Gleanings in Materia Medica.


Asparagin is laevorotatory and its crystals have left-handed hemihedral faces. A. Piutti (Cmpt. Rend., vol. 103, p. 134) has obtained from the mother-liquor of crude asparagin an isomeride with righthanded crystals and dextrorotatory power, and of a much sweeter taste. The derivatives of the two varieties of asparagin are chemically identical, but differ optically, and the two aspartic acids combine in equal proportions to asparagenic acid, which is inactive and gives monoclinic crystals.

Euphorbia Drummondi, Boissier, a native of West Australia, is stated to possess valuable anesthetic properties, and to contain an alkaloid which Dr. John Reid, of Port Germain, South Australia, called drumine (Austral. Med. Gaz., Oct., 1886). A tincture is prepared of the plant or milk juice with alcohol containing hydrochloric acid, then concentrated by distillation, precipitated by ammonia, and filtered; the residue is dissolved in dilute hydrochloric acid, decolorized by animal charcoal and evaporated when boat-shaped colorless crystals are obtained. The alkaloid is stated to be almost insoluble in ether, but freely soluble in chloroform; also in water. A 4 per cent. solution of the alkaloid dropped into the eye produced local insensibility without appreciably dilating the pupil. A subcutaneous injection of 3 grains showed no effect in a cat beyond local anesthesia; but a larger dose by the month caused paralysis of the limbs and difficult breathing, and strychnine failed to produce muscular contraction. Applied to the tongue or nostrils, loss of taste was observed, but small doses swallowed were not followed by any perceptible constitutional symptoms. Dr. Reid recommends the alkaloid more particularly in small operations, sprains and local irritation.

More recent experiments made by Dr. A. Ogston (Brit. Med. Jour. Feb. 26th. 1887.) demonstrate that drumine has little if any effect as an anesthetic. Instilled into the conjunctiva it produced no anesthesia and had no perceptible effect on the pupil. Used hypodermically on four persons in doses of 4 and 6 minims of a 4 per cent. solution, a sharp and aching pain, followed by swelling and tenderness of the spot was produced, but no anesthesia. The material employed has been received directly from Dr. Reid.

Euphorbia helioscopia, Lin.—A case of severe ulceration is reported by Dr. Baudry (Bull. méd. du Nord,) resulting from the application of a poultice of the bruised plant. The milk juice is stated to be employed by peasants as a cure for warts.

This annual, which belongs to the group of Tithymalus, is indigenous to Europe and naturalized in some parts of the United States, in fields and waste places, and is characterized by its terminal umbel-like inflorescence, its obovate, finely serrate and more or less wedgeshaped leaves, and its smooth, almost three-lobed fruit containing coarsely reticulated, brownish seeds. With some botanically allied species it was formerly employed as a hydragogue cathartic and is regarded as being less acrid than many other species of the same genus.

Euphorbia Peplis, Lin., is said to be used as a domestic remedy in hydrophobia, and has been used successfully by Dr. Afonsky (Russk. Meditz., 1886), as a preventive, the drug being given in the form of powder after cauterizing the wound with hydrochloric acid, and using also pilocarpine hypodermically.

This species is likewise an annual, has thickish, obliquely oval entire leaves, axillary flowers and smooth fruits with smooth seeds and grows in southern Europe. It is used as a cathartic like Euphorbia Peplus, Lin., which is also an annual, but has roundish, entire and somewhat petiolate leaves, a corymbose inflorescence, the capsule-lobes two-keeled on the back, and grayish pitted seeds; the latter species has established itself in some parts of the United States.


The American Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. 59, 1887, was edited by John M. Maisch.