Erechthites hieracifolius. Fireweed.
Nat. Ord. — Asteraceae. Sex. Syst. — Syngenesia Superflua.
The Root and Herb.
Description. — This plant is the Senecio Hieracifolius of Linnaeus ; it has an annual, herbaceous, grooved, thick, fleshy, branching, virgate, panicled, and roughish stem, from one to five or even eight feet high. The leaves are simple, alternate, large, lanceolate or oblong, acute, unequally and deeply toothed with acute indentures, sessile, and light-green ; the upper ones often with an auricled clasping base. Theflowers are whitish, terminal, crowded, and destitute of rays. Involucre smooth, large, tumid and bristly at the base. Achenia oblong, hairy.
History. — This is an indigenous, rank weed, growing in fields throughout the United States, in moist woods, and in recent clearings, especially and abundantly in such as have been burned over. It flowers from July to October, and somewhat resembles in appearance the Sow-thistle, Sonchus Oleraceus; the flowers somewhat resemble those of Lettuce. The whole plant is officinal, and yields its virtues to water or alcohol. It has a peculiar, aromatic and somewhat fetid odor, very unpleasant to many persons, and a peculiar, slightly pungent, bitterish, rather disagreeable taste, with some astringency. These properties appear to depend upon a volatile oil, which may be obtained from the plant by distillation with water, and which possesses in an eminent degree the taste and odor of the plant, and which is very persistent; it is of a light-yellowish color.
Properties and Uses. — Fireweed is reputed to be emetic, cathartic, tonic, astringent and alterative, of which the most valuable are the latter three. Reputed an unrivaled medicine in diseases of the mucous tissues of the lungs, stomach, and bowels. A spirituous extract of the plant has been highly recommended by Dr. A. R. Wyeth, of Pennsylvania, in the treatment of cholera and dysentery, in the latter disease promptly arresting the muco-sanguineous discharges, relieving pain, and effecting a speedy cure. In the summer complaint of children, he has found it to prove almost invariably successful, even in cases where other means had failed.
Off. Prep. — Infusum Erechthites ; Oleum Erechthites.