Gnaphalium polycephalum. White Balsam.
Nat. Ord. — Asteraceae. Sex. Syst. — Syngenesia Superflua.
Description. — This plant, also known by the various names of Indian Posy, Sweet-scented Life Everlasting, Old Field Balsam, etc., is indigenous, herbaceous, and annual, with an erect, whitish, woolly, and much branched stem, from one to two feet in hight. The leaves are alternate, sessile, linear-lanceolate, acute, entire, scabrous above, and whitish tomentose beneath. The flowers are tubular and yellow ; in heads clustered at the summit of the panicled-corymbose branches, ovate-conical before expansion, then obovate. Involucre imbricate, with whitish, ovate and oblong, rather obtuse scales. Florets of the ray, subulate, — of the disk, entire. Receptacle flat, naked ; pappus pilose, scabrous, capillary.
History. — White Balsam is found in Canada, and various parts of the United States, growing in old fields, and on dry, barren lands, and bearing whitish-yellow flowers in July and August. The leaves have a pleasant, aromatic smell, and an aromatic, slightly bitter and astringent, but rather agreeable taste. They yield their properties to water. No analysis has been made of them. The Antennaria Margaritacea, formerly Gnaphalium Margaritacea, or Pearl-flowered Life Everlasting, a perennial plant, possesses similar properties to the above.
Properties and Uses. — Astringent. The leaves and blossoms chewed, and the juice swallowed, has proved beneficial in ulcerations of the mouth and throat. A warm infusion may be used in fevers to produce diaphoresis, and is of service in quinsy, pulmonary complaints, leucorrhea, etc.; it may be used internally and as a local application. Likewise used in infusion, in diseases of the bowels, and hemorrhages, and applied in fomentation to bruises, indolent tumors, and other local complaints. The fresh juice is reputed anti-aphrodisiac.
Off. Prep. — Infusum Gnaphalii.