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Notes on Aromatic Sulphuric Acid and Confection of Senna.

Botanical name:


Every dispenser is acquainted with the objections which may be brought up to the present officinal formula for aromatic sulphuric acid. As the committee on the revision of the Pharmacopoeia is now in session, it is to be hoped that the formula under consideration may be modified, and with it several others of a like nature.

The aromatic sulphuric acid is used most extensively as a solvent for sulphate of quinia, in prescription, usually with watery or syrupy vehicles. When prescribed alone for the medicinal effects of the acid, it is not unfrequently diluted in order to modify its taste, and, avoiding the use of drops, to render its administration more convenient.

Now, when the elixir of vitriol is associated in this manner with watery fluids, the coloring and extractive matter becoming insoluble in the menstruum, precipitates, and the result is a muddy mixture, instead of the clear solution we should otherwise obtain. But the elixir of vitriol, even undiluted, is constantly undergoing change, with the continual deposition of a bulky precipitate, so that it can be dispensed in a bright condition only by frequent filtration. This, of course, is exceedingly annoying, and it is a reproach to the progress of pharmacy that the formula has been so long retained without material change. The old method of preparing it by exhausting the powders with the mixed alcohol and acid is preferable to that now employed, as it gives a preparation less prone to deposit by standing. The other objections, however, apply to this with equal force; for the ingredients afford to the menstruum principles, which must of necessity separate upon dilution.

In revising this formula, we should keep in view the fact that the resulting preparation should be miscible with water without precipitation, hence aromatics of an oleoresinous nature cannot be used.

The following formula we have used for some time, and have found entirely satisfactory:

Take of Sulphuric Acid, three troy ounces;
Fluid Extract of Orange Peel, one fluid ounce;
Red Rose Leaves, two drachms;
Boiling Water, one fluid ounce;
Alcohol, a sufficient quantity.

Add the acid gradually to half a pint of alcohol, and pour the boiling water upon the rose leaves; when both liquids have become cool, unite them, add the fluid extract and sufficient alcohol to make up the measure of eighteen fluid ounces. Mix thoroughly and filter.

Elixir of vitriol, thus prepared, has a pleasant aromatic odor and flavor, and the beautiful red color of the rose leaves, heightened by the presence of the acid. It is miscible with water without turbidity, and a specimen, after long keeping, has deposited but a trace of sediment.

Confection of Senna.

This preparation, when properly made, is an excellent laxative for habitual constipation, superior, perhaps, to any other remedy. It is not in such general use among physicians or the public as it is entitled to, and this probably arises from the fact that much of the confection of senna of the market has little or no resemblance to the officinal article, and is comparatively worthless. Pharmaceutically considered, the officinal process yields a result which is unobjectionable, save in two particulars; first, the presence of the powders of senna and coriander (and especially of the latter, which is most difficult to prepare,) imparts a degree of "grittiness" which is disagreeable to the patient, giving the impression that "dirt" is present; secondly, the consistence of the confection when evaporated to the specified weight, varies as prepared from different specimens of drugs, and is sometimes too thin, when the mass is apt to go into fermentation. Fortunately, these defects may be easily remedied. In our opinion, the purging cassia, considering that it is so difficult to obtain, might well be omitted and substituted by an additional quantity of senna, particularly as there can be no advantage in multiplying the number of substances having similar therapeutical properties, in this or other preparations. We have used the modified formula given below, (the coriander also being omitted and substituted by ginger,) which is free from the objections we have mentioned. It is much more agreeable to take than the officinal confection, and is equally efficient:

Take of Tamarinds, 20 parts.
Figs, bruised, 20 parts.
Prunes, sliced, 15 parts.
Fluid Extract of Senna, 10 parts.
Ginger, 1 part.
Sugar, 30 parts.
Water, a sufficient quantity.

Digest in a close vessel, by means of a water bath, the tamarinds, figs, and prunes in 10 parts of water, for three hours; separate the coarser portions with the hands, and press the pulpy mass by rubbing, first through a coarse sieve, and then through a very fine one. Mix the residue with 4 parts of water, and, having digested the mixture for a short time, treat it as before, and add the product to the pulpy liquid first obtained, evaporate to a syrupy consistence over a water bath, add the sugar, and continue the beat for twenty minutes, or until the sugar is dissolved; then remove from the bath, add the fluid extracts of senna and ginger, and mix thoroughly.—The Pharmacist, Chicago, Jan. 1871.

NOTE.—We feel inclined to enter a gentle protest against alterations in the characters of time-honored preparations, that change their appearance or consistence, which are well known to the medical profession and the people. The peculiar color and odor resulting from the action of sulphuric acid on cinnamon is well marked in elixir of vitriol. The deposit by age, though objectionable, is by no means peculiar to this preparation, and is a less evil than the proposed improvement.

In relation to the Confection of Senna, it is certainly a mistake to omit the Purging Cassia, and to medicate with so variable a preparation of senna as the fluid extract, when the unaltered senna can be so readily obtained. The grittiness arising from the use of powdered senna is due either to want of care in powdering, or to inorganic grit in the senna, which should have been separated before powdering. The coriander is troublesome to powder; yet the very agreeable aroma which it possesses is difficult to replace by fluid preparations of it, and hence the trouble should be accepted. In reply to the remark of the author about the scarcity of Purging Cassia, it may be said that demand will bring supply, just as certainly as cessation of demand will eventually create scarcity, as in the case in point.—EDITOR AMER. JOUR. PHARM.

The American Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. XLIII, 1871, was edited by William Procter, Jr. (Issues 1-4) and John M. Maisch (Issues 5-12).

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