Cornus Florida. Dogwood, Flowering Cornel, Boxwood.

Botanical name: 

Related entries: Cornus circinata - Cornus sericea

Description: Natural Order and Generic characters the same as in the foregoing species. C. FLORIDA: A tree from fifteen to twenty-five feet high, of a spreading habit, with a rough and dull-brown bark; branches spreading, smooth, reddish. Leaves opposite, ovate, acuminate, entire, pale beneath, an inch-and-a-half long, scarcely expanded at the time of flowering, turning brilliant red on the approach of frost. Flowers quite small, greenish, in a close cluster, inconspicuous; the cluster surrounded by a very large, creamy-white involucre of four pieces, which is very showy, and is usually called the flower. This involucre is nearly two inches across; and its pieces are spreading, nearly an inch long, obovate, veined, turning up the end, and terminating with a callous point. It blooms in early May; and its rich mass of creamy involucres present a very attractive appearance. Its fruit is an oval drupe, of a glossy scarlet color, and giving the tree a bright appearance as they hang upon its branches in clusters of from two to five through the fall and winter.

The bark of the stems and roots usually comes to market deprived of its rough epidermis; is in short pieces, quite brittle, and makes a pale-reddish powder. It has very little odor, but is bitter and astringent to the taste. It contains a portion of resinous material, and a larger quantity of bitter extractive. Water acts on it more effectually than it does on cinchona; and alcohol at all strengths dissolves its virtues.

Properties and Uses: The bark is an astringent tonic, the astringent properties being well marked, and the stimulant but moderately so. Its action is rather slow, and yet positive. Its influence is expended largely upon the mucous structures; but it also influences the general circulation, and has an antiperiodic action on the nervous system that resembles cinchona. It may be used to advantage in such intermittent difficulties as are accompanied by general laxity of the fibers, or even as a moderate substitute for cinchona; equal to some inferior qualities of that drug; but it is disposed to confine the bowels, and should not be used without the strictest attention being paid to the hepatic and alvine functions. As a simple tonic, it may be employed in conditions of laxity of the stomach and bowels, where there is no tendency to constipation; and in leucorrhea and scrofulous difficulties presenting a similar condition of the tissues; but it is not a suitable agent for tonic purposes in typhoid or erysipelatous difficulties, in recovery from scarlatina or other maladies where a virus may be retained in the system, nor in any increased sensibility of the stomach or bowels. It is often spoken of in dysentery or diarrhea, but should not be used at all in the acute or sub-acute form of either of these maladies; and in chronic diarrhea it is admissible only when there are watery and nearly passive stools, but not when the discharges are frothy and connected with tenesmus. (§148.) In such cases, excellent results may be obtained by using a compound of six parts of cornus florida, two parts each of juglans and leptandra, and one part each of hydrastis and ginger–prepared in a sirup or other desirable form, and given in suitable quantities twice a day to exert a gentle impression upon the liver. As a local application, this bark is tonic and somewhat antiseptic, and is of much efficacy as a wash for sore mouth; an injection in leucorrhea; and as awash and powder on weak ulcers and foul sores that are discharging too freely, in which latter cases it may be combined with any necessary stimulant and sprinkled upon a poultice. Bark recently gathered, or less than six months old, often is quite griping to the stomach and bowels.

The flowers (properly the involucres) are a mild and agreeable tonic, without any astringent properties. They promote the appetite and sustain the nervous system; and may be used in the same general cases for which the cold preparations of camomile are suited–though they are stronger than the camomile, and seem rather to retard than to promote the menses.

The berries are also a mild tonic, with a somewhat pleasant aroma added to their bitterness. These flowers and berries are truly valuable in the list of mild tonics and appetizers, and may be used under almost any circumstance where a bitter of that class is required. They are most commonly tinctured upon wine or diluted whisky, but the flowers may be used in infusion.

Dose of the powdered bark, twenty to thirty grains, three or four times a day. It is seldom used in this form, on account of its bulk. In combinations, it is best associated with such agents as euonymus, menispermum, eupatorium, etc.

Pharmaceutical Preparations: I. Infusion. Cornus, one ounce; boiling water, one pint. Strain, and add two ounces of Sherry wine. Dose, a fluid ounce three times a day for tonic purposes; or two to three fluid ounces every three hours for antiperiodic uses.

II. Extract. An extract prepared with water in the ordinary way, is an excellent preparation to use in the pill form; and may be employed as a vehicle for quinia (or salacin) and capsicum in intermittents. Dose five to ten grains every three or four hours.

III. Cornine. This is an extractive material, prepared from an alcoholic tincture of the bark in the same manner as cypripedin, and representing this portion of the plant pretty well. It is mostly used for intermittents, and is greatly extolled by some physicians, who pronounce it equal to quinine. No preparation of cornus is at all equal to the preparations of cinchona; yet the cornine is a good agent, and meets many mild cases (especially cases in which cerebral excitement makes quinia objectionable) to great advantage. Dose two to ten grains every four or three hours.

IV. Fluid Extract. This is prepared after the usual manner for eupatorium perfoliatum; and used in doses of from a half to a whole fluid drachm in intermit tents.

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