Daucus carota. Wild Carrot.
Nat. Ord. — Apiaceae. Sex. Syst. — Pentandria Digynia.
The Root and Seeds.
Description. — Wild Carrot has a biennial, slender, yellowish, spindle-shaped, aromatic and sweetish root, and an annual, round, furrowed, leafy, hispid stem, two or three feet high, which divides into long, erect, flower-bearing branches. The leaves are alternate, on broad, concave, ribbed petioles, and pale-green ; the lower are large and tripinnate ; the upper, smaller and less compound ; in both, the leaflets are linear, acute. The flowers are small, white or cream-color, and are disposed in dense, and many-rayed compound umbels, which are at first flat on the top and spreading, but when the seeds are formed, contract so as to present a concave cup-like surface ; in the center of the umbel a sterile flower of a deep-purple color is often observed. The general involucre is composed of several leaves, divided into long narrow segments, nearly the length of the umbel ; partial involucre undivided, or partly three-cleft, membranous at the edges. The petals are five, unequal, and cordate. Fruit small, pale dull brown, oval. Mericarps with the primary ribs filiform, bristly, three near the middle of the convex back, and two on the plane of the commissure. Secondary ridges deeper and irregularly split into setaceous lobes. Vittae, one under each secondary ridge, and two on the plane of the commissure.
History. — The wild carrot is a native of many parts of Europe, and is extensively naturalized in the United States, growing in neglected fields and by road-sides, and flowering from June to September. The well known Garden Carrot is the same plant, somewhat altered by cultivation. The root of the wild variety, and the seeds of both kinds are officinal. The seeds, or more strictly speaking, the fruit, are light, of a dull-brownish color, an oval shape, convex and bristly on one side, and flat on the other, presenting on their convex face four longitudinal ridges, with stiff hairs or bristles attached; they have an aromatic odor, and a warm, pungent, bitterish taste. Their virtues depend upon a volatile oil of a pale-yellow color, and which may be obtained by distillation. Boiling water extracts their active properties, which, however, is lost by decoction.
The root is fusiform, slender, whitish-yellow, hard, coriaceous, branched, possessing a peculiar aromatic odor, and a bitter, acrid, disagreeable taste. The root of the cultivated variety is reddish, succulent, thick, conical, rarely branched, of a pleasant somewhat aromatic odor, and a sweet, mucilaginous, peculiar taste. The root contains crystallizable and uncrystallizable sugar, starch, extractive, gluten, albumen, volatile oil pectin, malic acid, saline matters, lignin, and a peculiar, crystallizable, ruby-red, neuter principle, tasteless and inodorous, called Carotin.
Pectin or vegetable jelly exists more or less in all vegetables ; it may be separated from the juice of fruits by alcohol, which precipitates it in the form of jelly ; this being washed with weak alcohol and dried, yields a semi-transparent substance somewhat resembling isinglass. When placed in one hundred parts of cold water, it swells, and forms a homogeneous jelly. Cold water acts upon it much better than boiling. A fixed alkali or an alkaline earthy base converts it into pectic acid, which unites with the base, forming a pectate. Another acid being added, decomposition ensues, the last acid unites with the base, separating the pectic acid. Pectic acid is in the form of a colorless jelly, gives acid reactions, forms salts with the alkalies, and insoluble salts with the earths and metallic oxides.
Properties and Uses. — Both the root and seeds are stimulant and diuretic. Used in infusion with much success, in dropsy, chronic nephritic affections, and gravel. Also as a carminative, and to relieve strangury from cantharides. Externally, scraped or grated, it forms an excellent application as a poultice to phagedenic, cancerous, malignant and indolent ulcers — relieving the pain, correcting the fetor, lessening the discharge, and altering the morbid condition of the parts. Dose of the infusion, from two to four fluidounces, three or four times daily.
Off. Prep. — Cataplasma Dauci; Infusum Dauci.