Asarum Canadense. Coltsfoot, Canada snakeroot.

Botanical name: 

Black snakeroot, Wild ginger, Indian ginger.

Description: Natural Order, Aristolochiaceae. Stem subterranean, as a dark-brown, creeping rhizoma, several inches long, an eighth of an inch in diameter, with numerous fibers, brittle. Leaves two, on long petioles, kidney-shaped, three to six inches wide, soft-pubescent, thin, growing very closely together from the rhizoma. Flower solitary, rising between the two leaf- stalks; peduncle hairy, short, pendulous, often concealed under the decaying leaves about; no corolla; calyx regular, bell-shaped, limb three-parted, lobes long-acute and widely spreading, very woolly, brown-purple inside. Stamens on unequal filaments, tips extended as awns beyond the anthers, slender, united with the base of the style. Stigmas six, radiating, thick, uniting into a single style. Ovary with the calyx wholly adherent. April to May.

Indigenous to America, growing in moist woods and shady places. The root is strongly aromatic, with a warming and slightly bitter taste; pleasant to most persons, but disagreeable and nauseating to some. It yields a small quantity of a fragrant essential oil; and a resinous material that is slightly terebinthinate in smell. Alcohol eliminates all. its active powers, and water nearly all of them. Boiling injures it.

Properties and Uses: This root is one of the positive aromatics, stimulating and relaxing, rather prompt in diffusiveness, and somewhat tonic. Its influence is expended largely through the circulation and nerves, both of which it arouses and sustains. Through these channels it warms and invigorates the surface, and secures a favorable perspiration. in languid conditions; but this soon subsides, and is followed by an increased warmth of the skin and a little dryness. These facts make it objectionable in all cases where the skin is already dry and hot; and it should not be used indiscriminately as a diaphoretic. It is best for recent colds, and such functional suppressions as follow colds; for scarlet fever, small-pox, typhoid fever and pneumonia, when the languor is considerable; and for suppressed menstruation. It exerts a direct influence upon the uterus, which is of value in suppressions of an atonic and congested character; and as a promptly stimulating parturient, when the pains become feeble from nervous fatigue, it probably has few superiors. For such purposes, I frequently combine it with the more permanent caulophyllum. S. B. Dodd, M. D. of Ohio, informs me that he uses an infusion of it, in small and frequent doses, for all uterine hemorrhages of a passive character, (including menorrhagia,) with the happiest results–securing very prompt uterine contraction and a warm surface. It stimulates the pulmonary vessels, and increases expectoration; for which purposes it may be used in old or languid coughs. Also good in colic and painful menstruation. Large draughts of it will soon nauseate; and their close repetition will usually incite vomiting of the stimulating character–emptying the stomach, and leaving the skin warm and dry. It may be combined with tonics, or used alone in cold infusion, for excessive and cold perspiration. It is not suitable in cases of acute sensitiveness of the stomach, bowels, or uterus, nor in any active inflammation. The powder is a good stimulating snuff in catarrh; and it stimulates the contraction of small blood vessels in a favorable manner, when applied locally in hemorrhages. Dose, five to fifteen grains of the powder.

Pharmaceutical Preparations: I. Infusion. Although water does not obtain all its virtues, the warm infusion is the favorite mode of employing it. Two drachms of the powder to a pint of boiling water; macerated in a close vessel for half an hour; given in doses of from one to four tablespoonfuls every thirty minutes or oftener.

II. Tincture. An ounce of the root to a pint of 50 percent alcohol; used in doses of half a drachm to a drachm, every hour or two. It is an ingredient in the Compound Tincture of Lobelia. It is many times added in small portions to tonic- expectorant and tonic-emmenagogue preparations.

The Asarum Europaeum, or asarabacca, is similar to the above; but is much more prompt as an emetic, and not unfrequently induces catharsis. A warm infusion has been used in neuralgia and rheumatism. A drachm will usually induce vomiting.

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