009. Tormentilla Erecta. Common Tormentil, or Upright Septfoil.
Also see 059. Potentilla reptans. Common cinquefoil.
Synonyma. Tormentilla, Pharm. Lond. & Edin.
Tormentilla Officinalis, Curt. Flor. Lond.
Fragaria tetrapetala, foliis caulinis sessilibus quinatis. Hal. Stirp. Helv. n. 1117.
Tormentilla sylvestris, Bauh. Pin. 326.
Pentaphyllum aut potius Heptaphyllum, flore aureo tetrapetalo, Tormentilla dictum. Hist. Oxon, II. 190.
Class Icosandria. Ord. Polygynia. L. Gen. Plant. 635.
Ess. Gen. Ch. Cal. 8-fidus. Petala 4. Sem. subrotunda, nuda, receptaculo parvo exsucco affixa.
Spec. Char. T. caule erectiusculo, foliis sessilibus.
The root is perennial, thick, roundish, irregularly conical, knobbed, and covered with bark of a dark brown colour; the internal substance is dense, and has a reddish tinge; it sends forth many stems, which grow about a span high; they are round, slender, firm, somewhat hairy, more or less erect, and branched towards the top. The leaves upon the stalk are generally divided into seven, but those upon the branches are commonly five; of these, three are larger than the others; they are all of an eliptical shape, deeply serrated, villous, and the upper surface is of a deeper green colour than the under. The flowers stand singly upon long peduncles, which spring from the alae of the leaves, each flower consisting of four small, roundish, emarginated, yellow petals; the calyx is cut into eight unequal segments; the pistilla are commonly eight, and contain as many seeds. This plant is common in dry pastures, and usually flowers in June. It is distinguished from the Tormentilla reptans, by its sessile leaves, its smaller petals, and its more erect stem.
The root is the only part of the plant which is used medicinally; it has a strong styptic taste, but imparts no peculiar sapid flavour. As a proof of its powerful astringency, it has been substituted for oak bark in the tanning of skins for leather. [Bartholini Act. Med. Hafn. v. 1. p. 88. and it has been observed, that the leather has been perfected in less time than when oak bark was used. Mus. Rust. vol. 2. n. 12. p. 51. ] This root has been long held in great estimation by physicians, as a very useful astringent; and as the resin [It gives out its astringency both to water and rectified spirit, most perfectly to the latter. The extracts obtained by inspissation, are intensely styptic, the spirituous most so. Lewis's Mat. Med. 654.] it contains is very inconsiderable, it seems more particularly adapted to those cases where the heating and stimulating medicines of this class are less proper; as phthisical diarrhoeas, diarrhoea cruenta, &c. Dr. Cullen [Cullen's Mat. Med. vol. 2. p. 36.] thinks "it has been justly commended for every virtue that is competent to astringents," and says, "I myself have had several instances of its virtues in this respect; and particularly I have found it, both by itself and as joined with gentian, cure intermittent fevers; but it must be given in substance, and in large quantities." Rutty recommends it in these words: "Ulcera Vetera & putrida sanat vino vel aqua decocta collutione & inspersu. In vino cocta optime deterget & roberat, in ulceribus scorbuticis oris, gutturis, & faucium ac in gingivis dissolutis, sanguinem stillantibus. Decocta ad appetitum deperditum maxime valet, tonum ventriculi restituens, & sordes ejus abstergens. Non est vegetabile quod in fluxionibus alvi efficacius sit. In dysenterea epidemica quidam in ore tenent ad praecavendum contagium. In fluxu sanguinis, fluore albo, & mictu involuntario valet." [Rutty's Mat. Med. 521.]
This root may be given in powder from half a dram to one dram or more for a dose, but it is more generally given in decoction, and the following form is recommended by Lewis: An ounce and an half of the powdered root is directed to be boiled in three pints of water to a quart, adding, towards the end of the boiling, a dram of cinnamon: of the strained liquor, sweetened with an ounce of any agreeable syrup, two ounces or more may be taken four or five times a day.
Tormentil is ordered in the pulvis e creta compositus of the London Pharmacopoeia.