitish, mucilaginous, and of a feeble balsamic odor. It usually comes to market in flat slices, grayish, of a pleasant aroma, and a warming and rather bitter taste. It contains, especially early in the spring, a large quantity of a starchy substance called inulin. It yields its properties readily to water and alcohol.
Properties and Uses: The root is stimulating and relaxing, leaving behind a tonic and slightly astringing impression. Its influence is expended chiefly upon the mucous structures of the lungs; but it also acts moderately upon the stomach, uterus, skin, and kidneys. To the lungs it is warming and strengthening, promoting the discharge of viscid mucous, but leaving the surfaces slightly dry. It is a popular remedy in coughs, but is often used without sufficient discrimination; for while it answers an excellent purpose in sub-acute and chronic cases where the lung structure is relaxed and expectoration viscid or too profuse, (as in humid asthma,) it is not suitable for cases of any class where the lungs are irritated or dry–as it then increases the dryness, and gives a feeling of constriction. It is an ingredient in the Compound Sirup of Aralia; and may be combined with any of the relaxing and demulcent expectorants, though rarely used in conjunction with stimulants of that class. It may be associated with lobelia, cimicifuga, and licorice in the formation of cough lozenges or troches; and the people use it largely with hoarhound and comfrey.
It has a moderate influence in promoting menstruation; for which purpose it may be combined with anthemis and caulophyllum in uterine languor. Some physicians use it in dyspepsia and hepatic torpor, and in the cutaneous affections arising from biliary accumulations; but it is of small value in such cases. From ten to twenty grains of the powder may be used as a dose, three or more times a day; but it is most customary to prepare it in a compound infusion or sirup, and then to employ such doses as will rarely contain more than from two to five grains of the elecampane in each.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com