Alder, Black American

Medical Herbs Catalogue


Alder, Black American

Botanical Name: Prinos verticillatus (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Aquiloliaceae

Synonyms: Ilex Verticillata. Black Alder Winterberry. Deciduous Winterberry. Virginian Winterberry. P. Gronovii. P. Confertus. Fever Bush. Apalachine a feuilles de Prunier.
Parts Used: The fresh bark and fruit.
Habitat: The United States, from western Florida northwards.

Description: This shrub is the most ornamental of the American deciduous hollies. It grows from 6 to 1O feet in height, with thin, oval or lanceolate leaves, white flowers and bright scarlet berries the size of a large pea, causing it to be very conspicuous in the autumn, when the surrounding vegetation is leafless.

The bark is found in thin fragments, the outer surface brownish, with whitish patches and black dots and lines, the cork layer easily separating from the pale-greenish or yellowish white inner tissue. The fracture is short, the odour almost imperceptible, and the taste bitter and slightly astringent.

It was widely used by the aborigines of North America for its astringent properties.

Constituents: The bark contains about 4-8 per cent tannin, two resins, the one soluble and the other insoluble in alcohol, albumen, gum, sugar, and a bitter principle and a yellow colouring matter not yet isolated. There is no berberine.

The fresh bark and fruit are gathered before the first autumnal frost.

Medicinal Action and Uses: Cathartic, antiseptic, tonic, and astringent bitter. The decoction of the bark is prepared by boiling 2 ounces of bark in 3 pints of water down to 2 pints, this being given internally in diarrhoea and malarial disorders, and externally in indolent sores and chronic skin disease. The berries should not be used as a substitute for the bark. In intermittent fever it can be used like Peruvian Bark, and is valuable in jaundice, gangrenous affections, dropsy, and when the body is devitalized by discharges. The bark is well known as an ingredient in several alternative syrups.

The berries are cathartic, and with Cedar apples form a mild anthelmintic for children.

An observed case, after eating twenty-five berries, had a sensation of nausea, not interfering with appetite, vomiting of bile without retching, painless and profuse evacuation of the bowels, followed by a second evacuation in half an hour, and as a result, a feeling of great lightness and well-being, with appetite and digestion better than usual.

For dyspepsia, 2 drachms of the powdered bark, and 1 drachm of powdered Golden Seal infused in a pint of boiling water, taken, when cold, in the course of one day in wine-glassful doses, will be found very helpful.

Dosage: Of the decoction, 2 to 3 fluid ounces. Of the powdered bark, 1/2 to 1 drachm.