Gleanings in Materia Medica.


Fruit of saw palmetto Sabal serrulata, Roemer et Schultes.—The dried fruit of the saw palmetto is described by J. Moeller as being oblong ovate, 10 to 15 mm. (2/5 to 3/5 inch) long, 5 to 9 mm (1/5 to 1/3 inch) broad, bluntly pointed at the base, externally blackish-brown, netted, wrinkled, weighing about .5 gm, inodorous and tasteless, and containing a shriveled seed. The pericarp is 1 mm. thick, and consists of three well-defined layers of nearly equal thickness: the blackish-brown resinous epicarp, the yellowish-green mesocarp, and the yellowish brittle endocarp, composed of sclerenchyma. Soaked in water, the mesocarp swells considerably, and somewhat less the epicarp. Both tissues are formed of thin walled cells; those of the latter are filled with a brown mass; those of the former colorless or brownish, and surrounding numerous fibrovascular bundles. The thin walled cells of the testa contain a red brown mass. The endosperm is hard and hornlike, swells rapidly in water, and consists of a peculiar parenchyma, which becomes gelatinous by potassa.

Iron salts color the contents of the cells of the epicarp blue, but scarcely affect those of the testa. The contents of the latter are soluble in alkalies; those of both tissues insoluble in water. The mesocarp contains sparingly groups of calcium oxalate crystals, also remnants of protoplasma, which are also found in the endosperm. Starch is not present.—Phar. Centralhalle, 1883, No. 15. For an account of the uses of saw palmetto, see paper by Dr. J. B. Read, in Am. Jour. Phar., 1879, p. 169.

Globularia Alypum.—Heckel and Schlagdenhauffen obtained from the leaves by extracting with carbon bisulphide 2.85 per cent. of extract, consisting chiefly of fat and chlorophyll. Ether took up 2.438 per cent., consisting of coloring matter, a little tannin, globularin, chlorophyll and cinnamic acid. Chloroform yielded 11.365 per cent. of extract, containing tannin, coloring matter, and principally globularin and cinnamic acid. Alcohol. now took up 30.55 per cent. of extract, containing, in addition to the principles mentioned, also glucose and mannit. Globularin is amorphous; it is precipitated from its aqueous solutions by iodine, bromine and tannin, but not by metallic salts; mineral acids decompose it into glucose and a resinous body, globularetin. This is soluble in cold alkalies and reprecipitated by acids; but after boiling the alkaline solution, acids produce a crystalline precipitate of cinnamic acid. Globularetin C9H6O is an anhydride of cinnamic acid, C9H8O2. Globularin, when boiled with potassa and potassium permanganate, yields benzoyl bydride; and the leaves, when distilled with a limited amount of sulphuric acid and potassium bichromate, furnish a certain quantity of oil of bitter almond.

The branches yield to the solvents mentioned above much smaller amounts of extract.

Globularia vulgaris contains the same constituents, but the leaves yield to carbon bisulphide 2.70, to ether 4.25, to chloroform 2.35, to alcohol 41.85, and to water 8.75 per cent. of extract. The volatile principle is present only in minute proportion.—Jour. Phar. Chim., 1883, May, p. 361-366.

Nux Vomica.—W. R. Dunstan and F. W. Short have analyzed a number of authentic specimens of nux vomica with the following results:

  • First Series, 1877—Bombay Fine.—Diameter, 20.25 to 25.5, average, 23.0 mm.; thickness, 4.0 mm.; circumference,, average, 70.0 mm.; edge generally acute; texture very silky; form nearly flat, fairly regular, few concavo-convex and bent; cotyledons 7-veined, 2 outer veins small; alkaloids, 3.46 per cent.
  • Bombay Ordinary.—Diameter, 19.0-28.0, average, 23.0 mm.; thickness, 5.0 mm.; circumference, 60.0-82.5, average, 70.0 mm.; edge generally rounded, some acute; texture silky; form nearly flat, some irregular, few concavo-convex; cotyledons, 2 outer veins small; alkaloids, 3.14 per cent.
  • Cochin.—Diameter like preceding; thickness, 4.0-6.0, average, 5.0 mm.; circumference, 57.79, average, 68 mm.; edge round, few acute; texture silky; form nearly flat, some concavo-convex, many irregular; cotyledons, 2 outer veins small; alkaloids, 3.04 per cent.
  • Madras.—Diam., 12.5-23.0, average, 18.0 mm.; thickness, 4.0-5.0, average, 4.5 mm.; circumference, 38.0-71.0, average, 57.0 mm.; edge generally round, seldom acute; texture dull; form nearly flat, some slightly concavo-convex, some irregular; cotyledons, 2 outer veins small, albumen resinous; alkaloids, 2.74 per cent.
  • Second Series, 1883—Bombay, like Bombay fine, above, but largest diameter 28 mm.; average thickness, 3.5 mm.; average circumference, 73 mm.; cotyledons, 2 lateral veins small, and sometimes indistinct; alkaloids, 3.90 per cent.
  • Cochin.—Like above, but average diameter 25 mm.; average thickness, 4-5 mm.; average circumference, 74 mm.; cotyledons, 2 lateral veins indistinct; alkaloids, 3.60 per cent.
  • Madras.—Like above, but average diameter 19 mm.; average thickness, 4.75 mm.; largest circumference, 65 mm.; cotyledons, 2 lateral veins indistinct; alkaloids, 3.15 per cent.—Phar. Jour. and Trans., June 23, 1883, p. 1055.

Constituents of Ericaceae.—Rich. Thal prepared ericolin from 300 pounds of the herb of Ledum palustre by boiling it in a still with water, precipitating with acetate and subacetate of lead, freeing the precipitate from lead, evaporating to an extract and exhausting this with spirit of ether. Ericolin, C26H30O3, is inodorous, brown yellow, sticky, hygroscopic, strongly bitter, very soluble in alcohol and ether-alcohol, very sparingly soluble in ether, chloroform and benzin, and gradually decomposed when in contact with water, the odor of ericinol being developed, sugar dissolved, and a brown powder separated, which aggregates into a blackish-brown mass. This decomposition is rapidly effected by heating with dilute mineral acids and ericinol, C20H26O, by combining with water, is further converted into hydroericinol, C10H20O4. The latter is a thick fluid, brown yellow, of a peculiar strong odor, and a balsamic, not bitter, taste; on keeping even in vacuo it becomes partly insoluble in ether.

Ericolin prepared from Calluna vulgaris differed somewhat from the preceding. By following the process given in outline above, and treating the ether-alcoholic extract with warm dilute sulphuric acid, the odor of ercinol was observed, and the presence of ericolin shown in uva ursi and 29 other ericaceae—namely, 6 species of Erica, 10 of Rhododendron, 3 of Vaccinium, 3 of Azalea, in Gaultheria Shallon, Pursh, Clethra arborea, Eriodictyon glutinosum, Epigaea repens and Ledum latifolium. The last two species and the rhododendrons gave the strongest odor of ericinol.

The lead precipitate mentioned above contains leditannic acid, C15H20O8, which, in addition to the properties described by Willigk (1852) was found to have a distinctly acid reaction and acidulous astringent taste; it dissolves with difficulty in ether, more readily in acetic acid, and its aqueous solution precipitates cinchonine sulphate, dingy flesh-colored; lead acetate, light yellow; tartar emetic, brown; copper acetate, brown-black. Gelatin causes a copious precipitate, and silver nitrate is reduced. By dilute mineral acid it is split into water and ledixanthin, C30H34O13; the latter is brown-red, sparingly soluble in water, and freely soluble in alcohol before drying.

The author prepared also callutannic acid, which resembles the above, but yields with gelatin only a turbidity. He instituted also comparative experiments with pinipicrin, and confirmed its close resemblance to ericolin, which had already been observed by Kawalier (1852), but could not prove the identity of the two compounds.—Phar. Zeit. Russl., 1883, No. 14-18.

Oil of Angelica Root has been examined by Naudin. About one-half of the oil distils between 163° and 167°C., 25 per cent. between 167° and 330°C.; the remainder distils with difficulty, and the boiling point rises with each distillation. By fractional distillation in vacuo 75 per cent. of the oil is obtained as a colorless oil, which is not altered in the light, has a faint pepper-like odor, boils at 166°C, has the density .870 at 0°C., and rotates polarized light + 5° 39'. Heated to 100°C., the oil is not altered, but at 160°C. it gradually becomes thick. The author proposes to call it β-terebangelene.—See also Am. Jour. Phar., 1882, p. 159.—Rundschau, June 20, 1883; Compt. Rend., 96, p. 1152.

Saponin, which was discovered by Schrader (1809) in the root of Saponaria officinalis, has been prepared by Dr. E. Stuetz from quillaia bark by boiling the aqueous extract with alcohol. The yield was 2 per cent. Saponin is a white amorphous powder, of neutral reaction, producing upon the tongue at first a mild impression without taste, followed by a slight astringency. It dissolves in water almost in all proportions, is soluble in aqueous alcohol and ether, but insoluble in absolute alcohol. Its formula is C19H30O10, and contains five hydroxyl groups.—Chem. Zeit., 1883, No. 49; Liebig's Annal., vol. 218.

Viola tricolor var. arvensis.—Mandelin found in this plant a new coloring matter, violaquercitrin. The plant is exhausted with warm alcohol, the alcohol distilled off, and the residue treated with warm distilled water. On agitating this dark brown solution with benzin, for the purpose of obtaining the salicylic acid (see Am. Jour. Phar., 1882, p. 10), a yellow crystalline mass is precipitated. After washing, the crystals are easily soluble in alkalies with a deep yellow color, and reprecipitated by acid. They are soluble in hot water, and crystallize again on cooling. Its composition is C42H42O24. On being boiled with dilute Mineral acids, it is split into quercetin, C24H16O11, and a fermentable sugar, C6H12O6. The acid filtrate contains a third product of decomposition, which may be obtained by agitation with chloroform, and is characterized by its beautiful fluorescence when in alkaline solution.—Phar. Zeit. Russl., 1883, p. 329-334.

The Preparation of Cod Oil at Swampscott, Mass., not far from Lynn, and near the head of a bay, between Nahant and Salam, is thus described in the Edinburgh Medical Journal, Feb., 1883.

It is a place called the "Rocks," where in winter the codfish come in shoals to spawn, and the striped bass sport themselves in summer. During the winter months, be the weather what it may, unless the wind be rising for a gale, a little after midnight men may be seen going about the village, stopping here and there at houses, rousing the fishermen, who, by and by, gather in groups about the shore, each with his "dory," that well-known model of Yankee ingenuity which at the great Berlin fishery exhibition excited so much attention. The dories and their owners are soon aboard the various schooners in waiting, and by 5 A. M. the fleet is at the "Rocks;" so when the daylight is sufficient, the dories anchor about their respective larger craft, each boat with its single occupant, who is soon hard at work robbing the sea of its life. About 3 P. M., the signal is given from the schooner to come aboard; the dories hasten to their floating castles, with pitchforks the various "catches" are soon thrown aboard, and sail is made for home. During the passage the fish are gutted, the entrails cast into the sea, and the livers, some of them large enough to fill a quart mug, are put into baskets. When the shore is close at hand, the fish are again put into the dories; but the roughness of the sea is such that these boats, when loaded, cannot land, and into the icy sea-water the horses are driven until the carts reach such a place that the codfish can be put into them, when off they go, to plod the night through for the early Boston market. The livers are immediately sorted over and the gall bladders carefully removed. The great luscious, flabby masses are thrown into a large oak tub; with this are connected steam pipes. When the receptacle is full and closed, low pressure steam is turned on, and for about two hours and a half cooking goes on. Then the plugs are taken out at the bottom, and the hot oil streams into buckets. It is now placed in butts in the cooling-room, and allowed to stay there until it freezes solid. So it is kept until opportunity offers, when it is put into canvas bags holding about four gallons each. These bags are then placed regularly upon a heavy oak table provided with outer grooves for conducting liquid, until twelve gallons are in a row. On this is laid a slab, then canvas bags, and so layer after layer, until about eighty gallons are piled up. A ton of pig iron is then placed upon the top slab of oak, and the oil begins to flow out. In about twelve hours dripping ceases, and the apparatus is taken apart. Inside the bags is found a yellowish butter-like mass, as hard as tallow, which is nearly pure stearin, with liver debris and fibers. This goes to the soap-makers, while the oil finds its way to the Massachusetts General Hospital and other places, where the superiority of the finest American oil over the Norwegian is recognized.—Boston Med. and Surg. Jour.

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