Asarum europaeum. Asarabacca.
Nat. Ord. — Aristolochiaceae. Sex. Syst. — Dodecandria Monogynia.
Root and Leaves.
Description. — This plant, sometimes called Hazelwort, or Wild Nard, has a creeping root or rhizoma, entangled, with numerous, stout, branching fibers. The stems are very short, simple, round, herbaceous, pubescent, each bearing two dark-green, shining, reniform, obtuse, entire, somewhat downy leaves, which are opposite, two inches wide, and on long, downy footstalks ; also one drooping flower, not an inch long, fleshy, of a dusky-purple color, and placed upon a short terminal peduncle. The calyx is campanulate, greenish at the base, divided into three pointed purplish segments, which are erect, and turned inward at their extremity. Corolla wanting. The filaments are twelve, and prolonged beyond the anthers into a small hook. The style is surmounted by a six-parted reddish stigma. The fruit is a six-celled capsule, coriaceous, and crowned with the persistent calyx.
History. — This is a European plant, growing in woods and shady places. It flowers in May. The whole plant is usually employed, which, when recent, is quite acrid. The root is about the size of a goosequill, quadrangular, knotted, grayish, and occasionally with fibers at each joint. Its odor resembles pepper, and its taste is acrid; the leaves are bitter, acrid, nauseous, and slightly aromatic. The powder of the root is grayish, of the leaves yellowish-green. Their virtues are taken up by water or alcohol, but dissipated by boiling, and impaired by age. Analysis has found in the root, a liquid volatile oil, two concrete volatile substances called Asarum Camphor or Asarone, and Asarite, a peculiar bitter principle called Asarin, tannin, extractive, resin, starch, gluten, albumen, lignin, citric acid, and various salts ; in the leaves are asarin, tannin, extractive, chlorophylle, albumen, citric acid, and lignin. The volatile oil is yellow, of an acrid, burning taste, valerian-like odor, glutinous, and lighter than water; the asarin is soluble in alcohol, and is probably identical with cytisin. The root and leaves of this plant should always be carefully dried for preservation.
Properties and Uses. — Emetic, cathartic, and errhine. Used principally as an errhine in headache, chronic ophthalmia, rheumatic and paralytic affections of the face, mouth and throat. Internally, it is a stimulant in doses of ten or twelve grains ; and emetic in half drachm or drachm doses. Said to be used in France by drunkards to produce vomiting.