It is found wild throughout continental Europe, from Gothland southwards, and extends eastwards in temperate Asia as far as Southern Siberia and North-West India. As a plant of cultivation, it has wandered to North America, where it has become thoroughly naturalized in the eastern United States, being found from Nova Scotia to Northern Carolina, and westward as far as Missouri, growing abundantly in pastures and along roadsides, preferring wet, rocky ground at or near the base of eastern and southern slopes.
It is probably a true native plant in southern England, but where found farther north may have originally only been an escape from cultivation, as it was cultivated for centuries as a medicinal plant, being a common remedy for sicknesses in the Middle Ages.
The plant is in bloom from June to August. The root is taken from plants two to three years old and is dug in autumn.
Diuretic, tonic, diaphoretic, expectorant, alterative, antiseptic, astringent and gently stimulant. It was employed by the ancients in certain diseases of women, also in phthisis, in dropsy and in skin affections.
In herbal medicine it is chiefly used for coughs, consumption and other pulmonary complaints, being a favourite domestic remedy for bronchitis. It has been employed for many years with good results in chest affections It is a valuable medicine in all chronic diseases of the lungs asthma and bronchitis. It gives relief to the respiratory difficulties and assists expectoration, acute catarrhal affections, and in dyspepsia attended with relaxation and debility, given in small, warm and frequently repeated doses. It is, however, seldom given alone, but most frequently preferred in combination with other medicines of a similar nature. It is best given in the form of decoction, the dose being a small teaspoonful, three times a day.
The root used not only to be candied and eaten as a sweetmeat, but lozenges were made of it. It has been employed in whooping-cough. It is sometimes employed in the form of a confection for piles, 1 OZ. of powdered root being mixed with 2 OZ. of honey.
In the United States, it has also been highly recommended, both for external use and internal administration in diseases of the skin, an old use of the root that has maintained its reputation for efficacy.
Externally applied, it is somewhat rubefacient, and has been employed as an embrocation in the treatment of sciatica, facial and other neuralgia.
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