Hydrocotyle Asiatica, L.
NOM. VULG.—Takip kohol, Takip suso, Tag.; Rabasa, Sp.; Indian Pennywort, Indo-Eng.
USES.—Dr. Daruty, of Mauritius, has published a study of this plant, giving a résumé of its composition, therapeutic uses and physiological action. The writers of antiquity recognized the plant as a powerful alterative, tonic, diuretic, stimulant and vermifuge, especially effective in secondary syphilis and in ulcerative diseases of the skin.
Lépine and Boileau used it experimentally to treat leprosy and reported favorably; but later experience demonstrated that it did not exercise any specific effect, but benefited anæsthetic leprosy simply by improving the general condition of the patient.
The plant is official in the Pharmacopoeia of India, as alterative, tonic and stimulant. It states that the drug has been found very useful in the treatment of secondary and constitutional syphilis, when the disease attacks the skin and subcutaneous tissue.
In Bombay it is a popular remedy for the mild dysentery of children, given as a decoction of 3 or 4 leaves with a little cumin seed and sugar; the bruised leaves are then applied to the umbilical region. In the Philippines the decoction of the leaves is given as a purge.
Dr. Dervegie reports good results in the treatment of eczema, administering the powdered leaf in dozes of 0.10 gram and applying locally the powder or an ointment of the same. The most marked and constant effects of the drug are a considerable increase of the urinary secretion, elevation of the temperature of the skin and profuse diaphoresis.
Dr. Boileau, quoted above, himself contracted leprosy of which he died; he experimented on himself with “hydrocotyle” and on one occasion a dose of 3 grams nearly proved fatal; tetanic symptoms supervened with suffocation, palpitation, epistaxis and rectal hemorrhage, abating finally with profuse sweating and diuresis.
Dr. Lépine, a pharmacist of Pondicherry, has analyzed the plant and isolated a substance that seems to be the active principle; he has named it vallarin, from “vallarai,” the Tamul name of the plant. “Vallarin” is a thick, pale yellow oil of a piquant and persistent taste and an odor peculiar to the plant. It changes under the influence of air, moisture or heat and volatilizes at 120°. It is soluble in alcohol. The plant contains 8/10 to 1% of this oil, a dark resin and a green resin.
The Pharmacopoeia of India gives 2 official formulæ, a powder and a cataplasm.
The powdered leaf is given internally in doses of 0.30 to 1.50 grams and is applied locally to superficial ulcers.
BOTANICAL DESCRIPTION.—Plant herbaceous with reniform or heart-shaped leaves, forming a sort of funnel, dotted with little hairs, dentate with white tips. Petioles very long, ensheathing each other by 2 wings at their bases. Flowers 3–4, sessile, springing directly from the root, greenish-white, growing in horizontal rows on either side of a short, common peduncle. Common involucre of 2–3 leaflets.
Calyx adherent, flattened, faintly toothed. Corolla, 5 small petals, ovate. Stamens 5, equal in height, inserted on the receptacle, alternating with the petals.
Filaments short. Anthers globose, cleft at the base in 2 diverging parts. Ovary inferior, cordate, much flattened. Styles 2, short. Stigmas simple. Fruit truncate, oval, downy, indehiscent, marked with furrows, with 2 compartments each containing a seed inserted on the wall.
HABITAT.—Grows in shady and moist places. Blooms in July.
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