BY E. M. HOLMES, F.L.S.
Read at the Evening Meeting of the Pharmaceutical Society, March 2d, 1881.
About a year ago a specimen of a drug known in the Bombay market as Jafferabad aloes, was presented to the Museum of the Society by Dr. Dymock. In a letter received from him in July last, he states concerning it:
"I shall try and send some small plants of the Jafferabad aloe in a tin box. I want to have it compared with Dr. Balfour's aloe from Socotra, as the character of the drug yielded by it is similar to that of Socotrine aloes in not giving a red color with nitric acid. Jafferabad belongs to the African family who were admirals to the Mogul, and they may have introduced the plant. Difference of climate might account for the difference of the two drugs."
The difference here alluded to will be best understood by those who are familiar with the appearance of Socotrine aloes, if the appearance of the Jafferabad drug be here briefly described.
The specimen received from Dr. Dymock is a circular flattened cake, 7 ½ inches in diameter, and ¾ of an inch in thickness. Externally it is of a black color, and having a lustre not unlike that of pitch, to which at first sight the aloe bears some resemblance. The fracture is black and glassy, and very slightly porous, as if heat had been used in its preparation. The powder, when two pieces are rubbed together, is of a pale brown hue. When the glassy broken surface is breathed on, it becomes, after a time, of a brownish hue, and under the lens looks like aventurine, apparently owing to an immense number of minute cracks, causing the partial separation of minute translucent laminae. The odor is a characteristic one, having some resemblance to that of socotrine, but less fragrant, as if it contained a trace of Barbadoes aloes and sandal wood. The taste of the decoction is not so pleasant as that of the Socotrine aloes; but the amount of matter insoluble in water seems to be equal in amount to that of the Socotrine aloes.
When submitted to the action of nitric and sulphuric acids no change takes place with the first named reagent, but when the vapor of nitric acid is passed over the mixture of Jafferabad aloes and oil of vitriol a slight greenish tinge is developed. This hue is, however, quite different from the distinct blue color developed by Natal aloes when similarly treated.
Dr. Dymock has cultivated the Jafferabad aloes plant in his garden, and it flowered at the end of last September. A few of the blossoms which he sent me have been submitted to Mr. J. G. Baker, of Kew, who has recently paid considerable attention to this group of plants, and he considers, so far as it possible to determine from the flowers alone, that they belong to Aloe abyssinica. Dr. Dymock collected some of the aloes from the Jafferabad plant in his garden and found it to give the same reaction as Socotrine aloes, and as he obtained the same results as with the aloes imported from Jafferabad there can be little doubt that the species of aloe cultivated in his garden is the source of the drug bearing that name.
A specimen of Mocha aloes in irregular masses, which was obtained in the London drug market last year, gives exactly the same faint greenish color when mixed with strong sulphuric acid and the vapor of nitric acid is blown over it. The powder is more of a reddish-brown hue, like that of catechu, and the odor slightly different. The surface has the pitch-like appearance of Jafferabad aloes, but it seems to have been prepared with less care, which might account for the slight difference in odor, and as according to Dr. Pereira, "Materia Medica," vol. i, p. 102 (4th ed.), it is imported from Muscat, lower down the Persian Gulf, it seems probable that it may be yielded by the same species of aloes. I hope to receive specimens of the Jafferabad aloe from Dr. Dymock shortly, when the identity of the species can doubtless be set at rest.
My excuse for bringing forward incomplete information at the present time must be that it seemed desirable, while the drugs from Socotra, kindly presented by Professor Balfour, were under discussion, to mention an aloes which seemed so nearly related to the Socotrine variety.—Pharm. Jour. and Trans., March 5, 1881.