The leaves of Epigaea repens, Linné.
COMMON NAMES: Trailing arbutus, Winter-pink, Gravel-weed, Gravel plant, Mountain-pink, Ground laurel, May-flower.
Botanical Source.—This is a small trailing plant, indigenous, with woody stems from 6 to 20 inches long, and covered with a hairy pubescence in all its parts. Its leaves are evergreen, alternate, cordate-ovate, entire, 2 or 2 ½ inches long, by 1 ½ wide, roundish at the end, abruptly tipped with a very short point, and borne on slender petioles. The flowers, which are very fragrant and white, or tinged with various shades of red, are disposed in small axillary clusters on short stalks. The corolla is hypocrateriform, tube cylindrical, longer than the calyx, hairy within; limb 5-parted and spreading. The calyx is green, 5-parted, with 3 large bracts at base; stamens 10, with filiform filaments; anthers oblong, awnless, dehiscent by two longitudinal openings. The capsule or pod is depressed, globular, 5-lobed, 5-celled, and many-seeded (W.—G.). According to Mr. Thomas Meehan, this is a dioecious plant.
History.—This shrubby little plant grows in sandy woods, sometimes in rocky soil in the, shade of pines, and is found from Newfoundland to Northwest Territory and Michigan, and south to Kentucky and Florida. Its flowers exhale a rich, spicy fragrance, and appear from March to May. It is much sought in early spring, and admired by flower lovers for its modest beauty and fragrance. Cattle that chew this herb are said to be seriously affected by it. The leaves which have an astringent, bitterish taste, are the medicinal parts, and yield their properties to water or spirits.
Chemical Composition.—Trailing arbutus contains tannin, as shown by Jefferson Oxley (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1872, p. 253). He also observed a body giving some of the test reactions for gallic acid, but differing from the latter in not yielding pyrogallol by dry distillation. Mr. Oxley also found formic acid and the following principles, which also occur in Uva ursi, which see: The glucosid arbutin (C12H16O7), urson (C20H32O2), and the very bitter glucosid ericolin (C34H56O21) or, according to Thal (C26H30O3). Grape sugar, gum, and coloring matter were found in addition to, the constituents mentioned.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Trailing arbutus specifically influences the urinary organs. It is diuretic and astringent. This is a very valuable American remedy, and is highly beneficial in lithic acid gravel, and all diseases of the urinary organs attended with vesical irritation; it is superior to uva ursi, or foreign buchu, and where these have failed in producing benefit, this has succeeded. It maybe used as a substitute for uva ursi. It renders the urine less irritating, and will be found of value to control vesical tenesmus, dysuria, and strangury. A discharge of bloody muco-pus is an indication for its exhibition. The fluid extract and specific epigaea are elegant preparations for all urinary difficulties. It enters into a very useful preparation termed Diuretic compound, which see under the head of Infusions. It has been occasionally used with advantage in diarrhoea, and bowel complaints of children. The infusion of the leaves may be drank freely. Dose of specific epigaea, 10 to 30 drops in water every 2 to 6 hours; fluid extract, 10 to 40 drops.
Specific Indications and Uses.—Uric acid deposits; irritable vesical membrane; voiding of urine containing blood or muco-pus; debilitated and relaxed bladder.