The fresh bulbous base and flowering tops of Ranunculus bulbosus, Linné.
COMMON NAMES: Crowfoot, Bulbous crowfoot, Buttercup.
ILLUSTRATION: Lloyd's Drugs and Medicines of North America, Vol. I, Plate VII.
Botanical Source.—Ranunculus bulbosus has a perennial, solid, fleshy, roundish, depressed bulbous base, resembling a cormus, sending out radicles from its under side; in autumn it gives off lateral bulbs near its top, which afford plants for the following year, while the old bulb decays. The root sends up annually, several erect, round, hairy, and branching stems, from 6 to 18 inches in height, which are furrowed, hollow, and bulbous at the base. Radical leaves on long petioles, ternate, sometimes quinate; segments variously cut, lobed and toothed and hairy. Cauline leaves sessile and ternate; upper ones more simple. Each stem supports several solitary, golden-yellow flowers, upon furrowed, angular, and hairy peduncles. Sepals oblong, hairy, reflexed against the peduncle. Petals 5, inversely cordate, longer than the sepals, and arranged so as to represent the shape of a small cup. At the inside of the claw of each petal is a small cavity, which is covered with a minute wedge-shaped emarginate scale. The stamens are numerous, and yellow, with oblong, erect anthers. Ovaries numerous, with reflexed stigmas. Receptacles spherical. Carpels acute, naked, diverging, tipped with very short recurved beaks (L.—G.—W.).
History.—This plant is common to Europe and the United States, growing in fields and pastures, and flowering in May, June and July. There are several species, possessing similar properties, and designated by the general name of Buttercup; among these the R. acris, Linné, R. repens, Linné, R. sceleratus, Linné, and R. Flammula, Linné, may be indifferently substituted, the one for the other. The leaves and unripe germens of these species are acrid, occasioning, when chewed, a singular, intense cutting sensation in the point of the tongue, which quickly ceases when the plant is removed. This acrid principle is entirely lost by drying, however carefully this process be managed; and it also disappears in the germens as the seeds, which are themselves bland, ripen. It passes over in the distillation of the fresh plants with water. When any part of these plants is chewed, it occasions much pain, inflammation, and sometimes excoriation of the several parts of the mouth, and much heat and pain in the stomach, if it be taken internally. The distilled water of R. Flammula, Linné, is said to act as an instantaneous emetic.
Chemical Composition.—The acrid principle of these plants resides in a yellow volatile oil having the pungency of oil of mustard or horseradish. Ether and chloroform extract its active principle, crystallizable anemonol or anemone camphor, an unstable body, decomposing spontaneously into inert anemonin and anemonic (isoanemonic) acid (see Pulsatilla and Anemone; also Drugs and Medicines of North America, Vol. I, p. 59).
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—The above-named plants are too acrid to use internally, especially when fresh; but when applied externally, are powerfully rubefacient and epispastic. Ranunculus bulbosus is employed, in its recent state, in rheumatic, neuralgic, and other diseases where vesication and counter-irritation are indicated. Its action, however, is so uncertain and sometimes so violent, causing very obstinate ulcers, that it is seldom used. It is sometimes used by the beggars of Europe to produce and keep open sores, for the purpose of exciting sympathy. "I have cured two obstinate cases of nursing sore-mouth, with an infusion made by adding 2 drachms of the recent root, cut into small pieces, to 1 pint of hot water; when cold, a tablespoonful was given 3 or 4 times a day, and the mouth frequently washed with a much stronger infusion" (J. King). Prof. Scudder suggested a fraction of a drop largely diluted of a tincture of the fresh root (℥viii to alcohol, 76 per cent, Oj) as a stimulant to the vegetative process. Acting upon homoeopathic principles it has been employed with asserted benefit in herpes and eczema. The dose is a fraction of a drop, well diluted, every 2 to 4 hours.