Liriodendron Tulipifera. Tulip Tree, Yellow Poplar, White Wood.

Botanical name: 

Description: Natural Order, Magnoliaceae. This tree is one of the noblest in America, growing with a perfectly straight trunk of from eighty to one hundred and fifty feet, old trees without a branch till within twenty feet of the top, young trees low-branched and of a conical outline. The wood, under the name of poplar, is extensively used in the Western States as a substitute for pine. Leaves three to five inches long, and two-thirds as broad; the sides lobed much in the form of great ears, and the end abruptly cut off about two inches beyond the apex of the side lobes; smooth, somewhat leathery, on long petioles, margins entire; sheathed with membranous stipules, which soon fall off. Flowers very large, somewhat bell-shaped, solitary, erect; sepals three, colored like the petals, reflexed, caducous; petals six, erect, greenish yellow without, orange within, smaller and less brilliant than the tulip of the gardens, but of much the same general form. Fruit a series of imbricated capsules, forming a short cone, each one to two seeded. Blooming in May and June.

The inner bark of the trunk, and also that of the root, is medicinal. It is pale yellowish, sparingly tinted reddish, light, a little fibrous, and of a pleasant aromatic, somewhat spicy-camphorous odor. It imparts its virtues readily to water and diluted alcohol, but is easily injured by heat. Its taste is mildly bitter and somewhat aromatic.

Properties and Uses: Many physicians, and most writers, confound this bark with populus tremuloides, and others of that genus, because of the similarity of the common name, poplar; but the two articles bear no resemblance to each other, either in botanical or medical properties. The bark of the liriodendron is one of the mildest and least bitter of the tonics, chiefly relaxant and only moderately stimulant, but with no astringency whatever. While it improves the appetite and digestion to a fair extent, and for this purpose is unsurpassed in convalescence, its most valuable action is upon the nervous system and uterus. In nervousness, nervous irritability, hysteria, and chronic pains through the womb, it is an agent of the greatest efficacy–both soothing and sustaining. The menses are not influenced by it; but it proves valuable in chronic dysmenorrhea as well as in leucorrhea, prolapsus of a mild grade, and the uterine suffering incident to pregnancy. By its influence on the nervous system it sometimes promotes the flow of urine; and it favors greater freedom of the bowels, without being in any sense cathartic. If combined with spikenard, boneset, or other agents influencing the lungs, its virtues will be directed largely to these organs; and then is of peculiar service in old coughs and pulmonary weakness. The mildness of its action sometimes suggests inertness, but this is quite an error; for its gentleness increases its value as a peculiar nervine tonic, and makes it very acceptable to the stomach; though it is not an agent fitted to languid or sluggish conditions, or states of depression. It is rarely used in powder, but a scruple or more may be used as a dose. If infused, half an ounce may be digested for an hour, in a covered vessel, with a pint of water not above a blood warmth; of which a fluid ounce may be given every six or four hours. It is variously compounded with hydrastis, sabbatia, or calumba, with orange peel, for a stronger tonic influence; and with caulophyllum, leonurus, viburnum, or senecio, when the uterine organs are particularly to be impressed. Some value it for worms, and others apply the leaves on ulcers.

Pharmaceutical Preparations: I. Sirup. Macerate eight ounces of crushed bark with a sufficient quantity of water for twelve hours; transfer to a percolator, and add water till twenty fluid ounces have passed; to this add two pounds of sugar, and four ounces of Sherry wine. Or the bark may first be macerated with four ounces of the wine and a sufficient quantity of water, and water added in the percolator till twenty-four fluid ounces have passed, and the same quantity of sugar then used. The sugar is to be added to the liquor in a bottle, and shaken till dissolved–no heat being used. It is an elegant preparation, but requires to be kept in a cool place. Dose, four to eight fluid drachms.

II. Wine Tincture. Crushed liriodendron, four ounces, treated first by maceration and then by percolation till a pint has passed, the dregs being then strongly expressed, makes a good tincture, better than if made upon diluted alcohol. Dose, two to six fluid drachms.

III. Fluid Extract. This may be prepared as in the fluid extract of cypripedium. The application of heat, however, so readily impairs this article, that it is nearly impossible to make any fluid or other extract that will fairly represent the virtues of the bark.

IV. Compound Wine of Liriodendron, Female Tonic. Liriodendron, eight ounces; convallaria and scrophularia marilandica, each six ounces; hydrastis and scutellaria, each two ounces; peach kernels, six drachms. Crush well, macerate for two days in a covered vessel with a sufficient quantity of Sherry wine, (or thirty percent alcohol may be used;) transfer to a percolator, and treat with wine till four pints have passed. Set this aside, and add water till two pints have passed; and in tills dissolve three pounds of sugar, employing a very close vessel and a low heat. When cold, mix the two liquids. I have employed this preparation in my private practice for the last sixteen years, and have been more pleased with it than with any preparation I have ever used for hysteria, leucorrhea, prolapsus, pains during gestation, and all other female difficulties connected with nervousness and a poor appetite. It exerts no special influence upon the menstrual function; but is of much service for intermediate treatment in painful menstruation. Dose, six to twelve fluid drachms three times a day. I commend it to the profession as a compound equal to the Compound Sirup of Mitchella as a uterine antispasmodic and nervine, and superior to that preparation as a tonic. This bark is an ingredient in the Compound Wine of Columbo.

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