The root of Phytolacca decandra.
Preparation.—Tincture of Phytolacca (the fresh root).
Dose.—From the fraction of a drop to twenty drops. Usually we add gtt. v. to ʒss. to water ℥iv.; the dose being one teaspoonful.
Specific Indications.—The mucous membranes are pale, and the epithelium gives way, showing vesicles, erosions, ulceration. Deposits in and upon the mucous epithelium, of an ashen-gray color, enlargement of lymphatic glands with pallor, mammary pain or inflammation, irritation of the salivary glands, or of the testes.
Therapeutic Action.—The Phytolacca is emetic, cathartic, alterative, and discutient. It acts as an emeto-cathartic, and exhibits some acro-narcotic powers, such as impaired vision, vertigo and drowsiness. In over-doses, it is said to cause excessive vomiting and purging, with great prostration, and occasionally convulsions. The dust inhaled, while pulverizing the root, produces severe coryza, with headache and prostration.
As an alterative, in chronic rheumatism, mercurial rheumatism, secondary syphilis, etc., but few agents are known to the profession which are so searching or more truly alterative. For this purpose the root, extract of the root, berries, or inspissated juice of the berries, or the tincture, may be prescribed alone, or combined with other agents; while the root may be roasted and applied to the part affected in the form of a poultice, or the saturated tincture or extract may be used as a local application.
The first and most important use of Phytolacca, is its specific action in diphtheria. The name here indicates a special, pathological condition, and we might expect to find a remedy which would meet the larger number of cases. Unless there is a strong indication for other remedies, I prescribe this as follows: "Rx Tincture of Aconite gtt. v., Tincture Phytolacca gtt. x. to gtt. xx., water ℥iv.; a teaspoonful every hour. Hundreds of cases have been treated with these remedies alone with a success almost marvellous. Of course, the treatment must be commenced early. If a patient's blood is saturated with the poison, and the tissues of the throat are dying, we could not expect success.
Phytolacca is a prominent remedy in stomatitis. Infantile sore mouths yield readily to it, and for the ordinary sore mouths of adults, we rarely think of another remedy. It is not so certain in nursing sore mouth, but yet it will cure some cases better than any other single remedy.
It is the remedy for threatened mammary inflammation. It should be given early in the disease, with the commencement of engorgement, heat, pain, and redness. It is so positive in its action, that in the larger number of cases the inflammation can be aborted. This use of Phytolacca should be widely known, as it will prevent the severe suffering that attends the usual course of mammary inflammation, terminating in suppuration. As an application to the inflamed breast, nothing is better than the powdered root, wetted with warm water, or even the tincture with water.
Phytolacca is a valuable remedy in many cases of sore nipples, and when the child has a sore mouth, both mother and child should take the remedy.
It is the remedy for parotitis or mumps, when a remedy is needed, and I rarely think of giving anything but this and Aconite.
It is also a good internal remedy in orchitis, and may be combined with Cannabis, Veratrum, Belladonna, or Gelseminum, according to the indications.
An infusion of the leaves has been found useful in hemorrhoids, taken in doses of a wineglassful five or six times daily, and at the same time use as a lotion to the piles, or as an injection. An ointment of the leaves or root will be found serviceable in the same disease, and may also be used with much advantage in scabies, psoriasis, tinea-capitis, etc. The root has been used to keep open fistulous pipes, and as a gentle escharotic and excitant to old and indolent ulcers. The root may also be roasted and applied to scirrhous and scrofulous tumors, bronchocele, indurated and enlarged glands, and as an application to felons, as a discutient, with much advantage. In febrile affections the root may be roasted and applied to the feet as a revulsive.