Gleanings in Materia Medica.


Chinese Cabbage oil, obtained from the seeds of a species of Brassica, according to R. H. Davies, has at 60°F. the specific gravity .914; is of a deep brown color, somewhat thicker than olive oil, at 12°C. (10° F.) solidifies to a bright orange-yellow mass, and yields a rather dark colored elaidin. 100 grams of the oil required 0.125 gram caustic potash for neutralization, and 17.52 grams for complete saponification.

The mixture of fatty acids begins to soften at 17°C., melts completely at 22°C., has nearly the same saturating power as brassic acid, and contains oleic acid.—Phar. Jour. and Trans., Feb. 7, 1885, p. 635.

According to E. M. Holmes this oil is probably obtained from the seeds of the petsai, Brassica sinensis, which is largely cultivated in China. The oil is employed as a purgative, and externally for skin diseases; also like a yellow colored brassica oil, which is probably obtained from Br. campestris, Lin., the aburana of the Japanese. This oil is used for culinary and lighting purposes, in tobacco manufacture to prevent the leaves falling to powder after rapid drying, and for the manufacture of lampblack for use in making Chinese ink. The residue after the expression of the oil is used for manuring plantations of tea and other plants.—Ibid. p. 636.

Tea oil from Camellia oleifera, Abet, resembles olive oil in color, transparency and mobility, and has a characteristic odor and taste. Rob. H. Davies found it to have the spec. grav. .9175 at 60°F., and placed in a freezing mixture to deposit a solid fat, probably stearin. The oil mixed with a drop of sulphuric acid, has a behavior similar to almond oil; nitrous acid solidifies it. It contains less free acid than olive oil. 1,000 grams of tea oil require for complete saponification 195.5 grams of caustic potash; the oleic acid obtained amounted to 83.15 per cent., and about 10.8 per cent was probably stearic or palmitic acid; an insignificant amount of fatty acid was soluble in water.—Phar. Jour. and Trans., Feb. 7, 1885, p. 634.

A specimen exhibited at the International Health Exhibition was labeled oil of Camellia japonica. It is used in Japan by watchmakers and as a pomade, combined with Japanese wax and flavored with oil of cloves and other essential oils; it is non-drying, very fluid, free from unpleasant odor and according to E. M. Holmes could doubtless compete with almond oil and olive oil for many purposes.

In China the oil of C. oleifera is used for culinary purposes and as a hair oil, and is an important article of trade. The seeds of C. Thea were recently offered in London under the name of tanne, meaning seeds; they contain about 33 per cent. of oil, 13.8 per cent. of starch and 1 per cent. of theine.—Ibid., p. 637.

Myroxylon peruiferum, Lin. F..Mr. P. Macewan has examined a sample of what he calls the oleo-balsam of the red oleo, oleo vermelho, of Rio Janeiro, the results differing in several respects from those obtained by Th. Peckolt (see "Am. Jour. Phar.," 1881, p. 334). In bulk the balsam was dark brown, and in thin layers dark red; its odor was smoky and feebly fragrant. On tasting it, a persistent choky and disagreeable feeling was left in the throat. The spec. grav. was .915. Petroleum spirit dissolved 63.7 per cent., leaving a light brown pulverulent resin undissolved, and on evaporation left an amber colored, faintly aromatic residue, which gave a red-brown color with nitric acid; Peru balsam left an insoluble cohesive resin and the solution in petroleum spirit yielded a straw-colored fragrant residue, giving a yellow and pale violet-color with nitric acid. The oleo-balsam was completely soluble in alcohol and in ether, and partially soluble in carbon bisulphide, separating a flocculent brown resin which became adhesive to the sides of the vessel. The most marked difference between the two balsams is the behavior with sulphuric acid; on the subsequent addition of cold water to the mixture with Peru balsam, a beautiful violet color is imparted to the surface of the mass, while a gray color is produced with the oleo-balsam. The oleo-balsam has not the fragrance which is perhaps the most valued property of Peru balsam—Phar. Jour. and Trans., March 21, 1885, p. 771.

Cultivation of Ginseng. Consul-general Aston has visited several of the numerous ginseng gardens near Songdo, Corea. The seed is sown in March; the seedlings are planted out in beds raised a foot above the level of the surrounding soil, bordered with upright slates and covered in from still and rain by sheds of reeds 3 or 4 feet high, towards the north left more or less open according to the weather, and placed in rows with just room enough to walk between them. During the first and second year the plant has only two leaves and is frequently transplanted, in the fourth year the stem is about 6 inches high with four horizontal leaves, and in the fifth or sixth year the plant has reached maturity. Mould containing plenty of rotten leaves is the only manure used. The root is either dried in the sun or during unfavorable weather, over a charcoal fire; or to make the red or clarified ginseng it is placed in wicker baskets which are put in a large earthenware vessel with a closely fitting cover and pierced at the bottom with holes. It is then placed over boiling water and steamed for about four hours. The export of this quality of ginseng is a strict monopoly and death is the punishment for smuggling it out of the country. The annual amount exported to China is 202 piculs, valued at forty dollars a picul (133 ½ lbs.) The white ginseng is worth about half as much. It is the wild ginseng for which enormous prices are sometimes paid.—Phar. Jour. Trans., March 7, 1885, p. 732.

Sedum acre, Lin., nat. ord. Crassulaceae, is recommended by Dr. Louis Duval, of Madrid, as a remedy for diphtheria, a decoction in beer being made of which a wineglassful is taken every hour. After several doses copious vomiting is produced, removing the diphtheritic membranes.

This is the mossy stonecrop of our gardens and naturalized in dry and rocky places in the United States. It formerly enjoyed considerable reputation as a remedy in scurvy, dropsy, epilepsy, and externally in ulcers and various skin diseases. J. M. M.

Cassia Absus, Lin..Attention has recently been called again to the seeds of this plant which have long been used in the East for granular conjunctiva under the name of chichem, or schimsch, and occasionally in Europe as semen cismae. The plant is an annual, indigenous to the East Indies and westward to Central Africa; the rather narrow glandular-pubeseent legume contains 5 or 6 seeds, which resemble flaxseed, are flattish-ovate, glossy, brownish black, and have a somewhat aromatic odor and a mucilaginous disagreeable and bitter taste. J. J. Virey, in "Jour. de Phar.," May, 1823, described the application as follows: The seeds are well washed, then dried, finely powdered and mixed with an equal quantity of sugar; a small portion of this powder is dropped or blown into the diseased eye, which is then closed. The powder is of rapid action and irritating, and should not be used in the inflammatory stage of the disease; according to Frank its activity is increased by the addition of turmeric. J. M. M.

The American Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. 57, 1885, was edited by John M. Maisch.