Jump to Navigation

We've moved! The new address is http://www.henriettes-herb.com - update your links and bookmarks!

Chondrus. U. S. Chondrus [Irish Moss]

"The dried plant of Chondrus crispus (Linne) Stackhouse or of Gigartina mamillosa (Goodenough et Woodward) J. Agardh (Fam. Gigartinaceae) " U. S.

Carrageen, Caragahen, Fucus Crispus, Pigwiacis, Killeen, Pearl Moss; Carragheen; Carragaheen; Carrageen ou Mousse perlee, Fr. Cod.; Mousse Marine perlee, Fr.; Carrageen, P. G.; Irländisches Moos, Perimoos, Knorpeltang, G; Fuco carageo, Musco d'lrlanda, Fuco crispo. It.; Caragaen, Musgo marino perlado, Sp.

Chondrus crispus grows upon rocks and stones on the coast of Europe, and is especially abundant on the southern and western coasts of Ireland, where it is collected. It is also a native of the United States, and is gathered largely on the coast of Massachusetts, below Boston, where it is partly torn from the rocks and partly collected upon the beach, on which it is thrown up during storms. It is prepared for market 'by spreading it out high on the beach, to dry and bleach in the sun. (Aug. P. Melzar, Proc. A. Ph. A., 1860.) For elaborate accounts of the plant, of its distribution on the sea coast of Massachusetts, and of the mode of gathering and curing, see U. S. Agricultural Report, 1866; also A. J. P., 1868, 417; 1895, 596; 1899, 483. Henry Kraemer witnessed the methods pursued on the Massachusetts coast in the collection of Irish moss at Scituate, which appears to be a particularly favorable situation. The season for collection begins late in May and continues to September, June and July being the best months. The moss at present is only found on rocks that are from 15 to 20 feet below the tide, hence women no longer engage in its collection. The men go out in their sail boats or dories at half tide, and come in at half flood. With their long rakes they scrape the moss off the rocks, collecting thus about 50 pounds to the boat, the total for the season at Scituate being about 10,000 pounds. The moss is spread out on the high beach for a week or so, the action of the sun and dew bleaching it. It is then enclosed in hogsheads, in which it is again saturated with sea water by rolling them in the marshes; after which it is again spread out and subjected to the bleaching process, this alternate treatment being repeated four or five times, until the product is of a yellowish or white color. The final drying is done in barns, where the moss is stored until it is packed in 100 lb. barrels at the end of the season. In the course of his journey he had opportunity to observe the Chondrus growing and gathered in different localities along the coast, and found it to consist chiefly, if not entirely, of Chondrus crispus. While it is stated in Dr. Farlow's "The Marine Algae of New England" that the closely resembling Gigartina mamillosa is common from Boston northward, Kraemer is inclined to believe that Chondrus crispus (L.), Lyngbye, is practically the only source of the American drug. (See Proc. Penn. Pharm. Assoc., 1899, 113-116.) Tunmann (Apoth. Zeit., 1909, pp. 91 and 151) has given an elaborate account of the morphology and composition of Chondrus.

Gigartina mamillosa Ag. resembles the true Irish moss, and, growing with it upon the rocks, is often gathered with it. It can, however, be at once distinguished by the numerous papillae which cover the surface and margins of the fronds and bear the fruit (cystocarps). In chemical and medicinal properties it is probably identical with C. crispus.

Irish moss when collected is washed and dried. It is probably sometimes bleached by the use of potassium permanganate and sodium thiosulphate by the same process as that used for bleaching sponge. Herr Schack was led to suspect this through discovering the presence of sulphurous acid in a German specimen. (Ph. Ztg., 1886, p. 87.) The presence of arsenic has been determined in some commercial lots, being caused, no doubt, by the impurities in the sulphur used for bleaching Chondrus. Some "faked" samples have yielded as much as 35 per cent. of ash which contained a large quantity of calcium sulphate. The gelatinizing value of specimens of this kind is about 60 per cent. below normal. In the fresh state it is of a purplish color, but, as found in the shops, is yellowish or yellowish-white, with occasionally purplish portions. It is officially described as:

"Entire plants more or less matted together, consisting of a slender stalk from which arises a series of dichotomously branching, more or less flattened segments, emarginate or deeply cleft at the tips; from 5 to 15 cm. in length, and 1 to 10 mm. in width; yellowish-white, translucent, frequently coated with a calcareous deposit which effervesces with hydrochloric acid; sometimes with fruit bodies or sporangia embedded near the apex of the segments (in C. crispus) or with sporangia borne on short tuberculated projections or stalks, more or less scattered over the upper portion of the segments (in G. mamillosa); somewhat cartilaginous; odor slight, seaweed like; taste mucilaginous, saline. Boil one part of Chondrus for about ten minutes with 30 parts of water, replacing the water lost by evaporation; the strained liquid forms a thick jelly upon cooling. When softened in cold water Chondrus becomes gelatinous and transparent, the thallus remaining nearly smooth and uniform and not swollen except slightly at the tips; a solution made by boiling 0.3 Gm. of the drug in 100 mils of water and filtering gives no precipitate on the addition of tannic acid T.S. (gelatin) , and when cold does not give a blue color on the addition of iodine T.S. (starch)."U. S.

It swells in cold water, but does not dissolve. Boiling water dissolves a large proportion of it, and the solution, if sufficiently concentrated, gelatinizes on cooling. Herberger found 79.1 per cent. of a so-called pectin (mucilage), and 9.5 of mucus, with fatty matter, free acids, chlorides, etc., but neither iodine nor bromine. Dupasquier discovered in it both of these elements, which had generally escaped attention in consequence of their reaction, as soon as liberated, upon the sodium sulphide resulting from the decomposition of the sodium sulphate of the moss when charred. (J. P. C., 3e ser., iii, 113.) The analysis made by Church in 1877 gave: mucilage, 55.4; water, 18.8; mineral matter, 14.2; albuminoids, 9.4; and cellulose, 2.2 per cent. The pectin Pereira thought peculiar, and proposed to call it carrageenin.

It is distinguished from gum by affording, when dissolved in water, no precipitate with alcohol; from starch, by not becoming blue with tincture of iodine; from pectin, by yielding no precipitate with lead acetate and from mucic acid by the action of nitric acid. Ch. Blondeau gives the name of goemine to a substance obtained by boiling carrageen (goemon, Fr.) for several hours in distilled water, and precipitating the mucilaginous liquid by alcohol. Flückiger, who analyzed this mucilage with care, found in it no sulphur, and only 0.88 per cent. of nitrogen. The drug itself yielded not more than 1.012 per cent. of nitrogen. (Pharmacographia, 2d ed., 748.) Haedicke, Bauer, and Tollens obtained, on extraction with water containing 0.6 per cent. of sulphuric acid, and further purification by alcohol, a small quantity of a crystalline compound which resembles galactose in its composition, in its action on polarized light, and in its behavior with nitric acid. On oxidation with nitric acid, the dry moss yields from 21.6 to 22.2 per cent. of mucic acid. Carrageenin is said to have been used as a substitute for acacia, under the name of imitation gum arabic; the latter occurs in three forms, white, light yellow, and yellow. They all have similar properties, swelling up like tragacanth when mixed with cold water, but not forming a clear solution unless the mixture be boiled, in this latter respect differing from tragacanth or albumen; iodine does not give a blue color, and alcohol does not precipitate the solution, even when 50 per cent. of it is added. It has mild adhesive properties. (E. C. Federer, Ph. Era, 1887, 146.) The mucilage of Irish moss has come into considerable use as an emulsifying agent. (Proc. A. Ph. A., 1887; A. J. P., 1888, 170.)

Uses.—Chondrus is nutritive and demulcent, and, being easy of digestion and not unpleasant to the taste, forms a useful article of diet in cases in which the farinaceous preparations, such as tapioca, sago, barley, etc., are usually employed. It has been particularly recommended in chronic pectoral affections, scrofulous complaints, dysentery, diarrhea, and disorders of the kidneys and bladder. It may be used in the form of decoction, made by boiling a pint and a half of water with half an ounce of the moss down to a pint. Sugar and lemon juice may usually be added to improve the flavor. Milk may be substituted for water when a more nutritious preparation is required. It is recommended to macerate the moss for about ten minutes in cold water before submitting' it to decoction. Any unpleasant flavor that it may have acquired from the contact with foreign substances is thus removed.

Dose, four drachms (15.5 Gm.).

Off. Prep.—Gelatinum Chondri, N. F.; Mucilago Chondri, N. F.


The Dispensatory of the United States of America, 1918, was edited by Joseph P. Remington, Horatio C. Wood and others.



Main menu 2