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Salix Alba. White willow.

Description: Natural Order, Salicaceae. This large genus embraces plants of most varying size and general appearance. The article here alluded to, is the European willow, now much cultivated in this country, where it is a large and thickly-branched tree from fifty to eighty feet high, much used on the prairies to make heavy screens against the wind. Trunk covered with a rough, cracked, grayish-brown bark; branches smooth and greenish, shoots silky. Leaves alternate, short-petiolate, lanceolate, pointed, with silky hairs. Flowers dioecious, in terminal and long catkins, without calyx or corolla, each subtended by a few greenish-yellow bracts; stamens two, hairy below, the filaments slightly united; stigmas nearly sessile, thick, recurved. The catkins appear in April and May, or even so late as June in high latitudes.

The bark of this tree is used in medicine, that of the branches being preferable. The latter comes to market in thin pieces, from a few inches to two feet long, greenish-brown outside and light pink within, slightly rolled inward, and tough. It contains a crystalline principle called salicin. This bark has a moderate and somewhat pleasant aroma, and a bitter and astringent taste.

Properties and Uses: This bark is among the distinct and rather intense tonics, with a fair portion of astringent power, though less absolute in its astringency than many have represented. The chief use made of it is for chronic diarrhea, atonic forms of dyspepsia with looseness of the bowels, passive hemorrhages, atonic menorrhagia, and scrofulous maladies with curdy diarrhea. It has been used to moderate advantage in mild forms of intermittents accompanied by general laxity of the tissues, but is not such a strong nervine stimulant as cinchona, though less exciting to the system and better borne by the stomach. At present, the bark is not used thus; but its preparation salicin is largely employed for agues. Externally, it is a good application for bleeding surfaces, indolent scrofulous ulcers, and aphthous sores; and as an injection for low forms of leucorrhea, is among the very best. An ounce of the crushed bark may be macerated for an hour in a pint of hot water; and two fluid ounces of this given three or four times a day.

SALIX NIGRA, black (not pussy) willow, is a native tree from fifteen to twenty-five feet high, on the margins of streams, with very narrow leaves and a rough black bark. SALIX PURPUREA, rose willow, is a small shrub, adventitious from Europe, with the scales of the aments very black, and the bark of the twigs polished and ashy-olive. The bark from the roots of these two species is even more intensely bitter than the preceding, and that of the rose willow is more astringent. They are both of much value in atonic menorrhagia, and as an injection in leucorrhea. Cornus sericea is also called rose willow.

Pharmaceutical Preparations: I. Tincture. Macerate six ounces of crushed willow bark with a sufficient quantity of forty percent alcohol; after two days transfer to a percolator, and treat with alcohol of the same strength till twelve fluid ounces have passed; express the dregs strongly, and add enough of the menstruum to make a pint. Dose, one to two fluid drachms.

II. Fluid Extract. This may be prepared after the manner of the fluid extracts in general, using diluted alcohol, and reserving the first eight ounces that pass. It is an excellent preparation, and may be given in doses of half a fluid drachm or more.

III. Salicin, or Salicine. This is a crystalline principle obtained chiefly from the twigs, leaves, and bark of the European salix pentandra;also from those of the salix alba and other willows;from the bark of populus tremuloides and others of that genus, and some other plants. It may be prepared by exhausting the strength of the bark with boiling water, concentrating this decoction to a small bulk, and treating it with powdered protoxide of lead. The lead is then precipitated by passing a stream of sulphureted hydrogen slowly through the solution, and carries down with it the gum, tannin, and extractive. The clear liquid is then to be poured off, and further evaporated till crystals form when the liquid cools. By allowing the salicin to crystallize out, mixing it with charcoal, dissolving in boiling water and filtering, and then again evaporating till it crystallizes, a pure product is obtained. It forms small, white, silky needles, neutral, without odor, intensely bitter. Cold water will dissolve about one-twentieth of salicin, and boiling water much more; it is soluble in alcohol, but not in ether or the volatile oils; and is turned blood-red by sulphuric acid. A pound of bark yields half an ounce or more of crystals. It is an excellent tonic and a good antiperiodic. Doses of from two to five grains may be given three times a day in periodical neuralgia, atonic diarrhea, and the low stages of typhus; and doses of ten to fifteen grains every three hours, with one grain of capsicum, will nearly always cut short an intermittent paroxysm. Though not so powerful as quinine, it is better received by the stomach, and is not so liable to excite the brain unduly, and is much more acceptable in ague cases with cerebral sensitiveness.


The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com



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