The root of Sanicula marilandica, Linné.
COMMON NAMES: Sanicle, Blacksnake root, Pool-root.
Botanical Source.—Sanicle is an indigenous, perennial herb, sometimes known by the name of Blacksnake root, with a stem from 1 to 3 feet high, smooth, furrowed, and dichotomously branched. The leaves are 3 to 5-parted, digitate, mostly radical, on petioles 6 to 12 inches long; the segments 2 to 4 inches long, half as wide, oblong, and irregularly and mucronately toothed. Cauline leaves few and nearly sessile. The flowers are mostly barren and white, sometimes yellowish; the sterile flowers are borne on slender pedicels; the fertile ones sessile. Segments of the calyx entire. Involucre 6-leaved and serrate. Umbels often proliferous; umbellets capitate. Fruit several in each umbellet, and densely clothed with hooked bristles (W.—G.). A variety (S. canadensis) has short-pedicelled, sterile flowers.
History and Chemical Composition.—Sanicle is common to the United States and Canada, and is found in low woods and thickets, flowering in June. The fibrous root is the medicinal part. Its taste and odor are somewhat aromatic. An alcoholic tincture contains its medicinal properties. Resin, essential oil, tannin, coloring matters, and ash (9 per cent) were obtained from the root by C. J. Houck (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1884, p. 463).
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Sanicle very much resembles valerian in its action on the system, possessing nervine and feebly anodyne properties, together with some astringency. It has been used with advantage as a domestic remedy in intermittent fevers, sore throat, cynanche trachealis, erysipelas, and some cutaneous diseases. It is very efficient in chorea, in doses of ½ drachm of the powdered root, 3 times a day, to children 8 or 10 years of age. It has also been beneficially employed in various other nervous affections. The decoction of it, administered in doses of from 2 to 4 fluid ounces, and repeated 3 or 4 times a day, is said to be valuable in gonorrhoea, dysentery, passive hemorrhages, and leucorrhoea. The decoction used freely, at the same time bathing the wound with it, is reputed a certain cure for the bites of poisonous snakes (J. King).
Related Species.—Sanicula europaea, Linné. The root of this plant is astringent, and possesses an acrid, bitter taste. In the Old World it is a domestic remedy for hemorrhages of a profuse character, such as from the lungs, uterus, etc.; leucorrhoea, dysentery, and diarrhoea are likewise treated with it. Externally, it is applied to wounds. An infusion in wine, or the fresh juice, is generally administered in ½- ounce doses.
Astrantia major, Linné.—This plant has a root similar to the sanicles, and is employed sometimes as Black imperatoria (Radix imperatoriae nigrae). This root is commonly known as Black sanicle.