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GRATIOLA OFFICINALIS.-HEDGE - HYSSOP.
Class II. DIANDRIA.-Order II. MONOGYNIA.
(d) a section of ditto; (e) a seed.
mananamwanananannanna This plant, the Gratiola of the Dispensatories, derives its generic appellation from the diminutive of gratia, grace or favour; and the epithet gratia Dei, by which it was formerly distinguished, is sufficiently expressive of the high estimation in which it was held by the ancients for its salutary qualities. It is a low perennial, not indigenous to this country, a native of the south of Europe, growing in most pastures and flowering in June and July.
Haller observes that, about Yverdun it is frequently found in such abundance as to be very injurious to the cattle, and that many meadows in the environs are rendered quite useless as pasture grounds from the excessive prevalence of this plant.
From a cylindrical, white, creeping, jointed rhizoma, rise several slender, smooth, round, erect stems, to the height of a foot or eighteen inches. The leaves are numerous, lanceolate, opposite, sessile, pointed, serrated towards the ends, of a bright green colour, two inches long, nearly half an inch broad, and obscurely punctured. The flowers are inodorous, about an inch long, axillary and solitary; the calyx consists of five elliptical pointed segments, with a pair of lanceolate spreading bracteas; the corolla is tubular, divided at the lip into four obtuse segments, the uppermost of which is broadest, emarginate and reflexed, the others straight and equal; the tube is yellowish, with reddish streaks; the limb pale lilac or purple. The filaments are four, awl-shaped, shorter than the corolla, only two of which are furnished with anthers; the two perfect ones are shorter than the others, and are inserted at the base of the uppermost segment, about the middle of the tube of the corolla : the germen is ovate, superior, supporting a slender erect style, with a divided stigma. The capsule is ovate, bilocular, and contains numerous small seeds.
QUALITIES AND CHEMICAL PROPERTIES.— It is inodorous, but impregnated with a bitter nauseous taste, which it is said sometimes produces a sense of constriction in the tongue. Marcgraaf states that its watery extract is bitter, but that the bitter principle exists most abundantly in the resinous extract. Vauquelin has analyzed it, and obtained a bitter, active, uncrystallizable, resinous principle, which is soluble in alcohol, and requires a very large quantity of boiling water to dissolve it. “When sulphuric acid is added to the unstrained infusion, it emits the odour of tamarinds; and when the infusion is filtered and slowly evaporated, spicular crystals are formed, which appear to be tartaric acid.”
From a paper read some time since by Dr. Whiting, at a meeting of the Medico-botanical Society of London, it appears that Veratria, the active principle of Colchicum, and white Hellebore, has been most unexpectedly discovered in Gratiola. This will readily account for its violent effects when given in over doses. It is a curious coincidence that the Eau Medicinale which was made from the Gratiola, should have been imitated by spirituvus infusions of Colchicum and Veratrum, both containing the same active principle, and that the modern Vinum Colchici should have superseded this old Vinum Gratiolæ, formerly esteemed a specific in gout.
Poisonous Effects.—Given in over doses, it produces violent vomiting and hypercatharsis.
“At a quarter past ten, three drachms and a half of watery extract of Hedge-Hyssop were introduced into the stomach of a small strong dog, and the æsophagus was tied. At eight in the evening the animal had not exhibited any remarkable phenomenon. The next day at ten in the morning he uttered plaintive cries; he was lying down on the side, and expired an hour after : his breathing had not been impeded. The mucous membrane of the stomach exhibited throughout its whole extent, a cherry-red colour ; it was black wherever it forms the folds observed in the interior of this viscus; it was easy to be assured that this last alteration was the consequence of a certain quantity of black extravasated blood, within the space which separates it from the subjacent muscular coat. This last was nearly in its natural state ; the interior of the rectum was evidently inflamed; all the remaining portion of the alimentary canal was a little red. The lungs did not appear affected; there was no serosity in the ventricles of the brain; the exterior cerebral veins were distended with black blood. The pia mater was injected and of a vermillion red colour.
“Twenty-eight grains of the same poisonous substance, dissolved in four drachms of water, were injected into the jugular vein of another robust dog of middle size. An hour after the animal had a motion; he experienced some giddiness, and became as it were insensible, lay down and expired two hours after the injection. It was impossible to discover the least trace of alteration in the texture of the digestive canal."
M. Orfila concludes from numerous experiments :-
“ 2nd. That it appears to be absorbed, and that its effects depend on the sympathetic lesion of the nervous system.
“ 3rd. That it is much more active when injected into the veins.”
The Gratiola Officinalis is commonly known, says Professor Taylor, under the name of Hedge-Hyssop. Observations made on animals and on man, show that it is a strong local irritant when given in decoction or infusion. A series of cases observed by M. Bouvier are reported by Orfila, in four of which this plant was used, under the form of decoction, as an enema. In this state it had been prescribed for four females by some herb doctors. The result was, that in one instance violent vomiting and purging, with syncope, were induced. In another case there was constriction of the throat, with hydrophobic symptoms and convulsions. The patient died in two days (Toxicologie. ii. 128). The leaves of this plant might be in some instances identified botanically, but in the state of decoction or infusion there are no tests which would determine its nature.
MEDICAL PROPERTIES AND USES.—This medicine was formerly prescribed on the continent as a hydragogue purgative and diuretic; and Heurnius, Ettmuller, Hartmann, Joel, and others, have administered it successfully for dropsy of the cellular tissue ; likewise of the peritoneum when unaccompanied by inflammatory action, and unallied with flaccidity of the muscular fibre or with paleness. It has likewise been given in some other affections, as hypochondriasis, atonic gout, rheumatism, &c. which were accompanied or appeared to be produced by inactivity or torpor of the intestinal canal, while others have administered its resinous part in small doses, to promote vomiting, or as a substitute for ipecacuanha in dysentery. Dr. Kostrzewski, of Warsaw, has offered some remarkable instances of its powerful influence in soothing and suspending irritation, and asserts that three maniacs in the hospital at Vienna, were recovered by its use.
Dr. Perkins, of Coventry, states that it forms the basis of the Eau Medicinale, and that the recipe was given to him by the Count of Leiningen, who paid five hundred ducats for it. This nobleman was a person of extensive reading, and a munificent patron of the arts, and had been in early life a martyr to the gout; an exemption from which for several years, he attributed to the use of this medicine. The following is the form :
R “ Herbæ gratiolæ officinalis siccatæ unciam
Radicis ejusdem Herbæ semunciam incisæ, et contusæ: adde
Digere leni calore per dies octo, et cola." “ Of this vinous tincture, a tea-spoonful is to be taken at bed-time, drinking after it half-a-pint of beef tea; and if after the lapse of twenty-four hours all pain has not vanished, half a tea-spoonful more of the Gratiola wine is to be taken in a similar manner. Dr. Reece, who has paid particular attention to the preparation of this drug, and to its administration, very properly observes that,' a tea-spoonful is at all times a very definite measure, and liable to vary with fashion,' and therefore recommends forty-five drops as the dose to begin with. This gentleman also remarks, that in producing its effect of allaying irritation in gout and rheumatism, it was done without disturbing the system, or producing those effects on the general health which attend the use of opium;' he has therefore, with a laudable zeal, extended its use to allay morbid irritation of the intestines and of the lungs, and has found that an oxyniel made with the herb, is very efficacious in asthma, constitutional or winter cough, &c. He adds that, “in the use of the Gratiola, it must always be exhibited in the first instance so as to nauseate the stomach, or to produce an aperient effect on the bowels, and then kept as near to this dose without producing any further unpleasant effect.' According to Bergius, the dose of the herb in substance is from fifteen to thirty grains, but he states that a scruple often acts on the bowels, and produces nausea and vomiting. He also affirms that ten grains united with five of powdered gentian, administered twice a-day, has been useful in autumnal quartan agues. Of an infusion, made with zij of the dried herb, to half-a-pint of boiling water, from f ziv to f zi may be given three times a-day. Gratiola is not admitted into the list of Materia Medica of the London College. The German physicians have long thought much more highly of the medicinal powers of Gratiola than their brethren of the British schools. Hufeland commends it for being extremely efficacious in jaundice, for example—and in ascarides ; a circumstance which, as Thompson adds, is like to be the case, from its operating on the rectum. In France, Gratiola is a favourite medicine among the peasantry, who use it both as an emetic and purgative; and its provincial synonyme is “ Herbe à pauvre homme.'”