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.
COMMON NAMES. Wild Indigo, Horsefly Weed.
MEDICINAL PART. The bark of the root and leaves.
Description. -- The blackish and wood root of this perennial plant sends up a stem which is very much branched, round, smooth, and from two to three feet high. The leaves are small and alternate, leaflets rounded at their extremity; calyx four-cleft, and fruit a short, bluish-black legume.
History. -- This small shrub grows in dry places in many parts of the United States, and bears bright yellow flowers in July and August. The fruit is of a bluish-black color in the form of an oblong pod, and contains indigo, tannin, an acid, and baptisin. Any portion of the plant, when dried, yields a blue dye, which is, however, not equal in value to indigo. If the shoots are used after they acquire a green color they will cause drastic purgation. Alcohol or water will take up the active properties of this plant. Medicinally, both the root and the leaves are valuable, and deserve to be better known than they are at present as remedial agents. The virtues of the root reside chiefly in the bark.
Properties and Uses. -- It is purgative, emetic, astringent, and antiseptic. For its antiseptic qualities or properties it is more highly esteemed than for any other. A decoction of the bark of the root is efficacious in the cure of all kinds of external sores and ulcerations. It is used in decoction or syrup, for scarlatina, typhus, and all cases where there is a tendency to putrescency. As a fomentation it is very useful in ulcers, tumors, sore nipples, etc., and may be so used if you cannot get a superior remedy, as the Herbal Ointment.
Dose. -- Of the decoction, one tablespoonful every two or four hours, as required. The decoction is made by boiling one ounce of the powdered bark in two pints of water until they are reduced to one pint.