Lomatium dissectum

Globally conscious herbal teas and supplements

Lomatium dissectum Desert parsley

Lomatium dissectum is a species of flowering plant belonging to the genus Lomatium and family Apiaceae in which carrots and parsley belong. It’s an herbaceous perennial also known as fernleaf biscuitroot, Indian carrot, Indian parsnip, Desert parsley, and Indian parsley to name a few. It contains as well as other compounds, one or more volatile and fixed oils, a resin and a gum.

I’ve included Lomatium dissectum on this website because of the interesting history as pertaining to the flu epidemic of 1918 and my interest in the healing properties of oils. What follows is the account given by Ernst T. Krebs, M.D. Carson City, Nevada.

The following is verbatim from: Bulletin of the Nevada State Board of Health , No. 1 , Carson City, Nevada , January, 1920

During the fall of 1918 when the influenza epidemic visited this section of Nevada, the Washoe Indian used a root in the treatment of their sick which was gathered along the foot-hills of this slope of the Sierra. The plant proved to be a rare species of the parsley family (Leptotaemia dissecta*), according to a report from the University of California.

The Indians gather this root in the late fall, November being considered the proper month for gathering. The root is used in the fresh or dry state. It is cut up and a decoction is made by boiling the root in water, skimming off the top and giving large doses of the broth.

A pound of root is considered about the proper dose to treat a case of fever for three days, which is the longest time needed to break up a fever due to influenza or a pulmonary disease, although the Washoes used it as a panacea.

Whether a coincidence or not, there was not a single death in the Washoe tribe from influenza or its complications, although Indians living in other parts of the State where the root did not grow died in numbers.

It was such a remarkable coincidence that the root was investigated by a practicing physician who saw apparently hopeless cases recover without any other medication or care of any kind. A preparation was prepared and employed in a great many cases among the whites, from the mildest to the most virulent types of influenza, and it proved, among other things, that it is the nearest approach we have today to a specific in epidemic influenza and the accompanying pneumonia.

Where used early it proved itself to be a reliable agent in preventing pulmonary complications.

Other physicians were induced to give it a trial, with the same results. It is beyond the experimental stage, as its therapeutic action in this direction is established and beyond any doubt.

The cases in which it has been used run into the hundreds. There is probably no therapeutic agent so valuable in the treatment of influenzal pneumonia and, as far as being tried, in ordinary lobar pneumonia if started early.

Its action on coughs is more certain than the opiate expectorants and its benefit is lasting. It acts as a powerful tonic to the respiratory mucous membranes. It is a bronchial, intestinal and urinary antiseptic and is excreted by these organs.

It seems to stimulate the pneogastries (sic) and causes a slow pulse with increased volume and reduced tension. It is a pronounced diaphoretic and somewhat diuretic, and it is a stimulating and sedative expectorant. In large doses it is a laxative, and in extreme doses emetic.

To make a therapeutically active preparation, the proper variety of the root must be selected in the late fall and properly cured out of the sun. Its active principles must be extracted with as little as possible of the objectionable constituents.

The active principles of the root are decidedly complex. It contains a glucoside (as its solutions precipitate copper from Fehling's solution). It contains one or more alkaloids and an acid analogous to benzoic acid, one or more volatile and fixed oils, a resin and a gum. It can be seen from this that it resembles a balsam from the fact that it contains an oleogumresin and an acid besides alkaloids and glucosides. One can at once appreciate the fact that a reliable pharmaceutical preparation representing the action of the root is not readily made. The volatile oil, which is one of the principal therapeutic agents, is lost in making a decoction.

This particular variety of Leptotaemia* is not as common as believed as some, and it is this particular variety that has medicinal or therapeutic virtues. It grows in dry sandy soil, as a rule, under or between tall sagebrush or greasewood. The plant grows from two to four feet high and has a blossom similar to wild parsnip and leaves like a carrot. It is a perennial, and the older roots frequently weigh from two to six pounds. It sprouts early in April, blooms in May, seeds in June, and withers in July. A number of trials in transplanting the root have been made, but none were successful.

Leptotaemia dissecta * is destined to become one of the most useful if not the most important addition to our vegetable materia medica.

ERNST T. KREBS, M.D. Carson City, Nevada.

Safety Data – Rarely, Lomatium dissectum may cause a harmless rash in some people. Discontinue use and the rash will go away.

Lomatium dissectum is available from Swanson in a liquid extract.

Essential Oils


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