This section is from the book "A Text Book Of Materia Medica, Being An Account Of The More Important Crude Drugs Of Vegetable And Animal Origin", by Henry G. Greenish. Also available from Amazon: A Text Book of Materia Medica : Being an Account of the More Important Crude Drugs of Vegetable and Animal Origin.
Pellitory root is obtained from Anacyclus Pyrethrum, de Candolle (N.O. Compositoe), a small plant with perennial root, indigenous to Algeria. In habit and general appearance the plant resembles the chamomile. The root is collected in the autumn and dried.
Pellitory root varies from 7 to 15 cm. in length and is usually simple. It is nearly cylindrical in shape, tapering slightly towards the tip, and often towards the crown as well, where there is frequently to be found a tuft of grey hairs on the remains of leaves. The outer surface is brown and deeply and irregularly wrinkled.
The root is tough and breaks with a short fracture. The bark is closely adherent to the wood, which exhibits a prominently radiate structure, narrow yellowish wedges of vascular tissue alternating with whitish medullary rays of equal or even greater breadth. In the latter, as well as in the bark, yellow or brown oleo-resin glands are scattered. The drug when cut is of a horny, not starchy, or fibrous nature. It has a characteristic though not strong odour, and, when chewed, a pungent taste, exciting a copious flow of saliva.
The student should observe
(a) The distinctly radiate structure of the wood,
(b) The wide medullary rays,
(c) The presence of oleo-resin glands; and should compare the root with
(i) Belladonna root, which has no oil-glands and should be starchy, (ii) Dandelion root, which has a small yellow wood and thick, ringed bark, (iii) Liquorice root, which has no oil glands, and much narrower medullary rays.
Pellitory contains, as principal constituent, an alkaloid, pyrethrine (also called pellitorine), which can be obtained in colourless acicular crystals insoluble in water but soluble in alcohol and possessing an intensely pungent taste. It is apparently allied to piperine, which it resembles in some of its properties.
The drug contains also inulin to the extent of about 50 per cent., and traces of volatile oil. The sialogogue properties are due to the pyrethrine.
Pellitory is used as a sialogogue in dryness of the throat and as an addition to dentifrices.
The root of Corrigiola littoralis, Linne (N.O. Illece-braceoe), is not unfrequentry found in commercial pellitory root, sometimes in considerable quantity. It closely resembles pellitory, but may be distinguished by the small, warty protuberances with which it is crowned and by the section which exhibits three or four concentric circles, whereas that of pellitory is radiate. It is devoid of the pungency and sialogogue properties of pellitory.
The roots of Sonchus oleraceus, Linne, Achillea Ptarmica, Linne and Chrysanthemum frutescens, Linne, are said to have been found in the commercial drug; none of them has the structure and taste of pellitory root.
German pellitory root, Anacyclus officinalis, Hayne, cultivated in Germany, is thinner, has fibrous rootlets, is often crowned with the remains of leaves, and has a similar pungent taste.
Para Cress or Paraguay-Roux (Brazil, E. and W. Indies), the herb Spilanthes oleracea, Jacquin (N.O. Compositae) has cordate, sinuate-dentate, opposite leaves and yellow capitula without ray florets; taste similar to pellitory root.