Polygala Senega, Linne'. The dried root, with not more than 5 p.s. of stems and other foreign organic matter.

Habitat. United States, in woods and rocky soil; Canada to S. Carolina, west to Wisconsin.

Syn. Seneg., Senega Snakeroot, Seneca Snakeroot, Seneka, or Snake Root, Rattlesnake Root, Milkwort, Mountain Flax; Br. Senegae Radix; Fr. Polygala de Virginie; Ger. Senegawurzel.

Po-lyg'a-la. L., see etymology, above of Polygalaceaae.

Sen'e-ga. L. fr. the Seneca (Senega) tribe, one of the five N. American Indian tribes; they inhabited W. New York and used this plant as a remedy for snake-bites.

PLANT. Perennial herb; stems several, erect, 22.5-37.5 Cm. (9-15') high, smooth, round, leafy, occasionally reddish or purplish below, green above; leaves 2.5-5 Cm. (1-2') long, 12 Mm. (1/2') wide, lanceolate, sessile, margins rough, bright green; flowers May-June, small diadelphous, white, spike 2.5-5 Cm. (1-2') long, calyx showy; sepals 5 (3 small, green; 2 larger, petaloid, called wings); corolla small, closed; fruit capsule, 2-celled, compressed, 2-seeded, black. ROOT, usually in pieces; when entire, slenderly conical, with an enlarged crown, 3-15 Cm. (1 1/5-6') long, 2-10 Mm. (1/12-2/5') thick, tortuous, somewhat branched, few rootlets, crown knotty with numerous buds and short stem-bases, brownish-yellow, crown darker and rose-tinted, longitudinally wrinkled, frequently with a distinct ridge (keel); fracture short, wood pale yellow; usually eccentrically developed and in pieces; odor suggesting methyl salicylate; taste sweetish, afterward strongly acrid.


grayish-yellow, sternutatory -- fragments of cork, parenchyma and sieve tissue developing oily globules, tracheae, tracheids, numerous pores, wood-fibers, lignified medullary ray cells. Solvents: boiling water; alcohol; diluted alcohol. Dose, gr. 5-30 (.3-2 Gm.).


Allied species, also gillenia, triosteum (rhizome and roots), American gentians (rootlets), often to 25 p.c. -- result of careless collection and intentional fraud; in Europe occasionally the underground portion of Cynan'chum Vincetox'icum. Of these none has a keel, some contain starch, and all differ in odor, color, and taste.


The official root, as well as some of the growing plants of this genus emit a slight wintergreen odor; the southern root is smaller and usually paler, while the Manitoba is larger and stouter, often dark, with purple discoloration about the crown; the large, broad-leaved form is considered var. latifo'lia. Root should be collected in the autumn, and comes chiefly from Minnesota and northward.


Saponin-like compound 5-6 p.c., composed of senegin 1.5 p.c., and polygalic acid 4 p.c. (analogous to saponin and components, quillaja-sapotoxin, quillajic acid, of quillaja), fixed oil 8-9 p.c., volatile oil .12 p.c., methyl salicylate (increasing with age), resin, polygalite, sugar 7 p.c., pectin and albuminoids 18.40 p.c., malates, yellow coloring matter, ash 4-5 p.c.

Senegin (polygalin, saponin), CHO. -- Obtained by exhausting root with 60 p.c. alcohol, concentrating, precipitating with alcohol and ether; mother-liquor contains the salt of an organic acid.  It is a neutral glucoside, white, amorphous, inodorous powder, insoluble in alcohol, not precipitated by normal lead acetate, and forms soapy emulsion with boiling water; by hydrochloric acid decomposed into glucose and sapogenin, C14H22O2.

Polygalic Acid, CHO. -- Sparingly soluble in alcohol, insoluble in ether or chloroform, precipitated by neutral and basic lead acetates.

Fixed Oil. -- Obtained from root by ether; contains virgineic acid which gives disagreeable aroma.

Volatile Oil. -- This is a mixture of valer(ian)ic ether and methyl salicylate.


1. Fluidextractum Senegae.  Fluidextract of Senega.  (Syn., Fldext. Seneg., Fluid Extract of Senega; Fr. Extrait fluide de Polygale de Virginie; Ger. Senegafluidextrakt.)


Macerate, percolate 100 Gm. with alcohol 200 cc. + water 100 cc., proceed with menstruum (same strength) until exhausted, reserve first 80 cc, evaporate remainder to soft extract, which dissolve in the reserve, add ammonia water gradually until faintly alkaline (slight odor of ammonia), and menstruum q.s. 100 cc.  Dose mv-30 (.3-2 cc.).

Preps.: 1. Syrupus Senagae.  Syrup of Senega.  (Syn., Syr. Seneg.; Fr. Sirop de Polygale; Ger. Senegasirup.)


20 p.c.  Mix ammonia water 1 cc. with fluidextract of senega 20 cc., add syrup q.s. 100 cc.; mix well.  Dose, 3j-2 (4-8 cc.).

2. Syrupus Scillae Compositus, 8 p.c.  3. Mistura Pectoralis, N.F., 3.5 p.c.

Unoff. Preps.: Abstract, gr. 5-10 (.3-.6 Gm.).  Infusum Senegae (Br.), 5 p.c., 3iv-16 (15-60 cc.).  Liquor Senegae Concentratus, 50 p.c., 3ss-j (2-4 cc.).  Tinctura Senegae (Br.), 20 p.c. (60 p.c. alcohol), 3ss-j (2-4 cc.).


Stimulating expectorant, diuretic, diaphoretic, irritant.  Produces throat and gastro-intestinal irritation, some salivation with inclination to cough, increased bronchial secretion; large doses vomit and purge.  Insufflation causes sneezing, coughing, and nasal catarrh.  Externally--an irritant to the skin.  Senegin is a violent irritant, heart depressant, likewise same to vascular, nervous, and irritant, heart depressant, likewise same to vascular, nervous, and muscular systems.  It is excreted by kidneys, skin, bronchial mucous membrane, all being stimulated and irritated by it.


Secondary stage of acute and in chronic bronchitis, in typhoid pneumonia, asthma, croup, renal dropsy, promotes expectoration; no value when mucus tough and scanty, or unless the primary acute inflammation has been subdued; slight value in dropsy.  In amenorrhea, give decoction two weeks before each menstruation, chronic rheumatism, rheumatic paralysis; senegin in gr. 2 (.13 Gm.) doses for uterine hemorrhage.  Popular with North American Indians for rattlesnake and other snake-bites.