This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Saponaria major Iaevis C. B. Saponaria officinalis Linn. Soapwort or Bruisewort: a smooth herb, with plantain-like three-ribbed leaves set in pairs on short broad pedicles; producing, on the tops of the stalks, umbellike clutters of red, purple, or whitish flowers, cut deeply into five segments nipt at the ends, Handing in long cups, followed by pear-shaped capsules full of small seeds: the root is long, slender, spreading to a great distance, so as scarce to be extirpated, of a brownish colour on the outside, internally white, with a yellowish fibre in the middle. It grows wild, but not very common, in moist grounds, and flowers in July.
The roots and leaves of saponaria discover to the taste a kind of glutinous softness or smoothness; accompanied, in the roots, with a sweetishness and slight pungency; in the leaves, with a degree of bitterness and roughness. The smoothness or soapiness, from which the plant received its name, is strongest in the leaves; which, on being agitated with water, raise a slippery froth, and are said to impart a detergent quality approaching to that of solutions of soap itself. This matter is dissolved also by rectified spirit as well as water, and hence appears evidently of a different nature from gummy or mucilaginous substances: on in-fpiffating the solutions, it remains entire in the extracts, and proves stronger in the spirituous extract than in the watery. This plant therefore, among us. disregarded, may be presumed to have some considerable medicinal virtues: by the German physicians, the roots are used in venereal maladies, and supposed to be simi-lar, but superiour, to those of sarfaparilla. * A physician in Paris is said lately to have given the infpiffated juice of this plant to the quantity of half an ounce in a day, to persons labouring under a gonorrhoea, with success,