This section is from the book "A Treatise On Therapeutics, And Pharmacology Or Materia Medica Vol1", by George B. Wood. Also available from Amazon: Part 1 and Part 2.
This is the root of Aletris farinosa, a small indigenous herbaceous perennial, named from the star like form assumed by the leaves, which spread out on the ground at the base of the stem. The root is small, branching, crooked, blackish outside, brownish within, and strongly bitter. It imparts its bitterness to water and alcohol, but, it is asserted, much more freely to the latter. Little is known of its composition. In small doses it acts as a simple tonic, and may be given for the same purposes as the simple bitters. But in large doses, like most of the articles of this class, it is apt to disturb the stomach and bowels, and is said, when taken in great excess, to have acted as a narcotic. The powder may be given in the dose of ten grains for the tonic effect.