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120. Antiaris toxicaria, Leschinault.—Antsjar or Upas.

Botanical name:

Fig. 294. Antiaris toxicaria. This is the celebrated Antsjar or Upas poison tree of Java, rendered notorious principally in consequence of certain gross falsehoods concerning it, about the year 1780, by a person of the name of Foersch, said to have been a surgeon in the service of the Dutch East India Company. Malefactors, says this person, when they receive sentence of death, are offered the chance of life, if they will go to the Upas-tree for a box of poison; and although every precaution is taken to avoid the injurious influence of the emanations of the tree, yet of 700 criminals who went to collect the poison, scarcely two out of twenty returned. Foersch further adds, that for fifteen or eighteen miles around this tree no living animal of any kind has ever been discovered. [See the translation of Foersch's paper, in Burnett's Outlines of Botany, 532; also, Penny Magaz. vol. ii. p. 321.] Dr. Horsfleld [Quarterly Journal, vol. ii. p. 331.] and M. Leschinault [Ann. du Mus. d'Hist. Nat. t. xvi. p. 476.] have shown that the above statements are for the most part fabulous. From their observations it appears that the true poison tree of Java is the Antiaris toxicaria [For a very elaborate account of this tree, by M. I. J. Dennett, see Dr. Horsfield's Plantae Javanicae rariores, p. 52.] (Fig. 294). It is one of the largest forest trees of Java, being from 60 to 100 feet high. The milky juice is collected by incision, and is then inspissated by boiling along with the juice of arum, galanga, onions, &c The poison, when brought to this country, is found to be a thick fluid of a grayish-brown or fawn-colour, and an unpleasant odour. It consists, according to Pelletier and Caventou, [Ann. Chim. et Phys. t. xxvi. p. 44.] of a peculiar elastic resin, slightly soluble gummy matter analogous to bassorin, and a bitter matter, soluble in water. This bitter matter is composed of a colouring matter absorbable by charcoal, an undetermined acid, and antiarin, the active principle of the plant, and which is precipitable by tincture of galls. More recently, Mulder [Pharmaceutisches Central-Blatt für 1838, S. 511.] has submitted this juice to analysis, and found it to consist of vegetable albumen 16.14, gum 12.34, antiar-resin 20.93, myricin 7.02, antiarin 3.56, sugar 6.31, and extractive 33.70. The antiar-resin was composed of C16H12O. Antiarin consisted of Cl4H10O5. Sir D. Brodie [Phil. Trans, for 1811.] says, the poison renders the heart insensible to the stimulus of the blood. Magendie and Delile [Orfila, Toxicol. Gén.] found that, besides acting on the brain and spinal marrow, it proved emetic. According to Andral, it causes convulsions, with alternations of relaxation.

The Elements of Materia Medica and Therapeutics, Vol. II, 3th American ed., was written by Jonathan Pereira in 1854.

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