Medical Herbs Catalogue



Botanical Name: Chelone Glabra (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Scrophulariaceae

Synonyms: Chelone. Snake-head. Turtle-head. Turtle-bloom. Shellflower. Salt-rheum Weed. Bitter Herb. Chelone Obliqua. Glatte. White Chelone. The Hummingbird Tree.
Part Used: The whole fresh herb.
Habitat: Eastern United States and Canada.

Description: This erect little plant, from 2 to 4 feet high, grows sparingly on the margins of swamps, wet woods, and rivers. It is a perennial, smooth herb, bearing opposite, oblong leaves, and short, dense, terminal spikes of two-lipped, white or purplish, cream or rose flowers, the lower lip bearded in the throat and the heart-shaped anthers and filaments woolly. The leaves have a slight somewhat tea-like odour and a markedly bitter taste. They should be planted in pots to prevent the roots from creeping too far.

The name of the genus Chelone comes from the Greek word meaning a tortoise, from the resemblance of the corolla to a tortoise-head. The whole, fresh plant is chopped, pounded to a pulp, and weighed, and a tincture is prepared with alcohol. The decoction is made with 2 oz. of the fresh herb to a pint.

Constituents: The bitter leaves communicate their properties to both water and alcohol. Chelonin is an eclectic medicine prepared from Chelone, and is a brown, bitter powder given as a tonic laxative.

Medicinal Action and Uses: The leaves have anti-bilious, anthelmintic, tonic and detergent properties, with a peculiar action on the liver, and are used largely in consumption, dyspepsia, debility and jaundice, in diseases of the liver, and for worms in children for which the powder or decoction may be used internally or in injection. As an ointment it is recommended for inflamed tumours, irritable ulcers, inflamed breasts, piles, etc.

For long it has been a favourite tonic, laxative and purgative among the aborigines of North America, though their doses render its tonic value doubtful.

Dosages: Of decoction, 1 to 2 fluid ounces. Of fluid extract, 1/2 to 1 drachm. Of the powder, 1 drachm. Of the tincture, 1 to 2 fluid drachms. Of Chelonin, 1 to 2 grains.