The herb of Sabbatia angularis, Pursh (Chironia angularis, Linné).
COMMON NAMES: American centaury, Rose-pink.
Botanical Source.—This plant, also called Rose-pink, has a yellow, fibrous, biennial root, with an erect, smooth, quadrangular stem, the angles of which are winged, having many opposite branches, and 1 to 2 feet in height. The leaves are opposite, sessile, ovate, cordate at base, clasping the stem, 5-veined, smooth, entire, 1 or 2 inches in length, by ½ to 1 ½ inches in width. The flowers are numerous, 1 ¼ to 1 ½ inches in diameter, of a rich-rose color, terminal, on elongated peduncles, greenish or whitish in the center, forming a large corymbose panicle. Calyx with 5 lanceolate segments; tube of calyx angular. Corolla rotate, 5-parted, with oval segments twice as long as the calyx. Stamens 5; filaments slender; anthers yellow, oblong, slightly recurved when the flower first opens, after shedding their pollen, they become revolute and curl up. Ovary ovate; style longer than the stamens, and declined. Stigma 2 parted, the segments separate at first, but gradually become twisted spirally together. The capsule is 1-celled and 2-valved, with numerous seeds (L.—W.).
History and Chemical Composition.—This plant is common in most parts of the United States, growing in moist meadows, among high grass, on the prairies, and in damp, rich soils, flowering from June to September. The whole plant is used. It has a very bitter taste, and yields its virtues to water or alcohol. The best time for gathering it is during its flowering season. It is preferable to the European centaury (Erythraea Centaurium, Persoon). M. Méhu obtained, in 1866, crystallizable erythrocentaurin from European centaury. It is neutral, colorless, odorless, tasteless, and dissolves in 1630 parts of cold, 35 parts of boiling water, in 48 parts of alcohol, of 86 per cent strength, at 15° C. (59° F.), in 245 parts of ether, and 13 parts of chloroform; it is easily soluble in fixed and volatile oils. Direct sunlight causes it to turn red (Jahresb. der Pharm., 1866, p. 70). Mr. J. F. Huneker (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1871, p. 207) detected a probably analogous substance in the American plant. As obtained in an impure form, it was soluble in water, alcohol, and ether, but insoluble in fixed and volatile oils, of a sharp, acrid taste, and an odor resembling that of nicotine. The crystals turn red when exposed to sunlight. Mr. William T. Hankey (ibid., 1891, p. 335) made a complete analysis of the herb, and obtained the same substance, and, in addition 3.75 per cent of a bitter principle.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Tonic. Used in autumn periodic febrile diseases, both as a preventive and as a remedy. It is also serviceable as a bitter tonic in dyspepsia, and convalescence from fevers. When administered in warm infusion, it is a domestic remedy for worms, and to restore the menstrual secretion. Dose of the powder, from ½ to 1 drachm; of the cold infusion, 4 fluid ounces, every 2 or 3 hours; of the tincture, 1 to 2 fluid drachms; and of the extract, from 2 to 6 grains.
Related Species.—Sabbatia Elliottii, Steudel (Sabbatia paniculata, Elliott), Quinine flower. This is an erect herb, about 12 inches in height, and is common to the pine barrens of the southern United States. It does not, probably, occur farther north than the Carolinas. The stem is smooth, slender, round, with but few leaves, and alternately branched. The leaves are small, opposite, entire, without leaf-stalks, and from ½ to 1 inch in length; the upper leaves are very narrow and linear, the lower are broader; they are attached at nearly a right angle to the stem. The flowers are white, nearly an inch broad, and quite showy; they are borne on slender peduncles, and appear late in the summer. The calyx has a short tube, and 5 linear lobes, about one-third the length of the corolla segments. The corolla is flat, rotate, and has 5 obtuse lobes. The stamens are 5, and attached to the corolla tube. The fruit is a dry, 1-celled capsule, opening by 2 valves, and containing many small seeds. This plant was noticed in the Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1876, p. 455, by Dr. Palmer, of Monticello, Florida. It had been previously used in domestic practice, and during the civil war. Some little demand was created after the publication of Dr. Palmer's article, but the remedy has since almost fallen into disuse. This plant, as the name "quinine flower" would show, was supposed to possess tonic and antiperiodic properties, somewhat analogous to those of quinine. It was lauded as a remedy for all malarial fevers, as a tonic during convalescence from exhausting diseases, and in various forms of debility. It is seldom, if ever, employed at the present day. The dose of the fluid extract is from 5 to 60 minims, repeated every 1, 2, 3, or 4 hours, according to circumstances.
Erythraea Centaurium, Persoon (Gentiana Centaurium, Linné), European centaury.—A bitter tonic (see Sabbatia, preceding page (top of this page)). Several South American and Mexican species are employed as bitter tonics under the name of Canchalagua. Among them are Erythraea chilensis, Persoon; E. jorullensis, Kunth; E. stricta, Schiede, etc.
Pleurogyne rotata, Grisebach.—Japan and the Pacific states. A bitter tonic.
King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.