Chenopodium anthelminticum. Wormseed.
Nat. Ord. — Chenopodiaceae. Sex. Syst. — Pentandria Digynia.
Description. — This plant, known also by the name of Jerusalem Oak, has a perennial and branched root, with an upright, herbaceous, much branched, deeply-grooved stem, rising from two to five feet in hight. The leaves are alternate or scattered, oblong-lanceolate, deeply sinuate, or dentate, nearly sessile, conspicuously veined, attenuated at both ends, of a yellowish-green color, and studded beneath with small, globular, oily dots. The flowers are very numerous, small, of the same color as the leaves, and arranged in long, slender, axillary, or terminal racemes. Calyx with five oval, concave segments. Stamens opposite the lobes of the calyx, and about as long. Styles three, sometimes two, longer than the stamens. Seed small, lenticular, covered by the persistent calyx.
History. — Chenopodium is found growing in waste places in almost all parts of the United States, flowering from July to September, and ripening its seeds throughout the autumn, at which time they should be collected. The whole plant has a strong, heavy, disagreeable odor, depending on the presence of a volatile oil, which is most abundant in the seeds. This oil is at first light-yellow in color, but becomes darker by age and exposure to light. The whole plant is occasionally employed, but the seeds only are officinal. When dried, they are of a greenish-yellow or brownish color, irregularly spherical, very small, very light, and have a bitterish, warm, pungent taste, with the peculiar odor of the plant. Wormseed oil is obtained from them by distillation.
Properties and Uses. — Anthelmintic and antispasmodic. It is used in various forms to expel the lumbrici in children, in various forms, as the expressed juice, electuary, or decoction. The dose of the juice, is a tablespoonful repeated night and morning ; of the decoction, prepared by boiling an ounce of the fresh plant in a pint of milk, with the addition of some aromatic, a wineglassful ; of the electuary, made by thoroughly mixing the pulverized seed in honey or syrup, one or two scruples. But the essential oil, on which the vermifuge properties depend, is the best form, and is more generally employed. Its dose is from four to eight drops mixed with sugar, or in emulsion, to be given morning and evening, for four or five days successively, and then, as with the other forms of administration, it should always be followed by a purgative. Among Eclectics it is used in various combinations. Take of oil of Wormseed and Tansy, of each one ounce, Spirits of Turpentine one ounce and a half, Castor Oil, one pound. Mix. Dose, for a child, a teaspoonful every hour, until it operates; for an adult, a tablespoonful. The oil has likewise been reputed beneficial in amenorrhea.
The C. Ambrosoides, which has been successfully used in chorea, and the C. Botrys, which has been used with advantage in catarrh and humoral asthma, as an expectorant, are both indigenous, and though less powerful, possess somewhat similar properties ; and, indeed, from the superior powers of the C. Anthelminticum, it might possibly be found of more benefit in these affections, than the above.
Off. Prep. — Oleum Chenopodii ; Mistura Chenopodii Composita ; Mistura Olei Composita.