Erythrocentaurin in American Centaury.
By JOHN F. HUNEKER.
(From the Author's Inaugural Essay .
This principle was discovered in European Centaury (Erythraea centaurium), a few years ago, by Méhu, a French chemist, who obtained it in the minute quantity of one grain in three thousand grains of the herb. The question very naturally arose, whether American Centaury (Sabbatia angularis) also contained this principle; the experimenter will prove that it may be obtained.
The flowers and leaves of Sabbatia angularis to the amount of two pounds were exhausted with one gallon of water, a portion of which was evaporated by a water bath, and allowed to stand to deposit the apotheme. This was separated by filtration, and strong alcohol added to the filtrate, which precipitated gum. On again filtering, the infusion was evaporated to the consistence of a syrup and, on cooling, washed with strong ether, which took up erythrocentaurin and deposited it on spontaneous evaporation. Erythrocentaurin, as thus obtained, is a non-nitrogenous principle, in small acicular crystals, which are transparent, but in this case were contaminated with yellow coloring matter, and, being in such a small quantity, the experimenter feared losing them in decolorizing.
The crystals have a sharp acrid taste, reminding one of tobacco, and are soluble in alcohol, ether, water, alkalies in solution, and acids, but insoluble in fixed and volatile oils, being also slightly volatilized by heat.
The only proofs that they are similar to erythrocentaurin of the European Centaury are: 1st, that they exist in the same minute quantity. 2d, that they are reddened by solar light, but if dissolved and recrystallized, regain their original color. Therefore there is not a doubt but that these principles are similar in composition and character.
[The author made a series of experiments to determine the proximate composition of American Centaury, and found, besides erythrocentaurin, resin, chlorophyll, fatty matter, gum, albumen, pectin, bitter extractive, trace of volatile oil, an organic acid, red coloring matter and salts. The author was unsuccessful in his attempts to isolate and crystallize the bitter principle.
The author regards the aqueous extract as the most concentrated pharmaceutical preparation; he gave ten grains of it to a half grown cat, which in a short time appeared to be under the influence of a narcotic sedative; after sleep, lasting for two hours, violent purgation set in, causing death in 24 hours.—EDITOR.]