Black Snakeroot. Black Cohosh.
BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS.—Stem 4 to 8 feet high, from a thick rhizome; leaves alternate, ternately decompound; flowers regular, small, white, in wand-like racemes often 3 feet long; sepals 5, petaloid; petals from 1 to 8, small, on claws, 2-horned at apex; stamens numerous; pistils 1 to 3; fruit 1 to several dry, dehiscent pods.
SOURCE.—This plant is common in rich woodlands of the United States, westward to Iowa and northward to Canada. Actae'a racemo'sa is mentioned by Flückiger as a synonym of this plant. A similar plant, Actae'a spicat'a, furnishing a rhizome resembling black snakeroot, is common in Europe; it differs, however, in having juicy berries instead of dry follicles.
DESCRIPTION OF DRUG.—A short horizontal rhizome from 10 to 25 mm (⅖ to 1 in.) thick, with numerous branches—remains of aerial stems —each terminated by a deep cup-shaped scar; on the lower side are found numerous brittle rootlets from 1 to 2 mm. (1/25 to 1/12 in.) thick; externally brownish-black; fracture of rhizome, horny; odor slight (the powder, however, has a heavy odor); taste bitter and acrid.
Cross-section of the rhizome exhibits a large, whitish pith, around which, more or less stellately arranged, are wood-wedges separated by medullary rays. Bark hard and thickish. The rootlets display, under the microscope, a thick cortical layer, the space within which contains converging wedges of open, woody tissue, three to five in number, forming a Maltese cross. The stellate arrangement of the woody wedges of the rootlets is one of the best distinguishing characteristics.
Powder.—Characteristic elements: See Part iv, Chap. I, B.
CONSTITUENTS.—Besides the ordinary vegetable principles-fat, sugar, tannin, and starch-there exists a resin which has been by some assigned as the active medicinal constituent. This resin, amounting to about 3 ½ per cent., is contained in the resinoid cimicifugin or macrotin of the market. An acrid, crystalline principle, soluble in chloroform, ether, and alcohol, and not precipitated by lead acetate, is also said to exist in the root. Ash, not more than 10 per cent.
Preparation of Cimicifugin.—By precipitating the concentrated tincture with water, a crude article is prepared which is known as the resinoid. A purer form is made by precipitating the tincture of the fresh drug with lead subacetate, removing the lead from solution with H2S, and evaporating. Soluble in alcohol and chloroform.
ACTION AND USES.—Antispasmodic, diaphoretic, and expectorant. It acts like digitalis on the circulation, and as a sedative upon cardiac ganglia; small doses stimulate digestion and secretion; used in rheumatism and disturbances of the menstrual function. It is a powerful uterine stimulant. In large doses cimicifuga causes nausea, headache, vertigo, tremors, muscular relaxation, slowing and weakening of the pulse. Dose: 15 to 30 gr. (1 to 2 Gm.).
- OFFICIAL PREPARATIONS.
- Fluidextractum Cimicifugae, Dose: 5 to 30 drops (0.3 to 2 mils).
- Extractum Cimicifugae, Dose: 3 to 5 gr. (0.2 to 0.3 Gm.).