Pitcher Plant

Medical Herbs Catalogue


Pitcher Plant

Botanical Name: Sarracenia purpurea (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Sarraceniaceae

Synonyms: Sarazina Gibbosa. Sarracenie. Eve's Cups. Fly-catcher. Fly-trap. Huntsman's Cup. Purple Side-saddle Flower. Side-saddle Plant. Water-cup. Nepenthes distillatoria.
Parts Used: Root, leaves.
Habitat: North America.

Description: A strange, perennial plant, the leaves of which form cups, often richly coloured, which become filled with water and small insects, and are covered by a lid in hot weather, due to the contraction of the fibres of the modified leaf-stalk. Water is sometimes present before opening. The insects gradually form a decaying mass, which emits a strong odour and probably serves as a fertilizer.

There appears to be little, if any, difference botanically between the American Sarracenia and the Nepenthes distillatoria of Ceylon, the East Indies and China. For lack of other definite information it may be concluded from the name that the latter is also used medicinally. (Nepenthe, from the Greek 'not' and 'grief.') In antiquity a magic potion, Nepenthe, is mentioned by Greek and Roman poets. It was said to cause forgetfulness of sorrows and misfortunes.

Cultivation: The plant requires a moist, well-drained situation, and being a creeping plant needs trellis-work for support. The flowers are insignificant, with five petals shaped like a violin.

Constituents: An alkaloid, Sarracenine resin, a yellow colouring principle (probably sarracenic acid) and extractive. 'Sarracenine is white, soluble in alcohol and ether, combines with acids to form salts, and with sulphuric acid forms handsome needles which are bitter, and communicate this taste to its members.'

Medicinal Action and Uses: Tonic, laxative, stomachic, diuretic. Used in the southern United States in dyspepsia. The drug was unknown in Europe until a few years ago, when Mr. Herbert Miles introduced it as a specific for smallpox, as used by the North American Indians with great success, saving life and even the unsightly pitting. Some homoeopaths confirm the value of the remedy, but allopaths do not appear to have been successful in its use, either in America, England or France.

Its principal value appears to be in torpid liver, stomach, kidney and uterus complaints.

Dosages: Of tincture, 1 fluid drachm. Of fluid extract, 10 to 20 minims. Of powder, 10 to 30 grains.