Gleanings in Materia Medica.
Aesculus Hippocastanum, Lin.—In medical works, including those on medical botany, in which the horse chestnut tree is mentioned, the discussion of the medical properties is usually confined to the use of the bark as an antiperiodic, and of the fixed oil as a topical remedy in rheumatic complaints. Occasionally the sternutatory properties of the powdered seeds are mentioned, and in works from the beginning of the present century we find it stated that a paste made from the seeds is useful in chilblains, and a decoction of the roasted seeds has been recommended in atonic uterine hemorrhages. A still older work (Murray appar. IV. p. 62), which is stated to give the uses of the horse chestnut in former times, could not be consulted by us. In only one of the modern works consulted (National Dispensatory, 3rd and 4th edit., p. 765) has been observed a reference to the popular use of the leaves in whooping cough, and of the seeds in hemorrhoids.
That this popular use has not been forgotten, we learned from Mr. Geo. W. Stoeckel, of Reading, Pa., at the meeting of the Pennsylvania Pharmaceutical Association in 1886. More recently Mr. Stoeckel has informed us that the use of the leaves and seeds in the manner indicated below is not uncommon in the southeastern counties of Pennsylvania. A decoction of the leaves is regarded as a remedy in whooping cough and is given in small doses frequently repeated, while the bruised fresh leaves, sometimes mixed with lard, are at the same time employed externally. The entire seed is carried in the pocket as a kind of charm against piles, and the powdered white kernel is thoroughly triturated with lard into an ointment, which is said to be successfully applied against piles.
Poisoning by the bark of Robinia Pseudacacia, L.—Dr. Z. T. Emery reports (N. Y. Med. Jour., Jan. 22, 1887) on the poisoning of thirty-two boys at the Brooklyn Orphan Asylum from chewing the inner bark of the locust-tree, which they had obtained from the yard where fence-posts had been stripped. In the mildest cases vomiting of ropy mucus was observed, together with flushed face, dryness of throat and dilated pupils. In the severest cases large quantities of ropy mucus, mixed with blood were vomited; the other symptoms were retching, pain in the epigastrium, debility, stupor, extremities cold and pulseless, heart's action feeble and intermittent, pupils dilated, faces of a dusky pallor. These patients were given bismuth subcarbonate and brandy by the mouth, and morphine hypodermically; sinapisms were applied over the stomach and bottles with hot water along the extremities. The patients were discharged from the hospital in two days.
The stem bark has never been examined chemically. Asparagin has been found in the root, and the flowers contain the glucoside robinin, which yields quercetin. The bark deserves investigation in view of the fact that a number of woody leguminous plants are known to contain poisonous alkaloids and other more or less active principles.
The diuretic effects of caffeine, which have been previously observed by Zwenger, Gubler, Shapter and others, have recently again been the subject of investigation. The result of von Schroeder's experiments (Arch. f. Path. u. Pharmak., Oct., 1886) point to two opposite effects of caffeine, 1, in stimulating the nervous system, similar to strychnine, and tending to decrease the flow of urine through the contraction of the renal vessels; and 2, in stimulating the kidney itself and thus greatly increasing the amount of urine. That the diuretic action varies considerably in intensity, was observed by Bronne (Dissertation, Strassburg, 1886). He administered the alkaloid in divided doses every two hours, 0.5 to 1.5 gm. being the total amount given in the morning only, so as to prevent it from causing sleeplessness; and if its employment must be prolonged, he advises its occasional discontinuance for a few days, when the remedy will act as promptly as before.
Eupatorium Ayapana, Ventenat, is at present met with in European commerce (Phar. Zts. Russl., 1886, p. 707). The drug consists of dried leaves, about 8 cm. long and 15 mm. (2/3 inch) broad, brown, smooth, oblong-lanceolate, the margin somewhat revolute. Two prominent lateral veins branch off from the midrib near the base, and extend parallel with the margin to the apex. The odor is slight coumarin-like, and the taste mildly astringent and aromatic. The leaves are recommended against indigestion, pectoral complaints and in cholera, and were used for similar purposes in Europe in the early part of the present century.
The shrub is indigenous to Brazil, but is now found throughout tropical America and in India. L'Heritier and Martius reported also its efficient use in Brazil against snake bites, the leaves being employed externally and internally.
Eupatorium villosum, Swartz, is indigenous to Jamaica and the Bahamas where it is largely used as a tonic, also as a substitute for hops in beer. Eupatorium amarissimum is mentioned as being employed in a similar way; the Mexican Pharmacopoeia mentions Eupatorium collinum, De C. (See Am. Jour. Phar., 1886, p. 169.)
Adulterations of saffron with foreign floral organs or with meat fibres have never been observed by Dr. Niederstadt (Arch. Phar., Jan., 1887, p.73). A sample of the finest quality of French saffron contained 14 per cent. of moisture and 5.84 per cent. of ash, of which 1.546 per cent. (= 0.058 per cent. of the saffron) was sodium chloride. Four samples of Spanish saffron obtained from Barcelona as pure, contained
|Moisture||16.70||15.80||19.80||17.60 per cent.|
|Ash||10.30 (incl. 1.546 NaCl)||14.65||13.80||14.90 "|
Glycerin, which has also been used for increasing the weight, renders the saffron sticky and adhesive to blotting paper. An adulteration with honey is difficult to prove, since saffron contains about 15-30 per cent. of sugar, Dr. Niederstadt having found 13 per cent. On agitating adulterated saffron repeatedly with water, fine needle-shaped fragments of red saunders are separated and may be readily identified from the structure under the microscope. Inferior saffron will give with strong sulphuric acid only a slight blue color, in proportion to the amount of pure saffron present. (For a paper on Spanish saffron see AM. JOUR. PHAR., 1885, p. 487.)
Cazeneuve and Linossier (Jour. Phar. Chim., 1886,) direct attention to the fraudulent sale of exhausted saffron dyed with various artificial coloring matters, some of which are difficult to detect, while others yield with water a red or orange red infusion, which after acidulation with tartaric acid, is a red dye for wool.