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Common Name: Culvers Root | Scientific Name: Leptandra Virginica

Family Name: Scrophulariaceae


Another Eclectic tonic, Culvers root was even said to improve leprosy and other debilitating chronic infections. It belongs to the Scropulariaceae family, which contains many tonic plants, mullein and rhemania included.


Notes from the Eclectic Physicians

Notes from the Eclectic Physicians

1854; King J; (Materia Medica) – LEPTANDRA VIRGINICA
Properties and Uses. -The fresh root is too drastic and uncertain for medicinal use, producing vomiting, bloody stools, dizziness, vertigo, and in pregnant females, abortion, unless used with much care. A decoction or extract of the fresh root is highly recommended in intermittent fever; my colleague, Prof. W Byrd Powell, who has tested it, states that it removes the disease, and leaves the system in a condition to repel a fresh attack or relapse; but it must be used with caution, as it is apt to produce unpleasant symptoms. The dried root is laxative, cholagogue and tonic; and is employed with much success in all hepatic affections, as it causes the liver to act with great energy, and without active catharsis. In all febrile diseases it is an excellent laxative, and may be given daily in tablespoonful doses of the infusion, repeated every hour, until one or two moderate evacuations are procured; it
is peculiarly applicable to bilious and typhoid fevers, causing discharges of a black, tarry and morbid character, without debilitating the tone of the bowels or of the general system.

It has been successfully employed in leprosy and cachetic diseases, and its effects in these instances, may, probably, be owing to its influence on the biliary apparatus. As a laxative and tonic in small doses, it is very valuable in dyspepsia, especially when connected with an inactive condition of the liver, and torpid and debilitated bowels, likewise in all functional diseases of the liver, as above remarked. It exerts a powerful influence upon the absorbent system, and in combination with cream of tartar, has been successfully used in obstinate cases of dropsy. In diarrhea and dysentery, it has proved very beneficial as a cathartic, one active dose frequently effecting a cure. by some it is said to possess narcotic properties, and that, during its operation, it will frequently be necessary to rouse the patient lest he fall into a deep sleep. I have never witnessed this effect. Dose may be given in sweetened water; of the infusion, in typhoid stages, half a fluidounce every hour, until it operates, and to be repeated daily. Dose of the hydro-alcoholic extract, which is its best form of administration, from one to five grains in form of pills.

1874: Scudder
For general use prepare a tincture of the Leptandra, 3viij. to Oj., using Alcohol of 50degree. For some purposes the infusion would be preferable, but is so nauseous that most persons object to it. The dose of the tincture as above will vary from gtts. ij. to gtts.xx.

The Leptandra exerts a gentle stimulant influence upon the entire intestinal tract, and its associate viscera, and in medicinal doses strengthens functional activity. Its action in this direction is to persistent that it might be called a gastro-intestinal tonic. There are some functions not well understood, as of the liver and spleen, and it would not much improve our knowledge to say that it acted upon these. But it exerts a marked influence in those diseases in which there is enfeebled portal circulation, and tendency to stasis of blood. Thus in some cases of typhoid fever occuring in malarial localities the Leptandra has proven a very valuable medicine.

We do not believe there is any remedy that acts upon the liver, according to the old idea of medicine. It has been conclusively proven that preparations of Mercury do not, and that Podophyllin does not; and it is probably that we will have to give up the idea of cholagogues entirely. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that Leptandra does influence the function of the liver; not always to increase secretion of bile, but rather to bring the organ back to normal functional activity, whatever may have been the deviation.

Associated with the milder bitter tonics the Leptandra improves the digestive function, and stimulates normal excretory action from the bowels. This latter influence sometimes makes it a valuable adjunct to those remedies called alterative.

It has been employed in the treatment of intermittent fever with excellent results. Dr Rolph writes, that “for many years my father’s family employed it exclusiver, and thought living in a malarial region they were entirely exempt from ague. They used a tincture of the recent root, taking it before each meal.” Quite a number of my acquaintances employ it after the chill has been broken with Quinine, and claim that its influence in preventing a recurrence is more decided than any other remedy.

1883: Scudder: Cathartic
The root of leptandra virginica ‑ U.S. Preparations: Extract of Leptandra. Tincture of Leptandra. Leptandrin. Dose: The dose of the extract will be from gr. j. to gr. v. Of a tincture, gtt. v. to gtt. x. Of Leptandrin, gr. 1/2 to gr. v.

Therapeutic Action: The Leptandra is a mild and pretty efficient cathartic, if administered in large doses; in smaller doses, a valuable aperient and tonic. It is exceedingly valuable in atonic states of the bowels. Whenever there is a weak and debilitated state of the general system, or when the bowels are enfeebled by repeated purgation, no article in the materia medica (if we except rhubarb) surpasses, if indeed equals, it as a cathartic. It is mild and unirritating in its action, and at the same time that it cleanses them it restores their tone.

As a cathartic, it is recommended during the early stages of dysentery as one of our most efficient agents. It removes the constipated state of the small intestines, acts specifically upon the liver, increasing its secretions, and gives tone to the entire alimentary canal. In dyspepsia, attended with a torpid state of the bowels, the Leptandra is an appropriate article.

It is exceedingly valuable in these cases administered occasionally as a cathartic, and in the intervals in small doses as an aperient and tonic; it promotes the appetite and facilitates digestion. It is a very valuable addition tot he vegetable bitters in such cases; when combined with them they will prove laxative without the use of other purgative medicine.

It is very useful during the forming stages of various types of fever; if administered at an early stage of the disease, in large doses, so as to purge briskly, it cleanses the stomach and bowels, restores the biliary secretion, and indeed promotes the secretions generally, thereby lessening the fever, and often arresting it. It is the principal cathartic upon which reliance is placed by certain “irregular physicians,” in the treatment of febrile and inflammatory diseases.

It is especially recommended in fevers of a typhoid type; also in the advanced stages of bilious, and during the convalescent stages of all forms of fever. Some have spoken of it as almost a specific in dropsy. It seems to promote the secretions, thereby favoring absorption, and gives tone to the system. We have used it with marked advantage in some very obstinate cases of dropsy, particularly in hydrocephalus, combined with spearmint and cream of tartar, in such quantities as to produce ten or twelve watery stools in the course of twenty‑four hours.

1895: Watkins: LEPTANDRA, SP MED:
Dull hepatic pain, enfeebled portal circulation, frontal headache, bitter taste in mouth, cold extremities, dyspepsia, hemorrhoids. Ten to twenty drops in four ounces water; teaspoonful every four hours.

1898: Felter and Lloyd: LEPTANDRA (U.S.P.) – LEPTANDRA
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage – Physiologically, leptandra acts upon the gastric, hepatic, and intestinal apparatus. The fresh root is actively and dangerously cathartic, and has produced violent emesis and bloody purging, accompanied by vertigo, and administered to the pregnant female has produced miscarriage. In this stage, it is totally unfit for a cathartic, but upon drying the root loses its drastic qualities, and becomes a safe cholagogue, laxative, and cathartic. In ordinary doses it does not produce copious alvine discharges, but gently stimulates the functions of the liver. It does not debilitate nor lower the tone of the bowels or the general system, but gently stimulates and strengthens the functional activity of the whole intestinal appendages. It favors normal intestinal excretion and improves digestion. Prof. Scudder regarded it as a gastro-intestinal tonic, and thought it indicated where there is enfeebled circulation with tendency to stasis. The only condition in which the green root has been used was for intermittent fever, but as we possess better remedies for this state, its use as a cathartic is at least injudicious.

No better laxative can be used in atonic stats of the system than leptandra. No matter how great the intestinal atony, it will be found to operate gently and without systemic disturbance. It is an exceedingly useful drug for conditions depending upon hepatic torpor. Small doses restore the liver to its normal condition. The cathartic action of leptandra is beneficial in the forming stages of fevers and in the early stages of dysentery. It relieves the constipated upper bowel, increases the biliary secretions, and acts as an unirritating intestinal tonic, and the dysenteric discharges are speedily checked. In acute dysentery it should be used early. It is an admirable remedy for chronic dysentery, with chronic enteritis, accompanied by dizziness, cold extremities, headache, abdominal and hepatic pain, with mental depression. It is a good agent for atonicity of the stomach and liver. The indications pointing to its use are drowsiness, coldness of the extremities, hot, dry skin, sluggish circulation, abdominal plethora, dull aching pain in hepatic region and in left shoulder, and dull heavy frontal headache, sallow or yellow skin, with a pale, white-coated, broad, thick tongue, and a bitter, disagreeable taste.

Leptandra stimulates the glandular system to activity, and is valuable in chronic diseases of the mucous membranes. For indigestion, with deficient secretion and constipation, it may be combined with podophyllin triturate (1 in 100). When the stools are clay-colored, with a deficiency of the biliary secretion, it may be used to bring about bilious discharges, even though diarrhoea be already present. In dyspepsia, with an unpleasant frontal headache, yellow, furred tongue, with nausea and yellowness of the skin and conjunctiva, specific leptandra will be found an excellent drug. In gastric atony, if necessary, it may be combined with hydrastis, xanthoxylum, chelone, and the milder bitter tonics in general. Black root is a good remedy in diarrhoea when indicated. There is a passage of undigested aliment, the liver is inactive, there is dull abdominal pain, and the stools may be of a light clay color. Here leptandra will be found to act kindly.

Another condition in which it will prove serviceable, is in the diarrhoea of children passing through the period of dentition. Chamomilla or rhubarb may be exhibited with it, when specifically indicated. When the skin shows a jaundiced condition, and there is hepatic tenderness, R Compound syrup of rhubarb and potassa fl3iij, specific leptandra fl3i. Mix. Sig. Ten to 20 drops every hour until the diarrhoea ceases.

Leptandra is a useful remedy in disorders of the liver. It is a valuable agent in that state known as “biliousness.” In acute hepatitis combine the dried alcoholic extract with a small portion of diaphoretic powder to relieve the congested viscus. An occasional dose is not without good effect in chronic inflammation of the liver. Specific leptandra may be employed after the passage of biliary calculi. Combined with hydrastis, it will materially alter the condition upon which the formation of the concretions depends. In jaundice it may be combined with dioscorea, chionanthus, or chelidonium, as indicated. It has been successfully employed in acute muco-enteritis and chronic enteritis. In the formative stage of fevers, particularly bilious fever, its cathartic action will be appreciated. Many times it checks the morbid process, and puts the patient on the road to recovery. It has been used with advantage in typhoid fever in malarious districts, though it is questionable whether, as a rule, any agent should be employed which has a tendency to increase the intestinal secretions and alvine evacuations. It is better suited to those cases showing typhoid characteristics, but not evidencing lesions of Peyer’s patches.

Leptandra has been found useful in malaria. The chill should first be broken with quinine and followed by a cathartic dose of leptandra. Many contend that by its exhibition in this manner, the abnormal condition producing the chill is rectified and a return of the unpleasantness is wholly averted, while under the influence of quinine alone, though the chill be broken, there is likely to be a return of the malady. Dropsy has been quite successfully treated with leptandra.

In hydrocephalus its cathartic action is desirable. It should be combined with cream of tartar and mentha viridis for this purpose. In ascites, with hepatic congestion and great mental depression, it will be administered both with a view to removing the excess of fluid and to prevent its further accumulation. Dose of the powdered root as a cathartic, from 20 to 60 grains, which may be given in sweetened water; of the infusion, in typhoid conditions, 1/2 fluid ounce every hour until it operates, and to be repeated daily. Dose of the alcoholic extract, which is one of its best forms of administration, from 1 to 5 grains in form of pills, Specific leptandra, 2 drops to 1 fluid drachm.

Specific Indications and Uses – Drowsiness, dizziness, and mental depression, with tenderness and heavy pain in the hepatic region; the tongue is coated markedly white, the skin is yellow, there is a bitter taste, cold extremities, nausea, and dull frontal headache; thirst, with inability to drink; restlessness, with insomnia; diarrhoea, with half-digested passages, or clay-colored evacuations; enfeebled portal circulation, with lassitude and gloomy depressed mental state.

1898: Webster LEPTANDRA
Leptandra is one of the old Eclectic liver remedies, now little used. It was supposed to possess some remarkable virtue as an invigorator of hepatic function, but that it contains any specific property, or that it specially influences favorably any particular function of the liver, I am in doubt.

As “cholagogue” properties have been ascribed to it by some of the older writers, it probably is supposed to have encouraged a flow of bile. Probably many of the properties ascribed to it are the result of speculation.

It may be considered a very feeble agent, and one that may be conveniently dispensed with by the substitution of others more direct and positive in the majority of cases.

Syn – Leptandra; Culver’s Root; Veronica Virginica

P. E. – Small roots

N. O. – Scrophulariaceae

N. H. – United States and Canada

Properties: Tonic, laxative, cathartic and cholagogue.

Indications: Malaise, soreness on pressure and fullness in the region of the liver. Inactivity of the gastro-intestinal organs, torpid liver, constipation, dull headache, loss of appetite, cold skin and extremities, mental depression and great lassitude. All of which indicate deficiency in the action of the liver and gastro-intestinal tract. It tones up these organs and improves their function. We think of it in malarial conditions, in which cases it stimulates the secretion of bile and improves the function of the liver. We think of it in remittent and intermittent fevers, and if given with quinine the affect of the latter is much more marked. It tones up the gastro-intestinal tract, increases the activity of the glandular organs, is therefore indicated where there is inactivity or torpidity of these organs.

1911: FYFE
Functional diseases of the liver, dull, heavy pain in the right hypocondrium, fullness of the abdomen, chronic diarhea and in cachectic diseases.

In diarhea and dyssentery this agent has proved very beneficial as a cathartic, one acitve dose frequently effecitng a cure. Leptandrin triturated with sugar of milk constitutes a conveniant form for the administration of the remedy. The third trituration is efficient, and but slightly unpleasant in taste. Leptandra virginica is tonic, alterative, laxative, and chologogue. In very large doses it causes vomiting, vertigo, and bloody stools.

1911: LLOYD
Leptandra, Veronica virginica, grows in rich woodlands throughout the United States east of the Mississipi River , being found in abundance wherever it is native to a section and the woodlands have been undisturbed. The various species are known under many local names, such as black root, Culver’s root, Brinton root, Bowman root, psychic root, etc., as used by the settlers. They derived their knowledge of the drug from the American Indians, and designated the plant by the name of the man who used it in his practice, or from its characteristics. The Delaware Indians called the plant quitel , and the Missouri and Osage tribes knew it as hini . Leptandra was employed in decoction by settlers and savages alike as a violent purgative, and in the practice of early physicians of the United States it was used for bilious fevers. Peter Smith (605), author of the “Indian Doctor’s Dispensatory,” 1813, states that his father used “Culver’s Root” to cure the pleurisy, which it did “with amazing speed”. The use of the drug was confined to domestic medication until the appearance of the American Dispensatory (356), 1852, which gave it a general introduction to the profession of medicine. Professor W. Byrd Powell, a physician of high education, valued leptandra very highly, and it was upon his strong commendation to Professor John King (356), editor of the American Dispensatory, that it was there given a position.

Synonyms – Veronica Virginica, Linne; Culver’s Root.

Constituents – Leptandrin, resin, saponin, tannin, mannite, gum, eitric acid, volatile oil.

Preparations – Resin of Leptandra, Leptandrin. Dose, from one-fourth to one grain.

Extractum Leptandrae Fluidum, Fluid Extract of Leptandra. Dose, from twenty to sixty minims.

Specific Medicine Leptandra. Dose, from one to twenty minims.

Specific Symptomatology – Malaise from malarial influence, soreness on pressure in the right hypochondrium, with wide dullness on percussion, constipation, full abdominal tissues with inactive intestinal glands, torpor of the liver, anorexia, dull headache. Also in cases in which there are marked vertigo, cold extremities and cool skin, dull pain in the bowels, gloominess or mental despondency and depression, disinclination to work or even move, great lassitude.

Therapy – In malarial conditions no cathartic is more efficient than leptandra. It may be given in full doses, and there is no irritation from its action. It certainly increases the discharge of bile and stimulates and greatly improves the function of the liver.

In ague when quinine is given as an antiperiodic, if from one-fourth to one grain of leptandra be given with each dose in the intermission, the effects are much more marked and the influence is more permanent. It is demanded in malarial fevers of all kinds, and especially in remittent fever. it is given alone at the onset of the attack as a laxative and in the remission, in small doses in conjunction with the antiperiodic, proving a most valuable auxiliary to the treatment. As an addition to vegetable tonics when malarial conditions prevail, it improves the tone of the entire gastro-intestinal canal and increases the functional activity of the glandular organs. In some cases small doses in wine will produce excellent results.

In the treatment of jaundice it is a valuable auxiliary, and combined with the tonics here indicated its influence is most desirable. It clears the skin, produces black alvine evacuation, and assists in overcoming the entire train of symptoms.

Leptandra has no superior in a case of this character and must be used freely to be appreciated. It is certainly under-estimated.

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