Senecio Aureus. Life-Root, Groundsel, Unkum, Golden Ragwort.

(Some of the Senecio species contain toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids. More info here: Livertoxic PAs --Henriette.)

Squaw-weed, Female regulator.

Description: Natural Order, Compositae. This is a plant common to most meadows and the grassy edges of swamps throughout the United States, especially northward; but varieties of it are found on high and rocky grounds. Stem ten inches to two and a half feet high, erect, sometimes with a few branches above, woolly when young, smooth and striate when older. Leaves alternate, those from the root long-petiolate, simple, rounded or sub-cordate, crenate-toothed, two and a half inches long; lower stem-leaves lyrate, short-petiolate; upper stem-leaves few, small, lanceolate, cut-pinnatifid, half-clasping. Flowers in corymbose heads an inch in diameter, all yellow; rays eight to twelve, pistillate, spreading, ligulate; disk florets numerous, small, tubular; receptacle flat, naked; pappus of numerous and very soft capillae. Involucre of a single row of flat and somewhat purplish-tipped scales. Blooming in May and June. This species has two principal varieties, named merely from local differences in the leaves–OBOVATUS and LANCEOLATUS. In rocky situations the lower leaves are small, and the upper stem-leaves often wanting; whence it has been classed as SENECIO GRACILIS. The roots of this genus are perennial, and the stems annual.

Properties and Uses: The herb and roots are medicinal, and come to market together. As in hydrastis, mitchella, and a score or more of other agents, the knowledge and exclusive use of it are claimed by our Eclectic neighbors; but the European species VULGARIS, under the name of groundsel, has been a very popular remedy in England for several centuries, and the American species was used by the English colonists of New England from the earliest settlements. It is of moderately slow and rather persistent action, combining relaxation with stimulation, sharp and bitter in taste, and leaving a full tonic impression upon the stomach, nervous system, and uterus. The chief use made of it is as a nervine tonic in female weaknesses, and a mild yet reliable prompter of menstruation. For neuralgia and rheumatism of the womb, the achings and crampings incident to gestation, and mild cases of leucorrhea and prolapsus, it is of much value; also in uterine hysteria, and the feeble appetite and aching of the back suffered by so many females; possibly also acting on the kidneys. While it promotes menstruation in languid and partially atonic amenorrhea, it does so mostly by virtue of its efficient tonic action; and it is in no sense a forcing emmenagogue, but rather aids passive menorrhagia by giving tone to the uterus. Used as a warm infusion, it expedites parturition with great certainty in cases of uterine and nervous fatigue. The kidneys feel its influence moderately well, especially when they are involved with female difficulties. The lungs are strengthened by its use; and though it is extravagant to talk about its curing tubercular consumption, it is unquestionably good for old and debilitated coughs. Some physicians value it highly in sub-acute and chronic dysentery, preferring it even to hydrastis as a tonic for such difficulties. It is only by remembering its tonic and nervine qualities, that the true character of its action in these numerous cases can well be understood.

Pharmaceutical Preparations: I. Decoction. Senecio, one ounce; macerate in a pint and a half of hot water for half an hour; strain with pressure, and carefully evaporate to half a pint. Dose, a fluid ounce three times a day.

II. Compound Tincture. Senecio, one ounce and a half; caulophyllum, anthemis, and zingiber, each, half an ounce; cimicifuga and anise, each, two drachms. Crush well, macerate for two days in a sufficient quantity of diluted alcohol; transfer to a percolator, and treat with alcohol of the same strength till a quart has passed. I commend this as a valuable nervine diffusive and tonic for painful menstruation, hysteria, and flagging parturition. Dose, a fluid drachm or more in warm water, or in a warm tea of catnip or balm.

III. Fluid Extract. Treat one pound of crushed senecio with diluted alcohol, and proceed as for fluid extract of boneset. This is a strong preparation, exhibiting the bitter and stimulating qualities of the senecio quite fully. Dose, fifteen to thirty drops.

IV. Senecin or Senecionine. These are one and the same preparation, obtained by processes similar to those for procuring scutellarin. The dried alcoholic extract is somewhat oleo-resinous, and may be used in doses of from two to three grains.

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