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Quillaiae Cortex. Br.

Botanical name:

Quillaiae Cortex. Br.

Quillaia Bark

"Quillaia Bark is the dried inner part of the bark of Quillaja Saponaria, Molina." Br. "The dried bark of Quillaja Saponaria Molina (Fam. Rosaceae), deprived of the periderm." N. F.

Quillaja, N.F; Soap-tree Bark; Soap Bark; Quillaia, Pharm. 1880; Panama Bark; Panama (Bois de), Fr. Cod.; Ecorce do Quillaya, Fr.; Seifenrinde, G.

The name of this genus is said to be derived from the popular name of the tree Quillay, which in turn comes from the Chilian word quillean, to wash.

Quillaja Saponaria Molina is a tree of moderate size, with alternate oval or oblong leaves having entire or slightly denticulate margins. Staminate and pistillate flowers grow on the same branch, are axillary, pedunculate, and without corolla. The calyx of the pistillate flower persists in fruit, and has its limb deeply divided into five oval acute segments. The bark is thick, the wood very hard. This tree was first described by the famous Abbe Giovanni Ignazio Molina in the Saggio sulla Storia naturale del Chili, published at Bologna, in 1782; second edition, 1810. (Translated into German, I. D. Brandis, Leipsic, 1786; into French, Gruvel, Paris, 1789; into English, London, 1809; also Middletown, Conn., 1880.) It is first noticed by systematic writers in the second (Gmelin's) edition of the Syst. Nat., tome ii, p. 767. The tree is a native of Peru and Chili, but is now cultivated in Northern Hindostan, where it is said to resist well the frosts of winter, and to be flourishing.

Properties.—Soap bark is officially described in the Br. as "in flat pieces, from three to eight millimetres thick, but varying considerably in length and width. Outer surface brownish-white, or, where the outer bark has been incompletely removed, reddish or blackish-brown, and longitudinally striated. Inner surface white or yellowish-white and smooth. Fracture splintery and laminated, the tangential surfaces of the lamina; often exhibiting glistening prismatic crystals of calcium oxalate. In transverse section, chequered with delicate radial and tangential lines; medullary rays four cells wide; numerous irregular groups of bast fibres of varying size; scattered starch grains from four to six microns in diameter. Powdered Quillaia Bark is strongly sternutatory; water vigorously shaken with it forms copious persistent froth. Odor not marked; taste astringent and acrid. Ash not more than 15 per cent." Br.

It is described in the N. F. IV as "in flat pieces of variable length, from 3 to 8 mm. in thickness, or in small chips; outer surface brownish-white, often with small patches of cork attached, otherwise nearly smooth; inner surface yellowish-white, nearly smooth, with occasional circular depressions, conical projections of transverse channels; fracture uneven and strongly fibrous, the laminae oblique to each other. Odor slight; taste acrid. The powder is strongly sternutatory, and contains calcium oxalate in monoclinic pyramids and prisms from 0.035 to 0.2 mm. in length. Quillaja yields not more than 10 per cent. of ash." N. F.

The fracture exhibits, when slightly magnified, glistening prismatic crystals. Quillaja bark is histologically distinguished and its powder recognizable, by the large and numerous prismatic calcium oxalate crystals, which are from 0.035 to 0.200 mm. long.

When bruised and macerated in water quillaja bark imparts to that liquid the property of frothing like soap when agitated. This has been found by Fleury, Jr., and Boutron-Chalard to be owing to the existence of a saponin in the bark. The bark contains neither tannic acid nor any bitter principle. The formula of saponin, given by Rochleder, was C32H54O18, and Schiaparelli agreed with him. Stütz, however (Ann. Ch. Ph., 218, 231), gives it as C19H30O10, and this is now accepted for the saponin of quillaja bark. Saponin is slowly decomposed by dilute acids into sapogenin, C14H22O2, and a glucose. R. Robert (Chem. Central., 1893, i, 32) gives a list of one hundred and forty plants which contain bodies of the saponin class. He arranges them under several formulas which seem to form an homologous series. Thus, C17H26O10 he terms Saponin I (senegin or quillaia sapotoxin); C18H28O10 is Saponin II (Schiedeberg's digitonin or saprorubrin); C19H30O10 is Saponin III (quillain or quillaiac acid); C20H32O10 is cyclamin, Paschki's digitoxin, or sarsaparill-saponin; C22H36O10 is sarsasaponin; C26H44O10 is parillin.

G. Melliers states that there is present in quillaja bark a carbohydrate which he has identified as saccharose. (P. J., Feb., 1901,161.)

Uses.—In diluted form quillaia saponin is irritant to all tissues, and when concentrated it kills by its local action both muscular and nervous tissue. As was first discovered by H. Kohler, when injected into the leg of the frog in minute quantity it produces not only motor weakness but a rapid loss of sensibility, so that reflex movements can no longer be caused by irritating the foot. The paralysis seems to affect especially the peripheral nerve endings, since irritation of the nerve trunk, although incapable of causing contraction of the muscles supplied by it, elicits pain, cries and other evidences of sensibility. Muscles with which saponin comes in contact become unexcitable and pass into a condition resembling post mortem rigidity. According to Kohler, this occurs without change in the microscopic structure, but Przybyszewski found that in the neighborhood of the injection where the saponin was abundant the muscles underwent structural changes similar to those of myositis. In the frog saponin produces not only local symptoms, but after a time widespread paralysis, with final arrest of the cardiac movements. Given internally to mammals it causes violent gastro-intestinal irritation, progressive loss of power, disturbance of respiration and circulation, and usually clonic and tonic convulsions, which are probably secondary to the perturbations of the cardiac and respiratory functions.

Injected into the circulation in rabbits and dogs, according to the researches of Przybyszewski, it causes fall of the arterial pressure, with great disturbance of the respiration and finally cardiac arrest. According to Kohler, the action of the drug upon the heart is antagonistic to that of digitalin, so that the application of sufficient quantities of saponin to the frog's heart which has been arrested by the local application of digitalin will bring about a return of pulsations, while, on the other hand, digitalin is capable of putting aside cardiac arrest from saponin. As has been shown by Ransom (D. M. W., xxvii), saponin has a powerfully destructive action upon the red blood corpuscles, due to an extraordinary tendency which it has to unite with their cholesterin. The action of saponin upon the respiratory centres is very great, the injection of large doses being followed by immediate arrest of respiration, the heart continuing to beat for some time. As it exists in agrostemma seeds, saponin has several times caused death in the human species. The symptoms have been headache, vertigo, vomiting, hot skin, rapid feeble pulse, progressive muscular weakness, and finally coma. Following out the experiments of Kobert, Ulenburg and Keppler tried saponin as a local anesthetic, but found that it was not practically convenient for use; nor were the essays of Kobert with the glucoside as an antipyretic more encouraging.

According to Kobert (Gaz. Med. de Paris, xiv, 2, 1883), saponin of commerce is composed chiefly of two substances, quillaic acid and sapotoxin. For method of preparation, see T. G., vol. ii, 540. The quillaic acid is said to be extraordinarily poisonous, three-one-thousandths of a grain for each pound of body weight injected into the veins of a cat being sufficient to cause death, although thirty grains administered by the mouth are safely borne. Lohmann (P. J., 73, 477) affirms that chemically pure saponin is not injurious when taken by the stomach.

Both the active principles, quillaiac acid and sapotoxin, of quillaja bark are violent local irritants. In a case of poisoning by quillaiac acid (T. G., xi) the symptoms were violent vomiting, with epigastric pain, increased diuresis and cystic irritation, accompanied by cold sweats, feeble pulse, threatened syncope, and other evidences of collapse.

Sapotoxin, when in sufficient concentration and amount, is a fatal poison to all forms of protoplasm. Given to the lower animals in very large toxic dose it produces violent convulsions with death from failure of the respiration. When in smaller quantities it causes violent dysenteric diarrhea, with ecchymotic hyperaemia, oedema, and necrotic destruction of the intestinal mucous membrane. The smallest lethal doses are said to produce great weakness, death occurring- after some days through collapse and general paralysis without intestinal symptoms. In such cases, when the drug is administered hypodermically, a severe hemorrhagic inflammation occurs at the place of injection. Fatty preparations of sapotoxin applied to the sound skin produce redness and burning with, after repeated applications, painful pustulation. Both sapotoxin and quillaiac acid have the power of breaking down the red blood corpuscles, but it is not apparent that such destruction plays an important role in poisoning by these substances except at the point of injection after hypodermic use.

On account of the active principles of soap bark being the same as those of senega, and to some extent of sarsaparilla, Kobert has proposed the use of quillaja as a cheap substitute for these much used drugs. As a stimulating expectorant he uses a decoction (five parts to two hundred) in doses of a tablespoonful for the adult. As a substitute for syrup of senega Power suggests the syrup of quillaja, prepared by adding four parts of the fluidextract (made by the process for fluidextract of arnica root) to sufficient syrup to make twenty-five parts. (P. J., Oct., 1886.)

Quillaja is much used in the arts for washing silk, cloth, and other fabrics, for which soap would not be suitable. It is an emulsifying agent, but unless ordered by the physician should never be used by the pharmacist in the preparation of emulsions, on account of its active medicinal properties.

It has also been largely used in the production of foam on non-alcoholic carbonated beverages. This use has been criticized as harmful and it is now prohibited by law in many jurisdictions.

Off. Prep.—Liquor Picis Carbonis, Br.; Tinctura Quillajae, N. F. (Br.).


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



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