The root of Selinum palustre, Linné.
COMMON NAMES: Marsh parsley, Marsh smallage.
Botanical Source.—Marsh parsley has a simple, tapering, perennial root, with many long fibers. Its stem is erect, 4 or 5 feet high, hollow, deeply furrowed, not hairy, branched and corymbose in the upper part, and bright-purple at the base. The leaves, about 5 or 6 on the stem, are alternate, remote, and ternate, with bipinnate divisions; the leaflets opposite, deeply pinnatifid, dark-green, smooth, their segments linear-lanceolate, never quite linear, acute, entire, or trifid; the petioles smooth, striated, dilated, and sheathing at the base, with a reddish membranous margin. The umbels are large, horizontal, of numerous, angular, general and partial rays. General bracts several, lanceolate, pointed, dependent, not half the length of the rays, with their margins membranous and partly colored; partial ones similar, but rather longer in proportion, and often confluent. Flowers white, numerous, and uniform, with involute petals. The fruit is very light straw-color, 4 lines long, shining, and obovate; the dorsal ridges very near each other, distinctly elevated, sharp, the lateral depressed and far within the broad, thin margin; the vittae of the commissure subulate, straight, and about half the length of the fruit (L.).
History, Description, and Chemical Composition.—This plant is the Cnidum palustre of Sprengel, the Peucedanum montanum of Koch, and the Conioselinum of Fischer, also known as Peucedanum palustre of Moench. This plant grows in marshes and boggy meadows in the north and middle of Europe. The root is branched, fleshy, deep-brown externally, white and milky within, having a strong aromatic odor, and an acrid and piquant taste; the dried root is of a less deep-brown color, yielding a bright-yellow, grayish powder. The root abounds in a white, fetid, bitter juice, which hardens into a brown, acrid resin; it is the part employed. It imparts its properties to water or alcohol. According to Peschier, the root contains a volatile oil, a fatty oil, soluble in ether and alcohol, gummy matter, a yellow coloring principle, a nitrogenous principle, etc.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Marsh smallage is emmenagogue, diuretic, and antispasmodic, but abandoned as an internal remedy on account of its caustic and dangerously poisonous properties. Ten or 20 grains, according to the patient's age, repeated every 5 hours, and, after a time, gradually augmented, have cured several cases of epilepsy in the course of from 3 to 6 months, but it must not be used where abdominal obstruction exists, or where there is an exalted sensibility of the genital apparatus. If it produces diarrhoea or colic, the doses must be lessened to twice, or even once, a day; sometimes it purges, nauseates, or causes gastralgia. In nervous and sanguine persons, especially those of irritable habits, it increases the violence of the disease. Two-grain doses, repeated twice daily, have proved almost immediately beneficial in the dentition convulsions of children. This agent generally exerts a favorable influence upon menstruation and its disorders. It has also been used with success in pertussis, nervous affections, etc. (J. King).
Related Species.—(See Levisticum, Heracleum, and Imperatoria.) Selinum canadense, Bentham and Hooker; Marsh or Hemlock parsley, Selinum canadense, or Cnidium canadense of Sprengel, and Conioselinum canadense of Fischer, which grows in swamps, wet woods, and around the months of large rivers from Canada to Carolina, and westward, is a species of the above plant, and deserves a trial in the diseases just mentioned. It is a plant 2 to 4 feet in height, somewhat resembling the Conium maculatum, and having an angular, flexuous, hollow stem. Leaves on large, inflated petioles, ternately divided; the divisions bipinnate, with linear-oblong, acute lobes. Umbels compound. Petals white, spreading. Involucre wanting, or 2 or 3-leaved. Styles slender, diverging. Fruit about 2 lines long, oblong, oval. Vittae solitary in the dorsal interval, 2 or 3 in the lateral. It flowers in August and September (W.—G.). (See also page 1454.)
Aethusa Cynapium, Linné (Nat. Ord.—Umbelliferae), Fool's parsley, Dog parsley, Dog poison, Garden hemlock, Lesser hemlock.—A European plant, having a strong resemblance to parsley, from which, however, it may be readily distinguished by its loathsome taste, and its nauseous odor when rubbed. The root is spindle-shaped, the flowers white, and the seeds globular and striated. A toxic, crystallizable alkaloid, cynapine, soluble in alcohol and in water, but not in ether, has been found in the herb (Ficinus, Archiv der Pharm., 1828, p. 251). The seeds yield a volatile, oily base, somewhat like coniine, volatile oil, fatty oil, and several resins (Walz, Neues Jahrbuch f. Pharm., Vol. XI, 1859, p. 355; and W. Bernhardt, Archiv der Pharm., 1880, p. 117), The question as to the toxicity of this plant is still unsettled, several cases of poisoning having been reported from it, but Harley believes that Conium maculatum, which closely resembles this plant, has been mistaken for it. (Aethusa is toxic. -Henriette) Aethusa is recommended for the gastro-intestinal troubles of infants, especially when artificially fed. The symptoms pointing to its use are practically those indicating ipecac. Cholera infantum, summer diarrhoea, and convulsions, attending intestinal disorders of children, have been treated with it. Active delirium, easily excited, and with tendency to rage, mental confusion, dizziness, simulating intoxication, and violent headache, with dizziness, are also said to be indications for the drug. A strong tincture of the flowering plant may be used, adding from 1 to 2 drops to 4 fluid ounces of water, and giving 1 teaspoonful every 2 or 3 hours.