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Moschus (U. S. P.)—Musk.

Preparation: Tincture of Musk

The dried secretion from the preputial follicles of Moschus moschiferus, Linné"—(U. S. P.).
Class: Mammalia. Order: Ruminantia.

Source and History.—This article is obtained from the male of Moschus moschiferus or Musk deer, a wild ruminating animal, rather larger than the domestic goat, and approaching the deer in its characters, and which is an inhabitant of Central Asia. At the posterior part of its abdomen, there is a small sac situated immediately under the skin, which opens a little in front of the preputial orifice, and which is filled with a thick fluid, abounding particularly in the rutting season. This fluid, in the dried state, is musk. It is removed from the animal in its containing bag, and dried in this state for exportation. The musk-bag, or pod, is usually plano-convex; and in general the plane surface is a bare membrane, while the convex surface is covered with stiff hairs; but sometimes the hairy and membranous parts are reversed. It weighs along with its contents, between 5 and nearly 10 drachms, and contains on an average 2 2/3 drachms of musk, i. e., from 26 to 52 per cent. Two kinds of musk are met with in American commerce. The Chinese, Thibet, or Tonquin musk is the variety that should always be preferred. It occurs in commerce in lots of about 25 paper-wrapped sacs, shipped in lead-lined boxes (caddies). The yellowish or brownish hairs are cut short. It comes to us partly from Tonquin, but for the greater part, from the Chinese province of Yun-Nan, and is shipped from the Chinese port, Shanghai, hence the name Chinese musk. A consular report from Shanghai, in 1885, stated the annual export to be about 3000 caddies, each containing, on an average, 20 pods, thus representing an annual decimation of the animal by about 60,000. Siberian musk is also called Russian musk; it is exported from St. Petersburgh. It resembles the preceding, yet often is of a much inferior quality, having an ammoniacal, somewhat fetid odor.

Cabardine musk is a variety which comes in flat, ovate sacs, the hairs on which are somewhat paler and thinner, and the odor of which is feebler and far less aromatic than that of good musk, besides having a urinous smell. Two other grades, Assam and Bucharian musk-sacs, are not found in American markets. Musk is now scarcely ever prescribed, both on account of its high price, and the extreme difficulty of obtaining a pure article, as nearly all the musk in trade at the present day, is an almost uncontrollable drug (see Adulterations; also see an interesting article on "Musk," from the Chemist and Druggist, 1890, in Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1891, p. 149).

Description.—"In irregular, crumbly, somewhat unctuous grains, dark reddish-brown, having a peculiar penetrating, and persistent odor, and a bitterish taste. It is contained in oval or roundish sacs about 4 to 5 Cm. (1 1/2 to 2 inches) in diameter, on one side invested with a smoothish membrane, on the other side covered with stiff, appressed, grayish hairs, concentrically arranged around 2 orifices near the center. About 10 per cent of musk is soluble in alcohol, the tincture being light brownish-yellow, and on the addition of water becoming slightly turbid. About 50 per cent of musk is soluble in water, the solution being deep-brown, faintly acid, and strongly odorous. When ignited with free access of air, musk gives off a peculiar, somewhat urinous odor, and leaves behind not more than 8 per cent of a grayish ash"—(U. S. P.). It is very inflammable. Musk is very little soluble in ether or chloroform. The powerful odor of musk is destroyed when it is rubbed together with camphor, cinnamon, syrup or oil of bitter almonds, oil of fennel, precipitated sulphur, ergot, quinine sulphate or chloride, etc. Hence, to remove the odor from the hands, it is advised to rub the hands with some quinine, moistened with diluted sulphuric acid. On the other hand, alkalies intensify the odor of musk. The odor is also lost by drying the musk over sulphuric acid; it gradually returns, however, as moisture is reabsorbed. With some persons the odor of musk produces several unpleasant effects, as cephalalgia, fainting, etc.

Chemical Composition.—The chemical nature of the odoriferous principle is not known. Geiger and Reinmann found musk to contain a peculiar volatile substance, ammonia, a peculiar, fixed, uncrystallizable acid, stearin and olein, cholesterin, peculiar bitter resin, osmazome (see foot-note under Ichthyocolla), and salts. The U. S. P. demands that musk, upon incineration, should yield not more than 8 per cent of ash. In addition to the substances mentioned above, musk is incompatible with bichloride of mercury, sulphate of iron, nitrate of silver, and infusion of cinchona.

Adulterations.—Owing to its high price, musk is very liable to adulterations; indeed it is rare that the pure article can be obtained in commerce. In 1889, a consular report from Shanghai states that the article comes into the Chinese market in simple wood cases of 9 to 14 caddies; every parcel contains a number of adulterated sacs, which must be bought along with the good ones. About 50 per cent seems to be adulteration. The parcels are then, as a rule, broken up by the exporter and sorted for the London market. He divides the lot into three grades, all of which are probably thrown on the market. "The sophistication consists of earth, rasped wood, and small pieces of leather or skin, which are inserted in the pods after the musk has been removed. Less frequently the sophistication is effected with lead, heavy pieces of flesh, or paper inserted between the thin inner and thick outer skin, which can only be discovered upon cutting it. In the last year or two, the adulteration has gone up to 80 per cent, but in the absence of better qualities, even such an article has found buyers" (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1889, p. 376).

These adulterations are very difficult to detect. Musk which is not readily inflammable, whose odor is weak, which is of a black or pale color, very damp, or gritty to the touch, should be rejected as containing impurities. By incineration, genuine musk leaves behind a grayish-white ash, whereas blood leaves a reddish one. It is probably advisable to insist on buying the musk in its containing bag. False pods may be distinguished from the genuine ones, by their ammoniacal odor, by the absence of any aperture in the middle of the hairy coat, by the hair not being arranged in a circular manner, and by the absence of the remains of the penis, which accompanies every genuine musk-sac. False sacs may often be known by being stitched together, because a genuine sac may be opened to introduce foreign matter; such a sample becomes suspicious, and invites further analysis.

To test a bag for lead inserted through its aperture, exposing the specimen to the action of the Roentgen rays will reveal the fraud without the necessity of cutting open the bag (see interesting shadowgraph of an adulterated musk-bag, by E. Wolff, Pharm. Centralh., 1896, p. 827).

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Musk is a stimulant to the nervous and vascular systems, acting much after the manner of the alcoholics, and an irritant to the stomach, deranging its functions; also said to possess narcotic properties secondarily. From its influence on the nervous system it is termed a powerful antispasmodic; and has been used with advantage in typhus and low forms of fever, obstinate hiccough, pertussis, epilepsy, chorea, hysteria, asthma, palpitation of the heart, colic, convulsions of infants, all spasmodic affections, etc. (see Specific Indications below). United with ammonia, it has been used with success in stopping the progress of gangrene. Fifteen grains of musk, combined with extract of valerian, and alcoholic extract of cimicifuga, of each, 15 grains, and divided into 15 pills, will be found beneficial in pneumonia accompanied by delirium, and in the involuntary movements observed in low typhoid fevers. One pill may be given every 1 or 2 hours, until there is a marked improvement in the symptoms. In small doses musk is hypnotic. If its use is long continued, it imparts its peculiar odor to the secretions. It should always be given in substance, either in the form of pill or emulsion. Dose, from 5 to 20 grains, every 2 or 3 hours. Niter, cochineal, of each, 2 grains; musk, 1 grain; mix and form a powder. This powder, given and repeated every 2 or 3 hours, is said to be very useful in some low forms of fever, and in febrile or inflammatory affections with spasmodic action or delirium.

Specific Indications and Uses.—Hiccough; muscae-volitantes, subsultus tendinum, low muttering delirium, and stupor; pulse small, quick, irregular, or tremulous; muscular spasm; insomnia from physical or mental fatigue.

Related Products.—A naturalist found in Central Africa numerous flocks of a small ruminant of the gazelle family, the excrement from which exhaled so decided an odor of musk that he thought it might be advantageously used. M. Stanislas Martin formed a tincture with some of it, using alcohol of 80 per cent. It had a greenish color. This excrement, powdered and macerated with glycerin, lard, or fixed oils, forms a powerful musky odor, answering all the purposes of musk as a perfume, and being decidedly cheaper (Bull. de Thérap., 1868). The species probably referred to is the Antilope Dorcas, Linné, or Algerian gazelle. The excrements are small and globular. Jacqueme obtained an alcoholic extract (7 per cent) from them, which contained calcium, ammonium, and sodium salts, a resinous body of musky odor, and an acid capable of crystallization.

HYRACEUM.—Probably derived from the Hyrax capensis, Cuvier (Order: Hyracoidea), or Badger, a South African mammal. The drug comes in brittle, resinous, irregular, blackish-brown fragments, of a nauseously bitter taste. When heated it becomes soft and evolves a castor-like odor; further heated it burns, evolving acrid fumes. Water does not wholly dissolve it, and it is still less soluble in alcohol or ether. It is collected on mountain sides in Africa, and is either a fecal or urinous product. Analyses of Wm. H. Greene and A. J. Parker (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1879, p. 363), show this substance to yield, upon incineration, 34 per cent of ash, chiefly containing chlorides and carbonates of sodium, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. The organic matter constitutes about 52 per cent, containing traces of urea, uric acid, hippuric and benzoic acids. Hyraceum is said to resemble the American castor in physiological action. A similar dried body, renal and fecal, is found in rock-fissures in New Mexico, and is believed to be the product of the Neotoma or Wild rat (Cope).

CIVETTA, or ZIBETHUM, Civet, Zibeth.—An unctuous, musky secretion, collected from receptacles between the anus and genitalia of both male and female of the Viverra Civetta, Schreber (Civet cat), of Africa, and Viverra Zibetha, Schreber, of the East Indies. The animals are kept in captivity for the purpose of obtaining the drug. It was formerly employed in medicine, but is now wholly consumed in the perfumer's art. It is semisolid, yellowish, changing to brown, unctuous, not so diffusible nor agreeable as musk, of an unpleasant, subacrid, bitter, greasy taste, soluble in part in hot alcohol and in ether, but not in water. It is fusible, and burns without leaving much residue. It contains salts, resin, coloring bodies, various fats, and a volatile oil.

AMERICAN MUSK.—The musk-sacs of the Musk-rat (Fiber zibethicus) have been substituted for musk under the name American musk. Its odor differs somewhat from that of musk, but it may be advantageously employed in perfumes (see Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1881, p. 397, and 1886, p. 550).

ARTIFICIAL MUSK.—An artificial musk is prepared, by carefully adding, drop by drop, 3 parts of fuming nitric acid to 1 of unrectified oil of amber. The acid is decomposed and the oil converted into an acid resin, which must be kneaded under pure water until all excess of acid is removed. The substance which remains is of a yellowish-brown color, viscid, and of an odor similar to musk, for which it may be used as a substitute, in doses of from 15 to 30 grains.

MOSCHUS FACTITIUS, Artificial musk.—The artificial musk introduced by Dr. A. Baur, and known commercially as "Musk Baur," is trinitroso-butyl-toluene (C6H.CH3.C[CH3]3.[NO2]3), prepared by the interaction of tertiary butyl-toluene (C6H4.CH3.C[CH3]3), and a mixture of sulphuric and nitric acids. It forms yellowish-white needles melting at 96° to 97° C. (204.8° to 206.6° F.), insoluble in water, but soluble in alcohol, chloroform, ether, benzol, and light petroleum ether (see Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1890, p. 489, and 1892, p. 31). The action of this body is similar to, but less energetic, than that of musk. The dose for a small child is from 1/2 to 1 grain, every 2 or 3 hours; for an adult, 10 grains. Of a tincture (ℨj to ℥x of alcohol), the dose is 1 fluid drachm. Hauner, of Munich, praises it in spasm of the glottis in children.

VEGETABLE MUSK.—On account of the high price of musk, and its liability to adulteration, Dr. Hannon (Jour. de Pharm., 1854) sought for a vegetable substitute, which he thinks he has found in a Columbian plant, cultivated in Belgium, Mimulus moschatus, which plant yields an essential oil by distillation. In doses of 2 or 3 drops, this oil exerts an energetic, excitant action on the intestinal canal, and on the brain. In a state of health it caused vertigo, cephalalgia, dryness in the fauces, epigastric weight, and eructations. He believes it may replace the animal musk, and may be given in hysteria and analogous complaints, in doses of from 2 to 4 drops in 24 hours. He calls it vegetable musk.

Nearly all of the preceding products are used in the manufacture of perfumes and not, at the present time, in medicine.


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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