Gleanings in Materia Medica.


Ustilagine is the name of an alkaloid which Dr. C. J. Rademaker and J. L. Fischer, Ph. G., have isolated from Ustilago maydis (Med. Herald, April 1887, p. 775). The cornsmut is exhausted with dilute alcohol; after the alcohol has been spontaneously evaporated from the tincture, a little sulphuric acid is added, the mixture is dialyzed, the dialysate evaporated to dryness, the residue washed with absolute alcohol, dissolved in water, rendered alkaline by potassa in excess, agitated with ether, and the ethereal solution evaporated spontaneously. The crystalline alkaloid is white, bitter, of an alkaline reaction, and soluble in ether, alcohol and water; sulphuric acid produces a maroon color changing to green; ferric chloride colors yellow. The salts are crystallizable and soluble in water.

The other constituents found were: fixed oil, 6.5, resin, 8.0, and wax, 5.5, soluble in petroleum-benzin; trimethylamine, 1.5, sclerotic or maisenic acid, 2.0, wax, 6.25, and resin, 4.5, soluble in ether; sclerotic acid, 0.5, and resin, 3.5, soluble in alcohol; sugar, 3.75, pectin, 2.25, salts, 4.5, and extractive, 9.5, soluble in water. The authors believe trimethylamine not to be a product of decomposition of the albuminoids. Another alkaline body, but non-crystallizable, was obtained, which will be further investigated.

The acid called sclerotic acid is described as crystallizing in needles, to be soluble in water, alcohol and ether, and to yield crystallizable salts. It does not appear to be identical with Dragendorff's sclerotic acid.

Drosera Whittakeri grows plentifully on the hills near Adelaide, South Australia, and is conspicuous in the spring time by its pretty white flowers, resembling those of oxalis. From the tubers of this plant Mr. Francis extracted, by means of carbon bisulphide, a volatile red-coloring matter, which produced on silk beautiful tints with various mordants.

Prof. E. H. Rennie (Jour. Chem. Soc., 1887, p. 371,) prepared the coloring matter by exhausting the crushed tubers with hot alcohol, distilling the tincture, adding water and subliming the precipitate. The sublimate, by repeated recrystallization from alcohol or acetic acid, was separated into brilliant red plates, C11H8O5, and into more freely soluble orange-colored needles, C11H8O4, both being, in all probability, derivatives of methylnaphthaquinone.

Heritiera littoralis, Aiton, nat. ord. Sterculiaceae, is a tree growing in Eastern Africa, India, the Philippines and Australia. All parts of it are astringent, and the red brown seeds have also a bitter taste. Heckel and Schlagdenhauffen (Nouv. Rem., 1887, p. 123,) have observed these seeds as an adulteration of kola nuts. They are readily distinguished from the latter by their nearly orbicular and flattened shape, with a diameter of about 4 cm. and a thickness of 10 to 12 mm., and by one of the fleshy-white cotyledons being only of about half the size of the other. The starch grains are polygonal, and only one half the size of those of the kola nut. These false kola nuts do not yield any caffeine; they contain fixed oil, 4.4 per cent.; tannin and coloring matters, 5 per cent.; sugar, 5.7 per cent.; cellulose and starch, 56 per cent; lignin, 12.4 per cent.; albuminoids, 13.5 per cent., and salts, about 3 per cent.

Cali nuts are described by E. Merck (Chem. Centrabl., 1887, p. 343). They come from the west coast of Africa, are the seeds of a papilionaceous plant, and have a more circular shape than Calabar, beans, but otherwise agree with the latter in all essential external characters. These cali nuts contain an alkaloid which closely resembles physostigmine in chemical properties and physiological action.

Acacia delibrata, A. Cunn..Dr. T. L. Bancroft observed (Australian Jour. Phar., March, 1887, P. 103) that the pod has not an astringent, but a disagreeable acrid taste. The acrid principle when isolated, was dirty-white, not crystalline, had a faint odor and an extremely nasty taste, and was soluble in water and alcohol, the aqueous solution frothing on agitation; it is a glucoside and by its chemical and physiological behavior related to, or identical with, saponin.

Aristolochia cymbifera, Martius.—The root of this plant has again appeared in the European drug market, and consists of pieces about 10 cm. (4 inches) long, gray-brown, longitudinally wrinkled, the thickest roots being split; the transverse section shows a rather thick bark, and a ligneous cylinder, which is distinctly radiating, and contains wide dotted ducts and wood-fibres; the bark and medullary rays contain much starch, and in numerous but slightly enlarged cells, a mixture of yellow resin and volatile oil.—Chemiker Ztg., 1887, p. 379.

The root is known in Brazil as milhomem, also as jarra and jarrinha and has a camphoraceous odor, resembling that of serpentaria, and a bitter and pungent taste. The roots of a number of other species of Aristolochia have similar properties and are also used under the same names as the preceding, the medical properties being analogous to those of serpentaria. The drug has been repeatedly used in Europe during the last century and more recently, but does not appear to be superior to other well known remedies.

Cryptocarya australis, Bentham. nat. ord. Lauraceae.—In a paper read before the Royal Society of Queensland, Dr. T. L. Bancroft states (Austral. Jour. Phar., March 1887, p. 103) that the bark is persistently bitter and has a toxic action, due to the presence of an alkaloid crystallizing in stellately arranged needles. When given to warm blooded animals respiratory difficulty is produced, ending in asphyxial convulsions and death. It has also a poisonous action on reptilia.

Daphnandra repandula is a new species found by Dr. Bancroft near the Johnstone river. All parts of this species have a peculiar transient bitter taste; the inner surface of the fresh bark is white, but becomes metallic black on exposure to the air, and again loses this color on drying. The aqueous extract is very poisonous, 10 grains being a fatal dose for warm-blooded animals, and is very rich in alkaloids, all of which, Dr. Bancroft states, are colorless and crystalline. The active alkaloid is soluble in water and to some extent is antagonistic to strychnine. Daphnandra retards the development of bacteria, deodorizes putrid meat, checks the growth of the yeast plant, and kills some water plants.

Daphnandra micrantha, Bentham, has similar properties; it is a shrub growing in the neighborhood of Brisbane.

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