Gillenia trifoliata. Indian Physic.

Botanical name: 

Nat. Ord. — Rosaceae. Sex. Syst. — Icosandria Pentagynia.

The Bark of the Root.

Description. — Indian Physic is an indigenous, herbaceous plant, with a perennial root, composed of a great number of long, slender, brown fibers, arising in a radiated manner, from a brown, irregular, thick tuberlike head or caudex. Some of these fibers are knotted or annulated for some distance as in the true ipecacuanha. The stems vary in number from one to several from the same root, are about two or three feet in hight, erect, slender, flexuose, smooth, branched above, and of a reddish or brownish color. The leaves are alternate, trifoliate, subsessile, furnished with small linear-lanceolate, slightly-toothed stipules at the base; the leaflets are lanceolate, acuminate, sharply and unequally toothed, the upper ones often single, the lower broader at the end, but acuminately terminated. The flowers are white, with a reddish tinge, in terminal, loose panicles, few in number, scattered, on long peduncles, and occasionally furnished with minute lanceolate bracts. Calyx subcampanulate or tubular, terminating in five sharp reflexed segments. Petals five, the two upper ones separated from the three lower, white with a reddish tinge on the edge, lanceolate, unguiculate, contracted and approximated at base, and three times as long as the calyx. Stamens are about twenty, in a double series within the calyx, with short filaments, and small and yellow anthers. The styles are five, with obtuse stigmas. Capsules five, connate at base, oblong, acuminate, diverging, gibbous without, sharp edged within, two-valved, one-celled, one or two-seeded ; seeds oblong, brown, bitter.

History. — This plant is found growing from Canada to Florida, east of the Alleghany mountains, in hilly woods, in light, gravelly soils, and in moist and shady situations. It flowers in June and July. The root is the officinal part, and should be collected in September ; when dried it is about the thickness of a quill, wrinkled longitudinally, sometimes irregular or knotty, of a light brown color externally, and consists of a thick, somewhat reddish, brittle, cortical portion, and an internal whitish, ligneous cord. The cortical part is readily pulverizable. It has a feeble odor, and a nauseous, bitter taste. Its properties are extracted by alcohol or boiling water. It affords a light brownish powder. The bark is the active portion, the internal woody substance being nearly inert. According to Mr. Shreeve, it contains starch, gum, resin, wax, a fatty matter, a red-coloring substance, a volatile coloring matter, and a peculiar principle soluble in alcohol and dilute acids, but insoluble in water or ether.

The Gillenia Stipulaceae, or Bowman's root, which is found on the western side of the Alleghany mountains, growing through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and southward, and occupying the place of the G. Trifoliata, possesses similar properties, but is more certain in its effects in the same doses. It may be distinguished by being larger and more bushy than the preceding ; the stems brownish and branched; the upper leaves trifoliate, the folioles lanceolate, incised, and serrate ; the lower leaves more deeply incised, becoming pinnatifid toward the root, and of a reddish-brown color at the margin ; the stipules are ovate, acuminate, deeply serrate, foliate, and the flowers are smaller, and placed on long slender peduncles in a lax corymb. It is rare in calcareous or alluvial regions, but is common in hilly and sandstone districts. Its root resembles the eastern species.

Properties and Uses. — The root-bark of these plants is emetic, cathartic, sudorific, expectorant, and tonic. In their action, they resemble ipecacuanha. They have been recommended in amenorrhea, rheumatism, dropsy, habitual costiveness, dyspepsia, worms, and in intermittents. As an emetic and cathartic, from twenty to thirty-five grains is a dose, which when vomiting is required, may be repeated at intervals of twenty minutes. It may be used in all diseases where emetics are indicated, as a safe and efficacious agent. In dyspepsia, accompanied with a torpid condition of the stomach, from two to four grains form an excellent tonic. As a sudorific, six grains may be given in some cold water, and repeated at intervals of two or three hours, or it may be given in combination with a small portion of opium. The infusion, repeated as often and as largely as is general in domestic practice, is objectionable, as it is apt to produce hyper-emesis and catharsis.

The American Eclectic Dispensatory, 1854, was written by John King, M. D.