Populus Tremuloides. White poplar, Aspen poplar, American aspen, Quaking aspen.

Related entry: Populus balsamifera

Description: Natural Order, Salicaceae. In the same Family with the willows. Genus POPULUS: Trees, with broad-ovate leaves, and dioecious flowers in scaly aments without calyx or corolla. Aments of sterile flowers long and drooping; fertile flowers under the scales of terminal aments called buds, the scales being imbricated and covered with a resinous varnish; flowers appearing before the leaves. P. TREMULOIDES: Leaves roundish heart-shaped, sharp-pointed, with small and regular teeth, very smooth, light green, three nerved, two inches or more in length; petioles two to three inches long, slender, compressed at the sides, on account of which the drooping leaves have an almost unceasing motion even on the most trifling movements of the air. Aments about two inches long, drooping; scales cut into three or four linear divisions, fringed with long hairs; appearing in April, and but slightly resinous.

This is a small tree, with a smooth grayish-green bark when young, but a greenish-brown and somewhat roughened bark on the trunks of old trees. It is very common throughout the United States, preferring moist soils, and in some sections forming small groves. The bark is the medicinal part, and yields its properties to water and alcohol.

Properties and Uses: The inner bark is an efficient and pleasant tonic, with a modicum of astringency. From its common name, it is usually confounded, in medicine, with the liriodendron, to which it bears no resemblance, except in being soothing in its action. Dr. S. Thomson early appreciated its good qualities, and was one of the first (if not the very first) to describe its true character. It promotes appetite and digestion in all lax conditions of the stomach; and is one of the best tonics in sub-acute and chronic diarrhea, scrofulous looseness of the bowels, and that form of diarrhea which arises from laxity of the stomach with indigestion. For these cases, Dr. Thomson combined it into his preparation called No. 5, described under myrica. For a similar tonic action on mucous and sub-mucous membranes, it is of much advantage in leucorrhea, both inwardly and by injection; and is of peculiar value in all female difficulties connected with laxity, as it soothes while it tones, and is not liable to confine the bowels. Among both profession and people, it is a much-praised remedy for worms; but is of value only as a tonic in laxity of the abdomen. It acts gently on the kidneys, and is of service in chronic scantiness of urine and aching of the back; and it is highly commended in dropsy, but is there useful as a tonic, (if combined with stronger tonics,) and not because of its diuretic action, though it always gives tone to the kidneys. An infusion, or three grains of the extract dissolved in an ounce of water, is a good wash for chronic and purulent ophthalmia; and a weaker preparation is excellent in sub-acute gonorrhea, etc. Combined with uva ursi or epigea repens, it is one of the best of tonics for catarrh of the bladder and similar renal difficulties. The medium power of its tonic action commends it, and makes it readily acceptable to many stomachs that would reject stronger articles. Dose of the powdered bark, half a drachm or more three times a day.

The late Dr. W. T. Craig, of Shelbyville, Illinois, told me that he had repeatedly used the bark of POPULUS HETEROPHYLLA (cotton tree, downy-leaved poplar) with the most gratifying success in intermittents. He especially commended it for those intermittents where quinine or salacin proves too exciting to the nervous centers, and a pure and reliable tonic (with hepatics) is particularly needed. Dr. Craig's reliable character makes his commendation worthy of attention by the profession, and his experience has been confirmed by the partial observations of others, especially of B. A. Line, M. D., of Antioch, Indiana. This species of poplar is a tall tree, forty to sixty feet high, with large, blunt, and roundish heart-shaped leaves, which are quite downy when young, but nearly smooth when old.

Pharmaceutical Preparations: I. Fluid Extract. This is made with fifty percent alcohol, first setting aside eight fluid ounces of the tincture from a pound of crushed bark; then exhausting with water, evaporating to eight fluid ounces, and mixing the liquids. It is a pleasant and excellent preparation, chiefly used in company with more stimulating tonics for indigestion. Dose, from half to a whole fluid drachm.

II. Populin. This is a crystalline principle, "obtained by precipitating a saturated decoction of the bark with solution of sub-acetate of lead, filtering, precipitating the excess of lead by sulphuric acid, again filtering, evaporating, adding animal charcoal toward the end of the evaporation, and filtering the liquid while hot. Salicin gradually separates, upon the cooling of the liquor. If, when this principle has ceased to crystallize, the excess of sulphuric acid in the liquid be saturated by a concentrated solution of carbonate of potassa, the populin will be precipitated. If this be pressed between folds of blotting paper, and redissolved in boiling water, it will be deposited upon the cooling of the liquid, in the crystalline state. It is soft, purely white, and of a bitter sweetish taste analogous to that of licorice." (U. S. D.) This principle has not been presented in commerce, but seems to promise well as an efficient representative of the nervine-tonic quality of the plant. The leaves are said to yield it in even larger proportion than the bark.

III. Spiced Bitters. Number 4. Under these terms, Dr. S. Thomson employed the following combination: Barks of populus and berberis vulgaris, and leaves of chelone glabra, in equal quantities; powder and mix. This is a peculiarly efficient tonic and hepatic, and suitable for all sluggish conditions of the stomach with biliousness and torpid bowels. Few similar preparations equal it for atonic states of the digestive and hepatic organs. Dr. Thomson's directions were, "One ounce of the powder to a pint of hot water, and [when cold] half a pint of proof spirit. Dose, half a wineglass full." When a more stimulating action was required, he directed the addition of ten or more grains of capsicum to this pint and a half of tincture. From the increasing scarcity of the barberry, (not bayberry,) this formula gradually passed into disuse; and various substitutes were offered. The following is now received and recognized as the Officinal Spiced Bitters: Populus, eight ounces; hydrastis, zingiber, xanthoxylum bark, and cinnamon, each, two ounces; herb of chelone glabra, an ounce and a half; capsicum, one drachm. Mix in the powdered state. Cloves have been used instead of cinnamon, but ire not so grateful to the stomach; and a larger quantity of capsicum is commonly directed, but materially limits the range of cases in which the preparation is usable. It is employed for the entire range of cases for which a stimulating tonic is desirable, and may be made somewhat more laxative by the addition of two ounces of apocynum, for cases requiring it. Dose, ten to twenty grains three or four times a day. Usually it is triturated with seven parts of sugar, and given in the powdered form; but may be exhibited by in fusion, or made into a wine tincture.

IV. Female Restorative: Poplar bark, eight ounces; hydrastis, helonias, and euonymus, each, two ounces; xanthoxylum bark, one ounce. Crush the articles, macerate in a close vessel for three days with a sufficient quantity of Madeira wine; transfer to a percolator, and add the same wine till (in all) five pints have been used; express the dregs strongly, filter, and add two pounds of sugar. This makes an elegant and superior preparation for indigestion, atony of the stomach, excessive menstruation, and degenerate forms of leucorrhea and prolapsus; but is not suitable for irritable stomach or uterus, or deficient menstruation. Dose, a fluid ounce, or less, three times a day. If wine is objectionable, the articles may be used in a powdered form, or made into a decoction or sirup.

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