A very pretty shrub, native of many parts of Europe, and frequent in our gardens. It is four feet high, and very much branched. The branches stand irregularly, and they are very tough and firm. The leaves are oblong and narrow: they grow in clusters from certain little swellings on the bark. The flowers are small and red; they are hollow, and are succeeded by oblong berries, which are black when ripe. The root is woody and creeping; and the plant is not easily destroyed, when once well established.
The bark of the root, or the inner bark of the branches is to be used; but it is a violent medicine, and must be given with great caution, in small doses, and only to those who have strong constitutions. It will cause vomiting, and bloody stools to people that are tender, or to any, in a large dose; but to robust people, it only acts as a brisk purge. It is excellent in dropsies, and other stubborn disorders; and the best way of giving it, is in a light infusion.