Baycuru Root.

Botanical name: 


From an Inaugural Essay.

Baycuru is the vernacular name given to a plant, indigenous to Brazil, natural order, Plumbaginaceae, and probably derived from the genus Statice. Mr. E. M. Holmes, London, believes it to be Statice brasiliensis. Although the Plumbaginaceae do not generally inhabit tropical countries, some do exist there, and Dr. Symes gives some further information in regard to the origin of the plant. "It grows on the shores of the Rio Grande, and imbeds itself more or less in the sand, a number of radical leaves rising from above, and being some five to seven inches in length, by one and a half to two inches in breadth. The flower resembles that of the London pride (Saxifraga serratifolia). The whole plant is sometimes covered by the sea, for days and even weeks at a time, dependent on the direction of the winds, there being no tides in that locality. The natives have an unlimited amount of faith in its virtues as an astringent and discutient remedy, in all kinds of enlargements and glandular swellings; externally as a fomentation, and frequently as a vapor. It is also prescribed by the resident physicians, not as a specific, for Dr. Landell has found it to fail utterly, but as a rule it is reliable, both externally and internally, and forms a valuable astringent gargle. The root is used both in the fresh and dry states." As seen in commerce the root is sub-cylindrical, from six to eight inches in length, and from a half to an inch in width. It has a blackish brown bark externally, is quite knotty and very rough from minute transverse fissures, and also from the removal of the cork in some places. There are also numerous depressions, probably due to shrinkage. For these reasons the root has rather a granular appearance externally. Internally it is reddish brown, and in a section cut transversely shows a rather thick bark, prominent wood-wedges, forming a circle with alternate layers of medullary tissue. The pith occupies about one-fourth of the whole diameter, and shows a few compact cells in its tissue; fracture rough, taste astringent.

Under the microscope the ordinary tissues of the dicotyledonous plants are seen. On a transverse section are seen, first the corky envelope, then the cellular envelope, consisting of six or eight layers of cells; to this is connected the liber or inner layer of bast tissue. The cambium layer follows. The wood appears on the transverse section pentangular. The medullary rays are much broader than the adjoining wood bundles. The shape of the cells of the meditullium varies from irregular quadrangular to pentangular. Air passages are also visible within the wood bundles. On the longitudinal section the elongated wood cells are noticeable, as also cells of the medullary rays. The most characteristic microscopical feature, however, is what appears to be sclerogen cells resulting from secondary deposits. In some cases they seem to be composed of a group of cells and are crystalline in appearance. They are found in the pith and in the inner bark.

The material for the following analysis was kindly furnished by Messrs. Parke, Davis & Co. The plan of analysis, essentially that of Mr. H. B. Parsons, was as follows:

Moisture.—6.48 Gm. of the finely powdered drug were dried in a suitable vessel at a temperature of about 90°C. until it ceased to lose weight. 5.93 Gm. remained, showing a loss equivalent to 8.5 per cent. of the drug.

Ash.—3 Gm. of the drug by gradual incineration, in a weighed porcelain crucible, yielded an ash weighing .290 Gm., equivalent to 9.66 per cent. of the drug, and containing potassium, magnesium, sodium, and calcium, in the form of sulphates, phosphates, and chlorides, principally sodium chloride.

Benzol Extract.—100 Gm. of the finely powdered drug were placed in a suitable percolator, and after saturating the powder with a portion of the menstrum, and closing tightly, it was allowed to macerate for three days; at the expiration of this time the percolation was allowed to proceed until the drug was completely exhausted. The percolate measured 296 cc., and on evaporation yielded an extract weighing .388 Gm., equivalent to .388 per cent. of the drug. The extract was soft, of a dark green color, and consisted of a soft resin, a trace of wax and coloring matter. It was treated with warm water, filtered, and cooled. A portion of the filtrate tested by Mayer's solution, phospho-molybdic acid, platinic chloride, and other reagents for alkaloids gave negative results. Another portion boiled with dilute hydrochloric acid, and then neutralized with potassa, gave negative result with Fehling's solution, as a test for glucosides.

Alcohol Extract.—The drug remaining after treatment with benzol was dried, and after maceration exhausted with 80 per cent. alcohol. The percolate measured 620 Cc. An aliquot portion yielded an extract equivalent to 16.4 Gm. of the whole, or 16.4 per cent. of the drug. The extract was treated with water, and a portion of the filtrate was estimated for tannin with a freshly prepared solution of gelatin and alum. The weight of the tanno-gelatin precipitate was equivalent to 27 Gm. of the whole, and estimating 45 per cent. of this as tannin,, shows a net result of 12.15 per cent. This tannin produced a green color with iron salts, was readily precipitable with solution of morphine and tartrate of antimony and potassium, in each case a white precipitate forming. The filtrate recovered from the tannin estimate was acidulated with sulphuric acid, an equal volume of alcohol added, allowed to stand for a time, filtered, washed, evaporated clear of all alcohol, and the acid solution tested for alkaloids and glucosides, with negative results for the latter. With Mayer's solution and phospho-molybdic acid precipitates were obtained. The remaining acid solution was then neutralized with ammonia, and the resulting precipitate shaken with ether in a test tube. The etherial solution was filtered, evaporated to a small quantity, and failing to show any crystalline products, after standing for a few hours, the evaporation was continued to dryness on a watch-glass. The result, as seen under the microscope, was small feathery crystals. Several efforts were made to isolate an additional quantity of these crystals, and the following process proved successful; An alcoholic tincture was evaporated to a syrupy consistence, potassa added, and the whole shaken with chloroform. The chloroformic solution was evaporated, the residue treated with a weak acid, filtered, precipitated by ammonia, treated with ether and then with chloroform. The crystals obtained in both cases are completely dissipated on ignition, and gave a red color with sulphuric acid, which disappeared on heating, and left a tarry-colored liquid remaining. From these evidences I take this principle to be an alkaloid, for which I propose the name baycurine.

The portion of the alcoholic extract insoluble in water, was found to be principally resin. A separate investigation of the resinous bodies was conducted as follows: An aliquot portion of an alcoholic fluid extract, made from another portion of the drug, was poured into water and allowed to stand for a short time, when two resins were observed, one lighter, the other heavier than water. Their respective weights were in the proportion of .5 to 1.5, and together yielded an amount equivalent to 3.66 per cent. of the drug. The lighter resin was partly soluble in ether and alcohol, and readily soluble in cold solution of potassa. The heavier resin was sparingly soluble in alcohol, soluble in ether, partly soluble in cold solution of potassa, entirely soluble in hot solution of the same. Both resins were precipitated by normal and by subacetate of lead. Their solutions were amber-colored, and in each the color was immediately discharged on the addition of mineral acids.

Cold Water Extract.—The remainder of drug left after the alcohol treatment was dried, and then macerated with water. The nitrate was wine-colored, and a portion yielded an extract equivalent to 3.66 per cent. of the drug, and was found to be gum principally, and to be precipitated by strong alcohol. No albumen was present.

Boiling Water.—The drug left from the previous treatment was boiled with water for eight hours; the volume of water was kept unchanged. The decoction was dark colored, liad a disagreeable odor, and yielded an extract equivalent to 9.39 Gm. of the whole, or 9.39 per cent. of the drug. Fehling's test proved the presence of glucose. Gum was found. Negative results were obtained for starch by the usual tests.

Volatile Principles.—150 Gm. of the powdered drug were placed in a retort and macerated for some days with water, then distilled. The distillate was neutral, dark colored, astringent, and possessed a very strong, disagreeable odor, so much so that it permeated the whole building in which the operation was conducted. On the surface of the distillate was found a trace of volatile oil, but not in sufficient amount to be collected and examined. The distillate tested for alkaloids gave negative result.

The residue in the retort was then treated with potassa and water, and after standing for some days, was again subjected to distillation. The distillate was lighter in color, not so astringent (after neutralization), and the odor was less penetrating and not as disagreeable as the first distillate. What odor it possessed entirely disappeared on allowing the distillate to stand exposed to the air.


1. Moisture 8.5 per cent.
2. Ash 9.66 per cent. sulphates, chlorides and phosphates of sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium.
3. Benzol extract .388 per cent. resin, wax and coloring matter.
4. Alcoholic extract 16.4 per cent. alkaloid, tannin (12.15 per cent.), Resin (1.66 per cent.)
5. Aqueous extracts Infusion 8.66 per cent. gum.
Decoction 9.39 per cent. glucose, gum.
6. Volatile principle Volatile oil (trace).

The American Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. 56, 1884, was edited by John M. Maisch.