The roots and plant of Spergularia rubra, Presl. (Arenaria rubra, Linné; Lepigonum rubrum, Fries; Spergularia rubra, var. campestris, Gray's Manual; Buda rubra, Dumortier).
COMMON NAMES: Sand-spurrey, Red-sandwort, Spurrey-sandwort.
Botanical Source.—The Spergularia rubra is an inconspicuous annual weed, found both in the United States and Europe, in dry, sandy situations, more commonly near the coast, but not in brackish places. The stems are many, and from the same root, matted, much branched, from 6 to 12 inches in length, and lying prostrate on the sand. The leaves are linear, fleshy, and about 1 inch long; they are opposite, and have, generally, smaller leaves clustered in their axils; they are surrounded, at the base, by 2 dry, triangular, scale-like stipules. The flowers are small, numerous, axillary, and appear throughout the summer; they are borne on slender peduncles, about ½ inch long, which are reflexed in fruit. The calyx has 5 scarious-edged sepals. The corolla has 5 rose-colored, entire petals, about the length of the sepals. The fruit is a dry, many-seeded pod, opening by 3 valves.
Spergularia salina (Presl.) and Spergularia media (Presl.), the only other native species of Spergularia, are found in brackish, sandy places. They closely resemble the S. rubra, and have, probably, the same properties. Spergularia arvensis, Linné, a naturalized weed, has a similar appearance to Spergularia rubra, but can be distinguished by having whorled leaves.
History and Chemical Composition.—Spergularia rubra has been recommended as a remedy, and, it is said, has long been employed in Malta and Sicily. It was analyzed by M. Legout, of Algiers, where the plant is very abundant; by Dr. Jacquème, of Marseilles; and by Vigier, of Paris. The latter finds (Jour. Pharm. Chim., 1879, Vol. XXX, p. 375) that the medicinal action of the plant is due to the large proportion of alkalies and aromatic resins which it contains. One hundred parts of the dry plant yielded, upon incineration, 8.72 grammes of a deliquescent ash, 87 per cent of which was soluble in water. The ash contained no lithium.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—This plant was employed in Sicily and neighboring countries as a secret remedy, for many years, in the form of a tisane, and sold at exorbitant prices. A specimen of the plant having been obtained by an individual, who had been benefited by the use of the tisane, was analyzed by M. Legout, a pharmacist, and its therapeutic action tested in some of the Paris hospitals by M. Bertherand and others. It has been found very efficient in the treatment of gravel, having been largely experimented with in Europe. The best preparation for administration is a decoction, which exerts a stimulating action upon the circulation and the secretions, especially those of the urinary organs. The discharge of gravel through the ureters is facilitated under its use, and nephritic colic, when present, is promptly relieved. Five drachms of the plant to a pint of water is the medium dose, to be taken daily; it may be sweetened, if desired. Pills or syrup may be substituted for the decoction, in doses of 15 grains, every 1, 2, or 3 hours. M. Vigier advises the following powder as preferable to the other preparations: Take of aqueous extract of Spergularia rubra, 154 grains; powdered white sugar (free from glucose), 461 grains; mix thoroughly together, and divide into 5 equal papers or packets; 1 of these to be added to a quart of water, and to be drank during the day. A similar quantity of extract in 1 ½ fluid drachms of pure glycerin and 3 fluid ounces of distilled water, gives a solution that keeps well, and of which the dose is a teaspoonful, to be repeated 6 times a day—equivalent to a quart of the decoction. With regard to this plant, as a therapeutic agent, a writer observes: "We can understand that a plant so rich in constituent elements, in chloride of potassium and sodium, in alkalies, and in aromatic principles, must have a powerful action upon the animal economy. Combined with the albuminous juices of the vegetable, the chlorides must act otherwise than in the free state."