The Physiomedical Dispensatory by William Cook, M.D., 1869
BETH ROOT, BIRTH ROOT, GROUND LILY, JEWS-HARP
Description: Natural Order, Smilaceae; sub-order, Trilliaceae. Genus TRILLIUM: Low herbs, with stout and unbranched stems from four to twelve inches high; bearing at the summit a single whorl of three large and broad leaves, and a single large flower in the axil of the leaf-whorl. Root perennial, round, an inch in diameter, one to two inches long, fleshy, somewhat tuberous, with a few short and stout fibers. Flower perfect; sepals three, herbaceous, spreading, persistent; petals three, large, withering ; stamens six, with short filaments. Fruit ovate, purple, three-celled, often six-sided. T. SESSILE: Leaves sessile, broad-ovate, acute, three to four inches long, dark-green with dull-purplish blotches. Flower sessile, with the three leaves as an involucre ; petals one to two inches long, persistent after withering, dull-purple varying to greenish. April and May. Common in moist woods.
Other species are equally medicinal, and all are characterized by the arrangement of the leaves and flower. The ERECTUM has its flower on a nodding peduncle; the GRANDIFLORUM has a similar peduncle, two to three inches long; and the CERNUUM has a short peduncle recurving under the leaves, white petals, and the root-stocks in clusters and usually bearing two or three stems.
The roots are medicinal, those of some species being yellow- ish-white ; but most of them being reddish-brown without and whitish within. The properties of all seem to be the same. When fresh, they have an acrid and bitterish taste; when dry, they are bitterish and slightly astringent. Water and diluted alcohol extract their virtues.
Properties and Uses: The root is possessed of relaxing and stimulating properties, which act with moderate promptness; and leaves a mild tonic and astringent impression that is quite persistent. The mucous membranes receive most of its influence; and it is used in tenacious mucous discharges, with debility, as in chronic dysentery, leucorrhea, catarrh, etc. Its astringency is not so great as to cause dryness; yet is sufficiently marked (in company with the tonic power) to diminish superfluous discharges, and to prove of the greatest service in bleeding from the lungs, nose, stomach, bowels, kidneys, and bladder, and is equally useful in checking excessive menstruation and lochia. Its power over hemorrhages is peculiar and excellent; and it is one of the very few remedies that prove reliable in the hemorrhagic diathesis. There is a moderate antiseptic power in it, which makes it available in foul leucorrhea as an injection; and as a local application in foul and somewhat degenerate ulcers. Like rubus and uva ursi, it exerts a distinct (and proportionately stronger) influence over the uterus, promotes parturition in languid cases, anticipates flooding, relieves after-pains, (especially in company with cypripedium,) and is an excellent associate with convallaria, symphytum, and aralia racemosa, in all ordinary female weaknesses, particularly when the tissues are lax. The leaves are also used as an application to ulcers and swellings. The common impression of the astringency of this root has led many practitioners to overlook its excellent tonic properties; but it is a remedy deserving of the first attention in the cases above named. Dose of the powder, from ten to twenty grains three or four times a day. It is generally given by infusion, made of an ounce of the root to a pint of hot water; of which a fluid ounce is a dose. A fluid extract is also prepared.
Medical Herbalism journal and medherb.com