The bark of the root of Triosteum perfoliatum, Linné.
COMMON NAMES: Fever-wort, Wild ipecac, Bastard ipecac, Horse-gentian, Wild coffee, Dr. Tinker's weed.
Botanical Source.—This plant is indigenous, with a perennial, thick, and fleshy root, subdivided into numerous horizontal branches. The stems are several from same root, simple, stout, erect, round, hollow, soft, pubescent, and from 2 to 4 feet high. The leaves are opposite, oval-acuminate, mostly connate, entire, abruptly contracted at base, nearly smooth above, pubescent beneath, prominently veined, 6 inches long by 3 broad; in some plants the upper leaves are almost amplexicaul. Flowers dull-purple, axillary, sessile, mostly in clusters of 3 or 5, in the form of whorls, rarely solitary. Calyx-tube ovoid; limb 5-parted; segments linear-lanceolate, leaf-like, and persistent, having a solitary bract; corolla tubular, gibbous at the base, somewhat equally 5-lobed, and scarcely longer than the calyx. Stamens 5, included; filaments hairy. Ovary inferior; style long and slender; stigma capitate and lobed. The fruit is an oval berry, about 9 lines long and 6 thick, of an orange-red or purple color when ripe, hairy, somewhat 3-sided, crowned with the persistent calyx, 3-celled, each cell containing a bard, bony, furrowed seed (W.—G.—B.).
History and Description.—Fever-root is found throughout the United States, in lime-stone and rich soils, in shady locations, and among rocks, flowering from May to August. The root is the medicinal part. It is of a dirty yellowish-brown color externally, about 1 1/2 feet long, and about 9 lines in diameter, whitish internally, sends out fibers, has a nauseous smell, and a disagreeable amarous taste. When dried, it is readily reduced to powder. Its virtues are imparted to water, alcohol, or ether. The root has been used as, perhaps, an unintentional substitute for ipecac root and senega root. C. Hartwich (Pharm. Rundschau, 1895, p. 104) found it to contain starch, and an alkaloid differing from emetine; he named it triosteine. Schlotterbeck and Teeters (ibid, p. 180) made a complete analysis of the root and confirmed the presence of alkaloid.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—The bark of the root is emetic when recent, or when administered in large doses of the powder. In doses of from 20 grains to 1 drachm, the powder is a mild, but slow, cathartic, with a tonic influence. It is feebly sedative, and the secretions are augmented by it. Its action upon the skin is similar to, but less decided, than that of asclepias. Small doses may be given to lessen the frequency of the heart-action, and reduce the temperature in febriculae and mild inflammatory complaints. In the early stages of fever, it may be given in all cases where a gentle action on the bowels is desired. It has been recommended as a laxative tonic in dyspepsia and autumnal fevers, also in hysteria, hypochondria, and convalescence after febrile diseases. Some have stated it to possess diuretic properties, and have employed it in chronic rheumatism with success. Rafinesque considered the leaves to be diaphoretic. The hard seeds are said to be very similar in flavor to coffee, when roasted and ground. Dose of the tincture, from 1 to 4 fluid drachms; of a strong tincture of the recent root for its sedative effects, 1 to 10 drops; of the extract, which is one of the best forms of administration, from 5 to 15 grains.
Specific Indications and Uses.—Headache; colic; bilious vomiting and diarrhoea.
Related Species.—Triosteum angustifolium, Linné, smaller than the above, with a bristly, hairy stem; lanceolate and subconnate leaves, tapering to the base; peduncles opposite; 1-flowered, and flower of a greenish-cream color, possesses analogous properties; and may be substituted as an equivalent for the above (W.).