The Physiomedical Dispensatory by William Cook, M.D., 1869
SWEETFERN, SPLEENWORT, SWEET-BUSH, RICKET PLANT
Description: Natural Order, Myricaceae. This little shrub, about two feet high, is rather common in light soils and dry situations, in all the middle and western portions of America. The main stem is covered with a rusty brown bark, the branches are reddish, and the young shoots downy white. Leaves numerous, three to four inches long by half an inch wide, on short petioles, deeply divided into a number of rounding lobes. Flowers monoecious, in aments; staminate aments long, cylindrical, terminal and lateral, each flower sub-tended by a single reniform-cordate bract, three-staminate; pistillate or fertile flowers in dense, round burrs or heads, situated below the barren aments, with six calyx-scales, two styles, and producing an ovoid nut with a single cell. The whole plant has a sweet spicy odor, especially the leaves.
Properties and Uses: The leaves and shoots are fragrant, and mildly tonicrather of the order of aromatic stimulants, and leaving a slight astringent impression upon the mucous membranes. They very gently promote digestion, especially in convalescence from acute forms of disease; and appear to exert an excellent influence upon the mesenteries and general assimilative apparatus, on which account they are good in scrofulous, rachitic, and mesenteric debility. The article is mild, but excellent in recent cases of leucorrhea, especially if added to such agents as convallaria and leonurus; and is a popular family remedy in sub-acute diarrhea and laxity of the bowels. The people often attach much value to a pillow of the leaves for rachitic children. It has a good influence in feeble lungs, especially in old and wet coughs, and in spitting of blood. I have used it with some benefit in catarrh of the bladder; and am under the impression that it will be found a good nervine tonic in chronic cystic difficulties. It is principally exhibited by decoction- two ounces of the leaves digested in a quart of water for an hour, in a closed vessel; pressed, and two ounces of the fluid given three times a day. Boiling in an open vessel injures its soothing properties, and obtains more of its astringency.
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