Description: Natural Order, Rubiaceae; by the U. S. Dispensatory classed in the Order Gentianaceae, but not now placed there. Showy herbs with perennial roots and annual stems. Stem simple, erect, smooth, nearly square, dull-purplish, six to eighteen inches high, several from the same root. Leaves opposite, sessile, ovate-lanceolate, acute, three to four inches long. Flowers large, very showy, along one side of a terminal spike; calyx of five slender divisions; corolla tubular, an inch and a half long, slightly inflated in the middle, divided at the margin into five acute segments, valvate in the bud, crimson outside, yellow within; stamens five, extending beyond the corolla along with the single fringed style. Fruit a double capsule, flattened at the sides, and when ripe separating to the base into two carpels. Each spike bears but from four to eight erect flowers. June and July. In rich woods through Pennsylvania, the Carolinas, and southward.
The root of this plant consists of a bundle of fibers from four to seven inches long, from a short and knotty rhizoma, dark or yellowish brown, and of a sickish odor and a slightly bitter taste. Hot water extracts its virtues. Many samples are mixed with a very slender and light-yellow root, with numerous small fibers; which is said to belong to a small vine common in the vicinity (?) and are pronounced poisonous.
Properties and Uses: This root is an indigenous anthelmintic, a knowledge of which was obtained from the Indians. Large doses sometimes purge, but not uniformly; and often cause headache, dizziness, crowding of blood to the brain, and muscular twitchings about the face. A sluggish and narcotic feeling is left behind, and death has been attributed to its use. (U. S. P.) This is certainly a suspicious reputation; and though pink root is a popular worm remedy, it is by no means a certain one, and the Materia Medica furnishes many far better. The ill effects have been attributed to the foreign root above named, but this is not at all confirmed. From ten to twenty grains, either as powder or by infusion, are directed for a child three years old; and it is customary either to combine it with a fair dose of senna, or to give a brisk cathartic in three or four hours after.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com