Aralia Hispida. Dwarf elder, Wild elder, Prickly elder, Bristlestem sarsaparilla.

Botanical name: 

Related entries: Aralia hispida - Aralia nudicaulis - Aralia racemosa - Aralia spinosa

Description: Natural Order, Araliaceae. This plant belongs to the same family as the spikenard, and not to that of the common elder. It grows from New England to Virginia, and westward, seeking gravelly and rocky places. An under shrub, perennial, one to two feet high. Stem woody, and thickly covered with stiff bristles below; branching and herbaceous above. Leaves bipinnate; leaflets numerous, ovate, cut-serrate, long-cuminate, smooth. Umbels numerous, in terminal corymbs, on long pedicels, globose. Fruit a dark-colored, three-celled, three-seeded, nauseous berry. July and August. Whole plant ill-scented.

Properties and Uses: The bark of the root is the strongest, but that of the stem is also used. It is a relaxant and mild stimulant, acting with but moderate promptness, leaving behind gentle tonic effect, and influencing the kidneys chiefly. A portion of its power is unquestionably expended upon the uterus, and slightly upon the circulation toward the surface; both of which effects have usually been overlooked. It has a slightly warming, bitter taste, and is rather pleasant to the stomach.

Scarcely any remedy possesses such a desirable and reliable influence upon the kidneys–securing their full and steady action, without forcing them to an exhaustive effort. It is mostly used in compounds for dropsy, and is one of the best of its class; but for any sub-acute or chronic torpor of the renal organs, with aching back and scanty urine, it is an agent of peculiar value. In high-colored urine, and in chronic aching and weakness of the bladder, it is equally beneficial. It promotes menstruation a little; and is a good adjunct to other remedies in the treatment of mild leucorrhea, amenorrhea, and other female weaknesses. I have also used it to good purpose in the treatment of gleet. It is generally prepared in decoction, two ounces to the quart; of which two or three fluid ounces may be given three times a day. Used warm, it will promote gentle diaphoresis. It yields its properties readily to any alcoholic liquor; and may be employed in wine or other bitters, as with convallaria, liriodendron, euonymus, etc. A warm infusion of the leaves is reputed sudorific; but they are not always agreeable to the stomach.

Pharmaceutical Preparation: Compound Sirup. Crushed aralia hispida, eight ounces; liatris spicata and fraxinus, each four ounces; cimicifuga, two ounces. Treat with diluted alcohol after the general manner of preparing Compound Sirup of Mitchella making these quantities into two quarts of sirup. I have found it of much service in the treatment of ascites and other forms of dropsy; using half a fluid ounce or more three times a day. It is generally advisable to add a small quantity of the tincture of capsicum after the sirup is made; and the use of eight ounces of chimaphila with the above ingredients, may be an advantage.

The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at