Abrus Precatorius. Jamaica licorice.
Description: Natural Order, Leguminosae. Genus ABRUS: Calyx campanulate, obsoletely four-lobed and four-toothed, upper lobe broadest and upper tooth bifid. Corollas with ovate vexilla. Stamens nine, monadelphous. Style short. Legume oblong, compressed, four to six seeded; seeds roundish. Twining shrubs, with abruptly pinnate leaves, racemose inflorescence, pedicels in alternate clusters. A. PRECATORIUS: Bark smooth. Leaves alternate, two to six inches long; leaflets opposite, sub-sessile, linear-oblong, smooth, entire, obtuse, eight to fifteen-paired. Stipules lanceolate. Racemes axillary, solitary, erect, seamed, apex curved. Flowers numerous, short-stalked, large, pale pink; vexillum ascending, as long as the wings; wings falcate, spreading. Ovary minute, hid in the tube of stamens, hairy. Style very short. Legume rhomboidal, protuberant at the seeds, divided into cells by a transverse membrane. A native of the East Indies, but now common in Africa and tropical America.
Properties and Uses: The root and leaves are quite similar to the glycyrrhiza glabra, and furnish an extract much like our common black licorice. The plant is in popular repute in Jamaica for the treatment of all forms of pulmonary irritation, and the leaves are used in poultices. No doubt the article deserves more attention by the profession. The seeds are a pretty tough article of Egyptian food, though some accuse them of being narcotic.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com