The whole herb Lycopus virginicus, Linné (Nat. Ord. Labiatae). Common in shady, moist and boggy places throughout the United States. Dose, 1 to 60 grains.
Common Names: Bugle Weed, Sweet Bugle, Paul's Betony.
Principal Constituents.—Tannic and gallic acids, a crystallizable glucoside, resin, and a volatile oil.
Preparation.—Specific Medicine Lycopus. Dose, 1 to 60 drops.
Specific Indications.—Vascular excitement, with rapid, tumultuous action of the heart, but lacking power; hemorrhage, passive and in small quantities, resulting from determination of blood to the lungs, kidneys, or gastro-intestinal canal; chronic debilitating cough, with weak and rapid heart action and expectoration of mucus or muco-pus; morbid vigilance and wakefulness, with inordinately active but weak circulation; albuminuria with the above characteristic circulatory disturbances; polyuria and some cases of diabetes with rapid heart action.
Therapy.—Lycopus is sedative, subastringent, and tonic. No other drug exactly duplicates its value in circulatory disturbances. Apparently its force is chiefly expended on the vascular structures and the sympathetic nervous system. Its sedative action is most certain when the circulation is excited-even tumultuous-with lessened cardiac power. This evident want of heart-energy, with quickened velocity, is the most direct indication for lycopus. For this purpose especially it is greatly valued in the advanced stages of acute diseases with great debility, and in chronic diseases with frequent pulse. Its action upon the stomach is kindly, and being a mild gastric tonic the appetite is sharpened and digestion facilitated. Normal secretion is favored by it, and blood-making and nutrition improved. Upon the cardio-vascular system it has been compared in action to digitalis, though it is far less powerful than that drug, and besides is non-poisonous and not cumulative. The influence of lycopus extends to all parts under control of the vegetative chain of nerves.
Lycopus is preeminently useful in passive hemorrhage, when the bleeding is frequent and small in amount. Thus it has acted well in epistaxis, hematemesis, hematuria, metrorrhagia, and intestinal bleeding. Its greatest utility, however, is in passive pulmonary hemorrhage (hemoptysis). It probably acts by controlling the rapidity of the blood-current. In the first-named hemorrhages it may also act upon the unstriped muscular fibers, but in the pulmonary form these smooth fibers are largely absent in the small vascular terminals where the bleeding is most likely to occur. Therefore the control over the velocity of the circulation, and not its vaso-motor effects, seems the most rational explanation of its control in bleeding from the lungs. Whatever the cause of its action, it is nevertheless most decidedly effective.
Lycopus, by lessening irritation, allaying nervous excitement, and slowing and strengthening the heart, and consequently reducing fever and pain, is often successfully used in acute pulmonic complaints. It is more valuable, however, in chronic lung affections, to fulfill the same purposes, besides controlling or tending to prevent hemorrhage. In chronic bronchitis, with copious expectoration, and in chronic interstitial pneumonia, it has rendered good service. While by no means to be rated as an antitubercular agent, its cardio-vascular control and antihemorrhagic power make it an agent of unrivaled worth in those who show every evidence of tending toward a phthisical end, and we believe it will do as much as a medicine can do to stay the distressing ravages of pulmonary tuberculosis. When established it aids in relieving cough, pain, fever and the rapid and excited heart action. In pulmonary hemorrhage we have frequently used with it specific medicines ipecac and cinnamon with the happiest of results. The chief guides to its selection in respiratory therapeutics are the hemorrhage and circulatory excitability.
In heart disorders, both functional and organic, lycopus should not be disregarded. It may be used where digitalis cannot be employed on account of its offensive action upon the stomach. Administered to patients suffering from endocarditis and pericarditis it has sometimes subdued the inflammation. It is a good remedy in cardiac palpitation, dependent upon irritation of the cardiac nerve centers, or when arising from organic lesions. It is best adapted to those forms of heart disease characterized by irritability, irregularity, and weakness, with dyspnea and praecordial oppression. Lycopus powerfully increases the contraction of the non-striated muscular fibers, particularly those of the heart and arteries, hence its value in cardiac dilatation and hypertrophy—conditions which have been known to undergo marked improvement under its administration. It quickly relieves the suffering and anxiety nearly always experienced in heart diseases; and is of especial value to relieve the rapid heart action of excessive smokers.
Lycopus is a remedy for morbid vigilance and insomnia attendant upon either acute or chronic diseases; and is especially serviceable when sleep is prevented by the exaggerated force of the heart. It has been ill-advised, and is largely over-rated, for the cure of diabetes and the relief of chronic nephritis. The most it can do in these conditions is to allay unpleasant heart symptoms and quiet nervous unrest. It has favorably influenced the circulatory aberrations in exophthalmic goitre, but far more often it has failed. Painful and distressing forms of indigestion are sometimes relieved by it, and it has been employed with advantage in simple diarrhea (lientery), dysenteric diarrhea, and especially in the diarrhea of phthisis, and the gastric disturbances of the drunkard.
The Eclectic Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 1922, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D.