Lycopus Virginicus. Bugle Weed, Water Horehound.

Botanical name: 

Description: Natural Order, Labiatae. Genus LYCOPUS: Perennial herbs, with square stems, resembling the mints. Leaves sharply toothed, sometimes pinnatifid. Flowers small, mostly white, in axillary whorls. Calyx bell-shaped, four to five-toothed; corolla bell-shaped, four-toothed, scarcely longer than the calyx. Stamens two, distant; the upper pair wanting, or with only sterile rudiments. L. VIRGINICUS: Stem ten to twenty inches high, obtusely four-angled, furrowed, erect, smooth, sometimes purplish, rarely branched. Leaves ovate- lanceolate, toothed, entire toward the base, on short petioles, glandular dotted beneath, dull green, often purplish. Flowers very small, in close capitate clusters; corolla white, tubular, four-lobed, but little longer than the calyx. August.

This plant is common in shady and moist places, especially northward. It is to be distinguished from eupatorium teucrifolium, also called water horehound. The whole plant has a faint balsamic odor, and a pleasant, slightly bitter taste, yielding its properties to warm water and diluted alcohol. The other species of this genus seem to be similar in their qualities.

Properties and Uses: This herb has always been set down by writers as a mild narcotic, on which account I long avoided its use. Dr. J. Overholt, of Columbus City, Iowa, first assured me that there was absolutely no narcotic quality about it; and my confidence in his judgment led me to employ it, and myself and many others have verified his opinion. It is indeed distinctly soothing, but acts upon the nervous peripheries and not upon the brain. Over-sensitiveness and irritability are relieved by it; but no stupor or sedation is induced. It relaxes the capillaries at the same time that it soothes arterial excitement; and thus slowly diverts the circulation outwardly, and relieves a too frequent and hard pulse, and lessens labored efforts of the heart. Prof. C. S. Rafinesque says in his Medical Flora, "it lowers the pulse without producing any bad effects, or accumulating in the system. Volumes have been written on the digitalis, a rank poison; and this excellent substitute is hardly noticed yet." Its influence on the pulse is not suited to febrile conditions; but rather to those forms of excitement connected with cardiac and nervous irritability, rheumatic and gouty taints, etc.

The action of the agent is relaxant and moderately stimulant, of the very mild tonic character, and apparently leaving behind a slightly astringed impression on mucous membranes. By equalizing the circulation and soothing the nerves, it relieves harsh coughs and arrests bleeding of the lungs, for both which purposes it is of great value. It has been much spoken of in consumption; and its soothing and tonic influence is much more favorable in that malady, than the relaxing expectorants which are so commonly employed. For pectoral purposes, it may be combined with aralia racemosa, symphytum, prunus, and similar agents. Rafinesque says the infusion is useful in sub-acute dysentery and diarrhea; and this statement I have had verified by Drs. Stafford and Snodgrass, of Indiana, and several others. It relieves the pain, diminishes the discharges slowly, and gradually gives tone to the alvine canal. It acts in the same manner upon the kidneys, lessening excessive irritation, (but not relieving actual diabetes mellitus,) abating enuresis, and relieving achings in the kidneys and bladder. I have several times been highly pleased with its action on nervous forms of spermatorrhea, and think it will be found of peculiar service in this malady. And its soothing tonic influence is extended over the uterine organs, rendering it of service in neuralgia, and painful and excessive menstruation.

Dr. T. A. Wells, of Cincinnati, a few years ago informed me that this agent could be relied on to soothe and heal fistula in arousing it freely to drink and as a wash to the part. This information I have since verified a number of times in fistulas of an extremely painful character–some of them very large, in scrofulous patients, and in all respects of a most unpromising character. I used only a strong ointment, prepared of the solid extract triturated with lard; and in every instance had the satisfaction of seeing the pain abate, and granulation advance to a complete cure, with unexampled rapidity. A like success has attended my use of it in several cases of lachrymal fistula; and Prof. J. M. Mead, M. D., of Illinois, reports most excellent results from the use of it as a wash to the cavity of a large abscess in the lumbar region. I have also used it twice, with marked success, in chronic scrofulous ulceration of the nares and pharynx: and am of the opinion that it will be found of much efficacy in scrofulous sores and strumous conditions generally. In fistula, my experience has been so unexpectedly good as to warrant me in urging it warmly upon the notice of the profession in irritable cases; and Dr. Wells assures me that, by combining the free internal with the external use, it will prove equally reliable in absorbing the callosity and effecting a cure in other cases. It may be used as a snuff in catarrh.

Bugle weed is not used in the powdered form, but only as infusion or other pharmaceutical preparation. An ounce of the herb to a pint of water makes the ordinary infusion, of which from one to two fluid ounces may be employed every four or two hours. Much heat dissipates its soothing properties, on which account great care should be taken not to employ too high a temperature.

Pharmaceutical Preparations: I. Extract. This is prepared from a decoction by the usual process of evaporation. The temperature should at no time be raised above 150E F., else the soothing properties will be driven off, and a bitter and not always soothing article will remain. It may be used internally as a pill, in doses of from five to ten grains three times a day; or employed in the formation of an ointment.

II. Fluid Extract. Macerate one pound of crushed lycopus in a sufficient quantity of forty percent alcohol, for twenty-four hours; transfer to a percolator, and treat with the same strength of alcohol till ten fluid ounces have passed; set this aside, and continue the percolation with water till exhausted; evaporate the latter on a water bath to six fluid ounces, and mix the two products. When thus made, this preparation represents the plant quite well; and may be used in doses of from twenty to forty drops three or four times a day.

III. Ointment. Moisten two drachms of the solid extract with fifty drops of diluted alcohol, and mix with one ounce of simple cerate, and a sufficient quantity of olive oil to make it as soft as desirable. This makes a suitable ointment for all external appliances.

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