Gillenia. Bowman's Root. Indian Physic. American Ipecac. Racine de Gillenie, Fr. Gillenienwurzel, G.—Under this name the U. S. P. formerly included in its Secondary List the roots of two species of Gillenia. (Fam. Rosaceae.)
Gillenia trifoliata (L.) Moench. is an herbaceous plant with a perennial rhizome, having many long, slender, roots. It grows throughout the United States, east of the Allegheny ridge, and, in Pennsylvania, may also be found abundantly west of these mountains. The root should be gathered in September. (See A. J. P., 1898, 501.)
G. stipulata (Muhl.) Trel. is herbaceous and perennial, though much taller and more bushy than the preceding. It grows as far north as the State of New York, and extends as far west as Kansas. Its root is precisely similar to that of the Eastern species, and is reputed to possess the same properties.
The roots of G. stipulata resemble those of Ipecac, the bark being thinner and enclosing in the inner layers numerous reddish resin cells. The roots of G. trifoliata are smaller and indistinctly annulate, exhibiting few or no distinct fissures. For microscopic characters, see G. L. Curry. (Am. Pract. and News, May, 1892.) The bark, which is easily separable, has a bitter, not disagreeable taste; the wood is nearly insipid and comparatively inert, and should be rejected. The powder is of a light brownish color, and possesses a feeble odor, which is scarcely perceptible in the root. The bitterness is extracted by boiling water, which acquires a red color. The root yields its bitterness also to alcohol. By various experimenters it has been shown to contain gum, starch, gallotannic acid, fatty matter, wax, resin, coloring matter, albumen, and lignin, besides salts. (A. J. P., xxvi, 490.) Gillenin of W. B. Stanhope was a whitish substance, very bitter, slightly odorous, permanent in the air, soluble in water, alcohol, ether, and the dilute acids, and neutral to test paper. Nitric acid rendered it blood-red, chromic acid green. Tannic acid produced no effect. It gave white precipitates with potassium hydroxide, lead-subacetate, and tartar emetic. Half a grain (0.032 Gm.) of it produced nausea and retching. (A. J. P., xxviii, 202.) G. L. Curry (A. J. P., 1892, 513) has found two glucosides: the first, gillein, obtained from the ethereal extract, formed white feathery crystals, was colored red by sulphuric acid, yellow by nitric acid, and deepened the color of chromic acid; the second, gilleenin, obtained from the aqueous infusion, was amorphous, of yellowish color, of faint taste at first but becoming very bitter, and giving no color reactions with the acids.
Gillenia is a mild and efficient emetic, and, like most substances belonging to the same class, occasionally acts upon the bowels. In very small doses it has been thought to be tonic, and has been used as a substitute for ipecacuanha, which it is said to resemble in its mode of operation. It was employed by the Indians, and became known as an emetic to the colonists at an early period. Linnaeus was aware of its reputed virtues. Dose of the powdered root, as an emetic, from twenty to thirty grains (1.3-2.0 Gm.).