Culver's-Root. Veronicastrum virginicum L.
OTHER COMMON NAMES—Culver's physic, blackroot, bowman's-root, Beaumont-root, Brinton-root, tall speedwell, tall veronica, physic-root, wholywort.
HABITAT AND RANGE—This common indigenous herb is found abundantly in moist, rich woods, mountain valleys, meadows and thickets from British Columbia south to Alabama, Missouri and Nebraska.
DESCRIPTION OF PLANT—Culver's-Root is a tall, slender-stemmed perennial belonging to the figwort family (Scrophulariaceae). It is from 3 to 7 feet in height, with the leaves arranged around the simple stems in whorls of three to nine. The leaves are borne on very short stems, are lance shaped, long pointed at the apex, narrowed at the base, and sharply toothed, 3 to 6 inches in length and 1 inch or less in width. The white tube-shaped flowers, with two long protruding stamens, are produced from June to September and are borne in several terminal, densely crowded, slender, spikelike heads from 3 to 8 inches long.
The flowers, as stated, are usually white, tho the color may vary from a pink to a bluish or purple and on account of its graceful spikes of pretty flowers it is often cultivated in gardens as an ornamental plant. The fruits are small, oblong, compressed, many-seeded capsules.
DESCRIPTION OF ROOTSTOCK—After they are dried the rootstocks have a grayish brown appearance on the outside, and the inside is hard and yellowish, either with a hollow center or a brownish or purplish pith. When broken the fracture is tough and woody. The rootstock measures from 4 to 6 inches in length, is rather thick and bent, with branches resembling the main rootstock. The upper surface has a few stem scars, and from the sides and underneath numerous coarse, brittle roots are produced which have the appearance of having been artificially inserted into the rootstock Culver's-root has a bitter and acrid taste, but no odor.
COLLECTION, PRICE AND USES—The rootstock and roots should be collected in the fall of the second year. When fresh these have a faint odor resembling somewhat that of almonds, which is lost in the drying, The bitter, acrid taste of Culver's-root also becomes less the longer it is kept, and it is said that it should be kept at least a year before being used. The price paid to collectors ranges from 6 to 10 cents a pound.
Culver's-root, which is official in the United States Pharmacopoeia, is used as an alterative, cathartic and in disorders of the liver.