This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Abrotonum Ph. Lond. Abrotanum Pharm. Edinb. Abrotanum mas angustifolium majus C. B. Artemisia Abrotanum Linn. Southernwood: a plant, with woody brittle branches; numerous greyish green leaves, divided into slender segments; and small yellow-naked difcous flowers, hanging downwards, in clufters, along the sides of the stalks and branches. It is a native of open mountainous places, in the warmer climates: with us, it is raised in gardens, from flips or cuttings; seldom producing seeds, and not often flowers: the leaves fall off in the winter: the roots and stalks are perennial.
The leaves and tops of southernwood have a strong smell, to many people agreeable; and a nauseous penetrating bitterish taste: they lose a little by drying both of their taste and smell. The flowers are somewhat weaker than the leaves. The cortical part of the younger roots has a light not ungrateful bitterness, with little or nothing of the peculiar flavour of the herb.
Infusions of the leaves made in water are of a brownish hue, in taste and smell not unplea-sant: decoctions are darker coloured and very nauseous. In distillation with water, there arises an essential oil, of a bright yellow colour, in smell exactly resembling the plant. This oil distils slowly, and towards the end of the pro-cess proves very foul: rectified, or distilled a second time with fresh water, it leaves behind a considerable quantity of an inodorous and almost insipid resinous matter. From sixteen pounds of the fresh leaves and tops were obtained scarcely three drams of oil, which left in rectification above half a dram of resin.
Tinctures of the leaves, made in rectified spirit, are of a deep green colour, and taste strongly of the southernwood: the smell is covered by the spirit. The spirit, distilled off from the filtered tincture, has very little of the flavour of the herb: the remaining extract retains a consider-able share of its smell, and resembles it more perfectly in taste than an extract made by water; though it is much less ungrateful than either that extract or the herb in substance. Rectified spirit appears to dissolve the aromatic part more easily, and the nauseous part more difficultly, than watery menstrua.
This bitterish pungent plant has been employed as a moderately stimulating deobstru-ent, in different cachectic disorders; as an anthelmintic; and as possessing some degree of an anodyne or antispasmodic virtue depending on the oil or odorous matter. In the present practice, it is scarcely otherwise made use of than for external purposes, as an ingredient in discutient and antiseptic somentations; in which intention it appears to be of no inconsiderable efficacy. It has likewise been recommended in unguents for promoting the growth of hair; a virtue to which it does not appear to have much claim.