Pink Root

Medical Herbs Catalogue


Pink Root

Botanical Name: Spigelia marylandica (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Loganiaceae

Synonyms: Indian Pink. Maryland Pink. Wormgrass. American Wormgrass. Carolina-, Maryland-, American-Wormroot. Starbloom.
Parts Used: Dried rhizome and rootlets, or entire plant.
Habitat: Southern United States of America.

Description: This herbaceous perennial plant has been known in commerce for many years and used to be collected by the Creek and Cherokee Indians for sale to the white traders. It is official in the United States Pharmacopoeia. It has several smooth simple stems, arising from the same rhizome; these stems are rounded below and square above. Leaves, few, opposite, sessile, ovatelanceolate, at apex acuminate, tapering at the base. The flowers are borne in a brilliant red-pink spike at top of the stem, the long corollas (terminating in spreading, star-like petals), externally red, yellow within, surrounding a double, many-seeded capsule. It grows in rich, dry soils on the edges of woods and flowers from May to July. The entire plant is collected in autumn and dried, but only the rhizome and rootlets are official in the United States Pharmacopceia, though in several other pharmacopoeias on the Continent, in which Spigelia is official, a closely allied species is named and the flowering plant is specified. The rhizome is tortuous, knotty and dark-brown externally, with many thin, wiry motlets attached to it and the short branches on the upper side are marked with scars of the stems of former years; internally, the rhizome is whitish, with a darkbrown pith; the rootlets are lighter coloured than the rhizome, thin, brittle and long. Odour, aromatic; taste, bitter, sweetish, pungent and somewhat nauseous. It is usually powdered and then is of a greyish colour. Age impairs its strength. When imported from the Western United States, where it is very abundant, it is received in bales and casks.

Constituents: A poisonous alkaloid, named Spigeline; also a bitter acrid principle, soluble in water or alcohol, but insoluble in ether; a small amount of volatile oil, a tasteless resin, tannin, wax, fat, mucilage, albumen, myricin, a viscid, saccharine substance, lignin, salts of sodium, potassium and calcium. The reactions of the poisonous alkaloid resemble those of nicotine, lobeline and coniine.

Medicinal Action and Uses: Its chief use is as a very active and certain vermifuge, most potent for tapeworm and specially so for the round worm; its use was known among the Indians for worms long before America was discovered. It is a safe and efficient drug to give to children, if administered in proper doses and always followed by a saline aperient, such as magnesium sulphate, otherwise unpleasant and serious symptoms may occur, such as disturbed vision, dizziness, muscular spasms, twitching eyelids, increased action of the heart. In large doses, these are increased, both circulation and respiration being depressed and loss of muscular power caused, and cases have been known resulting, in children, in death from convulsions. It is also useful for children's fevers not caused by the irritation of vermin, such as those occurring from hydrocephalus.

Dosage: The official U.S.P. preparation is the Fluid Extract: average dose, 1 fluid drachm.

It is also given in infusion and in powder.

It is often combined with a cathartic - Senna, Fennel and Manna - the narcotic illeffects being thereby avoided.

Dose of powdered root for an adult: 1 to 2 drachms, morning and evening, for several successive days, followed by an active purgative. For children, 10 to 20 grains.

The infusion is made of 1/2 OZ. troy of the bruised root to 1 pint boiling water. Dose for children, 1 tablespoonful, night and morning; for adults, a teacupful.

There is a preparation much in use called Worm Tea, composed of Spigelia, Savin, Senna and Manna, in the proportion of amounts to suit the individual need.

Adulterations: Spigelia is frequently adulterated, so that an absolutely genuine and pure article is said to be the exception. The rhizomes are often extensively adulterated with those of Ruellia ciliosa (Acanthaceae); they are, however, longer, straighter and thicker and the rootlets less wiry.

The rhizomes of species of Alpine Phlox, Phlox ovata, P. Carolina and P. glaberrima, are used in some localities and sometimes offered entirely as Spigelia. Those of P. glaberrima are somewhat darker and less ridged than Ruellia and more closely resemble Spigelia. Those of P. Carolina are rather coarse and straight, brownish-yellow, with a straw-coloured wood underneath and a readily removable bark.

The rhizomes of Golden Seal and Caulophyllum have often been found intermixed with the genuine Spigelia.

Other Varieties:
The genus Spigelia comprises some thirtyspecies, all American, mostly tropical, and several of them are employed like the official. Chief of these is S. Anthelmia (Linn.), native of the West Indies and northern South America, where it is abundant and is largely used as an anthelmintic. It is an annual, growing up to 2 feet high, of a similar habit to Pink Root, but the leaves, lanceolate below, and very broad, almost ovate, above, are mostly in whorls of four, the light reddish flowers only 1/2 inch long, the rhizome short, blackish externally, whitish internally and bearing numerous long, thin roots. The drug has a stronger narcotic and bitter taste than the official. It has been introduced into Europe and the Belgian Pharmacopceia specifically states that it is more active than the United States Pharmacopceia official species and directs that the flowering plant shall be employed. In large doses this is said to be a very powerful poison, causing death to animals and humans.

In cases of poisoning, the stomach should be emptied and stimulants administered, the patient being kept warm in bed. Artificial respiration with oxygen must be immediately resorted to if there are signs of respiratory failure. As an antidote, give strong tea or 15 to 20 grains of tannic acid in aqueous solution.