Related entries: Leonurus

The whole herb of Lycopus virginicus, Linné.
Nat. Ord.—Labiatae.
COMMON NAMES: Bugleweed, Sweet bugle, Water bugle, etc. (see below).

Botanical Source.—This plant is an indigenous, perennial herb, with a fibrous root, and a smooth, straight, obtusely four-angled stem, with the sides concave, producing slender runners from the base, and 10 to 20 inches in height. The leaves are opposite, oblong, or ovate lanceolate, toothed, entire toward the base, with glandular dots underneath. The flowers are very small, purplish, in dense, axillary whorls; at the base of each flower are two small, subulate bracts. The corolla is campanulate, 4-cleft, the tube as long as the calyx, upper segment broadest, and emarginate. The calyx is tubular, 4-cleft, longer than the achenia. Stamens 2, distant, diverging, and simple; anthers erect and bilobed; ovary superior and 4-angled; style straight and slender; stigma bilobate; achenia 4, smooth, obovate, obliquely truncate at apex, compressed, and margins thickened (G.—W.—R.).

History.—Lycopus belongs to a class of perennial herbs somewhat resembling the mints, but lacking their aroma and having but 2 perfect stamens. It is found growing in almost all parts of the United States, being very common, and preferring moist, shady places, showing particular fondness for wet, boggy soils. It grows from 6 to 18 inches in height, and, like most labiate plants, has a straight, smooth, square stem (obtusely 4-angled), with concave sides, supporting opposite, oblong, ovate or lanceolate, serrately-toothed leaves, having on their under surface small, glandular dots. The entire plant is smooth and often purplish, and the stem occasionally sends off long, slender runners. The flowers, which appear in midsummer (July and August), are very small, and arranged in dense, axillary whorls, or capitate clusters of a purplish color. The whole plant has an agreeable, yet peculiar balsamic, terebinthinate odor, and to most persons, a disagreeable, slightly bitter, balsamic taste. Its virtues are supposed to depend upon a volatile oil and tannin.

Lycopus is popularly known as Bugleweed, Water bugle, Sweet bugle, Water hoarhound, Gypsy-weed, Paul's betony, Green ashangee and Archangel, though the latter name is oftener applied to another plant—the Archangelica Atropurpurea. The name lycopus originates from two Greek words—lukus, wolf; and pous, foot; hence wolf-foot, so called because of a fancied resemblance of the cut leaves to a wolf's foot.

We have evidence that this plant was used early in the present century as a medicine. Schoepf, Ives, and Zollikoffer mention it. In 1828, Rafinesque, whose works were prominently recognized by the early Eclectics, notwithstanding the many liberties he took in his writings on scientific subjects, gave the best account of its introduction into medicine. He wrote of it that it was an excellent sedative, subtonic, subnarcotic, and subastringent. He further states that it is described as partaking of the properties of digitalis, sanguinaria, cimicifuga, and spigelia; but it is neither diuretic nor anthelmintic, and is rather one of the mildest and best narcotics in existence." The same author claimed "it acts somewhat like digitalis without producing any of its bad effects or accumulating in the system." He complains that volumes have been written on fox-glove, a rank poison, while this excellent substitute has been allowed to pass almost unnoticed.

Among the first to investigate the properties of bugleweed were Drs. Pendleton and Rogers, of New York, who published several cases of hemoptysis and incipient consumption cured by it. In Rafinesque's day it was used to a considerable extent in New York and New Jersey.; in the latter state being much employed as a remedy for diarrhoea and dysentery. Rafinesque pointed out that it acted chiefly on the blood vessels, and was especially useful in plethoric and inflammatory states, particularly internal inflammations resulting from inebriety, and for cardiac diseases. While he did not believe that it would cure phthisis, be stated that it was very valuable for hemoptysis, and that it acted on the circulatory system as a sedative, slowing the pulse and thereby allaying irritation and cough.

Until recent years, lycopus has been scarcely mentioned by allopathic writers. It was introduced into homoeopathic practice by the late Prof E. M. Hale, M. D., of Chicago, who first used it on the recommendation of an Eclectic physician in a case of incipient phthisis, for its control over the circulatory apparatus, with marked benefit. At present it is considerably employed by the homoeopathic branch of the profession. Since nearly all that has been written on this drug has come from Eclectic pens, we may safely claim the remedy as one of Eclectic development.

Chemical Composition.—The Messrs. Tilden found this plant to contain tannic acid, organic and inorganic matters, bitter principle, and a peculiar principle. Mr. J. L. Weil (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1890, p. 72) found in it a fat (0.41 per cent) melting at 50° C. (122° F.), a granular, wax-like body (0.68 per cent) fusing at 70° C. (158° F.); a crystalline resin (0.43 per cent) soluble in ether; small amounts of tannic and gallic acids, and a crystallizable glucosid obtainable by extracting an alcoholic extract of the drug with ether. It readily splits into resin and sugar. The herb contains a small quantity (0.075 per cent) of volatile oil (Hennessy' Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1889, p. 70; Schimmel's Report, Oct., 1890, p. 62).

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Lycopus fills an important place in Eclectic therapeutics. Its action is chiefly exhibited on the vascular structures and the sympathetic nervous system. It is a certain sedative, mild narcotic, subastringent, and tonic. Its sedative action is most pronounced and most frequently indicated where the vascular action is tumultuous, the velocity of the pulse rapid, with evident want of cardiac power. It is for this purpose that it is principally employed in advanced stages of acute disease with great debility, and in chronic disease with frequent pulse. It improves the circulation, and its good influence is extended to all the parts under the control of the vegetative system of nerves. As a sedative, Prof. Scudder classes it with aconite and veratrum. It acts somewhat like digitalis in reducing the velocity of the pulse, but is devoid of the dangerous effects resulting from the use of that drug, and hence has proved useful in some cardiac affections. It controls excessive vascular excitement, general irritability, and diminishes exalted organic action. Upon the stomach its action is kindly, improving the appetite, and serving as a mild gastric tonic. Normal secretion is established by it, and blood-making and nutrition are improved.

Lycopus is a remedy for morbid vigilance and insomnia attendant upon either acute or chronic disease. As a remedy for painful and distressing forms of indigestion, the specific lycopus will be found advantageous as well as a mild tonic in general debility. In the past it has been employed to purify the blood of patients suffering from old ulcers, an infusion being employed locally at the same time. Bugleweed, simmered with fresh butter or petrolatum, may be employed as a topical dressing for burns and irritable ulcers.

Several cases of diabetes mellitus have been reported, through the Eclectic Medical Journal, as benefited by lycopus. Dr. Gerald (1878) reported an extraordinary case as cured by it, but does not specify which variety of diabetes the patient was afflicted with. Prof. Edwin Freeman, M. D. (1879) used the drug with remarkable results in a case of diabetes, though be did not have the good fortune to see the disease cured, as the patient, who was rapidly improving, moved away and the doctor lost track of the case. Other successful cases were reported by Dr. Ray. Lycopus has proved a good remedy in some cases of albuminuria with great irritation and rapid action of the heart. It has given good results in hemorrhages, being particularly adapted to those cases in which the bleeding is frequent but small in amount. Under such conditions specific lycopus is valuable in hemoptysis, epistaxis, hematemesis, hematuria, and uterine and intestinal hemorrhage.

Its therapy in gastro-intestinal affections is worthy of notice. We have already noticed its use in indigestion. In dysentery and diarrhoea it may be given with advantage to the patient. It is of special value in the diarrhoea of phthisis, and is equally valuable to allay irritation and inflammation in gastritis and enteritis. especially those acute gastric disturbances and inflammatory diseases common to the drunkard. Bugleweed has been used both for its sedative effects and for its influence on the gastro-intestinal troubles accompanying intermittent fevers.

Cardiac disease, both organic and functional, have been markedly impressed by lycopus. Administered to patients suffering from endocarditis and pericarditis it quickly subdues the inflammation. It is a good remedy for cardiac palpitation, dependent on irritation of the cardiac nerve centers, or when arising from organic lesions. It is best adapted to those forms of heart disease characterized by irritability and irregularity, with dyspnoea and praecordial oppression. Lycopus powerfully increases the contraction of the unstriped muscular fibers, particularly those of the heart and arteries, hence its value in cardiac dilatation and hypertrophy which have been known to undergo marked improvement under its administration. It quickly relieves the suffering and anxiety nearly always experienced in heart diseases. It has favorably influenced exophthalmic goitre.

"Bugleweed is of great value in acute pulmonary complaints, and of still greater utility in chronic lung troubles. It acts as a gentle sedative and tonic. It reduces the frequency and force of the heart's action, and is indicated in pulmonary lesions with irritation and cough, and with tendency to hemorrhage. It is particularly valuable in chronic cases with copious secretion of mucus or muco-pus. It lessens irritation, allays the distressing cough so frequently encountered in chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, and consumption. By its action as a nervine it gives rest and quiets pain. By its control over the circulatory apparatus it slows the pulse and brings down the temperature. Tumultuous action of the heart and consequent increase of the circulation through the lungs are controlled by it. It may be employed in acute cases to control fever and inflammation. Here it gives rest, alleviates the pain, quiets the vascular excitement, besides allaying the irritative cough. It is one of our very best remedies for hemoptysis, especially in those cases where the bleeding is small in amount yet frequent, or it may be administered to prevent the tendency to hemorrhage in phthisis. In consumption it is a splendid remedy to relieve the distressing symptoms, and may be administered in drop doses every hour. It is valuable in acute as well as chronic pneumonia. In ordinary acute catarrh it may be administered with aconite, eupatorium, and other indicated agents. It is indicated by chronic cough, mucous or muco-purulent expectoration, frequent pulse, high temperature, tubercular deposits, and albuminuria, with vascular excitement" (Felter).

For pulmonary hemorrhage, lycopus combined with cinnamon and ipecac, is the best remedy with which we are acquainted. Dose of the powder, from 1 to 2 drachms; of the infusion (℥i to aqua Oj), from 2 drachms to 4 fluid ounces; of a strong tincture (℥viii to alcohol Oj) of the recent plant, from 5 to 60 minims; of specific lycopus, 1 to 30 minims.

Specific Indications and Uses.—Vascular excitement; hemorrhage, in small amounts, resulting from determination of blood to the lungs, kidneys, or gastro-intestinal organs; albuminuria, with frequent pulse; cough, with copious expectoration of mucus or muco-pus, especially debilitating chronic cough; wakefullness and morbid vigilance, with inordinately active circulation; frequent pulse, with high temperature, and in tubercular deposits.

Related Species.Lycopus europaeus, Linné; Water horehound.—A European plant introduced into this country, is said to possess febrifuge properties, curing severe intermittents in doses of 1 or 2 drachms of the powdered plant, every 2 or 4 hours. It has been confounded with the L. virginicus, with which it is frequently collected, but may be discriminated by its stem being more acutely 4-angled, its leaves not so broad, the lower being somewhat feather-cleft, its flowers more closely grouped, and the calyx divisions presenting short spines. This plant undoubtedly possesses many of the properties of Lycopus virginicus.

King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.