The bark of the root of Chiococca racemosa, Jacquin.
COMMON NAMES: Snowberry, Cluster-flowered snowberry, Cahinca, Cainca, David's root.
Botanical Source.—A somewhat climbing shrub, with a round, branched root, and a stem 8 to 12 feet high, arborescent, with branches opposite. The leaves are, ovate, pointed, and smooth, with an uninterrupted margin; the stipules are short, pointed, and joined together at the base. The flowers are white, without odor, but subsequently become yellowish and redolent, and are borne in short, axillary, 1-sided racemes. The calyx is 5-cleft; the corolla funnel-shaped; the stamens 5. The fruit is a small, roundish, compressed, white berry. The C. anguifuga, Martius, and C. densifolia, Martius, are varieties possessing similar properties.
History and Description.—This plant, sometimes called Snowberry, is a native of the West Indies, South America, and also of the sea-coast of Florida. In Brazil the root is known as "raiz pretta" (black root). In that country the roots of Chiococca anguifuga, Martins, and Chiococca densifolia, Martius, are employed under the names cainana and caninana. The root as found in commerce, is in small round pieces of different sizes and lengths, flexuous, with longitudinal rugae and a few rough spots, and brownish-black or grayish-brown, having its thin, cortical portion of a reddish-brown color, fragile, of a disagreeable odor, and a coffee-like taste, succeeded by a pungent nauseousness; its internal, woody portion is without taste. The bark is the medicinal part, and yields its properties to water or alcohol.
Chemical Composition.—Besides cahincic acid (C40H64O18), the root-bark contains, according to Pelletier, gummy, oily, and coloring matters, the nature of which is not well understood. Its most important medicinal constituent is the cahincic acid, or cahincin. It forms in silky-white, acicular crystals, sparingly soluble in ether and cold water (1 in about 600). It dissolves in hot alcohol, from which it again crystallizes upon cooling. It is a permanent body, and is supposed to exist partly free in the root, and also as a calcium subcahincate. It is odorless, and has a slowly developing, yet excessively bitter taste. By boiling with hydrochloric acid it is split into grape sugar and other bodies, chief among which is cahincetin (caïncetin) (C22H34O3), a principle soluble in alcohol, in which on adding water, it gelatinizes. The root contains a tannin which was pointed out, in 1851, by Rochleder and Hlasiwetz, to be caffeo-tannic acid. A body, named cahincigenin, having the formula C14H24O2, and butyric acid, are produced when cahincetin and caustic potash are melted together.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—In medium doses it augments the urinary discharge, slightly accelerates the action of the heart, and increases the peristaltic action of the bowels; and if the body be kept warm, and warm infusions be drank, instead of purging it will produce perspiration. In large doses it produces the most violent emetic and drastic effects. It has been found efficient in dropsy, uncomplicated with acute renal disorder, amenorrhoea, rheumatism syphilis, and osteocopus, and in Brazil is used as an antidote to poisonous snakebites. From 20 to 60 grains of the powdered root-bark will act as a purgative and diuretic; or from 10 to 20 grains of an aqueous or spirituous extract. It may also be used in decoction or tincture (root, ℥viii to alcohol 98 per cent, Oj). Tincture, 1 to 5 drops.
Specific Indications and Uses.—Scanty urine with a sense of fullness in the loins; edematous feet and eyelids.