The root of Heracleum lanatum, Linné.
COMMON NAMES: Masterwort, Cow-parsnip.
Botanical Source.—This plant, sometimes called Cow-parsnip, has a large, spindle-shaped, perennial root, of a strong, disagreeable smell, from which arises a hollow, thick, furrowed, branching and pubescent stem, from 3 to 6 feet high, and often an inch or more in width at the base. The leaves are very large, on downy, channeled petioles, and ternately compound; the leaflets roundish-cordate, and unequally lobed; the lobes acuminate, almost glabrous above, and woolly underneath. The flowers are white, in huge umbels, often a foot broad, with deciduous involucres. Involucels long-pointed, lanceolate, and many-leaved. The calyx limb is composed of 5 small, acute teeth. The petals are obcordate, with the point inflexed, the outer larger and radiant, appearing deeply 2-cleft. The fruit is compressed, oval, with a broad, flat margin, and 3 obtuse dorsal ribs to each carpel; intervals with single vittae, and seeds flat (G.—W.—R).
History, Description, and Chemical Composition.—Found growing in moist meadows and cultivated grounds from Labrador to Pennsylvania, and west to Oregon, flowering in June. The root is the part used; is somewhat analogous to parsley in appearance, has a strong, peculiar, unpleasant odor, and an ill-flavored acrimonious taste. The recent root and leaves, when placed in contact with the skin, irritate and inflame it; and that which inhabits very damp localities is considered poisonous (B). The leaves and seeds have also been used medicinally. The root probably contains acrid principles, volatile oil, and resin. The plant is stated by Nuttall (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1836, Vol. VII, p. 281) to be hardly distinct from Heracleum sphondylium, Linné, of Europe and Asia. This plant is also known as Cow-parsnip, and has similar medicinal properties. The fruits of all species of Heracleum thus far analyzed, abound in volatile oil, free ethyl and methyl alcohol and solid hydrocarbons of the paraffine series.
From Heracleum giganteum Gutzeit obtained 2 per cent of volatile oil, which was differentiated into 10 per cent of a mixture of ethyl-butyrate and acetate, and 55 per cent of hexyl-butyrate and octyl-acetale. Besides, a crystallizable substance, heraclin (C32H22O10), was obtained from the immature fruits. It is a colorless, odorless substance, melting at 185° C. (365° F.), insoluble in water, not easily soluble in ether, soluble in chloroform, boiling carbon disulphide (1:400) and in cold (1:700) and boiling (1:60) absolute alcohol (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1880, p. 136). The fruits of Heracleum sphondylium yielded to Zincke (Diss., 1869), 0.3 per cent and to Möslinger (Jahresb. der Pharm., 1876, p. 165), 0.8 to 0.9 percent of a volatile oil. (For a review of its constituents, which are similar to those of H. giganteum, see Husemann and Hilger, Pflanzenstoffe.)
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Stimulant, antispasmodic, and carminative. Used in decoction in flatulency and dyspepsia, and 2 or 3 drachms of the powdered root, taken daily in epilepsy, and continued some time, with a strong infusion of the leaves and tops at night, has been found successful. Recent trials with a saturated tincture of the root seem to indicate that it has some power over epilepsy though the conditions in which it is specifically applicable have not yet been determined. Recommended also in asthma, colic, amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea, palsy, apoplexy, intermittents, etc., in doses of 1 drachm. The dose of a strong tincture (℥viii of root to Oj of alcohol), ranges from 5 to 60 minims.
Ɣ Related Species.—Imperatoria Ostruthium. The rootstock of Peucedanum Ostruthium, Koch (Imperatoria Ostruthium, Linné), Nat. Ord.—Umbelliferae. Masterwort. This drug consists of a somewhat flattened, subconical rootstock, of about a finger's thickness, and ranging from 2 to 4 inches in length. Its surface is wrinkled, scarred, and warty; its upper portion has a finely annulated appearance. Its color externally is a deep brown-gray; internally dirty white. It has a large central pith, while its bark is thin, and all parts abound in resin cells of a brownish-yellow hue. Its taste is pungent, aromatic, and bitter, giving a prolonged sense of warmth to the mouth. Its odor is markedly balsamic, somewhat resembling angelica. Masterwort is scarcely at all used in America, and is noticed here chiefly on account of its having been used as an adulterant of aconite (Holmes). In former years it was much esteemed as a medicine, being known, on account of its extensive uses, as divinum remedium. It grows in the mountains of central and south Europe. It contains from 0.2 to 0.7 per cent of volatile oil. Osann and Wackenroder, in 1831, obtained from it imperatorin, a principle believed by R. Wagner (1854) to be identical with peucedanin, obtained from Peucedanum officinale, Linné, an allied species, by Schlatter in 1833. However, more recent authors (A. Jassoy, 1890) believe it to be identical with ostruthin (see below). Peucedanin forms colorless, rhombic prisms, or plates, or fine needles, which are odorless and tasteless when pure; they are insoluble in water, but soluble in ether, chloroform, and alcohol, the latter solution having a faintly bitter taste. The pure substance melts at 108° C. (226.4° F.) (P. Haensel, 1891). When concentrated hydrochloric acid solution is added to an alcoholic solution of peucedanin, the latter loses a methyl group and is quantitatively converted into oreoselon (Hlasiwetz and Weidel). The formulae of the two compounds have been differently stated, but the researches of A. Jassoy (1890) and P. Haensel (1891), in Prof. Schmidt's laboratory, and those of M. Popper (1898), have demonstrated the formula of peucedanin to be C14H11(OCH3).O3, or C15H14O4, While oreoselon was found by Hlasiwetz and Weidel (Ann. Chem. Pharm., 1822, Vol. 174, p. 67) to have the (analogous) composition C14H11(OH).O3, or C14H12O4 (see Archiv der Pharm., 1898 p. 662-692). The latter substance is a crystallizable, tasteless body, hardly soluble in cold alcohol or ether, almost insoluble in cold water, better soluble in boiling water, soluble in chloroform, alkalies, and even concentrated mineral acids without undergoing chemical alteration. The melting point of the pure substance is stated to be 175° C. (347° F.) or 177° C. (351.5° F.). Another constituent of imperatoria, is a colorless, odorless, tasteless body, ostruthin (C18H20O3, A. Jassoy, in Archiv der Pharm., 1890, p. 544), which forms characteristic, rhombic crystals., insoluble in water, but soluble in alcohol and ether. It was obtained from the root, in 1874. by Gorup-Besanez (0.6 per cent). Alkalies dissolve it with beautiful blue fluorescence; weak acids precipitate from this solution ostruthin unchanged. Upon fusing it with caustic alkalies, Gorup-Besanez obtained a small yield of resorcin, and butyric and acetic acids. The same author found in this root oxypeucedanin, a bitter, crystallizable principle, insoluble in ether, soluble in chloroform, and previously observed by Erdmann in older roots of Peucedanum officinale. Heut (1874) found its melting point to be 140° C. (284° F.), a result confirmed by Jassoy and Haensel (1898). The root here considered is stimulant, and was formerly used locally in indolent ulcers, buccal paralysis, and toothache, the root being chewed in the latter instances; internally in low fevers and inflammation, flatulence, colic, dyspepsia, delirium tremens, hysteria, etc., and in other debilities, both general or local. It has not been used in Eclectic medicine.