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The leaves are employed in medicine. When fresh and bruised, they envolve hydrocyanic acid, but the unbroken fresh leaf is odorless. If the perfect leaves are dried and then powdered, they do not give rise to hydrocyanic acid, but the addition of a little water at once develops the acid (Hanbury). At the meeting of Pharmaceutical Society of Paris, December 6, 1871, Mr. Marais stated that a temperature of -22° C (-7.6°F), applied to the leaves and twigs prevented subsequent formation of hydrocynic acid, although other volatile products were formed.
Today it is no more used in phyto-therapy because it is too poisonous. In the 18th century they gave it when the client had painful cramps, pertussis, asthma, collcs of kidneys, but they gave it as well as spasmolytic substance with epilepsy, muscular cramps, cramps in the face, stomach cramps with paralysis and apoplexy.
. It has been but little employed in medicine. Browne Langrish made the first experiments with water distilled from the leaves, and found that in small doses it acts as a dissolvent in animals. Baylis first administered it to man in doses of from thirty to sixty drops in inflammatory diseases and obstruction of the lower bowel. Gerard Thilenus prescribed it with advantage in herpetic ulcers, to thin, as he says, the black blood.
It has also been used by others as a sedative narcotic in tic douloureux, phthisis pulmonalis, spasmodic cough, palpitation of the heart, intermittent fevers, cardialgia, strangury amenorrhoea, haemoptysis, pleurisy, angina pectoris, etc. As an external application in chronic inflammation of the eyes, incipient cataract, chronic inflammation of the mammae, and in painful tumefaction of the uterus, nervous toothache, etc.
It is a vulgar remedy among the Dutch for inflammation and other affections of the lungs.