The leaves of Oxydendron arboreum, De Candolle (Andromeda arborea, Linné).
COMMON NAMES: Sourwood, Sorrel tree.
Botanical Source.—Oxydendron arboreum is a tree growing from 40 to 50 feet high, with a trunk from 10 to 15 inches in diameter. The leaves are oblong-lanceolate, acuminate, serrate, petiolate, deciduous, from 5 to 6 inches long, from 1 to 2 inches broad, villous when young, at length smooth, with a distinctly acid taste, and early in autumn they turn bright scarlet. The flowers are pedicellate, secund, spreading, at length reflexed; panicles terminal, consisting of numerous spicate racemes. Calyx without bractlets. The corolla is ovate-oblong, narrowed at the summit, 5-toothed, and pubescent externally. The filaments are thickened; anthers awnless, the cells long and pointed. The capsule pyramidal and pentangular; the seeds are ascending from the base, linear, with a loose coat and taper-pointed at both ends; and bracts and bractlets minute and deciduous (W.—G.).
History.—This elegant tree inhabits rich woods from New York to the Gulf of Mexico. and in the Allegheny valleys, and bears white flowers in July. The leaves are the parts used. They have an agreeable tartness, and yield their properties to water. According to Plugge and De Zaayer (1889), no andromedotoxin occurs in this plant.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Sorrel tree leaves are tonic, refrigerant, and strongly diuretic. Fever patients will find a decoction of the leaves a pleasant, cooling, and diuretic drink. A tincture of the leaves and twigs in whiskey is said to have been a popular remedy in Kentucky for the kidney and bladder ailments of aged men, being employed to increase the renal secretion, and to relieve the unpleasant symptoms attending prostatic enlargement, vesical calculi, and chronic irritation of the neck of the bladder. The remedy was specially recommended in the treatment of dropsies by Dr. J. W. Davis, of Lewisburg, Ky., in 1881 (Ec. Med. Jour., 1881, p. 497). Its strong diuretic powers were generally recognized, and several experimenters reported remarkable success from its employment in anasarca, hydrocele, pleuritic effusions, and hydropericardium. It was asserted to give marked relief in urinary troubles, with frequent desire to urinate, with burning pain at urethral outlet, and the urine passing in drops, mixed with blood. It was subsequently employed in bowel troubles from exposure to cold, as when a determination of blood to the viscera occurred, causing diarrhoea or dysentery. It undoubtedly acts by giving increased tone to relaxed capillaries. Pills of a solid extract, containing 3 to 6 grains may be given every 2 hours; specific oxydendron, 1 to 20 minims every 2 or 3 hours.
Specific Indications and Uses.—Anasarca, ascites, and other forms of dropsy; the urinary difficulties of old men; painful micturition, with scanty renal secretion.
Related Species.—(Compare Kalmiaand Rhododendron.) Some species of Andromeda are poisonous, e. g., Andromeda nitida, Bartram, an elegant evergreen, known as Fetter-bush; Andromeda polyfolia, Linné, the Wild rosemary, growing in boggy situations, and containing andromedotoxin; Andromeda mariana, Linné, Stagger-bush, a seaboard plant, found also in Tennessee and Arkansas, and said to produce staggers in calves and lambs (see illustration in Meeban's Native Flowers and Ferns, Vol. II, p. 185); and Andromeda angustifolium, Pursh, a swamp growth. The blossoms and leaves of the Andromeda speciosa, Michaux, have a pulverulent substance upon their surface, which is reputed a strong sternutatory.