Aletris Farinosa. Unicorn Root.
Nat. Ord. — Liliaceae, Lindley. Haemodoraceae, Brown. — Sex. Syst. Hexandria Monogynia.
Description. — Aletris Farinosa, also known by the several names of Star-grass, Colic-root, Ague-root, Crow-corn, etc., has a premorse, perennial root, with radicle leaves, spreading on the ground like a star, sessile, ribbed, broad-lanceolate, entire, smooth, of a pale-green or glaucous color, veined longitudinally, and of unequal size, the largest being about four inches long, and one-fourth as wide. From the center of the leaves arises the scape or flower-stem, which is from one to three feet high, erect, simple, with remote scales or bracts, which sometimes expand into small subulate leaves. Spike slender, scattered, each flower with a short pedicel and a minute bract. Calyx wanting. Perianth white, of an oblong bell-shape, divided in the limb into six acute, spreading segments; the outside, especially as the flower grows old, has a wrinkled, roughish, or mealy appearance. Stamens six, short, inserted near the mouth of the perianth at the base of the segments; ovary three-lobed, pyramidal, tapering, semi-inferior ; style triangular, separable into three. Capsule triangular, invested with the permanent perianth, three-celled, three-valved at top. Seeds numerous, minute, fixed to a central receptacle.
History. — Unicorn Root is found in most parts of the United States, usually in dry sandy soils and barrens. Its flowers are white and appear in June and July. The root is the officinal portion, which is small, crooked, blackish externally, brown or whitish within, and intensely bitter. Alcohol is its best solvent. (See Helonias Dioica.)
Properties and Uses. — Unicorn Root, in the recent state and in large doses, is considerably narcotic, -with emetic and cathartic properties. When dried these properties are destroyed, and it becomes a bitter tonic. It has been used in decoction or tincture, in flatulent colic, hysteria, and to increase the tone of the stomach. It is of much utility in dyspepsia, as well as in cases of general or local debility. But its most valuable property consists in the tonic influence it exerts upon the female generative organs, giving a normal energy to the uterus, and thus proving useful in cases where there is an habitual tendency to miscarriage. In chlorosis, amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, and engorged conditions of the uterus, as well as in prolapsus of that organ, it is one of our best vegetable agents. The alcoholic extract is an elegant form in which to employ it, in the above affections. In uterine diseases it may be given alone with advantage, or employed in combination with asclepidin, senecin, caulophyllin, or cimicifugin. In flatulent colic and borborygmi, a mixture of dioscorein two grains, ginger four grains, and alcoholic extract of aletris two grains, may be divided into two pills, of which one may be given every two or three hours with decided benefit. (See asclepidin). The resinous extract of the root, aletrin, is not so much employed at present, as the alcoholic extract aletridin, although it possesses active properties. Dose of the powdered root, from five to ten grains, three times a day; of the saturated tincture, from five to fifteen drops, in water.
Off. Prep. — Extractum Aletridis Alcoholicum.