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---Medicinal Action and Uses---Antispasmodic, diaphoretic, expectorant, narcotic. Large doses cause nausea, vomiting, headache, vertigo and dimness of vision. It has been used with alleged success in asthma, chronic catarrh, chronic rheumatism, chorea, hysteria and dropsy. It is said to be helpful in epilepsy, and convulsions during pregnancy and labour. It is an ingredient in well-known herbal ointments and powders. Externally, as an ointment, it stimulates granulations, eases pain, etc.
The powdered root may be used, alone, or mixed with honey (1/2 OZ. to 4 OZ. of honey), but the best method of use is probably a saturated tincture of the fresh root.
History.—This plant has been a troublesome one for botanists to dispose of. It has been variously annexed to Ictodes, Dracontium, and Pothos. Salisbury termed it Symplocarpus, a name which is preferred by many botanists. It is indigenous, growing plentifully in various parts of the United States, in moist grounds, flowering in March and April, and maturing its fruit in August and September. It forms a roughened globular mass, 2 or 3 inches in diameter, in decay shedding the bulblet-like seeds, which are 1/3 to 1/2 an inch in diameter, and filled with the singular, solid, fleshy embryo (G.). The whole plant has an extremely disagreeable odor, resembling the commingled odors of skunk and onions, which is most apparent when the plant is bruised, and which has given rise to the several names of Skunk-cabbage, Skunk-weed, Polecat-weed, and Meadow-cabbage. The parts used are the rhizome, with its rootlets, and the seeds. The rhizome should be gathered soon after the appearance of the spathe, or after the seeds have matured in autumn. It has the unpleasant odor of the plant, and, when fresh, a persistent, acrid taste.
Description and Chemical Composition.—As found in commerce the drug is in somewhat cylindrical pieces, 2 inches or more in length, and about 1 inch in diameter, or, more commonly, in tranverse slices, very much compressed and corrugated. Its color externally is dark-brown, and internally whitish, or yellowish white. Drying lessens the odor as well as the acridity of the plant, and age and exposure dissipate them entirely, consequently the root should be renewed annually. The seeds have been used and preferred as being more energetic than the root. They have an exceedingly acrid taste, and emit the fetid odor of the plant only when bruised. They preserve their virtues longer than the root. The properties of this plant are chiefly owing to a volatile substance, which loses its activity by desiccation, and is completely volatilized by subjection to an increased temperature. Alcohol or water extracts its virtues, and the aqueous infusion should be made by displacement. As far as we can ascertain, the only analysis on record of Symplocarpus foetidus is that of Mr. Jos. M. Turner (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1836, Vol. VIII, pp. 1-10), who found the root to contain besides starch, fixed and volatile oils, "a peculiar substance, soluble in acids and precipitated by alkalies." In the seeds he found starch, gum, resin, albumen, fixed oil, wax, and coloring matter.
Prof. Bastin showed the starch of Symplocarpus foetidus to be so characteristic of the drug as to allow its identification in cases where it is used as an adulterant of commercial Veratrum viride (The Apothecary, 1893, p. 152).
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—In large doses, according to Bigelow, skunk cabbage will cause sickness at stomach, vomiting, headache, dizziness, and impaired vision. In medicinal doses it is a stimulant, exerting expectorant, powerful antispasmodic, and faintly narcotic influences. Its action upon the nervous system is marked, relieving irritation, and it has a tendency to promote normal functional activity of the nervous structures. It has been successfully used in asthma, whooping-cough, nervous irritability, hysteria, epilepsy, and convulsions during pregnancy and labor; likewise in chronic catarrh, pulmonary, and bronchial affections.
Jethro Kloss suggests the following applications for this herb: tuberculosis, chronic catarrh, all bronchial and lung infections, whooping cough, spasmodic asthma, hay fever, pleurisy, chronic rheumatism, nervous troubles, dysentery, spasms, convulsions, dropsy, hysteria, epilepsy, and to relieve pain of external tumors and sores when applied as an ointment.
Combinations : For the treatment of asthmatic conditions it may be used with Grindelia, Pill-bearing Spurge and Lobelia.
Side Effects: Stop taking your medicine right away and talk to your doctor if you have any of the following side effects. Your medicine may be causing these symptoms which may mean you are allergic to it.
Breathing problems or tightness in your throat or chest
Skin hives, rash, or itchy or swollen skin
Other Possible Side Effects: You may have the following side effects, but this medicine may also cause other side effects. Tell your doctor if you have side effects that you think are caused by this medicine.
Redness, itching, or blistering of the skin if the plant is touched
Nausea (upset stomach), dizziness, or headache.