Ustilago Maydis, Lév., Cornsmut.
BY JOHN H. HAHN, PH.G.
Abstract of an Inaugural Essay.
This drug is attracting considerable attention as a substitute for ergot of rye. It is claimed that it is equal, and in many cases superior, to ergot of rye, producing clonic instead of tonic contractions of the uterus, and thus more nearly simulates natural labor. Besides, its cost is about 50 per cent. less than that of ergot of rye. A dozen or more years ago it received a brief notice as an oxytocic by the German profession, but for some unaccountable reason it has since fallen into disuse by the regular profession. The homoeopaths have dispensed the drug in their triturations and dilutions since the year 1866, when it was first noticed by Professor S. M. Hale of their school.
Microscopically it is quite a curiosity. The whole mass is found to be made up of spores, nodular when moist and of a very minute size, held together by a few threads of mycelium or binding fibres. The following experiments were made with cornsmut:
The moisture present was determined to be 10 per cent. by gently beating 100 grams for several hours. Ether took up 2.5 per cent. of dark-brown fixed oil, having an acid reaction and an odor similar to that of the drug and being readily soluble in petroleum benzin, carbon bisulphide and chloroform, but insoluble in alcohol and pyroxylin spirit.
The powder, exhausted by ether, was percolated with carbon bisulphide, on the evaporation of which a few flat crystals were obtained;
Water now yielded a liquid from. which, by alcohol, 1.5 per cent. of dark-brown gummy matter was precipitated, the liquid having an acid reaction; on setting it aside for several weeks, 3 per cent. of yellowish crystals were separated which were soluble in nitric acid, but insoluble,. or nearly so, in ether, chloroform, water and alcohol, either hot or cold, and which, on being heated upon platinum foil, left a white ash.
By boiling the drug with water, a small amount of waxy matter could be separated and the distillate had a very disagreeable odor.
On incinerating the drug, 4 per cent. of gray ash was obtained, which was not further examined.