Gleanings in Materia Medica.


Curare of French Guiana.—Mr. Crevaux states that the following plants enter into the preparation of the curare of the Upper Parou. The principal one is called ourari, and is a new species of Strychnos, named by Planchon St. Crevauxii. The Indians soak the roots, remove the bark with a cutting instrument, and express the juice with their hands. The juice, added to some other unimportant substances (among others a capsicum), is very slightly heated and dried in the sun. The juice of the roots is very bitter and stains the hands brown like tincture of iodine; it may be handled with impunity, provided there are no excoriations.

The accessory plants used in preparing this curare all belong to the piperaceae, namely, 1, alimieré, an undetermined piper; 2, branches agreeing tolerably well with specimens of Piper laetum, C. D. C., s. Ottonia laeta, Kunth; 3, potpeu, which approximates to Piper Host-mannianum, C. D. C., s. Artanthe ramiflora, Miq.; and 4, aracoupani, an undetermined piperacea.

The juice of Hura crepitans, Lin., which Mr. Crevaux collected on the banks of the Amazon, near to the mouth of the Parou, is used to poison arrows; the species bears the name of ouassacou.—Phar. Jour. and Trans., Feb. 19, 1881, p. 693.

Curare of British Guiana.—The principal species used for the preparation of this curare is Strychnos toxifera, Benth., the urari of the natives; also arimaru, which is Str. cogens, Schomb., and yakki, the Str. Schomburgkii, Klotzsch, s. Str. pedunculata, Benth., s. Rouhamon pedunculatum, A. D.C. The juices of five other plants, known as volkarimo, tarireng, tararemer, mamica and maramu, are used to thicken the curare.—Ibid., March 12, p. 754.

New African Arrow Poison.—Rob. W. Felkin has sent to Dr. Ringer an arrow poison, which is used on the east coast of Africa, between Zanzibar and the Sourali Land, and is made by the Wanika and Wakamba tribes, who live to the west of an island called Mombasa. Extracts are made from eleven different roots; the poison is a black extract, of firm consistence, and almost odorless A. W. Gerrard believes that the chief ingredient of the new poison is a Strophanthus, either S. hispidus or S. Kombé, nat. ord. Apocynaceae, thus closely allied to the genus Strychnos. Dr. F. R. Fraser, in 1872, investigated the seeds of an African strophanthus, and found it to be a powerful paralyzing agent and cardiac poison.

The new poison which, in the absence of a name, is called wanika, after one of the tribes using it, was found by Gerrard not to contain an alkaloid; it contains a tannin, precipitating ferric salts blueish-green, and a glucoside, which was prepared by diluting the alcoholic extract with water, filtering, precipitating with basic lead acetate, filtering, removing excess of lead by sulphuric acid, evaporating, treating repeatedly with a mixture of chloroform and alcohol to remove glucose, and evaporating. The principle is neutral, amorphous, pungently bitter, soluble in alcohol and water, insoluble in ether and chloroform, yields with strong sulphuric acid a slight brown color, and when heated with soda lime evolves ammonia; with Fehling's solution it gives no reduction till boiled with a dilute acid.

Dr. Ringer found this arrow poison to be a powerful muscle poison, as active as veratria, and, unlike veratria, not prolonging the relaxation of a muscle after its contraction. It is a feeble poison to motor nerves, and has no effect on afferent nerves. It is as powerful a cardiac poison as digitalin, and more so than veratria. It anests the ventricle in systole, and does not prolong the systole of the heart nearly so much as veratria. It has but little action when administered by the mouth; 5 minims of a 5 per cent. solution hypodermically given will kill a cat in from 15 to 20 minutes, whilst 45 minims given by the stomach caused only nausea and vomiting, with a little weakness.

The antidote to this poison is made in Africa from five roots, which are said to be baked and afterwards ground and mixed with honey; unless given within 5 minutes of the time when the wound is received, the antidote does no good. In the hands of Dr. Ringer it proved to be worthless, whether given internally or applied topically.—Ibid., April 9, pp. 833-835.

Preparation of Cocaina.—V. Trupheme exhausts coca leaves by ether in Payen's percolator, arranged for continuous distillation, when a blackish-green liquid is obtained, which is evaporated to dryness. The residue is agitated with boiling water, which dissolves the alkaloid, leaving the impure wax behind. The solution is mixed with magnesia, evaporated to dryness, and the residue treated with amylic alcohol, from which slightly yellowish crystals are deposited, and these are obtained colorless by one recrystallization.—Jour. de Phar. et de Chim., April, 1881, p. 329.

Glucoside from Ivy Leaves.—The leaves of Hedera helix contain, according to Vendamme and Chevalier (1842), an alkaloid, hederina, and, according to Posselt (1849), a peculiar acid, hederic acid, and a tannin, hederotannic acid. F. A. Hardten (1875) obtained results indicating the probable presence of a glucoside. According to L. Vernet, the glucoside may be isolated by exhausting the bruised leaves (collected in December) with hot water, and subsequently preparing an alcoholic extract, which is powdered, washed with cold benzol, and afterwards treated with boiling acetone, from which the glucoside crystallized on cooling, requiring washing with cold acetone and crystallization from alcohol to obtain it pure. It crystallizes in nodules of colorless, silky needles, neutral to test paper, melts at 233°C., and burns without leaving any residue. It is insoluble in water, chloroform and petroleum, dissolves very slightly in the cold, but readily by the aid of heat, in acetone, benzol and ether; its best solvent is hot 90 per cent. alcohol; hot alkalies dissolve it readily. Its alcoholic solution is levogyre —47.5°. Its composition is C32H54O11. When heated with dilute sulphuric acid it yields a very sweet right rotating sugar, which reduces Fehling's solution, but does not ferment with yeast; and fine, inodorous and tasteless needles, C26H44O11, which melt near 280°C., are less soluble in alcohol than the original compound, insoluble in alkalies and have a right rotation to polarized light.— Rép. de Phar., March, 1881, p. 106, 107.

Cork Tar.—According to L. Bordet, the liquid products of the dry distillation of cork separate into two layers, the lighter aqueous one containing acetic acid and methylic alcohol, together with ammonia, hydrocyanic acid, the higher homologues of acetic; acid, including pro-pionic acid and small quantities of methylamina. The heavier tar is dark brown, rather thin and of a more aromatic odor than coal tar. By distillation it yielded 27 per cent. of light oils, 27 per cent. of heavy brown oils, 11 per cent. of green fluorescing oils and 35 per cent. of hard pitch. The less volatile portions of the light oils yield much naphthalin. The tar contains at least 4 per cent. of benzol and 3 per cent. of toluol, but a much smaller quantity of phenols than coal tar. The green fluorescing oil contains considerable anthracene.—Chem. Ztg., 1881, No. 16, p. 269; Compt. Rend., 92, p. 728.

Senega Root.—H. W. Langbeck noticed the odor of gaultheria in a senega root which was at least three years old. Its aqueous distillate acquired with ferric chloride the well-known violet color, and by comparing the intensity of this reaction with that produced by an aqueous solution of oil of gaultheria, the presence of 0.225 per cent. of this oil in the senega root was estimated.—Phar. Ztg., No. 35, p. 260.

Bulgarian Opium.—In the district of Lowtscha, Bulgaria, opium of a strong odor and bitter taste is produced, which, according to A. Theegarten, yields 11.2 per cent. of impure or 3 per cent. of pure morphia. Nearly 70 per cent. of this opium is soluble in water.— Ibid.; Ph. Zeitschr. f. Russl.

Adulterated catechu, has been observed by A. Jossart. It was of a rather pale brown color, and when finely powdered and completely exhausted with alcohol, 10 grams left a residue weighing 6.5 grams, which, with the exception of small fragments of wood and bark, dissolved in hydrochloric acid, with abundant disengagement of carbonic acid gas; this solution contained mainly iron. From 60 to 65 per cent. of this catechu consisted of ferrous carbonate.—Jour. Pharm. d'Anvers, February, p. 41.

Testing of Bees' Wax for Adulterations.—F. Jean recommends testing for water by kneading the wax with well-dried copper sulphate or cobalt nitrate, when with the former salt a blue, and with the latter a rose color will be produced. The quantity of water is determined by heating 10 grams of the wax in a tared porcelain capsule to 100°C. until vapors cease to be given off. Mineral and starchy admixtures remain behind on dissolving the wax in rectified oil of turpentine; starch is detected in the residue by iodine; and on incinerating the insoluble portion, the loss of weight indicates the organic adulterations. The presence of sulphur is indicated by igniting the wax, when sulphurous acid will be generated. Resin imparts to wax a terebinthinate odor, and on mastication causes the adulterated wax to adhere firmly to the teeth. On adding to such wax, while fused, a few drops of sulphuric acid, the resin causes a dark red, or if present to the extent of only 1 per cent., a greenish color. On treatment with ether and evaporation of the solvent, the resin is left as a brittle mass, when cold.

If adulterated with paraffin, wax is brittle, kneaded with difficulty and has a lower congealing point. By heating with strong sulphuric acid the wax is carbonized and paraffin separated; soft paraffins, however, are not detected in this manner. If wax floats on alcohol of 15°B., — .961 sp. gr., adulteration with paraffin may be surmised. Vegetable wax is detected by boiling 10 grams of the wax with 120 grams of water and 1 gram of soda; a slowly separating soap will be formed, while the wax floats in the liquid. The presence of lard is indicated by the odor, the fatty touch and the acrolein odor on heating to charring. 10 grams of the wax are saponified by potash lye, the soap is decomposed by sulphuric acid, the clear supernatant layer is washed with hot water, treated with litharge and afterwards digested with ether. On treating the clear ethereal nitrate with sulphuretted hydrogen a black precipitate will be produced, and after complete decomposition and evaporation the residue will make a greasy stain on paper. For the detection of stearin one part of the wax is fused with 2 parts of a fixed oil, this mixed with an equal weight of water, and a few drops of lead acetate added, when white, very consistent flocks of lead stearate are separated.—Chem. Ztg., 1881, p. 303, 304.

Factitious saffron, which has been sold to the confectioners and restaurants of Gand, is stated by Crispo to consist of

Water, 16.70
Extractive matter, containing glucose and coloring matter of saffron, 21.02
Vegetable filaments of unknown origin, 12.98
Mineral substances (barytine), 49.30

A little tincture of saffron is mixed with barytine, and the mixture attached, by means of a saccharine material, to the fibres, which are from 3 to 4 centimeters long.—Jour. Phar. d'Anvers, Feb., p. 68.

C. Kanoldt has examined a factitious saffron which was of a fine red-brown color and strong odor, and thrown into water colored it milky-yellow. It was found to consist of colorless threads, somewhat divided at the ends, which proved to be an alga, probably fucus amylaceus, which had been incorporated with a colored mixture of chalk and honey.—Phar. Ztg., No. 34, p. 253.

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