On the Fluid Extract of Chestnut Leaves.

Botanical name: 


Read at the Pharmaceutical Meeting of the Phila. College of Phar., Nov. 21.

In 1862, (Proceedings Amer. Pharm. Assoc., p. 236. Amer. Journ. Pharm., 1863, p. 66.) Mr. G. C. Close called attention to the beneficial effects of the leaves of the chestnut tree, Castanea vesca, Lin., var. Americana, in whooping cough. I have since learned that the leaves are popularly used and highly valued in various parts of this country as a remedy for this disease, and that in some sections of New Jersey and also of the Southern States, peach leaves are employed for the same purpose; of the latter, Dr. F. P. Porcher (Resources of the Southern Fields and Forests, p. 198.) remarks: "A tea of the leaves is a favorite domestic palliative in whooping cough, and in most pectoral affections."

The favorable effects of chestnut leaves in the disease mentioned has since been confirmed by the observations of several physicians, and from cases which have come under my notice, their use appears not only to frequently alleviate the severity of the attacks, but even to break the paroxysms, leaving merely a cough attended with mucous expectoration, which gradually yields to ordinary expectorants. Chestnut leaves, however, are not a specific against pertussis, though its effects are perhaps beneficial in a majority of cases. In 1868, during the prevalence of whooping cough in this city, two of my children being attacked with it, derived no benefit whatever from their use, nor had bromide of ammonium and hyoscyamus any good result; but the spasms were allayed by assafoetida, which was given in the form of syrup prepared by the formula published on page 396 of this volume.

Dr. A. S. Gerhard, of this city, at whose request I have collected chestnut leaves since 1867, has used this remedy quite extensively, at first in the form of infusion, one-half to one ounce to the pint, which was freely administered, subsequently I prepared a syrup, and a fluid extract, the latter preparation being greatly preferred by him on account of the small dose required, which is from a few drops to a teaspoonful, according to the age of the patient and the severity of the symptoms.

Obviously the time at which the leaves are collected must be of considerable influence upon whatever medicinal properties they may possess. I have collected them from the beginning of July, when the flowers were fully expanded, until the beginning, of October; when gathered late in the fall, the green leaves only were selected. It had been my intention to use the leaves from the different months separately, with the view of having their relative efficacy tested but the demand becoming unexpectedly large, the various collections had finally to be used indiscriminately. However, as far as the observations could be made, they appeared to be rather in favor of the fall collections made in September and early in October.

Chestnut leaves contain considerable tannin: their taste is not unpleasant, merely mildly astringent, without any decided bitterness. The remedy is therefore readily taken by children, whether in the form of sweetened infusion, syrup or fluid extract containing sugar. In preparing the fluid extract, the use of diluted alcohol as the exhausting menstruum was not attended with as satisfactory results as that of water, which was therefore employed. A purely saccharine fluid extract was of too thick a consistence, in consequence of the large amount of extractive matter dissolved by the water. After several experiments a small quantity of glycerin was employed and the sugar correspondingly reduced, when a more attractive preparation of the consistency of a dense syrup was obtained.

One difficulty in the management of chestnut leaves in the preparation of fluid extract is their bulkiness and flexibility; dried in the air, they cannot with any degree of facility, be reduced to a powder, either in the mortar or hand mill, so that their exhaustion cannot be effected by percolation. After cutting and bruising them, they are covered with hot water in an enamelled kettle and digested over night, when they are expressed; the digestion and expression are repeated twice with fresh portions of water, and the three infusions, each one mixed with glycerin or a portion of the sugar, evaporated to a small bulk when they are mixed and the evaporation continued until the proper measure is obtained; it is then set aside for several days and decanted from the small quantity of sediment.

The proportions used are as follows: Chestnut leaves, dried, cut and bruised, sixteen troyounces; glycerin five troyounces (f℥iv); sugar eight troyounces; hot water a sufficient quantity; the fluid extract to measure sixteen fluidounces.

The American Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. XLIII, 1871, was edited by William Procter, Jr. (Issues 1-4) and John M. Maisch (Issues 5-12).