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



Description: Natural Order, Compositae.  Genus CENTAUREA: Annual herbs.  Leaves alternate; heads radiate, involucre of many equal leaves in two series; disk sterile; rays fertile; receptacle naked; pappus wanting.  C. BENEDICTA: Stem round, trailing, furrowed, reddish, about two feet long, pubescent; oblong, rough, sinuate, armed with many spines, sessile above, petioled below; disk florets small, tubular, toothed; ray florets large, yellow. June.

This plant is native to the south of Europe, but is now common in America. The leaves have a very bitter and slightly nauseous taste, and a feeble odor. Cold water extracts only a portion of their properties; but boiling water acts on them fully and forms an intensely bitter decoction. By treatment with acids they yield a neutral principle called cenicin, which is crystallizable, without odor, soluble in alcohol, sparingly soluble in boiling water, with a bitter character, resembling salacin.

Properties and Uses:  The leaves are relaxing and slightly stimulating, and belong to the class of diaphoretic tonics, as do boneset and camomile. The warm infusion will promote mild diaphoresis, and soon procure vomiting. As with boneset, the emesis thus procured exerts a depurating action upon the liver and gall-ducts; and this infusion will promote catharsis, with a free discharge of bile. An infusion on cold water is much less nauseating; and is among the more pleasant yet positive relaxing bitters, suitable for weak stomachs, biliousness, and habitual constipation. It deserves consideration as a tonic during the treatment of intermittents; though it is not probable that it is an antiperiodic, as some have asserted. It slowly promotes nearly all the secretions, and may be incorporated with alteratives to advantage. The powder may be given in doses of from ten to twenty grains, three times a day. Half an ounce of the leaves to a pint of cold water, in quantities of a fluid ounce very six hours, is the best tonic dose; and a stronger and warm infusion, in doses of two fluid ounces every half hour, will first procure the diaphoretic and then the emetic actions.  The cenicin is given in doses of from two to four grains every four hours for intermittents. This plant deserves further attention and it is a mistake for the profession to pass it by as a trifling article.

The following is a good tonic preparation for general debility of females, with a costive tendency: Centaurea, aralia hispida, and liriodendron, each four ounces; caulophyllum and menispermum, each two ounces; orange peel, two drachms. Treat with three quarts of Sherry wine, by percolation, pressing the dregs strongly.  Dose, four to ten fluid drachms, three times a day.

 Medical Herbalism journal and