Related entry: Oleum Erigerontis (U. S. P.)—Oil of Erigeron
The plant Erigeron canadense, Linné.
COMMON NAMES: Colt's-tail, Canada fleabane, Scabious, Pride-weed, etc.
Botanical Source.—This plant is known by the various names of Colt's-tail, Pride-weed, Scabious; also improperly called by some persons Horse-weed, Butterweed, etc. It is an indigenous annual herb, with a high, branching, furrowed, and bristly-hairy stem, from 6 inches to 9 feet in height. The leaves are linear-lanceolate, and ciliate; the lower ones subserrate. The flowers are very small, numerous, white, and irregularly racemose upon the branches, constituting a large, terminal, oblong panicle. The involucre is cylindric; the rays minute, numerous, crowded, and short; and the pappus simple (W.—G.).
History.—This plant is common to the northern and central portions of the United States, growing in fields and meadows, by roadsides, and in waste places, flowering from June to September. The very small, inconspicuous ray-flowers, which are multitudinous, the elongated involucre, and the simple pappus, will serve to distinguish it from other plants of the same family. The whole herb is medicinal, an should be gathered when in bloom, and carefully dried. It has a feeble but pleasant odor, and a subastringent and amarous taste, with some acrimony, and yields its properties to alcohol, or water by infusion. Its acridity is lessened by boiling, owing to the dissipation of its essential oil.
Chemical Composition.—Dr. Dupuy, who made an examination of the plant, found it to contain essential oil (see Oleum Erigerontis Canadensis), tannic and gallic acids, bitter extractive, etc. The oil is not astringent to the taste, but has a styptic influence upon the system. It is of a colorless, or pale-yellow color, gradually becoming darker-colored, and may be procured from the plant by distillation with water.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—This plant is slightly tonic, with more active diuretic and astringent properties. The infusion has been found efficient in diarrhoea, gravel, diabetes, dropsical affections, dysuria of children, painful micturition, and in many nephritic affections. Erigeron is extremely useful for the arrest of capillary bleeding from any organ liable to hemorrhage, and to arrest profuse watery secretions from the gastro-intestinal and renal tracts. For many years it has been a popular favorite to arrest watery diarrhoea, and for the choleraic stage of cholera infantum, where the evacuations gush suddenly and copiously from the child, it will be found one of the most important agents at our command. The infusion of the fresh plant freely administered, should be used, and this not only serves to check the diarrhoea, but also supplies the body with fluid, which is required to supply the loss of water occasioned by the depleting evacuations. Its use is suggested in cholera. The infusion may be given hot or cold, or sweetened, if desired, and will prove useful if it can be retained upon the stomach. A snuff of the powdered leaves has successfully checked epistaxis; while in bronchial disorders with bloody expectoration, a syrup is effective. The same may be used to allay the cough and lessen expectoration in pulmonary consumption. Locally, an infusion is useful in leucorrhoea.
On account of its constringing power over the renal capillaries it has proven of value in hyper-urination, as in simple diabetes. The infusion is very serviceable in hemorrhages from the stomach, bowels, bladder, and kidneys. It is useful in metrorhagia when not due to retained fragments of placenta, or other foreign bodies. Passive hemorrhages where stimulation is required are the cases for its exhibition.
The volatile oil of Erigeron canadense acts as an astringent, and may be used as a local application to hemorrhoids, bleeding from small wounds, etc., likewise in rheumatism, boils, tumors, sore throat, and tonsilitis, in which it should be combined with goose-oil or some similar substance, being too acrid to use alone. Internally, it will be found useful in diarrhoea, dysentery, hemoptysis, hematemesis, and hematuria; from 4 to 6 drops of it on sugar, or dissolved in alcohol, and given in a little water, will be found a powerful remedy in uterine hemorrhage and menorrhagia, acting promptly and efficiently; it may be repeated every 5 or 10 minutes if required. The oil may be given in the profuse stage of gonorrhoea. The usual manner of administering it is in simple syrup. The plant may be given in the form of powder in doses of ½ or 1 drachm; or the infusion, which is the best form of administration, may be given in doses of from 2 to 4 fluid ounces 3 or 4 times a day, and oftener in bowel complaints; the aqueous extract is worthless, but the fluid extract may be given in teaspoonful doses. Specific erigeron, 1 to 30 drops; oil of erigeron, 3 to 10 drops.
Specific Indications and Uses.—Capillary or passive hemorrhages; "painful diseases of the kidneys and bladder, and in diseased conditions of the mucous membranes attended with free discharges" (Scudder); choleraic discharges, sudden, gushing, and watery, attended with thirst and cramping pain; hematuria, metrorrhagia, hemoptysis, epistaxis, and hematemesis.
Related Species.—Erigeron annuum, Persoon; Various-leaved fleabane, Common fleabane, White-weed. This plant, also known as Erigeron heterophyllum, is the Erigeron annuum of Persoon, and many other celebrated botanists. It is a biennial herb with a branching root. Stems from 2 to 4 feet high, thick, branching, hispid with scattered hairs, terminating in a large, diffuse, corymbose panicle, of large heads. Leaves hirsute, coarsely serrate; lowest ones ovate, contracted at base into a winged petiole; stem leaves ovate-lanceolate, sessile, acute, entire at both ends, highest ones lanceolate. Flowers numerous; disk-florets yellow; ray-florets capillary, white or purplish. Pappus plainly double, the outer a crown of minute chaffy-bristleform scales; the inner of scanty capillary bristles which are deciduous, or entirely wanting in the ray. This plant is common to the United States and Europe, being a very common weed in fields and waste grounds from Canada to Pennsylvania and Kentucky, and flowering from June to August (W.—G.). Properties, constituents, and uses same as those of next species (which see).
Erigeron Philadelphicum, Linné; Philadelphia fleabane.—The Erigeron Philadelphicum is the E. strigosum of Willdenow, and the E. purpureum of Aiton. It is a perennial herb, with a slender, pubescent or hirsute, leafy stem, 1 to 3 feet high, loosely corymbed at the summit, bearing a few small heads on long, slender peduncles; root yellowish and branching. Leaves from 2 to 4 by from 6 to 9 inches, thin, with a broad midrib, oblong; lower ones spathulate, crenate-dentate; upper ones oblong-lanceolate, clasping by a heart-shaped base, subserrate. Flowers numerous; disk-florets yellow; ray-florets innumerable, very narrow rose-purple or flesh color, twice as long as the hemispherical involucre. Pappus simple. The whole herb is pubescent. This plant is found growing in common with the preceding variety, flowering at the same period (W.—G.).
The medicinal virtues of this plant and the preceding are analogous, and they may be substituted the one for the other; they are, however, less astringent and more diuretic than the E. canadense. The plant should be gathered during the months of July, August, and September, or during the flowering season. They are slightly fragrant, have a subastringent, somewhat bitter taste, and yield their virtues to alcohol or to water by infusion. Mr. F. L. John obtained from 17 pounds of the dried herb but a drachm of greenish-yellow, powerful, aromatic oil, with a disagreeable, bitter, pungent taste and sp. gr. 0.946 (Amer. Jour. Pharm. XXVII, 105). Diuretic, astringent, and tonic. The infusion is very efficient in affections of the bladder and kidneys, dysuria, especially of children, painful micturition, various forms of dropsy, gravel, and in hydrothorax connected with gout. It has also been recommended as a diaphoretic in rheumatism, fevers, colds, etc., and as an emmenagogue in suppressed menstruation; and has been used with advantage in gout, some forms of cutaneous eruptions, and diabetes. Dose of the infusion, from 2 to 4 fluid ounces 3 or 4 times a day.