Gleanings in Materia Medica.
BY THE EDITOR.
Lycoperdon giganteum, the giant puff-ball, belongs to the natural order of trichagastres. The peridium, or outer coat, which breaks up into warts or scales, is intimately connected with the inner coat, and the spores are mostly sessile. All the various species of lycoperdon are produced abundantly in nearly every country, but are so variable both in character and properties, that it is very difficult to distinguish them. Dr. E. Thomson recalls attention in the "Lancet" to the use of this fungus as a local haemostatic. He states that it forms a very soft and comfortable surgical dressing, and that the powder it contains seems to contain antiseptic and anodyne properties. The mature plant is about the size of a child's head, and is covered with a thin skin; the latter is removed, and capillitium and spores which form a dusty mass are used. Mr. Fagan, a leading surgeon of Belfast, found that it at once restrained the bleeding from arteries in the bone, in the neighborhood. of the orbit, after the failure of other means. The researches of Hagan show that the hemostatic action of the puff-ball, as well as of all other spongy or powdery substances, depends upon the fact that healthy blood deposits haematoblasts or minute corpuscles on any foreign substances introduced into a vein, which become adhesive points for the subsequent attachment of particles of fibrin. This action, however, also takes place when the vessels themselves assume abnormal conditions, as when cut or altered by disease.— Wm. Elborne in Phar. Tour. Trans., February 24, 1883, p. 688.
The fumes produced by the burning of this fungus have been used for stupefying bees and other insects, and for the anesthesia of other animals, effects which are due to the presence in the fumes of carbonic oxide.—See Am. Jour. Phar., 1855, pp. 376 and 464.
Adulteration of Powdered Pepper.—Prof. Charbonnier directs attention to an adulterant, which is not a new one, but at present appears to be very extensively employed in France, particularly for white pepper. This is the putamen of olives known in commerce as grignons d'olive (olive pits), or as poivrette (little pepper), a name probably given to it to create the belief as if it contained some of the properties of pepper. These olive pits were formerly burned up and used as manure (engrais); now it is found more advantageous to sell them at 25 or 30 francs for 100 kilos, and to use them for the adulteration of pepper. According to the treatment to which they are subjected, a gray or white powder is obtained adapted for the adulteration of powdered black or white pepper. The hard shell consists of elongated stone cells resembling those found in the epicarp of black pepper; but since white pepper is deprived of the pericarp, the adulteration of its powder with ground olive pits is readily detected under the microscope by the large number of stone cells.—Rép. de Phar. 1883, pp. 19-21.
The adulteration of pepper with olive pits is readily detected, according to Dupré, by dusting the powder upon a liquid composed of equal parts of glycerin and water, upon which the powdered pepper will float, while the powdered olive pits will sink.—Monit. Prod. Chim. xiii. 34.
Guadeloupe Vanilla.—Seven or eight years ago a new vanilla plantation was established in Guadeloupe, and for several years the vanilla has been met with in French commerce. It is quite distinct from the Mexican and Bourbon vanilla, and is thought by Professor Charbonnier to be probably derived from a variety of vanilla planifolia, and, perhaps, to undergo a different process of curing. Instead of being irregularly triangular, it is always flattened, of a blackish color, rather less dark than in the Bourbon and Java vanilla, is less frequently covered with crystals of vanillia, has a distinctive odor, is little wrinkled, and is marked with fine striae in a longitudinal direction. While it is of good appearance, resembling Bourbon vanilla, its odor is less fine, and on use disappears quite rapidly. It is sold at about one half the price of Bourbon vanilla.—Rép. de Phar., 1883, p. 18.