Related entry: Ilex Opaca.—American Holly
The bark and berries of Prinos verticillatus, Linné (Ilex verticillata, Gray).
COMMON NAMES: Black alder, Winterberry, Feverbush.
Botanical Source.—This is an indigenous shrub of irregular growth, sometimes known as winterberry, having a stem 6 or 8 feet in height, with a grayish bark, and alternate branches. The leaves are alternate or scattered, on short petioles, oval, acute at the base, pointed, Sharply serrate, of an olive-green color, smooth above, and downy beneath, particularly on the veins. The flowers are small, white, dioecious, on very short peduncles; the fertile ones somewhat clustered or solitary; the sterile ones sub-umbellate, and sometimes the flowers are monoecious. Calyx small, 6-cleft, and persistent. Corolla monopetalous, spreading, without a tube, the border divided into 6 obtuse segments. Stamens equal in number to the segments of the corolla, erect, with oblong anthers; in the fertile flowers they are shorter than the corolla, in the sterile they are equal in length to it. The ovary is large, green, and roundish, with a short style and obtuse stigma. The fruit consists of bright-scarlet, globular berries, about the size of a pea, supported by the persistent calyx, and crowned with the stigma. They are 6-celled, containing 6 long seeds, which are convex outwardly, and sharp-edged within. The berries are in scattered groups on the stem, forming small, apparently verticillate bunches (L.—W.).
History, Description, and Chemical Composition.—Black alder is common throughout the United States, growing in moist woods, swamps, edges of streams, etc., flowering from May to July, and maturing its fruit in the latter part of autumn. The bark and berries are medicinal. The dried bark of commerce is in pieces, either flat or slightly quilled, thin, white, with a greenish tint within, brownish-gray externally, readily pulverizable, inodorous, but of a bitterish, subastringent taste. It yields its properties to water by infusion or decoction. The berries have a saccharine, bitterish taste, and yield their virtues to water or alcohol. They should not be substituted, in practice, for the bark. They have not been analyzed. The bark contains, according to L. C. Collier (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1880, p. 437), resin, wax, tannin, chlorophyll, starch, sugar, albumen, and a yellow, amorphous, bitter principle. (For a quantitative analysis of the bark of this shrub, by J. Stewart Smith, see Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1890, p. 275.)
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Black alder is tonic, alterative, and astringent. It strengthens the circulation, improves nutrition, and aids in the removal of waste material, thus effectually aiding the vegetative processes. It has been used with good effect in jaundice, diarrhoea, gangrene, and all diseases attended with great weakness. It has also been of service in dropsy. Two drachms of the powdered bark and 1 drachm of golden-seal, infused in a pint of boiling water, and, when cold, taken in the course of a day, in doses of a wineglassful, and repeated daily, has proved very valuable in dyspepsia. Externally, the decoction forms an excellent local application to gangrene, to indolent ulcers, some affections of the skin, etc. The berries are cathartic and vermifuge, and form, with cedar-apples, a pleasant and effectual worm medicine for children (see Juniperus Virginiana). Dose, of the powdered bark, from ½ to 1 drachm; of the decoction, 4 fluid ounces, 3 or 4 times a day. A tincture of the recent bark (℥viii to alcohol, 76 per cent, Oj) may be given in doses of from 5 to 30 drops. Black alder bark is an ingredient of several alterative syrups.
Related Species.—Prinos glaber, Linné (Ilex glabra, Gray), Inkberry. This species grows along the Atlantic seaboard, from Massachusetts south, being most abundant in the southern states. Its berries are black.
Prinos laevigatus, Pursh (Ilex laevigatus, Gray).—In northern states, in marshes and southward, and in the Allegheny Mountains.