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ANTHEMIS PYRETHRUM. SPANISH CAMOMILE.
margin. Calyx, hemispherical, nearly equal. Florets, of the
ray more than five Spe. Char. Stems, simple, one-flowered, decumbent. Leaves,
many times pinnated.
The root is perennial, tapering, long, externally brown, and sends off several small, whitish, fibres; the stems are simple, round, trailing, bearing but one flower, and rise about a foot in height; the leaves are double, pinnate, with narrow, nearly linear segments, of a pale green color; the flowers are large, at the disc, of a yellow color, at the radius, white on the upper side, on the under side, of a purple color—the different florets answer to the description given of the Anthemis nobilis. It flowers in June and July.
This plant is a native of the Levant, and the southern parts of Europe; it was first cultivated in England by Lobel, in the year 1570, since which time it has been introduced into France, and some parts of the United States; but does not ripen its seeds here, unless the season proves very long and dry. The root is the part considered as officinal, and used under the name of Pellitory of Spain; it has a very hot pungent taste, without any sensible smell ; its pungency resides in a resinous matter, of the more fixed kind, being extracted completely by rectified spirit, and only in small part by water, and not being carried off, in evaporation or distillation by either menstrum.
We are told that the ancient Romans employed this root as a pickle; and indeed it seems much less acrid than many other substances now employed for this purpose. The ancient Egyptians held this plant in such high repute, that they dedicated it to the curing of agues; their experience and success, in the administration of this medicine, gained for it a reputation that placed it very high in their estimation; they employed it with great success in the treatment of disease of the Pleura.
Medical Properties and Uses. Spanish camomile, or Pillitory, is a powerful irritant, almost exclusively used as a sialagogue in certain forms of rheumatism, neuralgic affections of the face, headache, toothache, etc., or as a local stimulant in palsy of the tongue or throat. In its recent state, this root is not so pungent as when dried, yet, if applied to the skin, it is found to act similar to the bark of mezereon, and in four days produces inflammation of the part.
From the aromatic and stimulating qualities of Pyrethrum, there can be no doubt but that it may be found an efficacious remedy, and equally fitted for an internal medicine, as many others of this class now so extensively prescribed. Its use, however, has long been confined to that of a masticatory, for, on being chewed, or long detained in the mouth, it excites a glowing heat, stimulates the excretories of saliva, and thereby produces a free discharge. It is also a valuable external application for sprains, bruises, swellings, rheumatism, contracted muscles, tumors, etc., and for this purpose it is generally employed in the form of a nerve ointment. For many purposes it may be chewed, or employed as a gargle in decoction or vinous tincture. The dose, as a masticatory, is from 30 grains to a drachm.
In a very ancient but valuable medical work, published in London, in the year 1610, by William Salmond, M. D., we find several pages of this extensive English Herbal devoted exclusively to the medicinal virtues of this plant.