154. Chenopodium Anthelminticum, Linnaeus.
[Sex. Syst. Pentandria, Digynia.
(Chenopodium, U. S. Wormseed. The fruit of the plant.)
Gen. Char.— Calyx five-parted, with five angles. Corolla none. Style bifid, rarely trifid. Seed one, lenticular, horizontal, covered by the closing calyx. (Nut tall.)
Sp. Char.—Leaves oblong, lanceolate, sinuate, and dentate, rugose. Racemes naked. Style one, three-cleft (Elliot).
The common names by which this plant.is known in the United States are Jerusalem Oak, Wormseed, Goosefoot, and Stink weed.
Description.—The root of the plant is perennial and branched. Stem upright, herbaceous, much branched, deeply grooved, from two to four feet high. Branches fastigiate, giving to the plant a shrubby appearance. Leaves sessile, scattered, and alternate, attenuate at each end, with strongly marked nervures, oval or oblong, deeply sinuate, studded beneath with small globular, oleaginous dots. Flowers small, numerous, of a yellowish-green colour, and collected in long, axillary, dense, leafless spikes.
Hab.—This species of Chenopodium is found in most parts of the United States. It grows in old fields, along roadsides, in moist and sandy situations. It flowers in June and July; and from August until cold weather the seeds may be collected. The seeds are small, not larger than the head of a common-sized pin, irregularly spherical, very light, of a dull greenish-yellow colour, approaching to brown, and having a bitterish, somewhat aromatic, pungent taste. The odour and taste are clue to the volatile oil that they contain; this is found in other parts; in fact, the whole plant contains it, and hence the uniform flavour possessed by them.
The properties of the seeds are vermifuge, which appears to have been known soon after the establishment of the British Colonies in America, especially in Virginia, where they were first used for this purpose. The herb is spoken of by Schoepf and Kalm, with others, in terms of commendation. The vermifuge power, by long trial, has been decidedly proved. As an antispasmodic it has also been used. Plenck employed it with success in five or six cases of chorea (Griffith, On Chen. Anthel. in Am. Journ. of Pharmacy, vol. v. p. 180), and this success has been confirmed by other writers.
The Chenopodium anthelminticum has sometimes been confounded with the C. ambrosioides, which is a smaller plant, and distinguished by the leafy spikes of flowers. The sensible properties are similar.
The seeds are given in the form of an electuary, pulverized and mixed with molasses or syrup; but the quantity required to be taken is liable to produce nausea and sickness. Dose ℈j to ℈ij given twice or thrice daily.
The expressed juice is sometimes administered; the dose is ℥ss; or a decoction of the leaves may be employed; this is best prepared with milk, in the proportion of ℥j leaves to Oj of milk or water. It may be flavoured with aromatics.
OLEUM CHENOPODII, U. S.; Oil of Wormseed.—This oil is of a light yellow colour when distilled, but its colour deepens by age and exposure. It has in a high degree the flavour of the plant. Its sp. gr. is 0.908. It is obtained by distilling the seeds; but the whole plant may be used for this purpose, as the oil is abundant in the glands. Sometimes it is adulterated with spirit of turpentine, or other inferior volatile oils; this must be determined by the odour. From the readiness with which it may be given, it is the best for exhibition, as it possesses the vermifuge properties in the smallest possible compass. The-dose is from 10 to 20 drops on a lump of sugar, or in emulsion. After several doses have been given, a purgative, as castor-oil, may be interposed.—J. C.]