BethrootBotanical Name: Trillium pendulum (WILLD.)
Trillium erectum (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Liliaceae
Synonyms: Indian Shamrock. Birthroot. Lamb's Quarters. Wake-Robin. Indian Balm. Ground Lily.
Parts Used: The dried root and rhizome. The leaves.
Habitat: Middle and Western United States.
Description: All the seventeen species of the genus are North American plants, distinguished by their possession of three green, persistent sepals and three larger withering petals, of varying colour.
Trillium erectum or T. pendulum, perennial, smooth herb, has an erect stem of from 10 to 15 inches in height, bearing three leaves, broad, almost rhomboid, and drooping white flowers, terminal and solitary. Grows in the rich soil of damp and shady woodlands, flowering in May and June.
The official description of the rhizome is 'oblique, globular, oblong or obconical, truncate below., terminated by a small bud surrounded by a sheath of scarious leaf bases annulated by leaf scars and fissured by stem scars. It is from 0.6 to 5 cm. in length, and from 0.6 to 3.5 cm. in width, more or less compressed laterally, rootlet scars in several concentrie rows on the underside in the upper portions. Externally yellowish to reddish brown; internally of a pale yellow; fracture somewhat uneven with a more or less spongy appearance. Odour distinct; taste bitter and acrid, with a sensation of warmth in the throat, and when chewed causing an increased flow of saliva. Trillium yields not more than 5 per cent. of ash.'
The drug is one of those prepared by the Shakers.
Constituents: There have been found in it volatile and fixed oils, tannic acid, saponin, a glucoside resembling convallamarin, an acid crystalline principle coloured brown tinged with purple by sulphuric acid, and light green with sulphuric acid and potassium dichromate, gum, resin, and much starch.
The fluid extract is an ingredient in Compound Elixir of Viburnum Opulus.
Professor E. S. Wayne isolated the active principle, calling it Trilline, but the preparation sold under that name has no medicinal value, while the Trilline of Professor Wayne has not been used.
Medicinal Action and Uses: Is said to have been in use among the aborigines and early settlers of North America. It is antiseptic, astringent and tonic expectorant, being used principally in haemorrhages, to promote parturition, and externally, usually in the form of a poultice, as a local irritant in skin diseases, or to restrain gangrene.
The leaves, boiled in lard, are sometimes applied to ulcers and tumours.
The roots may be boiled in milk, when they are helpful in diarrhoea and dysentery.
Dosages: Of powdered root, a drachm three times a day. Of fluid extract, 30 minims, as astringent and tonic expectorant. Trilline, 2 to 4 grains.
Other Species: Most of the genus Trillium have medicinal properties, especially T. erythrocarpum, T. grandiflorum, T. sessile, and T. nivale.
The acrid species are useful in fevers and chronic affections of the air-passages. Merely smelling the freshly-exposed surface of the red Beth roots will check bleeding from the nose.