Clematis virginiana. Virgin's Bower.
Nat. Ord. — Ranunculaceae. Sex. Syst. — Polyandria Polygynia.
The Bark, Leaves and Blossoms.
Description. — Clematis Virginiana is a perennial, climbing plant, with a stem from eight to fifteen feet or more in length, supporting itself on shrubs, fences and brushwood, by means of its long petioles. The leaves are deep-green, ternate ; leaflets ovate, cordate, acuminate, lobed, cut-dentate, and from two to three inches in length by one or two in breadth ; flowers in clusters, paniculate, often dioecious ; panicles large, axillary, dichotomous. Sepals four, white, spreading, oval-oblong, obtuse. Stamens from twenty-eight to thirty-six. Fruit furnished with long, plumose tails, appearing in large, downy tufts ; seeds compressed.
History. — The Clematis Virginiana is a native of the United States, and grows by river-banks, in hedges and thickets, from Canada to Georgia and the Mississippi. It flowers in July and August. The parts used are the bark, leaves, and blossoms, which yield their virtues to water or alcohol. The leaves should be gathered when they are fully grown, say in August, spread in the shade, and after drying thoroughly, should be closely pressed and packed in firm papers to exclude the air as much as possible, or what is better, should be placed into well closed glass jars, whose mouths are sealed, or covered with oiled silk, bladder, or other impervious material.
The C. Viorna or Leather Flower, which is more common in the western States, and may be found growing in woods from Pennsylvania to the Mississippi, may, probably, be employed as a substitute for the above. It differs from it in having a cylindrical, striate stem ; with opposite, decompound, pinnately divided leaves, consisting of from nine to twelve ovate-lanceolate leaflets, acute at each end, entire or three-lobed ; flowers large, purple, nodding, solitary axillary, campanulate ; sepals thick, leathery, acuminate, and peduncles from three to six inches long, with a pair of small, simple, entire leaves near the middle.
Properties and Uses. — When applied to the skin in a fresh state, they blister it ; and if taken internally, act as a corrosive poison. Both drying and boiling destroy the virulent property. They have been used externally in the treatment of several cutaneous affections, and in the form of a liniment made with oil for the cure of itch ; internally, as diuretics and sudorifics in chronic rheumatism, palsy, etc., in minute doses. The extract, in doses of one or two grains, is recommended for osteocopic pains. The green leaves bruised are sometimes employed to produce vesication, also, as an escharotic and detergent for venereal and other foul and indolent ulcers.
Dr. C. H. Cleveland, of Waterbury, Vt., speaks highly of the C. Virginiana as a nervine in uterine diseases; he places two drachms of the dried leaf into a cup filled with hot water, covers it, and allows it to stand until the liquid is cool enough to drink; strain, sweeten with sugar if desired, and let the patient drink it at once. Repeated as often as may be required, the doses being regulated by its effects upon the system. The root of the C. Dioica, a native of Jamaica, boiled with sea-water, acts as a powerful hydragogue cathartic, and is useful in dropsy; and an infusion of the leaves and flowers, removes spots and freckles from the skin. The roots of the C. Vitalba boiled for a short time to diminish their acrimony, and then infused in boiling oil, were applied to the skin several times a day, in itch, and a cure was effected in twelve or fifteen applications.