Some Plants of Afghanistan, and their Medicinal Products, cont'd.
(cont'd from previous page)
Glycyrrhiza glabra, Linn., and its variety glandulifera, Reg. et Herd.—This shrub in one form or other is very common all over the Badghis, and throughout the Hari-roed and Khorasán districts, near water. Its annual stems grow to great coarse shoots of from four to five feet in height from enormous underground root stocks. The Turkomans prepare from its roots the extract liquorice, which as well as the shrub they call Mahk. The Persians call the plant Soes, the root Behk-soes, and the extract Rob-i-sus. Liquorice is not manufactured at Meshad, but I was told that it was imported from Yezd and Fars in Persia, as well as from Turkistan. I obtained a preparation of it made by boiling the extract down in whey, which gives it a saline flavor, making the liquorice more palatable. This preparation is called by Turkomans Ao-karoet, the same term as they apply to whey.
Astragalus heratensis, Bunge, and Astragalus sp. near A. strobiliferus, Royle.—These two species of Astragalus are very common in stony soil in the Hari-roed valley and Khorasán, at an altitude of three thousand feet. The native names for either of these were Khon, Kon and Gabina, and for a gum that exudes from them Katíra. This gum was found attached to the stem in the peculiar form of tragacanth, wherever it had been able to make its way out through fissures in the bark, and on cutting the stem across the gum was seen to protrude from the medullary space. It is collected in large quantities in the neighborhood of a village called Kalla-roving, near Bezd, in Khorasán, for exportation to India via Herat, and to the sea coast of Persia.
Rheum sp. near R. songaricum, Schrenk.—I found a very handsome species of rhubarb on the great plains in the Hari-roed valley, near Tomanagha, at an altitude of two thousand feet; this the natives call Rewash-i-déwana, viz., fool's rhubarb, Rewand-i-méghan, Ishkin. It is very peculiar in its growth, producing three enormous basal leaves, which spread out flat on the ground, each being About four feet long by five feet across, and the flowering stem with a loose spreading panicle of flowers reaches a height of about three feet; the fruit is large and winged, ripening to a ruby red. The ripe fruit is collected and employed as a purgative, and when not procurable, the root is substituted. I am glad to say that I have been able to obtain a large quantity of the seed, which has been distributed to several gardens; some plants have already sprung tip, and are doing well in the gardens at Kew.
Orchis laxiflora, Linn., and Orchis latifolia, Linn.—I obtained the two species of orchis in a few localities in the Badghis, the Hari-roed valley, and Khorasán, and near Meshad I came across people digging for the tubers of these orchids, which they called "sálab" and "sálap."
In several places where I had purchased the dry tubers I was told by the vendor that they were not procurable in Afghanistan, but only near Meshad. Them can now be no doubt from my identifications on the spot that the tubers generally exported from Meshad into India through Afghanistan am those of the above species. In Meshad I was informed that these were Sálap, but not Sálap-misri; that the latter was an import article from Egypt, specimens of which, I regret to say, I was unable to procure.
Microrhynchus spinosus, Benth.—Native name Chir-kar.—This is a small shrub from one to two feet in height, with numerous intricately twisted branches, interlaced so as to give the shrub the form of a ball. It is apparently leafless, and very much resembles Lactuca orientalis, but has thicker and more fleshy branches without spines; both grow in the same stony gravel, especially on limestone débris. This plant yields a milky juice which exudes from injury, and dries in small grayish-black pieces, irregular in form, the largest the size of pea. This is collected and sold under the name of false Anzéroet, or Anzroed, and has the most nauseous and offensive odor of any substance that I have ever come across. The native who showed me this product said he knew the true Anzéroet, or Sarcocolla drug, quite well; that it was collected from somewhat similar bushes by shaking them over a cloth, and that these bushes were common near Koin, Birjand, and Yezd, in Persia, and were called Chir-kah and Shai-a-kah.
A true pine resin, also called Anzéroet, is imported into Meshad from India.
Delphinium Zalil, Aitch. and Hemsley, nov. sp.—This plant is found in great luxuriance at an altitude of 3,000 feet in the moister localities of the Badghis and Khorasán, and is called by the natives Zalil, also Isparak, Isburg, Awarg. The flowers, which, when fresh, are of a brilliant yellow, are employed in native medicine as a tonic and alterative, but are usually exported from Persia and Afghanistan as a dyestuff.
Papaver somniferum, Linn.—The opium poppy is cultivated in Khorasán, where the inhabitants both eat and smoke it. The quantity produced is chiefly consumed in the country itself, a little being exported westwards through Persia, and some towards Turkistan. In Afghanistan it is but little cultivated, and scarcely used.
Merendera persica, Boiss.—This spring flower is extremely common throughout Afghanistan and Persia. The corms of this species, with covering their external coverings removed, were sold at Meshad as Shambalit, one of the kinds of Hermodactylus, and which may be occasionally mixed with the corms of Colchicum speciosum, Stev., also a common plant in those parts. This is exported from Persia to India by the Persian Gulf to Bombay, rarely through Afghanistan.
The Surinján of the Punjab, which may also be another form of the Hermodactylus of the ancients, and which is imported into the Punjab from Kashmir, is without doubt the corms of Colchicum luteum, Baker. This is very common on the passes in Kashmir, extending as far west as the Murree Hills to Abbotabad, and has even been collected at as low an altitude as Lawrencepur. The corms of Colchicum luteum may be occasionally adulterated with those of Merendera Aitchisonii, Hook. fil., which I now believe is a variety of M. persica, and which is very common throughout the salt range extending to Kashmir.—Phar. Jour. and Trans., Dec. 11, 1886, p. 465.