Cassia. Cassia marilandica L. Wild Senna. American Senna, Sene Americain, Fr. Amerikanische Senna, G. (Fam. Leguminosae.)—This is an indigenous perennial plant of vigorous growth, sending up annually numerous round, erect, nearly smooth stems, which are usually simple, and rise from three to six feet in height. The leaves are alternate, and composed of from eight to ten pairs of oblong-lanceolate, smooth, mucronate leaflets, green on their upper surface, pale beneath, and connected by short petioles with the common footstalk, which is compressed, channelled above, and furnished near its base with an ovate, stipitate gland. The American senna is common from New England to North Carolina. The leaves, which should be collected in August or the beginning of September, are sometimes brought into the market, compressed into oblong cakes, like those prepared by the Shakers from most herbaceous medicinal plants. The leaflets are from an inch and a half to two inches long, from one-fourth to half an inch in breadth, thin, pliable, and of a pale green color. They have a feeble odor, and a nauseous taste, somewhat analogous to that of senna. Water and alcohol extract their virtues. Hermann J. M. Schroeter (A. J. P., 1888, 231) found in them chrysophanic acid; also an active principle corresponding in all respects with cathartic acid. For earlier analysis by Martin, see A. J. P., i, 22. American senna is an efficient and safe cathartic, acting like senna but more feebly.
Cassia nictitans L., or Wild Sensitive Plant, was investigated by Gallaher (A. J. P., 1888, 280), who failed to find any glucoside or alkaloid. The amount of volatile oil found was very small, and cathartic acid could not be prepared from it, although the powder produced griping. The leaves of Cassia alata L. are recommended by Conillebault in ringworm; they are moistened and the parts affected rubbed with them. (A. J. P., 1887, 266.)
Under the names of Cheshmat, Chashmizok, Schischen, the seeds of C. Absus L. are said to be used in India and Africa in the treatment of inflammations of the eye, either in the form of a fine powder or an infusion made from the coarsely ground seeds to which several medicinal substances are added.
The root of the Cassia bearensis Miq. is said to be very useful in the so-called black-water fever of Africa. (See P. J., vols. xlvii, xlviii.)