Related entry: Onosmodium.—False Gromwell
(A lot of plants in the Boraginaceae contain hepatotoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids. The Lithospermums are among the most toxic of the lot. More info here: Livertoxic PAs --Henriette.)
The roots and seeds of Lithospermum officinale, Linné.
COMMON NAME: Common gromwell.
ILLUSTRATION: Woodville's Medical Botany, Plate 105.
Botanical Source and Chemical Composition.—This is a large, rough, hairy weed, a native of Europe, and very common in some parts; it is rarely naturalized in the eastern section of the United States, and is found growing in dry and gravelly soils. The stem is from 1 to 2 feet high, erect, much-branched, and covered with small, stiff hairs. The leaves are numerous, veiny, alternate, sessile, ovate, and acute at the apex. They are covered with a close, grayish pubescence, which is rough and stiff on the upper surface, but softer beneath. The flowers appear in June, and are small, in axillary or terminal, revolute, leafy spikes. The calyx has 5 acute lobes. The corolla is salverform, slightly exceeds the calyx, and is of a pale-yellow color. The fruit consists generally of one or two smooth, hard, shiny, gray, ovate nutlets, which are attached to the persistent calyx by the base. A native species of Lithospermum, L. latifolium, Michaux, closely resembling L. officinale, especially in the smooth, polished nutlets, and considered a variety of it by Willdenow, is common in the open woods of the middle states. It has green leaves, and is more loosely branched than the introduced species. The ash of the seeds, according to Hornberger (1875), is rich in calcium carbonate (68.2 per cent) and silica (19.39 per cent). The root bark of Lithospermum arvense, Linné, contains a red coloring matter, lithospermum red, isolated by Ludwig and Kromayer (Archiv der Pharm., 1858, Vol. CXLVI, p. 278).
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—This plant is diuretic, possessing properties analogous to those of the Onosmodium Virginianum, and deserves further investigation. It has proved efficient in both acute and chronic cystitis, and likewise in certain calculous affections. A strong infusion of the dried root, 1 ounce to water 1 pint, may be given every 3 hours in tablespoonful doses. The seeds, in powder, are used in half-teaspoonful doses every 4 or 5 hours (King).
Related Species.—Lithospermum canescens, Lehm, Hoary puccoon, or alkanet; also called in some sections Indian paint root. Dr. R. C. Ely (E. M. J.,1882 and 1886) claims for this plant wonderful healing properties in cuts, wounds, old sores, gunshot wounds, eczema, and burns. The ointment is used. It is prepared by simmering the root in lard or fresh butter. The ointment has a pale-purple color, due to a coloring matter identical with alkanet found in the roots of the species of Lithospermum. (See illustration on page 1198. (Fig. 162, on this page.))