Polemonium.—American Greek Valerian.
Related entries: Valeriana.—Valerian
The root of Polemonium reptans, Linné.
COMMON NAMES: American Greek valerian, and sometimes called Blue bells and Jacob's ladder.
Botanical Source.—This indigenous perennial plant has a creeping root and a smooth, erect, weak, fleshy, diffusely-branched stem from 12 to 20 inches high. The leaves are alternate and pinnately divided; leaflets 7 to 11, ovate-lanceolate, acute, subopposite, smooth, entire, sessile, an inch long and half as wide; upper leaflets sometimes confluent. The flowers are numerous, terminal, rather large, nodding, on short petioles, blue, and nearly bractless. Calyx campanulate, 5-cleft; segments lanceolate-acute, persistent, much shorter than the tube of the corolla. Corolla rotate-campanulate, limb 5-lobed, erect, tube short, closed at the base by 5 staminiferous valves. The stamens are 5, equally inserted at the summit of the corolla tube; the filaments slender, declined, and hairy-appendaged at the base; the anthers introrse. The capsules are 3-celled and 3-valved; the cells from 2 to 3-seeded (W.—G.).
History.—This is a handsome plant, growing in woods, damp grounds, and along shady river banks, from New York to Wisconsin, bearing blue flowers in May. The root is the part used, and yields its virtues to water; it has not been analyzed.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Alterative, diaphoretic, and astringent. A warm infusion of the root will, it is said, produce copious perspiration, and has been found serviceable in pleurisy, febrile and inflammatory diseases. The tincture, made of whiskey, in doses of from 1 to 2 fluid ounces, 2 or 3 times a day, has been found valuable in scrofulous diseases, and other chronic diseases where an alterative is indicated. The infusion is recommended in the bites of venomous snakes and insects, and in bowel complaints requiring the use of astringents. Reported to have cured consumption, but these cases were probably of severe bronchorrhoea. Useful in bronchial and laryngeal affections. The plant deserves investigation.
Related Species.—Polemonium caeruleum, or Greek valerian, is a native of England. It has been found in swamps in New York, Vermont, and New Jersey. It is larger and more numerously-flowered than the above, and is often found cultivated in gardens. Stems about 2 feet high, stout, hollow, several from the same root, each dividing at top into a corymbose panicle. Leaves mostly radical, on long, grooved petioles, pinnately 11 to 17 foliate; segments sessile, ovate-lanceolate, subopposite, acuminate, oblique, odd one lanceolate. Flowers blue, terminal, suberect. This plant, probably, possesses medicinal virtues similar to the one above (W.).