This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
This is a collection of water in the belly, though sometimes the fluid is outside of the peritoneum and next to the muscles. There is a sense of distension and weight, especially on the side on which the patient lies. When the collection is large, the breathing becomes short and difficult, and the swelling is uniform over the whole abdomen. In some instances the fluctuation may be heard when the patient moves about. This sound distinguishes this complaint from pregnancy or peritonitis. There are generally loss of appetite, dry skin, costiveness, scanty urine, oppression of the chest, cough, colic pains, and variable pulse. A frequent cause of this complaint is chronic inflammation of the peritoneum; it is also produced by scarlet fever, hob-nailed liver, and other diseases of that organ--in short, whatever obstructs the portal circulation.
TREATMENT. -- The remedies for this disease are mainly diuretics and purgatives. Digitalis is an excellent remedy, but should be cautiously administered The patient should have as a constant drink an infusion of two parts of hair-cap moss, and one each of juiper berries and dward-elder bark; also an infusion of queen of the meadow. The purgatives that produce watery stools, such as elaterium, should be given. The compound infusion of parsley is about the best agent to promote the absorption of the fluid. The skin should be kept well open, and the stricteest temperance both in eating and drinking must also be observed If all medicinal treatment fails, the surgeon should be called, who will perform paracentesis abdominis, or tapping the abdomen; but this should be degerred until all other means have failed.