The Apocynaceae in Materia Medica.
By George M. Beringer.
In structure the fruit of Holarrhena Antidysenterica [Wrightia antidysenterica] approaches, in the main, that of strophanthus. Externally, is the epidermis with cells distinct and thickened on the outside. The mesocarp is formed of a fundamental tissue in which the cells are not flattened or pressed, but are distinctly visible without the aid of potassa. These cells have granular contents, the walls reddish-brown, and in the external zone, thickened nearly collenchymatous.
The internal region forms a fibro-vascular zone with white or yellowish white, very thick fibres, and vascular fascicles rounded or flattened, and with numerous laticiferous vessels. The endocarp is analogous to that of strophanthus.
The seeds of Holarrhena are quite small, 10 to 20 m.m. in length, 2 to 2 ½ m.m. in breadth, and 1 to 1 ½ m.m. in thickness. It requires forty of these seeds when dry to weigh 1 gramme. The shape is oblong, straight, elongated; the extremities somewhat attenuated, but blunt. The lower extremity is somewhat pointed, the upper bears a sort of collar, a very small swelling, upon which is inserted the characteristic tuft of hairs, but in commerce, these hairs are always absent. The seed is flat, or rather plano-convex, the dorsal face a little rounded, the ventral face flat or even concave in grooves. The margins of the seed enrolled a little toward this face, which is ordinarily marked by a small, whitish line extending from one extremity to the other. The color varies from a pale fawn or cinnamon with a little greenish, even to a chocolate brown. It is dull and ordinarily uniform.
The surface presents always quite large ridges, due to drying, but is not regularly and finely striated, as are those of Wrightia. Viewed with a lens, it is finely granulated, or even rugose. The fracture is easy, ordinarily greenish white, or at times brownish. The odor, while not marked, upon crushing approaches that of Strophanthus. The taste is frightfully bitter.
Macerated in water the seeds rapidly give to the liquid a disagreeable and nauseating odor and dissociate into their three elements. The envelope, brown and quite thin, often carries away with it the albumen in the form of a thin, peripheral sac of the embryo. The embryo is large, brownish; the cotyledons are refolded several times upon themselves, a little rumpled, but not rolled up. Five large nerves, well marked, start all at the base. The radicle is conical and relatively short. Sulphuric acid slowly produces, with the transverse section, a yellow coloration, changing to orange and finally red. The active principle is an alkaloid first isolated by Haines in 1858, and to which he gave later the name conessine. Stenhouse, in 1864, isolated from the seeds the same principle under the name, Wrightine and recently Warnecke obtained the Wrightine in a crystalline state. [Herr Warnecke obtained on aualysis of Wrightine figures corresponding to the formula C11H13N, and it is interesting as one of the few solid, non oxygenated alkaloids occurring in nature. G. M. B.] The name Wrightine is still erroneously retained, as Wrightia does not yield this substance.
In India this drug is considered a valuable remedy against maladies of the bowels, especially dysentery. Its use is constant as a febrifuge, astringent and bitter tonic. It was imported into Europe toward the middle of the last century. Antoinè de Jussieu employed it in 1730 and compared it with simaruba. It is said to be an excellent astringent, useful in dysentery, diarrhoea, vomiting of cholera and all inflammations of the digestive tract. It is used in hemorrhages, angina, as a lithontriptic, and as an antipyretic. Externally it is employed for haemorrhoids, itch, ulcers, etc., and has given good results in epizooty. The thick red fixed oil extracted from the seeds is considered an anthelmintic.
Fruits with a Fleshy Pericarp.
These are classified as Toxics and as Comestibles.
A. Toxics—The Seeds of Thevetia neriifolia. The Thevetia neriifolia Juss. [Thevetia peruviana] (Ahouai neriifolia Plum., Nerio affinis angustifolia Pluk., Cerbera foliis linearibus Plum., C. Thevetia L., C. peruviana Pers.), is indigenous to the West Indies, but has been introduced into India and the warmer parts of Asia, where it is frequently cultivated as an ornamental garden shrub and is employed here as in the country of its origin. In America the common names employed are: Ahouai, Yoire, Alelia de Matto, Jaca, Serpents nut, etc. in India: China Korobee, Kolkaphul, Exile or Yellow Oleander. It is an elegant small tree, with hard, white wood, with very fine grain; the leaves are linear, close together, alternate, nearly sessile, entire, shining, with a prominent mid-vein, very straight for their length (12 c.m. by 1 c.m.); the flower is large, yellow, fragrant; the bud resembles that of the Nerium.
The fruit is very characteristic, it is trigonal, 3 ½ c.m. by 4, and about 2 ½ c.m. thick, with the angles and borders blunt. At one of the angles is inserted the long peduncle and about this the five calycinal pieces; a circular line extends around the circumference of the fruit, and upon the broad upper margin is a small papilla. The fruit is at first green, then becomes black, shining; at maturity the surface is somewhat folded, the consistence is quite soft, the brownish pulp adhering to the stone. The endocarp is extremely hard, ligneous, yellow to brown in color. The kernel is very oily, bitter, and produces in a few moments a slight sensation of numbness on the tongue.
The active principle is Thevetine, isolated by De Vrij and studied by Blas and by Warden. It is a glucoside, crystallizable, splitting up by diluted acids into glucose and Theveretine, and which the experiments of Dumoutier show to be a tetanic; it is extremely bitter, possesses a metallic taste followed by a tingling of the tongue.
Warden has obtained from the mother-liquor, after the preparation of Thevetine, a yellow, amorphous, bitter substance, soluble in water, which appears much more active than Thevetine, and explains the extreme toxicity of the kernels.
Warden has discovered in the seeds and in the bark also a material, pseudo-indican, which was isolated as a yellow amorphous substance, probably a glucoside, and which yields with hydrochloric acid a blue coloration.
The seed of Thevetia neriifolia is a powerful poison, ordinarily considered an acrid narcotic, producing violent convulsions and gastro-intestinal phenomena. It has been employed as a purgative in rheumatism and dropsical conditions in the dose of one-half kernel. It is especially as a febrifuge that it is used along with the bark. In certain regions of America the seeds are considered a good alexiteric; two of the seeds pulverized are macerated in rum, the liquid drunk in fractions and the expressed pulp applied to the wound.
The Fruit and Seeds of Ahouai.—The Thevetia Ahouai A.DC (Cerbera Ahouai L.), is a native of Brazil, and is distinguished from the Thevetia neriifolia by having relatively broad leaves. The seed are identical with the preceding and possess the same properties and usages.
The Seeds of Yccotli.—The Thevetia Yccotli A.DC. [Thevetia thevetioides] (Cerbera thevetioides Kunth), of Mexico, is one of the most poisonous of the Apocynaceae. The T. ovata A.DC, T. cuneifolia A.DC [Thevetia ovata], var. Andrieuxii and T. glabra ([I can't find such a plant. -Henriette], all these species and varieties are known in the state of Jalisco as Narcisos amarillos.
The tree is named Yccotli, Icotli, Yccali, Joyottli, or Joyote. The Aztec word is Joyottli, which Hernandez transformed into Yccotli, adopted by DeCandolle as the specific name. The fruit is a drupe, with two papillae on the sides, rich in latex in the whitish mesocarp and contains a stone, a bony endocarp, yellowish, with four seeds or more often, two by abortion.
Herrera has separated from the seeds a non-drying fixed oil, by expression; another oil by ether and a white glucoside, crystallized, inodorous, non-volatile, very acrid, Thevetosine. Carpio has shown that the two oils are toxic in action upon pigeons, but not upon rabbits, and that the Thevetosine is extremely poisonous, emetic by action on the nerves, paralyzing the respiratory muscles first and then the other muscles and causing death by slow asphyxia. The substance has likewise some of the properties of the Digitalins.
The Mexicans use the seeds principally against haemorrhoids, cutaneous maladies, ulcers and tumors. It seems likewise to be used to cure the bite of the rattlesnake.
The Seeds of the Tanghin.—The celebrated ordeal poison of Madagascar, the Tanghin is furnished by the Tanghinia venenifera Poir. [Cerbera manghas] (Cerbera Tanghin, Hook. Cerbera venenifera Stend., Tanghinin veneniflua Boj., T. madagascariensis Dup.—Th.). The tree inhabits Madagascar, especially the forests of the north and the eastern sides of the island. It is cultivated in the hot houses of Europe, but has not fructified. It attains a height of ten metres. A bluish-white latex, very poisonous, abounds in all parts of the tree. The fruit and seeds are the only parts employed. The leaves are remarkable for their elongated shape, lengthily acuminate, their soft consistence and the black color which they assume in alcohol or by drying.
The fruit is a drupe, in the fresh state yellow or reddish, shaped like an egg or a peach, and in which the external region is a fleshy sarcocarp, fibrous and includes a ligneous, stony endocarp, which contains a single kernel. The shell resembles in form and appearance of the surface that of an almond.
The structure of the seed is analogous to that of Thevetia.
The toxicity of the kernel of the Tanghin is such that a single seed suffices to cause the death of a number of persons, according to some, as many as twenty. This kernel is frequently employed in its native country for the poisoning of criminals and the heads of the arrows are likewise frequently coated with the poison. But the reputation of Tanghin comes especially from its use as a legal poison in the ordeals or judicial trials.
The first physiological experiments were by Ollivier, who ranks the poison with the acrid narcotics. Then Pelikan and Kölliker, who employed the leaves and dry branches, concluded that there was a muscular action, and at the same time, or even before, a nervous action. J. Chatin, in 1873, admits, as a result of his experiments with the kernels, that it destroys the muscular irritability without reaching directly the nervous system. It is a paralyzer of the heart, acting equally by way of the stomach, or subcutaneously; more quickly by the latter way. The effects are obtained on the invertebrate animals likewise.