Liverwort, American

Medical Herbs Catalogue


Liverwort, American

Botanical Name: Anemone hepatica (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Ranunculaceae

Synonyms: Hepatica triloba. Hepatica triloba, var. americana or obtusa. Round-leaved Hepatica. Noble Liverwort. Liverleaf. Liverweed. Trefoil. Herb Trinity. Kidneywort. Edellebere.
Parts Used: Leaves and flowers.
Habitat: Cooler latitudes of the North Temperate Zone.

Description: The name of the genus may be derived from epatikos (affecting the liver) or from epar (the liver), from a likeness in its appearance to that organ. The Hepaticas are distinguished by having carpels without feathery tails and by the involucre of three simple leaves being so close to the flower as to resemble a calyx.

The leaves are broad kidney or heart shaped, about 2 inches long and broad, with three broad, angular lobes, leathery, smooth and dark green above, almost evergreen, placed on long, slender foot-stalks growing direct from the root. In the wild state the flowers are generally blue, more rarely rose or white, but in cultivation many other tints are to be found. There are numerous garden varieties, growing best in deep loam or clay, several having double flowers.

The leaves should be gathered during flowering time in March.

Constituents: Liverwort contains tannin, sugar, mucilage, etc.; its value is due to its astringent principle. A full analysis has not been made.

Medicinal Action and Uses: Demulcent, tonic, astringent, vulnerary. It has been described as 'an innocent herb which may be taken freely in infusion and in syrup.' It is a mild remedy in disorders of the liver, indigestion, etc., and possessing pectoral properties it is employed in coughs, bleeding of the lungs and diseases of the chest generally.

The infusion, made from 1 OZ. of the dried herb to 1 pint of boiling water, is slightly astringent and mucilaginous. Frequent doses of 1/2 teacupful have been recommended in the early stages of consumption. In some countries the whole plant is regarded as a vulnerary and astringent. In cataplasms it is valued in hernia, affections of the urinary passages and skin diseases.

A distilled water is used for freckles and sunburn. Though in use from ancient days, its mild character has caused it to be little used.

Dosage: 30 to 120 grains. Fluid extract, 1/2 to 2 drachms.

Other Species:
Marchantia polymorpha is the true Liverwort.

The lichen Pettigora canina is known as English or Ground Liverwort. It was formerly regarded as a remedy for hydrophobia.

Cultivation: Hepaticas are hardy, longlived plants of a deep-rooting nature, preferring a rich, porous soil and a sheltered situation. They flourish best in a deep loam, but will thrive in clay: one condition of success is good drainage. It is not advisable to transplant them frequently; when left undisturbed for a few years, they form fine clumps.

The double varieties are propagated by division of roots. The strongest clumps should be lifted immediately after flowering and carefully divided into separate crowns, each division to have as many roots as can be secured to it. These must be at once planted in fresh soil and carefully closed in, and then lightly covered with some very fine earth. They will become established in the course of the season if the soil is well drained, care being taken to water when necessary. Being by nature woodside plants, they should not be exposed to long-continued sunshine.

The single varieties are raised by seed, which must be sown as soon as ripe in pans or shallow boxes, which should be filled with light rich, sandy loam, kept moist, and sheltered in a frame throughout the winter. Germination is very slow and the young plants will not appear till the end of September. Keep the seedlings in their seed-boxes, freely ventilated to prevent damping off, and in April remove them to a sheltered shady border. As the young plants make their proper leaves, carefully lift them out with a thin slip of wood and plant them in a border prepared for the purpose, where the soil must be sweet and sandy, without manure and a little shaded.