Gleanings in Materia Medica.


Constituents of Tamarinds.—Carl Mueller examined 9 samples of East Indian tamarinds with the following results:

Seeds. Pulp free from seeds. Dry pulp.
Water. Insoluble. Potass. Bitart. Tartaric acid. Citric acid. Potass. Bitart. Tartar. acid.
Highest per ct., 38.0 30.81 20.2 6.01 8.80 3.95 8.25 12.25
Lowest per ct., 1.5 21.92 12.2 4.66 5.29 0.64 6.21 6.77
Average per ct. 13.9 27.00 16.2 5.27 6.63 2.20 7.20 9.09

The author found very small quantities of malic acid, which were calculated as citric acid. In his opinion, tamarinds should not-contain more seeds than 10 per cent. of their weight; four of the samples contained considerably less (1.5, 2.4, 4.5, 6.0), two approached this limit (8.7, 9.8), and three exceeded it considerably (20.6, 23.3, 38.0).—Phar. Centralh., 1882, Nos. 49, 50.

Constituents of Trifolium pratense.—Fred. Grazer examined the flower heads of red clover and found 2 resins, fat, chlorophyll, glucose, tannin, gum, an acid principle, and extractive matter; the resin soluble in ether dissolved in ammonia with a green color, and in potassa with a yellow color. The ash amounted to 7 ½ per cent. and consisted of carbonates and phosphates of magnesium, potassium, and calcium., and of oxide of iron.—Proc. Cal. Phar. Soc., 1883, p. 49.

Polygonum Hydropiperoides, Mich.—An editorial in the "Medical News," Dec. 9, 1882, directs attention to this indigenous plant, of which the late Dr. Eberle, in his work on Materia Medica and Therapeutics, speaks as the most active and certain of the emmenagogues. He obtained his knowledge of it from a country practitioner, who made it the subject of his thesis as a candidate for the doctorate at the medical school where Eberle then held the chair of practice. The late Prof. M. B. Wright, of Cincinnati, held it in equal estimation, and during his long career prescribed it often with success. It has very decided stimulant, even vesicating property, when rubbed into the skin, whence its common name, smartweed. The form most convenient for its administration is the fluid extract, given from 5 to 30 minims, three or four times a day; mixed with some glycerin or wine it can be readily taken. The activity of this drug is due probably to the presence of polygonic acid, which was isolated by Dr. C. J. Rademaker from Polygonum hydropiper, Lin.—(See Amer. Jour. Phar. 1871, p. 490.)

Megarrhiza californica, Torrey.—The root of this Cucurbitaceous plant has been examined by J. P. Heaney (see "Amer. Jour. Phar.," 1876, p. 451). The bitter glucoside megarrhizin seems to have been recently obtained in a much purer state by Wilfred M. Young; its decomposition product now named megarrhizein was prepared in white feathery crystals, soluble in hot water, alcohol and chloroform, insoluble in ether and cold water; it is purgative in doses of ¼ grain.

Young found also a second glucoside megarrhin which resembles saponin and possesses the property of dilating the pupils; also two resins, one soluble in alcohol the other soluble in ether.—Proc. Cal. Coll. Phar., 1883, p. 52.

A bitter bark from San Salvador, of unknown origin, and for which febrifuge and tonic properties are claimed, has been described by Robert L. Ball. It is the inner bark and consists of quills or curved pieces, 3 to 12 inches long, ½ to 1 or 2 inches wide and 2 to 4 lines thick, of a blackish-brown color externally, somewhat lighter internally, small portions of the outer bark still adhering. Its taste is sweetish, then persistently bitter and astringent. On mastication it is found to be gritty and tinges the saliva red. It is inodorous, has a short fibrous fracture, and shows upon the resinous cross section numerous resin cells and numerous shining specks which proved to be crystals of calcium oxalate. A chemical examination proved the presence of 6 per cent. of resin, soluble in alcohol, red coloring matter and other common constituents, but failed to reveal the presence of an alkaloid. The ash amounted to 8 per cent.—Ibid., p. 51.

Andromeda japonica, Thunberg.—A poisonous principle, named andromedin, has been isolated from this plant by P. C. Plugge; it is resinous, nearly insoluble in petroleum-benzin, absolute ether and carbon bisulphide, slightly soluble in benzol, glycerin and oil of turpentine, soluble in water, and freely soluble in chloroform, alcohol, amyl-alcohol, glacial acetic acid and alkalies; its aqueous solution has a faint acid reaction, and is not precipitated by lead acetate or subacetate.—Archiv d. Phar., 1883, Jan., p. 1-16.

Probably the same principle, which, however, yields a flocculent precipitate with lead subacetate, has been named asebotoxin by J. F. Eijkman, and is obtained by agitating the concentrated aqueous infusion of the plant with chloroform, precipitating the chloroformic solution with petroleum-benzin, and purifying the precipitate by dissolving in alcoholic ether, agitating with. water and evaporating the latter solution. Asebotoxin is colorless, glass-like, soft at 100°C., melts at 120°, is freely soluble in warm water, in alcohol, chloroform and amylic alcohol, and less freely soluble in potassa solution than in ammonia and pure acetic acid. It is slightly soluble in pure ether, and almost insoluble in benzol, petroleum-benzin and carbon bisulphide. The aqueous solution has a neutral reaction, and is not precipitated by ferric chloride, cupric sulphate, mercuric chloride, auric chloride, argentic nitrate or plumbic acetate. When boiled with diluted hydrochloric acid, a resinous body separates and the filtrate yields, with alkaline copper solution, a copious precipitate of cuprous hydrate. Asebotoxin acquires a beautiful blue color when moistened with hydrochloric acid, the color changing to violet-red when heated in a water-bath. Diluted sulphuric acid colors it red, changing to rose color, at the same time separating a blueish-gray substance. The lethal dose for rabbits is .003 gm. of asebotoxin or an infusion of .2 gm. of the leaves.—Chem. Centralbl., 1883, p. 72; Phar. Weekblad, Oct. 1, 1882.

The leaves of Andromeda mariana, Lin., known as stagger-bush, of Kalmia angustifolia, Lin., known as lamb-kill, and of several allied American species, are reported to be poisonous, and may contain a principle identical with or allied to the foregoing.

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