Asimina triloba. Papaw.
PART USED.—The seeds of Asimina triloba Dunal.
Natural Order Anonaceae, Tribe Unoneae.
BOTANICAL DESCRIPTION.—Papaw grows most common in the Ohio Valley. It is found rarely in western New York extending through central and eastern Pennsylvania and south to Florida, west to eastern Kansas. It is most common in the states bordering the Ohio river and in Tennessee and Arkansas.
The plant is usually a shrub six to ten feet high and generally grows in open woods or in the borders of the woods, a woodland pasture, or any rich, shady soil, especially the rich bottoms are favorite habitats of the plant. In such situations it sometimes reaches a height of thirty feet and becomes a small tree a foot or more in thickness.
The flowers are developed in the spring, the latter part of April, and are bourne, solitary, or sometimes in pairs, from the axes of the lower leaf-scars of the last year's branches. They are always on the new wood, hence near the end of the branch, and from one to three inches below the tips, and there are generally two to four flowers on each branch. At the time the plant blossoms the leaves are but partly expanded. [The pictures of Asimina in both Baillon's History of Plants and Gray's Genera represent the leaves far more advanced than they are when the plant is in bloom around Cincinnati. When the flowers begin to expand the leaf-bud is just beginning to unfold, and when the flowers have mostly fallen the leaves are developed but very little. They are produced from the termined bud of the branch, the opening bud being bent to one side.
The flowers are bell-shaped and pendant, (see plate xxxiii) and have a color, rare among flowers, which is a dull brown. The penduncle is a little over half an inch long, and is curved downward. The calyx is of three concave acute sepals, lying close to the petals, and about one-half their length. The calyx and penduncle are green, and covered with a short rusty pubescence.
The petals are six in two circles, of three each; the exterior petals are much larger then the inner and longer. When the petals expand from the bud, they are only partially grown and are of a green color. They grow rapidly, however, and turn darker and darker until they become a dark brown, or more correctly, a dark wine purple color. The three inner petals are marked with a lighter band near the base.
The stamens are very numerous and inserted in a globular head on the enlarged receptacle. They are packed very densely and form apparently a globular ball in the center of the flower. [A close examination will show them to be spirally arranged. Each stamen has two anther cells attached extrorsely to the broad connective which produces at the top a dilated glandular tip. So closely packed are the stamens that the glandular tips are all that is seen of them by looking into the flower.] The pistils are naturally six, usually three to five, bourne on the summit of the receptacle and protruding through the globular mass of stamens.
The leaves are when mature, nine to twelve inches long, obovate, smooth, veiny, and with entire margins. They are acute at apex and taper very regularly at the base to a short leaf-stalk, and are arranged somewhat in two rows along the sides of the branch. When bruised the leaves have an unpleasant odor. [Boys often chew the leaves of the papaw in imitation of tobacco chewers, as the saliva is colored brown by chewing them.]
But few of the flowers are fertile and produce fruit, but often such as are fertile bear two to five fruit attached to outer edge of the receptacle and hanging almost pendant.
DESCRIPTION OF THE FRUIT.—The skin of unripe, full-grown fruit is green and covered with glaucous bloom. The green fruit are very firm breaking with a brittle fracture, which usually intersects a seed, from which the unripe flesh peels smoothly, disclosing the brightly polished dark brown seed. The flesh of the unripe fruit is green next to the skin, and gradually changes to white until the green color disappears about the eighth of an inch from the surface. The broken unripe papaw has a fetid odor which is sickening to all persons reminding somewhat of the Ailanthus, and the taste of the flesh is nauseating and unbearable.
The mature fruit is nearly cylindrical, rounded at both ends [We have noticed a very large number of the fruit, and have seen none pointed at the apex as shown in Gray's Genera, (plate 27).] and curved, as shown in our figure. The stem is attached obliquely at the apex on the curved side. Owing, however to imperfectly developed seed, the fruit is often imperfect in shape and irregularly swollen.
Within, the perfect papaw contains two rows of seeds, imbedded in the flesh and arranged horizontal to the axis of the fruit. Each seed is enclosed in a pulpy membranous covering, known to botanists as an aril. They are about an inch in width and one-fourth an inch in thickness. The surface of the seed is of a smooth brown color, which becomes lighter upon drying. The seed contains a small embryo imbedded near the apex of a large, horny, runcinate albumen. [The runcinate albumen of the seed, shown in the third seed from the top in figure 122 is an important character of the entire natural order Anonaceae. Some of the ambiguous genera are distinguished from the Magnoliaceae by this character alone.] The irregular lobes of this is impressed on the surface of the seed giving it a rib-like marking. It is not unusual for a seed to fail to develop, (a black speck remains in the pulp, marking the position the seed would occupy,) and then the fruit is constricted at that part. As these imperfect seed occur in any location, the fruit is often irregularly swollen. The perfect fruit ranges from one and a half to two and a half inches in diameter and from three to five inches in length, although they are often of less size and occasionally larger. They weigh from four to twelve ounces; if less than this, they are imperfect. When the edible fruit ripens [Papaw eaters recognize two varieties of the fruit, the white and the yellow. The yellow papaw only is edible, but there is no known difference in the trees. White papaws retain their disagreeable odor until they decay; they do not turn yellow upon ripening, and will sicken those who highly relish the other fruit.], the green coloring matter changes to yellow, beginning at the surface, and the tough flesh softens from the skin inwardly. [This is the condition that persons who can barely eat them, prefer the fruit. The flavor has been compared with bananas to which there is perhaps a resemblance.] It becomes musty, then pasty and slippery, finally the skin turns black and the flesh assumes a semi-transparent nature in blotches and a brownish color, this being especially the case between the seed and the skin.
The original odor and taste disappear to be replaced by an ethereal flavor, peculiar in itself, but which is highly relished by persons who are fond of the fruit. They have when ripe a sweetish taste, which is often subacid owing to fermentation. [The papaw is a cultivated relish. Few persons who reach maturity without acquiring a fondness for them can endure their flavor in any stage.] They will ripen before, but only attain perfection after exposure to a severe frost. Ripe (black) papaws are wholesome, and can be eaten freely without producing any disarrangement of the normal functions, (see medical properties.) In cities like Cincinnati, where the shrub grows, the fruit in the last of September and the first of October is sold quite largely in the market, but is not shipped to other cities to any great extent.
COMMON NAMES.—In its native habitat the plant is known to the inhabitants as papaw, (sometimes spelt pawpaw,) a name given it from a fancied resemblance of the flavor of the fruit to that of the true "papaw" of the tropics. [The true papaw, Carica Papaya, is a native of tropical America, but has been introduced and now common, in both the Indies. Although an exogen it has an erect unbranched stem, ending in a tuft of large leaves, after the manner of a palm. The fruit when ripe is eight to ten inches long, and resembles a mellon. It contains an acrid milky juice, but is eaten with sugar by the natives. The name, "papaw," is of Indian (Hindoostan) origin, and was first applied to this fruit. In what manner it became attached to our species of Asimina is not positively known, but it was probably by negro slaves brought from the West Indies.]
We find this name applied by the first botanists and naturalists who mention the plant. The early French inhabitants of Louisiana, called the plant, Asiminer, (whence the botanical name for the genus.) [We do not know the derivation of this name. It was used by the early French, and Adanson who first applied it in botany gives "Canad" as its authority, probably deriving it from the Canadian French and refering to his source of information. Dr. Charles Rice has kindly given us the following notes on the subject: "Regarding the words Asimina and Monin I can give no certain information. Wittstein states (in his Etymol Botan. Worterbuch) that Asimina is a Canadian name. To me, there seems to be a curious coincidence between the two words, in so far that both can be interpreted as "refering to monkeys." Monin. is an obsolete French term for ape, monkey; the same occurs in Italian "monna" "monnino" (the word monna meaning also "good woman" and is supposed to be a contraction of madonna); Portugese "mouninu," etc. Now, simia is Latin for ape, and this has gone over into modern languages likewise, vir. French "simien" (as adjective) etc. Whether there is really an etymological connection between the simia and the "asiminer," I cannot say, but I mention the above as a curious fact."]
In old works the plant is called American Custard Apple, but we are satisfied that the name Custard Apple is never by country people given to the plant.
"Monin" is a name for the shrub we find in Baillon's work, but we are unable to learn that it is used anywhere else.
BOTANICAL HISTORY.—The papaw belongs to a family which is common in the tropics, but is represented in this country by the genus Asimina alone. Besides the plant under consideration, there are three other species in the United States, but they are confined to the extreme South, mostly in Florida, and are so rare as to be of little interest. [These species are Asimina grandiflora, Duna1; Asimina parviflora, Dunal; and Asimina pygmaea, Dunal.] This species is hence of much botanical interest, being the only northern representative of an otherwise tropical or semi-tropical order. [Dr. E. M. Hale contributes an article to a recent number (Oct. 10, 1886) of the Chicago Inter-Ocean headed as follows: "The Paw-paw, a northern tropical fruit, the sole survivor of the ante-glacial age."]
The earliest mention probably, of this plant, is in 1557, by the Portugese narrator who described the journey of De Soto in America. [De Soto and his men met this fruit, according to the narrator, in the summer of 1541. The narrative was published in Portugese in 1557, by a gentleman who claims to have accompanied DC Soto on his four years' exploration of southern United States. The name of the author is not known: he is only called a "gentleman of Elvas."
Hakluyt published an English translation of this narrative in 1609, and W. B. Rye's reprint (1851) of Hakluyt's translation forms the 9th volume of the publications of the Hakluyt Society of London.
Of Asimina the narrator says: "It is a fruit like unto peares riall, growing on a plant like ligoacan, and having a varie good smell and an excellent taste. It is planted by the natives through all the countrie."—Pickering.]
The shrub was collected by three explorers in the early part of the eighteenth century; Clayton [See note * page 30, vol. ii.], who described it in his Flora Virginica (1739) [Flora Virginica, 1739, p.83. Described under the old Linnaean name "Anona foliis ovali-lanceolatis glabris nitidis planis." The synonyms given are mostly incorrect.]; Catesby [See note * page 30, vol. ii.], who also described it, and illustrated it with a page engraving [Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, Mark Catesby, London, 1743, vol. ii., plate 85.
Catesby describes it under the name "Anona fructu lutescente, laevi, scrotum Arietis referente." His plate 85 is a fair representation of the shrub, inaccurately however showing flowers, mature leaves and ripe fruit on same branch. The flowers are not the right color, being greenish white instead of brownish purple, and the fruit is unnaturally colored a deep golden yellow.]; and Bartram [See note * page 293, vol. i.], who sent it to Collinson [See note * page 30, vol. ii. Collinson was not the author of a work on botany, but he was an ardent cultivator of rare plants and left manuscript notes. It is one of these notes that is authority for the statement that the shrub was introduced in 1736.], and was the first (1736) to introduce it into England.
It was mentioned in several works of natural history in the last century. [Brickwell, (1743,) states inaccurately, as follows: "The Papaw tree is not large, being only about eight or ten inches in diameter, but has the broadest leaves of any tree I ever saw in the woods of Carolina. It bears an apple about the bigness of a hen's egg, which contains a large stone in it; when it is ripe it is of a beautiful yellow color, and is soft and sweet as any fruit can be. The planters make puddings, tarts, and many other dishes of the fruit of this tree."
Kalm who evidently only knew of the fruit by hearsay, as he did not travel where it grows, incorrectly refers to it as "Annona muricata, the Custard apple."]
The early collectors described the plant under the generic name Anona [Anona fructu lutescente, laevi, scrotum Arietis referente.—Catesby. Anona foliis lanceolatis, fructibus trifidis.—Linnaeus. This name, Anona, is of native (East India) origin, and as stated by Linnaeus when he applied it to this genus. is of unknown meaning.] which had, from the earliest times, been applied to a large family of plants of the tropics, that produces the Custard Apples, [The Custard Apple is a kind of family name applied to the fruit of a number of species of Anona found m the West Indies and Tropical America. The most common are the Anona muricata or Sour Sop, and the Anona squamoso or Sweet Sop. These fruits are hard and scaly outside, but the pulp is soft and has a pleasant flavor and is much esteemed, especially by the negroes. It contains numerous small seeds which make it disagreeable local.] and Linnaeus adopted the name (spelling it Annona); [The Linnaean genus Anona is still retained, greatly changed, however, by the removal of many of the original species and the addition of newly discovered ones. It comprises about fifty species native, excepting a very few, of the tropics of America. The flowers are quite analogous to those of Asimina, and Linnaeus, who drew his characters mostly from the flowers, naturally included both in the same genus. The fruit, however, is widely different, consisting of numerous, fleshy, coalescent ovaries, something of the nature of a pine apple.] he called the shrub Anona triloba, taking the specific name from the pistils. [The name "triloba" is not accurate, as instead of having a three-lobed ovary the flower has three (or more) distinct pistils. The name has caused, chiefly in old European works, a wrong conception of the nature of the fruit, and we find such terms as "trifid-fruited Custard apple" applied to it. Each ovary that develops forms a separate fruit, which is not lobed at all.] Under this name it is known in all the early works, to the beginning of the present century. Adanson, * 1763 [Families des Plantes, M. Adanson, Paris, 1763, vol. ii., p. 365.] defined and named the genus Asimina, but his work, being only a description of families, he did not apply a specific name to the plant.
Michaux, [It is evident that Michaux acted independently of Adanson's previous work as he states. "I have deemed it preferable to establish this as a new genus, rather than to refer it to related ones, which are as yet doubtful."] in 1803 [Flora Boreali-americana, Andreas Michaux, Paris, 1803, vol. i., p. 329.], separated the plant from the genus Anona, calling the shrub Orchidocarpum arietinum, [It is well that this absurd name was never adopted, it means literally "testicle-shaped fruit like a ram's."] but his name was not used by any other writer, as a few years afterwards Dunal, ** 1817 [Monographie de la famille des Anonacees, M. F. Dunal, Paris, 1817, p. 83.], published an elaborate revision of the entire family of Anonaceae, referring this plant to Adanson's genus, with Linnaeus' specific name as Asimina triloba, which name most writers have since adopted and used.
In 1807 [Synopsis Plantarum, C. H. Persoon, Paris, 1807, part 2nd, p. 95.], Persoon referred the plant to the genus Porcelia, [The genus Porcelia established by Ruiz and Pavon in 1794 for a few Peruvian species is probably merely a subgenus of Uvaria, (see note * p. 54.) and is admitted with doubt by Bentham & Hooker. It seemed to agree with Uvaria in most important characters, but has a different geographical range.] under the name Porcelia triloba, and in 1837 [Flora of North America, Torrey & Gray, New York, 1838, vol. i., part I, p. 45.], Torrey and Gray assigned it to Uvaria, under the name Uvaria triloba. [The genus Uvaria, to which Torrey and Gray referred our plant, was established by Linnaeus, and as now defined, includes mostly plants of Asia. It differs from Asimina in several characters; the fruits have an analogous structure to those of Asimina, but are much smaller and numerous, being in most species a cluster of small berries resembling grapes, hence the name Uvaria from uva, the Latin of grape. The floral envelopes are in two series and the petals instead of being valvate are imbricated in the bud.
Prof. Asa Gray in none of his later works has included the plant in this genus, but has uniformly adopted Dunal's classification. Baillon, however, who draws very elastic boundary lines to his genera, still retains the American plant in the genus Uvaria.] These views however, were followed but by few writers, and are now entirely rejected.
DESCRIPTION OF THE DRUG.—The fruit is described on page 50 of this publication.
The tree bark is of a brown color externally, darker in young plants, and on old trees is covered with large ash colored blotches. The inner bark has a tough fibrous texture extending almost to the surface, and is used by fishermen for stringing fish. [Fishermen along the Ohio river use papaw bark almost exclusively for this purpose. They collect a supply in the spring when the bark slips freely, stripping the young branches.] and history states that the Indians used it for withes and strings in making and mending fish nets and garments. The odor of the fresh bark is fetid, the taste bitter and disagreeable.
The root bark is of a dark brown color externally, white within when fresh, but darkens and changes to black upon exposure. It is also fibrous, but more spongy than the tree bark. The odor of the fresh root bark is less fetid than that of the tree, but it is more bitter to the taste.
The leaves have an unpleasant odor when bruised, and disagreeable taste when chewed.
Internally the fresh seeds of the ripe fruit are white, but turn dark upon exposure or drying. They are nearly tasteless, but contain a volatile oil that produces a rather fragrant sensation when the breath is exhaled through the nostrils, while chewing the seed. A disagreeable acrid sensation follows the chewing of old papaw seed.
CONSTITUENTS.—There is no record of a chemical examination having been made preceding our own.
All parts of the tree and the green fruit, contain a volatile oil that imparts the disagreeable odor heretofore mentioned. The bitterness of the bark is due to a bitter extractive matter, that we could neither crystallize, nor separate from extraneous substances by means of solvents. The characteristic constituent is an alkaloid which we find in the seeds, to which we have affixed the name Asiminine, and describe as follows:
ALKALOID OF ASIMINA TRILOBA.—ASIMININE.—Preparation.—Extract the ground seed with alcohol; evaporate the alcohol, adding towards the last water enough to precipitate the oils, and acidulate with acetic acid; stir well, and after twenty-four hours filter; add ammonia water cautiously to the filtrate until in slight excess, care being taken to avoid a strong alkaline reaction. Collect the precipitate, and while moist agitate with successive portions of sulphuric ether, and decant the etherial layers; then mix the etherial liquids; evaporate and dissolve the residue in a little alcohol. To this solution, add hydrochloric acid in slight excess, when, if concentrated, a magma of crystals of the hydrochlorate of the alkaloid will be produced. If the solution is dilute, evaporation will be necessary.
These crystals are purified, by crystallization from hot alcohol; then dissolved in water and precipitated with ammonia and the amorphous alkaloid dried. The yield is small, but considerable of the alkaloid is lost in the process of purification. In working large amounts an increased yield would result after the first batch.
Properties.—This alkaloid is white, colorless, tasteless and practically insoluble in water. It dissolves freely in ether and alcohol; less freely in chloroform and benzol. Upon evaporation of the solvents it precipitates in an amorphous condition, and we did not succeed in crystallizing it. The soluble salts are bitter and produce copious precipitates with the usual alkaloidal reagents. Salts of asiminine made with the usual acids employed in the commercial production of alkaloidal salts. dissolve freely in water, (except hydrochlorate which is less soluble,) producing bitter liquids, from which dilute alkalies precipitate the alkaloid. We did not succeed in crystallizing either the nitrate or the acetate of asiminine. The hydrochlorate crystallizes when thrown from alcoholic solution, forming beautiful squares. (See figure 124. [These crystals are from acid solution and made by cautiously adding hydrochloric acid diluted with alcohol to a film of the alkaloid that was deposited from an ethereal solution directly upon the slide. This gave better crystals than the evaporation of an aqueous solution.]) The sulphate formed in lamina of crystalline nature, of which figure 125, (see next page,) is an accurate illustration.
The principal salt, owing to its easy production in a pure crystalline condition will be the hydrochlorate, should this alkaloid come into demand as a medicinal agent.
Hydrochlorate of asiminine is white, odorless, and to the taste at first sweetish, then bitter, leaving a bitter after-taste. It crystallizes from alcohol in transparent square plates, or in groups of crystals, composed mainly of the interlocked sections of cubes. [These crystals appear upon the slide to be square plates, but are evidently the portions of cubes in which the upper and lower faces only are fully developed.]
Even if the alkaloid be in minute amount, it forms with nitric acid at once a carmine red, which quickly changes to a deep dark purple color. This reaction is very delicate and is similar to that of concentrated nitric acid on morphine salts, excepting that the color is not blood red, and instead of becoming lighter, darkens for a time to purple, and then changes to deep red but not yellow. The inexperienced might possibly confuse this alkaloid with morphine under that similar test. With sulphuric acid it effervesces, dissolves, turns greenish yellow slowly, afterwards yellowish red, then dark red, and the liquid retains this color. Hydrochloric acids does not affect it, but the addition of a little sulphuric acid, and a gentle heat produces a purple color similar to the morphine reaction with the same reagent. Mercuric chloride cause a precipitate in solutions of this salt. Chlorine water does not affect the alkaloid, but the solution of its muriate is precipitated white by this reagent, (distinction from morphine.)
Further examinations of the bark and seed of asimina failed to produce other than the usual constituents of plants. [We aim to consider the principles that would characterize a drug as a medicinal agent. The examination as to starch, glucose, ordinary gums, woody fiber, chlorophyl potassium salts, and other salts, etc., are perhaps of interest to some persons, but we feel that such matters are not of practical use to medicine. We, therefore, do not burden our pages with investigating processes that are barren of results and we feel that to consume space with tedious descriptions of the ordinary constituents of every plant would be irrelevant to our subject.]
Medical History.—Owing to the fact that the papaw shrub is rare east of the Alleghany mountains, and that the early medical investigations of American drugs were in the eastern section of our country it was not known in early medical literature. That it would have been studied if more abundant in the settled districts is evident from the fact that Schoepf, 1787, [Materia Medica Americana, David Schoepf.] gave it a favorable notice, saying: "The bark and leaves are of a rather bad odor, similar to that of datura. The fruit has a pleasant subacid, sweetish taste, and is edible. The skin of the fruit has a disagreeable terebenthenous taste. A wine prepared from the unripe fruit is odorless and is highly useful in children's sore mouth." [We can add that the partially unripe fruit is laxative and cathartic. Also, that it sometimes produces a rash in children that resembles the eruption of measles. In one case that came to our notice, the child ate a partially ripe papaw, which was followed by cartharsis and an eruption on the face that lasted some days.]
Barton, 1801 [Collections for a Materia Medica, part 2nd, p. 30.], records that he had heard that the dried fruit was purgative, but he had no personal experience with it.
Rafinesque, 1830 [Medical Flora and Botany of the United States, vol. ii., p. 197.], reproduces the statements of Schoepf, but adds nothing thereto, although he must certainly have been interested in this peculiar American fruit, so different from any of his native land.
Porcher, 1849 [Indigenous Medicinal plants of South Carolina, p. 697, (Report of the American Medical Association.)], confuses this tree with that of the papaw of the tropics, the fruit of which has the power to digest fibrine, and his remarks are not applicable to our plant. [Recently, a substance, papain, (we spell the name without the final e, to show that it is not an alkaloid) has been introduced into medicine as a digestive agent. It is obtained from the pulp of the tropical papaw, which will soften tough flesh if boiled with it, Porcher was doubtless led to his error by a paper of Hooker in the Botanical Magazine, to which he refers.]
Clapp, 1850 [Medicinal plants of the United States, p. 728, (Report of the American Medical Association.)], has nothing to say for the medicinal properties of the papaw, but states that according to Martins the powdered seeds are used to destroy lice on the heads of children. At our suggestion a concentrated aqueous infusion and a tincture of the seed were employed in the Children's Home of Cincinnati to destroy these insects, but the experiment proved unsuccessful.
King, 1852 [Eclectic Dispensatory, King & Newton, p. 326.], states that the saturated tincture of the seeds [The term saturated, was applied to tinctures of a more concentrated nature than the officinal. It was not considered in a literal sense, and few of these preparations were of known composition.] is emetic in doses of from ten to sixty drops and that the bark is said to have been used as a bitter tonic by country people, but Prof. King informs us that he has no personal acquaintance with the drug.
This meager record is all that we can find in American literature. Neither Thompson nor Beach, referred to asimina, and their followers have neglected it. The United States Dispensatory has not honored it by a position in its pages from the first to the last edition, and Prof. Maisch omitted it from each edition of his carefully prepared National Dispensatory. Outside of homoeopathy, (see Prof. Bale's paper page 59,) it is unknown in medicine. Like numbers of other products, investigation may yet give to some part of this tree a position as a drug that other remedies cannot replace. In corroboration of our supposition, we commend the reader to Prof. Bartholow's report on the physiological action of asiminine, the alkaloid obtained by us from the seeds. [We will add, that we have now in process a considerable amount of the alkaloid and that Prof. Bartholow will use this in disease and note its effects on man. He will announce the result in the usual manner by contribution to some medical journal.]
A PRELIMINARY STUDY OF THE PHYSIOLOGICAL ACTIONS OF HYDROCHLORATE OF ASIMININE.—(Written for this publication by Prof. Roberts Bartholow, M. D., LL. D., Professor of Materia Medica, General Therapeutics and Hygiene; in the Jefferson Medical College of Philadelphia)—The preparation used in the experiments made with the hydrochlorate of asiminine, was sent to me by Prof. Lloyd, and had the strength of 1-60 grain to the minim. A general view of the results of experiment is given. Experiments of control were conducted simultaneously, and hence, the observations made, can be considered as very closely approximating exact results within the limited range to which they were necessarily confined.
General Effects.—Two distinct stages in the actions of asiminine were clearly defined: a stage of excitement, mental and somatic; a stage of somnolence and torpor. When the effects are produced in frogs after the administration of the solution subcutaneously, the animal manifests much excitement, jumps almost constantly, and on the least touch makes frantic efforts to escape. A peculiar action of the head is then observed; the nose points downwards, and the eyes are closed as a movement preliminary to jumping. It is, obviously, the characteristic action of the animal in jumping into the water with the purpose of swimming. As the influence of the alkaloid deepens these actions become less frequent and are interspersed with intervals of repose, which gradually lengthen. During the period of repose, if not approached or disturbed, a position which is maintained to the end is assumed. The frog rests on the belly; the limbs extended, but not fully; the nose resting on the table; the eyes closed. At first, every minute the following movement takes place: the head is extended forward, the nose pointing downward, and the four extremities are extended outwards and backwards, whilst the toes are expanded, thus stretching the web, the whole action simulating the movement of swimming. The repetition of this action becomes less and less frequent, the periods of repose passing into a condition of somnolence longer in duration, and finally the action is little more than a transient movement of the extremities, in which the toes chiefly participate. During the progress of the action the stupor is always quickly removed by the slightest touch of the head and face The skin of other parts of the body may be sharply pinched without exciting any indication, if care be taken to avoid pressure on the structures beneath, but the head and face continue to be, in a high degree, sensitive of the slightest impression. The eye reflexes remain sharply responsive.
Actions on the Motor Nerves and Muscles.—When the sciatic is isolated it is found to retain its power of response to mechanical, chemical, and electrical irritation. The muscles, when directly stimulated, contract energetically, and are found to retain their normal lifting power, and are capable of their usual working activity. It follows, of course, that asiminine does not act on the motor apparatus of the body.
Action on the Sensory Nerves.—If more extended researches confirm the results here given, we will have added to our resources a useful medicament. The small quantity of the alkaloid available, and the shortness of the time in which the observations could be made have prevented a fuller investigation. So much as follows seems, however, to be a correct inference from the results of the experiments.
When the solution containing 1-60 grain to the minim is applied to the mucous membrane of the lips, a benumbing sensation is experienced. Careful observation demonstrated that in the benumbed area the sense of pain was distinctly lessened, whilst the sense of touch remained normal. It is necessary, however, to employ more concentrated solutions and more freely to ascertain the full extent of this local action.
As respects the sense of touch in frogs, asiminine rather heightened than lowered it in the area of distribution of the fifth nerve, for here the least impression caused active and, prompt closure of the eyelids. The skin of the hind extremities, of the back and belly, remained sensitive to strong impressions, but if great care was taken to pinch up the skin of these parts with a pair of fine forceps without making pressure, no amount of injury, caused the least responsive motion of the distant muscles, or of the heart. If a toe were carefully separated from its fellows, and pinched strongly without changing its position, no effect was produced. When the stupor deepened into a coma-like state, touch became obtunded, for then the sensorium became less able to translate peripheral impressions into consciousness.
Action on the Circulation.—When the full effects of asiminine are produced, if the chest be opened the heart is found acting rhythmically, and at, or about twenty per minute. For a time the pneumogastric responds to faradic stimulation, but the irritability of the nerve diminishes, and apparently becomes extinct before the final cessation of the heart's action. The accelerator apparatus is strongly affected by faradic excitation, and the heart becomes more rapid in movement without any loss of power when the stimulus is applied.
Action on the Respiration.— During the stage of excitement the respiratory movements are hastened without diminution in depth, apparently, but as the effects of the alkaloid on the cerebrum increase, the breathing becomes slower pari passu.
Conclusions.—Asiminine acts on the cerebrum causing somnolence, and ultimately stupor and insensibility. The rhythmical movements which occur very frequently during the stage of excitement seems to be purposive in character, and are not convulsive. The stage of excitement corresponds to a state produced by the first impression of various anodyne and hypnotic remedies. . Acting as it does on the centres of conscious impressions, and apparently lowering the pain sense, whilst the tactile sense is preserved, asiminine must be grouped with the anodyne agents. Whether these effects will be confirmed by further investigations, and the anodyne action occur in the higher animals and in man can be determined only when a larger supply of the alkaloid is procured for more extended study.
HOMOEOPATHIC USES OF ASIMINA.—(Written for this publication by Edwin M. Hale, M. D., Emeritus Professor of Materia Medica and Therapeutics in the Chicago Homoeopathic College.)—The fruit of the Asimina, when properly eaten, and fully ripe is certainly not unwholesome, as I can personally testify, for in my boyhood days I consumed large quantities without the slightest discomfort. But we were very careful to eat only the custard-like pulp, and avoided the rind.
I have no doubt, but decided medicinal and perhaps toxic principles may reside in the seeds, rind and bark.
There are on record a few cases of poisoning by the fruit, or rather the skin of the ripe fruit, or perhaps the unripe pulp. They were communicated by Dr. H. W. Taylor, of Terre Haute, Indiana.
The symptoms produced have a close resemblance to scarlet fever, or a febrile erythema.
The following is Dr. Taylor's report: "Five children ate freely of the papaw, without being fastidiously nice as to the ripeness or greenness. Next morning they seemed a little languid and pale, but the papaw eating went on. About 10 P. M. I found my only boy, aged two years and six months, with a violent fever. He had vomited awhile before I arrived, and I found that he was covered with a bright scarlet eruption. His pulse was 130, full and steady, and at 1:30 the thermometer remaining in the axilla ten minutes showed a temperature of 105°. Among the vomited ingesta were many small pieces of unripe papaw. The next day the eruption remained in full blush, the temperature dropped to 104°, the fauces were red and swollen, the tonsils and sub-maxillary glands were considerably enlarged, and a diarrhoea of yellowish discharges set in. Each day the temperature dropped until it was normal; a general desquamation of the cuticle took place, and a carbuncle formed on the anterior aspect of the left thigh, and was two weeks finishing the process of suppuration. The diarrhoea continued more than four weeks, although many remedies were given to check or control it. He complained of frontal headache and nausea. The eruption in all its phases, the fever, the diarrhoea, were much like some cases of scarlet fever. All the other children had the eruption on the neck and upper extremities, all had diarrhoea, lasting a long time after the other symptoms had disappeared."
It would seem that in the above instances the papaw was the cause of the illness. There are other drugs which cause the same phenomena, namely, belladonna, hyosciamus, stramonium, ailanthus, quinine, etc. It will, however, require other experiments to prove the papaw to possess uniformly such effects.
Therapeutically, and according to the homoeopathic law of cure, this drug would be curative in Scarlatina, when accompanied by the concomitant symptoms observed in these cases.
MEDICAL REFERENCES TO ASIMINA.
1787.—Materia Medica Americana, David Schoepf, p. 92.
1801.—Collections for a Materia Medica, W. P. C. Barton, part 2nd, p. 30.
1830.—Medical Flora and Botany of the United States, Rafinesque, Vol, II., p. 197.
1848.—Catalogue of the Medicinal Plants of New York, Lee, p. 8.
1848.—Indigenous Medicinal Plants of South Carolina, Porcher, (Report of the American Medical Association), p. 697.
1850.—Medicinal Plants of the United States, Clapp, (Report of the American Medical Association), p. 728.
1852.—The Eclectic Dispensatory, King & Newton, p. 325.
* The name of Adanson justly celebrated for the part it bears in the pioneer work of establishing a natural system of classification, deserves more than a passing notice in this work. Michael Adanson was born in 1727 at Aix, in France, but was raised in Paris, where his father moved when Adanson was a child, three years old. His father was in the service of the Archbishop of Paris, who provided for the children of Adanson, settling a canonry on the subject of this sketch. The revenue from this enabled young Adanson to live in a modest style and to obtain a collegiate education. He was destined for the ministry, but showed no special aptitude for this calling, nor, indeed, for any, until becoming the owner of a microscope he found great interest in examining objects of natural history and determined to become a naturalist. He obtained instruction under the celebrated Reaumer and Bernard de Jussieu, and had the advantage of access to their cabinets and the Jardin des Plantes. At the age of twenty-one he made a trip to Senegal to study objects of natural history of that country, then almost entirely unknown to the world. On his return after five years, he found himself without resources, but obtaining aid from M. de Bombarde he published in I757 a short account of his observations under the title "Historic Naturelle du Senegal." He was compelled, however to abandon the project of publishing a complete history in eight volumes which he contemplated.
At that time Linnaeus was at the height of his career, and his system of classification of plants was exciting the wonder of the scientific world. Emulous of Linnaeus and jealous for the reputation of the French, who had heretofore been leaders in this branch of science, Adanson set himself to work to construct a system builded on the natural relation of plants, as indicated by Tournefort, which was from its fundamental principle totally at variance with that of Linnaeus. The result was published in 1763 in two volumes under the title Families des Plantes. This work, the result of profound study, was in advance of the botanical knowledge of the day, and did not secure the recognition it deserved. Besides, it totally rejected the principle of Linnaeus, which were at that time adopted by botanists of all other nations of Europe. Unfortunately, also, Adanson introduced into the work, a peculiar system of phonographic names, which were without reason, and opened the work up to the ridicule of its numerous opponents. Although, never adopted, the work of Adanson did much good in paving the way for the reception of Jussieu's great work which appeared twenty-six years later, and finally overthrew the Linnaean system.
After the publication of "Families des Plantes" Adanson did little to be recorded. He was in reduced circumstances and employed himself on a chimerical project of a vast "Encyclopedia of Natural History" to contain 200,000 subjects and 40,000 illustrations and to consist of 200 volumes. It is needless to say it was never published.
During the French revolution Adanson was deprived of the little property that was not lost during his absence from France, and for several years he lived in abject poverty. Finally, a small pension was obtained from the French Government, but his health had been undermined by exposure and hard work, and after a long illness he died in 1806 in his eightieth year.
** Michel Felix Dunal was a French botanist in the beginning of the present century. His attention was directed to the study of systematic botany, and although he did not publish any general work he showed great talent in elaborating the difficult genus Solanum and the Natural Order Anonaceae. His work on the Anonaceae was published in 1817, and contains thirty-five plates and descriptions of all the then known species.
Drugs and Medicines of North America, 1884-1887, was written by John Uri Lloyd and Curtis G. Lloyd.