Sabbatia angularis. American Centaury.
Under the name of Chironia angularis, this plant has been familiar to physicians in the United States as a native bitter. As it wants the most distinguishing characters of Chironia, while it has others of a very different kind, particularly in the anthers and stigma; I have followed the example of Pursh and others in referring it to the genus Sabbatia of Adanson.
This genus is characterised by a persistent calyx from five to twelve parted; a corolla from five to twelve parted; anthers finally revolute; stigma two parted, spiral; capsule one celled. The Sabbatia angularis differs from the rest of the genus in being erect, the leaves clasping, peduncles elongated and corymbose, segments of the calyx lanceolate, half as long as the corolla; stem square and winged.
Class Pentandria, order Monogynia; natural orders Rosaceae, Linn. Gentianae, Juss.
This plant grows in damp rich soils throughout the Middle and Southern states, and is most commonly known by the name of Centaury. It is commonly from one to two feet high. The stem is erect, smooth, square, with the angles winged. Branches axillary, opposite. The leaves are opposite and ovate, but vary in length and width. They are heart-shaped at base, clasping half the stem, nerved, smooth, entire, acute. Flowers terminal, forming a large corymb. Tube of the calyx angular, with five broad segments. Corolla five parted with oval segments twice as long as the calyx. The anthers are oblong and slightly recurved at the time when the flower first opens. After shedding their pollen they become revolute and curl up, but never assume the spiral form like the anthers of Chironia. Germ ovate; style longer than the stamens, declined; stigma two parted, the segments separate at first, but gradually becoming twisted spirally together. Capsule one celled, two valved.
Every part of this plant is a pure and very strong bitter. In this quality, as well as in its medicinal properties, it is resembled by several other species of the same genus. An extractive principle appears to be the seat of this property, as it is communicated alike to alcohol and water, and as the solutions in these fluids do not occasion precipitates from each other. There appears to be no astringency in the vegetable.
In the collections for an American Materia Medica by the late Professor Barton, we are told that this plant is a valuable tonic bitter resembling the Centaury of Europe, for which it was used by some practitioners on the supposition of its being the same plant. It had long been a popular remedy, and was much employed in the yellow fever of Philadelphia, in 1793.
In Mr. Elliott's Botany of the Southern states, we are told that the plant, in South Carolina, is a common remedy in intermittent fever. Some of the other species of the same family, particularly S. gracilis, are equally efficacious. It is deserving of remark, that a great number of vegetables, belonging to the same natural order, are highly bitter, and approved as tonic remedies.
From the use I have made of the Sabbatia, I have no hesitation in attesting its utility. It seems to me to rank among the more pure or simple bitters, and acts usefully as a stomachic and promoter of appetite and digestion. Beyond this, I have no experience with it. It may be given in substance or in infusion, but the latter mode is generally preferred. This form is one in which it appears to be largely used by physicians in the Middle states. Dr. Chapman tells us, it is resorted to extensively by every class of practitioners, regular and irregular, in the intermittent and remittent fevers. He thinks it has the advantage over Penman bark of being susceptible of employment in every stage of these diseases.
Sabbatia angularis, Pursh, Flora Amer. i. 137.
Elliott, Flora i. 285.
Chironia angularis, Willd. Sp. pl. i. 1067.
Michaux. Flora, i. 146.
B. S. Barton, Coll. i. 15.
Chapman, Therapeutics, ii. 417.
Elliott, l. c supra.