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44. Andropogon Schoenanthus, Linn.

Botanical name:

Sex. Syst. Triandria, Digynia.

I suspect that under this name three species of Andropogon have been confounded.

1. Rumphius's Schoenanthum Amboinicum, called by the natives of Amboyna Siree. Its odour is that of a mixture of roses and fresh-mown hay. As Linnaeus, in the later editions of his Systema Plantarum, cites Rumphius's figure, [Herbarium Amboinense, pars v. lib. viii. cap. 24, page 181, tab. lxiii. Fig. 2.] we may take this species as the genuine Andropogon Schoenanthus of Linnaeus. [In the Linnean Herbarium, there is a single specimen of A. Schoenanthus, but without any statement indicating its place of growth.] It has been recently very fully described by the late celebrated Professor Th. F. L. Nees von Esenbeck. [Geiger's Pharmecie, 2te Aufl. von Th. F. L. Nees von Esenbeck, J. H. Dierbach, and Cl. Marqnart, Bd. ii. 1te Hälfte, S. 145, 1839.] Rumphius proposes to call it Schoeanthum Indicum sterile, to distinguish it from the Arabian plant.

2. The Arabian Schoenanthus is said by Hasselquist [ Voyages and Travels in the Levant in the years 1749, 50, 51, 52, Lond. 1766.—It is remarkable that Forskål, in his Flora Arabico-Yemen, does not mention, in his list of odorous plants (p. xcv.), a single odorous grass as growing in Arabia Felix.] to grow plentifully in the deserts of both the Arabias, and to bo gathered near Limbo, a port of Arabia Petraea, and exported to Egypt. The Arabians call it Helsi Meccavi and Idhir Mecchi. It is said that in the deserts between Syria and Egypt there is no grass but this which camels eat: hence it has received the name of faenum vel stramen cametorum, or camel's hay or straw. It was formerly in the London Pharmacopoeia, and was called schoenanthus, squinanthus, vel juncus odoratus; its vernacular name being squinanch or sweet-smelling rush. The herbs (stem, leaves, and sometimes the flowers) were brought from Turkey and Arabia, tied up in bundles about a foot long. The stem, which resembled a barley straw, was filled with a pith like those of our common rushes; the flowers were of a carnation colour, striped with light purple. [Lewis's New Dispensatory, 5th. ed. 1785, p. 160.]

It was considered to possess stimulant and diaphoretic properties, and was commended in hiccup, vomiting, flatulent colic, and female obstructions; but was little used, except in the mithridatium and theriaca. It was administered to the extent of one or two drachms in the form of infusion or tea.

It is not improbable that this plant may be the σχοινος ευτ μος of Hippocrates, [De Morb. Mul. lib. ii. sect. v. p. 673, ed. Foesii.] the σχοινος of Dioscorides; [Lib. i. cap. 16.] for the last-mentioned writer states that the most esteemed sort grew in that part of Arabia called Nabataea, which agrees with the statement of Hasselquist.

3. The Andropogon citratum, De Cand.—As this is undoubtedly the source of the oil of lemon-grass of the shops, it deserves a separate notice.


The Elements of Materia Medica and Therapeutics, Vol. II, 3th American ed., was written by Jonathan Pereira in 1854.



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