Fucus Helminthocorton. Corsican Moss.
Nat. Ord. — Algaceae, or Ceramiaceae, (Lindley"). Sex. Syst. — Cryptogamia Algae.
The Whole Plant.
Description. — This is the Gigartina Helminthocorton of Greville ; it has a cartilaginous, terete, tufted, entangled frond, with setaceous branches, somewhat dichotomous, marked indistinctly with transverse streaks. The lower part dirty-yellow, the brandies more or less purple.
History. — This is a marine plant, growing on the Mediterranean coast, and especially on the Island of Corsica. The plant is of a cartilaginous consistence, of a dull and reddish-brown color, has a bitter, salt and nauseous taste, and its odor is rather pleasant. It is found in the form of thick tufts, composed of numerous filaments, united at the base, in bundles intermingled together, and fastened to each other by small hooks, with which the stems are furnished. It is seldom employed in this country. Water dissolves its active principles.
Properties and Uses. — Anthelmintic. The influence exercised by this substance upon the economy, is hardly appreciable; perhaps, occasionally, a slight irritation of the digestive canal — but it acts very powerfully on the intestinal worms, especially the lumbricoid. Dr. Johnson affirms that when thrown into the rectum, "it destroys any worms domiciliating there as effectually as choke-damps would destroy the life of a miner." The dose is from ten to sixty grains, mixed with molasses, jelly, or syrup, or in infusion.
Fucus Vesiculosis is a perennial seaweed. The root is a hard flattish disk. Frond from a few inches to four feet in length, and from two lines to an inch in width, flat, furnished with a midrib throughout its length, occasionally twisted in a spiral manner, repeatedly dichotomous, the angles of the dichotomy acute, except when a solitary vesicle happens to be placed there ; the sterile branches obtuse and often notched at the extremity. Air vessels from the size of a pea to a hazelnut, in pairs, and situated at irregular intervals in different parts of the frond ; sometimes two or three pairs are arranged next to each other ; they are rarely altogether wanting. Receptacles terminal, compressed, mostly ovate or elliptical, about half an inch long, but varying from nearly spherical to linear-lanceolate, and from one-fourth of an inch to nearly two inches long ; they are mostly in pairs, but are sometimes solitary, and occasionally forked. They are filled with a clear, tasteless mucus. The whole frond is proliferous in a remarkable degree in cases of injury, throwing out numerous new shoots from the injured part.
The Fucus Vesiculosis, Sea Wrack, or Bladder Wrack, grows upon the shores of Europe and of this continent, attaching itself to the rocks by its expanded woody root. On the coast of Scotland and of France, it is much used in the preparation of kelp. It is also employed as a manure, and is mixed with the fodder of cattle.
The Fucus Vesiculosis has a peculiar odor, and a nauseous saline taste. Several chemists have undertaken its analysis, but the results are by no means satisfactory. It contains a large quantity of soda in saline combination, and iodine, according to Gaultier de Claubry, in the state of iodide of potassium. These ingredients remain in its ashes, and in the charcoal resulting from its exposure to heat in close vessels. The charcoal of this plant has long had the reputation of a deobstruent, and been given in goitre and scrofulous swellings. Its virtues were formerly ascribed chiefly to the carbonate of soda, in which it abounds; but since the discovery of the medical properties of iodine, this has been considered as its most active ingredient. The mucus contained in the vesicles was applied externally, with advantage, by Dr. Russel, as a resolvent in scrofulous tumors.
Other species of Fucus are in all probability possessed of similar properties. Many of them contain a gelatinous matter, and a saccharine principle analogous to mannite; and some are used as aliment, in times of scarcity, by the wretched inhabitants of the coasts where they are collected. — U. S. Disp.