Convallaria Multiflora. Giant Solomon's Seal.


Description: Natural Order, Liliaceae. This is a true Polygonatum, and should never have been classed under the genus Convallaria; but professional habit has now so fastened it in the latter group, that it seems preferable to retain this name for the present. The following description is from Professor A. Wood, under Polygonatum: "Generic characters: Perennial-rooted plants; rhizome horizontal, thick; stem erect or curving; flowers axillary, pendant, greenish-white. Perianth tubular; limb short, six-lobed, erect; stamens six, included; ovary free, three-celled; style slender, included; berry globular, three to six seeded. P. MULTIFLORUM: Stem recurved, smooth; leaves arranged in two rows, two-and-a-half to six inches long, one-third as broad, more or less clasping at the base, smooth and glossy above, paler and generally pubescent beneath; peduncles round, branching, scarcely a fifth as long as the leaves, axillary, one to four-flowered; berries dark blue or blackish when ripe." In some varieties of this species, the stem is from five to seven feet high, and much recurved at the top.

Smilacina racemosa is another of the lily family that often passes under the name of Solomon's Seal; and the roots of the two plants are probably of the same qualities, and usually appear mixed in commerce. The following characters of the Smilacina will at once distinguish it from the above plant: Rhizome creeping, zigzag, slender; stem with a thick cluster of white flowers at the summit; flowers not tinted with green, very numerous, and forming an oval and compact panicle of racemes; perianth spreading; stamens longer than the perianth; leaves nearly sessile but not clasping, minutely downy, numerous; stem eighteen inches to two feet high. The roots of this genus are sweetish; and the red, dotted, large (pea-sized) berries are fragrant and somewhat spicy.

The roots of these plants are sweetish, of a mucilaginous toughness, leaving behind a mildly bitter taste. They yield their qualities to water and diluted alcohol; are much impaired by heat; and undergo deterioration by long keeping. They retain a peculiar moist, leathery character that does not admit of their being powdered; but by great care they may be partially kiln-dried and then reduced to a coarse mass. In general, however, the article thus treated is injured; and the coarsely sliced roots, well bruised in an iron mortar, will be found a more satisfying remedy.

Properties and Uses: This root is moderately demulcent, and contains mild tonic properties about equally relaxant and stimulant. Its mild taste has created an opinion that it is nearly inert as a remedy; but in its own place it will be found among the most desirable articles of the Materia Medica. Its influence is expended slowly, and is chiefly directed to the mucous membranes; and it is soothing to these structures, diminishing excessive mucous discharges, and exerting upon them a gentle tonic impression. These qualities fit it for use in all sub-acute and chronic irritation and weakness of those tissues, where the system is not profoundly depressed, but the local difficulty is connected with general feebleness and irritability. The local and general nervous tissues seem also to feel this soothing and strengthening action. The mucous structures of the vagina and uterus are particularly influenced by it; and it is one of the most desirable agents in all ordinary forms of leucorrhea, simple prolapsus, and female weakness in general. Its combination with suitable tonics will secure from the latter a more distinct influence upon the uterine organs, (§140, 267;) and I prize it very highly in all such connections. Though not of itself sufficiently stimulating to meet very depressed cases, its association with such more positive agents as hydrastis and viburnum will obtain happy effects. It exerts a good impression on the kidneys, bladder, and prostate gland; relieving them of lingering congestions and catarrhal discharges. Though little used with reference to its action upon the lungs, it will be found a superior article in coughs during convalescence, and in chronic coughs with local feebleness, especially when the expectoration is rather free and the respiratory passages sensitive. In these cases it may be combined with such agents as prunus, liriodendron, and lycopus. It is a good soothing agent in irritable piles, where a decoction may be used freely; and may be used to much advantage in chronic inflammation and pain in the bowels, and in chronic dysentery. Very large doses will gently move the bowels. The fresh roots, bruised and boiled in milk, make a fair external application to bruises, light burns, lingering sores of an erysipelatous character, and other affections of the skin where there is a stinging sensation.

The berries of the smilacina, as above, may be tinctured in twenty-five per cent. alcohol; when they make an aromatic tonic very grateful to the stomach, and one that has repeatedly proven of decided value in the treatment of leucorrhea.

Pharmaceutical Preparations: I. Decoction. Bruised roots of Solomon's Seal, three ounces; boiling water, twenty ounces. Macerate in a covered vessel, with a gentle heat, for an hour; then add caulophyllum and grated orange-peel, of each a drachm; in ten minutes strain and express, and add two ounces of Sherry wine. This is an elegant tonic preparation for monthly leucorrhea; especially when menstruation is somewhat painful. The wine may be omitted. Dose, two fluid ounces three or four times a day. The convallaria can not well be made into a sirup, as it is too easily injured by heat; but it enters into several elegant preparations on wine, of which the most valuable are the Female Tonic mentioned under liriodendron, and the Compound Wine of Comfrey.

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