Taraxacum Dens-leonis. Dandelion.

Botanical name: 

Description: Natural Order, Compositae. Root perennial, tapering, branched, several inches long, light-brown without, nearly white within. No stem. Leaves radical, in a spreading tuft, lying closely upon the ground, smooth, dull-green, coarsely runcinate. Flower-head solitary, an inch or more in diameter, radiant, rising upon a hollow and milky-juiced scape; flowers numerous, all ligulate, bright yellow, perfect; involucre in two rows. "After blossoming, the inner involucre closes, the slender beak elongates and raises up the pappus while the fruit is forming, the whole involucre is then reflexed, exposing to the wind the naked fruit, with the pappus displayed in an open globular head." (Gray.) Blooming from April till early frosts. Common in lawns and pastures.

The root of this plant is juicy, slightly milky, and of a mildly bitter taste. Its qualities differ much according to the season at which it is gathered; that dug in the spring being nearly worth- less, that obtained in August and September being most decidedly bitter and medicinal, and that procured after frosts being sweetish and but slightly medicinal. Heat impairs its qualities.

Properties and Uses: The root is a mild laxative and alterant, of the relaxing-tonic grade, slowly and gently influencing the liver, small intestines, and kidneys. It is most useful in mild grades of chronic hepatic obstruction and torpor, with biliousness and weakness of the stomach; in engorgements of the liver and spleen, and abdominal dropsy dependent on these conditions. Though slow. in action, it is well received by the system; and if gathered at the proper season, and used in cases not too degenerate, it deserves consideration, though concentrated preparations are required. When the stomach or bowels are irritable, it should not be employed. Among the people, it is in much repute; and though the profession mostly discards it— partly from gathering and preparing the root injudiciously, and partly as a reaction from its former too high laudation—it is, nevertheless, a pleasant and useful agent of the gentle class. The leaves and roots are often used together, but are less efficient than the roots alone.

Pharmaceutical Preparations: I. Decoction. Digest four ounces of the bruised roots with a pint and a half of hot water for an hour, bring to the boil for a few minutes, and strain. Dose, two to four fluid ounces three times a day. A very little essence of wintergreen or sassafras may be added to it.

II. Extract. This may be prepared from decoction, in the usual way; but the product is not of much medicinal value. A long time is required to evaporate the fluid; and during this long exposure to warmth, the bitter principle of the plant seems to undergo changes and become sweetish; and a sweet extract is nearly inert as a medicine. I have known a sample to be almost saccharine in its pleasantness; and have eaten two or three ounces of it in a day, for several days in succession, without any perceptible impression. A good article should retain the bitterness of the plant, and many ways have been devised to effect this object. Among the simplest of these is that of gathering and washing the fresh root, slicing and bruising it, and expressing its juice by powerful pressure. A little water may then be added to the dregs, mixed with them into a pulp, and then subjected to a second pressure. The two liquids are then mixed, and evaporated in very shallow dishes in a current of air, with frequent stirring. This yields a dark, tenacious, and valuable product. Dose, ten to thirty grains three times a day. As it dissolves in water, it may be softened to any desired degree; and it is a useful body on which to form a pill mass.

III. Fluid Extract. Gather the roots in September or October, slice them while fresh, reduce to a pulpy mass in the mortar, add a pint of seventy percent alcohol to each five pounds of the roots, and let it macerate for a week in a closely- covered earthenware vessel. If it stand for six months, a still better product is obtained. The dregs are then to be subjected to powerful pressure; after which the marc may again be mixed with a quart of diluted alcohol, after three days again subjected to pressure, the product evaporated to a pint, and this mixed with the first product, and filtered. The quantity obtained will vary with the quality of the root and the amount of pressure used, but the total from five pounds will be about four pints. When desired, a pound of fine sugar may be added to each quart of the fluid. This makes a very efficient preparation, and may be used in doses of one to two teaspoonsful. A pound of dried roots are about equal to two pounds of the fresh ones; and may have added twelve fluid ounces of water to make up the loss by desiccation, and then treated as above. A good quality of solid extract may, upon necessity, be made into a fluid extract by dissolving four ounces of it in an ounce of alcohol, and enough water to make the whole measure half a pint.

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