The Essential Oils of Blumea Lacera, Dc., and Sphaeranthus Indicus, Linn.


These two plants attract attention in India during the cold weather by their abundance on waste ground and in fields after the harvesting of the rice crop. The Blumea has a powerful camphoraceous odor, and Sphaeranthus indicus a rose-like perfume.

B. lacera is a perennial plant, with obovate, deeply serrated leaves and yellow groundsel-like flowers, the whole plant being thickly clothed with long silky hairs. The natives of the Concan, near Bombay, call it Nimurdi, and make use of it to drive away fleas and other insects. One hundred and fifty lbs. of the fresh herb in flower was submitted to distillation in the usual manner with water, and yielded about 2 ounces of a light yellow essential oil, having a specific gravity of 0.9144 at 80°F., and an extraordinary rotating power, 100 mm. turning the ray 66° to the left. Mr. D. S. Kemp, who made the observation, checked it by examining a 10 percent, solution in alcohol, which gave 6.6.

This Blumea is of interest as the possible source of an insect powder. I am forwarding a supply of the plant and a specimen of the oil to Mr. Holmes for experiment and also for identification, as the genus is a difficult one.

Sphaeranthus indicus is an annual with sessile, decurrent, obovate,. bristly serrate, downy, glutinous leaves, and globular heads of purple flowers. It is a well-known Indian medicine, under the names of Moendi, Gorakhmœndi, Munditika, Murmuria and Kottak-karandai, and is reputed to be a general tonic, deobstruent, alterative and aphrodisiac. The distilled water is recommended for use and also the root. One hundred and fifty lbs. of the fresh herb was distilled with water in the usual manner and yielded a very deep sherry colored, viscid essential oil, very soluble in water, and clinging to the side of the vessel, so that only half an ounce could be collected. The oil does not appear to have any rotatory power, but it is difficult to examine on account of its opacity.—Pharm. Jour. and Trans., June, 7, 1884, p. 985.

Bombay, May 1, 1884.

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