Cornus florida. Dogwood.
Nat. Ord. — Cornaceae. Sex. Syst. — Tetrandria Monogynia.
Description. — This plant, also known as Boxwood, Flowering Cornel, etc., is a small indigenous tree, from twelve to thirty feet high, with a very hard and compact wood, covered with a rough, dark-brown bark, much fissured. It is a tree of slow growth. The branches are opposite, spreading, smooth, covered with a reddish bark, and marked with rings at the place of the former leaves. The leaves are opposite, but partially expanded at the flowering time, ovate, acute, entire, petiolate, nearly smooth, dark-green and sulcated above, paler beneath and marked with strong parallel veins, also glaucous or whitish beneath ; toward the close of summer, they are speckled with black spots, and on the approach of cold weather assume a red color. The flowers are very small, of a greenish -yellow color, in heads or sessile umbels, upon peduncles an inch or more in length, surrounded by a large involucre of a white or pinkish color, constituting the chief beauty of the tree when in flower. Involucre composed of four white, nerved, obovate leaves, having their point turned abruptly down or up, so as to give them an obcordate appearance. Calyx superior, campanulate, with four obtuse, spreading teeth. The corolla is composed of four oblong, obtuse, reflexed petals. Stamens four, erect ; anthers oblong, with the filaments inserted in their middle. Style shorter than the stamens, erect, bearing an obtuse stigma. Fruit an oval drupe of a glossy scarlet color, containing a nut or nucleus with two cells and two seeds.
History. — Cornus Florida is found in all parts of the United States, but more abundantly in the middle States ; it flowers from February to June, according to the climate, but always about the time for planting Indian corn, and ripens its fruit in the fall. The wood is susceptible of a high polish, and may be used for a variety of purposes where strength and hardness are required ; the sap is white, and the heart chocolate-color. The young branches, deprived of the bark, and the ends chewed or pounded, so as to separate the fibers, are often used for cleaning the teeth, which they render very white. The bark of the stem, branches, and root, is the officinal part ; that from the root is to be preferred. It is found in the shops in pieces of various sizes, more or less rolled, sometimes having a fawn-colored epidermis, at other times partially or wholly deprived of it, of a reddish-gray color, very brittle, and affording, when pulverized, a grayish powder tinged with red. The odor is feeble, its taste bitter, astringent, and slightly aromatic. Water or alcohol extracts its virtues. Analysis has detected in it tannin, gallic acid, a bitter extractive, resin, gum, a crystalline substance, etc.
Mr. W. S. Merrell prepares an article from dogwood which he terms Cornine, and supposes it to be, probably, a mixture of resin and insoluble alkaloid. It is prepared by precipitating from the tincture with water, after distilling off the alcohol, in the same manner as podophyllin is prepared. It is a light grayish-brown substance of a peculiar odor, slightly bitter and astringent taste, changed to a dark-brownish red by the action of sulphuric acid, brownish-yellow by nitric acid, and unchanged by muriatic acid. It is insoluble in water, in diluted mineral acids, in volatile oils and spirits of turpentine. Ammonia renders it partially soluble in water ; liquor potassa diluted causes a dark wine-colored solution, with a precipitate which dissolves in alcohol, and ether. Chloroform becomes colored by it, the cornine floating on its surface. Alcohol almost wholly dissolves it, and ammonia renders the solution complete. It is soluble in ether, and ammonia added removes the cornine in solution, leaving the ether floating clear and transparent. Liquor potassa added to the ethereal solution does not completely remove the cornine, and causes a precipitate which floats between the two liquids when they separate. An article termed Cornine is prepared in New York, but as we have never seen it, nor met with any account of its mode of preparation, we can merely refer to the fact, with this remark, that no practitioner should use any agent whatever, the mode of preparing which is kept a secret from the profession ; as well may we employ all the patent medicines so highly lauded by their originators.
Properties and Uses. — Dogwood bark is tonic, astringent, and slightly stimulant ; it is, probably, the best native substitute we have for the cinchona, having often succeeded in preventing the return of paroxysmal fevers, where the foreign drug proved ineffectual. It may be used in all cases where quinia is indicated and cannot be administered, owing to idiosyncrasy, etc., or where it cannot be obtained pure. It may be used with advantage in all cases where tonics are required, in periodical fevers, typhoid fevers, etc. Its internal employment increases the force and frequency of the pulse, and elevates the temperature of the body. It should be used in the dried state, as the recent bark is apt to disorder the stomach, and produce pains in the bowels, but which may be relieved by a few drops of laudanum. The cornine prepared by Mr. Merrell is much used as a substitute for quinia, by Eclectics, and is frequently preferred by them to the alkaloidal salt. It may be variously combined with xanthoxylin, myricin, salicin, hydrastin, podophyllin, or hydro-alcoholic extract of cimicifuga, in the different affections for which it is administered. An extract of the bark prepared by boiling it in water, and evaporating to the proper consistence, will be found the best form in which to administer it. Dose of the powdered bark, from twenty to six^y grains, as often as required ; of the extract from five to ten grains; of cornine from one to ten grains or more. The ripe berries, infused in brandy, are used in some sections of country as bitters ; and an infusion of the flowers forms a good substitute for chamomile-flower tea.
Off. Prep. — Cornine; Decoctum Cornus Floridae ; Extractum Cornus Floridae ; Extractum Cornus Floridae Fluidum ; Pilulae Quiniae Compositae.