This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Gallium luteum C. B. Galium verum Linn. Ladies bed straw: a plant with square stalks, and long narrow soft leaves, standing generally eight at a joint in form of a star: on the tops, and on short pedicles issuing from among the leaves, grow thick clusters of small young monopetalous bell-shaped flowers, divided, each, into four segments, and followed by two seeds. It is perennial, common in dry waste grounds, and flowers in June and July.
(a) Collen'a Mat. Med. vol. ii. p. 46. edit. 1789.
The flowers of this plant have a moderately strong, not disagreeable smell; the leaves, little or none. They both discover to the taste a fensible acidity; which they manifest also by changing the juices of blue flowers to a red, and by coagulating boiling milk: they are said to be, in some places, commonly made use of in this last intention, whence one of the common names of the plant, cheese-rennet. Their acid matter appears to be, if Borrichius's experiment is to be depended on, of a more sub-tile kind than that of sorrel, and than the other native vegetable acids that have been examined; the flowery tops, committed to distillation as soon as gathered, giving over a pretty strong acid liquor, in a moderate heat, wherein sorrel yielded only an insipid phlegm (a). The restringent and refrigerating virtues, ascribed to this plant, appear from these experiments to have some foundation.
Gambogia Pharm. Lond. & Edinb. Gum-mi gutta, gamandra, gamma, jemu, etc. Cam-bogia gutta Linn. Gamboge: the concrete gummy-resinous juice of certain trees growing in Cambogia or Cambodia and some other parts of the East Indies: brought over in large cakes or rolls, externally of a brownish yellow, internally of a deep reddish yellow or orange colour, changing to a pale bright yellow on being moistened.
(a) Acta medica & philosphica Hafnienfia; vol i. obs. 69.
This juice has no smell, and when first chewed makes but little impression on the organs of taste: kept in the mouth for some time, it discovers a considerable acrimony. Rectified spirit of wine, poured upon it, acquires immediately a deep gold colour, and dissolves about five parts out of six. Water, assisted by heat, takes up nearly as much; but the folution is turbid, and deposites, on cooling, a considerable quantity of resinbus matter. Water, impregnated with fist alkaline salt, totally dissolves it into a transparent blood-red liquor, which passes through a filter without any separation of its parts, and deposites no sediment on standing. It is wholly taken up likewise, and in considerable quantity, by vinous spirits impregnated with volatile alkalies, or the dulcified spirit of sal ammoniac: this solution mingles uniformly both with water and rectified spirit, without precipitation or turbidness.
Gamboge is a strong and quick cathartic; producing copious evacuations, and usually finishing its operation soon. In such hydropic cases as require the brisker cathartics, and in other disorders accompanied with a redundance of serous humours, it is an useful and safe hy-dragogue: in hot, dry, bilious conslitutions, it is never to be ventured on: in all cases, it is liable, on first using it, to vomit as well as purge. The dose is from three or four grains to twelve, or at most fifteen.
This medicine is most disposed to act upwards, when given in the solid form of a bolus or pill: by joining to it mercurius dulcis, its emetic power is generally restrained. It is principally made use of in conjunction with that mercurial preparation and with other purgative materials. Solutions of gamboge in alkalized water, and in dulcified alkaline spirits, act only by stool and urine, and with much greater mild-ness than the juice in substance. The watery tincture is slill milder, the menslruum dissolv-ing only a part of the resin: the spirituous tincture operates with extreme irritation both upwards and downwards.
*Dr. Cullen says, that on account of the quick passage of gamboge through the intes-tines, he was induced to give it in small and frequently repeated doses, as three or four grains rubbed with a little sugar, every three hours; and thus found it operate without griping or sickness, and in three or four exhibitions evacuate a great quantity of water both by stool and urine. Mat. Med. ii. 542. edit. 1789.
Genista Pharm. Lond. & Edinb. Genista angulofa & fcoparia C. B. Spartium scoparium Linn. Broom: a shrubby plant; with numerous, slender, angular, tough twigs; small, somewhat oval leaves, set three on one pedicle; and deep yellow papilionaceous flowers, which are followed by broad pods, containing hard brownish flat seeds. It is common on heaths and uncultivated sandy grounds, and flowers in May and June.
The leaves and stalks of broom have a nauseous bitter taste; which they give out, by, infusion, both to water and rectified spirit; and which, on gently infpiffating the filtered liquors, remains concentrated in the extracts: the watery tincture is of a yellowish green or brownish, the spirituous of a dark green colour. They are accounted laxative, aperient, and diuretic; and in this intention have been often used by the common people in dropsies and other serous disorders. Dr. Mead relates a case of an hydropic person, who, after the paracentesis had been thrice performed, and sundry purgatives and diuretics had been tried without relief, was perfectly cured, by taking, every morning and evening, half a pint of a decoction of green broom tops with a spoonful of whole mustard seed: by this medicine, the thirst was abated, the belly loosened, and the urinary discharge increased to the quantity of at least: five or six pints a day (a). * The watery extract is received as an officinal by the London college.
Infusions of the ashes of the plant in acidulous wines have likewise been employed in the same intention, and often with good success. The virtue of this medicine does not depend, as some have supposed, on any of the peculiar qualities of the broom remaining in the ashes; but on the alkaline salt and earth, which are the same in the ashes of broom as in those of other vegetables, combined, wholly or in part, with the vinous acid. A solution even of the pure earthy part of vegetable ashes, made in vegetable acids, proves notably purgative and diuretic.
(a) Monita &praecepta medica, p. 138.
Extr. cacu-minis genistae Ph. Lond.
Of the seeds and flowers, the medicinal qualities are not well known. It is said that the seeds, in doses of a dram and a half in sub-ftance, and five or six drams in decoction or infusion, prove purgative or emetic. Some report that the flowers also operate in the same manner, but Lobel assures us, from his own observation, that they have been taken in quantity, without producing any such effect:; and I have known infusions of the flowery tops drank freely in some asthmatic cases, without any other sensible operation than a salutary increase of urine and expectoration. The seeds, (lightly roasted, are tised in some places as coffee, and said to act as diuretics.