Geranium maculatum. Geranium.
Nat. Ord. — Geraniaceae. Sex. Syst. — Monadelphia Decandria.
Description. — This plant is also known by the names of Cranesbill, Spotted-geranium, Wild-Cranesbill, Crowfoot, Alum-root, etc. It has a perennial, horizontal, thick, rough, knobby and fleshy root, with short fibers, and sends up annually one or more erect, angular, or round, retrorsely pubescent, herbaceous, dichotomous stems, from one to two feet high, and of a grayish green color. The leaves are spreading, hairy, palmate, with three, five, or seven deeply cleft lobes, two leaves at each fork ; the lobes are cuneiform and entire at the base, incisely serrate above. The radical-leaves are on long petioles, erect and terete ; the leaves at the top are opposite and subsessile, and those at the middle of the stem are opposite, petiolate, and generally reflexed. The stipules are linear or lanceolate. The flowers are large, and generally purple, mostly in pairs, on unequal pedicels, sometimes umbelled at the ends of the peduncles. Peduncles long, round, hairy, tumid at base, and arise from the dichotomous divisions of the stem. The calyx consists of five oval, lanceolate, ribbed, cuspidate sepals, plumosely ciliate on their outer margin, and membranaceous on the other ; sometimes three only of the sepals are ciliate. The petals are five, obovate, entire, light purple, marked with green at the base. The stamens are ten, erect or curving outward, alternately longer, furnished at the base with glands, and terminated by oblong, convex, deciduous, purple anthers. The ovary is ovate, bearing five styles, at first about the length of the stamens, but finally longer, — they cohere to a permanent central axis before maturity, but separate from it in a twisted form when the seed is ripe. Stigmas five, at first erect, afterward recurved. The fruit consists of five aggregated, one-seeded capsules, attached by a beak to the persistent style, and curling up and scattering the seeds when ripe.
History. — Geranium is an indigenous plant, growing in all parts of the United States in open woods, thickets and hedges, flowering from April to June. There are several varieties of this species which are probably equivalent in medicinal virtues to the G. Maculatum. The root is the officinal part, and should be collected late in the autumn. When dried it is in pieces, from one to three inches in length, and from a quarter to half an inch in diameter, somewhat flattened, contorted, wrinkled, tuberculated, and beset with slender fibers. It is of an umber-brown color externally, reddish-gray internally, compact, of an astringent taste, without bitterness or other unpleasant flavor. Water or alcohol extracts its virtues. It contains a considerable amount of tannin and gallic acid, some mucilage, amadin, red coloring matter from the cortex, a small quantity of resin, and a peculiar crystallizable principle. A concentrated article is prepared from it, and used by Eclectics under the name of Geraniin.
Properties and Uses. — A powerful astringent. Used in the second stage of dysentery, diarrhea, and cholera infantum in infusion with milk. Both internally and externally it may be used wherever astringents are indicated, in hemorrhages, indolent ulcers, aphthous sore mouth, ophthalmia, leucorrhea, gleet, hematuria, menorrhagia, diabetes, and all excessive chronic mucous discharges ; also, to cure mercurial salivation. A decoction of the root may be used as a gargle in relaxation of the uvula, and aphthous ulcerations of the throat. As it is void of unpleasant taste or other offensive qualities, it is peculiarly serviceable in the cases of infants, or persons with very delicate stomachs. In cases of bleeding piles, a strong decoction of the root may be injected into the rectum, and which should be retained as long as possible. Piles are said to be cured by adding of the root in fine powder, two ounces, to tobacco ointment seven ounces, and apply to the parts, three or four times a day. Troublesome epistaxis, bleeding from wounds or small vessels and from the extraction of teeth, may be checked effectually by applying the powder to the bleeding orifice, and if possible, covering with a compress of cotton. With Aletris Farinosa in decoction, and taken internally it has proved of superior efficacy in diabetes and in Bright's disease of the kidney. A decoction of two parts of Geranium and one of Sanguinaria forms an excellent injection for gleet and leucorrhea. Dose of the powder, from twenty to thirty grains ; of the decoction, from one to two fluidounces. The Geranium Robertianum, or Herb Robert, grows wild both in Europe and the United States, but is rare in this country ; and Pursh states that the American plant is destitute of the heavy smell by which the European is so well known, though the two agree in all other respects. It has a tapering root, with several round, leafy, branched, reddish, brittle, succulent, and diffuse stems, hairy, chiefly on one side. The leaves are opposite, shining, petiolate, more or less hairy, three to five cleft to the base, the segments pinnatifid, and the pinnae incisely-toothed. The flowers are small, in pairs, pale-purple, occasionally white, and situated on lateral and terminal peduncles. Calyx brownish, hairy, with ten angles when closed. Petals obovate, entire. Sepals mucronate-awned, half as long as the entire petals. Stamens awl-shaped, smooth. Capsules small, obovate, downy, carinate, curiously-marked at the outer edge with elevated inter branching wrinkles. Seeds smooth and even. The plant is in flower from May to September, and has a strong unpleasant smell. The herb has a disagreeable, bitterish, astringent taste, and imparts its virtues to boiling water. It has been used internally in intermittent fever, consumption, hemorrhages, nephritic complaints, jaundice, etc. ; and has been employed as a gargle in affections of the throat, and applied externally as a resolvent to swollen breasts and other tumors.