The whole plant of Mitchella repens, Linné.
COMMON NAMES: Partridgeberry, Checkerberry, Squaw-vine, Squaw-berry vine, Winter clover, Deerberry, and One-berry.
Botanical Source.—This is an indigenous, evergreen herb, with a perennial root, from which arises a smooth and creeping stem, furnished with roundish ovate, or slightly heart-shaped, petiolate, opposite, flat, coriaceous, dark-green and shining leaves, usually variegated with whitish lines. The flowers are white, often tinged with red, very fragrant, in pairs, with their ovaries united. Calyx 4-parted. Corolla funnel-form, two on each double ovary, limb 4-parted, spreading, and densely hairy within. Stamens 4, short, and inserted on the corolla. Style slender; stigmas 4. The fruit is a dry berry-like, double drupe, crowned with the calyx-teeth of the two flowers, each containing 4 small and seed-like, bony nutlets. Some plants bear flowers with exserted stamens and included styles; others, conversely, those with included stamens and exserted styles (W.—G.—T.). According to Mr. Thomas Meehan, this is a dioecious plant, having imperfect rudimentary pistils in the male plant, with the calyx-teeth coarser than in the female, the anthers on filaments projecting considerably beyond the corolla throat; in the female plant, the anthers are sessile, rudimentary, concealed in the coarse down of the corolla tube, and the pistil, with its well-developed stigma., projects beyond the throat of the corolla (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1868, p. 554).
History.—This plant is indigenous to the United States, growing in dry woods, among hemlock-timber, and in swampy places, flowering in June and July. The leaves bear some resemblance to clover, and remain green through the winter. The fruit or berry is bright scarlet, edible, but nearly tasteless, dry, and full of stony seeds, and also remains through the winter. The whole plant is medicinal, and imparts its virtues to boiling water or alcohol.
Chemical Composition.—E. Breneiser found in this plant a saponin-like body, frothing in aqueous solution; the water-soluble part of an ether extract of the plant contained a principle forming a precipitate with tannic acid and with picric acid; but it was neither an alkaloid nor a glucosid. No volatile oil was present (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1887, p. 229).
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Partridgeberry is parturient, diuretic, and astringent. Used in dropsy, suppression of urine and diarrhoea, in decoction. It seems to have an especial affinity for the uterus, exerting a powerful tonic and alterative influence upon this organ, and has hence been found highly beneficial in many uterine derangements, as in amenorrhoea, some forms of dysmenorrhoea, menorrhagia, chronic congestion of the uterus, enfeebled uterine nervous system, etc. It is said that the squaws drink a decoction of this plant for several weeks previous to their confinement, for the purpose of rendering parturition safe and easy. Similar virtues have been ascribed to it by competent physicians of our time. The remedy is peculiarly American, not being noticed or used by foreign practitioners. Dose of a strong decoction, from 2 to 4 fluid ounces, 2 or 3 times a day. The berries are a popular remedy for diarrhoea and dysuria. Used as follows, partridgeberry is highly recommended as a cure for sore nipples: Take 2 ounces of the herb, fresh if possible, and make a strong decoction with a pint of water, then strain, and add as much good cream as there is liquid of the decoction. Boil the whole down to the consistence of a soft salve, and when cool, anoint the nipple with it every time the child is removed from the breast.