The Physiomedical Dispensatory by William Cook, M.D., 1869
HAWKWEED, BLOODWORT, RATTLESNAKE WEED, SNAKE PLANTAIN
Description: Natural Order, Compositae. The genus hieracium embraces several species, all of which have heads of many yellow flowers; flowers all perfect, and all ligulate, (as in dandelion;) leaves alternate, and the entire herb yielding a little milky juice. The species venosum is common in the Northern and Eastern States, and through Canada; selecting dry hill sides with a light soil, and also pine woods. Stem one to two feet high, rising almost naked above, or with but one or two glaucous leaves, smooth, dark-brown, and forking above into a loose and spreading corymb. Root-leaves obovate or oblong, scarcely petioled, nearly entire, thin and pale, smooth and purplish underneath, veins distinctly purple, and the midrib sometimes hairy. Heads small, each with about twenty flowers, with the involucre cylindrical and scarcely imbricated; peduncles very slender. May to July.
This genus is closely allied to the genus Nabalus. Some of its species are quite hairy; and one of them (H. longipilum) has its leaves thickly covered with straight bristles half an inch in length. The H. ganovi is more common southward, and is quite hairy in all its parts. The roots and leaves of venosum have been used in medicine. When fresh, the leaves are acrid and excoriating, and will often remove warts; but they lose this property on being dried, and are then (with the roots) simply bitter and astringent.
Properties and Uses: The roots and leaves are stimulating and astringent, moderately permanent, and quite positive in action. They arouse a full outward circulation; and may be used to advantage when the surface is cold and sluggish, and there is hemorrhage from any internal organ. Hence they are useful in uterine hemorrhage, excessive menstruation, bleeding piles, and spitting of blood. They are not so drying as often to prove constipating, but act much like (though milder than) the bark of myrica. Like myrica, they may be used in chronic diarrhea, aphthous sores, nasal catarrh, nasal polypus, and as an injection in foul leucorrhea and rather insensitive forms of prolapsus. It exerts that peculiar influence in stimulating and consolidating the assimilative apparatus, that can be used to good effect in the treatment of those forms of scrofula which are associated with persistent watery looseness of the bowels. Drank freely in warm decoction, and the leaves at the same time applied as a fomentation, the plant is reputed to be of much service in arousing the circulation and nervous system, and casting out the virus of serpents. One ounce of the roots, or an ounce and a half of the leaves, will form a quart of infusion; or they may be added to relaxant alterants in the preparation of sirups. The milky juice of these plants, and their resemblance in other respects to the narcotic genus lactuca, have caused them to be suspected of poisonous properties; but I have not seen any just grounds for such a suspicion, and think them deserving of full investigation.
Medical Herbalism journal and medherb.com