Gentiana Ochroleuca. American Gentian, Yellow Gentian.

Marsh Gentian, Sampson Snakeroot.

Description: Natural Order, Gentianaceae. The generic characters are the same as in the last species. G. OCHROLEUCA: Stem simple, round, smooth, hollow, twelve to fifteen inches high. Flowers clustered at the summit, two inches long; corolla open, greenish-white varying to a clear straw-color, with green veins and purplish spots. Leaves oval-lanceolate, getting more lanceolate above, narrowed to a sessile base, rather acute, nearly two inches long. September to October. Common on dry lands through Virginia, Southern Ohio, and thence southward. Its roots are long and branched, one-fourth to one-half an inch in diameter, grayish-brown without and of a muddy-yellow hue within.

Gentiana puberula (the G. catesbaei of older botanists) is a very leafy and rather rough species; with bright-blue flowers an inch and a half long, and long-lobed; and leaves half clasping, and very rough along their edges. The root is smaller and more contorted than in the above species; grayish-white on the outside, and dull yellow within.

Gentiana Andrewsii, or Closed Blue Gentian, is usually eighteen inches high, erect, and smooth. Flowers crowded and sessile in whorled heads, an inch and a half long, deep blue, ten-cleft on the margin, inflated in the tube, and with the segment-lobes nearly closed at the top as if not yet fully blown.

Gentiana crinata, or Fringed Blue Gentian, is erect, smooth, with tapering leaves one to two inches long, bright purple-blue corollas peculiarly long-fringed at their margins.

The roots of these several species, and those of others in this same genus, seem all to be possessed of the same properties, and all to be equally valuable. Hence, while the species ochroleuca is more particularly spoken of in this place, being the one that is found in the market, the others deserve the same attention from the profession. Dr. J. Blair, of Alabama, has especially commended the species alba, with pale yellowish-white flowers and fibrous roots; which he has for forty years employed with eminent success under the name of Sampson Snake-root. (P. M Recorder, p. 26, 1866.) Under the same common name, Dr. J. Overholt, of Iowa, has for many years employed the root of the species angustifolia; which he considers equal to the most valued articles of its class in the Materia Medica.

Properties and Uses: This root is a tonic of about equally relaxing and stimulating properties; slow in its action, but intense and permanent. Most writers (especially Dr. J. King, of the Eclectic Dispensatory) class it as an astringent; but it possesses no astringent property whatever, and is, on the contrary, a mild laxative. Its chief influence is expended on the stomach and gall-ducts; but it also exerts a distinct share of power upon the liver, bowels, and the glandular system in general. It is not quite so stimulating as the foreign gentian, nor so likely to oppress the stomach and force the circulation; yet it is suited for languid and impassive conditions. It arouses appetite and promotes digestion in all forms of gastric debility; secures a moderate ejection of bile in jaundiced and bilious persons; and promotes the action of the bowels in constipation dependent upon feebleness, but is not a distinct cathartic. By relieving accumulations in the liver and gall-cyst, and afterward improving the tone of these structures, it proves of superior excellence in all chronic bilious complaints with indigestion, costiveness and sallowness; sustains the structures well in diarrhea; and is of much efficacy (especially with stimulating astringents) for the intermediate treatment of agues. This action also makes it valuable in preparations for most cases of dropsy; and few tonics can be used to so good advantage in compounds of relaxing alterants for skin affections and other difficulties associated with hepatic sluggishness. It seems to exert a distinct impression upon the mesenteries; and Prof. S. E. Carey tells me he has known a sirup of it alone to cure very degenerate cases of scrofula. I have often used it with happy results in compounds during the treatment of scrofula, and scrofulous and cachectic ulcers.

This article was especially commended by Prof. Rafinesque, and is too little known among the profession. It is fully equal to the foreign gentian as a tonic, is better received by nearly all stomachs, is superior to the lutea on account of its action on the secernents, and possesses some advantages from its greater relaxing powers. This may seem warm praise for an article as yet but little used; but many years of experience convince me this agent deserves all that is here said of it. Its intensity and extreme bitterness make it advisable to associate it with aromatics; or to combine it, in moderate proportions, with agents of a milder and more relaxing character. Dose, ten to fifteen grains. It is often given in too large doses.

Pharmaceutical Preparations: These may be of the same classes as those of the foreign gentian; like which it should not be combined with astringents. Various combinations are made with fraxinus, senna, euonymus, celastrus, arctium lappa, and similar articles. In a gallon of any sirup or tincture containing such relaxant agents as those just named, it is rarely necessary to associate more than four ounces of this gentian. I have used the following pill to much advantage in purely atonic dyspepsia, and as an antiperiodic: Extract of American gentian, a sufficient quantity. Stiffen into a pill mass with equal parts of piperine and hydrastin, so that a five-grain pill shall contain one grain of each of these powders–using powdered licorice if an additional absorbent is necessary. From two to three may be given as an antiperiodic; and one after each meal, when used to assist digestion.

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