Dracontium. Symplocarpus Foetidus (L.) Nutt. (Spathyema foetida (L.) Raf. Dracontium foetidum L. Ictodes foetidus Bigelow.) Skunk Cabbage. Skunk Weed. Polecat Weed. Racine de Pothos fetide, Fr. Stinkende Drachenwurzel, G—The plant of the Fam. Araceae is abundant in wet places throughout the Northern and Middle United States. All parts of it have a fetid odor, dependent upon an extremely volatile principle, which is rapidly dissipated by heat. The rhizome should be collected in the autumn, or in the early spring.
The rhizome occurs either whole or in transverse slices. When entire, it is cylindrical or in the shape of a truncated cone, 5 to 10 cm. long and 2 to 4 cm. thick, externally dark brown and very rough from the insertion of the radicles, internally white and amylaceous. The rootlets are of various lengths, 2 to 4 mm. thick, coarse, simple, and very strong, very much flattened and wrinkled, white within, and covered by a yellowish or reddish-brown epidermis, considerably lighter colored than the body of the rhizome. The odor is fetid, the taste acrid; both are lessened by drying and progressively diminish with time, so that the dried rhizome should not be kept longer than a single season. This acridity is entirely absent in the decoction. The seeds are very acrid, and, though inodorous when whole, give out, when bruised, the peculiar odor of the plant.
The rhizome is affirmed to be antispasmodic and narcotic; occasioning nausea and vomiting, with headache, vertigo, and dimness of vision. It has been used with alleged success in asthma, chronic catarrh, chronic rheumatism, chorea, hysteria, and dropsy. Dose, of powder, from ten to twenty grains (0.65-1.3 Gm.), increased pro re nato.