Purple Pitcher Plant. Nat. Ord. SarracenidAe. Linn. Syst. Polyandria Monogynia. Hab. Canada and North America.
Med. Prop. and Action. This plant has of late attracted much notice for its alleged powers both as a curative and as a prophylactic agent in Small Pox, in which character it has long been held in high esteem amongst the North American Indians. A virulent epidemic of small-pox which ravaged the neighbourhood of Halifax in 1860 having been, it was reported, arrested by the use of a secret remedy in possession of an old Indian woman, inquiries were instituted, which resulted in discovering the alleged remedy to be the root of this plant It was soon afterwards made the subject of a communication by Dr. H. Miles, of the Royal Artillery, to the London Epidemiological Society, from which the following observations are quoted: - 1. in the case of an individual suspected to be attacked by small-pox, but with no distinct eruption upon him. a large wine-glassful of the root of this plant has the effect of bringing out the eruption After a second or third dose, at intervals of from four to six hours, the pustules subside, apparently losing their vitality. The patient feels better, and, in the graphic expression of the 'Micmac," " he knows that there is a great change in him at once." 2. In a subject already covered with the eruption in the early stage, a dose or two will dissipate the pustules and subdue the febrile symptoms. The urine, from being scanty and high-coloured, becomes pale and abundant, whilst from the first dose the feelings of the patient assure him that " the medicine is killing the disease." Under the influence of the remedy, in periods varying from three to four days, the prominent symptoms subside, although, as a precautionary measure, the patient is kept in camp until the ninth day. So marks of the eruption (as regards pitting. &c.) have been observed in cases examined after treatment by this remedy. 3. With regard to its prophylactic power (fully believed in by the Indians), it is curious to note that, in the camps where the remedy has been used, the people keep a weak infusion of the plant prepared, and take a dose occasionally during the day, so as to "keep the antidote in the blood." Subsequent observation, however, has by no means confirmed the expectations which the first trial of Sarracenia raised. Mr. J. F. Marson,§ Surgeon to the
* Cyc. Pract. Med., vol. i. p. 166. Obs.on Broom Seeds in Dropsical Affections, Lond. 1835.
Med. Times and Gaz , Nov. 23, 186'. || Lancet, July 4,1S64.
London Small Pox Hospital, gave the medicine a fair trial in that institution. It neither moditied the eruption nor did it save life. He records fifteen cases which ended fatally, although treated by Sarracenia. A committee, also, appointed by the New York Medical Society to investigate its merits, came to the conclusion, "That the reliable recorded experience appears to preponderate against the remedial efficacy of this plant in those forms of the disease (Small Pox) which do not generally recover under the administration of ordinary remedies."* Two cases in which it seemed to do good are recorded by Dr. W. H. Grant.