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



Description:  Natural Order, Scrophulariaceae.  Genus CHELONE:  Calyx deeply five- parted, three-bracted. Corolla bilabiate, inflated, contracted at the mouth into two short and gaping lips. Stamens five, one abortive. Seeds broadly membranous and winged, in which this genus is distinguished from Penstemon. C. GLABRA:  Perennial. Stem erect, mostly simple, slightly four-sided, two to four feet. Leaves opposite, smooth, sub-sessile, oblong-lanceolate, serrate, acuminate, dark-green and shining above. Flowers mostly in short terminal spikes; each an inch long, white, occasionally tinted with purple-red. August and September.

This herb is common through North America, in rich soils, and in both moist and dry situations, by the edges of woods and sides of fences. Its large flowers are attractive, but inodorous; and their resemblance to the head of a snake or a tortoise, has secured the plant two of its most common names. The leaves are the medicinal portion; and yield their properties to water and alcohol.

Properties and Uses:  The leaves are a strong and permanent bitter, with about equal degrees of relaxing and stimulating properties. They expend the greater portion of their influence on the stomach; but also exert a decided action on the gall ducts, and a more moderate one on the whole alvine canal. From the latter facts, they have generally been spoken of as cathartic; but they scarcely deserve that term, though they are fairly laxative.

Few tonics are equal to balmony in cases of enfeebled stomach, with accompanying indigestion, biliousness, costiveness, and general languor. It arouses the gastric and salivary secretions, and decidedly improves digestion; also favors the biliary and fecal discharges, and leaves the whole assimilative organism toned. In a similar manner, it is a good adjunct in the treatment of jaundice; and in affections of the skin dependent upon hepatic and alvine inaction, it is a valuable addition to alteratives. It is one of the most suitable tonics in cachectic states, strumous difficulties, dropsies, and recoveries from prostrating maladies, where a laxative tonic is needed with the other remedies. It has been classed among the vermifuges; but is useful then chiefly to give the tone that should accompany and follow anthelmintics. Added to senna and juglans, it increases their cathartic action. It is nearly always grateful to the stomach; but is better calculated for languid and atonic conditions than for any form of gastric sensitiveness. The article deserves all the praise here given it, and possibly more; for I am convinced that, in its own place, it is one of the most valuable laxative tonics of the Materia Medica. It is not so intense as the American gentian, but is more stimulating than boneset.

Dose of the powder, five to ten grains, three times a day. An infusion, made of a drachm of the powdered leaves to half a pint of hot water, may be given in doses of half to a whole fluid ounce three times a day. It forms an ingredient in the Spiced Bitters; and other compounds containing it may be found under frasera and juglans. It is a good addition to such agents as hydrastis and cornus, in the treatment of intermittents; and to apocynum and populus in the management of stomach worms. It may conveniently be made into sirup, but most commonly is prepared in what are currently known as “bitters.” A Fluid Extract is prepared, as in the eupatorium perfoliatum.

 Medical Herbalism journal and