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. - These are two. At any rate there is good reason to suppose that not only the mucilage, but also the aspara-gine (an alkaloid, which will be described with the liliaceous plant, asparagus) is a really active substance.
Physiological Action. - Scarcely to be spoken of in the case of althaea, since it could only be produced by enormous and unmanagea ble quantities of the plant.
Therapeutic Action. - The mucilage which is copiously extracted from althaea by aqueous decoction has certain undoubted uses. In inflammatory irritation of the throat, stomach, and intestines, it can unquestionably exercise that mechanically protective power which is probably the true function of all mucilaginous demulcents in so far as they are anything more than mild nutrients. When, however, it is assumed that by internal employment they can exert the same kind of action upon the trachea and bronchi, or upon the genito-urinary tract, it is obvious that the assertion stands on a different basis; for we should have to suppose that mucilaginous matter has a similar action after absorption into the blood as upon immediate contact with tissues - a very improbable idea. Still, it would be rash to assert that no effect is produced on distant organs by althaea, since, as already noticed, it contains asparagine, which alkaloid, though not a powerful poison, so operates as to support the belief that, in moderate doses, it may prove an antiphlogistic remedy of some importance.
The practical applications of althaea are chiefly to those irritations of the alimentary and urinary tracts which have been mentioned. Internally, it is given in one- or two-ounce doses of the decoction. Externally, the decoction can be employed to foment inflamed surfaces, or a mucilaginous cataplasm made from the roots may be applied. The decoction is useful as an enema in tenesmus; and, according to Montgomery, as a vaginal injection in cases of difficult labor. The French prepare pectoral lozenges, called pate de guimauve, with althaea. They are supposed to relieve pectoral and laryngeal irritation. A decoction of the root and stem has been resorted to as a remedy in flatulent colic; and a lukewarm decoction of the flowers has been used to relieve irritant cough.
Preparations And Dose. - None officinal. The decoction may be used ad libitum.