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TROP^OLUM MAJUS. INDIAN CRESS.
Class VIII. Octandria. Order I. Monogynia.
Gen. Char. Calyx one-leaved, with a spur. Petals four, unequal. Nuts three, coriaceous.
Spe. Char. Leaves peltate, repend. Petals obtuse.
The root of the Indian Cress is annual; the stalk is trailing, climbing, round, branched, smooth, succulent, and grows to several feet in length; the leaves are roundish, marked by several radiated ribs, entire obscurely five-lobed, and stand single upon long bending footstalks, which are attached to the centre of each leaf; the fiowers are large, solitary, of a tawny yellow, and stand upon long peduncles; the calyx is yellowish, large, forming a horn-like nectarium behind, and divided at the mouth into five irregular segments, which are acute, erect, and striated; the corolla consists of five petals, which are roundish, and the two uppermost bent backwards, marked with black lines at the base, and inserted into the segments of the calyx; the three undermost have long claws or ungues, and are bearded at the base; filaments eight, which are yellow, tapering, and spreading; the anthers are yellow, ovate, and four-celled; the germen is triangular; style simple, erect, and yellow; stigma bifid; fruit three, adhering, berries, compact, externally striated, containing three irregular shaped seeds. Its flowers appear from June till October.
This plant is a native of Peru, growing wild in the low lands and on the borders of small streams. It was first introduced into France in the year 1684, and there called Le grand Capucine; two years afterwards it was introduced into Europe by Dr. Lumley Lloyd, and since that time has been constantly cultivated in the English gardens, both as an ornament and a luxury for the table.
In its recent state this plant, and more especially its flowers, have a smell and taste resembling those of water-cress, and the leaves, on being bruised, emit a pungent odor, similar to that of horse radish. By distillation with water they impregnate the fluid to a considerable extent with the smell and flavor of the plant. The flowers are very much used in salads, and the capsules are by many highly esteemed as a pickle. The flowers in the warm summer months, about the time of sunset, have been observed to emit sparks resembling those of electricity.
Medical Properties and Uses. The root, stalk, and leaves have been considered to possess diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, and emenagogue properties, and have on that account been prescribed in the treatment of dropsies, nephritis, enteritis, cystitis, scrofular, and various eruptions of the skin. Hence the antiscorbutic character of the nasturitium seems to be well founded, at least so far as we are able to judge from its sensible qualities; therefore in all these cases where the warm antiscorbutic vegetables are recommended, this plant may be occasionally adopted as a pleasant, safe, and effectual variety. Patients to whom the taste of water-cress or scurvy-grass is nauseous or offensive, may find a grateful substitute in the nasturitium. The expressed juice may be taken in a dose of half an ounce, or prepared in an extract and taken in the form of pills, two or three a day.
HYPERICUM PERFORATUM. ST. JOHN'S WORT.
Class XVIII. Polyadelphia. Order V. Polyandria.
Gen. Char. Calyx five-parted. Petals five. Filaments many, connected at the base, in five bundles.
S])€. Char. Stem ancipital. Leaves blunt, with pellucid dots.
This species of the Hypericum is found growing abundantly both in Europe and in this country, often covering whole fields, and proving extremely troublesome to farmers. It usually grows in uncultivated fields, from one to two feet in height, producing its flowers in July and August. The root is perennial, ligneous, divided and subdivided into numerous small branches, and covered with a straw-colored bark; the stalks are round, smooth, of a light color, and towards the top send off many opposite floriferous branches; the leaves are without footstalks, and placed in pairs; they are entire, oval, and beset with a great number of minute, transparent vesicles, which have the appearance of small perforations through the disc, and hence the specific name Perforatum; the flowers are numerous, pentapetalous, terminal, of a deep yellow color, and grow in a corymbus, or in clusters, upon short peduncles; each petal is of an irregular oval shape, and on the under side near the apex is marked with many blackish dots; the calyx consists of five persistent acute leaves; the stamens are numerous, and generally unite at their base into three portions or bundles; the anthers are yellow, and marked with a small black gland, by which this species of the Hypericum is at once distinguished; the styles are three, and the capsule has three cells, which contain many small, oblong, brownish seeds.
Medical Properties and Uses. The U. S. Dispensatory describes St. John's Wort as having a peculiar balsamic odor, which is rendered more sensible by rubbing or bruising the plant. Its taste is bitter, resinous, and somewhat astringent. It imparts a yellow color to cold water, and reddens alcohol and the fixed oils. Its chief constituents are volatile oil, a resinous substance, tannin, and coloring matter. As a medicine it was in high repute among the ancients, and was much employed by the earlier modern physicians. Among the complaints for which it was used, were hysteria, mania, intermittent fever, dysentery, gravel, hemorrhages, pectoral complaints, worms and jaundice; but it was most highly esteemed as a remedy in wounds and bruises, for which it was employed both internally and externally. It is difficult to ascertain its exact value as a remedy; but from its sensible properties, and from the character of the complaints in which it has been thought useful, it may be considered independently of its astringency, as somewhat analogous in medical power to the turpentines. It formerly enjoyed great reputation for the cure of demoniacs, and the superstition still lingers among the vulgar in some countries. At present this plant is but very little used, except by the botanic physicians, or as a domestic remedy, and its name is omitted in the Materia Medica of the last edition of the Edinburgh Pharmacopoeia, and in the London Pharmacopoeia the flowers only are directed to be used, as containing the greatest proportion of the resinous oily matter in which the medical efficacy of the plant is supposed to reside. The dark puncta of the petals and the capsules, afford this essential oil, which is contained in minute vesicles or glands.