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Erythronium.—Adder's Tongue.

Botanical name:

The leaves and root of Erythronium americanum, Smith (Erythronium lanceolatum, Pursh).
Nat. Ord.—Liliaceae.
COMMON NAMES: Adder's tongue, Dog's-tooth violet, Fellow snowdrop, Rattlesnake violet, Yellow erythronium.

Botanical Source.—Adder's tongue is an indigenous, perennial herb, with a cormus or bulb at some distance below the surface, which is white internally, and fawn-colored externally. The scape is naked, slender, and 3 or 4 inches high. The leaves are 2, subradical, lanceolate, and involute at the point, pale-green, with purplish or brownish spots, about 5 inches long, and one of them nearly twice as wide as the other. The flower is single, drooping, yellow, liliaceous, spotted near the base, expanded and revolute in the sunshine, and closing somewhat at night and on cloudy days. The segments of the perianth are oblong-lanceolate, obtuse, the inner ones being bidentate near the base. Stamens 6, filaments flat, anthers oblong-linear. Ovary obovate; style club-shaped, longer than the stamens, 3-lobed at top, terminating in 3 undivided stigmas. The capsule is oblong-obovate, stipitate, and 3-valved; the seeds rather numerous and ovoid, with a loose membranous tip (W.—G.).

History.—This is a beautiful little plant, among the earliest of our vernal flowers, found in rich, open grounds, or in thin woods throughout the United States; it flowers in April or May. The bulb and leaves are the parts used, and impart their virtues to water. The leaves are said to be more active than the root, and the dried drug much less active than when freshly gathered.

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Emetic, emollient, and antiscrofulous when fresh; nutritive when dried. The fresh roots and leaves, simmered in milk, or the fresh leaves, bruised and applied as a poultice to scrofulous ulcers or tumors, together with a free internal use of an infusion of them, is highly recommended as a remedy for scrofula. The expressed juice of the plant, infused in cider, is reputed useful in dropsy, and for relieving hiccough, vomiting, and hematemesis. Twenty-five grains of the fresh root, or 40 of the recently dried root, will operate as an emetic, though this result is sometimes uncertain.


King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.



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