The young branches and leaves of Genista tinctoria, Linné.
COMMON NAMES: Dyer's green-weed, Wood-waxen, Green weed, Dyer's broom, Dyer's weed.
Botanical Source and History.—This plant is an erect shrub, about a foot high, and is a native of Central Europe. It is quite common in poor soil throughout England, and has been naturalized, and grows abundantly, in a few localities of the eastern United States. The stem is short, woody, and sends up numerous erect branches. The leaves are simple, a character distinguishing the plant from most of the native leguminous plants. They are narrowly lanceolate, acute, entire, sessile, alternate, and attached to the stem at an acute angle. The flowers are numerous, bright yellow, and are borne in terminal, showy racemes. The calyx is 2-lipped, with a deeply 2-lobed upper, and a 3-lobed lower lip. The corolla is papilionaceous, and the 10 stamens are united into a complete tube at the base. The fruit is a flat, several-seeded pod.
There are three English species of Genista, two unarmed; G. tinctoria, with smooth, and G. pilosa, with hairy, leaves. The armed species, G. anglica, has sharp, simple thorns. The leaves of G. purgans, a native of France, are used as a cathartic.
Little is known of the chemical history of the several species of Genista. Dr. Plugge (Jahresb. der Pharm., 1895, p. 134), investigating the occurrence of the alkaloid cytisine in various species of Papilionaceae, found Genista tinctoria and G. pilosa to be free from this substance. Genista tinctoria has been in some little repute as a medicine since the day of Culpepper. The flowers yield an inferior yellow dye. The dried plant possesses scarcely any taste. It must not be confused with Broom tops (Scoparius).
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Both the flowers and the seeds have been employed in medicine, in dropsical affections, and with considerable efficacy. Sixty grains of the powdered seeds produce active catharsis, and even emesis, and is the dose generally advised in dropsy. An infusion of the flowers has been advantageously employed in gout and rheumatism, and is also stated to have been successful in several cases of albuminuria, in doses of 2 tablespoonfuls every 1 or 2 hours. Probably a tincture would be found more available. Formerly this plant had an unmerited reputation for the prevention, as well as the cure, of hydrophobia.
Specific Indications and Uses.—"Ascites, and oedema with cutaneous disease, or erosion of the skin with exudation" (Scudder, Spec. Med).