BY J. M. FRENCH, M. D., MILFORD, MASS.
Triticum repens, or Agropyron repens, known also by the common names couchgrass, quick grass, doggrass, and belonging to the natural order of Graminacea, is a perennial herb with a very long-jointed, whitish underground stem or rhizome, with a tuft of fibrous roots at each joint. The culm grows from two to four feet high, and is surmounted by the spikes. These are compressed, and three or four inches long. The leaves are flat and rough. It is a native of Europe, but has been naturalized in this country. It grows commonly in yards, fields, and gardens, and along roadsides, and flowers in June and July. Wood terms it "a vile herb," and it is commonly regarded as a nuisance, yet it is of use in many cases.
Triticum is a good example of a common plant, growing wild and not highly thought of, which has yet a positive value in medicine, and is worthy of a more careful study and more extended use than it has received. My own attention was first called to it by the recommendation of Sir Henry Thompson, in his work on the diseases of the urinary organs, in which he advises its use in cystitis. He says "The underground stem of Triticum repens, or common couch grass, was introduced some years ago by myself. Of this I will only say, that it maintains its credit, and is undoubtedly useful in many cases. For use, boil slowly from two to four ounces in a quart of water until it is reduced to a pint. The strained liquor is to be taken by the patient in four doses in the twenty-four hours. It was a favorite remedy with the old herbals; and it formed the staple remedy against what was called strangury, which a few centuries ago meant everything like pain or difficulty in passing water, no matter what the cause."
Potter calls it a demulcent, emollient, and feeble diuretic, and says it is chiefly used in irritable bladder. The infusion is a popular fever-drink in Europe, and has had a considerable reputation in dysuria.
Petersen says it is a mild, non-irritating diuretic, which allays urinary irritation and increases urinary secretion. It is thought of in prostatitis, pyelitis, purulent or catarrhal cystitis, irritable conditions of the bladder, gonorrhea, and in fevers where a mild diuretic is desirable to increase the secretion of urine.
Blair says that it increases the flow of the watery portion of the urine, and is of positive value when the urine is dense and causes irritation of the mucous surfaces. Since it is non-irritating and entirely harmless, it can be given freely in irritable bladder, dysuria, cystitis, gonorrhea, lithemia, prostatitis, and many other conditions.
Felter and Lloyd consider that it is diuretic and slightly aperient. They recommend it in excessive irritability of the bladder, cystitis, dysuria due to chronic cystic irritability, and incipient nephritis. They regard the infusion as the best preparation, and their directions for preparing the infusion are similar to those of Sir Henry Thompson, save that the official strength is one ounce to a pint. They give as the specific indications for its use, irritation of the urinary apparatus, pain in the back, frequent and difficult or painful urination, gravelly deposits in the urine, catarrhal and purulent discharges from the urethra.
Shoemaker recommends the use of Triticum in irritable bladder and chronic cystitis. In combination with Belladonna and bicarbonate of soda, he advises it in gleet and irritable prostate.
Ellingwood gives as the constituents of Triticum, triticin, silica, glucose, inosite, and mucilage. He considers that its action is solely on the urinary apparatus, and that it greatly increases the water portion of the urine without to same extent influencing the actual renal secretion. He says the infusion not only quiets thirst, but keeps up free secretion of the kidneys, and hence is a good drink in fevers. He considers that while this agent is less powerful than many others, yet its influence in the proper cases is often more satisfactory.
I have used this remedy to a considerable extent in old men with irritable bladder and difficult urination, and have found it a very satisfactory drug. It is safe and harmless, and by its sedative action on the mucous membrane of the bladder, it relieves the irritation, and adds greatly to the com fort of the patient. It increases the flow of urine, lessens the specific gravity, clears up cloudy urine, and relieves undue acidity. In all these ways it is of great benefit to the patient. In enlarged prostate it has done me good service by its soothing qualities. I have found the infusion to act more satisfactorily than the fluid extract.
The infusion is prepared by pouring boiling water, one pint, on an ounce of the rhizome or underground stems, and letting it stand for an hour. It should then be strained and given in the dose of a wine glassful several times a day. The fluid extract is given in doses of from one dram to one ounce, well diluted with water.
The specific medicine, or specific Triticum, is used in doses of five to sixty drops in water.
It may also be prepared in the form of a syrup.
It seems to impart its virtues quite as freely to water as to alcohol, and the addition of alcohol is certainly not desirable or beneficial to the action of the remedy.
It will be observed that there is a general agreement as to all the many actions of this plant. It is a safe and helpful drug.