Preparation: Cataplasma Oxycocci.—Cranberry Poultice
The fruit and root of Gaylussacia frondosa, Torrey and Gray (Vaccinium frondosum), and of Gaylussacia resinosa, Torrey and Gray (Vaccinium resinosum).
COMMON NAMES: (1) Blue whortleberry, Blue dangles, High blueberry, Blue huckleberry; (2) Black whortleberry, Black huckleberry.
Botanical Source.—Gaylussacia frondosa is a shrub 3 to 6 feet high, with a grayish bark, and round, smooth, slender and divergent branches. Its leaves are deciduous, obovate-oblong, obtuse, entire, pale, glaucous beneath, covered with minute resinous dots, and the margin being slightly revolute. The flowers are small, nearly globose, reddish-white, in loose, slender, lateral, bracteate racemes; the bracts are oblong or linear, rather deciduous, and shorter than the pedicels; the pedicels are from 5 to 10 lines long, slender, drooping and bracteate near the middle. The corolla is ovoid-campanulate, with acute divisions, inclosing the stamens. The fruit is large, globose, dark-blue, covered with a glaucous bloom, sweet and edible (W.).
Gaylussacia resinosa is a bushy shrub 1 to 3 feet in height. Its branches are cinereous brown and villose when young. The leaves are deciduous, oblong-ovate, or oblong-lanceolate, rather obtuse, entire, petiolate, 1 or 2 inches long, about one-third as wide, and thickly covered with shining resinous dots beneath. The flowers are reddish, tinged with green, or yellowish-purple, in lateral, secund, dense, corymbose racemes, small and drooping; the pedicels are about the length of the flowers, and sub-bracteolated; the bracts and bractlets are reddish, small, and deciduous. The corolla is ovoid-conic, at length subcampanulate, 5-angled, contracted at the mouth, longer than the stamens, shorter than the style. The fruit is globose, black, without bloom, sweet and edible (W.).
History and Chemical Composition.—These plants are common to the northern states, growing in woods and pastures, flowering in May and June, and ripening their fruit in August. The fruit, or berries, together with the bark of the root, are the parts used. They yield their virtues to water. To our knowledge, no analysis has yet been made of them. The fruit of the related European plant, Vaccinium myrtillus, Linné, contains malic and citric acids, sugar, pectin, coloring matter, iron-bluing tannin, ericolin and kinic acid (see Dragendorff's Heilpflanzen, 1898; and Wittstein's Pharmacognosie, 1882).
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Diuretic and astringent. The fruit is very useful, eaten alone, with milk or sugar, in scurvy, dysentery, and derangements of the urinary organs. The berries and roots, bruised and steeped in gin, form an excellent diuretic, which has proved of much benefit in dropsy and gravel. A decoction of the leaves or bark of the root is astringent, and may be used in diarrhoea, or as a local application to ulcers, leucorrhoea, and ulcerations of the mouth and throat.
Related Species.—The different varieties of whortleberry possess similar properties, as the Gaylussacia dumosa, Torrey and Gray (Vaccinium dumosum), or Bush whortleberry; V. corymbosum, Linné, or Giant whortleberry; V. Pennsylvanicum, Lamarck, Common low blueberry, or Black-blue whortleberry; V. Vitis-Idaea, Linné, Cowberry or Bilberry, and several others. The last-named contains a bitter principle, vacciniin, identical with arbutin (Edo Claassen; see under Uva Ursi). Several species are found growing in the mountainous regions of some of the southern states. Torrey and Gray have removed the V. frondosa, V. resinosum, and V. dumosum. from the genus Vaccinium, and placed them in a new one called Gaylussacia, in honor of the distinguished chemist, Gay-Lussac. Both the berries and root-bark of V. arboreum, Michaux, or Farkleberry, are very astringent, more so than the other varieties above named, and may be used in all cases where this class of agents is indicated, as in diarrhoea, chronic dysentery, etc., taken internally; and the infusion will be found valuable as a local application in sore throat, aphthous ulcerations, some forms of chronic ophthalmia, leucorrhoea, etc. The leaves of Vaccinium Vitis-Idaea, and of Vaccinium uliginosum, Linné, have been confounded with those of Uva ursi.
Vaccinium macrocarpon, Aiton (Oxycoccus macrocarpus), Cranberry.—This well-known fruit is frequently applied in domestic practice to inflammatory swellings, such as erysipelas. Edo Claassen (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1886, p. 324) finds in the fruit a bitter, non-crystallizable glucosid, which he names oxycoccin, resembling arbutin. Cranberries are a source of citric acid; L. W. Moody (ibid., 1878, p. 567) found 2.27 per cent. Cranberries in poultice have proved useful in erysipelatous inflammations, tonsilitis, scarlatinal sore throat, and swelling of the cervical glands, as well as in indolent and malignant ulcers. A split cranberry, held in position by a daub of flour or starch-paste, will quickly relieve the pain and inflammation attending boils upon the tip of the nose. This procedure, recently recommended by a distinguished physician, has given good results in our hands.