Hepatica americana. Kidney Liverleaf. Hepatica acutiloba. Heart Liverleaf.
Nat. Ord.— Ranunculaceae. Sex. Syst.— Polyandria Polygynia.
Description. — Hepatica Americana of De Candolle, is the Hepatica Triloba of Willdenow. It has a perennial fibrous root, with leaves which are cordate at base, three-lobed ; lobes unequal, rounded, obtuse, or acute, coriaceous, nearly smooth, purplish beneath, green-mottled with purple above, and supported on hairy footstalks from four to eight inches long, which spring directly from the root. The scapes or flower-stems are several in number, as long as the petioles, round, hairy, terminating in a single white, bluish, or purplish flower, and invested at base with membranous sheaths. Flowers at first drooping, afterward erect. Involucre resembling a calyx, very hirsute, with deep, ovate, entire segments. Sepals in two or three series, purplish or white, equal, ovate, obtuse. Stamens subulate ; anthers elliptic. Seeds ovate, acute, awnless. Hepatica Acutiloba differs in having cordate leaves, with from three to five entire, acute lobes, and the involucral leaves are acute.
History. — But one species of Hepatica is generally admitted by Botanists, the differences in form, color, etc., being considered as accidental ; De Candolle, however, divides them into the two species above described, and which has been adopted by the pharmacopoeists of this country. These plants are common to the United States, growing in woods, and upon the sides of hills and mountains ; the H. Americana, which is the most common, preferring the south side, and the other the north. They both bear white, blue, or purplish flowers which appear late in March or early in April. The whole plant is used ; it is inodorous, with a mucilaginous, somewhat astringent, slightly bitterish taste, and yields its active properties to water. The term Liverwort, sometimes erroneously applied to it, belongs to the cryptogamous genus, Marchantia Polymorpha.
Properties and Uses. — A mild, demulcent tonic and astringent. It has been used in infusion, in fevers, hepatic complaints, hemoptysis, coughs, etc., but in severe cases it is unavailable. The infusion may be taken ad libitum.