Erigeron Heterophyllum. Sweet-Scabious.

Botanical name: 

Table 21. Erigeron heterophyllum. Also see Erigeron philadelphicum, Philadelphia Flea-bane.

Various-leaved Flea-bane.
Germ. Verschiedenblättriges Berusungskraut. (Willd.)
Jährige Sterneblume. (Willd.)

Erigeron heterophyllum. Muhlenb. in Litt.
Willd. Sp. Pl. tom. 3. pars 3. p. 1956.
Willd. Sp. Pl. tom. 3. pars 3. p. 2041.
Ait. Kew. 3. p. 209.
Hort. Cliff. 409.
Hort. Ups. 262.
Roy. Lugdb. 169.
Mill. Dict. n. 28.
Fl. Dan. 486.
Hoff. Germ. 297.
Roth. Germ. I. 367. II. 357.
Moris. Hist. 3. p. 122.
Cor. Canad. 193. t. 194.
Houttuyn Lin. Pfl. Syst.9. p. 386.
Muhl. Cat. Am. Pl. p. 76.
Pursh. Fl. Am. Sep. vol. 2. p. 534.
Pers. Syn. Pl. vol. 2. p. 431.
Bart. Prod. Fl. Ph. p. 79.
Suter. Fl. Helvetica, vol. 2. p. 185.

Erigeron heterophyllum, foliis radicalibus subrotundo-ovatis profunde dentatis petiolatis, caulinis lanceo latis acutis medio subserratis corymbo terminali. Willd. Sp. Pl. p. 1956.

Descriptio Uberior.

Folia radicalia longe petiolata subrotundo-ovata profunde et grosse dentata, petiolo subalato bidentato, inferiora caulina bipollicaria sessilia ovata acuta utrinque serraturis profundis tribus notata triplinervia; superiora lanceolata acuminata vel integerrima, vel serraturis binis acuminatis utroqne latere instructa, ut radicalia etir.feriora glabra atque margine tantum setis rigidis ciliata. Corymbus tertninalis fastigiatus. Corolla: radii albs filiformes copiosx. Pili in caule breves patentes. Willd. Sp. Pl. tom. 3. 1956.

Erigeron heterophyllum is a plant common to Europe and North America. It is the Aster annuus of Linnaeus, and is twice described by Willdenow, in his Species Plantar um; under the different names of Aster annuus and Erigeron heterophylhim. There remains no doubt, however, at this time, of the identity of these two plants.

Sweet-Scabious is as common a plant in the United States, as its companion, the Philadelphia Flea-bane, and is always found growing with it. Its geographical distribution, therefore, throughout our States, is the same as that of the E. Philadelphicum. By the common people, the two plants are distinguished by the names Scabious and Sweet-Scabious, for what reason cannot be satisfactorily learned. The vulgar epithet Skevish, is sometimes applied to the species under consideration, as well as to the E. Philadelphicum.

The root of Sweet-Scabious is like that of the preceding species. It sends up from three to live stems, which are very much branched above, and attain the height of two or three feet. The stems are roundish, striated, pubescent, and about the thickness below, of a pipe-stem, gradually tapering towards the top, where it is divided into numerous spreading branches. The primary branches are considerably shorter than the secondary, and flower first. The radical leaves are ovate, acute, deeply toothed, and supported by broad winged petioles, half the length of the leaves. The stem-leaves are sessile, lanceolate, acute, deeply sinuated, or remotely serratetoothed in the middle. The leaves of the branches are lanceolate, entire, and closely sessile. All the leaves, except those from the root, are ciliated at and near the base, as represented in the plate. The flowers are borne in terminal, rarely lateral, corymbs; are numerous, and resemble those of E. Philadelphicum. The florets of the disk are bright yellow, and the ray-florets capillary, numerous, white, pale-blue, and sometimes pale-purple. The whole plant is of a dark or deep-green colour, in which circumstance it strikingly differs from the preceding species. It grows, as has been already mentioned, with its congener, just described; and in the neighbourhood of Philadelphia, it is nearly as abundant.

Medical Properties Of Erigeron Philadelphtcum And Erigeron Heterophyllum.

These two plants are introduced into this work, on account of their diuretic qualities. The E. Philadelphicum has been known for some years, as a diuretic; and it has been much used and commended in gravelly and gouty affections. [Loureio says it is commended for its emenagogue virtues, by the people of Cochinchina, who call it cay con hat.] I have been informed by Mr. Samuel Hazard, that his father, the late Ebenezer Hazard, of this city, was in the constant practice, for years before his death, of using the decoction of the plant, on the commencement of an attack of gout, and with much relief of its pains, as well as of some gravelly symptoms to which he was subject. It has been much praised for its remediate virtues in calculus; and has been used in some few instances of dysury by Dr. Physick. He informed me that in a case of this kind, attended with great pain and irritability of the bladder, the patient found much relief by taking decoctions of the plant for a few weeks. Scabious has also been prescribed in cases of hydrothorax combined with gout; in ascites, and in general dropsy; and those who have given the medicine in these cases, report the most beneficial effects to have been produced. In a consultation letter from the late Dr. Wistar to Dr. Eberle, put into my hands by the latter gentleman, it appears that the doctor recommended the Scabious in the case of the late Judge Yates, of Lancaster, who was affected with gout and general dropsy, attended with distressing pain in the bowels, and so disordered a state of the stomach, that the squill could not be administered; yet it was necessary to give some active diuretic. "I once attended a gentleman," says Dr. Wistar, "who suffered with gout and hydrothorax; the squill produced great disturbance and pain of the stomach, and thus did more harm than good. This gentleman was greatly relieved by the infusion of Scabious, which he took very freely" [Dr. Wistar sent a box full of this Scabious to Dr. Eberle, for the use of the judge; and as Dr. Wistar had informed me that he procured the plant whenever he thought proper to prescribe it, at the Friends' alms-house, it is probable that the quantity sent to Lancaster was procured there. Consequently it was composed of two species, as may be seen in a subsequent part of the text.] Dr. Eberle accordingly administered the decoction in this instance, and he informs me with great relief to the Judge. He was, from this circumstance, subsequently induced to prescribe it to a patient [The late Paul Zantzinger, Esq. of Lancaster.] affected with anasarca, who found the most essential relief from the medicine.

On learning from Dr. Physick that he procured the plant at the Friends' alms-house of this city, I found, by examining the herbs vended by the inhabitants of that place, under the name of Scabious, that they were the two species just described; and that they were sold indiscriminately for one article. At the same time I was informed that one (the E. heterophyllum) was commonly known, and brought to them by their herb-collectors, under the name of SweetScabious. In consequence of this information I made many trials of the last mentioned species, and found it possessed of active diuretic and sudorific virtues, like the E. Philadelphicum. I have every reason to believe, that both plants are deserving the attention of physicians, for the medicinal powers which have given them a place in this work; and there is great probability, from the similarity of the two plants, that the Erigeron heterophyllum has a just right to participation, in the reputation bestowed on the other species. They have certainly been confounded with each other by all but botanists; and used indiscriminately under one common name, and of course with the same object in view.

These plants should be gathered for medical use, while in flower, and carefully dried in wrapping paper. They should be used in decoction to the extent of a pint or two, in the course of twenty-four hours. Mr. Hazard's case, and the encouraging relief met with by Dr. Physick in the case above mentioned, as well as the one alluded to by Dr. Wistar, justify me in strenuously recommending the plants to the notice of physicians. My own experience with both species enables me to bear testimony to their diuretic virtues. If they be not among the most powerful medicines of this class, they have the estimable property of being innocent to the stomach. This organ will not reject the decoction of these herbs when it is so disordered and irritable as to render the squill, digitalis, ^c. intolerable. I have used a strong decoction of the two plants, in a case of nephritis, at the Naval Hospital; and with great relief of the difficult and painful micturition so constantly attendant on this disease. My success, in the instance alluded to, far exceeded my sanguine expectations, and emboldens me, with some degree of confidence, to recommend the Scabious in similar cases, for the relief of this distressing and troublesome symptom.

Table XXI.

Fig. 1. Represents the upper portion of Erigeron heterophyllum. of the size of nature; the primary branch just past flowering, the secondary, or external branches, in full bloom. The ray-florets are rarely pure white, generally of the colour represented; and from this, gliding imperceptibly into purple.
2. The lower or radicle portion of the same, having had, between this and the upper part, twelve inches of the stem cut away.

Vegetable Materia Medica of the U.S. or Medical Botany, 1817 (Vol. I), 1818 (Vol. II), was written by William P. C. Barton, M. D.