Baptisia Tinctoria. Wild Indigo, Indigofera.

Indigo Broom, Rattle Bush, Horsefly Weed.

Description: Natural Order, Leguminosae. Genus BAPTISIA: Calyx four to five-toothed, persistent; corolla banner short, keel-petals nearly separate; stamens ten, distinct; pod stalked, inflated, many-seeded. Perennial herbs, with three-foliate, palmate leaves, and racemed flowers. Leaves and stem blacken in drying. B. TINCTORIA: A smooth, slender, shrubby-looking plant, two to three feet high, with loose and bushy branches. Stem round, yellowish-green, dotted; leaves small, alternate, sessile; stipules and bracts minute, deciduous; racemes terminal to the branches, six to twelve-flowered; flowers yellow, one-half an inch long; pod one-seeded, about as large as a pea, oval-globose, on a long stipe. July to September; common to poor soils; the entire plant has a bluish-green look, and turns nearly black in the fall, or when dried.

The leaves and root of this plant are medicinal, and yield their properties readily to both water and alcohol. The fresh root has an acrid and nauseous taste; but the sharpness is mostly lost in drying. The plant yields an inferior blue dye; but it seems to me altogether probable that, were it treated with the same skill and care as are necessary to obtain the imported indigo, it would yield a product equal to the foreign article. The white-flowered species (B. alba. may be found to possess the same medicinal properties.

Properties and Uses: This plant has been pronounced poisonous, though there seems to be no proof whatever that such is the case. I have used the leaves with much freedom outwardly, and at times inwardly. The bark of the root is said to act the same as the leaves. These are peculiarly antiseptic, with decided stimulating and moderate relaxing qualities. They make an excellent application to ulcers, erysipelatous sores, buboes, carbuncles, etc., when there is a degenerate condition and a tendency to gangrene. They relieve the peculiar suffering attendant on such conditions, (§238,) remove the foul odor, and favor the reparative process. A demulcent poultice may be covered with the powder. Powdered prunus or nymphea makes a good accompaniment; or small quantities of myrrh or capsicum may be added, in very degenerate cases. It makes a good vaginal injection for foetid leucorrhea; and a wash for mercurial sore mouth. The dry powder is an excellent local application to hunterian and phagedrenic chancres.

Internally this article makes a decided impression on the glandular system, stimulating the secreting organs–especially the liver and bowels. Large quantities act freely as a cathartic. It also elevates the circulation and nervous action, yet without undue excitement. It has been spoken of in scarlatina and typhus; but its better internal use would be in small portions added to sirups for degenerate syphilitic and scrofulous cases, and in atonic rheumatism. Fomentations of the leaves will promote the absorption of scrofulous swellings and chronic abscesses; and have even been reputed useful in cancroid tumors. It should always be dried before using; and should never be given when there is inward irritation or inflammation.

Pharmaceutical Preparations: I. Decoction. Half an ounce of the root boiled for a few minutes in a pint of water, is the best form for using it alone. Dose, a large tablespoonful every three or four hours.

II. An ointment may be prepared in the usual way.

III. Treated with alcohol, and evaporated, it furnishes a semi-resinous extract, often called Baptisin; but the addition of a little acetic acid to a concentrated tincture, throws down the baptisin as a yellowish-brown powder. Dose, one-fourth to half a grain, twice a day.

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