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Cimicifuga (Macrotys)

Botanical name:

Cimicifuga is abundantly distributed in rich woodlands over the greater portion of the United States east of the Mississippi River, except in New England and the extreme South. It is also found in Missouri and Arkansas. Cimicifuga was observed by the earliest European travelers in America, being carried to England in 1732, and first described by Plukenet (514a) in 1696. All pre-Linnaean writers classed the plant with actaea, mostly under Tournefort's (649) name, Christopheriana. Linnaeus (385) gave it the name Actaea racemosa, under which it was classed until Pursh (528) referred it to the genus cimicifuga. Rafinesque (535), 1808, by reason of the fact that the fruit of the plant does not accord with that of either actaea or cimicifuga, proposed the name Macrotys actaeoides, changing the name in 1828 to Botrophia serpentaria. Eaton (211) in the fourth edition of his Manual followed Rafinesque, calling the plant Macrotys serpentaria.

Cimicifuga was highly valued by the Indians, who employed decoctions of the drug for diseases of women, for debility, to promote perspiration, as a gargle for sore throat, and especially for rheumatism. These uses by the Indians introduced the drug to early "Domestic" American medicine, and it was consequently given much attention by the earliest writers, e. g., Schoepf (582), 1785; Barton (43), 1801; Peter Smith (605), 1812; Bigelow (69), 1822; Garden (256a), 1823; Ewell (230), 1827; Rafinesque (535), 1828; and Tonga and Durand's (222) addition to Edwards' and Vavasseur's Materia Medica, 1829. None of these authorities, however, added anything not given by the Indian, so far as the field of action of the drug is concerned, excepting perhaps the statement of Howard (329), 1832, who was an enthusiast in favor of macrotys in the treatment of smallpox, a claim supported forty years after by Dr. G. H. Norris, 1872, in a paper read before the Alabama State Medical Association. He reported that during an epidemic of smallpox in Huntsville, Ala., families using macrotys as a tea were absolutely free from smallpox, and that in those same families vaccination had no effect whatever, so long as the use of macrotys was continued. (See Lloyd Brothers' Drug Treatise No. XIII, Macrotys.)

The History of the Vegetable Drugs of the U.S.P., 1911, was written by John Uri Lloyd.

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