A large plant, native of Persia in the East Indies, and described but imperfectly to us; however, so that we have confirmation that the description is authentic, if not so finished in all its parts as we could wish. It grows upon the mountains, and is eight feet high; the leaves are very large, and are composed of a great multitude of little parts, which are fixed to a divided rib, and are of a bluish green colour, and when bruised, of a strong smell. The stalk is thick, striated, round, hollow, and upright, purplish towards the bottom, but green upwards. The leaves which stand on it are like those which rise from the root, only smaller. The flowers are little and yellowish; they stand in very large umbels at the tops of the stalks, and each of them is succeeded by two seeds; these are flat, large, brown, and striated. The root is long, thick, of a yellowish colour, and of a disagreeable smell. This is the account we have from those who have been of late in the East: and there is a great deal to confirm it. We find among resin which is brought over to us, pieces of the stalk and many seeds of the plant: these agree with the description. I procured some of the seeds picked out of some sagapenum, by young Mr. Sisson, to be sowed with all proper care at the lord Petre's, whose principal gardener was an excellent person at his business, and with them some seeds of the ammoniacum plant, picked also out of a large quantity of that gum. Those of the ammoniacum plant all perished; from the sagapenum seeds, though more than an hundred were sown, we had only one plant, and that perished by some accident very young; but what we saw of the leaves gave credit to the account given of the plant by Mr. Williams, who told us he had seen it in Persia. These are curious parts of knowledge, and they are worth prosecuting by those who have leisure: the success of this experiment shews the possibility of raising some of those plants at home, which we never have been able to get truly and fully described to us.
We use a gum resin obtained from the roots of this plant, by cutting them and catching the juice; we call this, when concreted into lumps, sagapenum. We have it either finer in small pieces, or coarser in masses; it is brownish, with a cast of red, and will grow soft with the heat of the hand: it is disagreeable both in smell and taste, but it is an excellent medicine. It is good for all disorders of the lungs arising from a tough phlegm, and also in nervous cases. It has been found a remedy in inveterate head-aches, after many other medicines have failed. It is one of those drugs, too much neglected by the present practice, which encourages the use of others that have not half their virtue: but there are fashions in physic, as there are in all other things.