The Root of Hydrangea Arborescens.

Botanical name: 


From an Inaugural Essay.

In looking over the pharmaceutical and chemical literature with reference to hydrangea, the only analysis found was that by Mr. Jos. Laidley, of Richmond, Virginia, in the year 1851, since which time no one seems to have published anything with regard to the principles to which the drug might owe its activity. Laidley found but gum, starch, resin, etc. In writing of the drug and its uses in gravel and urinary diseases, he notes some marked cures effected by its administration, which are no less remarkable than some which have been communicated to me by Dr. Jno. H. Parrish, of Saundersville, Tenn., who has used with good results an extract of the root prepared by the late Prof. Edward Parrish, and recently by Mr. Clemmons Parrish. He says, "My case-books show thirty-one cases of gravelly deposits in the bladder, which I believe to have been cured by hydrangea; I remember no case in which it has failed under fair circumstances. I regard hydrangea as a valuable remedial agent not only in sabulous troubles, but in any case where the functions of the kidneys are impaired." Other physicians have recommended it in the same complaints. That it is used by many physicians may be known from the words of Prof. J. U. Lloyd, of Cincinnati, who writes: "The section of country about Cincinnati annually supplies large amounts of hydrangea root for other markets."

A quantity of the root of good quality was obtained, its identity established and carefully inspected as to the absence of all foreign admixtures. This was ground suitably for percolation; some difficulty was here encountered owing to the peculiar ligneous character of the root, the greater portion of which is an insipid hard wood, with but a thin much fissured bark, which, as found in the market, is quite frequently detached in thin concentric layers, due to the unequal shrinkage of the wood and bark in drying. The peculiar sweetish but acrid taste of the root seems to reside in the bark.

Three grams of the root were ignited, yielding 13 grams of ash, the greater portion of which was soluble in water. The appropriate tests being made, carbonates, sulphates and phosphates of potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and iron were found in the ash.

In a preliminary investigation, which was undertaken to ascertain the best solvents for its important constituents, a decided indication of an alkaloid was obtained by the application of the various alkaloidal tests; the following experiments were made in order to isolate the alkaloid, if possible.

One thousand grams of the drug were exhausted with alcohol of .828 sp. gr. by percolation, yielded 38.209 grams of extract, which was redissolved in a small quantity of warm alcohol, and poured into one quart of water previously acidulated with acetic acid; the resin separated weighed 6.43 grams.

The nitrate (a) was set aside for further investigation. The resin obtained had a sweet, mild, but afterwards lastingly acrid taste. It was insoluble in ammonic hydrate, almost entirely soluble in potassic hydrate, which solution was precipitated by hydric chloride. Approximately one-half the resin was soluble in ether. The insoluble portion was almost insoluble in amylic alcohol. the alcoholic solution of the resin was precipitated by solutions of neutral and basic plumbic acetate.

The filtrate (a), obtained on separating the resin, was evaporated to an extract which had a saccharine odor and a bitterish taste, and weighed 31.566 grams. This extract was dissolved in a small quantity of warm water and filtered; the next morning the solution contained a few crystals which it was found impossible to separate. Solutions of neutral and basic plumbic acetate were added to thoroughly precipitate tannin, yielding a bluish-black precipitate with iron salts; the excess of lead was removed by sulphuretted hydrogen, the filtrate evaporated to small bulk, acidulated with hydric chloride and shaken with ether; the ethereal layer evaporated spontaneously left but a slight residue, in which no alkaloid was present.

The aqueous portion was then shaken with pure amylic alcohol, the latter separated and evaporated to dryness, the slight residue remaining gave in solution the following reactions: with Mayer's solution, a light, whitish, flocculent precipitate; with iodine in potassium iodide, a brown precipitate. Phospho-molybdic acid and tannin both gave precipitates. Platinic chloride gave a yellowish precipitate having a crystalline appearance on standing a short time. Picric acid gave no precipitate.

One hundred and twenty-five grains of the drug were exhausted by maceration and percolation with pure coal tar benzol. The greater portion of the benzol was recovered and an extract weighing 1.43 gram was obtained. Warm acidulated water (with HCl) was shaken with the extract and yielded then, with the alkaloidal reagents, light precipitates. Tests for glucosides were also applied with no indication of their presence. The extract was almost entirely dissolved by alcohol.

The drug exhausted by benzol was dried and exhausted by 80 per cent. alcohol. On evaporation to a small bulk a few crystals separated; the solution was acidulated, diluted and precipitated with plumbic acetate. After removing excess of lead by sulphuretted hydrogen, the filtrate gave again indications of the presence of an alkaloid by the above tests. The drug treated with benzol and alcohol was exhausted with water; the extract obtained contained sugar and gum.

Five hundred grams of the powdered root were boiled repeatedly with acidulated water, the mixed decoctions evaporated to a small volume, the gum removed by an equal volume of alcohol, and, after recovering the alcohol, the tannin precipitated by subacetate of lead, which precipitates also coloring matter. After removing excess of lead reactions were again obtained pointing to the presence of an alkaloid; however, judging by the quantity of drug operated upon, this alkaloid, if such it is, must be present in minute quantities. The presence of an alkaloid would, indeed, be interesting as being the first one discovered in any plant of the natural order saxifragaceae.

The constituents of hydrangea root, determined by these experiments, are resin soluble in ether, resin insoluble in ether, probably an alkaloid and a crystalline compound, the nature of which was not determined; also tannin, gum, sugar, coloring matter, and 4.33 per cent. of ash.

The American Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. 53, 1881, was edited by John M. Maisch.