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



Description:  Natural Order, Umbelliferae.  In the Family of the parsnips, but with its umbels so imperfect that the flowers are in nearly capitate umbellets.  Botanically associated next to eryngium.   Perennial herbs, with a smooth, furrowed, dark-brown stem two to three feet high, branching in pairs.  Leaves all  five  to  seven-parted, radical  on  petioles  ten  inches  high, cauline on two-inch petioles; divisions narrow, rigid, sharply cut-serrate,  armed with short and almost cartilaginous teeth. Flowers polygamous, mostly sterile, on slender pedicels; the fertile often nearly sessile.   Fruits several in each umbel, globular, without ribs, thickly clothed with hooked prickles, each with five oil-tubes.  June to August.

This peculiar plant is common through woods and copses throughout the United States, and often annoys persons with woolen clothing by the tenacity with which the fruit (late in the fall) will cling  to their garments.    The poisonous cynoglossum (hound’s tongue) does the same, and must not be confounded with sanicle.  The cimicifuga and asarum are also called black snake-root.  The root is fibrous, small, dark-colored, and with a pleasant smell and somewhat aromatic bitterish taste.

Properties and Uses:  This root is mild in action, diffusibly stimulating and relaxing, leaving a moderately tonic impression. Used in warm infusion, it promotes perspiration and diuresis fairly, and sustains capillary circulation and the nervous peripheries ; and may be used to decided advantage in recent colds, and typhus and other low forms of fever.  By its action on the nervous system, it sustains patients nervously depressed and restless, and has been much praised in the chorea of early life. The Indians are reported to have relied upon its free internal use in snake bites; and I have been much pleased at its action in a few cases of measles, and in painful menstruation.  The article  certainly deserves  attention.   An ounce  to  a pint of water makes a good infusion, of which two fluid ounces may be given every three or two hours.

 Medical Herbalism journal and