Comptonia asplenifolia. Sweet Fern.
Nat. Ord. — Myricaceae. Sex. Syst. — Monoecia Triandria.
Description. — Sweet Fern is a low, indigenous shrub, with a long, horizontal root, and growing from two to four feet high, the main stem being covered with a rusty, brown bark, which becomes reddish in the branches, and white downy in the young shoots. The leaves are numerous, on short peduncles, from three to four inches in length, and half an inch broad, alternate, linear-lanceolate, sinuate-pinnatifid, resembling the leaves of the spleenwort fern, brown, and rather downy on the underside, shining on the upper ; stipules in pairs, acuminate. Flowers green, monoecious, amentaceous, and appearing before the leaves ; barren ones in long, erect, cylindrical, loosely imbricated catkins, terminal and lateral, with deciduous, one-flowered bracts ; fertile ones in ovate, densely imbricated catkins, situated below the barren ones, with one-flowered bracts. Stamens six, adhering in pairs. Sepals six, larger than the bracts ; styles two, capillary. Fruit a small, ovate, brown, one-celled nut.
History. — This plant is found growing in thin sandy soils, or dry, stony woods, from New England to Virginia. All parts of it possess a resinous, spicy, aromatic odor, when rubbed or bruised between the fingers. The whole herb is used.
Properties and Uses. — Tonic, astringent, and alterative. Used in diarrhea, dysentery, hemoptysis, leucorrhea, rheumatism, debility succeeding fevers, and in rachitis. A decoction of it is very useful in the summer-complaint of children, when given as an auxiliary. A pillow of the leaves is beneficial to rachitic children, and they may be used as a fomentation in contusions and rheumatism. Dose of the decoction, from one to four fluidounces, three or four times a day.
Off. Prep. — Decoctum Comptoniae.