Substances & Homeopatic Remedies

Dulcamara

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The limited demand for Bitter sweet in modern pharmacy is supplied bythe wild plant.

 

The dried young branches from indigenous plants, taken when they have shed their leaves, were the parts directed for use up to 1907, by the British Pharmacopoeia, but it has been removed from the last two editions.

 

The shoots, preferably the extreme branches, are collected from two- to threeyear-old branches, after the leaves have fallen in the autumn, cut into pieces about 1/2 inch long, with a chaff cutter, and then carefully dried by artificial heat. They require no other preparation. The peculiar unpleasant odour of the shoots is lost on drying.

 

An extract of the leaves or tops is frequently prepared also; 10 lb. of the dried shoots yield about 2 lb. of the extract. A decoction of the dried herb is likewise used.

 

The active properties of Bittersweet are most developed when it grows in a dry and exposed situation. The bitterness is more pronounced in the spring than in the autumn, and in America the shoots are gathered while still pliant, when the plant is just budding, though the British Pharmacopoeia directs that they shall be collected in the autumn.

 

The plant was called the Woody Nightshade by the old herbalists to distinguish it from the Deadly Nightshade. Its generic name Solanum is derived from Solor (I ease), and testifies to the medicinal power of this group of plants. The second name, Dulcamara, used to be more correctly written in the Middle Ages, Amaradulcis, signifying literally 'bittersweet,' the common country name of the plant, given to it in reference to the fact that the root and stem, if chewed, taste first bitter and then sweet. Another old name is Felonwood, probably a corruption of Felonwort, the plant for felons - felon being an old name for whitlow. We are told by an old writer that:

'the Berries of Bittersweet stamped withrusty Bacon, applied to the Joynts of the Finger that is troubled with a Felon hath been found by divers country people who are most subject thereto to be very successful for the curing of the same.'

In the days of belief in witchcraft, shepherds used to hang it as a charm round the necks of those of their beasts whom they suspected to be under the evil eye.

The older physicians valued Bittersweet highly and applied it to many purposes in medicine and surgery, for which it is no longer used. It was in great repute as far back as the time of Theophrastus, and we know of it being in use in this country in the thirteenth century.

 

---Constituents---Bittersweet contains the alkaloid Solanine and the amorphous glucoside Dulcamarine, to which the characteristic bittersweet taste is due. Sugar, gum, starch and resin are also present.

 

Solanine acts narcotically; in large doses it paralyses the central nervous system, without affecting the peripheral nerves or voluntary muscles. It slows the heart and respiration, lessens sensibility, lowers the temperature and causes vertigo and delirium, terminating in death with convulsions.

 

---Medicinal Action and Uses---The drug possesses feeble narcotic properties, with the power of increasing the secretions, particularly those of the skin and kidneys. It has no action on the pupil of the eye.

 

It is chiefly used as an alterative in skin diseases, being a popular remedy for obstinate skin eruptions, scrofula and ulcers.

 

It has also been recommended in chronic bronchial catarrh, asthma and whoopingcough.

 

For chronic rheumatism and for jaundice it has been much employed in the past, an infusion of 1 OZ. of the dried herb to 1/2 pint water being taken in wineglassful doses, two or three times daily. From the fluid extract made from the twigs, a decoction is prepared of 10 drachms in 2 pints of boiling water, boiled down to 1 pint, and taken in doses of 1/2 to 2 OZ. with an equal quantity of milk.

 

The berries have proved poisonous to a certain degree to children.

 

Fluid extract, 1/2 to 2 drachms.

 

MEDICINAL ACTIONS : Woody nightshade is considered an anodyne, diuretic,emetic, herpatic, purgative, alterative, diaphoretic, discutient, deobstruent, narcotic, andresolvent.The solanine acts narcotically, in large doses it causes paralysis of the central nervoussystem without affecting the peripheral nerves or voluntary muscles. It slows the heart andrespiration, lowers body temperature and causes vertigo and delirium, ending with deathand convulsions.

 

MEDICINAL USE : The primary contemporary use of woody nightshade is as analterative in skin diseases, such as obstinate skin eruptions, scrofula and ulcers.In the past, this plant was recommended for chronic bronchial catarrh, asthma, andwhooping cough, chronic rheumatism, and jaundice.Even though woody nightshade contains a relatively weak poison it is used almostexclusively for external problems.Combine this plant with camomile to make a good ointment for swellings, bruises, sprains,and corns. Combine with yellow dock for skin diseases and sores.