Related entry: Hippocastanum.—Horse-Chestnut
The bark and fruit of the Aesculus glabra, Willdenow.
COMMON NAMES:—Ohio buckeye, Fetid buckeye, Smooth buckeye.
ILLUSTRATION: Gray's Gen. Illust., II, Pl. 177.
Botanical Source.—A small, fetid tree from 20 to 40 feet high, the leaves of which consist of five ovate, or oblong, serrulate, acuminate leaflets, somewhat hairy underneath. The flowers are small and yellowish, and borne in a loose thyrsoid panicle. Each flower has four petals about half the length of its stamens, which are seven in number and curved. The fruit is a prickly capsule, containing the seed.
History.—The Ohio buckeye is found growing along streams and river banks in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, north to Michigan and south to Mississippi. It flowers in May and June, and on account of the unpleasant odor given off the tree is often called fetid buckeye. The fruit contains an abundance of very fine starch, which it is surprising has not yet been introduced into commerce.
Description.—THE NUT (dry) of Aesculus glabra does not differ essentially from that of the horse-chestnut, except that it is darker in color, a little smaller in size, is perhaps somewhat more globular, and has a much smaller hilum, the latter being not more than one-third or less than one-half as large as that on the horse-chestnut. It ranges from 1/3 to 1/2 inch in diameter.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—This agent influences the nervous and circulatory systems, having a selective affinity for the portal circulation. In over-doses it affects the cerebro-spinal system somewhat after the manner of nux vomica. Dizziness, fixation of the eyes, impairment of vision, vomiting, wry-neck, opisthotonos, stupor, and tympanites are among its effects. In lethal doses these symptoms are increased, coma supervenes, and death finally takes place. The dried powder of the nut inhaled causes violent sneezing. The action of buckeye is similar to, but more powerful than that of the horse-chestnut (A. Hippocastanum), though some think it less powerful than the latter in its effects upon the portal circulation. It probably acts more powerfully on the spinal than upon the sympathetic nerves. When an excited circulation, with frequent pulse, depends upon disorders of the respiratory and sympathetic nerves, it acts as a decided sedative. The difficult breathing of non-paroxysmal asthma, where the dyspnoea is persistent, but does not amount to a paroxysm, is markedly benefited by aesculus glabra, while in coughs, associated with post-manubrial constriction—a sensation of grasping and tightening—its action is positive. The latter sensation without the cough quickly yields to it. Phthisis, bronchitis, etc., with dyspnoea and oppression, are palliated by it. Intestinal uneasiness and irritation, with a sense of contraction and colic-like pains in the region of the umbilicus, are indications for its use. It is asserted valuable in intestinal dyspepsia with these symptoms, and in hepatic congestion and chronic constipation. Its control over the portal circulation and its attendant disorders is pronounced, and as a remedy for hemorrhoids depending upon portal derangements, it has attained a reputation. A sense of constriction in the rectum is the guide to its use. In female disorders, with tumid and enlarged cervix uteri, with too frequent and profuse menstruation, it may be employed with advantage. Owing to its powerful action upon the nervous system the drug will repay study. It has been employed with asserted success in rheumatism and as a stimulant in paralysis. The dose of specific aesculus glabra is from 1 to 5 drops.
Specific Indications and Uses.—A sensation of grasping or constriction in the post-manubrial space, or at the supra-sternal notch; cough of spasmodic character, with but little expectoration; asthma, with continual dyspnoea, non-paroxysmal; tightness in the chest and about the heart; bronchial irritation with constriction; sense of constriction, tightness or uneasiness in the rectum, accompanied or not with hemorrhoids; intestinal irritation with constriction and colicky pains near the umbilicus.
Related Species.—Aesculus pavia, Linné. Red buckeye. United States. Southern states, from Georgia and Virginia westward. A small shrub; or in the vicinity of mountains, a tree. Coloring matter, tannin, resin, and a peculiar crystalline body, were obtained from red buckeye by Mr. Bachelor in 1873, from the testa of the fruit; and a green or brown fixed oil to the amount of 5 per cent, cane sugar, and a little over 2 per cent of a peculiar bitter, acrid, poisonous glucosid, of a brown color, were obtained from the cotyledons, which are principally starch. According to F. Peyre Porcher, M. D., the roots of this tree were preferred to soap for cleansing and whitening blankets, woolen goods, colored cottons, and satins. The fresh nut made into a paste with flour, and also the bruised twigs of the shrub, were used in the swamps of the Santee to stupefy fish, so as to cause them to float that they might readily be taken. A decoction of the nuts was recommended as a topical application to gangrene, and a strong decoction of the root held in the mouth was reputed a cure for toothache. An excellent starch, which does not become yellow with age, has been prepared from the fruit. It probably possesses the same properties as aesculus glabra.
Aesculus flava, Aiton. Sweet buckeye, Large buckeye. Western United States and mountains of the Appalachian system, from Virginia to Georgia. Grows from 6 to 70 feet high, and has yellow flowers.
Aesculus parviflora, Walter. Small-flowered buckeye. United States. Shrub, 2 to 9 feet high, with small, white flowers.