Ceanothus Americanus. Redroot.

Botanical name: 

Nat Ord. — Rhamnaceae. Sex. Syst — Pentandria Monogynia.

Bark of the Root.

Description. — This plant, likewise called New Jersey Tea, Wild Snowball, has a large root, with a red or brown epidermis, containing many small white veins, and tolerably thick ; body of the root dark-red. The stems are from two to four feet high, slender, suffruticose, with many reddish, round, smooth branches, the younger of which are pubescent. The leaves are ovate or oblong-ovate, somewhat acuminate at the apex, rounded, or slightly cordate at the base, serrated, three-nerved, nearly smooth above, and whitish, tomentose beneath, the pubescence of the veins and petioles somewhat reddish. The flowers are white, in long, crowded panicles from the axils of the upper leaves. Calyx white, five-cleft, and the upper portion separates by a transverse line, leaving the tube adhering to the fruit. The corolla is formed of five-saccate, arched petals, which are longer than the calyx, and with filiform claws at base. The stamens are five, exserted, and bearing ovate, two-celled anthers. The ovary is three-angled, and surrounded with a ten-toothed disk. The styles are three, united to the middle, but diverging above. The fruit is dry and coriaceous, obtusely triangular, three-celled and three-seeded. The seeds are convex externally, concave internally, the cavity marked with a longitudinal line.

History. — C. Americanus is found in all parts of the United States, in copses and dry woods, and flowering from June until September. The leaves, when dried, have an odor and taste resembling black tea, and were used during the revolutionary war as a substitute for the Chinese tea ; they are slightly bitter and astringent. The root is the officinal part, and has a taste and smell somewhat resembling those of the peach leaf. It has been occasionally used for coloring. Water extracts its active principle. The leaves are said to contain tannin, a soft resin, a bitter extractive, a greenish coloring matter almost identical in color and taste with green tea, gum, a volatile substance, lignin, and an active principle called Ceanothine.

This principle, as stated in the New York Journal of Organic and Medical Chemistry, vol. 1, p. 43, is obtained by first removing the resinous extractive, and most of the coloring matter from the leaves, by treating them with alcohol. The mass is then placed in an alembic apparatus, and the alcohol remaining in the leaves displaced, after which the mass is submitted to the percolating process with hot distilled water, until the active principle is displaced. The aqueous solution is then evaporated in vacuo to the consistency of thick syrup, and precipitated and purified in alcohol nearly absolute. The precipitate is then placed in vacuo at a temperature of about 100° F. By this means the alcohol remaining in the precipitate is gradually removed, and the Ceanothine remains in a dried mass partially in the form of crystals, after which it is reduced to a fine powder. When purified it is white; its odor and taste is similar to that of green tea ; it is soluble in water, but insoluble in alcohol.

Properties and Uses. — Astringent, expectorant, sedative, antispasmodic, and antisyphilitic. Used in gonorrhea, dysentery, asthma, chronic bronchitis, hooping-cough, and other pulmonary affections. Dose of a strong decoction, one tablespoonful three or four times a day. It has likewise been successfully used as awash and gargle in the aphthae of children, sore mouth subsequent to fever, and in ulceration of the fauces attendant on scarlatina.

Off. Prep. — Decoctum Ceanothi.

The American Eclectic Dispensatory, 1854, was written by John King, M. D.