Medical Herbs Catalogue



Botanical Name: Silphium paciniatum (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Compositae

Synonyms: Compass Plant. Compass-weed. Polar Plant.
Part Used: Root.
Habitat: Western United States, especially Ohio.

Description: The plant is so closely allied to Silphium laciniatum (Compass Plant, Compass-weed, or Polar Plant) that some authorities identify them. Both are closely connected with S. perfoliatum (Indian CupPlant or Ragged Cup). They yield by exudation and incision a fragrant and bitter gum like frankincense, white or amber colour, which is chewed by the American Indians to sweeten the breath. The taste of Compass-Plant roots is bitter and then acrid. They are odourless.

Constituents: Rosin-weed yields an abundance of a resinous secretion, resembling mastic so closely that it might very well be used as an inexpensive substitute.

Medicinal Action and Uses: Tonic, diaphoretic, alterative.

The resin has diuretic properties and imparts a strong, aromatic odour to the urine. The root has been used as an expectorant in cough and other pulmonary troubles. It is cut into slices, arranged in a dish in layers, each layer being strewn with sugar and the whole covered with brandy. It is then expressed and strained, and after standing for a few days is bottled.

Both Rosin-weed and Compass-weed ate said to be emetic in decoction, and to have effected cures in intermittent fevers, and to have cured the heaves in horses. They are beneficial in dry, obstinate coughs, asthmatic affections, and pulmonary catarrhal diseases. A strong infusion or extract is said to be one of the best remedies for the removal of ague cake, or enlarged spleen, and for internal bruises, liver affections, and ulcers.

Dosage: Of Silphium perfoliatum, 20 grains. Of fluid extract of Silphium laciniatum, 1/2 to 1 drachm.