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.
MEDICINAL PART. The root.
Description. -- The root of this plant is horizontal, very long, with a thick bark. The stem is round and procumbent, branches two or three feet long; when young, white and silky; when old, dark and naked. The leaves are alternate, sessile, oblong and obovate, hoary and entire. The flowers are red on short stalks. Calyx has four sepals, and corolla four petals. The fruit is a dry, hairy drupe.
History. -- Rhatany flowers all the year round, and grows upon the sandy, dry, and gravelly hills of Peru. The root is the officinal part, and is dug up in large quantities after the rains. It was made officinal in 1780 by Ruiz, but long before that the natives had used it as a strong astringent for various diseases, afflictions, maladies, and complaints. In Portugal, to which the Peruvians send the bulk of the roots gathered, it is used to adulterate red wines. The best method of extracting the medicinal qualities of the root, is to put it powdered in a displacer and pass water through. This will bring a brick-red aqueous solution, which will embrace all the medicinal virtues. There is a false Rhatany, the source of which is unknown.
Properties and Uses. -- It is a powerful astringent, and slightly tonic. It is beneficial wherever powerful astringents are required, and may be used to advantage, if properly prepared, for all diseases which call for the application of a decided astringent.