The plant Nabalus albus, Hooker (Prenanthes alba, Linné).
COMMON NAMES: Lion's foot, Rattlesnake root, White lettuce, Gall of the earth, Cancer weed.
Botanical Source.—This plant is an indigenous, perennial herb, with a smooth, somewhat glaucous stem, corymbose-paniculate at the summit, stout, purplish, often deeply so in spots, from 2 to 4 feet in height. The radical leaves are angular-hastate, often more or less deeply 3 to 5-lobed; the uppermost cauline ones lanceolate; between these the intermediate forms hastate and ovate, petiolate, and all irregularly dentate. The heads are pendulous and glabrous; the involucre of 8 linear scales, and from 9 to 12-flowered; the scales purplish, and the corollas whitish. Pappus brown (W.—G.).
There is a variety of the above plant Nabalus Serpentaria (or Prenanthes Serpentaria), with rough, dentate leaves, of which the radical are palmate, the cauline with long foot-stalks, sinuate-pinnatifid, disposed to be 3-lobed, with the middle lobe 3-parted, the upper lanceolate. The racemes are terminal, somewhat panicled, short, nodding, with an 8-cleft calyx, and 12 florets; it is about 2 feet high, with purple flowers (W.—G.).
History and Chemical Composition.—This plant is found in moist woods and shades, in rich soils, from New England to Iowa, and from Canada to Carolina, flowering in August. The variety N. Serpentaria is common to the mountainous districts of Virginia, North Carolina, and other sections of the United States, and is considered more active than the N. albus. The root, leaves, and juice of the plant are employed. According to N. B. Williams (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1887,1). 117), the rhizome contains tannin, gum, resins, etc., and the leaves 12 per cent of ash.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Nabalus is said to be an antidote to the bite of the rattlesnake, and other poisonous serpents. The milky juice of the plant is taken internally, while the leaves steeped in water are to be applied to the wound, and frequently changed. A decoction of the root, which is bitter, has been successfully used in the bite of the rattlesnake, also in dysentery. This plant is deserving further and more accurate investigation, possessing undoubted power over the nervous system. A strong tincture of the green plant (℥viii to alcohol, 76 per cent, Oj) should be employed in doses of from 1 to 20 drops in experimenting for its effects in nervous disorders.
King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.