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Polymnia.—Uvedalia.

Preparations: Fluid Extract of Polymnia

The root of Polymnia Uvedalia, Linné.
Nat. Ord.—Compositae.
COMMON NAMES: Bearsfoot, Leaf-cup.

Botanical Source.—This is a large, perennial plant, from 3 to 6 feet in height, and found in ravines, on the edges of woods, etc., in the central states, from Illinois to Florida. The stems are erect, stout, branched, and covered with a rough, hoary pubescence. The leaves are large, thin, opposite, deltoid in outline, and abruptly contracted at the base to short dilated leaf-stalks. They are 3-lobed, with acute, sinuate-angled lobes, bright green on both surfaces, and studded below with numerous rough points. The flower heads appear late in summer, and are disposed in loose, corymbose clusters. The involucre is double; the outer consisting of about 5 ovate, obtuse, leaf-like scales, which are ciliate on the margin; and the inner, of the smaller thin bracts of the pistillate flowers. The flower heads are radiate, and the receptacle chaffy. The ray flowers are about 10, in a single row, each being nearly 1 inch in length; they are oblong, of a bright-yellow color, and equally 3-toothed at the apex. The ray flowers are pistillate, and alone fertile, as the disk-florets, although perfect, do not produce fruit. The fruit is an obovoid, black achenium, slightly flattened, and ribbed lengthwise.

History, Description, and Chemical Composition.—Polymnia Uvedalia was introduced as a medicine, about 1870, by Dr. J. W. Pruitt, the root being the part employed. This, when dry, is from 6 to 12 inches in length, and from 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch in diameter at the base of the plant. It extends downward into the ground, and running parallel with it several small roots springing from the base of the plant are often observed. The shape is somewhat like that of dandelion, but longer, not so tapering, and more flattened from the effect of drying. Toward the lower end it often divides into several fleshy rootlets, and secondary roots frequently spring from the main root. The outer surface is of a leather-color, and very much wrinkled longitudinally. Internally, it is white, or of a greenish cast, and soft, with the exception of a few woody fibers near the bark. It contains a large amount of resin, and exhales an unpleasant, animal-like odor when broken. Alcohol extracts from the root all its medicinal principles, the extractive matter mainly consisting of glucose in considerable proportion; a form of tannin which precipitates ferrous sulphate, black; an odorous principle, soluble in water and alcohol; and a mixture of two resins, which is present in greater amount than any other of its characteristic constituents; this resinous compound is heavier than water, of a brownish-yellow color, soft and sticky at ordinary temperatures, and possesses the odor of the root. It dissolves completely in chloroform, ether, and alcohol, imperfectly in benzin, which separates it into: (1) A dark-brown, hard resin, of an acrid taste, which remains undissolved; this is insoluble in carbon disulphide, but freely dissolves in chloroform, ether, and alcohol. (2) A light straw-colored, balsam-like, resinous body, heavier than water, rather thicker than Canada balsam, which it otherwise very nearly resembles; it readily dissolves in ether, alcohol, benzin, chloroform, and carbon disulphide, has the odor of polymnia root, and likewise an acrid taste. Undoubtedly, polymnia depends upon these resinous bodies for its medicinal virtues. The aqueous solution of the evaporated tincture yields a precipitate with phospho-molybdate of ammonium, but not with other alkaloidal reagents, and after precipitation of the tannin with either ferrous sulphate or gelatin, the filtrates give negative results with the phospho-molybdate of ammonium. Polymnia Uvedalia is used in medicine in form of tincture and ointment.

OINTMENT OF POLYMNIA.—Take of fresh polymnia root 8 troy ounces; lard or mutton suet 16 troy ounces; cut the root into small pieces, and, having added the lard, heat the mixture until water ceases to evaporate, and then strain while hot. The ointment is of a light-greenish color, and possesses the disagreeable odor of the root.

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Polymnia was introduced to the medical profession, in 1870, by Dr. J. W. Pruitt, although it had several years previously been highly lauded, under the name of Bear's foot, as a remedy in rheumatism. Dr. Pruitt recommended it in the form of ointment, as a local application in mammary and other glandular tumors or abscesses, in splenic enlargement, and, indeed, in all painful swellings and local inflammations. Subsequently, he employed a tincture of it internally, in connection with its external use, and found its efficacy to be thereby augmented. The tincture alone, was likewise found efficient in the treatment of chronic intermittent fever, ozoena, scrofulous ophthalmia, and similar affections. According to Dr. Pruitt, it may be considered a specific in splenic enlargement from malarial influence. Prof. J. M. Scudder, M. D., has used it with good effect in chronic gastritis, chronic hepatic enlargement, hypertrophy of the cervix uteri, chronic metritis with hypertrophy, uterine subinvolution, and engorgement of the lower lobes of the lungs; according to him the indications for its use are full, flabby, sallow tissues, impaired circulation, atonic impairment of function, and glandular enlargement. The efficacy of this drug in the affections named has been corroborated by many other practitioners who have tested it. It stands to-day at the head of spleen remedies, influencing not only the splenic circulation and reducing hypertrophies of that organ, but has more or less control over the other distributive branches of the coeliac axis. It is a remedy for congestive or engorged states of the spleen and other ductless glands. When dyspepsia depends upon a sluggish circulation in the gastric and hepatic arteries, and is attended with full, heavy, and burning sensations in the parts supplied by those branches, we have in uvedalia an efficient remedy. It even exerts a beneficial action in some cases of that intractable malady, leucocythemia, though it more often fails. The remedy to be of benefit in all glandular difficulties should be used for several weeks. For its influence in splenic engorgement (ague cake) the ointment should be applied warm over the spleen, while specific polymnia uvedalia should be given in from 5 to 10-drop doses every 3 or 4 hours. It is a remedy for imperfect blood-elaboration with tumid, sodden abdomen, and for the removal of low inflammatory deposits. With Prof. Scudder the following was a favorite hair tonic: Rx Specific uvedalia ℥ii, bay rum, ℥vi. Mix. Rub thoroughly into the scalp once or twice a day. White swelling is stated to have been cured by the use of polymnia, both internally and as a local application, but we know of no authentic cases. The ointment appears to be a stimulating discutient. The dose of the tincture is from 10 to 60 minims, 2 or 3 times a day; of specific polymnia uvedalia from 2 to 20 drops.

Specific Indications and Uses.—Full, sodden, inelastic, flabby tissues; splenic and hepatic enlargements, fullness, weight and burning in the region of liver, stomach and spleen, congestive states and impaired functions of the parts supplied by the coeliac axis; impaired blood-making with tumid abdomen; low inflammatory deposits.

Related Species.Polymnia canadensis, Linné, is a smaller plant than the preceding, and is found in similar localities. The stems are clammy, pubescent, and have long internodes. The lower leaves are pinnately-parted, the upper ovate, five-lobed, abrupt at the base, sub-regularly sinuate-toothed, and on slender, horizontal leaf-stalks. The flower-heads are smaller than those of the P. Uvedalia, and have acute involucral scales. The rays are of a pale, sulphur-yellow color, and are not longer than the involucre; they are three-toothed at the apex, the middle tooth being longer than the others. The two plants we have just described, are the only other indigenous species of Polymnia, and, together with a few South American species, constitute the genus.


King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.



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