Related entry: Solanum carolinensis
For several years the physicians of the south, stimulated by the writings of the late Dr. Burgess of Chattanooga, have used Jatropha, commonly called in that locality, "Bull Nettle," in the treatment of syphilis, with rather remarkable results. The identity of the plant is not thoroughly established, but recent investigators claim that it is the Solanum Carolinense, or Horse Nettle of the north. Investigations made by the state of Tennessee identify it as Solanum Rostratum.
Prof. Lloyd (writing the author) says, "under the common names 'Horse Nettle' and 'Bull Nettle,' both Solanum Rostratum and Solanum Carolinense, are gathered. They are botanically so nearly related as to make it difficult for a collector to distinguish between them. Probably varieties of each wedge into each other so that where they so commingle, that the collector would be unable to distinguish between them. Possibly the variety of Solanum classified by Dr. Burgess as Bull Nettle is really the Solanum known in the north as Horse Nettle, with radical differences from location that have caused him to classify it as a different species.
Dr. Burgess prepared an infusion, or decoction rather, as he believed that alcohol in the tincture would destroy its active properties. The root, leaves, stem, and fruit supply medicinal properties, but the tea is best made from the green root or from the whole green plant. A precise formula for the decoction is not given. It readily decomposes unless combined with glycerine in sufficient quantity to preserve it. The strong infusion is given in doses of from one-half to two ounces, every three or four hours.
It is claimed that this remedy will stop the stench of severe cases of syphilis in a few days, and will produce a sense of well being and a general improvement in a very reasonable time. Dr. A. C. Cook of Georgetown, Kentucky, believes this to be the Solanum Rostratum. He confirms the statements of Dr. Burgess. He gives the strong infusion in wineglassful doses every four hours. If there be constipation, he gives it more freely until the bowels move two or three times a day, and then as before, for seven days. For the next three days the medicine is discontinued entirely, to be again resumed for another seven days. Dr. Cook agrees with Dr. Burgess that intoxicating liquors, tobacco, and all animal fats must be avoided, and in the early part of the treatment, acids are incompatible. In the early stages, all observers claim excellent results. In the latter stages of the disease, it requires considerable time, but the benefits are secured in a satisfactory way, and leave the patient in excellent health.
The remedy is useful also in scrofula, necrosis of the bones, ulcers, tumors, and various skin affections. One writer believes that it will prolong life, health, and activity in the very old, promoting a sense of well being and warding off senility.
I introduce this remedy here, because of the very many expressions of approval I have received throughout the south. The future will determine its place and value. The Field Laboratory, Chattanooga, Tennessee, conducted by Dr. Burgess' daughters, supplies an infusion for trial, which is prepared according to the Doctor's method, or with glycerine, as may be desired.
(Editor's note: Jatropha species are not found in Tennessee, and their spiny Euphorbiaceae relative Cnidoscolus—sometimes called Horse Nettle or Mala Mujer, could not grow so far north...so, despite the references by Dr. Burgess to "Jatropha", the plant discussed is most likely, as Lloyd averred, S. carolinense and/or S. rostratum.)
The American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy, 1919, was written by Finley Ellingwood, M.D.
It was scanned by Michael Moore for the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine.