Gleanings in Materia Medica.


Chemistry of the Nymphaceae. By W. Grüning.—Nuphartannic acid C56H56O37, which is present in the seed of Nuphar luteum, in considerable proportion, is a light yellow mass, easily rubbed into powder, precipitates ferric salts blue-black, and shows the general reactions of tannins; it is associated with nuphar-phlobaphene, C56H50O35.

The rhizome of Nymphaea alba contains tanno-nymphaein, C56H52O36, and nymphaeophlobaphene, C56H48O36. The tannin proper, nymphaea-tannic acid, C56H58O38, forms a brown-red transparent mass, which readily yields a pale yellow powder, and has the general reactions of the tannins; when heated in a sealed tube, placed in the water-bath, in the presence of dilate sulphuric acid, it is split into ellagic acid, gallic acid, and two substances, one of which is easily oxydized in the air to phlobaphene, while the other yields two bodies resembling viridinic acid. The nuphar tannin is split into an acid resembling ellagic acid; a compound precipitating gelatin and precipitated by alcohol; gallic acid and a substance changing by oxidation to a compound resembling viridinic acid.—Chem. Ztg. 1822, No. 67, from Arch. d. Phar. [3], xvij, p. 736.

The Tambor.—Some twenty years ago, Dr. Dorat, of Sonsonate, sent to the late Daniel Hanbury, dried specimens of this tree, accompanied with the following note: "The fruit, about the size of a pear, contains three beans, jet black, which, by pressure, yield a very fine oil in large quantity, rather pleasant to the taste, and resembling castor oil in its purgative effect, with the advantage that it does not gripe. The leaf is large and is used here for packing cheese, on account of its strength. Flowers in December, fruit ripe in February or March. The seeds are covered with an exceedingly hard, black, thin epidermis, with a white soft pulp containing the oil, which, besides its purgative quality, burns well. Seed vessels grow in large bunches." W. B. Hemsley, A.L.S., now describes this plant as a new species, under the name of Omphalea oleifera, Hemsley.—Leaves large (specimen five inches in diameter), petiolate, papyraceous, somewhat stellately puberulate, with deciduous hairs, suborbicular, deeply ordate; flowers monoecious; the panicles terminal, broad, paniculate, puberulate; bracts small, petiolate, narrow, about an inch long, veined, puberulate; sepals 4, decussate, orbicular, ciliolate; anthers 2; ovary glabrous; fruit three seeded; seeds black.

The same author describes also a plant collected by Sutton Hayes, at Acajutla near Sonsonate, as follows: Omphalea cardiophylla, Hemsley.—Leaves long-petiolate, papyraceous, very smooth, suborbicular, deeply cordate at the base, acuminate, obtuse (about a foot in diameter), undulate; petiole with 2 glands above, fleshy; staminate flowers in narrow terminal panicles, a foot or more in length; bracts oblanceolate, about 2 inches long, short-petiolate; sepals 4, orbicular, ciliolate; anthers 2, sometimes 3.—Phar. Jour. and Trans., 1882, Oct. 14, p. 301.

Starch in Belladonna root is, according to H. Werner, always present in autumn, when at and after the ripening of the fruit starch is produced and deposited in the root, to be used in the succeeding spring for nourishing the plant. To obtain the root, rich in starch, it should not be collected until the flowers have begun to fade.—Archiv d. Pharm.

Agaricus ruber, Pers., contains, according to T. L. Phipson, a rose-red coloring matter, ruberin, which appears bright blue by transmitted light; being soluble in water, it is washed out of the head of the fungus by a heavy fall of rain. Ether extracts from the fungus a yellowish-white alkaloid agarythrine, which has a bitter, afterwards burning, taste somewhat like aconitine; its chloride is soluble, but the sulphate insoluble in water, the latter dissolving in alcohol; it dissolves in nitric acid with a red color, and is colored red by chlorinated lime and afterwards bleached. On agitating the solution of the alkaloid with ether, it is oxidized by the air to a red coloring matter, which is probably the cause of the red color of the surface of the fungus.—Chem. News, 1882, p. 199.

A Fatal Dose of Extract of Male Fern is reported on in the "Ceylon Observer." The prescription was dispensed as follows:

Rx Extr. aeth. Filic. Mar. 1 ½ oz.
Pulv. Kamalae 3 dms.
Mucil. Acac., Syrup simpl. aa q.s.
Aquae Cinnam. ad 4 oz.

M.S. Half to be taken at bed-time and half at 2 A. M.

The dispenser left out powdered pomegranate root, 3 drams, signifying that be done so to the prescriber. After taking the first dose, the patient was so distressed, that he sent to the prescriber to know whether he should take the remainder, and received an answer in the affirmative. He did so and the tape worm was expelled, but the patient became worse with vomiting and purging, and died in a few hours.

The prescription as actually dispensed closely resembles one attributed in Naphey's "Medical Therapeutics" (6th edit. p. 331) to the late Dr. William Brinton, who, it is there said, "believes this superior to all other combinations for the ejection of taeniae." The dose is precisely the same in both cases, but in the book it is possibly a misprint for 1 ½ drachms.—Phar. Jour. and Trans., 1882, Oct. 1.4, p. 312.

The poison of the stinging nettle is usually stated to be formic acid. But Alfred W. Bennett is inclined to believe that the irritant fluid always has an alkaline reaction.—Phar. Jour. and Trans., 1882, Oct. 14, p. 320.

Honey.—Eugene Dietrich has repeatedly observed that good American honey may be more easily obtained than German honey of good quality, the latter, on keeping, becoming acid by fermentation, at the same time acquiring an unpleasant taste, and when clarified, of a dark color and a caramel-like taste; but fresh German honey yields, on clarification, an excellent product. The cause for the better keeping qualities of American honey has not been ascertained.—Rundschau, 1882, p. 662.

The Volatile Oil of Sandal-wood, obtained by distilling the wood with water, is described by P. Chapoteaut as a somewhat thick liquid of sp. gr. 0.945 at 15°C, and boiling between 300° and 340°C. It consists almost entirely of two oxygenated bodies, the more abundant of which is C15H24O (boiling point 300°), and the other C15H26O (boiling point 310°). When treated with phosphoric anhydride, the oil yields two hydrocarbons, C15H22 (boiling point 248°) and C15H24 (boiling point 260°). Oil of cedar, when purified from oxygen compounds has the composition and boiling point of the former, and is probably identical with it, while the latter is either isomeric or identical with oil of copaiba. The two constituents of oil of sandal-wood are, probably, the one an alcohol and the other an aldehyde. By heating in sealed tubes at 310°C., and subsequent treatment with phosphoric anhydride, a cymene, boiling at 175° to 180° C., is obtained.—Jour. Chem. Soc., 1883, p. 76, Bull. Soc. Chem. [2], 37, p. 303.

The American Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. 55, 1883, was edited by John M. Maisch.