AMERICAN HEMP. (Apocynon, dogbane. Cannabis, hemp.).
This plant, which grows in most parts of the United States and Canada, was first proved by Dr. Black of England.
The name Indian hemp was given to it because the North American Indians used its tough bark for making nets; but it is an unfortunate one, as it may be confused with Cannab. Ind., hashish, or Indian hemp, and the term American hemp is now given the preference.
The chief action of Apocynum lies in the treatment of dropsy and while it is often employed empirically,”it is less dangerous than Digitalis,” as Allen once said in his lecture.
Farrington adds, “Apocynum, as a rule, is preferable to Digitalis, as the latter often proves to be treacherous.” Apocynum s similar in many respects to Digitalis and is perhaps the safest heart tonic that we have. It is supposed that the infusion, or the decoction, will work better as a diuretic than the alcoholic tincture.
Apocynum has a depressing action on the heart, causing irregularity of the heart and pulse. The heart’s action may be increased or slow, but it is feeble and the pulse is fluttering (109). It will cause nausea and vomiting, as will also Digitalis, and it causes thirst. It causes free action of the bowels, with weakness of the bladder and rectum. The amount of urine was increased in a prover who took two tablespoonfuls of the infusion every fifteen minutes, but in most of the others there was a decrease in the amount, with easy flow and without pain.
Now here are the symptoms indicating the remedy: heart weak, feeble and irregular (109), usually slow; urine scanty; great thirst and drinking causes great distress, or nausea and vomiting; there is also irritability of the stomach to food, with great distention after eating (177); there is often diarrhoea, or at least looseness of the bowels, with wind, and aggravation after eating (57).
It is a drug often used empirically and while we may not be able to cure many cases when they reach the Apocynum stage, we will at least afford greater relief when we have the symptoms to guide us in our selection than without them.
It has been used with success in a late stage of hydrocephalus (119), where there was stupor and no cephalic cry, and in hydrothorax (29), in both conditions with scanty urine, thirst and irritability of the stomach.
Allen tells us that Apocynum “has been used chiefly for dropsical effusions dependent upon diseases of the liver (11); it has not been so useful in albuminuria.”
“The vegetable trocar” is a name that has been applied to this drug, and it is indicative of its action.
I would like to extend the range of action of Apocynum as given by Allen, and quote from Hale, who says: “There is no variety of dropsy but may be amenable to its palliative, if not curative, action. Even in dropsy from organic diseases of the heart it will keep down the effusion and allow the heart a chance to regain much of its former strength. In post-scarlatinal dropsy, it will often prove promptly curative.” Interstitial nephritis “cannot be cured by this medicine and rarely any other, but the dropsy may be kept in check so long as any considerable portion of the kidney is free from organic changes.”
Apocynum was proved in the 3rd by Dr. Marcy.
Hughes says : ” The mother-tincture, form one to five drops at a time, has sometimes proved effectual; but more frequently it has been found necessary to prepare an infusion from the fresh root.”
Hale, who is the only author I know of who speaks of the use of the dilution in potency, says: “it can be run up to the third dilution in water, if that strength is preferred,” and gives two rules as a guide to its administration, as follows: ” (1) In case of acute, idiopathic dropsies, use the dilutions, beginning with the high, and descending more or less rapidly, according to the progress of the disease.
(2) “In chronic, atonic, or secondary dropsies, use the tincture, or the decoction in one or two-drachm doses.”
I use Apocynum in the tincture, usually giving it in 3 drop doses, three time a day.