Gillenia Trifoliata. Indian Physic.

Botanical name: 

Table 05. Gillenia trifoliata. Also see Gillennia Stipulacea.

Ipecacuanha. Beaumont-root. Ipecacuan. American Ipecac. Three-leaved Spinea. Indian luppo. Meadow-sweet. Dropwort. Bowman's-root.

Gillenia trifoliata.
Lin. Sp. Pl. 702.
Amoen. acad. 4. p. 523.
Hort. Cliff. 191.
Hort. Ups. 131.
Roy. Lugdb. 277.
Gron. Virg. 55.
Pluk. aim. 393. t. 236. f. 5.
Raj. Suppl. 330.
Moris. Hist. 3. p. 323.
Gron. Virg. ed. n. 77.
Cold. Noveb. 117.
Mill. Dict. n. 7.
Moench. Meth. Suppl. p. 286
Bot. Mag. 489.
Mill. ic. 256.
Coxe's Am. Disp. ed. 3d p. 569.
Thatcher's Disp. p. 343.
Pens. Syn. Pl. vol. 2. p. 47.
Barton's Cullen. vol. 2. p. 335.
Chapman's Elements of Mat. Med. &cvol. 1. p. 111.
Shoepf. Mat. Med. Am. p. 80.
Mich. Fl. Boreali-Am. vol. 1. p. 294.
Willd. Sp. Pl. Tom. 2. p. 1063.
Ait. Hort. Kew. ed. 3d. vol. 3. p. 257.
Pursh FL Am. Sep. vol. 1. p. 343. Muhl. Cat. Am. Sep. p. 23.
Barton's Collections, &c. ed. 3d vol. 1. p. 27. vol. 2. p. 39.
Barton's Prod. Fl. Phil. p. 55.
Nuttall, Gen. Am. Plants.

GILLENIA (Moench).

Cal Inferus, campanulatus, seu campanulato-tubulosus, 5-fidus. Petala 5. Styli 5. Caps, 5-locularis, polyspermy.
Nat ord. Lin. Senticosae.
Nat.syst. Juss. Rosaceae. Chassis XIV. Ord. X.
Classis Icosandria. Ord. Pentagynia. Lin. Syst.
Gillenia trifoliata. G. herbacea: foliis trifoliatis; foliolis lanceolatis: floribus laxe subpaniculatis, pentagynis; calice tubuloso campanulato- Mich. FL Bor. Am. sub synon. Spiraeae trifoliatae.
G. foliis ternatis lanceolatis serratis subxqualibus, stipulis linearibus integris, floribus terminalibus laxe paniculatis 5-gynis, calice tubuloso campanulato. Pur. Fl. Am. Sep. sub. synon. Spiraeae trifoliatae.


Spiraea trifoliata. Lin. Sp. Pl.
Willd. Sp. Pl. vol. 2. p. 1063.
Mich. Fl. Boreali-Am. vol. 1. p. 294.
Pursh Fl. Am. Sep. vol. 1. p. 343. et aliorum Auctorum.

Spiraea foliis ternatis serratis subxqualibus, floribus subpaniculatis. Sp. Pl. 702. Mill. Dict. n. 7. et ic. t. 256.
Filipendula foliis ternatis. Hort. Cliff. 191. Hort. Ups. 131. Roy.Lugdb. 277. Gron. Virg. 55.
Ulmaria major trifolia, flore amplo pentapetalo, virginiana. Pluk. Aim. 393. t. 236. f. 5. Raj. Sup. 330.
Ulmaria virginiana trifolia, floribus candidis amplis longis et acutis. Moris. Hist. 3. p. 325.
Houttuyn Lin. Pfl. Syst. 7. p. 137.
Dreyblättrige Spierstaude. Willd. (German.)
♃ . Willd. Sp. Pl. tom. 2. p. 1063.
Pharm. Gillenice trifoliate Radix.
Vis. Emetica purgans. dos. ℈ij-ʒi aeque tuto operantur ac unquam ipecacuanha. Shoepf Mat. Med. Am. p. 80.

Descriptio Uberior.

Radix perennis. Caulium plurium, versus summitatem ramosarum, et plerumque rubicundarum. Folia ternata; foliola supra lanceolata, serrata, sub-aequales: infra obtusata in acumine abrupte terminata, et interdum in unico laterali lobo incisa. Stipulis linearibus, et nonnunquam subulatis. Floribus formosis, terminalibus, in laxa panicula dispositis. Petala hneari-lanceolata, obtusiuscula, et ubi cum calice juncta, sub-unguiculata. Colore sunt alba, rariter albido-rosea. Calix tubulosocampanulatus, venti'icosus, in basi attenuatus. Stamina inclausa brevia; antheris parvoilis. Capsula 5-locularis, polysperma. Habitat in umbrosis sylvis montosis, plurimum humidis sohis gaudens. Floret Junio.
Barton's Flora Philadelphica. MS.

The root of Gillenia trifoliata is perennial. It is composed of numerous long brown slender caudexes, radiating from a thick tuber. Some of these are knotted, for a considerable portion of their length, like one or two of those represented in the plate. The number of stems proceeding from the root varies. Sometimes there is only a single one. and occasionally many arise from the same root. The stems are branched above; about two and an half, or three feet high; round, and commonly of a reddish colour. The leaves are universally ternate. The leafets are lanceolate, serrate, and nearly equal. The lower ones, broad towards the apex, and terminating in an abrupt acumination, with occasionally a deep lateral incisure forming a lobe, like the out-line leaf represented in the plate. The stipules are linear, occasionally on the smaller branches, subulate, and always entire. The flowers are terminal, forming a lose pannicle. They are composed of five linear-lanceolate petals, somewhat obtuse, and bent nearly in a right angle, at the distance of an eighth of an inch from their insertion. The calix is tubular, campanulate, ventricose, tapering at the base, and terminating in five pointed segments. Stamens SO in number, short. Anthers small. The capsule is 5-locular, and contains many seeds. This species of Gillenia inhabits shady woods, on mountains and hills, from Canada to the high gravelly banks of the Ohio, in a southwestward direction. It is then superseded by its congener, G. stipulacea. Pursh says it is found as far as Florida, in shady woods and on bogs. It is found plentifully in the neighbourhood of Philadelphia, in hilly woods, and sometimes on the borders of rivulets. It is in full flower in June.

Gillenia trifoliata may be readily propagated by seeds, or by transplanting roots. The seeds should be sown in a shady border, soon after they are ripe; for if they are sown in the spring, they will not come up till the year after, and frequently fail. When the plants appear, they must be kept clean from weeds, but must not be removed till autumn, when their leaves begin to decay. They may then be either transplanted where they are destined to remain, or into a marshy bed, where they may grow a year or two, to get strength before they are finally disposed of. The plant delights in a shady situation and a moist soil.

Medical Properties.

Gillenia trifoliata has justly obtained a place in the Dispensatories of our states, under the head of Emetics. In many respects, it has been compared to the officinal ipecacuanha. It appears that its medical virtues were not unknown to Linnaeus, who speaks of its reputed powers, as somewhat extraordinary in a plant belonging to his natural order senticosce. "Spiraeam trifoliatam ipecacuanham vocant et vomitum facere dicunt, quod sane singulare esset in hoc ordine," (alluding to the Senticosae. [Caroli a Linne, M. D. Pradectiones in Ordines Naturales Plantarum. Edidit P. D. Giseke. p. 449 Hamburgi: 1792.]) Though the stem and leaves of this plant, as well as the root, are reputed to possess emetic powers, it is the root alone which has been used by the different physicians who have employed it. It has been said that the cortex of the root exclusively, is endued with emetic virtue, and the powder of this part has accordingly been uniformly recommended for use. The ligneous portion is reputed to be inert. Probably the idea of inactivity in this woody part, has been carried too far. Schoepf, in his account of the medicinal virtues of Indian-physic, is silent on this point. It is said to possess a tonic power, with its emetic virtue, [Barton's Collections] and hence has been thought peculiarly beneficial in the intermittent fever. I have but little reliance on this opinion, and it/ is indeed of secondary importance. The dose is thirty grains of the powder for an adult. In this quantity it is a safe and efficacious emetic. It is said the country people have frequently used the plant so incautiously, as to be under the necessity of resorting to medical aid. This proves nothing but its activity. Shoepf says, in doses, from two scruples to a drachm, it operates as safely and as effectually as ipecacuanha; The roots should be collected in September.

Oeconomical Use.

It is said that the Indian-physic is often given to horses to mend their appetite, [Barton's Collections] and to remove their dyspeptic symptoms. Of this I know nothing myself, neither have I ever heard the manner in which it is administered to these animals.


Table V.

Fig. 1. Represents a portion of Gillenia trifoliata of its natural size.
2. The root.
3. An outline of one of the lower leaves.
4. A flower separated from the peduncle.
5. The calix.
6. The same opened, shewing the stamens.
7. The pistil.
8. The same shewing the five styles.

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.