THAT department of medicine which treats of remedies, their doses, modes of using, and influence upon the constitution, is called materia medica. The agents employed in the treatment of disease are taken from three kingdoms of nature, the vegetable, the animal, and the mineral.
The largest portion of medicinal substances are taken from the vegetable world. They consist of leaves, flowers, seeds, barks, and roots. These lose much or all of their medicinal powers unless gathered at the right seasons of the year, and are properly cured. The different parts of a plant are to be gathered when their peculiar juices are most abundant in them.
The Roots of Annual Plants are best supplied with their juices before they are in flower; they should be gathered at this time.
The Roots of Biennial Plants should be gathered in the autumn, after the first year's growth.
The Roots of Perennial Plants should be gathered in the spring, before vegetation has begun.
Before they are dried, the solid parts of these roots are to be cut in slices, after being washed, and the small fibers, unless they are the parts used, are to be thrown away.
Bulbous Roots are to be gathered at the time their leaves decay. Their outer covering being rejected, they must be sliced, strung upon threads, and hung in a warm, airy room to dry. After being dried, roots should be packed in barrels or boxes, and kept as free as possible from moisture.
Barks, whether of the roots, trunk, or branches, must be gathered in autumn, or early in the spring, when they peel off most easily, and, the dead outside and all rotten parts being separated, they must be dried in the same manner as roots. The most active barks are generally from young trees.
Leaves are to be gathered when they are full grown, and just before the fading of the flower. '
Those of biennial plants are not to be collected until the second year. For drying, they should be thinly spread on the floor of a room through which a current of air passes. For preservation, they should be packed in vessels, and kept free from moisture and insects.
Flowers must generally be collected about the time of their opening, either a little before or just after.
They should be dried as rapidly as possible, but not in the sun, and may be packed away in the same manner as leaves.
Fruits, Berries, etc., may be spread thinly upon the floor, or hung up in bunches to dry.
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copyright 2005, J. Crow Company, New Ipswich NH 03071