This section is from the book "Materia Medica And Therapeutics - Vegetable Kingdom", by Charles D. F. Phillips. Also available from Amazon: Materia Medica And Therapeutics: Vegetable Kingdom.
Active Ingredients. - Cotton is a modification of lignine or cellulose, C12H10010, and in all its ordinary chemical properties corresponds with woody fibre. It is insoluble in water, alcohol, ether, oils, and vegetable acids. It is dissolved by strong alkaline leys, and decomposed by strong mineral acids.
Therapeutic Action. - The root of the cotton-plant in decoction has long been employed in the East Indies, according to Ainslie, as a demulcent in cases of strangury and gravel. In the southern United States, according to the reports of Drs. Bouchelle and Shaw,1 a similar preparation is resorted to, because of its power of intensifying uterine contraction, and even of originating it. To this end it was much valued by the female slaves. From some of the statements there would seem to be good reason for regarding it as more energetic even than ergot.
An emulsion prepared from the seeds is in the West Indies considered useful in dysentery. The same preparation is believed to be pectoral; and in India it is said to be employed as a galactagogue. The oil expressed from the seeds is very bland, and may be applied to all the same purposes as almond oil.
Cotton-wool itself is employed in the treatment of burns and scalds, for allaying pain, diminishing inflammation, and excluding the atmospheric air; the last-named function is a very important one. It has also been used as a topical application in cases of erysipelas, and for the encircling of joints that are inflamed by gout or rheumatism. In these cases it should be overlaid with oiled-silk or gutta-percha paper, so that the parts may be kept in a state of perspiration. (" Absorbent cotton," that is, cotton thoroughly cleaned and deprived of all oily matters, is a new and admirable surgical convenience. It readily absorbs moisture and discharges from wounds, etc., and makes an elastic padding for splints.)
Preparations And Dose. - The decoction of the root is made by boiling 4 ounces of the inner bark in a quart of water, until reduced to one-half. The dose recommended is a wineglassful every 20 or 30 minutes.