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Liatris Spicata

NAT. ORD., Compositae.

COMMON NAMES, Dense Button-Snake-root. Gay Feather. Devil's Bit.

PREPARATION.--The root is pounded to a pulp and macerated in two parts

by weight of alcohol.

(The following, by Dr. T. C. Duncan, was called forth by

the publication of an item in Eclectic Medical Journal,

stating that twice during the past year Liatris had

ven good results in dropsy; in one case, on the second

day, the patient had passed a gallon and a half of urine.

Dr. Duncan's paper was published in the Homoeopathic

Recorder for 1898):

Any new remedy that promises relief in dropsy will be hailed with

pleasure by the profession. Happening into a pharmacy soon after

receiving the January Recorder, a physician rushed in and inquired for

"that new remedy for dropsy--that got rid of 'a gallon and a half of

urine in one day.' Have a bad case cardiac dropsy. Want to try it. How

do you give it?" He could not get it. "Get me some," was his order.

"There is the article, be sure to get the right thing, Liatris!"

Liatris spicata is the familiar "button-snake-root" that I used to dig

every fall for our old family physician (who called himself a "botanic

physician") and who gave it for indigestion. It is also called "colic

root" and "devil's bit," because a piece is missing from each tuber as a

rule, just as if bitten out. Kost's Medicine (my first medical work)

describes it as follows: "Root perennial, tuberous, ovate, abrupt, beset

around the base with many fine fibers; it is aromatic. Stem round, about

three feet high, bearing a spike of scaly purple-colored blossoms,

bearing in the aggregate a resemblance to an acorn. The leaves are

linear or sword-shaped, somewhat resembling the leaves of young corn.

It is found in prairies and open woods in the western States."

"The Liatris is an aromatic stimulant, diaphoretic, diuretic, anodyne

and carminitive. It is particularly useful in colic, backache and


It is interesting to know that it has had clinically a good effect in

dropsy, (1) due to liver and splenic enlargement, also (2) where the

kidneys were involved. In the second case referred to, "Apocynum can.,

Aralia, Digitalis, et al." had been given, but the kidneys failed

to respond until the Liatris "was given in infusion," then "on the

second day the patient passed a gallon and a half of urine"--equal

to 192 ounces of urine! In the first case the Liatris was followed by

Ferrum carb.

Whether it will prove equally efficient in cardiac dropsy only time will

tell. I hope that the readers of the Recorder will report results,

whether favorable or otherwise. The dose that Dr. Bradley gave was about

a pint, drank during the course of the day, containing about half an

ounce of the root. The tincture will be more convenient, and it is a

question if the dilutions will not be equally efficient. Try the third,

and then go up or down the scale as the case seems to demand. This drug

should be proved. It is harmless. If any young physician will volunteer

I will gladly direct him.

Infusion of Digitalis (English leaves) is a favorite prescription with

some physicians in cases of cardiac dropsy, but I have not found that

form any more efficient than the dilution, except in cases where alcohol

had been a cause, then Strophanthus or Arsenicum had a better