Gleanings in Materia Medica, cont'd.

Cont'd from previous page.

Analysis of Cinchona leaves.—Emil Happersberger has determined the amount of alkaloids contained in the leaves of four species of cinchona grown in the University grounds at Berkeley, Cal., which is declared to be a most unfavorable locality for the cultivation of the plant. The results were as follows:

Process. Cinchona calisaya. Entire leaf.
Lamina without midrib. Entire leaf. Midrib. C. succirubra. C. officinalis. Hybrid.
Br. Phar. .70 2.0 3.2 1.5 .50 .75
Muter's. .76 2.0 4.0 1.8 .60 .70

The alkaloids of calisaya leaves were separated, and consisted of quinine, quinidine, cinchonine, and cinchonidine, of which quinidine comprised about one-half of the whole. If these leaves are a fair representation of cinchona leaves generally they must possess considerable medicinal value.—Proc. Cal. Coll. Phar., 1883, p. 53.

Oil of Gaultheria.—Wm. P. Underhill has distilled this oil since 1874, and gives the average yield as 10 pounds from a ton of the leaves, the highest yield being 14, and the lowest 9 pounds of oil. The larger yield is obtained when the season is dry. The cost of the leaves delivered at the mill is 1 ½ cents per pound, and it is very difficult to obtain leaves at that price. Since it will require about 200 pounds of leaves to make one pound of oil, the cost of the latter is $3.00 for the leaves alone. The author does not believe that the large sleazy leaves of New Jersey yield more oil than the stiff, hard, and brittle leaves of New Hampshire.—Proc. N. H. Phar. Assoc., 1882, p. 34.

Blue volatile oils.—On the fractional distillation of the volatile oils of German chamomile, wormwood and yarrow, Carl Hock obtained the first fractions colorless; those obtained above 150°C. were greenish, or blue-green, and those passing over at and above 260°C. were intensely blue. A considerable quantity of blue distillate was also obtained from the oil of elecampane. It is known that on the dry distillation of galbanum, a blue oil is produced. A. Kachler (1876), reported on a blue oil from the so-called aromatic Peruvian guaiac resin, and on blue fractions from oil of valerian; and Flückiger ("Phar. Chemie," p. 309) on blue oils from sumbul, puchury, patchouly and asafoetida. Rock finds that all these blue oils show in the spectroscope three absorption bands in red and orange; they distil at 260°C. and give a colorless vapor, not blue as was stated by Kachler (1871), for oils of galbanum and German chamomile. Though the blue compound seems to pre-exist occasionally in the plant, Hock regards it as being mostly produced by decomposition at an elevated temperature. Old resinified oils were found to yield a larger amount of the blue product, which, in contact with air is easily altered, turning to dingy brown.—Archiv d. Phar., Jan. 1883, pp. 17, 18.

Composition of Cacao Butter.—Kingzett announced in 1877 the isolation of two fatty acids having the melting points 57° and 72°C.; the latter was named theobromic acid, and was stated to have the formula, C64H128O2. Vander Becke in 1880 endeavored to prepare the latter, but without success. The subject was recently investigated by M. C. Traub, who examined five samples of oil of theobroma, two of which had been prepared by himself. After saponification the acids were ascertained to be completely precipitated by magnesium acetate, and by repeated fractional precipitation it was proven that the oil consists of the glyceryl esters of oleic, lauric, palmitic, stearic and arachic acids, and that the solid consistence of the oil and its low melting point are most likely due to the peculiar proportions in which these compounds are combined resembling in this respect the behavior of certain metals.—Archiv d. Phar., Jan., 1883, pp. 19-23.

Free Acids in Vegetable Fats.—Ernst Schmidt and H. Roemer obtained from Cocculus indicus 23.6 per cent. fat, of which 39 per cent. (9.2 per cent. of the fruit) proved to be stearic acid, which was obtained by dissolving the oil in hot alcohol, precipitating with barium acetate, exhausting the precipitate with petroleum benzin, and decomposing the barium salt with hydrochloric acid.

By fractional distillation, in vacuo, of commercial expressed oil of nutmegs myristic and stearic acids were obtained, amounting to 3 or 4 per cent., the last-named acid being present in small quantity.

A very small proportion of free acid is contained in laurel oil, the expressed fat of the fruit of Laurus nobilis; but by exhausting the fruit with hot alcohol 2 to 3 per cent. of fatty acid was obtained, which proved to be a mixture of several acids not yet identified, but possibly containing palmitic acid.—Ibid., pp. 34-38.

Convallaria majalis has recently been recommended as a substitute for digitalis in regulating the frequency and rhythm of the heartbeats, increasing the strength of the contractions and raising the blood pressure, and as being free from the cumulative action of digitalis. Dr. B. Stiller has used the drug in twenty-one cases, of which seventeen gave absolutely negative results, showing not the least influence on the frequency or rhythm of the heart's action; two individuals experienced a certain degree of diuretic effect without any of the other vaunted phemomena, not even the dropsy being diminished; only two patients underwent decided improvement in most of the cardiac symptoms during the use of the new medicine; but these cannot outweigh the large balance of negative results.—Boston Med. and Surg. Jour., Feb. 22, 1883; Wiener Med. Woch.

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