Liatris Spicata. Button-Snakeroot, Devil's Bit.

Gay Feather, Colic Root.

Description: Natural Order, Compositae. Genus LIATRIS: Herbs with simple, erect stems; alternate and entire leaves; rose-colored flowers in long spicate racemes. Flowers all perfect, tubular; involucre oblong, imbricate; receptacle naked; pappus of numerous capillary bristles; styles much exserted, achenia ten-striate. L. SPICATA: Root a roundish tuber, an inch in diameter, stem three to five feet high, slender, without branches, smoothish; bearing at its top a gay spike of flower heads, with ten to fifteen flowers in each head. Leaves lance-linear, punctate, smoothish, lower ones narrowed at base. This species is abundant on the prairies throughout the West, blooming in August and September, and attracting attention by its long spike of bright purple flowers at the top.

LIATRIS SCARIOSA has a stouter and rougher stem; numerous leaves, the lower ones of which are from five to eight inches long and on long petioles, gradually getting smaller above; flower heads more remotely racemed, from twenty to forty flowers in each head, heads an inch in diameter. The root is the same as in spicata. LIATRIS SQUARROSA is not more than two feet high; raceme bending over; flower-heads usually about fifteen, with twenty to thirty flowers in each head; scales of the involucre large, slightly colored, spreading widely, the outer ones appearing almost leafy. It also has a tuberous root.

The roots of these several species often appear in market indiscriminately, and it is probable they all have the same general properties; but those of the spicata are best. They may be distinguished from the others in having the lower end of the tuber abruptly terminated, as if cut or bitten off, (whence the common name of devil's bit–a name also given to helonias.) They are covered with a dark-brown and somewhat scaly epidermis, are fleshy and somewhat grayish-white within, and form a grayish-brown powder. They are mildly aromatic in smell, and have a spicy and slightly bitter taste. This must not be confounded with dioscorea, which is also called colic root.

Properties and Uses: The roots of liatris are stimulant and relaxant, somewhat aromatic, moderately diffusive, leaving behind a gentle tonic impression. Their chief action is upon the kidneys, increasing the quantity of urine; upon the nervous peripheries and capillary circulation, and through these upon the skin and uterus. They have had much repute in dropsy, as much for their stimulation of the blood-vessels as of the kidneys; but are too feeble of themselves, though of decided service in combination with such tonics and hepatics as hydrastis and fraxinus. Their general impression upon the system is rather antispasmodic; and they may be used to advantage in colics, cramps, painful menstruation, after-pains, deficient lochia, and as an addition to stronger emmenagogues. By diffusion to the surface, they maintain good capillary action, expedite the eruption of measles and other exanthems, and have received much credit for the elimination of the virus of snakes. It is stated that the negroes bruise the fresh bulbs and apply them to the wounds of serpents, at the same time drinking abundantly of the infusion on milk. I. J. Sperry, M. D., of Hartford, Conn., called my attention to their use in chancres; and I have found much service in employing both the wash and the powder on moderately degenerate ulcers of this class, as also upon other weak and semi-indolent ulcers. While it has sometimes been overrated as a remedy for the kidneys, it is unquestionably among the least likely of all diuretics to exhaust those organs, and among the most likely to strengthen them and to relieve renal debility and congestion. They form a light stimulating gargle in sore-throat; and may be used inwardly and by injection for leucorrhea.

From ten to twenty grains of the powder may be given every six or four hours. Most commonly the infusion is employed, half an ounce of the crushed or powdered roots being macerated in twelve fluid ounces of water for half an hour; the dose of which may be from two to four fluid ounces every second or third hour. A fluid extract may be prepared in the method directed for cypripedium. It is an article easily injured by heat. It is an ingredient in a compound for dropsy mentioned at aralia hispida..

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