This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Lilium Convallium album C. B. Convallaria, Maianthemum. Convallaria maialis Linn. Lily of the valley, May lily: a plant with two or three oblong, acuminated, ribbed leaves; in the bosoms of which arises a naked stalk bearing a number of small, naked, white, drooping, bell-shaped, monopetalous flowers, cut about the edges into six segments, and followed by red berries: the roots are long, slender, and white. It is perennial, grows wild in woods and shady places, and flowers in May.
The flowers of this plant have a fragrant delightful smell, and a penetrating bitterish taste; both which they readily impart to watery and to spirituous menstrua. Their odorous matter, like that of the white lily, is very volatile; being totally dissipated in exsiccation, and elevated in distiliation both by water and rectified spirit: there is no appearance of essen-tial oil in either distiliation; nor does the dis-tilled spirit turn milky on the admixture of water, as those spirits do, which are impregnated with actual oil. The pungency and bitterness, on the other hand, reside in a sixt matter, which remains entire both in the watery and spirituous extracts, and which, in this concentrated state, approaches, as Cartheuser ob-serves to hepatic aloes.
It is principally from the volatile parts of these flowers, that medicinal virtues have been expected, in nervous and catarrhous disorders; but probably their fixt parts also have no small, perhaps the greatest, share in their efficacy. The flowers, dried and powdered, and thus divested of their odoriferous principle, prove strongly sternutatory. Watery or spirituous extracts made from them, given in doses of a scruple or half a dram, act as gentle stimulating aperients and laxatives; and seem to partake of the purgative virtue, as well as of the bitterness, of aloes.
The roots have nothing of the fine smell which is admired in the flowers, but discover to the taste, a greater degree of penetrating bkternefs. The bitter matter appears to be of the same kind in these as in the flowers; being equally extracted by water and spirit; remaining entire behind upon infpiffating the tinctures or infusions; acting as a sternutatory when snuffed up the nose, and as a laxative or purgative when taken internally.
The leaves have the same kind of bitterness, in a lower degree, mixed with a considerable roughness, and a slight sweetishness.