American Medicinal Leaves And Herbs

Washington, D. C., April 15, 1911.

SIR: I have the honor to transmit herewith and to recommend for publication as Bulletin No. 219 of the series of this Bureau the accompanying manuscript, entitled "American Medicinal Leaves and Herbs." This paper was prepared by Miss Alice Henkel, Assistant in Drug-Plant Investigations, and has been submitted by the Physiologist in charge with a view to its publication.

Thirty-six plants furnishing leaves and herbs for medicinal use are fully described, and in some instances brief descriptions of related species are included therewith. Of the above number, 15 are official in the United States Pharmacopoeia.

This bulletin forms the third installment on the subject of American medicinal plants and has been prepared to meet the steady demand for information of this character. It is intended as a guide and reference book for those who may be interested in the study or collection of the medicinal plants of this country. The first bulletin of this series treats of American root drugs, and the second of American medicinal barks.

Respectfully, WM. A. TAYLOR,
Acting Chief of Bureau.
Secretary of Agriculture.



Less difficulty will be encountered in the collection of leaves and herbs than in the case of other portions of plants, for not only is recognition easier, since, especially in the matter of herbs, these parts are usually gathered at a time when the plants are in flower, but the labor is less arduous, for there are no roots to dig or barks to peel.

Of the three dozen medicinal plants mentioned in this bulletin, 15 are recognized as official in the Eighth Decennial Revision of the United States Pharmacopoeia. This is more than half of all the leaves and herbs included in the Pharmacopoeia.

Among the plants included in this bulletin are peppermint and spearmint, which are found not only in the wild state but the cultivation of which for the distillation of the oil constitutes an important American industry. Especially is this true of peppermint with thousands of acres being devoted to the cultivation of this plant, principally in the States of Michigan and New York. A number of other plants mentioned in this paper furnish useful oils, such as oil of wintergreen, pennyroyal, fleabane, tansy, wormwood, and fire-weed.

As in the case of other bulletins of this series, an effort has been made to include in it only such plants as seem most in demand, lack of space forbidding a consideration of others which are or have been used to a more limited extent. With two or three exceptions the illustrations have been reproduced from photographs taken from nature by Mr. C. L. Lochman.


Leaves are usually collected when they have attained full development and may be obtained by cutting off the entire plant and stripping the leaves from the stem, using a scythe to mow the plants where they occur in sufficient abundance to warrant this, or the leaves may be picked from the plants as they grow in the field. Whenever the plants are cut down in quantity they must be carefully looked over afterwards for the purpose of sorting out such other plants as may have been accidentally cut with them. Stems should be discarded as much as possible, and where a leaf is composed of several leaflets these are usually detached from the stems.

In gathering herbs only the flowering tops and leaves and the more tender stems should be taken, the coarse and large stems being rejected. All withered, diseased, or discolored portions should be removed from both leaves and herbs.

In order that they may retain their bright-green color and characteristic odor after drying, leaves and herbs must be carefully dried in the shade, allowing the air to circulate freely but keeping out all moisture; dampness will darken them, and they must therefore be placed under cover at night or in rainy weather. A bright color is desirable, as such a product will sell more readily.

To dry them the leaves and herbs should be spread out thinly on clean racks or shelves and turned frequently until thoroughly dry. They readily absorb moisture and when perfectly cured should be stored in a dry place.

Leaves and herbs generally become very brittle when they are dry and must be very carefully packed to cause as little crushing as possible. They should be firmly packed in sound burlap or gunny sacks or in dry, clean boxes or barrels. Before shipping the goods, however, good-sized representative samples of the leaves and herbs to be disposed of should be sent to drug dealers for their inspection, together with a letter stating how large a quantity the collector has to sell.

With the changes in prices that are constantly taking place in the drug market it is, of course, impossible to give definite prices in this paper, and only approximate quotations are therefore included in order that the collector may form some idea concerning the possible range of prices. Only through correspondence with drug dealers can the actual price then prevailing be ascertained.


Each section contains synonyms, the pharmacopoeial name (if any), the common names, habitat, range, descriptions, and information concerning the collection, prices, and uses of the plants.

The medicinal uses are referred to in a general way only, since it is not within the province of a publication of this kind to give detailed information in regard to such matters. Advice concerning the proper remedies to use should be souglit only from physicians. The statements made in this paper as to medicinal uses are based on information contained in various dispensatories and other works relating to materia medica.

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