The Apocynaceae in Materia Medica, cont'd.

(Continued from previous page.)

Dita Bark.

Dita or Alstonia bark is obtained from Alstonia scholaris R. Br., [The genus Alstonia was named in honor of Charles Alston, a professor of botany, at Edinburgh, about the middle of the last century. It consists of large trees with verticillate or opposite leaves, calyx without appendages, corolla without crown, stamens included, two carpels containing numerous ovules, two follicles elongated and seeds peltate and are rich in caoutchouc.] [The specific name scholaris was applied to this plant, because in the schools of India school-boards are constructed from planks of this tree, the fine grained wood being well adapted for such purposes.] which tree is very common in the forests of India. The remedy was introduced into Europe by Graham, in 1839, and Alexander Gibson, in 1853, contributed an account of the drug. The bark as it enters commerce is in more or less contorted fragments of varying size, and in thickness from 4 to 12 m.m. The external face is frequently marked with blackish lichens and in some fragments the suberous portion is quite thick; the periderm is reddish-brown. Frequently it is marked by large transverse lines and fissures and leaf-scars. The internal face shows a tough grey or brownish-grey zone. The fracture is short, granular, porous but not fibrous and yellowish-white. The microscopic structure shows the suber, (where it remains), formed of cells very regularly piled up in series somewhat tangentially elongated and at times with a reddish-brown contents. Immediately beneath the suber is a layer of small cells, nearly all of which contain a large rhombohedral crystal of oxalate. Beneath this the layers of cells pass insensibly into the fundamental parenchyma formed of irregular, sinuated cells, with walls irregularly thickened and elongated in the direction of their axes. The limit of the liber portions is not very distinct. The medullary rays traverse the parenchyma in a sinuous manner and are formed of 2 or 3 rows of cells. The sclerotic elements are numerous and scattered throughout the external parenchyma and disappearing almost entirely in the liber. The laticiferous vessels on transverse section appear like the other cells except for their granular contents; on longitudinal section, they appear large and distinct.

The first analysis of Dita bark appears to have been by Gruppe, who separated a bitter non-crystallizable substance, which he named Ditaine. Gorup Besanez, by Stass' method separated this in a crystallized condition. Hesse and Jobst succeeded in isolating Ditamine, an alkaloid, and a closely related body, Echitamine. Harnack obtained the Ditamine pure by crystallizing from ether under the name of Ditaine crystallized, and concluded that this was the only body present. Hesse, as a result of a later complete analysis, described the following constituents, Echiceric acid, Ditamine (alkaloid), Ditaine or Echitamine (alkaloid), Echicaoutchine (amorphous resin), Echiretine (amorphous neutral body), Echcerine, Echitine, Echiteine (non-crystallizable bodies).

Dita bark is greatly employed as an antiperiodic in the countries of its production, where it is even claimed to be superior to quinine and, in a number of intestinal disorders, as diarrhoea and dysentery, it has given good results. It is recommended in debility and such fevers as typhoid and puerperal, and also as a vermifuge. It is a bitter tonic, stimulant and astringent. The powdered bark is administered in doses of 3 gm. to 1 gm., frequently associated with ipecac or gentian. The 10 per cent. tincture is used in doses 1 to 4 gms.

Alstonia constricta.

The Alstonia constricta F. von Mueller (Tabernaemontana sp. Mitch.) furnishes the Queensland Fever-Bark used to some extent in Europe. The bark in commerce appears to be from branches 10 to 12 cm. in diameter, and is found in curved pieces varying in length from 20 to 30 cm. and about 12 cm. wide. The thickness varies from 7 m.m. to 10 m.m., depending upon the development of the suber. The external face is yellowish-gray, marked by deep fissures. The internal face is brown, finely striated longitudinally. The fracture is granular, short in the periderm, and although quite fibrous in the internal zone, is easily broken; the color is lighter than that of the faces. The odor is very slight. The taste is strongly bitter, slightly pungent and disagreeable. Hesse has isolated from this bark the following alkaloids, Alstonine and Alstonidine, and Porphyrine and Porphyrosine possibly alkaloidal. The analysis of Oberlin and Schlagdenhaufer indicates the presence of the alkaloids Alstonine crystallized and Alstonicine amorphous.

Hesse attributes to Alstonidine properties analogous at once to those of quinine and to nux vomica. The experiments of Bancroft and of Bixby prove that this drug is valuable as a tonic febrifuge and more valuable as a febrifuge than as a tonic, while the Alstonia scholaris is more generally employed against dysentery. The A. constricta is, however, a good stimulant to the nervous system. As a bitter, it is comparable with gentian. It is ordinarily administered in powder, .5 gm. per day in syrup or in tincture 4 to 8 cc. per day.

Roots and Rhizomes.

The subterranean organs, with the exception of the Apocynums of America, are relatively unimportant. They are at times swollen and tuberculous, but more often the roots are ligneous and cylindrical. The cortex presents the same general constitution as that of the stem, with usually an abundance of starch and frequently a diminution of the thickened elements (fibres and sclerotics). The oxalate and the laticiferous vessels are less abundant than in the stem. The pith is ordinarily absent.

Apocynum Cannabinum.—The rhizome of the Apocynum cannabinum L. is commonly known as the root of the Indiam hemp of Canada and as Bowman's root, and also as bitter-root. These vulgar names have caused considerable confusion. The plant is a perennial 3 or 4 feet high, branched with slender branches, opposite leaves, greenish-white corolla, follicles hanging, seeds have a tuft of silky white hairs at the summit. If the plant grows in the shade the bark is green; if exposed to the sun it is brown. The Indians employed it for binding on account of its fibrous nature, and hence the name Indian hemp.

The rhizome is in the fresh state 8 to 18 m.m. in diameter and frequently branched, and is quite soft. The bark is quite thick and clearly distinct from the wood. The horizontal portion is devoid of pith; the other portion possesses a pith more or less developed and rich in latex. If collected in the spring the pith is absorbed, leaving a cavity. It is usually collected in the fall and cut in fragments, and in drying becomes hard, brittle and transversely fissured.

Schmiedeberg has separated two bodies having a cardiac action, similar to Digitalis and to Strophanthus; Apocynine-resin and Apocyneine a glucoside. To this drug are ascribed diuretic, diaphoretic, emetic, cathartic and expectorant properties.

Apocynum Androsaemifolium L.—This plant has also a number of common names, some of which are identical with those applied to the A. cannabinum; such as Indian hemp, bitter-root, dogs-bane, milk-weed, etc. It inhabits generally the same region as the latter and in commerce the rhizomes of the two are frequently mixed under the name of A. cannabinum. The rhizome is of a reddish color, and more contorted and generally longer and less bitter in taste than the latter. The anatomical structure shows no distinguishing characters between the two species, and their properties appear identical.

Jalapa.—The root of the Echites longiflora Desf., inhabiting portions of Brazil, Uruguay and the Argentine Republic is said to be purgative, and likewise the leaves. Anatomically the root is remarkable for the regularity of the arrangement of the elements of the wood and bark in radial rows. The names Jalapa, Yalapa and Yalapina are applied in the Argentine Republic to the roots of a number of species of Echites.

The Madagascar Periwinkle.—The root of the Vinca rosea L. [Catharanthus roseus] is yellowish, quite small and thin, with a relatively thick bark and yellowish wood, and with numerous rootlets. The leaves and roots are both credited with depurative, antiherpetic and vulnerative properties.

Nerium Odorum.—The Nerium odorum Solander [Nerium oleander], considered by many authors as a species, is probably only a form of N. Oleander. It inhabits the western base of the Himalaya mountains extending thence to the eastern part of Persia. The root is considered the most active part, but the bark, stems and leaves are also used. The root is somewhat twisted 15 to 20 cm. in length, and 5 to 15 m.m. in diameter. The surface is reddish-fawn colored m places, longitudinally ridged with short nearly smooth striations; few rootlets; bark relatively very thin, frequently separated from the wood and formed of two zones.

Greenish has isolated from the roots of N. odorum two glycosides Neriodorine analogous to Oleandrine and Neriodoreine analogous with Digitaleine: the two principles are bitter and poisonous. In India, a decoction of the stems in oil is applied externally against leprosy and other cutaneous affections, and the fresh juice in ophthalmies. The juice is said to be strongly irritant, and caustic and very poisonous and used for poisonings and suicide.

Ophioxylon Serpentinum.—The root of the O. serpentinum Willd. [Rauvolfia serpentina], the Rauwolfia serpentina Benth., is described as quite large ½ to 2 cm. in diameter recurved, sinuate, tapering to the extremity and light brown in color. The section shows a ligneous axis yellowish white and hard, and a thin brown cortex. The odor is slight, taste strongly bitter, disagreeable, alliaceous and nauseous. The cortical parenchyma is filled with starch and the laticiferous ducts contained are filled with a brown substance. According to the investigations of Prof. Wefers Bettnick the root contains a resin, a volatile oil, tannin and a yellow crystalline substance Ophioxylin. [The authors of the Pharmacographia Indica report examining this root and finding traces of alkaloid present in extracts made with petroleum ether, ether, alcohol and amylic alcohol, and state as follows:
"At present we do not offer any opinion as to whether the alkaloidal principles we have referred to in the various extracts are identical or not; we are also at present unable to state whether these alkaloids are new or merely principles which have already been described as occurring in other plants of the same natural order. An analysis of the root of O. serpentinum, by W. Bettnick, has been published, where no alkaloid is reported to have been found, but a crystalline body related to juglone. We feel convniced that the drug examined by Bettnick was not authenticated. Prof. Eykman has recorded the discovery of an alkaloid in an Indian species ophioxyline, and later still (1890) M. Greshoff has found an alkaloid giving a veratrine reaction with Frohde's reagent, thus substantiating our analysis. It is probable that as the root resembles plumbago root, Prof. Bettnick's ophioxylin was only plumbagin."
G. M. B.]

The specific name indicates the use to which it is applied in India against snake bites and the sting of the scorpion, being employed internally in decoction and externally in powder. It is largely used as a bitter febrifuge and extensively in febrile intestinal affections: cholera, dysentery, etc. It is also recommended as an anthelmintic and as augmenting uterine contractions in labor.


The wood of a number of species of apocynaceee is useful both in medicine and in industrial operations. Those of Africa and neighboring islands appear to be the most important.

Stem of the Guachamaca.—The Malouetia nitida Spruce, Guachamaca toxifera Grosourdy is a small tree inhabiting Venezuela. On incision there exudes from the cortex a white latex. The bark is the most active organ, but generally the entire branch is used. Externally it is reddish-gray, ridged longitudinally and marked by leaf scars. The bark is thin reddish, wood is reddish in concentric zones; pith is small and brown. Taste is a little acrid, slightly astringent and not bitter. The cortical parenchyma is rich in resin and contains numerous groups of sclerotic elements.

Guachamanine separated by Schiffer appears to approach curare but in action has not been sufficiently studied.

Quebracho.—The wood of the Aspidosperma quebracho is extensively used in South America in various industries. It was exhibited for the first time in Europe at the Vienna Exposition in 1873, and again at Paris in 1878. The name quebracho blanco is in allusion to the color of the wood and not to the bark. The wood contains but little tannin, and will not answer for the purpose of tanning, but is highly prized by the wheelwright and carpenter.

Aspidosperma excelsa Benth, a tree of British Guiana known as "Yaruri" has a light, elastic and solid wood, which is greatly used for the construction of oars.

Aspidosperma sessiflorum, Fr. Allem [Aspidosperma cuspa].—This wood is esteemed for building and carpenter-work in Brazil. The juice which exudes from incisions in the bark in drops, is caustic and bitter, and is probably very toxic. It is one of the satin woods. A number of trees which in the Brazilian provinces are known under the names of Peroba or Paroba, are probably obtained from other members of the genus Aspidosperma. Brazil appears to be very rich in these species, 39 being described. From the vulgar names it is very difficult to determine the species.

Ouabaia.—This arrow poison of the Somali tribe of Africa is prepared from the wood of an Apocynaceae. The history of this substance is entirely recent. In 1882, De Rochebrune and Arnaud examined this drug, but their investigations were interrupted by lack of material. In 1888, Arnaud isolated from the wood brought from Oriental Africa by Revoil, a crystallized glucoside, Ouahaine, and which was proved by Gley to be a heart tonic. Poisson studied the botany of the plant, and showed its resemblance to Carissa Schimperi, A. DC, and in the absence of flowers and fruit, classed it provisionally in the genus Acokanthera which G. Don in 1838 had separated from Carissa on account of the absence of spines. The plant being named Acokanthera Ouabaia, Poiss. [Acokanthera schimperi] In 1889, Cathelinau, as a result of microscopic study, concluded that the genus Acokanthera agreed with Carissa, with but one single exception. Bentham and Hooker likewise considered these two genera as differing but very little, and Dyer thinks they should be reunited. Franchet also identifies the Carissa ouabaia, with the C. Schimperi, A. DC., a species found in Zanzibar, among the Somali and in Abyssinia. Finally, M. Max Cornu reunites the plant with the Arduina, under the name of A. Ouabaia, M. Cornu.

More recently Lewin has investigated the subject and distinguishes true Carissa, while being bitter and containing a glucoside, as inoffensive, while the true Acokanthera are toxic. To the three species A. Ouabaia, A. Schimperi, A. Deflersii, has been successively attributed the veritable Ouabaia.

Acokanthera Ouabaia, Poiss., known under the vernacular names of Wabet, Wabajo, Ghedulajo, according to Schweinfurth, is the accepted species. D. Hanbury and Holmes consider it identical with the A. Schimperi. It is a tree attaining a height of 5 metres and inhabiting that portion of the Somali country 1,000 to 1,200 metres in altitude. Schweinfurth states that the leaves of the plant are much thicker than those of A. Schimperi, and have three lateral nerves instead of four or five, and are of brown color.

A. Schimperi B et H. (Strychnos abyssinica Hochst.; Carissa Mpte Hochst.; C. abyssinica R. Br.; C. Schimperi A. DC.) the "Mptah," " Mupta," "Maktat," "Mepti," "Menbtchen," etc., occupies a large surface of oriental Africa to about 1,800 metres altitude. The leaves are entirely glabrous, shining, and flowers without odor, often rosecolored.

A. Deflersii Schw. This species inhabits the region in Africa around the Red Sea, and extends throughout Yemen in Asia at an altitude of 600 to 1,000 metres. According to Schweinfurth the leaves are rough in the lower surface, especially the midvein and the flowers are larger and pure white. In these three species the wood appears to be identical.

The drug is constituted of fragments of wood obtained from the stem, but the root is equally active. They attain 3 to 5 cm. in diameter. The bark is 1 to 1-5 mm. thick, greyish yellow in color with silvery appearance in spots. It adheres closely to the wood, but the suber can be easily scratched off. Externally it is longitudinally ridged and somewhat scaly. The fracture is brownish, taste is peculiar and persistent.

The wood is very hard and compact, yielding a clear, bright section without pores; the concentric zones scarcely visible; the pith is very small quadrangular and eccentric. The color is a pale yellow and clear on fresh section, deeper ochre-yellow on old surfaces, and quite dense, odorless and having very little taste. Ligneous fibres very abundant; the vessels are relatively few in number and quite small. The medullary rays consist of one or two rows of cells which frequently contain crystals of calcium oxalate. The decoction of the wood yields a green coloration after twelve to forty-eight hours, which lasts for several days. A green fluorescence is also produced by sulphuric acid in either solutions of ouabaine or in decoctions of the wood.

Arnaud, in 1888, separated a white crystallized glucoside, the Ouabaine, which is inodorous and not bitter, or but very slightly so in comparison with the wood. Its formula differs from that of Strophanthine by CH2. It has been found by the same chemist in the Strophanthus glaber of Gaboon. The wood and the root contain about 3 parts in 1,000.

Lewin has separated from A. Schimperi A. DC. a product different from the Ouabaine of Arnaud, which he named amorphous Ouabaine. He likewise separated an oily substance readily solidified Carissol. From the bark he separated impure Ouabaine, and a very bitter, non-poisonous substance Carissine.

The toxicity of the wood of the Ouabaia is demonstrated by usage to be the same as that of the arrow poison. For the latter purpose the aqueous extract is made into balls, and a small amount is spread on the extremity of the arrows; 5 to 10 being sufficient to kill a rabbit. The physiological action seems to be similar to that of Strophanthine, only many times stronger. On the conjunctiva of animals it produces anesthesia, but according to Panas it is inactive upon the human. According to Lewin this anaesthesia of the cornea is much slower but more perfect and durable than that of cocaine. The Amorphous Ouabaine is toxic in the dose of 2 per kilo in the rabbit, and 3 to 5 in the pigeon. Carissol is said likewise to be toxic.

The extremely small dose allowable renders the employment of Ouabaine in medicine very difficult. Its use at present appears to be restricted to the treatment of whooping cough. The dose is one to two-tenths of a milligramme.

Carissa xylopicron Dup.-Th. [Carissa spinarum] The Carissa coriacea, Wall.; the Bitter-Wood of Bourbon, Bois d'absinthe. The wood appears in the market in pieces with or without the bark, and is used in cups, etc., the same as the wood of Picraena excelsa or the Ochrosia borbonica. The wood is of an orange or yellowish-white color, odorless, very bitter and a persistent aftertaste, and colors the saliva yellow. It has a reputation as a bitter tonic, febrifuge and stomachic and also as a vermifuge.

Herbs and Leaves.

Leaves of the Rose Laurel [Nerium oleander].—These leaves are at times opposite, but the more frequently verticillate in threes about the young branches. They are rigid, tough and coriaceous, on short petioles. They are lengthily lanceolate, margins entire, attenuated at both extremities, the point acute. The upper face is a deep green, dull; the lower surface is somewhat brighter. The midvein is prominent with numerous very fine secondary veins. The leaves are quite acrid and bitter.

According to Schmiedeberg they contain three glucosides, Nerein which he considered identical with Digitalein; Neriantin and Oleandrin. The therapeutic action appears to be that of a heart tonic and more distinctly diuretic than Digitalis without accumulation, and is likewise said to be useful in dyspnoea, oedema and palpitations. It is likewise frequently used in certain cutaneous affections as an antipsoric and parasiticide.

Periwinkles.—The various species of Vinca that are recognized as interesting medicinally are Vinca minor L, V. major L., V. media Link et Hoffm. [Vinca difformis], V. acutiflora Bertol. [Vinca minor], V. herbacea Waldst et Kit. These may be substituted one for the other without any great disadvantage, but the two first mentioned are the most important. They are said to be bitter and astringent and serviceable as vulneraries and are slightly laxative. They have also been recommended in leucorrhoea. No active principle has yet been isolated.

(to be continued on the next page)

The American Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. 67, 1895, was edited by Henry Trimble.