Mucuna Pruriens. Cowhage, Cowitch.
Description: Natural Order, Leguminosae. This plant is most familiarly known by the name Dolichos pruriens. It is a native of the West Indies and tropical America, where it climbs about shrubs and trees to a considerable height. "Calyx campanulate, bilabiate, the lower lip trifid with acute segments, the upper lip broader and entire. Corolla very large, pea-bloom shaped, beautiful purplish or red, the wings and keel longest. Stamens diadelphous. Fruit a large legume, about four inches long." (DeCandolle.) Leaves of three pinnae, alternate, about twelve inches apart, and on petioles. Flowers in loose spikes a foot long, hanging from the axils of the leaves, and presenting a brilliant appearance. The pod is covered with brown hairs, rather stiff, sharp, an eighth of an inch or more in length, and which easily separate from the pod on handling. These hairs are the portion used in medicine; and penetrate the flesh on handling, causing sharp itching.
Properties and Uses: The hairs or bristles of cowhage pods are employed as a vermifuge, and seem to act against the several species of worms, except the tape-worm. They are given in substance, and seem to act by piercing the worm, as no fluid preparation of them is of any worth as a vermifuge. They are most effective in cases where the abdomen is distended, and the bowels are disposed to be too loose, with mucous discharges. Their action then is really excellent, and I have rarely found them to fail; but in cases where the patient is costive and the bowels sensitive, they are not a suitable remedy. The dose for a child may be an even teaspoonful, thoroughly mixed with molasses or other tenacious fluid, and given each morning for three days; and then followed by a cathartic, and afterwards by a suitable tonic.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com