Chimaphila umbellata. (Pyrola Umbellata.) Pipsissewa.
Nat. Ord. — Ericaceae. Sex. Syst. — Decandria Monogynia.
The Whole Plant.
Description. — This plant is known by various other names, as Wintergreen, Prince's Pine, Ground-Holly, etc. ; it is a small evergreen, nearly herbaceous, perennial herb, with a creeping, yellowish rhizoma, from which are sent several simple, erect, or semi-procumbent sterns, somewhat angular, marked with the scars of former leaves, and ligneous at their base ; they grow from four to eight inches in night. The leaves are in two or more irregular whorls, from two to three inches long, and about one-fourth as wide, cuneate-lanceolate, acute at the base, sharply serrate, on short petioles, coriaceous, shining, of a uniform dark-green color, paler below, and not spotted. The flowers are corymbose, nodding, of a light-purple color ; the pedicels with linear-subulate bracts about their middle, one-sixth of an inch long. Calyx small, consisting of five roundish, acute teeth or segments, much shorter than the corolla. Corolla is composed of five roundish, concave, spreading, cream-colored petals, exhaling a fragrant odor, and tinged at the base with purple. Stamens ten, hypogynous ; filaments sigmoid, the lower half fleshy, triangular, dilated, and slightly pubescent at the edges ; the upper half filiform. Anthers two-celled, each cell opening by a short, round, tubular orifice, which points downward in the bud, but upward in the flower. Pollen white. Ovary globular, depressed, furrowed, obscurely five-lobed, with a funnel-shaped cavity at top, and supporting a large, peltate, convex, obscurely five-rayed stigma. Style short, straight, half as long as the ovary, inversely conical, inserted in the cavity of the ovary, and concealed by the stigma. Capsule erect, depressed, five-celled, five-valved, the partitions from the middle of the valves. Seeds numerous, linear, and chaffy.
History. — This beautiful evergreen is a native of the northern latitudes of America, Europe, and Asia, and is found in the United States growing under the shade of woods, and prefers a loose, sandy soil, enriched by decaying leaves. It flowers in June and July. The fresh leaves have a fragrant odor when bruised, but when dried have scarcely any smell, with a pleasantly bitter, astringent and sweetish taste. The whole plant is officinal. Boiling water, or alcohol extracts the active properties. The plant contains a large proportion of bitter extractive, an acrid and volatile principle, resin, gum, lignin, and saline substances.
Properties and Uses. — Diuretic, tonic, alterative, and astringent. The fresh leaves when bruised and applied to the skin, act as vesicants and rubefacients. It is especially useful in scrofula, and chronic rheumatic and nephritic affections. The decoction alone has cured ascites, and has been advantageous in strangury, chronic gonorrhea, and catarrh of the bladder ; and as an antilithic it is said to diminish lithic acid in the urine. In dropsy it cannot always be relied on to the exclusion of other more active measures, and is better adapted to cases accompanied with much debility and loss of appetite. In urinary disorders, it may be used as a substitute for the uva ursi, to which it is preferable on account of being less offensive to the stomach. In many cutaneous diseases, it has proved very efficacious. Dose of the decoction, from one to four fluidounces three times a day; of the extract, from ten to twenty grains, three or four times a day ; a syrup may be prepared, by macerating four ounces of the finely-bruised leaves, in eight fluidounces of water for thirty-six hours, then subject the whole to percolation till a pint of fluid is obtained, evaporate to half a pint, and add twelve ounces of sugar. Dose, one or two tablespoonfuls.
The Chimaphila Maculata, or Spotted Winter green, may be known from the above by its leaves, which are opposite, or in threes, lanceolate, acuminate, rounded at the base, where they are broader than near the summit, remotely serrate, of a deep olive-green color, and veined with greenish-white. The C. Umbellata leaves are broader near the summit, tapering toward the base, of a uniform shining green color, serrated, and not marked with the whitish line along the midvein and veinlets.
The C. Maculata is probably possessed of similar powers with the officinal article and may be used as a substitute. An extract of it is reputed to have cured epilepsy.
Off. Prep.— Decoctum Chimaphilae; Syrupus Stillingiae Compositus.