Medical Herbs Catalogue



Botanical Name: Symplocarpus foetidus
Family: N.O. Araceae

Synonyms: Dracontium. Dracontium foetidum (Linn.). Skunkweed. Polecatweed. Meadow Cabbage. Spathyema foetida. Ictodes foetidus. ---Parts Used---Seeds, root.
Habitat: United States.

Description: The plant grows in abundance in moist places of the northern and middle United States. All parts of it have a strong, foetid odour, dependent upon a volatile principle, which is quickly dissipated by heat. The rhizome should be collected in the autumn or early spring, and should not be kept more than one season, as it deteriorates with age and drying. In commerce it is found in cylindrical pieces, 2 inches or more in length and about 1 in. in diameter, or, more commonly, in transverse slices, much compressed and corrugated. It is dark brown outside, white or yellowish within. The seeds are regarded as more energetic than the root, and preserve their virtues longer. They have an acrid taste, and emit the foetid odour only when bruised. The acridity of the root is absent in the decoction.

Constituents: A fixed oil, wax, starch, volatile oil, fat, salts of lime, silica, iron and maganese.

Medicinal Action and Uses: Antispasmodic, diaphoretic, expectorant, narcotic. Large doses cause nausea, vomiting, headache, vertigo and dimness of vision. It has been used with alleged success in asthma, chronic catarrh, chronic rheumatism, chorea, hysteria and dropsy. It is said to be helpful in epilepsy, and convulsions during pregnancy and labour. It is an ingredient in well-known herbal ointments and powders. Externally, as an ointment, it stimulates granulations, eases pain, etc.

The powdered root may be used, alone, or mixed with honey (1/2 OZ. to 4 OZ. of honey), but the best method of use is probably a saturated tincture of the fresh root.

Dosage: Of powder, 10 to 20 grains. Of tincture, 1 to 2 fluid drachms. Of fluid extract, 1/2 to 1 drachm.