This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Lobelia Pharm. Edinb. Rapunculus galea-tus virginianus slore majore violaceo Morison. Lobelia fiphilitica Linn. Blue cardinal-flower: an herbaceous perennial plant, with an erect; erect stalk three or four feet high, and ovate-lanceolate subserrated leaves, bearing long spikes of labiated, irregular, blue flowers, each with five stamina having connate antherae, succeeded by a bilocular capsule, containing many small seeds. The whole plant has a milky juice, and something of a rank smell. It grows in moist places in Virginia, and bears the winters of our climate.
The root of this plant consists of white fibres, a line in thickness, and about two inches in length. It resembles tobacco in its taste, which dwells long on the tongue, and is apt to excite vomiting. It was long a famous secret among the North American Indians for the cure of the venereal disease. The secret was purchased by Sir William Johnson, and has been made public in the writings of Bartram, Kalm, and others.
The dose and mode of administering this medicine are not exactly defined, but the following directions are given as the most accurate. A decoction is made of a handful of the roots in three measures of water. Of this, half a mea-sure is taken in the morning fading, and repeated in the evening; and the dose is gradually increased till its purgative effect becomes too violent, when the medicine is for a time to be intermitted, and then renewed, till a perfect cure is effected. One dose daily is sussioient during the latter part of the treatment; and the regimen during the whole process is to be equally strict with that observed in a course of mercurial salivation. From the third day, the ulcers, are to be well washed twice daily with the decoction; and it is said that when they are very deep and foul, the Indians sprinkle them with powder of the internal bark of the spruce-tree.
By this method we are allured that inveterate venereal complaints are cured without the aid of mercury; and the Edinburgh college seem to give credit to the efficacy of the lobelia, by receiving it into their lateft catalogue of fimples.