Euphorbia Ipecacuanha. American Ipecacuanha.

Botanical name: 

Table 18. Euphorbia ipecacuanha. Ipecacuanha Spurge. Willd. Ipecac.

Germ. Brechenmachende Wolfsmilch. (Willd.)
Euphorbia Ipecacuanha, L.
Sp. Pl. p. 653.
Willd. Sp. Pl. tom. II. pars 2. p. 900.
Gron. Virg. 58. ed. n. 75.
Amoen. Acad. vol. 3. p. 117.
Houttuyn Pfl. Syst. 7. p. 55.
Mich. Fl. Boreali-Am. vol. 2. p. 212.
Muhl. Cat. Pl. Am. Sep. p. 47.
Pursh. Fl. Am. vol. 2. p. 606.
Bart. Prod. Pl. Ph. p. 53.
Pers. Syn. Pl. vol. 2. p. 14.
Shoepf. Mat. Med. Am. p. 74.
Puihn. Mat. Venenaria. 99.
Drake's Pict. Cin. p. 87.
Barton's Collections, part 1. p. 26.


Gen. Plant. ed. Scheb. n. 823.
Cor. 4-s. 5-petala, calyci insidens. Cal. l.phyllus, ventricosus. Caps. 3-cocca. Nat. Syst. Juss. Euphorbia. Classis XV. Ordo 1.
Euphorbia, L. * Tithymalus, T. * Tithymaloides, T. * Euphorbium, Isn. * Titimale, Euphorbe. Hermaphradita. Calix 1-phyllus (corolla T.) turbinatus, limbo 8-10-dentato, dentibus alternis inflexis, alternis exterioribus (petala L.) forma variis, crassiusculis, glandulaeformibus aut petaloi'deis, nunc simphcibus, nunc 2-3-fidis aut rarius multifidis. Stamina indefinita 12 aut plura, rarius pauciora; filaraenta receptaculo inserta, medio articulata, diverso tempore erumpentla; anther* didym*. Palex autsquamute (petala Adans.) staminibus interject*, definite aut ssepius indefinite, simplices ant saepius ramosac vel fimbriate. Germen inter stamina centrale stipitatum 3-gonum j styli 3; stigmata 6. Capsula stipite reflexo extra calicem nutans 3-cocca, 3-sperma.
Juss. Gen. Plant. p. 385.
Nat. Ord. Lin. Tricoccx.
Classis Dodecandria. Ordo Trigynia. Lin. Syst.

Gen. Ch. Cal. Perianth inferior, of one leaf, inflated, somewhat coloured, with four, in some instances, five, marginal teeth, permanent. Cor. Petals, or Nectaries, four, sometimes five, turbinate, gibbous, thick, abrupt, unequal in situation, alternate with the teeth of the calyx, inserted into its margin by their claws, permanent, bearing plenty of honey. Stam. Filaments numerous, 12 or more, thread-shaped, jointed, longer than the corolla, inserted into the receptacle, coming to maturity at different periods, separated by bristly scales: anthers roundish, of two distinct lobes. Pist- Germen superior, roundish, three-sided, elevated on a stalk above the margin of the calix; styles three, cloven; stigmas obtuse. Peiic. Capsule stalked, roundish, three-lobed, of three cells, and three valves which separate elastically. Seeds solitary, roundish.
Obs. The petals or nectaries are for the most part four, in some flowers five, which often happens on the same plant, such flowers being furnished with stamens only, without a pistil, and coming forth earlier than the rest. In many the petals are glandular, in others crescent-shaped, or toothed; in some few thin and membranous; they are commonly situated as it were on the outside of the calix. The capsule is either smooth, or hairy, or warty.
Ess. Ch. Calix of one leaf, inflated, inferior. Nectaries four or five, inserted into the calix. Capsule stalked, three-lobed. Ency.

Euphorbia Ipecacuanha, perennis, procumbens, pumila, glabra: foliis oppositis, sessilibus, obovalibus, oblongisve, integris: pedunculis solitariis, 1-floris, elongatis. Mich. Fl. Bor. Am.


Tithymalus, flore exiguo viridi apicibus flavis, antequam folia emittit florens. Gron. Virg.
Euphorbia protulacoides ? Auctorum.

Descriptio Uberior.

Varia; rubra vel pallido-viridis. Radix perennis, elongata, tuberculata: extra colore flava, interne albida. Caules numerosissimi dichotomi, geniculato-procumbentes, seu erectiusculi spithamaei. Folia opposita, (uno alterove ex infirais alterno) ovalia interdum lanceolata, rarius lineariIanceolata, laevia, integerrima; nonnunquam emarginata. Pedunculi solitarii axillares, uniflori, longitudine foliorum dum florent, dein fructiferi duplo longiores. Calix crassus. Habitat in arenosis arvis, et sabulosis, florens Maio. Bart. Fl. Ph. MS.

The genus Euphorbia, is the ευφορβιον of Dioscorides; and it was so named after Euphorbus, physician to Juba, king of Lybia.

The very singular species which is now to be described, is exclusively a native of the United States It is extremely amorphous; varying so much in the shape of its leaves, their colour, and in fact, in the whole appearance of the plant, that in its different states it might be mistaken by those unacquainted with it, for several distinct species of the same genus. [It is full of a milky juice, which by siccaiion between the fingers, is convertible into cauoutchouc.] The root is perennial, from three to seven feet in length, and generally about three quarters of an inch, an inch, or an inch and an half in diameter. It is tuberculated, and of a yellowish colour; sending off towards its upper end, numerous smaller roots, generally about the thickness of a crow or goose-quill, and sometimes larger. The stems are numerous, dichotomous, white under the earth or sand, and red, pale-green, or yellow abo^ e. The stipules are heart-shaped and small. The leaves are opposite, sessile; and are generally oval, sometimes obovate, and occasionally lanceolate, as represented in iig. 5, and not unfrequently even linear. They are always entire on their margins, but sometimes, when obovate, are emarginated or notched at the apex. While the plant is in flower, in May, the leaves are very small, as in fig. 1 and fig. 2; when it grows older, they become much increased in size, as in fig. 3 and fig. 4. The flowers are situated on solitary oneflowered axillary peduncles, varying in length from three quarters of an inch, to three inches. The seeds are three in number, enclosed in a triangular-like capsule.

This plant is said by Michaux, to grow from Pennsylvania to Carolina. It will, I presume, be found on the sandy shores of our sea-board, from Jersey to Georgia. I have found it (in the year 1810) in the sand, near the light-house at Cape Henry in Virginia. It grows in the greatest abundance in the sandy fields of Jersey, opposite to Christian street, (of Philadelphia) and about half a quarter of a mile from the Delaware. It grows also in similar situations, along the course of the Delaware, for ten or fifteen miles below this city, and probably further. It delights in a loose, moist, sandy soil; and is often found growing in beds of sand only. As the root alone is used, it may be collected for medical purposes, at any time. I have found it equally efficacious, dug up in April and September.

The Euphorbia portulacoides, described by Kalm, and Linnaeus and others on his authority, as growing "in Philadelphia," is, I strongly suspect, nothing more than the oval-leaved variety of the E. Ipecacuanha. I am the more inclined to this belief, from the circumstance of Linnaeus, Willdenow, Kalm, and others, having described the E. Ipecacuanha, with only lanceolate leaves. This, we know, is rather a rare variety in the leaves of our plant. But further, I do not learn that any American botanist is acquainted with the plant termed E. portulacoides.

Medical Properties.

It is not without great satisfaction that I now present the medical profession, with a figure and history of an indigenous plant, which promises to yield a medicine, equal in importance, if not on some accounts superior, to the common Ipecacuanha of the shops. That the Euphorbia Ipecacuanha is possessed of virtues entitling it to supersede the use of the imported Ipecacuanha, my own extensive experience with it, corroborated by the numerous trials of the medicine by Professor Hewson, my brother, Dr. John Rhea Barton, [The trials of the medicine made by my brother, on the patients of the hospital, were instituted with a design of making this plant the subject of his Inaugural Dissertation. This intention was however abandoned, in consequence of learning that another gentleman had chosen the same subject. ] of the Pennsylvania hospital, and others, all embolden me to declare. Previously to the experiments instituted by myself, and, at my request, by Dr. Hewson and others, little more was known of the American Ipecacuanha, than that it was possessed of emetic properties. The dose in which it operated, had not been ascertained, and indeed all who wrote of it, merely mentioned it as an emetic. The earliest printed notice of this plant that I can find is in the work of Dr. Puihn, ["Materia Venenaria Regni Vegetabilis," p. 99.] published at Leipsic in the year 1785. He simply notices it thus: "Euphorbia Ipecacuanha America septentrionalis incolse ut emetico utuntur." And Shoepf (who seems only to have seen the variety with lanceolate leaves) remarks, that this plant is called "Ipecacuanha," and observes, "A nonnullis, precipue incolis Borealibus temere ad vomitum ciendum interne usurpatur. Clayt". [Mat. Med. Am. p. 74.] The late Professor Barton seems not to have known more of the Euphorbia than what he learned from Shoepf. He says in his Collections, "it is employed as an emetic by some of the country people. I do not know the dose. I suppose it is small, for it be longs to the head of drastic emetics. I am not certain that it, would be a valuable addition to the materia medica; but perhaps it would." [Part 1. p. 26.]

Induced by the sensible properties of the plant, and the remarks just quoted, I last year determined to give a fair and extensive trial to the medicinal virtues of this species of Spurge. A portion of the dried root was finely pulverised, and administered with caution to various patients. I at first commenced with small doses, of three, four, and five grains. In this quantity the powder nauseated, and produced a determination to the skin, as small doses of Ipecacuanha do. On increasing the number of grains to ten, vomiting was produced, with occasionally an operation on the bowels. Fifteen grains I found sufficient to produce full vomiting in most cases; and in a single instance, having given the powder to the extent of twenty-five grains, I had reason to be alarmed at the violent cathartic effect which ensued, and continued for fourteen hours, attended by distressing sickness of the stomach.

I have tried this species of Euphorbia in Dover's powders, instead of the Ipecacuanha; and in various other combinations into which the latter article enters as a part: and can confidently assert, that in all the instances, it has been equal, if not superior, to the foreign Ipecacuanha. It has indeed some advantages which the imported article does not possess. It is not unpleasant, either in taste or smell; and it is well known that to some persons the officinal Ipecacuanha is so disagreeable that they cannot take it at all. Upon the whole, the attention of physicians may be confidently called to our native Ipecacuanha, as possessed of virtues equal, and in some respects superior to imported Ipecacuanha. Its occasional cathartic effect is no more than what follows the use of the foreign medicine, on some occasions. This view of the subject derives peculiar importance from the well known fact, that the Ipecacuanha of the shops (at least in this country) is rarely good — perhaps seldom genuine. This is not the proper place to inquire into the cause of this palpable adulteration, or whether it takes place before the article is sent to us. It is a common complaint among physicians, that it now takes twice the quantity of Ipecacuanha that was formerly necessary, to produce a full vomiting. The chemical analysis has been deferred, owing to the want of the sufficient quantity of the root. But it shall appear in the appendix, with the fourth number.

Fig. 1. Represents an entire plant of the crimson variety (E. Ipecac, with a portion of the root. The specimen from which this figure was drawn (taken in May) had a root of the thickness of the lowest part, five and an half feet long. Where the stems are red, they appeared above the sand.
2. A portion of a specimen of the green variety, also culled in May.
3. A leaf of the variety, fig. 1, from the advanced plant.
4. Ditto of the variety fig. 2.
5. The variety with lanceolate leaves.
6. A flower with its peduncle.
7. The same with fruit.

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.