107. Aristolochia longa. Long-rooted Birthwort.

Botanical name: 

107. Aristolochia longa. 107. Aristolochia longa. C. Also see 106. Aristolochia serpentaria. Snake-root Birthwort.
Synonyma. Aristolochia. Pharm. Edinb.
Aristolochia longa. Clus. Hist. ii. p. 70. J. Bauh. Hist. iii. p. 560. Gerard Emac. p. 846. Raii Hist. p. 762.
Aristolochia longa vera. Bauh. Pin. p. 307. Park. Theat. p. 291. Tourn. Inst. p. 162. Millers Fig. tab. 61.

Class Gynandria. Ord. Hexandria. Lin. Gen. Plant. 1022.
Ess. Gen. Ch. Hexandria. Cal. o. Cor. 1-petala, lingulata, integra. Caps. 6-locularis, infera.
Spec. Char. A. fol. cordatis petiolatis integerrimis obtusiusculis, caule infirmo, flor. solitariis.

THE root is perennial, long, tapering, branched, externally wrinkled and brown, internally yellowish: the stems are slender, round, branched, trailing, and usually exceed a foot in length: the leaves are heart-shaped, obtuse, entire, veined, of a pale green colour, and placed alternately upon round footstalks, which are about the length of the leaves: the flowers are solitary, and stand upon peduncles, which arise close to the leaf-stalks: the corolla forms a more regular tube than that of the Serpentaria, and is tongue-shaped at the extremity: the other parts of fructification are similar to those described of Serpentaria. It is a native of the South of Europe, and flowers from June till October.

The medicinal character of Aristolochia was formerly in great repute, and physicians very generally employed various species of the plant. Those received into our pharmacopoeias, were 1. Aristolochia longa. 2. A. rotunda. 3. A. tenuis or clematitis of Linnaeus. But the roots of these plants have for a long time been gradually falling into disuse, and at present, we believe, are rarely if ever prescribed: they are all expunged from the Mat. Med. of the London Pharmacopoeia, but in that of the Edinburgh the last species is still retained, and therefore, according to our plan, it might have been figured here; but as these different species are generally allowed to be similar in their medicinal qualities, we trust that the first, which is the most rare and curious, will be found the most acceptable to our readers. All the Birthwort roots have somewhat of an aromatic smell, and a warm bitterish taste. That of the long and round species, on first being chewed, scarcely discover any taste, but in a little time prove nauseously bitter, accompanied with a slight degree of pungency. "They give out their virtue, by infusion, both to spirituous and watery menstrua; to the first most perfectly. In distillation, pure spirit brings over little or nothing: with water there arises, at least from the slender-rooted sort, a small portion of essential oil, possessing the smell and flavour of the roots." [Lewis, M. M. p. 112.]

The virtues which the ancients ascribed to Aristolochia were very considerable, and it was consequently employed in various diseases, particularly those thought to proceed from obstructions, [Fernelius Method. Med. Lib. 6. cap. 12. p. 163.] more especially of the uterine system: [Hippocr. De nat. muliebri. p. 572. Oper. Foesii.] hence the name Aristolochia is said to have arisen from its supposed emmenagogue powers. [Ab ριστος & λοχεια. It has also been derived from Aristolochius, who is said to have first discovered its virtues.] And as a warm stimulating medicine, Dr. Cullen tells us [See Mat. Med. vol. ii. p. 83.] he found it useful in some cafes of retention and chlorosis, but never in cases of suppression. Aristolochia has also been long very generally commended as a remedy for the gout, and it is the first ingredient in the Portland powder, [The powder is thus prepared: - ℞. Aristol. rotund, gentian, summit. et fol. chamaedr. chamaepit. centaur, min. āā p. ae. f. pulvis. A dram of this powder is directed to be taken every morning (jejuno ventriculo) for the space of three months, when the dose is to be diminished to three quarters of a dram for the next three months, and afterwards continued for six months in doses of half a dram, which, during the second year is to be taken every other morning.] which has been much celebrated for the cure of this disease. It appears however that the long continued use of this powder, which is necessary for preventing the return of arthritic paroxysms, seldom fails to superinduce a premature senile state of body, and to lay a foundation for more fatal diseases. [Brunner, De pancr. p. 143. Werlhoff. Caut. Med. Tract. i. p. 32. See also Cullen's First Lin.] It is probable that the medicinal qualities of this plant are somewhat allied to those of its congener, the Serpentaria; but the sensible properties of the latter demonstrate it to be a more active medicine.

Aristolochia is given in substance from a scruple to two drams for a dose.

Medical Botany, 1790-1794, was written by William Woodville, M. D., and illustrated by James Sowerby.