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Trillium.—Bethroot.

Fig. 248. Trillium erectum. Photo: Trillium erectum 8. Preparation: Fluid Extract of Trillium

The root of Trillium erectum, Linné, var. album (Trillium pendulum, Muhlenberg), and other species of Trillium.
Nat. Ord.—Liliaceae.
COMMON NAMES: (See below.)

Botanical Source, History, and Description.—This is one of an extensive genus of North American, herbaceous, perennial plants, which are variously known under the names of Wake-robin, Birth-root, Indian-balm, Lamb's quarter, Ground lily, etc. It has an oblong, tuberous root, from which arises a slender stem, 10 to 15 inches in height. Leaves, 3 in number, are whorled at the top of the stem, suborbicular-rhomboidal, abruptly acuminate, 3 to 5 inches in diameter, and borne on petioles about a line in length. The flowers are white, solitary, terminal, cernuous, on a recurved peduncle from 1 to 2 1/2 inches long. Sepals green, oblong-lanceolate, acuminate, and 1 inch long-, petals oblong-ovate, acute, and 1 1/4 inches in length by 1/2 an inch broad. Styles 3, erect, with recurved stigmas (B.—W.).

This plant is common to the middle and western states, growing in rich soils, in damp, rocky, and shady woods, and flowering in May and June. Nearly all the species of the genus Trillium are medicinal, and possess analogous properties; and among them the most common, and consequently the most frequently collected and employed are those given below, under the heading Related Species.

These plants may be generally known by their 3 verticillate, net-veined leaves, and their solitary, terminal flower, which varies in color in the different species, being white, red, purple, whitish-yellow, or reddish-white; the peduncle will also be found erect in some species, and recurved in others. The roots of these plants are oblong or terete, somewhat tuberous, dark or brownish externally, white internally, from 1 to 5 inches in length, and from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter, beset with a few branching fibers laterally. They have a faint, slightly terebinthinate odor, and a peculiar aromatic and sweetish taste; when chewed they impart an acrid astringent impression in the mouth, causing a flow of saliva, and a sensation of heat in the throat and fauces. The rootlets have but little of the acrimony of the root. The latter yields its active principles to water, and its tonic and stimulant virtues to diluted alcohol.

Chemical Composition.—The acrid principle of this root, trilline, was obtained by Prof. Wayne in 1856. (For its preparation, see this Dispensatory, preceding edition.) This principle is probably identical with saponin, of which V. J. Reid (Amer. Jour Pharm., 1892, p. 67) obtained 4.86 per cent; other constituents of the root are fixed oil (about 8 per cent), starch, tannin, and an acid crystalline principle, probably a decomposition prod net of saponin. No volatile oil is present (D. J. Prendergast, Amer. Drug., 1887, p. 206).

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Bethroot is astringent, tonic, and antiseptic; it has been employed successfully in hemoptysis, hematuria, menorrhagia, uterine hemorrhage, metrorrhagia, leucorrhoea, cough, asthma, and difficult breathing, and is said to have been much used by the Indian women to promote parturition. The astringent varieties of Trillium have been found useful in hemorrhages; the acrid species in chronic affections of the respiratory organs, phthisis, hectic fever, etc. All the varieties have been found efficient, either internally or externally, in chronic mucous discharges, bronchorrhoea, leucorrhoea, menorrhagia, etc. Boiled in milk, it has been administered with benefit in diarrhoea and dysentery, and an infusion of equal parts of Trillium and Lycopus virginicus, has been highly recommended for the cure of diabetes. It does not diminish the amount of sugar excreted in the saccharine form, but restrains the secretion of the renal discharges in both forms. Externally, the root, made into a poultice, is very useful in tumors, indolent or offensive ulcers, anthrax, buboes, stings of insects, and to restrain gangrene. In some instances its efficacy has been increased by combination with bloodroot. The red bethroots will, it is said, check ordinary epistaxis, by merely smelling the freshly-exposed surface of the recent root, and it is therefore probable that they contain an astringent principle of a volatile nature. The leaves of the beth plants, boiled in lard, have been much used, in some sections of the country, as an application to ulcers, tumors, etc. Dose, of powdered bethroot, 1 drachm, to be given in hot water; of the strong infusion, which is the most common form of administration, from 2 to 4 fluid ounces. A strong tincture of the fresh root (℥viii in alcohol, 76 per cent, Oj) may be given in doses of from 1 to 20 drops. These plants undoubtedly possess active properties, and deserve further investigation. Trilline, as prepared by Prof. Wayne, has not been used in medicine; but a less active agent, of no therapeutical value, has been sold under the same name.

Specific Indications and Uses.—Relaxation of tissues, with mucous discharges or passive hemorrhage.

Photo: Trillium sessile 1. Related Species.Trillium sessile, Linné. Leaves sessile, mottled, a deep-purple; flower sessile and dull-purple; petals erect, some spreading.

Trillium recurvatum, Beck.—Leaves petioled; sepals green and reflexed; petals erect or recurved; flower dull-purple.

Trillium nivale, Riddell.—Leaves petiolate; flower erect on peduncles, and white; petals half longer than the sepals.

Trillium erythyrocarpum, Michaux, Smiling wake-robin.—Flower erect and peduncled; petals recurved, longer by twice than sepals, wavy, and penciled at base, a beautiful purple.

Photo: Trillium grandiflorum 7. Trillium grandiflorum, Salisbury.—Leaves sessile, sharply acuminate; petals much longer than sepals; white, or shading to rose; flower suberect.

Trillium erectum, Linné, Bath flowers.—Leaves almost petiolate, broad as long; scarcely erect peduncle; nodding, dark-purple flower; ill-scented.

Trillium cernuum, Linné.—Peduncle long, twice the length of flower, and half as long as and deflexed under the leaves; flower white or rose; petals flat, and stigmas the length of the anthers.

Trillium stylosum, Nuttall.—Peduncle no longer than the flower, and decurved; petals larger than sepals, and recurved; flower white or rose; styles united.


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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