Twinleaf. Jeffersonia diphylla (L.) Pers.
OTHER COMMON NAMES—Jeffersonia, rheumatism-root, helmetpod, ground-squirrel pea, yellowroot.
HABITAT AND RANGE—Twinleaf inhabits rich, shady woods from New York to Virginia and westward to Wisconsin.
DESCRIPTION OF PLANT—This native herbaceous perennial is only about 6 to 8 inches in height when in flower. At the fruiting stage it is frequently 18 inches in height. It is one of our early spring plants, and its white flower, resembling that of bloodroot, is produced as early as April.
The long-stemmed, smooth leaves, produced in pairs and arising from the base of the plant, are rather oddly formed. They are about 3 to 6 inches long, 2 to 4 inches wide, heart shaped or kidney shaped, but parted lengthwise into, two lobes or divisions, really giving the appearance of two leaves; hence the common name "Twinleaf." The flower with its eight oblong, spreading white petals measures about 1 inch across and is borne at the summit of a slender stalk arising from the root. The many-seeded capsule is about 1 inch long, leathery, somewhat pear shaped, and opening half way around near the top, the upper part forming a sort of lid. Twinleaf belongs to the barberry family. (Berberidaceae.)
DESCRIPTION OF ROOTSTOCK—Twinleaf has a horizontal rootstock, with many fibrous, much-matted roots, and is very similar to. that of blue cohosh, but not so long. It is thick, knotty, yellowish brown externally, with a resinous bark, and internally yellowish. The inner portion is nearly tasteless, but the bark has a bitter and acrid taste.
COLLECTION, PRICES AND USES—The rootstock is collected in autumn and is used as a diuretic, alterative, antispasmodic and a stimulating diaphoretic. Large doses are said to be emetic and smaller doses tonic and expectorant. The price paid for Twinleaf root ranges from about 5 to 7 cents a pound.
Ginseng and Other Medicinal Plants, 1936, was written by A. R. Harding.