Gleanings in Materia Medica.


Chewstick Gouania domingensis, Lin. Chew-stick.—The cylindrical stems are 8 to 16 mm. (⅓ to ⅔ inch) thick; the dingy grey-brown bark is 1 mm. (1/25 inch) thick, longitudinally wrinkled and with difficulty separated from the wood. The very thin cork consists of somewhat flattened cells, with mostly the inner wall thickened and containing a red-brown mass. The middle bark contains chlorophyll, and in many cells single monoclynic crystals of calcium oxalate, the primary bast bundles in small groups, the fibres broad, usually roundish and with distinct layers, occasionally groups of small, lemon-yellow stone cells inclosing crystals. The inner bark consists of extended bast bundles divided by the delicately-celled medullary rays and surrounded by rows of crystal cells. The bast fibres are long, thin, and characterized by the sharply defined primary membrane.

The sieve tubes in the inner layer are prominent from their large apertures, and in the older layers appear shrunken in branching cords forming the so-called horn bast. The joints of the sieve tubes. are about .4 mm. long and have the transverse membrane horizontal, coarsely porous, and mostly covered with thick callus. The bark is free from starch.

Zinc chloride with iodine imparts a violet color to the entire primary bast fibres, and with considerable swelling to the secondary layers of the secondary bast fibres and to the sieve-tube walls. All other cell membranes are colored yellow, and the contents of tangential groups of parenchyma cells in the soft bast brown. These contents are insoluble in cold water and potassa solution, almost completely soluble in boiling water, and are colored black by ferric salts. Other parts of the bark are free from tannin. The bast parenchyma is thin walled; the cells of the medullary rays become sclerotic only in old stems.

The wood is in circular layers, the early ducts of each year often larger, the several layers varying in thickness, occasionally rather compact, frequently very porous, the wood cells not numerous. The ducts are usually imbedded in parenchyma, appear transversely round or roundish, are sometimes .3 mm. in diameters and upon the walls dotted. The parenchyma contains rows of crystal cells; the pith has the cell. walls somewhat thickened and contains scattered crystals.

The bark has a bitter taste. The yellow coloring matter is contained in the membrane, and yields with hot water a tasteless solution which does not react with ferric chloride or alkalies.—Phar. Centralhalle, 1883, No. 14.

Catha edulis, Forskal, natural order Celastraceae, is a shrub about 10 feet high, with smooth, elliptical, serrate, either opposite or alternate leaves, two or more inches long, and about an inch wide. It is largely cultivated in the interior of Arabia, and furnishes the khat, cafta or Arabian tea. The slender twigs with the leaves attached are gathered, carefully dried, and made up into closely pressed bundles, each containing about 40 twigs, tied together by strips of bark, the quality being known by the form and size of the bundles. The use of this tea in Arabia, is said to antedate that of coffee; the effects of its use are said to be similar to those of strong Chinese green tea. The Arabs also chew the leaves, both in the green and the dried state, the effect of which is to increase the flow of hilarity and mirth, and to produce extreme wakefulness and watchfulness, an effect somewhat similar to that produced by coca.—Phar. Jour. and Trans., 1883, April 14; Ind. Agriculturist.

Sulamita vitulus (I can find no record of this genus - MM. Neither can I - Henriette), a plant of the natural order Melastomaceae, grows in Colombia, where it is used in neuralgic affections. The flowers have a strong and somewhat rose-like odor, and yield 1 ½ to 4 per cent. of volatile oil, which is heavier than water, and appears to be useful in perfumery.—Rundschau, Leitm., April 10, 1883.

Opium Assays.—Four cases of Yerli, Karahissar, and Bogaditch opium assayed by Dr. Squibb, gave the following results: water 18.40 to 21.77 per cent., residue 29.40 to 34.83 per cent., morphine 12.15 to 13.27 per cent., morphine in powder 15.5 to 16.-5 per cent.

Dr. Squibb also examined nine cases of Persian opium, each of the cases containing 160 plano-convex lumps, weighing 130 pounds. When assayed by his process ("Am. Jour. Phar." 1882, p. 244), it was noticed that although the ether extracted an unusual amount of narcotine, yet the morphine had retained about 4 per cent. of this alkaloid, which could not be removed by ether, but remained behind on dissolving the morphine with lime water. The opium contained much of a glucose-like substance, and comparatively little insoluble matter, one sample yielding 8.7 per cent. water, 24.3 per cent. residue, and 13 per cent. morphine. Calculated for dry opium the morphine varied between 12 and 14.3 per cent. —Ephemeris, No. 9, p. 290-283.

Hymenodictyon excelsum, Wallich. Natural order Rubiaeae.—The bitter bark of this East Indian tree was examined in 1870 by Broughton, who found the fresh bark to contain aesculin, which in the dry bark was converted into aesculetin, the bark being almost tasteless. Recently W. A. H. Naylor isolated from the dry bark an alkaloid which seems to be closely allied to paricine, differing chiefly in containing more hydrogen. The bark was mixed with milk of lime, the mixture dried, exhausted by alcohol, the tincture acidified with sulphuric acid and the alcohol recovered by distillation. The residue was treated with hot water, filtered, and the filtrate precipitated with caustic soda. The precipitate, amounting to 1.75 per cent., was digested in a limited quantity of ether, the ether residue dissolved in acetic acid, and the solution submitted to partial precipitation with ammonia or soda. The white gelatinous precipitate became yellow on drying, dissolved readily in ether, alcohol and chloroform, had no action on polarized light, and formed, with acids, amorphous salts. The solution in hydrochloric acid gave precipitates varying from grey to brownish yellow, with mercuric chloride, potassium, ferro- and ferridoyanide, potassium iodide, sodium phosphate, sodium and ammonium chloride, and sodium nitrate. The alkaloid differs from quinoidine in optical behavior, and in its platinum double salt containing less platinum; and from beberine in containing more carbon, and the double compound more platinum.—Phar. Jour. and Trans., April 7, 1883.

Mountain Sage. Mountain Sage; Sierra Salvia. J. Moeller gives the following description of this bitter aromatic drug; the stems attain about the thickness of a quill, are somewhat angular woody and with leafy branches. The leaves are short, petiolate, divided antler-like, the upper ones lanceolate or spatulate, sessile, scarcely 5 mm. (½ inch) long and 1 mm. (1/25 inch) broad. The erect, nearly globular small flowerheads are on short pedicels in the axils of the leaves, either single or in small racemes. The outer involucral scales resemble the leaves, the inner ones are broader, ovate, three-cleft, membranous and long-ciliate. The receptacle is flat, long-villose, and bears a small number of yellow tubular florets.

The hairs are quite characteristic, T-shaped; the basal cell projects somewhat above the dense cuticle, and is surmounted by two thinwalled stipitate cells and a terminal cell which is forked, thick-walled, and shows an internal cavity only at the fork. The hairs are colored faintly yellow by aniline sulphate. The author doubts the identity of the plant with Artemisia frigida, Willdenow, which is indigenous to Siberia.—Phar. Centralhalle, No. 17.

Phoradendron. Phoradendron flavescens, Nuttall, mistletoe.—The drug consisting of dried stems, leaves and flowers, has been examined by J. Moeller. The stem fragments are of the thickness of a quill and about the length of a finger, varying in color between gamboge-yellow and blackish brown, wrinkled and with opposite leafscars. The cuticle is thick, on the youngest branches beset with short conical thickened hairs, frequently in pairs; the bark is relatively thick, contains groups of stone cells and lighter colored bast bundles arranged in a circle, and is free from starch; the wood contains starch in the pith, in the medullary rays and in the scattered wood parenchyma cells. The leaves are smooth, when full grown, oblong or roundish elliptic, about 6 cm. long, sometimes spatulate, short petiolate, leathery, with the margin entire, the upper surface finely wrinkled and without visible nervation, the lower surface distinctly three-nerved and the nerves sparingly branched. The cuticle is thick, the epidermis consists of polygonal cells, and has on the lower surface numerous stomata; there is no distinct palissade layer, the mesophyll consisting of thin walled, loosely united cells with a few intercellular spaces, and containing tannin, mostly also yellow resin, and in scattered cells near the fibrovascular bundles, also crystalline groups of calcium oxalate.

The flowers are axillary, in whorled spikes, quite small, somewhat imbedded in the axis, three cleft, the pistillate ones in two or three whorls, with a hypogynous one-celled ovary and a two-lobed stigma; the staminate flowers longer and denser with three stamens united to the base of the perianth.—Phar. Centralhalle, 1883, No. 14.

Ricinus communis as an insecticide.—Mr. Rafford, a member of the Société d'Horticulture at Limoges, has observed that flies disappear from a room in which a castor oil plant has been placed, the flies either being found dead under the plant, or their bodies clinging to the under surface of the leaves. It would, therefore, appear that these leaves exhale a principle, possessing strong insecticide qualities.—Brit. Med. Jour.

Geum album is regarded by Dr. W. A. Spurgeon as a valuable antiemetic, relieving gastric irritation and headache. He uses it in the form of a tincture, made with 8 troyounces of the plant to the pint; the dose is a teaspoonful or more.—Virg. Med. Monthly.

Agaricus albus.—E. Jahns has again examined this fungus, and compared his results with those obtained by previous investigators. It was exhausted with hot 90 per cent. alcohol, the tincture concentrated. to the weight of the drug and cooled, when agaric acid separated in indistinct crystals mixed with white resins, the red bitter resin remaining in solution. The precipitate was collected, pressed, mixed with 10 times its weight of 60 per cent. alcohol, warmed in the water bath until the crystals were dissolved, and filtered while hot; the solution was evaporated, the residue repeatedly recrystallized from absolute alcohol, to separate the resin, until it was perfectly soluble in water. A little lime and magnesia was removed by recrystallization in presence of hydrochloric acid, and an amorphous body was separated by dissolving in hot 30 per ct. alcohol and cooling to 50°C., when pure agaric acid crystallized in delicate silvery plates. It crystallizes from alcohol in groups of prisms, is inodorous and tasteless, melts at 138° to 139°C., requires. at 15°C. 126 p. of 90 per cent. alcohol for solution, is readily soluble in warm alcohol, glacial acetic acid and oil of turpentine, less soluble in ether, and nearly insoluble in chloroform, benzol and cold water. In boiling water it swells to a jelly-like mass, and dissolves finally to a strongly acid, somewhat ropy liquid. Its composition is C16H30O5.H2O, the water being partly given off over sulphuric acid, and entirely at 100°C. It is a bibasic triatomic acid, and homologous with malic acid. Its neutral alkali salts are easily soluble in water and precipitated by alcohol in an amorphous condition the sodium salt hardening to a radiating crystalline mass; the other salts are amorphous. The acid salts are little soluble in water, and with difficulty obtained pure. When boiled with nitric acid, agaric acid yields succinic acid and volatile fatty acids, among which butyric acid seen-is to predominate.

The white resins could be separated by treatment with boiling absolute alcohol into white needles and an amorphous body, the latter being freely soluble in strong alcohol.

The results are summarized thus: Hot alcohol dissolves from white agaric—

  • 1.—16 to 18 per cent. of agaric acid, so named by Fleury (1870), and identical with the laricin of Martins (1845), in the main also with the agaricin of Schoonbroodt (1863), and possibly with the pseudowax of Trommsdorff; it forms a part of the white resin of Masing insoluble in chloroform (see "Am. Jour. Phar.," 1875, p. 208).
  • 2.—3 to 5 per cent. of an indifferent body crystallizing in needles, fusible at 271° to 272°C. and sublimable; it forms part of Masing's white resin alluded to.
  • 3.—3 to 4 per cent. of an amorphous white body separating from its solutions in form of a jelly, and identical with Masing's white resin soluble in chloroform.
  • 4.—25 to 30 per cent. of an amorphous red resin-like mixture, having an acid reaction, a bitter taste, a purgative action, and easily soluble in alcohol and ether.—Archiv d. Phar., April, 1883, pp. 260-271.

Cantharides contain, according to Eug. Dietrich, notable quantities of formic acid. This acid is the best solvent for cantharidin, the solubility increasing with the strength of the acid. Cantharidin dissolved in diluted formic acid, may be distilled.—Phar. Post, 1883, No. 18.

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