Botanical Source, Description, and History.—A perennial, caulescent herb, growing in watery places, along streams, in marshes, and on the borders of ponds. Water plantain has long (4 to 6 inches), radical, oblong, or lanceolate leaves, subcordate at the base, cuspidate, or abruptly acuminate, and borne on long petioles. The flowers, which appear in July and August, are small, white, and numerous, and borne in a loose, whorled panicle on a scape, 1 or 2 feet high. The root is fibrous, and serves a Russian tribe as food. The American species is said to be a variety, and is known as Alisma plantago, var. Americanum, Gray.
In odor, the root when fresh is said to resemble orris root, and has a sickening, acrid taste. A pungent, volatile oil, and a resin, are its only constituents. Water plantain inhabits the North American continent, as well as Europe. The root was formerly considered efficacious in hydrophobia, but repeated trials have shown it to be impotent. The leaves are the parts used.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—An infusion of the dried leaves is an excellent remedy in urinary diseases; the leaves, dried and powdered, have been successfully employed in gravel, and other urinary affections. The indications are: "Irritation and uneasiness in passing water, frequent desire to micturate, pain in the loins, and involuntary muscular movement" (Scudder, Spec. Med. (not in the 1874 edition -Henriette)). Dose of the infusion, from 4 to 6 fluid-ounces, 3 or 4 times a day; of the leaves, 1 to 2 drachms. The fresh leaves, bruised and applied to the skin, irritate and redden it, and, not infrequently, will cause vesication.
Specific Indications.—(See above).