Gleanings in Materia Medica.


Japanese and Chinese Aconite Tubers.—Dr. A. Langgaard describes seven kinds of aconite tubers which are met with in the Japanese drug stores and which are mostly used externally, rarely internally, and are perhaps also used in the preparation of the sesso arrow poison.. The origin of these tubers has not been ascertained yet. Aconitum lycoctonum, Lin. y var. flor. ochroleucis, Savatier, is regarded by botanists as identical with Ac. japonicum, Thunberg, and Ac. Fischeri, Reich., with Ac. chinense, Sieb.; these plants are known in Japan as reisin-so and tori kabuto, the latter name meaning "bird's helmet," in allusion to the shape of the flower. A third species, Ac. uncinatum, Lin., is known as hana-dzuron. The tubers are not derived from many different species, but are assorted according to size and prepared in various ways, by maceration in vinegar or children's urine, by pickling, drying and interring, their appearance and properties must be considerably modified. With the exception of kusa-usu, they are derived from carefully cultivated plants.

1. Dai-bushi is imported from China, where it is known as Fu-tsze in a pickled condition. The tubers are large, heavy, napiform, of a-dingy gray or gray-brown color, deeply wrinkled, mostly with the shriveled bud present, with small warty protuberances and with scars of the detached rootlets; 35 to 55 millimeters long; the largest diameter up to 30 mm. thick; weight 6.7 to 16.6 grams; attract moisture, are tough but may be cut; taste saline, then burning. A transverse-section is of a dingy brown-yellow color and occasionally shows irregular curved lines which by the Japanese are likened to the convolutions of the brain; mostly, however, a circle of fibrovascular groups is seen, each group being furnished with a circular cambium, 4 or 5-fibrovascular bundles and a central pith. These tubers yield 15 per cent. of alcoholic extract.

2. Sen-uzu comes from the northern part of Nipon and agrees with Hanbury's chuen-woo of China. The tubers are smaller than the preceding, roundish or conical, gray, smooth or somewhat finely wrinkled, above depressed, often bearing the remnants of a bud, on the sides with small wartlike protuberances, deprived of the radicles; 15 to 40 mm. long; 30 mm. and less thick; weight 2.5 to 7.4 grams,. very hard, cut with difficulty; upon transverse section white and mealy, after soaking grayish- or yellowish-brown; the cambium line in the upper part of the tuber more or less five- to seven-rayed, in the lower part elliptic or circular. In some tubers the cambium line is not rayed but angular, or is wanting altogether, and in the broad inner bark are a number of small starlike vascular bundles, placed in a circle; the latter agree with the secondary tubers of the plant yielding dai-bushi. Two very poisonous alkaloids have been obtained from these tubers,, but not further investigated. Yield of extract 4.92 per cent.

3. Katsuyama-bushi.—These are Japanese tubers, the largest of which resemble the small dai-bushi. They are covered with an earthy saline incrustation, are conical or napiform, dingy gray or gray-brown, with scars of detached rootlets, deeply wrinkled, soft, tough, but the bark easily removed; length 18 to 38 mm.; weight 4.1 to 14.7 grams; almost always worm-eaten. Upon transverse section the color is yellowish; the cambium ring circular, wavy or occasionally radiating; the pith large. Yield of alcoholic extract 11.57 per cent.; nearly inert.

4. Shirakawa-uzu.—These tubers are elongated, somewhat napiform, often flattened and bent, truncately cut off, with scars of radicles, warty, longitudinally wrinkled, dirty gray, covered with an earthy saline incrustation, soft, tough, very hygroscopic; taste saline, afterwards burning; upon the transverse section grayish-white, the cambium with numerous obtuse rays; the pith large, deeper gray in some tubers the pith is smaller, the cambium few-rayed and surrounded by a circle of fibrovascular groups similar to those of dai-bushi. Yield of extract 22.32 per cent. Two alkaloids are present, one crystallizing from ether.

5. Kusa-uzu.—These are 1.5 to 3.5 cm. long, 0.8 to 1.5 cm. broad in the thickest part, weight 0.8 to 1.5 gram; they are small, napiform or conical, pointed or rarely obtuse, above flattened, somewhat curved, gray-brown, much wrinkled longitudinally and transversely, rarely smooth, often with stem remnants, scars of rootlets and worm-eaten; transverse section white or yellowish-white, mealy, occasionally horny and gray; bark 1/4 to 1/3 diameter; cambium line dark, mostly somewhat radiating, or rarely roundish with distinct medullary rays and in the bark numerous stone cells. Yield of alcoholic extract 8.14 per cent.

This aconite is extremely poisonous, the properties depending mainly upon an alkaloid, readily crystallizable from ether, for which Paul and Kingzett ascertained the formula C29H43NO9, while Wright and Luff (1879) called it japaconitia, having the composition C66H88N2O21, and on being boiled with alkalies found it to split into benzoic acid and a new base, C26H41NO10. The alkaloid is a stronger poison than aconitia and pseud-aconitia, possesses strongly irritating properties and destroys life by paralyzing the heart muscles.

The tubers of an aroidea, known in Japan as kaku-bushi (white-bush) and in China teh-fu-tsze, bear some resemblance to the kusa-uzu, but are readily distinguished by their light weight and by the transverse section.

Sen-uzu and kusa-uzu yield the most poisonous extracts; then follows dai-bushi, next shirakawa-uzu and finally, as the least active, katsuyama-bushi.—Archiv d. Phar., 1881, March, pp. 161-185.

Lonchocarpus Peckolti, Wawra. Nat. ord. Leguminosae, Papilionaceae, Dalbergieae. In Brazil many poisonous plants, like several species of Serjania, an araceous plant, etc., are called timbo; the above named is often distinguished as timbo boticario. It is a small tree, 4 or 5 meters high, flowers in July and ripens its fruit in November. The roots are often of the size of a child's arm, externally light brown, the bark internally yellowish and easily separated from the wood, which in small roots is white and in thick roots deep yellow. The fleshy bark is employed and has in the fresh state a penetrating musk odor, similar to that observed near poisonous serpents and crocodiles.

Dr. Peckolt obtained from the fresh bark 0.1588 to 0.1727 percent. of volatile oil, having a strong repulsive musk odor. Sulphuric-acid colors it orange-yellow, then yellowish-brown. Hydrochloric-acid colors red-brown, bluish, light blue, on boiling paler, on cooling, deep indigo blue. The decoction, after precipitation with lead acetate-and evaporated, yielded to ether 10 per cent. extractive, nearly inodorous, but of repulsive taste, producing intoxication. The residue was-partly insoluble in alcohol and consisted mostly of saccharine extractive. The bark contains also albumen, starch, three resins (a resin, soluble in ether and insoluble in alcohol; b resin, soluble in alcohol and ether, dark brown, soft; and c resin, crystalline floccules from boiling alcohol), two resin acids, a crystalline acid, lonchocarpic acid, and also a volatile poisonous alkaloid, lonchocarpina, which is light brown, oily, of a faint musk-like stupefying odor, insoluble in water, easily soluble in acidulated water, ether and alcohol, the hydrochlorate very deliquescent.

In 1,000 grams of the root bark were found volatile oil 1.727, lonchocarpina 0.718, lonchocarpic acid 1.285, fatty acid of musk odor 11.500, wax 0.171, bitter principle 1.794, a resin 7.967, b resin of musk odor 4.578, c resin crystalline 2.000, a resin acid of faint musk odor 2.100, b resin inodorous 2.106, extractive of musk odor 0.206, albumen 21.484, starch 45.312, saccharine extractive 29.023, tartaric and malic acids and salts 2.182, dextrin, inorganic salts, etc. 28.212, moisture 725.399, cellulose 112.236 grams.

Chernowitz and Lauggaard have erroneously stated this bark to be derived from Paullinia and Serjania. The bark is used in Brazil only externally in hepatic affections, splenitis, furuncle, etc., in the form of cataplasm prepared from a decoction of 30 grams to 500 grams of water thickened with manihot starch. Also in the following forms:

Oleum lonchocarpi.—Timbo bark 10 grams, stronger alcohol 10 grams, groundnut oil 40 grams. Digest and filter.

Tinctura lonchocarpi.—Timbo bark 1 p., stronger alcohol 5 p.

Unguentum lonchocarpi.—Alcoholic extract of timbo 10 grams, tincture of timbo 5 grams, lard 70 grams.

Emplastrum lonchocarpi.—Beeswax 30 grams, Burgundy pitch and Venice turpentine each 10 grams, cocoanut oil 30 grams. Melt together and add alcoholic extract of timbo and powdered timbo bark each 15 grams.—Zeitschr. Oest. Apoth. Ver., Nos. 13, 14.

Botanical Sources of Tonga.—This remedy has been introduced from the Fejee Islands, where it is highly valued in neuralgia. From specimens sent by Mr. R. L. Holmes and identified by Baron Von Mueller, it appears to consist of two plants. One, called by the natives "aro," is Premna taitensis, D. C., nat. ord. Verbenaceae. In open, dry places it remains shrubby and flowers while quite small, but near water courses it becomes a tall tree, the timber of which is used in building, the inner bark being the part used medicinally. The other plant, known as "nai yalu" or "walu," is Raphiodophora vitiensis, Seemann, nat. ord. Araceae. It is a creeper, with the stem of the size of a quill, growing freely in sheltered places, climbing over stones and up on trees, when the stem becomes thicker, acquiring an inch or more in diameter. The scraped stems of this plant form the second ingredient in tonga.— Gardeners' Chronicle.

Zygadenus paniculatus, Watson.—Mr. E. Jones, of Salt Lake City, states that the bulbs of this plant contain a glucoside to which their poisonous properties are attributed. Convulsions and speedy death follow the eating of the bulbs of this plant. No antidote is yet known for it.—Amer. Naturalist, 1881, p. 651.

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