The seed of Strychnos Ignatia, Lindley (Ignatia amara, Linné filius; Strychnos Ignatii, Bergius; Strychnos philippensis, Blanco; Ignatiana philippinica, Loureiro).
COMMON NAMES AND SYNONYMS: St. Ignatius bean, Bean of St. Ignatius; Faba Ignatii, Semen Ignatiae.
ILLUSTRATION: Bentley and Trimen, Med. Plants, 179.
Botanical Source.—Strychnos Ignatia of Lindley, is a branching tree, with long, tapering, smooth, scrambling branches. The leaves are ovate, acute, petiolate, veiny, smooth, and a span long. Hooks none. Panicles small, axillary, 3 to 5-flowered, with short, round, rigid pedicels. The flowers are very long, nodding, white, smelling like Jasmine. The fruit is smooth, pear-shaped, the size of an ordinary apple or a Bonchretien pear; seeds about 20, somewhat angular, about 12 lines long, and imbedded in a pulp (L.).
History and Description.—This tree is indigenous to the Philippine Islands. Its seeds, the St. Ignatius bean of commerce, are about the size of olives, rounded and convex on one side, and somewhat angular on the other, pale brownish externally, with a bluish-gray tint, greenish-brown internally. Their substance is hard, compact, and horn-like. They are inodorous and of an exceedingly bitter taste.
Chemical Composition.—The St. Ignatius bean yields its properties to water, but alcohol is its best solvent. Pelletier and Caventou, in 1818, found it to contain the constituents of nux vomica only in different proportions. These chemists found 1.2 per cent of strychnine and little brucine. On the other hand, however, F. F. Mayer, in New York (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1863, Vol. 36, p. 219), found it to yield twice to three times as much brucine as of strychnine. More recently, B. Sundblom, in Prof. Flückiger's laboratory (Archiv der Pharm., 1889, Vol. 227, p. 145), obtained from the seeds 0.178 per cent of strychnine and 0.278 per cent of brucine. (For details regarding these alkaloids, see Nux Vomica.) The alkaloids were observed by Pelletier and Caventou to occur in natural combination with igasuric acid, a substance identified by Höhn (Archiv der Pharm., 1873, Vol. CCII, p. 137) as an iron-greening tannic acid. Mr. Jas. M. Caldwell (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1857, Vol. XXIX, p. 294) notes the absence of starch from the seeds, while albuminous matter is present to the amount of about 10 per cent (Pharmacographia). Prof. Flückiger (Archiv der Pharm., 1889), examining authentic specimens of other parts of the tree, found in the bark of the stem 0.52 per cent of total alkaloids, strychnine predominating, while in the wood of the stem brucine was in larger amount. The root contains considerably less alkaloid, while the leaves are free from it.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—The action and uses of ignatia are very similar to those of nux vomica, but more energetic. It appears also to possess an influence over the nervous system of a tonic and stimulating character, not belonging to nux vomica or strychnine. It is never a remedy for conditions of excitation of the nervous system, but its key-note is atony; it is the remedy for nervous debility, and all that that term implies, being one of the best of nerve stimulants and nerve tonics. It was early recognized in this work as a remedy for nervous debility, amenorrhoea, chlorosis, etc. As a rule, the dose of ignatia administered is too large, a depressing headache often resulting from its immoderate use. The preparation mostly employed in our school is specific ignatia, of which from 5 to 10 drops should be added to 4 fluid ounces of water, and the solution be administered in teaspoonful doses every 2 or 3 hours. Bearing in mind the condition of nervous atony, it may be successfully administered in anemia, where the patient is cold, and especially when coldness of the extremities is one of the distressing features of the menopause. It should be thought of in anemic states of the brain, and particularly in those cases where the patient exhibits hysterical, melancholic, or hypochondriacal demonstrations. It is a remedy for digestive disorders, such as atonic dyspepsia and chronic catarrh of the stomach, with atony, and gastralgia or gastrodynia. The sick headache of debility is relieved by it. Shifting, dragging, boring, or darting pains, deeply seated in the loins or lumbar region, are those benefited by ignatia. It is an important remedy in atonic reproductive disorders. Eclectics have not found it to be especially adapted to females only, as have the Homoeopaths, who declare it the remedy for women, while nux and strychnine are remedies for men. Sexual coldness in both sexes, impotence in the male and sterility in the female are remedied many times by the judicious administration of ignatia. The deep-seated pelvic pains of women, particularly ovarian pains and uterine colic are especially relieved by ignatia, which is also indicated in menstrual disorders with colic-like pains, heavy dragging of the ovaries, and an abnormally large and heavy womb. If added to these pelvic weaknesses, the general nervous system is greatly debilitated, there are wandering pelvic pains or pain in the right hypochondrium with constipation, neuralgia in other parts of the body, twitching, of the facial muscles, a tendency to paralysis, and choreic and epileptiform symptoms, associated with a disposition to grieve over one's condition, the indications for ignatia are still stronger. But to obtain beneficial effects the dose must be small.
Ignatia has shown itself useful in atonic states of the eyes and ears. Atonic visual asthenopia and catarrhal conjunctivitis, with palpebral twitchings and a sensation as of dust in the member, are relieved by doses of 1/10 to 1/6 drop of specific ignatia, while 1/5-drop doses have proved useful in the tinnitus and impaired hearing depending upon general atony of the system (Foltz).
The dose of ignatia (powdered) may range from 1/10 to 1/2 grain; of the alcoholic extract, from 1/20 to 1/8 grain; of specific ignatia, from 1/10 to 1/5 drop; of the tincture, from 1/5 to 2 minims. The treatment of poisoning by ignatia is identical with that of strychnine, which see.
Specific Indications and Uses.—General nervous atony; disposition to grieve; dull, deep-seated, dragging pain in loins, back, or right hypochondrium; hysterical, choreic, epileptoid, or hypochondriacal manifestation, due to debility; dysmenorrhoea, with colicky pains and heavy womb; sexual frigidity, impotence, and sterility; wandering pelvic pains; coldness of extremities; muscular twitchings, particularly of face and eyelids; dull hearing, due to general atony; nervous depression: burning of the soles of the feet; congestive headache.