This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Pimpinella Saxifraga Linn. Bur-net-saxifrage; a perennial umbelliferous plant; with naked umbels; the outermost flowers composed of unequal petals, the inner equal; the seeds small, oblong, somewhat pointed, flat on one side, convex and striated on the other; the lower leaves roundish, indented, set in pairs along a middle rib with an odd one at the end; the upper leaves oblong and very narrow; the roots long, slender, and whitish.
1. Pimpinella alba Germanorum: Pimpinella saxifraga major umbella Candida C. B. Greater or white burnet-saxifrage: with some of the leaves pretty deeply cut, the odd one into three sections. It is not very common in this country, and therefore our markets have been generally supplied with the following.
2. Pimpinella saxifraga: Pimpinella saxifraga minor foliis fanguiforbae Raii; Tragofelinum alterum majus Tourn. Smaller burnet-saxifrage; with uncut leaves. It grows wild in dry pasture grounds.
3. Pimpinella saxifraga minor C. B. Tragofelinum minus Tourn. Small burnet-saxifrage; with the upper leaves divided into oblong narrow segments; taller than the others, but with smaller leaves. This is the most common sort in the fields about London.
All these plants appear to be possessed of the same qualities, and to differ little otherwise than in external appearance: and even in this, their difference is so inconsiderable and inconstant, that Linnaeus has joined them into one species, under the name of pimpinella foliis pinnatis, foliolis radicalibus fubrotundis, fummis linearibus: he says he has seen the second sort produced from the seeds of the first sown in a richer foil. lnstead of the first, which has been generally understood as the officinal kind, our college allows either of the others to be taken indifferently.
The roots of pimpinella have a hot, pungent, not very durable taste; and emit, when fresh, an acrid halitus, of no particular smell, but affecting the eyes like that of horseradish or mustard seed, though in a lower degree. In drying, they lose this subtile matter, and in long keeping the pungency of their taste is diminished. Their virtue is extracted, partially by water, and completely by rectified spirit. In distillation with water, a part of their pungency arises and impregnates the distilled fluid, and a part remains behind in the decoction: when large quantities are distilled, there separates from the water a small portion of a yellowish essential oil extremely acrid and fiery. On in-fpiffating the spirituous tincture, little or nothing of the virtue of the pimpinella rises with the spirit: the remaining extract, small in quantity, is of great pungency and heat. The leaves and seeds of the plant have likewise a considerable acrimony; the leaves less than the seeds, and both less than the roots.
This pungent root is in great esteem among the Germans, as a warm stimulating resolvent, aperient, diaphoretic, etc. in weakness of the stomach from viscid phlegm, infarctions of the breast, tumours and obstructions of the glands, impurities of the blood and in general wherever tenacious humours are to be attenuated, or the fluid secretions promoted. It is an useful in-gredient in our officinal compound arum powder, supplying in good measure the pungency which the arum root loses in being reduced into that form. It is employed also as a masticatory for stimulating the salival glands; and in garga-risms for dissolving viscid mucus in the fauces.