Synonyms: False jasmine, Carolina jasmine
Scientific Name: Gelsemium sempervirens
Southern states of Atlantic America, Mexico, Guatemala.
Root: alkaloids (among others gelsemin, gelseminin), ß-methylesculetin, starch, fatty oil, resin
Wild jasmine is found along rivers in tropical climates. It is a twining climber growing up to four metres in height with lance-shaped leaves and large, funnel-shaped, lustrous yellow flowers. The clusters of flowers, which appear in April and May, are crowned with five petal lobes and give off a jasmine-like fragrance. The elongated fruit contains many winged seeds that are disseminated by the wind. The rootstock is swollen and woody.
The rootstock of wild jasmine is used for medicinal purposes, and was valued as a calming and pain-relieving agent in America from an early stage. It is generally recommended for nerve irritation and spasmodic conditions. In homoeopathy gelsemium is used as a nerve agent and for the treatment of influenzal infections and infectious illnesses, particularly when accompanied by headaches, spasms and neuralgias (encephalitis, as it is known). Other types of headache are also treated with wild jasmine.
Gelsemium is the Italian name for jasmine. The plant was given the name because of its jasmine-like fragrance. The evergreen leaves gave the name sempervirens.
Wild jasmine was given its nickname electrical fever remedy because of a mistake that had some consequences: a patient who was suffering from very serious bilious fever was treated by mistake with an infusion made from the rootstock of wild jasmine. The result was that the patient was paralysed and lost consciousness. When he awoke from the coma, he was however completely cured.
In a concentrated form wild jasmine is indeed toxic and typically results in paralysis when the patient is fully conscious! Because of this toxic picture, the Othomi Indians called the root Bé-i, which means stopping of all movement, and brewed from it the poisonous drink Bebo-sito = glass coffin, that was used among other things for catching fish. Even today, Indians from the southern states are said to carry out trials by ordeal and acts of revenge with this dangerous drink. There was an unintended mass poisoning, with some deaths as a result, in 1932 in Topolobampo in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico, after spirits had been drunk to which gelsemium root had been added. The toxic effect is due to the alkaloid gelseminin, the paralysing effect of which acts on the motor endplates in the central nervous system.
The plant from another perspective
The root of wild jasmine corresponds with the nervous system and acts on it directly.