This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Bryonia Alba Pharm. Edinb. & Linn. Vitis alba five bryonia J. B. Bryonia aspera five alba baccis rubris C. B. Bryony or wild vine: a perennial rough plant, growing wild in hedges, and climbing on the bushes with curled tendrils. The leaves are in shape somewhat like those of the vine, irregularly pentagonal, with a consi-derable indentation between every two angles, and the extreme segment longest: in their bo-soms come forth clutters of greenish-white bell-shaped monopetalous flowers, divided into five roundish sections, adhering firmly to the cup; succeeded by red berries, containing an extremely viscid pulp with small seeds. The root is very large, sometimes as thick as a man's thigh, of a yellowish or brownish colour on the outside, and white and fungous within.
Fresh bryony root, taken up in the beginning of spring, abounds with a thin milky juice: if the upper part of the root be bared of earth, and the top cut over transversely, the juice continues to rife gradually to the surface, in notable quantity, for two or three days successively, and may be collected by forming a cavity in the middle to receive it. Both the root in substance, and the juice, have a disagreeable smell, and a nauseous, bitter biting taste: applied for some time to the skin, they inflame or even vesicate the part. On drying the one, or infpiffating the other, they lose most of their acrimony and nearly the whole of their ill scent. In summer, the root proves much less juicy, and weaker both in smell and taste.
This root, taken in powder from a scruple to a dram, proves a strong cathartic. It was formerly given, both as a purge, in maniacal and hydropic cases; and, in smaller doses, as a re-folvent and deobstruent, in uterine and asthma-tic disorders, in which it is reported to have been of great efficacy. At present it is, in this country, very rarely made use of in either intention; on account, not entirely of the violence of its operation, for purgatives as violent as it are still retained in practice; but partly of its degree of activity, in different states and forms, being very variable, and less ascertained than that of other cathartics in more general use. It is said, that when fresh it operates, violently, upwards as well as downwards; and that when dry, it acts with less violence, and chiefly by stool (a); that the juice, which issues from it spontaneously, purges mildly in doses of a spoonful (b); that the fresh root, bruised and freed from its juice by pressure, and afterwards dried, is still purgative(c); and that the expressed juice exsiccated, and the farinaceous fecula which subsides from it on (landing, are of little activity(a): that an extract made from the fresh root, by boiling it in wine, and pres-sing out and infpiffating the decoction, operates with sufficient mildness, in doses of from half a dram to a dram(b), both by stool and urine; and that infusions in water are chiefly diuretic. Burggrave relates, as from his own knowledge, a pretty remarkable account of the effects of the watery infusion and juice in this last intention. From a fresh root, as thick as can be procured and about a span long, he directs about an inch of the top to be cut off, and a large conical piece to be cut out to two thirds the depth of the root: into this cavity put two ounces or more of sugar-candy in powder, above which insert the cone properly detruncated, and set the root upright in a warm place for twenty-four hours: the sugar being now dissolved by the native juice of the bryony, the excavated part of the root is to be cut off, and one, two, or three dices, from the lower solid part, infused in water. "Give, says the author, to an hy-"dropic person, one spoonful of the saccharine "solution in the morning, and repeat it every "two hours till the patient begins to make "water profusely, for it will not purge: when "great third is complained of, give a draught "of the infusion, which will likewise not purge, "but work still more by urine. Then carefully "provide against any ill effects ensuing from the "inanition of the abdomen and collapsion of the "integuments(c)."
(a) Hermann, Cynosura m. m. edit. Boeder. i. 141, etc. - Boulduc's opinion, of the dry root being strongest (mem. de l'acad. roy. des scienc. de Paris, pour l'ann. 1712) seems to have been deduced from a principle, which cannot be admitted, that the root suffers no other change in drying than the dissipation of its watery humidity.
(b) Stoffelius, apud Joan. Baubin. hist. plant. torn. ii. p. 143.
(c) Le Mort, Morley collect. chym. Leydens. p. 120.
(a) Boerhaave, Hist. plant. Lugd. Bat. p. 497. Geoffroy, m. m. iii. 223.
(b) Geoffroy, m. m. iii. 223.
(c) Burggrave, Lexicon medium, p. 1710.
Externally, the fresh root has been employed in cataplasms, as a resolvent and discutient; against hard and oedematous tumours, stag-nations and coagulations of blood from external injuries, and ischiadic and other rheumatic pains.