The Physiomedical Dispensatory by William Cook, M.D., 1869    

ARALIA RACEMOSA

SPIKENARD, SPIGNET, PETTYMORREL

Description:   This species of Aralia has a smooth, herbaceous stem, three to four feet high, dark-green or reddish, and widely branched. Leaf-stalk three-parted, with traces of dilated stipules; each part bearing large heart-ovate, pointed, double-serrate leaflets, three to five in number, slightly downy. Umbels numerous, small, arising from the axils of the leaf-branches, decompound as panicled racemes. Rich and moist woodlands. July.  The root of this plant is large, grayish without, whitish-gray within, and possessed of a pleasant balsamic odor. It yields its properties to water and alcohol; and is impaired by heat and age.

Properties and Uses:  The root is a mild relaxant, with stimulating and probably demulcent properties; somewhat prompt in its action; and expending its influence chiefly upon the mucous membranes, and somewhat upon the skin. It is particularly valued for its action upon the respiratory organs; to which it is a gentle expectorant, at the same time soothing irritation, allaying spasmodic cough, and imparting a feeling of tone. These effects give it a place of much value in recent and irritable cough, as in that following bronchial and pulmonary congestions, pleurisy, measles, etc. It is not suited to cases of depressed sensibilities and great feebleness, unless combined with more strengthening and stimulating agents. When placed in water in an open vessel upon a warm stove, it fills. the room with a mild aroma which is exceedingly grateful to irritable lungs. I often use it thus in phthisis, at intervals of three or four hours; or it may be used in an inhaling apparatus. Its action upon the mucous membranes of the uterus fits it for cases of irritable leucorrhea; and it is many times combined with convallaria, symphytum, liriodendron, and similar agents, for this purpose. Its influence upon the skin is felt merely enough to render the surface pliant, and to give relief to internal irritation. It is spoken of as an alterative, but is scarcely to be used as such.

Pharmaceutical Preparations:  It is best treated by percolation, and prepared in sirups, with the use of very little heat. Two compounds containing it may be especially mentioned:  I. Compound Sirup of Spikenard, Pulmonary Balsam. Spikenard, elecampane, comfrey, bloodroot, hoarhound, bark of wild cherry, each, one pound. Saturate the crushed articles with seventy-five percent alcohol, for three days; then put in a percolator, and add warm water till four pints have passed. Set this aside; and add water till two gallons have passed over. To this add twenty pounds of refined sugar, and dissolve with a gentle heat. When cold, add the first or alcoholic product of displacement. This is an old formula, usually made too sweet by a larger addition of sugar. It is a good tonic expectorant for rather obstinate coughs. Sometimes it may be an advantage to increase its relaxant influence by adding half an ounce of lobelia tincture to a pint of the sirup. Dose, for an adult, a large teaspoonful four or five times a day. II. Cough Sirup. Crushed spikenard, one pound; lobelia herb, three ounces; wild cherry bark, four ounces. Macerate in thirty per cent. alcohol for twenty-four hours; put in a percolator, and add water till two quarts have passed. To this add five pounds of sugar, and dissolve at a low heat in a covered vessel. When cold, add eight ounces of tincture of macrotys. This is an elegant preparation for all forms of dry and irritable coughs, and mild hooping-cough. It is my principal article in such cases; and the favor it has received from many physicians, induces me to commend it to general notice. It will not meet old and sluggish cases. Dose, a teaspoonful every two hours, or oftener.

 Medical Herbalism journal and medherb.com