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farrago of articles which are employed by our Indians as supposed remedies against the bites of venemous serpents,* we shall find that the Materia Medica of these people contains but few substances as inert as many of those which have a place in our books on this science, and on other parts of medicine. The astringents and tonics, which they employ in the treatment of intermittent fevers, are the barks of some species of Cornus, or Dogwood, such as Cornus florida and Cornus sericea, both of which are found to possess properties very nearly allied to those of the Cinchona, or Peruvian bark: their purgatives are different species of Iris, or Flag, the root of the Podophyllum peltatum, or May-apple; the bark of the Juglans cinerea, or Butter-nut, and some others: their emetics are the Spiræa trifoliata, or Indian Physic; the Euphorbia Ipecacuanha, Sulphat of Iron, or Copperas, and many others: their sudorifics the active Polygala Senega, or Seneca snake-root, the Aristolochia Serpentaria, or Virginia snake-root, the Eupatorium perfoliatum, or Thorough-wort, the Lobelia siphilitica, &c: their anthelmintics are the Spigelia Marilandica, or Carolina Pink-root, the Lobelia Cardinalis, or Cardinal-Flower, &c.
"FROM this list, which it would be an easy task to render more extensive and more perfect, it must be obvious, that the Indians of North-America are in possession of a number of active and important remedies. It will not be denied, however, that they do not always apply their remedies with judgment and discernment. But what treasures of medicine may not be expected from a people, who although destitute of the lights of science, have discovered the properties of some of the most inestimable medicines with which we are acquainted ? Without mentioning the productions of South-America, let it be recollected, that it is to the rude tribes of the United States that we are indebted for our knowledge of Polygala Senega, Aristolochia Serpentaria, and Spigelia Marilandica.
“It is observed by De Pauw, that Botany is the only science that is known to savage nations.* This observation is more just than many others that are to be found in the writings of this singular author. But it would have been still more just, if, instead of Botany, the term Materia Medica had been employed. Savages, in general, know nothing of the sexual differences of vegetables; their classification, &c. circumstances intimately appertaining to the science of Botany. † But a knowledge of the obvious habit or deportment of their plants, and of the general properties of these plants, is, indeed, a very prominent feature in the description of many savage nations: it is, perhaps, more especially a prominent feature in the description of the savage nations of North-America.
* Recherches Philosophiques sur les Americains, &c. Tome 1.
| If, however, we may depend upon the observations of Dr. Forster, the inhabitants of Otaheite, and other islands in the Southern Pacific Ocean, are "acquainted with the sexual system, especially in the coco-palm." These people have also learned to designate by distinct and often appropriate names, the bracte and various other parts of the plant, in a manner so correct, that it must be acknowledged, that the dawn of Scientific Botany has commenced among them.
See observations made during a Voyage round the world, &c. p. 498, 499, 500. London: 1778. 4to.
“But it is only with their general properties that they are acquainted. For the discovery of these the uncultivated reason of man, even the wild instinct of the animal, are often sufficient. It is the province of science; it is the duty of those who attach themselves, with a well-guided ardour, to the amiable pursuits of medical and natural science more especially, to investigate, with a laborious and accurate attention, the whole of the properties of the various natural objects by which they are surrounded. The illiterate Indians of Loxa, in Peru, were not ignorant, that the Peruvian bark cured intermittent fevers: but it was reserved for men of science, aided by the ample experience of many years, to discover the numerous other properties of this important, this indispensible, article of the Materia Medica.”
Section I. ASTRINGENTS.
maculatum.* This is, certainly, a vegetable entitled to the attention of American physicians. In Kentucky, where it is called “Crow-foot,” it has been collected for the Tormentil † of the shops. In some of the north-western parts of the United-States, it is known by the name of Racine a Becquet, after a person of this name. The western Indians say it is the most effectual of all their remedies for the cure of the venereal disease. I have not, however, been able to learn, in what form or stage of this disease they employ it. I doubt not it would be found very useful, exhibited internally, in cases of old gonorrhoea. In such cases, the internal astringents are too much neglected.
An aqueous infusion of the root forms an excellent injection in gonorrhoea. In old gonorrhoea, and in gleets, a more saturated infusion may be employed, either alone, or combined with a portion of the sulphat of zinc, or white vitriol.
* See Collections, &c. Part First. pages 8 & 43.
† Tormen tilla erecta of Linnæus.
Both the simple sulphat and the oxy-sulphat of iron strike a deep violet colour with the infusion of the root in water.
HEUCHERA Americana*. This is the Heuchera Cortusa of Michaux t, who has unnecessarily changed many of the long-received names of American plants. This Heuchera is one of the articles in the Materia Medica of our Indians. They apply the powdered root to wounds, and ulcers, and cancers.
Of the Pyrola umbellata I have made no mention in the first part of this work. It is a very common NorthAmerican plant, and is sometimes called Ground-Holly, but is much better known (at least in New-Jersey and in Pennsylvania) by the name of Pippsisseva f, which is one of its Indian appellations. In the sexual system of Linnæus, it belongs to the same class and order (Decandria monogynia) as the Uva Ursi. It also belongs to the same natural assemblage of plants as the last mentioned vegetable: viz. the order Bicornes of Linnæus, and the order Ericæ of Mr. de Jussieu. The two plants are, unquestionably, nearly allied to each other in respect to their botanical affinity, as well as in their medical properties.
THE Pyrola is considerably astringent, and the quantity of astringency appears to be nearly the same in the leaves and in the stems. Hitherto, it has not greatly excited the attention of physicians. But I think it is worthy of their notice. A respectable physician, in EastJersey, informed me, that he had employed this plant,
* See Part First. Page 9. + Flora Boreali-Americana, &c. Tom. I. p. 171. 1 Perhaps, Phipsesawa.