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Botanical Name: Iris Versicolor
Species: I. versicolor
Habitat: Iris Versicolor is native to North America where it is common in sedge meadows, marshes, and along streambanks and shores. The specific epithet versicolor means “variously coloured”
Iris versicolor is a flowering herbaceous perennial plant, growing 10–80 centimetres high. This iris tends to form large clumps from thick, creeping rhizomes. The unwinged, erect stems generally have basal leaves that are more than 1 cm wide. Leaves are folded on the midribs so that they form an overlapping flat fan. The well developed blue flower has 6 petals and sepals spread out nearly flat and have two forms. The longer sepals are hairless and have a greenish-yellow blotch at their base. The inferior ovary is bluntly angled. Flowers are usually light to deep blue (purple and violet are not uncommon) and bloom during May to July. Fruit is a 3-celled, bluntly angled capsule. The large seeds can be observed floating in fall.
Iris Versicolor Rhizome has annual joints, 2 or more inches long, about 3/4 inch in diameter, cylindrical in the lower half, becoming compressed towards the crown, where the cup-shaped stem-scar is seen, when dry, and numerous rings, formed of leaf scars are apparent above and scars of rootlets below. It is dark brown externally and longitudinally wrinkled. The fracture is short, purplish, the vascular bundles scattered through the central column. The rootlets are long, slender and simple. The rhizome has a very slight but peculiar odour, and a pungent, acrid and nauseous taste.
Part Used in medicine: The Root.
Constituents : The rhizome contains starch, gum, tannin, volatile oil, 25 per cent of acrid, resinous matter, isophthalic acid, traces of salicylic acid and possibly an alkaloid, though a number of substances contained are still unidentified. It owes its medicinal virtues to an oleoresin.
Distilled with water, the fresh rhizome yields an opalescent distillate, from which is separated a white, camphoraceous substance with a faint odour. The oil possesses the taste and smell, but only partly the medicinal activity of the drug.
The root is an official drug of the United States Pharmacopoeia and is the source of the Iridin or Irisin of commerce, a powdered extractive, bitter, nauseous and acrid, with diuretic and aperient properties.
Iridin acts powerfully on the liver, but, from its milder action on the bowels, is preferable to podophyllin.
The fresh Iris is quite acrid and if employed internally produces nausea, vomiting, purging and colicky pains. The dried root is less acrid and is employed as an emetic, diuretic and cathartic. The oleoresin in the root is purgative to the liver, and useful in bilious sickness in small doses.
It is chiefly used for its alterative properties, being a useful purgative in disorders of the liver and duodenum, and is an ingredient of many compounds for purifying the blood. It acts as a stimulant to the liver and intestinal glands and is used in constipation and biliousness, and is believed by some to be a hepatic stimulant second only to podophyllin, but if given in full doses it may occasion considerable nausea and severe prostration.
Its chief use is for syphilis and some forms of low-grade scrofula and skin affection. It is also valuable in dropsy.
It is said to have been used by the southern North American Indians as a cathartic and emetic.
The flowers afford a fine blue infusion, which serves as a test for acids and alkalies.
Litmus; Repellent; Weaving.
A fine blue infusion is obtained from the flowers and this can be used as a litmus substitute to test for acids and alkalis. The leaves have been used to weave baskets and mats. Some native North American Indian tribes used the root as a protection against rattlesnakes. It was believed that, so long as the root was handled occasionally to ensure the scent permeated the person and their clothes, rattlesnakes would not bite them. Some tribes even used to chew the root and then hold rattlesnakes with their teeth and were not bitten so long as the scent persisted
Known Hazards: The species has been implicated in several poisoning cases of humans and animals who consumed the rhizomes, which have been found to contain a glycoside, iridin. The sap can cause dermatitis in susceptible individuals.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.