047. Gratiola officinalis. Hedge-hyssop.
Synonyma. Gratiola. Pharm. Lond. & Edinb. Gerard. Emac. p. 581. Raii Hist. p. 1885. Dodon. Pempt. p. 358. Hal. Stirp. Helv. n. 329.
Gratiola, Gratia Dei. Lob. Hist. p. 238. Chab. p. 475.
Gratiola centauroides. Bauh. Pin. p. 279.
Gratiola vulgaris. Park. Theat. p. 220.
Gratiola officinalis. Flor. Dan. t. 363.
Class Diandria. Ord. Monogynia. Lin. Gen. Plant. 29.
Ess. Gen. Ch. Cor. irregularis, resupinata. Stamina 2 sterilia. Caps, 2-locularis. Cal. 7-phyllus: 2 exterioribus patulis.
Spec. Char. G. foliis lanceolatis serratis, floribus pedunculatis.
The root is perennial, cylindrical, white, jointed, and furnished with many slender fibres: the stalk is simple, erect, round, thick, and rises nearly a foot in height: the leaves are lance-shaped, long, pointed, serrated towards the extremities, and stand in pairs, without fbotstalks: the flowers proceed from the base of the leaves, and appear in June and August; they are tubular, and divided at the limb into four obtuse irregular segments, of a pale purple colour: the tube is yellow, and intermixed with reddish streaks: the peduncles are slender, of a red colour, and support a single flower: the calyx consists of five or six elliptical pointed segments: the filaments are four, two of which only are furnished with anthers: the style is tapering, straight, with a divided stigma: the germen becomes an oval pointed capsule, separated into two cells, which contain many small seeds. It is a native of the South of Europe, and grows usually in wet meadows.
Kostrzewski, who wrote professedly upon the virtues of this plant [Diss. de Gratiola, Viennae, 1775. Vide page 8.] supposes Matthiolus to be the first botanist by whom it is mentioned; and the first account of its cultivation in Britain is that given by Turner in 1568: [Turn. Herb, cited in the Hort. Kew.] and it now has a place in most of our botanical gardens. It has a strong bitter nauseous taste, but little or no odour; and its virtues are extracted more perfectly by aqueous than by spirituous menstrua.
It has been observed, that Gratiola resembles Digitalis both in the shape of its flowers, and in its medicinal effects; and hence it has been called Digitalis minima. It is certainly a powerful and active cathartic, and operates with such violence upon the stomach, as generally to induce vomiting; [Vide Conr. Gesner. Epist. Med. Lib. 3. Dodon. Pempt. p. 361. Boerhaave Hist. Pl. Hort. L. B. Bergius Mat. Med. p. 26. These observations apply to this plant both in its recent and dried state.] and on this account it is thought by Chomel to be a medicine adapted only to the more vigorous and robust constitutions. [Usuell. t. 1. p. 48.] Many others, however, recommend the Gratiola as a perfectly safe and useful purgative, declaring their repeated experience of its efficacy, without ever observing any bad consequence to follow its use. But as it is very uncertain in its effects, the employment of this medicine requires the precaution of a gradual increase of its dose. This plant has commonly been used in hydropical diseases; and in moderate doses it is said not only to act as a hydragogue, but also to manifest a diuretic character; [Succus nimirum expressus et inspissatus ad dosin 24 vel 30 granorum blande purgat absque vomitu, sed lotium efficaciter pellit. Extractum vero ex residuo port expressionem aqua erutum et amarius est, et eadem dosi violentius purgat Boulduc. Mem. de l'Acad. R. d. sc. 1705. p, 189. Vide Murray, Ap. Med. vol. 2. p. 200.] and instances of its good effects in ascites and anasarca, are related by many respectable practical writers. [Heurn. Prax. Med. p. 332. Camerar. Hort. Med. &c. p. 69. Ettmul. Oper. tom. 1, p. 716. Heluich. Misc. Nat. Cur. Dec. 3. A. 5. et 6 obs. 67. p. 133. Joel. Oper. Med. tom. 4. lib. 4. Hartm. Oper. Med. Chym. p. 60.] Gesner and Bergius found a scruple of the powder a sufficient dose, as in this quantity it frequently excited nausea or vomiting; others have given it to half a dram, two scruples, a dram, and even more. [Chomel gave half a dram, Hermann two scruples. Many employed the fresh plant in decoction with the addition of cinnamon, mace, ginger, aniseeds, liquorice, &c. See Geoffroy (M. M.) and others.]
An extract of the root of this plant is said to be more efficacious than the plant itself, and exhibited in the dose of half a dram or a dram in dysenteries, produces the best effects. [Boulduc l. c. Kramer. Tent. Bot. p. 18. where it is said to have similar effects to those of ipecacuanha.] We are likewise told by Kostrzewski, [Diss. cit. p. 64.] that in the Hospitals at Vienna, three maniacal patients were perfectly recovered by its use; and in the most confirmed cases of lues venerea it effected a compleat cure: it usually acted by increasing the urinary, cutaneous, or salivary discharges.