The plant Euphrasia officinalis, Linné.
Botanical Source.—This is an elegant little annual plant, with a square, downy, leafy stem, simple or branched, and from 1 to 5 inches in height. The leaves are almost entirely opposite, ovate or cordate, downy, strongly ribbed and furrowed, the lowest crenate, and the floral with sharp, tooth-like serratures. The flowers are axillary, solitary, very abundant, and inodorous, with a brilliant variety of colors. The corolla varies much in size as well as in color, being commonly white, with deep purple streaks, and a yellowish palate. The upper lip of the corolla is galeate, emarginate, having 2 broad, spreading lobes; the lower lip is larger, spreading, 3-cleft, and the lobes are obtuse or notched. The calyx is campanulate and 4-cleft. Stamens 4, fertile under the upper lip; anthers violet, lower cells of the upper ones with a long spur. Pod oblong and flattened. The seeds are numerous, oblong, and grooved lengthwise (L.—G.).
History and Chemical Composition.—This is a small plant, indigenous to Europe and this country, bearing white or red flowers in July. The recent leaves are commonly employed; they are inodorous, but of a bitter, astringent taste. Water extracts their virtues. Enz (1859) examined the recent plant. He found it to contain mannit, grape sugar, volatile oil in small amount, an acrid, bitter principle, cellulose, and other plant constituents, besides a number of acids of organic character, and tannin, the latter giving a deep-green coloration with ferric compounds, and a bright light-green reaction with the salts of lead.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Slightly tonic and astringent. Used with much benefit in the form of infusion or poultice, in catarrhal ophthalmia, also of service in all mucous diseases attended with increased discharges; and in cough, hoarseness, earache, and headache, which have supervened in catarrhal affections. It appears to specifically influence the nasal membranes and lachrymal apparatus. In acute catarrh (fluent coryza), in which there is a profuse watery flow, it exerts its most specific action. It will not only be found of great utility to control inflammatory and catarrhal phases of the parts during or following an attack of measles, but will tend to avert unpleasant after-effects, as catarrhal conjunctivitis, nasal catarrh, catarrhal deafness, etc. Catarrhal diseases of the intestinal tract may be treated with euphrasia. Four fluid ounces of the infusion taken every morning upon an empty stomach, and also every night at bedtime is asserted to have been found successful in curing epilepsy. Such extravagant statements are not calculated to inspire confidence in the use of medicines. Dose of specific euphrasia, 1 to 60 drops; the infusion (℥i to aqua Oj), 2 fluid drachms to 4 fluid ounces.
Specific Indications and Uses.—Acute catarrhal diseases of the eyes, nose, and ears; fluent coryza with copious discharge of watery mucus. "Secretion of acrid mucus from eyes and nose with heat and pain in frontal sinus" (Scudder).