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97. Several Species of Smilax, Linn., cont'd.

Continued from previous page.

Commerce.—For the following table I am indebted to Mr. G. R. Porter, of the Board of Trade:—

Account, showing the Quantities of Sarsaparilla Imported into the United Kingdom, and distinguishing the Countries from which Imported, in each year from 1840 to 1848.

Countries from which imported.1840.1841.1842.1843.1844.1845.1846.1847.1848.
N. American Colonies593240906610--------
West Indies156,02846,16527,57551,771136,723196,71587,10249,11170,480
United States4,55456,92749,2364,58139,16483,70119,76041,04318,067
East Indies--5,878----12----11,351--
Foreign West Indies--------11,51826,857----2,862
New Grenada, &c.--------2,0181,36747,3906,9965,306
Cape of Good Hope----------13,01010----
Central America----------13410,0691612,427

Composition.—Sarsaparilla was analyzed by Cannobio; [Brugnatelli, Giornale di Fisica, &c. Dec. 2, vol i p. 421, 1818.] by Pfaff; [Syst. de Mat. Med. Bd. vii. S. 90, 1821.] by Batka; [Journ. de Pharm. t. xx. p. 43, 1834.] and by Thubeuf. [Ibid. xx. 682, 1834.]

Cannobio's Analysis.
Bitter acrid resin: 2.8
Gummy extractive: 5.5
Starch: 54.2
Woody fibre: 27.8
Loss: 9.7
Sarsaparilla (Honduras): 100.0

Pfaff's Analysis.
Balsamic resin: 2.0
Acrid extractive: 2.5
Extractive similar to cinchona: 3.7
Common extractive: 9.4
Gummy extractive: 1.4
Starch: trace
Albumen: 2.2
Woody fibre: 75.0
Moisture: 3.0
Loss: 0.8
Sarsaparilla (Vera Cruz): 100.0

Batka's Analysis.
1. A crystalline matter (parallinic acid).
2. A colouring (crystalline) matter.
3. An essential oil.
4. Gum.
5. Bassorin.
6. Starch.
7. Albumen.
8. Extractiform matter.
9. Gluten and gliadine.
10. Fibrous and cellular tissue.
11. Pectic acid.
12. Acetic acid.
13. Salts - namely, chlorides of calcium, potassium and magnesium; carbonate of lime, oxide of iron, and alumina.

Thubeuf's Analysis.
1. A crystalline substance (salseparine).
2. A colouring matter.
3. A resinous matter.
4. Ligneous matter.
5. Starch.
6. Chloride potassium.
7. Nitrate potash.
8. Fixed aromatic thick oil.
9. Waxy substance.

Batka [Pharmaceutisches Central-Blatt für 1834, S. 902.] separately analyzed the bark, wood, and pith of Jamaica sarsaparilla, and obtained the following results:—

Epidermis. [By epidermis, I presume the author means both epidermis properly so called and the outer cortical layers.]
Volatile oil (with some acrid resin).
Colouring matter.
Frothing resin (parill-resin, parillinic acid ?).
Extractive matter.
Albumen and bassorin.
Starch and gum.

Cortical Pith. [By cortical pith (Rindemark, the author obviously means the inner cortical layers.]
Vegetable gluten.
Extractive matter.
Resinous colouring matter.
Amylaceous fibre and tegument.

Woody Nucleus and Pith.
Yellow soft resin.
Vegetable gluten.
Frothing resin.
Creosote (a trace).
Woody fibre.

1. Essential oil of Sarsaparilla.—Sarsaparilla contains a small quantity of volatile oil. The following experiments were made by a friend, a manufacturing chemist, who gave me the products for examination. 140 lbs of Jamaica sarsaparilla were distilled, by steam heat, at twice, with 220 gallons of water. 50 gallons of a milky liquid were obtained, which were again submitted to distillation until 20 gallons had passed over. 20 lbs. of common salt were added to the distilled product, and heat being applied, 3 gallons were drawn over. The liquor was milky, held in solution carbonate of ammonia, and contained a few drops of a volatile oil, which was heavier than water, was soluble in rectified spirit, and had the odour and acrid taste of sarsaparilla. 100 lbs. of Jamaica sarsaparilla were distilled with 100 gallons of water. The distilled liquor was acid, and formed a white precipitate with solutions of acetate of lead. It was re-distilled: the liquor that first passed over was not ammoniacal, but towards the end of the process became so.

2. Smilacin.—Discovered in 1824 by Palotta, [Journ. de Pharm. x. 543.] who termed it pariglin. Folchi, about the same time, also procured it, and gave it the name of smilacin. Thubeuf, in 1831, called it salseparin. In 1833, Batka announced that the active principle of this root was an acid, which he termed parallinic add. Lastly, in 1834, Poggiale [Journ. de Chim. Méd. x. 577.] showed the identity of these different substances.

It is procured by decolorizing a concentrated hot alcoholic tincture of sarsaparilla by animal charcoal. The tincture deposits, on cooling, impure smilacin, which may be purified by repeated solution and crystallization. Soubeiran [Nouv. Traité de Pharm, ii. 166.] has proposed a more economical process.

It resides both in the cortical portion and in the woody zone.

Smilacin is a white, crystallizable, odourless, and, in the anhydrous state, almost tasteless substance; very slightly soluble in cold water, more so in boiling water, and depositing from the latter by cooling. Its solution has the bitter acrid taste of sarsaparilla, and froths on agita-4ion. It is soluble in alcohol, ether, and oils. It does not combine with acids to form salts. Strong sulphuric acid colours it red, then violet, and, lastly, yellow. It dissolves in cold and pure hydrochloric acid: the solution becomes red and afterwards gelatinous when heated. It is soluble in strong nitric acid: if the solution be heated, nitrous gas escapes; and, by evaporation, a solid residuum is obtained, which is soluble in boiling water, from which it precipitates in white flocks as the liquid cools.

Smilacin is closely allied to, if it be not identical with, saponin. Now, as the latter is readily converted into an acid (esculic acid), so probably is the former: hence, perhaps, the parallinic acid of Batka may not be absolutely identical with smilacin, but bear the same relation to it that esculic acid does to saponin.

Smilacin has the following composition:—

CarbonHydrogenOxygenAnhydrous smilacin
Poggiale. (Mean of 12 analyses.)Henry.Petersen.

Poggiale gives the following formula for its atomic constitution, C8H7 1/2O3; while O. Henry [Journ. de Pharm, xx. 682.] assumes C9H9O3, and Petersen [Thomson, Organic Chemistry, 279.] C9H8O3. As no definite compound of smilacin has been obtained, these formulae are of little value. Thubeuf says that hydrated [crystallized] smilacin contains 8.56 water.

Cullerier [Journ. de Chim. Méd. t. i p. 45, 2de sér.] gave it to nine syphilitic patients. In doses of six grains, the stomach readily supported it; but nine grains caused weight at the stomach and nausea. It appeared to relieve the patients' symptoms, and, in one case, seemed to effect a cure. According to Palotta, pariglin, in doses of from two to thirteen grains, acts as a debilitant, reducing the circulation, sometimes producing constriclion of the oesophagus, and exciting nausea and diaphoresis. He thinks it might be useful in chronic rheumatism, skin diseases, &c.

3. Starch.—This is found in both the cortical and medullary cells. It is most abundant in the Caraccas, Brazilian, and Honduras sarsaparillas, to which it gives their mealy character. According to Schleiden, it exists in two forms—as grains and as paste.

The starch-grains are arranged in groups of 2, 3, 4, or 6; their shapes being modified by their mutual compression: the prevailing form being that of a mullar. Their average length is about 1/2000th of an inch. [The following measurements, in parts of an English inch, of the grains of starch of sarsaparilla, were made for me by Mr. George Jackson:—Single round or hemispherical Particles. Longest Diameters. 1. 0.0006. 2. *0.0005. 3. *0.0004. 4. 0.0003. 5. 0.0002. The bulk of this specimen consisted of particles of the size of those distinguished by an asterisk. One of the hemispherical or mullar-shaped particles measured 0.0007 by 0.0005. A compound grain, consisting of three grains, was found to be 0.0005 in diameter.] The nucleus (central cavity or hilum) is scarcely perceptible by ordinary light (Schleiden says that the grains are without evident central cavity); but by the aid of polarized light its position may be determined, as it is at the junction of the arms of the cross. In some grains it can be detected by common light. Towards the circumference of some of the grains a series of faint parallel curved lines are observed.

Starch paste, or amorphous starch, is found in some of the cortical cells. It is more abundant in Vera Cruz sarsaparilla, which is sun-dried, than in the Brazilian sort, which has been dried by exposure to the smoke of fires; hence, probably, its formation depends on the season, and not on the action of heat on the grain starch. Iodine colours it blue. This so-called starch-paste, or amorphous state, is, perhaps, only imperfectly formed and closely aggregated starch grains.

4. Resin and Extractive.—These principles require further examination. On them probably depends a part, at least, of the medicinal properties of sarsaparilla.

Chemical Characteristics.—A decoction of sarsaparilla froths greatly when shaken. It scarcely, if at all, reddens litmus. Diacetate of lead and protonitrate of mercury cause precipitates. Alkalies deepen the colour of the decoction.

If a strong decoction be added to oil of vitriol, a red colour is produced (owing to the action of the acid on the smilacin ?).

Decoctions of mealy sarsaparilla become dark blue (iodide of starch) on the addition of a solution of iodine. Decoctions of non-mealy sorts are usually somewhat darkened by iodine, but the effect frequently disappears after a few minutes.

If a solution of a persalt of iron be added to the decoction, more or less darkening is usually produced. The greatest effect is produced with decoctions of either Jamaica or Lima sarsaparilla: with those of the Honduras and Brazilian sorts the effect is much feebler. In some cases a flocculent precipitate slowly subsides. [See, also, Marquart's comparative examinations of several kinds of sarsaparilla, in the Pharmaceutical Journal, vol. iii. p. 126, 1843.]

If oil of vitriol be applied to a section of sarsaparilla, a greater or less portion of the woody surface (the woody zone, and, in the case of Jamaica and Lima sarsaparilla, the cortex also) becomes dark red, and then violet (owing to the action of the acid on the smilacin ?). The same colour is also produced by the action of the acid on a fresh cut surface of the rhizome (chump).

If a strong decoction of mealy sarsaparilla be poured into alcohol, a copious precipitate (starch) is produced.

Physiological Effects. α. On Vegetables.—Not ascertained.

β. On Animals.—Not ascertained.

γ. On Man.—Imperfectly determined; no experiments having been made to ascertain its physiological effects.

To the taste, sarsaparilla is slightly acrid, and somewhat nauseous. Diaphoresis is by far the most common effect of its internal use. When the skin is kept cool, diuresis is not unusual. But in estimating the diaphoretic or diuretic power of sarsaparilla, we must take into consideration the amount of liquid in which the medicine is usually taken, and the other medicines which are frequently conjoined with it: for, in many instances, the diaphoresis or diuresis is referable rather to these than to sarsaparilla.

In several cases I have given the powder of this root in very large doses, in order to ascertain its effects. Nausea, vomiting, and temporary loss of appetite, were alone observed.

Dr. Hancock [Trans. Med.-Bot. Soc. 1829.] says, that on one patient, an African, an infusion of four ounces of Rio Negro sarsa acted as a narcotic, producing nausea, great prostration of strength, torpor, and unwillingness to move. The pulse was scarcely altered, unless it were a little retarded. Though, the effects here stated agree, to a certain extent, with those ascribed to smilacin, they cannot be regarded as the ordinary effects of this root.

In some conditions of system, especially those of a cachectic kind, sarsaparilla acts as a powerful and valuable alterative tonic. Its continued use is often attended with improvement of appetite and digestion, augmentation of strength, increase of flesh, the production of a more healthy tone of mind, and the palliation, or, in some cases, complete disappearance, of various morbid symptoms—as eruptions, ulcerations, pains of a rheumatic character, &c. Sarsaparilla differs in several respects from the bitter vegetable tonics. Though it is not devoid of, yet it does not, as they do, abound in a bitter principle. It is not adapted for the cure of intermittents, or of simple debility. But its best effects are seen in those depraved conditions of system, which the public, and even some medical men, ascribe to the presence of a morbid poison, or to a deranged condition of the fluids. Hence it is frequently denominated a purifier of the blood. Those who do not adopt the pathological notion here referred to, call it an alterative.

Those varieties of sarsaparilla which abound in starch (as the Caraccas and Honduras sorts) possess demulcent and nutritive properties.

Uses.—By many practitioners sarsaparilla is considered to possess no remedial properties; by others it is regarded as a medicine of great efficacy. Considering that more than 100,000 lbs. of it are annually consumed in this country, the number of those who entertain the latter opinion cannot be small. It has been justly remarked by Mr. Lawrence, [Lectures on Surgery, in the Lond. Med. Gaz vol. v. p. 770.] that physicians have no confidence in it, and surgeons a great deal. I think that this fact is readily explained by the circumstance that physicians are much less frequently called in to prescribe for those forms of disease in the treatment of which surgeons have found sarsaparilla so efficacious.

Many practitioners have doubted or denied its remedial activity on what, it must be admitted, are very plausible grounds; viz., that the root possesses very little taste and no smell; that, by the ordinary mode of using it, it produces very slight, if any, obvious effects on the animal economy; and that it has failed in their hands to relieve or cure diseases in which others have asserted they found it effectual. They are, therefore, disposed to refer any improvement of a patient's health, under the long-continued use of sarsaparilla, either to natural changes in the constitution, or to the influence of the remedial means with which the sarsaparilla was conjoined. But I would observe, that hitherto no experiments have been made to ascertain what effects the long-continued employment of sarsaparilla may give rise to in the system of a healthy man; and we are not warranted in assuming that none would result, because none are observable from the employment of a few doses. Moreover, it is to be remembered that some of our most powerful poisons prove the most efficacious remedies when given in such small doses that they excite no other obvious effect on the system than the removal of morbid symptoms. Witness the beneficial influence of the minute doses of arsenious acid in lepra. Furthermore, no one has ascribed to sarsaparilla the power of a specific, and its warmest advocates admit its occasional failure. But so often has it been found, that various diseases, which had resisted all other tried remedial means, and were gradually increasing, became stationary, and afterwards subsided, under the use of sarsaparilla, that a large majority of British surgeons, including the most eminent of the present day, have been compelled to admit its therapeutic power.

As no obvious relationship exists between its known physiological effects and its apparent therapeutic agency, an argument has been raised against its medicinal activity, on the ground that we cannot explain its methodus medendi; but, for the same reason, we might refuse to admit the power of cinchona to cure ague. Mr. Lawrence [Op. cit. p. 769.] justly observes that, although we cannot point out the manner in which a remedy "operates, we are not, on that account, to withhold our confidence in its power. It is enough for us, in medical science, to know that certain effects take place. In point of fact, we are in many cases unable to distinguish the modus operandi of medicines—the manner in which their influence is produced." The most plausible explanation of the agency of alterative medicines is that offered by Müller, [Physiology, vol. i. pp. 59 and 363.] and which I have before had occasion to notice (see vol. i. p. 137). It assumes that these remedies cause changes in the composition of the nutritive fluids (the chyle and blood), and thereby produce slight chemical alterations in organs morbidly changed in composition, by which already existing affinities are annulled, new ones induced, and the vital principle enabled to effect the further restoration and cure. This hypothesis may be used to explain the remedial influence of sarsaparilla.

Sarsaparilla has been found especially serviceable in the following maladies:—

1. In inveterate venereal disease.—It is beneficial principally when the malady is of long continuance, and the constitution is enfeebled and emaciated, either by the repeated attacks of the disease, or by the use of mercury. In such cases it is, as Sir William Fordyce [Medical Observations and Inquiries, vol. i. p. 169.] correctly observed, "the great restorer of appetite, flesh, colour, strength, and vigour." When the disease resists, or is aggravated by, the use of mercury, sarsaparilla evinces its most salutary powers. It is given to relieve venereal pains of a rheumatic character; to remove venereal eruptions; to promote the healing of ulcers of the throat; and to assist in the cure when the bones are affected. In recent chancre, or bubo, it is of little use; nor does it appear to possess the least power of preventing secondary symptoms. We cannot ascribe to it "the same anti-syphilitic properties—that is, the same power of arresting or curing the venereal disease—that experience warrants us in attributing to mercury." [Lawrence, op. cit. p. 769; see, also, Mr. Pearson's Observations on teh Effects of various Articles of the Materia Medica in the Cure of Lues Venera, p. 39, 1800.] Sarsaparilla is sometimes given alone, but more frequently with other remedies: as with stimulating diaphoretics (mezereon, sassafras, and guaiacum), or with mercurials in small or alterative doses, or with acids (especially the nitric), or with alkaline substances (as potash or lime), or with iodine or with the bitter tonics. It is difficult to lay down concise rules to guide us in the selection of these adjuncts. In venereal pains and eruptions, sudorifics, the copious use of warm diluents and warm clothing, are especially applicable, and should be conjoined with sarsaparilla. In scrofulous constitutions, with enlarged glands, it will be for the most part advisable to avoid the use of mercury. In such I have seen the alkalies most serviceable. When extreme debility is present, the bitter tonics and nitric acid are often added to sarsaparilla with benefit. When the periosteum is affected, iodide of potassium should be conjoined.

2. In chronic rheumatism sarsaparilla is often advantageously conjoined with powerful sudorifics and anodynes (as opium or hyoscyamus), especially when any suspicion exists as to the venereal origin of the disease.

3. In obstinate skin diseases benefit is frequently obtained by the use of sarsaparilla. Its employment is not confined to cutaneous affections of one particular elementary form, since it is given with good effect in papular, vesicular, pustular, and tubercular skin diseases, of a chronic kind, when they occur in enfeebled and emaciated constitutions. Though, in these cases, its value principally depends on its tonic and alterative effects, its diaphoretic operation is to be encouraged by the use of diluents, warm clothing, &c.

4. In cachectic conditions of the system generally, sarsaparilla may be given, often with the best effects, and never with any ill consequences, save that of producing slight nausea. Indeed, one of the great advantages of sarsaparilla over many other alteratives and tonics, is, that although it may fail in doing good, it never does any harm beyond that of now and then causing slight disorder of stomach. In chronic abscesses, attended with profuse discharge, diseases of the bones, obstinate ulcers, chronic pulmonary affections accompanied with great wasting of the body, enlarged glands, and various other maladies connected with a depraved state of the system, sarsaparilla is often a very useful medicine.

Administration.—Sarsaparilla is administered in substance, and in the form of infusion, decoction, extract, and syrup.

1. PULVIS ULVIS SARSAE; Powdered Sarsaparilla.—The ordinary dose of this is from half a drachm to one or two drachms. Half an ounce frequently nauseates, and in some cases gives rise to vomiting. Powder of Jamaica sarsaparilla is to be preferred to that of other varieties. It is redder than that of the Honduras kind, and produces a much less intense blue colour when rubbed with water and tincture of iodine. I have been informed that some druggists employ, in the preparation of the powder, the roots from which the extract has been prepared. This fraud may be detected by the powder being almost devoid of taste, macerating it, in water, and carefully comparing the infusion with one prepared from an unadulterated sample. The microscope might sometimes be carefully employed to detect adulterations of powdered sarsaparilla. The presence of foreign starch grains would indicate the presence of some other vegetable in the suspected powder.

[2. INFUSUM SARSAPARILLAE [U. S.].—Take Sarsaparilla, bruised, an ounce; Boiling Water a pint. Digest it for two hours in a covered vessel or strain, or by displacement.]

3. DECOCTUM SARSAE, L. E.; Decoctum Sarsaparillae, D.; Decoction of Sarsaparilla.—(Sarsa, sliced [in chips, E.], ℥v [℥ij, D.]; Boiling Water Oiv [Ojss, D.]. Boil down to two pints, and strain. ["The product should measure a little more than a pint," D.])—An objection has been taken to this, as well as to all preparations of sarsaparilla made by boiling, that the heat employed volatilizes or decomposes the active principle of the root. "An infusion of sarsaparilla," says Soubeiran, [Nouv. Traité de Pharm. t. ii. p. 108.] "which is odorous and sapid, loses both its odour and taste by boiling for a few minutes: these changes speak but little in favour of the decoction. On the other hand, it is known that the fibrous parts of vegetables always give less soluble matters to water, when treated by decoction; and if it be added that sarsaparilla is completely exhausted by hot water, I cannot see what advantages the decoction can possess over preparations made by other methods." Without denying the injurious effects of long boiling, and, therefore, the superiority of preparations made without it, I cannot admit that either the decoction or extract of sarsaparilla is inert. No objection, however, exists to the substitution of an infusion for a decoction. But it is advisable to employ a somewhat larger quantity of the root, and to have it crushed before macerating it. The proportions of root and water, in the above preparation, are such that one ounce of the decoction contains the extractive of one drachm only of the root. Hence the extract or syrup is usually conjoined.

Mr. Jacob Bell [Pharmaceutical Journal, vol. i. p. 55, 1841.] objects to taking out the roots after maceration, in order to bruise them, on the ground that by this process the wood may absorb a larger portion of the virtues of the bark in return for the inert starch which it gives out.

An infusion or decoction of Jamaica sarsaparilla usually produces little or no blue colour with tincture of iodine; whereas the corresponding preparations of Honduras sarsaparilla (the kind usually met with, cut in small split lengths, in the shops) becomes bluish black on the addition of a solution of iodine. The dose of Decoctum Sarsae is f℥iv to f℥viij three or four times daily.

4. DECOCTUM SARSAE COMPOSITUM, L. E.; Decoctum Sarsaparillae Compositum, D. [U. S.]; Compound Decoction of Sarsaparilla.—(Decoction of Sarsaparilla, boiling hot, Oiv; Sassafras sliced and bruised, Guaiacum-wood shavings, Liquorice-root bruised, of each ℨx; Mezereon [bark of the root], ℨiij [℥ss, E.]. Boil for a quarter of an hour and strain.—The Dublin College orders of Sarsaparilla Root, sliced, ℥ij; Sassafras Root in chips, Guaiacum wood turnings, Liquorice Root bruised, of each ℨj; Mezereon root-bark ℨj; Boiling Water Oiss. Digest for one hour, then boil for ten minutes, cool and strain. The product should measure a little more than a pint.—[The U. S. Pharm, orders of Sarsaparilla, sliced and bruised, six ounces; Bark of Sassafras root sliced, Guaiacum wood rasped, Liquorice root bruised, each an ounce; Mezereon, sliced, three drachms; Water, four pints. Boil for a quarter of an hour, and strain.])—This preparation is an imitation of the celebrated Lisbon Diet Drink. The objections made to the use of ebullition in preparing the simple decoction apply equally to the present preparation. The additions are for the most part valueless. The guaiacum-wood is useless, water not being able to dissolve the resin. The volatile oil contained in the sassafras-wood is in part dissipated by the boiling. The mezereum, an active agent, is used in such small quantity that it can confer but little medicinal power. Moreover, these acids are apt to disorder the stomach. The liquorice is employed merely to communicate flavour. An improvement in the present formula would be to omit the guaiacum, to increase the quantity of sarsaparilla and mezereum, to substitute maceration for decoction, and to add oil of sassafras. The dose of the officinal preparation is from f℥iv to f℥vj three or four times a day. The syrup or extract is usually conjoined with it. During its use the skin should be kept warm.

A Liquor Sarsae compositus concentratus is usually kept in the shops for the extemporaneous preparation of the compound decoction of Sarsaparilla.

5. SYRUPUS SARSAE, L. E.; Syrupus Sarsaparillae; Syrup of Sarsaparilla.— (Sarsa lb iijss; Distilled Water Cong. iij; Sugar ℥xij; Rectified Spirit f℥ij. Boil the sarsa, in two gallons of the water, down to one gallon; pour off the liquor, and strain it while hot. Again boil the sarsa in the remaining water down to one-half. Evaporate the mixed liquors to two pints, and dissolve the sugar in them. Lastly, when cold, add the Spirit, L.—The Edinburgh College orders of Sarsa, in chips, ℥xv; Boiling Water Cong. j; Pure Sugar ℥xv.)—Simonin [Journ. de Pharm. xx. 110.] has successfully prepared the syrup by the percolation method.

This I conceive to be a very unnecessary preparation; for, as the late Dr. A. T. Thomson [London Dispensatory, 9th edit.] justly observes, "it can be much better and more easily supplied by rubbing up a few grains of the extract with some simple syrup." It is, however, frequently prescribed as an adjunct to the decoction. Prepared with Jamaica sarsaparilla, it is not liable to ferment, and its flavour is somewhat agreeable, being very analogous to that of West India molasses. Mr. Brande [Dict. of Mat. Med.] says that, to be an effective form of sarsaparilla, it ought to be of such strength that one ounce is equal to a pint of the simple decoction. Of this, f℥ss or fℨvj may be taken two or three times a day, diluted with about two parts of water. A few drops of solution of potassa sometimes prevent its disagreement with the stomach.

The Syrup of Sarsaparilla of the United States Pharmacopoeia is intended to represent the famous French Sirop de Cuisinier. It is prepared with proof spirit, which extracts the acrid principle of the root without taking up the inert fecula; and the tincture being evaporated, to get rid of the alcohol, is made into syrup. By this means the long-continued boiling is avoided. As the editors of the United States Dispensatory speak most confidently of the remedial value of this preparation, I subjoin the formula for its preparation, taken from the American Pharmacopoeia:—

Compound Syrup of Sarsaparilla [Syrupus Sanaparillae Compositus], U. S.—"Sarsaparilla, bruised, lb ij; Guaiacum wood, rasped, ℥iij; Red Roses, Senna, Liquorice root, bruised, each ℥ij; Oil of Sassafras, Oil of Anise, each ♏v; Oil of Partridge-berry [(Gaultheria produmbens, an astringent aromatic] ♏ij; Sugar lb viij; Diluted Alcohol Ox [wine measure]. Macerate the sarsaparilla, guaiacum wood, roses, senna, and liquorice root, in the diluted nlcohol for fourteen days; then express and filter through paper. Evaporate the tincture, by means of a water-bath, to four pints and a-half; then add the sugar, and dissolve it so as to form a syrup. With this, when cold, mix the oils previously triturated, with a small quantily of syrup." The dose is f℥ss (equivalent to somewhat less than ℨj of the root), taken three or four times a day.

A Syrupus Sarsae compositus is usually kept in the shops.

6. EXTRACTUM SARSAE LIQUIDUM, L.; Extractum Sarsae fluidum, E.; Extraction Sarsaparillae fluidum, D. [U. S.]; Fluid Extract of Sarsaparilla, Offic.—(Sarsa lb iijss; Distilled Water Cong. v; Rectified Spirit f℥ij, L.—Sarsa, in chips, lb j; Boiling Water Ovj, E.—Sarsaparilla lb j; Boiling Water Oviij; Rectified Spirit as much as is sufficient, D.—Boil the sarsa in three gallons of water down to twelve pints; pour off the liquor, and strain while hot. Again boil the sarsa in the remaining water to half, and strain. Evaporate the mixed liquors to f℥xviij, and when the extract has become cold add the spirit to it, L.—"Digest the root for two hours in four pints of the water; take it out, bruise it, replace it in the water, and boil for two hours; filter and squeeze out the liquid; boil the residuum in the remaining two pints of water, and filter and squeeze out this liquor also; evaporate the united liquors to the consistence of thin syrup; add, when the product is cool, as much rectified spirit as will make in all sixteen fluidounces; filter. This fluid extract may be aromatized at will with various volatile oils or warm aromatics," E. [The U. S. Pharm. orders of Sarsaparilla, sliced and bruised, sixteen ounces; Liquorice root bruised, Root of Sassafras bruised, each two ounces; Mezereon, sliced, six drachms; Sugar, twelve ounces; Diluted Alcohol, eight pints. Macerate all of the ingredients together, excepting the sugar, for fourteen days; then express and filter. Evaporate the liquid, by means of a water-bath, to twelve fluidounces; add the sugar to it while still hot; and remove it from the bath as soon as the sugar is dissolved.])

In this country, Jamaica sarsaparilla is preferred for the preparation of the extract; and next to this the Lima sort. If Honduras, or any other mealy sarsaparilla be employed, the product contains a large quantity of starch-gum. Extract of Jamaica sarsaparilla, when rubbed on white paper or porcelain, exhibits a reddish tint not observable in the extract of the Honduras kind. The flavour and odour are characters which assist in distinguishing well-prepared extract. Rubbed up with water, it is almost completely soluble, and the solution, which should be clear, by standing scarcely deposits anything. The dilute solution should not remain blue on the addition of a solution of iodine. But extract prepared from a mealy sarsaparilla does not completely dissolve in water, and yields a turbid liquor, which becomes dark blue on the addition of a solution of iodine.

In England the fibrils or beard of Jamaica sarsaparilla are preferred to both root and rhizome (chump). They contain less starch and woody fibre than the latter, and they yield a greater proportion of extract.

The quantity of extract obtained from Jamaica sarsaparilla has already been alluded to (see ante, p. 270). The following table is from the papers of Thubeuf:—[Journ. de Pharmacie, t. xiv. p. 701; and t. xviii. p. 157.]

6 lbs. of Sarsaparillayielded of Extract.
Roots cleaned and deprived of rhizomeRed Jamaica sarsaparilla℥xxj, ℨij.
Red sarsaparilla of the Coast (Costa Rica?)℥xxj, ℨij.
Vera Cruz sarsaparilla℥xvij, ℨvij.
Caraccas sarsaparilla℥xv, ℨiij.
Honduras sarsaparilla℥xiv,
Lisbon℥xiij, ℨiss.
Rhizome cut thin and bruised℥ix, ℨiijss.

Extract made by the evaporation of an infusion prepared by the displacement process is devoid of starch, and is consequently richer in the active principles. By the avoidance of ebullition, the destruction or dissipation of volatile matters is less likely to be effected.

In effecting the evaporation of the decoction or infusion, steam heat should be employed; and the temperature of the liquid should not be allowed to exceed 212° F.

When the concentrated decoction (especially of the Honduras kind) is allowed to cool, as at night, a kind of fermentation is readily set, and gas is copiously evolved.

Extract of sarsaparilla, when it has been kept for some time, frequently becomes covered by cubical crystals of chloride of potassium.

It deserves notice that though smilacin is said to be soluble in boiling alcohol and ether, yet I find that the extract of Jamaica sarsaparilla yields but little to these liquids.

Extract of sarsaparilla is declared by many writers to be an inert and useless preparation; but the assertions are, for the most part, founded rather on theoretical than practical considerations. I have extensively used it, and believe that, when properly prepared from Jamaica or Lima sarsaparilla, it is a most valuable and efficient remedy; and the enormous quantity of it which is consumed by the profession generally (including some of the most eminent of its members), is a proof that many others entertain a similar opinion of it. It is given in doses of from half a drachm to two or three drachms three or four times a day. It should be rubbed down with water, and flavoured by the tincture of orange-peel, or by some volatile oil (as the oil of cloves, allspice, lemon, or cinnamon). Alkalies render its flavour somewhat disagreeable, though they frequently increase greatly its remedial powers.

7. EXTRACTUM SARSAE COMPOSITUM; Compound Extract of Sarsaparilla.—Not in any Pharmacopoeia, though kept in the shops. It is made by mixing, with extract of sarsaparilla, an extract prepared by evaporating a decoction of mezereon bark, liquorice root, and guaiacum shavings, to which a small quantity of oil of sassafras has been added. This preparation is employed as a convenient substitute for the compound decoction of sarsaparilla. The dose of it, and the mode of exhibition, are the same as of the simple extract. Three-quarters of an ounce of the compound extract are equal to a pint of the compound decoction.

The Elements of Materia Medica and Therapeutics, Vol. II, 3th American ed., was written by Jonathan Pereira in 1853.

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