Clematis virginiana. Virgin's Bower.
Parts used - Botanical analysis - Common names - Specific description - Generic description - Allied species - Description of drug - Microscopic structure - Constituents - Medical history - Pharmaceutical preparations - Medical properties - Homoeopathic uses - References - Images
Natural Order Ranunculaceae, Tribe Clematideae.
BOTANICAL ANALYSIS.—Stem, a woody, climbing vine. Leaves, opposite, ternate; the leafstalks winding around objects of support. Leaflets, ovate, acute, smooth, firm, veiny, more or less three-lobed; margins crenate-serrate. Flowers numerous, dioecious, in axillary clusters. Sepals four, white, petaloid, spreading. Petals, none. Stamens numerous, spreading, about as long as the petals. Fruit, an achene, with a feathery tail one to two inches long.
COMMON NAMES.—The name Virgin's Bower, applied to this species, is equally applicable to all the species of the genus. It is also called Ladies' Bower, Traveler's Ivy, and Love Vine, from reference to natural arbors which it forms. These names were originally applied to the English species, Clematis Vitalba, but have naturally been given to this and other species.
SPECIFIC DESCRIPTION.—Clematis virginiana is the most common native species. It is found in nearly every locality east of the Mississippi, extending north into British America, and west into Missouri and Kansas. It is very common in the mountains. The plant is a shrubby vine, climbing over fences and bushes by means of the leafstalks which coil around objects of support. The leaves are tri-foliolate and opposite. The flowers, which appear in midsummer, are white and very numerous, and make the shrub a conspicuous object when in bloom, and on this account it is often cultivated. The fruits, which are produced in heads in the fall of the year, are achenes, with long, feathery tails. (See illustration opposite, Plate I.)
GENERIC DESCRIPTION.—The genus Clematis is an extensive family, dispersed throughout the temperate regions of both hemispheres. It consists mostly of climbing shrubs, rarely erect, and more rarely with herbaceous stems. The flowers are very numerous and showy; hence different species are in cultivation as ornamental climbers. The properties of all the species, when fresh, are more or less acrid.
Plants of this genus can be readily distinguished from all other native climbing vines, by the peculiar habit they have of twining their leafstalks for support.
ALLIED SPECIES.—Clematis Viorna Linn., Clematis Pitcheri Torr. & Gray, and Clematis crispa Linn., are three closely related native species. The first is found from Pennsylvania south; the next, from Illinois west; and the last, in the Southern States. They belong to a natural section of the genus, which can be readily distinguished from Clematis virginiana by their large, solitary, nodding, bell-shaped flowers. The first two species, which are perhaps but varieties of the same, have four dull-purple, valvate sepals, of a very thick texture; hence they are often called Leather Flowers. Clematis crispa has purplish-blue sepals, with dilated thin margins. It is called in the Southern States Blue jasmine, or Curled Virgin's Bower, and is probably our most acrid species. It is figured in Gray's Genera, vol. i., plate 2.
Clematis verticillaris DC. is a northern species and rather rare. It has large four-sepaled purple flowers, with thin, spreading sepals. It has small, petal-like bodies, resembling abortive stamens, and on this account the plant was formerly separated from the genus Clematis and named Atragene americana Sims.
It is called whorl-leaved Virgin's Bower, and figured in the Botanical Magazine, vol. xxiii, plate 887. Clematis alpina Mill., is an analogous plant of the mountains of Southern Europe.
Clematis ligusticifolia Nutt., of the Western States, takes the place of Clematis virginiana, which it closely resembles. We are informed by Dr. Louis Emmelheinz, of New Mexico, who forwarded us specimens for identification, that the roots of this plant are used as an alterative by the Indians, and called Wild Sarsaparilla.
Clematis Vitalba Linn., is the most common species of Europe, and the only one found in England. It is called Virgin's Bower, Traveler's joy, Love Vine, White Vine, Ladies' Bower, Old Man's Beard, Smoke Wood, Wild Vine, Bind-with, Hedge Vine, and Climbers.
Clematis recta (erecta) Linn., is found in Middle and Southern Europe. It has an erect, herbaceous stem, about two feet high, and is probably the most acrid species of Europe. It is called Upright Virgin's Bower, and in old medical works, Flammula Jovis, and is figured in Woodville's Medical Botany, vol. iii, plate 171. This is the species that was first introduced into medicine.
Clematis Viticella Linn., and Clematis Flammula Linn., are climbing shrubs, native of France and other countries of Southern Europe. The former has blue flowers, and is known as Blue Clematis; the latter has white, fragrant flowers, and is called Sweet Scented Virgin's Bower; both are considerably cultivated.
Clematis dioica Linn., of Jamaica, and Clematis mauritiana Linn., of Madagascar, are used by the natives of those countries as rubefacients. The latter species is probably the most acrid of the entire genus.
DESCRIPTION OF DRUG.—The fresh leaves, flowers and stem of Clematis virginiana are the portions employed in our country in medicine. The leaves and flowers have been described in the botanical part of this paper.
The stem (Fig. 2) attains a diameter at the base of from one-half to one inch and has a spongy ligneous texture When recent, it is covered with a thin brown bark. The wood is coarsely divided into distinct medullary rays, between which, when the plant is recent, are deposited layers of a greenish substance, which contains the acrid principles of the plant.
None of the species of Clematis are found in our market as commercial drugs.
Bark.—Beginning with the outside of the stem, we find there is present no epidermis. The cork, or outer layer of the bark, is composed of from five to twelve rows of thin-walled tabular cells of a brownish yellow color. The green, or middle, layer of the bark, is of nearly the same width, and composed of from five to twelve rows of oval parenchyma. Next to the green layer come large crescent-shaped masses of liber fibre. A cross and longitudinal view of a single liber fibre is seen in Plate II, fig. B, c 1 and c 2.
Just inside of this liber fibre is found a secondary formation of cork and the green layer of the bark, smaller and more delicate than the first. Embedded in this second green layer are masses of large stone-cells. These have rather thinner walls than the majority of stone-cells, still the walls are much thicker than all the other cells of the stem excepting the liber fibre. (See Plate II, h, figs. A and B.) Then come other slender, sharply pointed, crescent or horse-shoe shaped masses of liber fibre. The spaces inside of these inner masses of liber are filled up with hexagonal, thin-walled parenchyma. These masses of liber and the enclosed parenchyma form the inner layer of the bark.
The cambium separating the bark from the wood is composed of from three to six rows of tabular cells, clear- white, and filled with protoplasm.
Wood.—The medullary rays are made up of from three to ten rows of thin-walled, white tabular cells. Between these medullary rays are the small, thick-walled, clear white cells of wood prosenchyma, resembling somewhat the liber fibre. With these are numerous large, open, pitted cells. The ends of these cells are seen in Plate II, fig. A, m; while in fig. B, m, the length of the cell is seen with the numerous pitted marks on its surface.
Two or three annular rings are generally to be seen in this stem.
Between the wood and the pith is the medullary sheath, composed of fine spiral vessels.
Pith.—Thin-walled, brownish, hexagonal cells of parenchyma make up, the pith. Occasionally, pitted marks are found on the surface of the cells.
DESCRIPTION OF PLATE II.—Fig. A.—a and a', cork; b and b', the green layer of the bark; c, liber fibre; h, stone-cells; d, cambium; c, medullary rays; m, pitted cells; f, wood prosenchyma; i, parenchyma, or liber layer of the bark. Drawn with an 4-10 inch objective, and an "A" eye-piece.
Fig. B.—h, stone-cells; c, I, cross section of liber fibre, c, 2, longitudinal view of the same m, pitted cell of the wood, longitudinal section. Drawn with a camera lucida, with an 1/4 inch objective, and an "A" eye-piece. (Figs. A and B reduced one-third.)
CONSTITUENTS.—The odor of freshly broken recent Clematis virginiana is peculiar and unpleasant. It imparts a rank taste, which, after prolonged chewing, becomes acrid and irritating, although at first it is only disagreeable. The descriptions in other works which we have consulted, would lead to the inference that all of the species of Clematis are possessed of an acrid principle resembling, in sensible properties, that of senega, or even of Indian turnip. This is not supported by our experience with Clematis virginiana, for there is no immediately acrid sensation; and even prolonged chewing is not followed by pain, but rather by a dry, metallic-like roughness of the tongue and mouth. When the plant dries, its acrid nature disappears. The fresh juice is neutral to litmus paper. When recent Clematis virginiana is bruised, mixed with water, and distilled, the condensed liquid has an offensive odor, somewhat like skunk cabbage. This distillate is neutral, and does not contain an alkaloid, either when the plant is distilled with water or dilute solution of caustic potash. If the distillate be shaken with chloroform or benzol, the odorous principle is extracted from it, and dissolved by the chloroform or the benzol. Upon spontaneous evaporation of this solution, a colorless, oily substance remains, which is the characteristic principle of the plant, but which evaporates by exposure. If the vapor of the distillate be inhaled, it irritates the lungs, producing an after-effect similar to that which follows the inhalation of sulphurous acid gas, but not of a suffocating or immediately painful nature. Alcohol extracts all of the properties from recent Clematis, forming a green tincture, which changes to brown upon exposure to the light. The plant contains glucose and the usual constituents of plants, but our most careful examination failed to detect the presence of an alkaloid, either fixed or volatile.
Rafinesque (1830) states that the flowers of Clematis virginiana and Clematis Viorna hold a peculiar substance, clematin, similar to gluten. M. Gaube, of Europe (1869), claims to have obtained an alkaloid from Clematis Vitalba, and he named it clematine. He formed with it a salt, by means of sulphuric acid, which crystallized in hexagonal needles. In addition, he obtained an acrid volatile oil and the usual constituents of plants.
MEDICAL HISTORY.—The European species of Clematis have been recognized in medicine since a very early day. The "Histoire des Plantes" (1762) gives rude figures of three species, viz.: recta, Flammula and Viticella, together with a fair medical notice, and refers to earlier publications. The properties are correctly stated as being acrid, and the uses are such as were attributed to the plants in after days.
Störck (1769) is the authority generally accredited with introducing Clematis to the medical profession, but we can not find that he notes much that had not been previously written.
Motherby (1775) says of Clematis recta: "The herb, with the flower, is caustic; the root, seed, bark, and all, if rubbed with the fingers, then held to the nostrils, strike them like lightning with a strong smell. It yields a water as hot as spirit of wine, but it does not seem safe to administer it internally." Boerhaave mentioned several species.
Clematis recta, generally under the name of Flammula Jovis, was recognized in a dozen or more of the local Pharmacopoeias of Continental Europe from 1798 to 184o, and was mentioned in many old dispensatories and materia medicas.
No species of Clematis, however, had been inserted into the materia medica of any of the British colleges as late as 1803, and we fail to find it mentioned in the "New Dispensatory" between the dates of 1753 and 1818, or in Lewis' Materia Medica of 1761. It is not recognized by the Pharmacographia (1879), nor the recent editions of the German Pharmacopoeia; and these facts, together with other testimony in our possession, are evidence that although Clematis recta was early introduced into European domestic medicine, and even into many pharmacopoeias, it has generally failed to retain its position, excepting with homoeopathic physicians. The first edition of Hooper's Medical Dictionary (1817, American reprint) stated that "More praises have been bestowed upon the virtues which the leaves of this plant are said to possess, when exhibited internally, as an antivenereal, by foreign physicians, than its trials in this country (England) can justify;" and this sentence is carried through the editions which followed.
The close relationship which exists between the properties of the American species of Clematis and those of Europe, has necessitated the foregoing remarks regarding the foreign species; and in considering our native species, we find that, like the European, they are but little valued in medicine at the present time; and they have never been favorites.
This is somewhat strange, when we consider the acrid, irritating properties of certain species, for in early therapeutics, and even at the present day, those substances which possessed disagreeable characteristics, especially if of a poisonous nature, were, as a rule, thought to be antagonistic to disease. Cutler (1783) mentions Clematis virginiana, but says nothing of its medicinal value. Barton considers Clematis Viorna and Clematis crispa in his Collections (1801), p. 30, and this note gave the plant a position in Coxe's American Dispensatory (1st edition, 1806); but the subject was thought so unimportant as to permit the passage remaining unchanged through nine subsequent editions of that work. The United States Dispensatory (1st edition, 1833) failed to mention any species of Clematis, an oversight which was corrected in the second edition (1834); but there has been little alteration in wording since, and it has always occupied a position in the appendix. Prof. John King, in the first edition of his Dispensatory (1852), gave Clematis virginiana and Clematis Viorna each a fair therapeutic notice; and this was carried through subsequent editions of that work. Prof. J. M. Maisch, in the National Dispensatory (1879), devotes to the different species of Clematis, foreign and native, as extensive a description as was necessary in a work of that description; and the therapeutical notice is equally satisfactory. Neither Thomson nor Beach refers to Clematis; and the other writers upon American medicinal plants have seldom mentioned it. Dunglison failed to introduce it into any edition of his New Remedies, or Materia Medica; Pereira omitted it from his Materia Medica; and Scudder, in his Specific Medication, simply speaks of Clematis virginiana as an agent that "deserves investigation." The Pharmacopoeia of the United States has never recognized a species of Clematis. Our native species are occasionally used in domestic medicine, but physicians of all schools excepting the Homoeopathic now neglect it altogether. The characteristics of the family are, however, sufficiently pronounced to lead us to believe that, when properly investigated, some of the species will prove to be useful additions to our materia medica. The volatile nature of the active constituents, renders it necessary that a preparation of the fresh plant be employed; and this fact may have interfered with the general use of the plant as a medicine.
PHARMACEUTICAL PREPARATIONS.—The tincture is officinal in the Pharmacopoea Homoeopathica Polyglottica (1872), and is made by pounding the fresh leaves of the Clematis recta, when the plant is flowering, into a pulp, and pressing out the juice, which is then mixed with an equal weight of alcohol. After standing in a dark, cool location for eight days, it is filtered. This tincture does not possess all of the properties of the plant, and a more accurate representation may be made as follows:
Take of the fresh stem, leaves and flowers of Clematis, one part; alcohol, two parts. Bruise the plant until reduced to an even pulp; add the alcohol; mix thoroughly, and allow the mixture to stand in a close vessel for ten days; then express the liquid, and filter it.
MEDICAL PROPERTIES.—We find it stated in the Histoire des Plantes (1762), that when the bark of Clematis Vitalba is boiled in oil, and verdigris and wax are added, an ointment is produced which is admirable in the treatment of tinea. This ointment has otherwise the same properties as the plant. It is also stated that the leaves of Clematis Viticella have caustic properties; that the seed, if bruised, and drank in sweetened water, will cause a discharge of bile and mucus from the bowels, and that the leaves, applied to the surface, cure the itch and leprosy. In speaking of Clematis recta, the same authority states that it is "hot and dry." Its leaves, flowers and seeds, like those of the third species of Clematis (Clematis Vitalba), have the same acrid taste. The very pungent, hot taste of the leaves gave this plant the name Flammula. It is asserted that water distilled over this plant is very effectual in quartan fevers; applied to the skin, its leaves produce sores; taken internally, it cures "cold diseases." To prepare the leaves for medicinal use, they were cut very fine, placed in a vessel, covered with fresh olive oil, and exposed to the sun for several days. This medicated oil is good for sciatic and gouty rheumatism, urinary troubles, stone and gravel. It can be used internally and applied externally. Störck (1769) used Clematis recta in secondary syphilis, cancerous affections, old ulcers, and headache. He used the powdered leaves as an external application, but for internal use he preferred an infusion of two or three drachms of the fresh leaves to a pint of water, of which infusion he gave to an adult four ounces three times daily. Störck considered that Clematis was a diuretic and diaphoretic, a claim that Prof. M. Sauveur (1866) sustained, for he reported the great relief, perhaps permanent cure, afforded in two cases of Bright's Disease where he administered an infusion of the drug. He states that it acted as a powerful diuretic, and we quote from Prof. King's translation of Sauveur's paper, as follows:—"The effects of the remedy were quite prompt: a profuse diuresis, followed by a gradual diminution of albumen in the urine and a rapid disappearance of the anasarca, and other symptoms." Motherby (1775) speaks of the caustic nature of Clematis recta. He does not advise its use as a remedy, stating that the plant "yields a water as hot as spirit of wine, but it does not seem safe to administer it internally."
Clematis Vitalba is used in Europe as an itch remedy. The leaves are first extracted with water, to remove some of the acrid principles, and then with hot oil. The resultant oil is applied to the affected parts, it is said, with perfect success.
Prof. Landerer, of Greece (1877), in speaking of the medicinal plants of the Orient, states that an intimate friend, subject for years to epileptic fits, and who had been through the line of regular medication without benefit, applied to a priest who had the reputation of curing the disease by means of a plant known only to himself. The result was a cure, or at least a complete suspension of the attacks. Prof. Landerer examined a part of this plant, and pronounced it to be a species of Clematis, either Clematis cirrhosa or Clematis sylvestris. He also supported the assertions of others, to the effect that the fresh leaves, if bruised, acted as a rubefacient, or even as a vesicant, when applied to the skin (New Remedies, 1877, p. 181).
Lindley (1838) is authority for the statement that in Jamaica an infusion of the bruised leaves and flowers is used to remove freckles, and that a decoction of the root in sea water acts as a powerful purge, and is used in dropsical cases. He also states that in the Isle of France the negroes use the Clematis mauritiana to blister the cheek, as a counter irritant when suffering from toothache.
Clematis virginiana, our common native species of Clematis, has properties similar to those of foreign countries. Rafinesque (1830) states that in small doses, Clematis virginiana and Clematis Viorna are diuretic and sudorific, and will cure chronic rheumatism, indolent ulcers, and palsy. Dr. Williams (Porcher, 1850) recommends these species of Clematis as valuable diuretics and sudorific, in chronic rheumatism. Prof. John King (1852) states that the solid extract of Clematis virginiana, in doses of from one to two grains, is a remedy for osteocopic pains; that the green leaves are bruised, and employed as a vesicant, and as an escharotic and detergent for venereal and other foul and indolent ulcers.
Dose.—(King) Of the solid extract of Clematis virginiana, from one to two grains; (Scudder) Of the tincture of the fresh plant, five to ten drops; of the infusion of the dried bark, a teaspoonful to a tablespoonful; (Störck) Of the distilled water of Clematis recta, four fluid ounces.
In searching the medical literature relative to the uses of our native Clematis, we failed to find a recognition of any species in the standard Homoeopathic works. Knowing that the European Clematis recta is by no means unimportant., and that a tincture is imported, to a considerable extent, for the use of Homoeopathic physicians, we consulted Prof. E. M. Hale, M. D., [Prof. Hale has kindly consented to continue his contributions on the Homoeopathic uses of the drugs considered by us.] of Chicago, who has devoted much attention to American drugs. Prof. Hale has contributed as follows:
HOMOEOPATHIC USES OF CLEMATIS VIRGINIANA.—This indigenous species of Clematis has not yet been formally introduced into the materia medica of our school. The writer is perhaps the only one who has made use of it to any extent. During my investigations into the comparative value of American, as compared with foreign species, of medicinal plants, I prepared a tincture of the green plant leaves and flowers, and prescribed it for the symptoms recorded in the provings of Clematis recta. I found it fully as active as its European congener, and equally as useful in nervous erethism, sleeplessness, neuralgic and rheumatic headache and toothache. It is particularly useful in the reflex neurosis of women, arising from irritation of the ovaries and urinary organs; also for the neurosis of men, when connected with painful affections of the testicles and bladder. It is useful in cystitis and urethritis; in gonorrhoea and orchitis, and in the swelling of inguinal glands. Many cases of poisoning by handling the plant have come under my observation. It causes a painful pustular eruption, which may be mistaken for eczema. I have known it to cause blebbs and bullae, which degenerated into small, painful ulcers. In this respect it resembles the Clematis recta. Prescribing it in accordance with the law of similia, I have found it curative in eczema, herpes zoster, and pustular eruptions on the scalp and face of children. Its pathological effects resemble closely other members of the family of Ranunculaceae; namely, Ranunculus, Pulsatilla, Delphinium, and Paeonia.
- 1762.—Histoire des Plantes, Vol. II., p. 561, 562, 563.
- 1775.—Motherby's Medical Dictionary (and other editions).
- 1783.—Cutler's Indigenous Vegetables. Memoirs Am. Arts and Sciences, 1785, p. 458.
- 1804.—Barton's Collections, p. 30.
- 1804.—Edinburg Dispensatory, p. 364.
- 1810.—Woodville's Medical Botany, p. 480.
- 1817.—Hooper's Medical Dictionary, p. 208 (and other editions).
- 1825.—Cox's American Dispensatory, p. 200 (and other editions).
- 1830.—Rafinesque's Medical Botany, p, 211,
- 1834.—United States Dispensatory, p. 1078 (and subsequent editions).
- 1838.—Lindley's Flora Medica, p. 1.
- 1849.—Porcher's Medicinal Plants of South Carolina, Am. Med. Assoc. Rep., p. 683.
- 1852.—Dunglison's Medical Dictionary, p. 211.
- 1852.—King's American Dispensatory, p. 128 (and other editions).
- 1858.—Stearn's Medicinal Plants of Michigan, Am, Phar. Assoc. Proc., p. 254.
- 1861.—Journal of Materia Medica, p. 331.
- 1864.—Eclectic Medical Journal, p. 538.
- 1870.—Specific Medication, p. 116 (and other editions).
- 1870.—Eclectic Medical journal, p. 13.
- 1871.—Featherman's Botanical Survey of Louisiana, p. 49.
- 1872.—Pharmacopoeia Homoeopathica Polyglottica, p. 92. 160.
- 1873.—Dictionary of Pharmaceutical Sciences, p. 129.
- 1877.—New Remedies, p. 181.
- 1877.—Pharmaceutical journal and Transactions, p 126.
- 1878.—Proceedings American Pharmaceutical Association, p. 250.
- 1879.—National Dispensatory, p. 428.
- 1880.—Supplement to American Dispensatory, p. 69.
- 1882.—Dictionary of Economic Plants, p. 432.
- 1883.—Merrell's Digest of Materia Medica.
- Williams' Medical Botany of Massachusetts.
- Plate I.—Original—Drawn by J. A. Knapp.
- Plate II.—Orginal—Drawn by Louisa R. Stowell.
- Fig. 1.—Gray's Genera of Plants of the United States.
- Fig. 2.—Original—From Photograph.