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ARCTIUM LAPPA. BURDOCK.
Class XIX. Syngenesia. Order I Polygamia Jequalis.
Gen. Char. Receptacle chaffy. Calyx globular; the scales at the apex with inverted hooks. Seed-down bristly, chaffy.
Spe. Char. Leaves cordate, costate, coriaceous.
The Burdock is a biennial plant, with a long tapering root, from twelve to eighteen inches in length, dark brown externally, but white and spongy within, having withered scales near the top; the stem is branching, pubescent, succulent, and two or three feet in height, having very large leaves, which are dark green upon their upper surface, and stand on long footstalks; the flowers are globose, purple, and arranged in panicles; the imbricated calyx consists of scales with extremities that are hooked, by which they attach themselves to cloth and the coats of animals; the down of the seed is prickly and rough; the bur is many-seeded, and the seeds are quadrangular.
This plant is a native of the United States, growing in many places in great abundance, in pastures, fields, along the road-side, and in cultivated grounds; it flowers in July and August; the root should be dug in the spring, before the leaves start, or in the fall, after the top is dfad, as then it possesses the full strength of the entire plant; the odor of the root is weak and unpleasant; the taste is mucilaginous and sweetish bitter, with a slight degree of astringency; the seeds contain essential oil, and are aromatic, bitterish, and somewhat acrid.
Medical Properties and Uses. The root, which is principally used, possesses diaphoretic, diuretic, sudorific, and tonic properties. It has been successfully used in a great variety of chronic diseases, such as rheumatism, scurvy, gout, lues venerea, and nephritic affections. A syrup made of the roots has been successfully employed in dropsical cases where other powerful medicines had been ineffectually used; and as^it neither excites nausea, nor increases irritation, it may occasionally deserve a trial where more active remedies are improper. It is also used as a diuretic, and is said powerfully to promote perspiration. The leaves applied to the feet as drafts, are highly useful in many complaints, especially fevers; they may also be taken green, rolled, and saturated with vinegar, and applied as warm as can be borne on any part of the body suffering with pain. The leaves may be dried and kept for use without losing any of their medicinal properties. The root is generally used in decoction, which may be made by boiling two ounces of the fresh root, in three pints of water to two, which, when intended as a diuretic, should be taken in the course of two days, or if possible in twenty-four hours. The following syrup, made of the root, I have found highly beneficial in the cure of scrofulous and other hereditary diseases:
Take of the dried root eight ounces, boil in three quarts of water down to two; strain off, and add while warm, one pound of loaf sugar and one pint of good gin. Dose—from one table-spoonful to a wine-glassful several times a day.
The root is in considerable demand, and is sold in quantities at the drug stores in the city. The best way of curing, is by slicing across the root from one fourth to half an inch thick, and then drying it.