Actaea. Actaea Alba. — White Cohosh. Actaea Rubra. — Red Cohosh. Actaea Spicata. — Baneberry.
Nat Ord. — Actaea. Sex. Syst. — Polyandria Monogynia.
Description. — Actaea Alba, sometimes called White Baneberry, is about two feet high, with large, decompound leaves ; raceme oblong, with pedicels as large as the general peduncle ; petals truncate at the apex, and equaling the stamens ; berries milk-white ; flowers white and appearing late in May.
Actaea Rubra or Red Baneberry, is about two feet high, with large decompound leaves; raceme ovoid or hemispherical, petals acutish and shorter than the stamens ; pedicels of the hemispheric raceme, slender and less than the full grown peduncles ; berries oval, ripe in summer, cherry red, and forming a raceme three to four inches long ; flowers white, and appearing in April and May. The above two plants are natives of this country, they are perennial, herbaceous, and found in the rich deep mold of shady and rocky woods, from Canada to Virginia.
Actaea Spicata, sometimes called Herb-Christopher, is a European plant, generally found in mountainous woods, and attaining the hight of two or three feet. The stem is erect, leafy, triangular, and but little branched ; the root is creeping and perennial : the leaves are petiolated, twice or thrice tern ate ; leaflets ovate, lobed, unequally serrate ; flowers white, in a terminal, solitary ovate spike ; pedicels simple, downy, bracteate at the base. Sepals four, deciduous ; petals spatulate ; stamens subulate ; ovary ovate, with a round, sessile stigma ; berries purplish black, succulent.
History. — The root is of a dark-brown color, with a sweetish, nauseous odor, but which is greatly dissipated by drying ; the taste is bitterish and acrid. The berries are poisonous, causing delirium and death, or a species of intoxication accompanied with derangement of the cerebral functions, and irritation of the digestive organs.
Properties and Uses. — The recent root of Actaea Spicata is a violent purgative, resembling that of the black hellebore in its action ; when dried it is not so active. It is seldom employed internally. A decoction used locally is said to cure the itch, and to destroy lice.
The A. Alba and A. Rubra, possess similar qualities; they are said to possess purgative and emmenagogue properties, and are viewed as substitutes for the Cimicifuga Racemosa, and Caulophyllum Thalictroides ; but this is undoubtedly an error.