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Frasera.—American Columbo.

Botanical name:

Related entry: Calumba (U. S. P.)—Calumba

The root of Frasera Carolinensis, Walter (Frasera Walteri, Michaux).
Nat. Ord.—Gentianaceae.
COMMON NAME: American columbo.

Botanical Source.—American columbo is an indigenous plant, with a triennial, long, fusiform, horizontal, rugose, and yellow root, and a smooth, erect, solid, cylindrical, or subquadrangular, succulent, dark-purple stem, from 4 to 9 feet in height, 1 or 2 inches in diameter at the base. The leaves are smooth, oblong-lanceolate, acutish, sessile, feather-veined, entire or wavy, subcarnose, from 3 to 12 inches, by 1 to 3, in whorls of 4 to 6, rarely opposite, decreasing in size as they approach the summit. The flowers are tetramerous, 1 1/4 inches in diameter, yellowish-white or greenish-yellow, with brown-purple dots, a large purple pit or gland near the base bordered by a strong and even fringe. They are borne in terminal, compound, pyramidal, leafy, or bracteated, verticillate panicles. The calyx is deeply 4-parted, the segments being acute, and shorter than the oblong, obtusish petals; corolla wheel-shaped. Stamens 4, shorter than the corolla, and alternating with its segments; filaments subulate, anthers large, oblong, versatile, and yellow; ovary oblong, attenuated into a short style; stigma bifid and distinct; Capsule or fruit oval, compressed, acuminated with the persistent style, and yellowish; and the seeds few, large, imbricated, elliptical, and wing-margined (L.—G.—W.).

History and Description.—This plant grows west of the Alleghanies, on the borders of lakes and in the rich soils in the middle and southern states, bearing flowers in June and July, which, however, together with the stems, are not developed until the third year, the root-leaves only, in the meantime, being visible. The part used is the root, which should be gathered in October and November of the second year of the plant, or in March and April of its third year; it is hard, fusiform, and wrinkled; as met with in commerce it is in dried, transverse slices, with a brown epidermis slightly tinged with red, yellow cortex, and a spongy, straw-colored center. Its taste is bitter, and its properties are taken up by wine, water, or alcohol of sp. gr. 0.935. The root of this plant has been mistaken for that of calumba, but it may be determined from the latter, which, on account of the starch it contains, strikes a blue color with tincture of iodine, while the American plant undergoes no change of color. Sulphate of iron produces a blackish-green color with an aqueous solution of the American root, but does not affect the foreign root. Tincture of galls gives a dirty-gray precipitate when added to the tincture of calumba. A transverse section of calumba shows a series of concentric circles, with diverging lines, which are absent in the American root. Sliced frasera root has been sold as American gentian.

Chemical Composition.—American columbo has been investigated by Douglass (Amer. Jour. Pharm., Vol. VI, p. 177), W. R. Higginbotham (Ibid., 1862, p. 23), and F. W. Thomas (Ibid., 1868, p. 309). These authors found it to contain gum, tannic acid, resin, saccharine, fatty and waxy matter, pectic acid, yellow coloring matter, and bitter extractive. Mr. Thomas obtained also some yellow acicular crystals, and established the absence of albumen, starch, and berberine. In 1873 Mr. G. W. Kennedy showed its chemical relationship to gentian-root by isolating from Frasera Walteri, by a somewhat complicated process, two principles found in gentian, viz., the bitter and neutral gentiopicrin (C20H30O12), soluble in alcohol and water, insoluble in ether, and gentisic acid (C14H10O5., yellow crystals of acid reaction, insoluble in water, soluble in alcohol and ether.

John U. Lloyd, in 1880 (Amer. Jour. Pharm., p. 71), published a simple process for the preparation of the yellow crystals, specimens of which were submitted to Mr. Kennedy (1881), and identified as the gentisic acid obtained by him. Additionally, it was found that ferric chloride produced a deep-green coloration with these crystals. Prof. E. L. Patch, reviewing these results experimentally (see Proc. Amer. Pharm. Assoc., 1881, p. 457), concluded that Kennedy's gentisin from Frasera Walteri, was not identical with gentisin obtainable from gentian root, but was in all probability a new substance. In 1891 (Pharm. Rundschau, p. 143), H. Trimble and J. U. Lloyd resolved the yellow crystals into two substances differing chiefly in their melting points.

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—The recent root of American columbo is said to cause purging and vomiting; but when dried it is a simple tonic, which may be used wherever mild tonics are indicated. Dr. Scudder (Spec. Med., 139), regards it a "stimulant to the circulation," and states that it "will doubtless exert the same influence upon all the vegetative functions." Obstinate constipation has been relieved by its persistent use. Dose of the powder, from 20 to 60 grains; of the infusion, from 1 to 4 fluid ounces, 3 or 4 times a day; of specific frasera, 5 to 30 drops, well diluted, every 2 to 6 hours.


King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.



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