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gelsemium semperv. L.
Wild Yellow Jasmine
Syn.: Gelsemium lucidum, nitidum
English: False Jessamine
German: gelber Jasmin
Plantae; Spermatophyta, Angiospermae - Flowering Plants; Dicotyledonae; Cornidae; Gentianales; Loganiaceae - Strychnine Family
Introduced into Homoeopathic practice by Dr. Metcafe in 1853. Allen's Encyclop. Mat. Med. IV, 385.
Description of the substance
The important drug Gelsemium, official in the principal Pharmacopoeias, is composed of the dried rhizome and root of Gelsemium nitidum (Michaux), a climbing plant growing in the southern States of North America and there known as Yellow Jasmine, though it is in no way related to the Jasmines, and is best distinguished as Caroline Jasmine, as it belongs to the Loganiaceae, an order that forms a connecting link between the orders Gentianaceae, Apocynaceae, Scrophulariaceae and Rubiaceae.
Its woody, twining stem often attains great height, its growth depending upon its chosen support, ascending lofty trees and forming festoons from one tree to another. It contains a milky juice and bears opposite, shining and evergreen lanceolate leaves and axillary clusters of from one to five large, funnel-shaped, very fragrant yellow flowers, which during its flowering season, in early spring, scent the atmosphere with their delicious odour. The fruit is composed of two separable, jointed pods containing numerous, flat-winged seeds.
The stem often runs underground for a considerable distance, and these portions (the rhizome) are used indiscriminately with the roots in medicine, and exported from the United States in bales.
The plant was first described in 1640 by John Parkinson, who grew it in his garden from seed sent by Tradescant from Virginia; at the present time it is but rarely seen, even in botanic gardens, in Great Britain, and specimens grown at Kew have not flowered.
---Description of the Drug---The drug in commerce mostly consists of the undergroundstem or rhizome, with occasional pieces of the root. The rhizome is easily distinguished by occurring in nearly straight pieces, about 6 to 8 inches long, and 1/4 to 3/4 inch in diameter, having a small dark pith and a purplish-brown, longitudinally fissured bark. The root is smaller, tortuous, and of a uniform yellowish-brown colour, finely wrinkled on the surface.
Both rhizome and root in transverse section exhibit a distinctly radiate appearance, the thin cortex or bark enclosing a large, pale, yellowish-white wood, which consists of narrow bundles with small pores, alternating with straight, whitish, medullary rays about six or eight cells in thickness. In the case of the rhizome, a small pith, frequently divided into four nearly equal parts, is also present, particularly in smaller and younger pieces.
The drug is hard and woody, breaking with an irregular splintery fracture, and frequently exhibits silky fibres in the bast, which are isolated, or occur in groups of two or three and form an interrupted ring, whereas in the aerial stem, they are grouped in bundles.
The drug has a bitter taste, due to the presence of alkaloids, which occur chiefly in the bark. The slight aromatic odour is probably due to the resin in the drug.
---Collection---Adulterations. The drug is commonly collected in the autumn and dried.Though consisting usually of the dried rhizomes with only the larger roots attached, sometimes smaller roots are present, and it is often adulterated with the aerial portions of the stem, which can be easily detected by the thinness and dark-purplish colour of the latter. It is stated to be destitute of alkaloid and therefore of no medicinal value.