Dicentra Eximia. Turkey Corn, Squirrel Corn.

Dutchman's Breeches, Staggerweed.

The Eclectic Dispensatory by Prof. J. King, and Prof. L. E. Jones' Materia Medica, have created much confusion by unfortunately fastening the wrong name upon this plant. They both call it corydalis formosa, whereas it has not been known by that name, nor been in that genus, since the works of Pursh, of more than half a century ago. All standard botanies class it by the name above given; which will explain to my students in botany why they can not find in their text-books the corydalis described by Dr. King. Neither is this plant the dielytra formosa, though the present genus dicentra was formerly classed as dielytra; but the species formosa is the plant so much cultivated in our gardens for its pretty and compressed flowers, which appear in May, currently known in seedmen's catalogues as dielytra spectabilis. Dr. King is also entirely mistaken in saying that the plant he describes as corydalis formosa blooms in March in this latitude, for it is not in bloom till at least the middle of May; but the dicentra cucullaria blooms about the middle of April, though Dr. King says that it also blooms in March. The dicentra as a genus has the marked character of two spurred sepals, while the genus corydalis has but one–a prominent feature that would at once be noticed by any real botanist. This botanical blunder of Dr. King is the more inexcusable, from the fact that Prof. J. Kost, in his Materia Medica, correctly discriminated the true genus of this plant, and showed that it is not a corydalis. Its introduction to the profession is claimed for the Eclectic faculty, and especially for Prof. L. E. Jones. This also is a mistake. As long ago as 1828, before Eclecticism had an existence, Prof. C. S. Rafinesque pointed it out in his Medical Flora, and described its stimulant and alterant properties, under its then best known Linnean name of fumaria cucullaria; and my father-in-law, the late Dr. John Masseker, of New York, used it largely from 1835 to 1844 thus beginning its professional employment seven years before Eclecticism got its first life-breath by appropriating to itself the petition of a million names that the old Thomsonians of New York presented to the State Legislature against the odious Allopathic laws. This exposition of the facts about this article seems necessary; as it fairly illustrates the manner in which Eclectic professors and authors borrow (!) for their school the knowledge and honors that belong entirely to others. The root (small tubers) varies from a yellowish-white to a dusky color externally, and a lighter yellow internally. It has a faint smell; and a bitterish, pungent, and rather persistent taste. Water extracts its virtues very well; but it contains a resinous substance that is best acted on by alcohol.

Properties and Uses: The roots are stimulating and moderately relaxing, acting slowly but persistently, and influencing the secretory organs especially the kidneys and skin. It slowly elevates the circulation, and gives vigorous action to the entire system; and it is probably by this action upon the capillaries that it proves alterant. It does not increase perspiration so as to make it sensible, though evidently aiding in the elimination of both saline and sebaceous excreta; but the amount of urine is perceptibly increased after its use, and the solid elements of this excretion augmented. It stimulates the salivary glands, fauces, and stomach; and gives a feeling of warmth and excitement to the stomach and whole system. Yet these impressions are made rather slowly; and are not so positive as (though much more of the secernent character than) those made by guaiacum. It is suitable for languid and insensitive conditions; and is among the most valuable agents of its class for secondary syphilis, where it is most generally prized; and is an excellent combining agent to give intensity to relaxants (§261) in the treatment of scrofula and scrofulous ulcers, white swellings, herpetic eruptions, and chronic rheumatism. Thus used, it is even more valuable in the latter forms of disease than it is in syphilis. It leaves behind a good tonic influence, mainly through its influence upon the capillary circulation: but it is quite an error to pronounce it equally tonic with gentiana and frasera. From its decidedly stimulating character, it should not be used in sensitive and irritable conditions of the system; and is, at any time, best when combined with relaxing alteratives in excess. It is seldom used in any other form than infusion or other pharmaceutical preparation. Half an ounce of the crushed bulb infused for an hour in a pint of hot water, forms a preparation of which one to two fluid ounces may be given three times a day.

Pharmaceutical Preparations: I. Compound Sirup of Dicentra and Alnus. Take four ounces each of dicentra, alnus, menispermum, and the seeds of arctium lappa. Crush well; and macerate for two days, in a covered vessel, with a sufficient quantity of diluted alcohol. Transfer to a displacement apparatus, and add warm water till a pint of the spirituous tincture passes; which set aside, and continue the percolation till three pints have been obtained. Evaporate the last product to two pints, and add two and a half pounds of sugar. When cold, add the reserved pint of tincture. This is a superior alterative preparation in secondary syphilis and scrofula. I have used it largely for several years in syphilis and mercurio-syphilitic difficulties; and always with the most gratifying results. Dose, half to a whole fluid ounce three times a day.

II. Compound Sirup of Corydalis. Under this name, Messrs. W. S. Merrill & Co., of this city, prepare the following sirup, as condensed from Dr. J. King's Dispensatory: Bruised root of turkey corn, two pounds; the leaves (!) of twin-leaf and root of blue flag, each, one pound; sheep laurel leaves, half a pound. Macerate in seventy-six percent alcohol; then treat by percolation till two pints and four ounces have passed; reserve this, and treat with water till all the strength is obtained; boil the last product down to thirteen and a half pints, and dissolve in it eighteen pounds of sugar; when cold, add the first tincture. This is a pretty strong alterative preparation; though the leaves of sheep laurel, when continued for such a length of time under the influence of heat, would run great risk of undergoing changes and thereby be converted into prussic acid. The boiling heat would probably drive this off, or otherwise this sirup could scarcely be made without being dangerous. Dose, a fluid drachm three times a day, in water.

III. Extract. A hydro-alcoholic extract of this article is sometimes used in doses of from one to three grains three times a day; but the intensely local action of this form of preparation, usually is objectionable to the stomach.

IV. Fluid Extract. This is prepared after the manner of fluid extract of eupatorium. It is a strong and concentrated preparation, not often used because of its unpleasant stimulating influence on the stomach. It may, however, be added to sirups of the relaxant alterants, as of celastrus and arctium, so that from ten to twenty-five drops shall be given three times a day.

V. Corydalia. Under this incorrect name an alkaloid preparation is put upon the market. It is obtained by treating the bruised roots with water and a small quantity of muriatic acid, after which the acid is exactly neutralized with spirits of ammonia, and the precipitate that slowly forms is washed with successive portions of water. It is said to represent the properties of the root effectually, though I am inclined to doubt this decidedly; but as my own experience with the article has been limited, my present judgment may be incorrect. Dose, half to a whole grain thrice a day.

VI. Corydalin, (Dicentrin.) This is commonly supposed to be a resinoid principle; but is in reality only a fine alcoholic extract, well washed with water, and then so dried that it can be reduced to powder. The several steps in its preparation are the same as those given for cypripedin, to which class this belongs. It represents the plant indifferently, and is seldom used. Dose, three to eight grains three times a day. Dicentra enters into the Compound Sirup of Stillingia. By combining it with xanthoxylum and juice of phytolacca, it may be used in the form of a sirup for chronic rheumatism with atony and stiffness. Dr. H. Sweet, of New York city, gave me a formula of dicentra, larix, ceanothus, and rumex, as a potent sirup for secondary syphilis and scaly eruptions.

The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com