This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Serpentaria Virginiana Pharm. Lond. & Edinb. Serpentaria virginiana & Vi-perina & Colubrina virginiana Pharm. Paris. Virginian snakeroot: the root of a species of aristolochia growing in Virginia and Carolina, arifiolochia (serpentaria) foliis cordatis oblongis planis, caulibus infirmis flexuofis teretibus, floribus solitariis Linn. The root is small, light, bushy, composed of a number of firings or fibres issu-ing from one head and matted together, of a brownish colour on the outside, and paler or yellowish within.
Snakeroot has an aromatic smell, approaching to that of valerian, but more agreeable, and a warm bitterish pungent taste, which is not easily concealed or overpowered by a large admixture of other materials. It gives out its active matter both to water and rectified spirit, and tinges the former of a deep brown, the latter of an orange colour. Greatest part of its smell and flavour is carried off in evaporation or distillation by both menstrua: along with water there arises, if the quantity of the root submitted to the operation be large, a small portion of a pale-coloured esential oil, of a considerable smell, but no very strong taste, created part of the camphorated pungency, as well as bitterishness of the root, remaining in the infpiffated extract. The spirituous extract is stronger than the watery; not so much from its having loft less in the evaporation, as from its containing the active parts of the root concentrated into a smaller volume; its quantity amounting only to about one half of that of the other.
This root is a warm diaphoretic and diuretic It is reckoned one of the principal medicines of the alexipharmac kind; and as such is in general use, in low malignant fevers and epidemic diseases, for railing the pulse, promoting a dia-phorefis, and correcting a putrid disposition of the humours. It is given, in substance, from a few grains to a scruple or half a dram; in decoction or infusion, to a dram and upwards. Tinctures of it are prepared in the shops, by macerating three ounces of the root in a quart of proof spirit†, or two ounces, with one dram of cochineal, in two pounds and a half of the same spirit ‡