The bark of the root of Rubus villosus, Aiton; Rubus canadensis, Linné; and Rubus trivialis, Michaux.
COMMON NAMES: Blackberry, etc.
ILLUSTRATION: Bentley and Trimen, Med. Plants, 100.
Botanical Source.—Rubus villosus is a perennial, half shrubby plant, pubescent and prickly. Its root is woody, knotty, and horizontal, and sends up a tall, branching, slender, prickly, more or less furrowed and angular stem, recurved at top, and from 3 to 6 feet high. The leaves are mostly in threes, sometimes fives, often solitary, on a channeled, hairy petiole; leaflets ovate, acuminate, sharply and unequally serrate, covered with scattered hairs above, and with a thick, soft pubescence underneath; terminal stalked; 2 side ones sessile; petiole and back of the midrib commonly armed with short, recurved prickles. Branchlets, stalks, and lower surface of the leaves hairy and glandular; leaflets from 2 ½ to 4 inches long, by 1 ½ to 2 ½ inches wide. Flowers large, in erect racemes, with a hairy, prickly stalk; pedicels slender, 1 or 2 inches long, with glandular hairs and lanceolate bracts. Petals 5, white, ovate or oblong, concave, contracted into a short claw at base. Calyx short, with ovate, hairy segments, ending in an acuminate point, or a lanceolate leaflet. Stamens numerous, inserted on the calyx along with the petals; filaments slender; anthers small. The fruit is large, at first green, then red, and, when matured, black; it consists of about 20 roundish, shining, black, fleshy carpels, closely collected into an ovate or oblong head, subacid, well flavored, and ripening in August and September (L.—W.—G.).
Rubus canadensis, sometimes called Low or Creeping blackberry, has a slender, prickly stem, procumbent, or trailing several yards upon the ground. The leaves are petiolate, of three (or pedately 5 or 7) leaflets, which are elliptical, or rhomboidal-oval, acute, thin, membranaceous, sharply and unequally cut-serrate, often somewhat incised, somewhat pubescent, 1 to 1 ½ inches long, and about one-half as wide. The flowers are large, white, nearly solitary, on slender, elongated, prickly, somewhat corymbed pedicels, with leafy bracts; lower peduncles distant; upper crowded. Petals obovate and twice as long as the calyx. The fruit is large, black, very sweet, and juicy (W.—T.—G).
Rubus trivialis, or Low-bush blackberry, of the southern states (Southern dewberry), has a procumbent, shrubby stem, armed with both prickles and bristles. The leaves are trifoliate, or pedately 5-parted, evergreen, leathery, and almost smooth. The leaflets are sharply serrate, and of the ovate-oblong or lanceolate form. Flowers large, and from 1 to 3 to the peduncles. They blossom in March.
History, Description, and Chemical Composition.—The Dewberry grows wild in dry, stony fields, gravelly soil, and neglected grounds, and is common from Canada to Virginia, flowering in May, and ripening its fruit in July and August. The root is the official part; it is generally smaller than the blackberry root, with its external covering transversely cracked, of a dark, brownish-gray color, odorless, and woody internally. The Southern dewberry blooms in March, and matures its fruit in May. It is found in sandy soils from Virginia to Florida, and from thence westward. Blackberry grows abundantly in most parts of the United States, in old fields, by the roadside, and on the borders of thickets, flowering from May to July and maturing its fruit in August. The bark of the root is the part used. As demanded by the U. S. P., it is "in thin, tough, flexible bands, outer surface blackish, or blackish-gray, inner surface pale-brownish, sometimes with strips of whitish, tasteless wood adhering; inodorous; taste strongly astringent, somewhat bitter"—(U. S. P.).
These plants possess astringent medicinal properties, and maybe substituted the one for the other. The bark of the old roots, or the smaller roots, of dewberry and blackberry, should always be preferred, as the woody portion is inert. Their properties are similar, and they impart their virtues to water, alcohol, or port wine. The fruits of these plants (and Rubus strigosus) are much esteemed as an article of diet, and have been manufactured into cordials, jams, jellies, and syrups. They contain volatile oil, coloring matters, citric and malic acids, sugar, mucilage, etc. The root-bark of Rubus villosus, according to analysis by G. A. Krauss (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1889, p. 605, and 1890, p. 161), contains a crystallizable, bitter glucosid, villosin, sparingly soluble in water and petroleum benzin; freely soluble in alcohol, insoluble in chloroform, nearly so in ether. It is rather unstable, being readily hydrolyzed into sugar and resinous villosic acid, soluble in alcohol, ether, and chloroform. Herman Harms (ibid., 1894, p. 580) believes villosin to be allied to saponin. This author found the dry bark to contain from 12 to 19 per cent of tannin.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—These plants are useful as astringents. An infusion or decoction of the leaves of raspberry (see Rubus Idaeus), or the bark of the roots of the other two, has been found an excellent remedy in diarrhoea, dysentery (chronic), cholera infantum, relaxed conditions of the intestines of children, passive hemorrhage from the stomach, bowels, or uterus, and in colliquative diarrhoea. The decoction, used as an injection, is useful in gonorrhoea, gleet, leucorrhoea, and prolapsus uteri and ani. In prolapsus uteri, it may be used either alone or combined with the internal use of a decoction of equal parts of black cohosh and blackberry roots, taken freely. Rubus villosus is especially adapted to children's diarrhoeas, the stools being copious, watery, and clay-colored. Such children are pale, fretful, without appetite, there is deficient glandular activity, and the gastro-intestinal tract shows evidence of enfeeblement and relaxation. The leaves of raspberry, in decoction with cream, will allay nausea and vomiting, and, combined with aromatics, have been found useful in diarrhoea, cholera morbus, and cholera infantum. It is said that raspberry will, during labor, increase the activity of the uterine contractions when these are feeble, even in instances where ergot has failed, and that it has been found serviceable in after-pains. The fruit, especially that of the blackberry, makes an excellent syrup, which is of much service in dysentery, being pleasant to the taste, mitigating the accompanying tenesmus and sufferings of the patient, and ultimately effecting a cure. The fruit of the raspberry contains very little nourishment, but is an agreeable acidulous article, rarely disturbing the stomach, and, when eaten freely, promotes the action of the bowels. Raspberry syrup, added to water, forms a refreshing and beneficial beverage for fever patients, and during convalescence. The jelly or jam may likewise be used in similar cases; that of the blackberry being more astringent, is better adapted to cases of diarrhoea, dysentery, and cholera infantum. Dose of the decoction of these plants, from 1 to 4 fluid ounces, several times a day; of the pulverized root-bark, 20 to 30 grains.
Specific Indications and Uses.—(Rubus villosus.) Gastro-intestinal atony, with copious, watery, and pale alvine discharges.