This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Apium paluftre & opium officinarum C. B. Eleoselinum. Apium graveolens Linn. Smallage: an umbelliferous plant, with bright green winged leaves, cut slightly into three roundish portions, serrated about the edges: the seeds are small, oval, plano-convex, furrowed, of a pale brownish or ash colour: the root long, about the thickness of the finger, furnished with a number of fibres, of a pale yellowish colour on the outside, and white within. It is biennial; flowers in August; grows wild in rivulets and watery places; and is frequently cultivated in gardens.
A poisonous plant, the cicuta aquatica or water hemlock, which grows naturally in the same places with wild smallage, has been some-times mistaken for it. This may be distin-guished, by its leaves being deeply divided, quite to the pedicle, into three long narrow sharp pointed segments; whereas those of smallage are only slightly cut into three roundish ob-use ones.
The fresh roots of smallage, especially when produced in its native watery places, are sup-posed to participate, in some degree, of the ill quality of those of the hemlock kind, and to be particularly hurtful to epileptic persons and pregnant women. They have an unpleasant smell, and a bitterish somewhat acrid taste, weaker than those of the roots of the cicuta, but so much of the same kind, as to countenance the suspicion, that the fresh roots of wild smallage, if taken in considerable doses, may not be entirely innocent. By drying, they lose greatest part of their ill flavour, and become sweetish: the poisonous quality of the cicuta also is said to be abated by exsiccation.
The dry roots of smallage have been employed, in apozems, as aperients and diuretics, in conjunction commonly with the other aperient roots. They give out their virtue, together with a pale yellow colour, both to watery and spirituous menstrua. On evaporating the watery infusion, the flavour of the root exhales, and the remaining extract proves unpleasantly sweet-ifh. The spirituous tincture, infpiffated, yields an extract, somewhat sweeter and less ungrateful than that made with water, and of a flight warmth or pungency: the smell of the root, which is pretty strong in the watery infusions, is in good measure covered by spirit both in the tincture and extract.
The seeds of smallage have been sometimes used as carminatives and aperients, and appear to be possessed of greater virtues than the root. They have a moderately strong grateful smell, and a warm bitterish tasle. Infused in water, they impart to it very little of their flavour: distilled with water, they yield a small quantity of essential oil, of a very pungent taste, smelling strongly and agreeably of the seeds: the remaining decoction is unpleasantly bitterish. They give out the whole of their taste and smell to rectified spirit, and tinge the menstruum of a yellowish colour: the spirit, distilled off from the filtered tincture, has very little of the flavour of the seeds: the remaining extract is a moderately warm, pungent, bitterish aromatic.
This plant has been greatly improved, by culture, in the southern parts of Europe, and thence received in our gardens under the name of celery, apium dulce celeri it alarum. Tourn. In this state, it is much paler coloured, quite white towards the roots, of a pleasant sweetish, somewhat warm taste, without any thing of the ill flavour of the roots and leaves of common smallage. Ray observes, that, if neglected for a few years, it degenerates into smallage again.
The roots of celery lose in drying about two thirds of their weight: the matter which exhales appears to be mere water. The dried roots, digested in rectified spirit, with a heat a little below boiling, soon give out the whole of their active matter, and become insipid. The tincture, which is of a yellow colour, deposites, on Handing for some weeks, a considerable quantity of truly saccharine white flakes: infpiffated, it yields a whitish extract, of a grateful warm aromatic sweetness. An extract made by water is likewise considerably sweet, but has nothing of the aromatic warmth of the spirituous extract.
The seeds of celery are much inferiour in aromatic flavour to those of smallage; and the several preparations of them are proportionally weaker and less grateful: the essential oil, in which the taste and flavour are concentrated, is far less pungent than the oil of smallage seeds, and of very little smell. Thus one part of the plant degenerates in its quality, in proportion as the other is improved.