Cimicifuga racemosa. (Macrotys Racemosa.) Black Cohosh.
Nat. Ord. — Ranunculaceae. Sex. Syst. — Polyandria Di-Pentagynia.
Description. — This plant, likewise variously known as Rattleroot, Black Snakeroot, Squawroot, etc., is a tall stately plant, having a large blackish, perennial root, with numerous long fibers, and a simple, herbaceous, smooth, furrowed stem, from four to eight feet high. The leaves are few, alternate, one nearly radical, large, decompound, and tripinnate ; upper one, bipinnate. The leaflets are ovate, oblong, sessile, opposite, three to seven, incised and toothed. The flowers are fetid, small, white, in a long terminal raceme, with oftentimes one or more shorter ones at base ; this raceme is at first bent, but gradually becomes erect ; the flowers are supported on short pedicels , with a small subulate bract. Calyx white, with four rounded sepals. Petals small and shorter than the sepals, and cleft at their apex. Stamens very numerous, with yellow anthers. Pistil consists of an oval germ, with a lateral, sessile stigma. The fruit or capsule is ovoid, dry, with one cell, containing numerous flat, smooth seeds, which are packed horizontally in two rows.
History. — Black Cohosh is a native of the United States, growing in shady and rocky woods, rich grounds, and on the sides of hills, from Maine to Florida, flowering in June and July. The root is the part generally employed in medicine, though probably the seeds will be found as active ; the root should be gathered early in the autumn and dried in the shade. It consists of a thick, irregularly-bent or contorted body or caudex, from one-third of an inch to an inch in diameter, often several inches in length, furnished with many slender radicles, and rendered extremely rough and jagged in appearance by the remains of the stems of successive years, which, to the length of an inch or more, are frequently attached to the root. The color is externally, dark-brown, almost black ; internally, a yellowish-white ; the odor is feeble and disagreeable, and the taste bitter, and somewhat astringent, leaving a slight sense of acrimony. The root partially yields its virtues to boiling water, but wholly to alcohol or ether.
The root contains a resin, to which the name, Macrotin or Cimicifugin, has been applied, likewise gum, starch, sugar, wax, fatty matter, tannic and gallic acids, a black coloring matter, a green coloring matter, lignin, and salts of potassa, lime, magnesia, and iron.
Properties and Uses. — This is a very active, powerful, and useful remedy, and appears to fulfil a great number of indications. It possesses an undoubted influence over the nervous system, and has been successfully used in chorea, periodical convulsions, epilepsy, nervous excitability, asthma, pertussis, delirium tremens, and many spasmodic affections. In -chorea, it has been administered in teaspoonful doses of the powdered root, to be repeated three times a day; I, however, prefer the hydro-alcoholic extract, which I have used successfully, both alone, and in conjunction with the extract of scullcap. In phthisis pulmonalis, cough, acute rheumatism, neuralgia, scrofula, phlegmasia dolens, amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, leucorrhea, and other uterine affections, the saturated tincture is the best mode of exhibition, and which exerts a therapeutic influence not to be obtained from the cimicifugin. Its tonic and antiperiodic virtues are well marked in remittent and intermittent fevers, and I have found it very useful in other febrile and exanthematous diseases, especially among children, where there exists a strong tendency to cerebral difficulty. It uniformly lessens the force and frequency of the pulse, soothes pain, allays irritability, and lessens the disposition to cerebral irritation and congestion. In febrile diseases especially, it frequently produces diaphoresis and diuresis. In doses of one drachm of the tincture, repeated every hour, it has effected thorough cures of ophthalmitis conjunctiva, without the aid of any local application. As a partus accelerator, it may be substituted for ergot ; half a drachm of the powdered root, may be given in warm water, every fifteen or twenty minutes, until the expulsive action of the uterus is induced, and which it seldom fails to bring on speedily and powerfully ; or half a drachm of a saturated tincture of the root may be given in the same manner. After labor, it will be found effectual in allaying the general excitement of the nervous system, and relieving after-pains. In large doses it produces vertigo, impaired vision, nausea, vomiting, and a reduction of the circulation, but no alarming narcotic effects. I have known three drops of the saturated tincture given every hour, for twenty hours, to produce symptoms in every way simulating those of delirium tremens. Green tea is said to counteract its narcotic influences.
Dr. C. H. Cleveland, of Waterbury, Vt., recommends the saturated tincture of the root, as a valuable embrocation in all cases where a stimulant, tonic, anodyne, and alterative combined, is required, as — in all cases of inflammation of the nerves, — tic-douloreux, periodic cephalic pain, inflammation of the spine, ovarian inflammation, spasm of the broad ligaments, rheumatism, crick in the back or side, inflammation of the eyes, old- ulcers, etc. If a more active preparation is desired, he adds tincture of grains of paradise in proper quantity ; and if a more powerful anodyne would be useful, he adds a solution of sulphate of morphia.
Cimicifuga exerts a tonic influence over both the serous and mucous tissues of the system, and will be found a superior remedy in the majority of chronic diseases. In all cases where acidity of stomach is present, this must first be removed, or some mild alkaline preparation be administered in conjunction with the remedy, before any beneficial change will ensue. Dose of the powder, from a scruple to a drachm, three times a day ; of the saturated tincture, from five to sixty drops ; of the decoction, from two to four ounces. The saturated tincture of this article was recommended by me in acute rheumatism, in the New York Philosophical Journal, as early as in the year 1844; to be given in doses of ten drops every two hours, gradually increasing to sixty drops, or until its action on the brain is observed, which action must he kept up for several days ; it almost always removes the disease permanently, especially if it is a first attack.
Off. Prep. — Cimicifugin; Decoctum Cimicifugae; Enema Cimicifugae Composita ; Extractum Cimicifugae Hydro- Alcoholicum ; Extractum Cimicifugae Fluidum ; Tinctura Colchici Composita ; Tinctura Cimicifugae; Tinctura Cimicifugae Composita.
The American Eclectic Dispensatory, 1854, was written by John King, M. D.