The Apocynaceae in Materia Medica.
By George M. Beringer.
O. Henry and Ollivier, in 1824, first obtained from Tanghin [Cerbera manghas] a fixed oil, a crystalline substance, very poisonous, and a varnish-like substance which they named Tanguine. J. Chatin obtained the crystals in prisms, of which the nature was not determined. In 1889 Arnaud isolated the active principle, Tanghinine, in crystals, and presenting the singular property of swelling up with water. It is present in the kernels to the extent of 1 per cent. It is neither an alkaloid nor a glucoside. Arnaud states that the seeds contain an abundant amount of oil, which cannot be obtained by simple expression, as an emulsion is formed with the water. He recommends the extraction with carbon disulphide. J. Chatin concludes, from his experiments with this oil, that it is absolutely inoffensive. Quinquaud observes the great excitability of the medulla by the poison, and employed it in some toxic paralyses, and likewise in intestinal atony and in incontinence of urine, but the symptoms indicated the danger of toxicity.
The Seed of Cerbera Manghas.—The Cerbera Manghas L. is a tree found in India and nearly all of Oceanica. In the various islands we find numerous varieties based on details of the flowers. The fruit is the size of a hen's egg. In the fresh state it is fleshy, with a fibrous stone, coriacious and black at maturity, and confining a large oily kernel. According to Horsfield the pulp is employed in Java as a cataplasm in some cutaneous maladies.
The seeds and leaves are considered as very dangerous, and are stated to be drastic purgative and emetic, and too violent for use. The kernels are said to be narcotic, and produce effects comparable with those of Datura. M. Jeanneney, by expression, first cold and then with heat, obtained from the kernels 72 per cent. of a limpid golden yellow-colored oil, which burns with a clear flame and an odor resembling that of cocoanut oil. It is very acrid to the taste, producing a sensation of burning in the stomach, vertigo, nausea and violent purgation and colic.
The Seeds of Cerbera Odallam.—The Cerbera Odallam Gaertn. (Odallam Rheede; Cerbera Manghu Lin.; Manghas Sims not L.; Tanghinia Odallam G. Don.) is a shrub or tree inhabiting the western coast regions of India. Plugge describes the fruit as a red drupe, spherical or ovoid, the size of an apple, with a stone in the centre surrounded by a mesocarp. The fruit contains generally two hemispherical seeds with a tough, horny, granular envelope. The kernel is rounded on the outside, flattened or depressed about the centre on the internal side. It is formed of two unequal cotyledons, the external surrounding the internal and a short ascending radicle. The seeds of Cerbera Odallam contain a colorless crystallizable glucoside Cerberine isolated by De Vrij. It is distinct from the Tanghinine of Arnaud, of which it is probably an isomer. It yields with dilute acids Cerberetine equally toxic and of a handsome yellow color.
The seeds contain 77 per cent. of fixed oil. Cerberine is very toxic, and acts by arresting heart action. It presents some of the advantages of Digitalis, and merits clinical study. The seeds are employed as an emeto-cathartic, the bark, the latex (rich in caoutchouc) and the leaves as purgatives, but all are dangerous.
Nerium Oleander.—The bark of Nerium Oleander L. is the only one of note of this family obtained from Europe. The stem is vaguely triangular or tetragonal, depending whether the leaves are ternate or opposite. The bark is externally yellowish green in the young parts, soon becoming grayish. The internal face is greenish white, the fracture green, the latex originates especially in the internal region of the bark, which is quite thick compared with the wood. The liquid is likewise abundant in the neighborhood of the periphery of the pith, which is large, triangular or square, greenish yellow, with a green line of contact with the wood. The leaves and young stems appear absolutely glabrous. The microscope, however, shows a few hairs, very short and large, unicellular, with a small cavity.
Anatomy.—The young bark of the stem shows: an epidermis with walls externally thickened, soon replaced by a zone of a few suberous layers; a collenchyma very clear and quite thick, with elements elongated in the direction of the axis; these contain chlorophyll and starch; a chlorophyll-bearing tissue with rounded thin-walled cells containing an abundance of starch. The Endodermis is not visible excepting near the summit of the stem. The pericycle is thick and contains the bundles of cellular fibres extremely long, pearly white, and with cavities very straight, often flattened; and the cells with a thin membrane with macles of calcium oxalate. The liber encloses not macles, but numerous rhomboids, often in longitudinal or radial series. Sometimes a number of crystals are enclosed in a single cell. Cambium. Wood rich in starch. The laticiferous vessels are difficult to see; we find them especially in the pericycle and in the exterior parenchyma.
The Bark of Thevetia Neriifolia Juss [Thevetia peruviana]. Generally the bark is obtained from the young branches; it is thin, delicate, strongly enrolled upon itself from one or both borders. The surface is gray, greenish or a little yellow, rarely glossy, is finely striated longitudinally, with few whitish streaks, more or less numerous elongated lenticels and scars of the alternate leaves. The internal face is bluish-black or reddish-violet, smooth. The fracture sometimes quite clear, is nearly always lengthily fibrous, with soft fibres in the liber. The length is variable, 15 to 20 c.m.; the thickness 1 m.m. or more; odorless; taste pungent, then strongly bitter.
The anatomical structure shows: (1) a suber formed of cells with white flattened walls; (2) a parenchyma of which the cells are tangentially compressed, the walls colored and with brownish contents; (3) a zone constituted of numerous white fibres, very long and large, and cavities sometimes quite large and flattened. Beneath this is the liber region, the color analogous to that of the cortical parenchyma, but with the medullary rays. In this tissue are the laticiferous canals filled with a substance at times granular, at other times transparent, little starch, some rhomboids of oxalate. The bark contains the same active principles as the seeds and pseudoindican. It is employed as an anti-periodic, febrifuge and purgative. Shortt and Bidie employed it in remittent fever with satisfactory results: a tincture (1 part to 5 of rectified spirit) in doses of 15 to 18 drops during the interval of the attack is recommended.
Barks of the Plumerias.
This genus is represented by tropical trees or shubs, frequently cultivated as ornamental plants. The medical properties are due to the latex, frequently drastic and corrosive. The barks of several species are employed. The Plumeria alba L., a native of the Island Sante Croix, now found in all the warm regions of the Antilles, India, the Mascarene Islands, etc., is known under the French names Frangipanier blanc, Bois de lait, and the English Jasmine-tree. It is the Topaiba of the Spanish, and in India is called Arali. It attains a height of 5 to 6 m., and bears alternate leaves and handsome odorous flowers. It contains an abundance of a white poisonous juice.
The bark of this species in commerce is separated from the wood and is in very irregular strips ordinarily curved, rolled up or shrivelled, the length ranging from 10 to 12 cm. These strips are constituted of an external envelope, papyraceous, cartilaginous, and an internal region tougher and thicker: these two parts are frequently united, but more often, however, detached from each other. The external layer is parchment-like, ranging in color, reddish brown, more or less glossy, or yellow marked with lichens, showing a few whitish streaks and black points, and the leaf scars.
The internal layer attains in old barks 3 m.m., and the internal face more smooth and dark in young barks, is brown and quite rugose in older barks. It breaks readily, the fracture being short, non-fibrous, except in the inner zone, and with white points rather regularly marking the brown body. In mass the odor is slightly acid; taste nil near the parchment-like region, feebly pungent and bitter in the bark proper.
The bark is purgative, alterative, depurative, and given especially in blenorrhagia. It may be administered in a form of decoction or by macerating the powder in sweetened water, wine or beer. The remedy is often associated with other plants (Aristolochia trilobata; Cynosurus sepiarius, etc). It is also given in herpes, syphilis, and, externally, in lotions upon syphilitic ulcers.
Plumeria rubia L. (P. flore rosco odoratissimo Tournef.; Nerium arboreum Sloane, etc.), the Frangipanier rouge is found in tropical America, Venezuela, Mexico, etc. The bark of the root is generally employed and greatly resembles that of the root of the P. alba, and is used in the same maladies as the bark of the latter species.
The Plumeria phagedenica Mart [Himatanthus phagedaenicus], occupies the valleys in Brazil, the indigenous name being Sebni-iiga. Heermeyer has described the anatomical structure of the bark (Pharmaceutische Post, Sept. 24, 1893). The bark is vermifuge and drastic.
The Plumeria drastica Mart [Himatanthus drasticus], inhabits the Brazilian province Minas-Geraes, where it bears the name Tiborna. The bark is employed as a febrifuge, anti-icteric, drastic, etc.
The Plumeria acutifolia Poir [Plumeria rubra]. (P. obtusa Lour, not L.; P. acuminata Roxb.) is native of America, but extensively cultivated in the Indies. The bark has been employed against abscess, gonorrhoea and fevers. The juice has been applied to carious teeth, ulcers and wounds, and is rubifacient and anti-rheumatic.
The name Quebracho (pronounced Québratcho) is applied in South America, especially in the Argentine Republic, to a number of trees of entirely different families having in common an extreme hardness of the wood and being very rich in tannin. Among these we may mention Caesalpinia melanocarpa [Caesalpinia paraguariensis], Québracho rouge (Leguminosae); the Machaerium fertile Grisb. [Tipuana tipu], or the Machaerium Tipa Grisb. [Tipuana tipu] (Tipuana speciosa Benth.), (Leguminosae). It may be the Iodina rhombifolia Hook et Arn, or Quebracho flojo, a handsome Santalaceae commonly known as Sombra del toro, whose bark is sometimes mixed with that of the Q. blanco. The Quebracho Colorado is the wood of a Terebinthaceae, the Loxopterygium Lorentzii Grisb. [Schinopsis quebracho-colorado] The Quebracho Blanco is an Apocynaceae, the Aspidosperma Quebracho Schlecht. (Macagha Quebracho H. Bn.).
The discovery of the tree known as Quebracho Blanco is due to Burmeister, who considered the two sorts, white and red, but two varieties differing simply in a few details, among others the color of their wood. Schlechtendal gave to the tree the name Aspidosperma Quebracho, but he continued the red sort under the name A. Quebracho Colorado. Ten years later, Griesbach recognized in the red Quebracho a Terebinthaceae of the group Anacardium and assigned the name Loxopterygium Lorentzii, in honor of Professor Lorenz, of Cordoba. Many of the specimens arrived in Europe without specific name or precise information as to botanic origin, leading to serious confusion and diverse results in clinical experiments with this important drug.
All the Aspidosperma are from tropical America. The Quebracho abounds particularly in the Argentine Republic, and more especially in the district of Catamarca. It extends to the south as far as the north of Patagonia. The Loxopterygium seems rather to belong to the province of Corrientes.
The genus Aspidosperma, Mart, et Zucc, is formed of shrubs or trees of tropical America with solid wood, leaves ordinarily alternate and with small flowers in cymes, with one or two ligneous dehiscent follicles, and with seeds exalbuminous and winged.
The Aspidosperma Quebracho is an evergreen tree with very straight trunk, attaining the dimensions of 15 m. in height and 1.20 metres in diameter. The branches are long and flexible, recurving toward the ground, giving the tree the appearance of a weeping willow. The bark, the wood and the leaves are rich in tannin, bitter and astringent.
The bark of Quebracho, as collected, dried and shipped to Europe, appears in thick fragments, little bent, nearly flat, evidently collected for the most part from old plants. One writer says that the trees employed are more than seventy years old. These fragments vary in thickness between ½ and 3 ½ cc., and with the suber more or less developed.
The exterior face is very rugose, irregularly marked by deep fissures. The color varies, even in the same fragment, from grayish brown to yellowish-brown, fawn, brick-red, etc., the tint being dull and earthy. The perider, when present, is very tough and frequently bears lichens.
The internal face is finely striated lengthwise, sometimes the striae are sinuous. The color of this face varies also from a steel gray to a much darker fawn or even distinctly rose.
The transverse fracture is short, strongly granular and very stony; with a lens we see the fascicles of fibres come to the surface in the internal region. The vertical fracture shows these same fibres as small white lines. The taste is bitter but not extremely so.
The most interesting elements in the anatomy of this bark are the curious fibres which it bears in great numbers, but always isolated and embedded in the ordinary parenchyma. The fibres are large, elongated, spindle-shaped; the thickening very considerable in concentric zones and with small clear lumen. Each fibre is surrounded completely by an envelope of small cells forming a single layer, in which each cell contains a large rhombohedral crystal of calcium oxalate.
The chemical composition is extremely complex. The first research was made by G. Fraude, who extracted an alkaloid, aspidospermine. Hesse demonstrated the presence of six alkaloids in this bark: Aspidospermine, Aspidospermatine, Aspidosamine, Hypoquebracine, Quebrachine, Quebrachamine, and a neutral body Quebrachol. The Aspidospermine of commerce is an indefinite mixture of these various bodies. Tanret thinks that some of these alkaloids are produced in the reactions from the others. He has extracted likewise two new sugars, quebrachite and levogyre inosite. The bark contains also tannin and starch. According to Huchard the action of Aspidospermine appears to be directed especially toward the respiratory centre. It augments the amplitude and then the frequency of the respiration, diminishes and regulates the action of the heart and lowers the temperature. Outside of this action due to the pure Aspidospermine all the alkaloids are antithermic, but more especially Quebrachine; all color the blood a vinous or currant-red, all cause an increase in salivary, intestinal and renal secretions; all are toxic, especially Quebrachine and Hypoquebracine. The least toxic is Aspidospermine. They cause death by asphyxia.
Quebracho is employed in its native country as a febrifuge, and according to Schikendanz, the physicians of Tucuman esteem it as equal to cinchona, but this reputation has not been justified in Europe. As a tonic it is of less value than many European astringents. Its antidyspnoeic action renders it especially valuable in asthma, emphysema and even in phthisis.
Pao-Pereira.—This drug is the bark of Geissospermum Vellozii Fr. Allem. [Geissospermum laeve] (Tabernaemontana laevis Vell., Vallesia inedita Guib., Vallesia punctata Spreng., Geissospermum laeve H. Bn.), a tree of tropical Brazil. It is in flat or slightly-curved pieces, 15 to 20 centimetres long, 1 to 5 centimetres broad and 4 to 8 millimetres in thickness. The external surface is reddish-yellow, more or less fissured, and the internal is generally formed of thin papyraceous layers, having a tendency to strip off. The transverse fracture is difficult and unequal. The odor is very slight. Taste extremely bitter. According to Hesse, it contains two principles, the one Geissospermine crystalline and the other Pereirine amorphous. It is recommended as antithermic, antiperiodic and tonic.
Ochrosia borbonica.—The bark of Ochrosia borbonica Gmel. This tree inhabits Reunion, Mauritius, Ceylon, Java, the Mascarenes, etc., and is commonly known as "Yellow-wood". The bark is ordinarily in pieces, 4 to 6 cm. long by 2 to 4 cm. wide and 2 mm. in thickness.
The external surface is nearly entirely covered with greenish or grayish lichens, is strongly ridged and brownish in color beneath the lichens. The internal face is red to dark brown, striated longitudinally and with the internal layers only slightly adhering. The fracture is clear on the outside, unequal, but not fibrous on the inner layer. M. Boissard has separated from the yellow-wood a shining white substance, crystallizing in fine needles. This substance, named Ochrosine, has been studied by Dr. Vinson, who writes it is tonic and analeptic. The bark is employed among the Mascarenes as tonic, stomachic and febrifuge.
Holarrhena africana.—The bark of Holarrhena africana A. DC [Holarrhena floribunda], appeared in commerce under the name of African quinine bark and erroneously also as conessi bark. This bark is employed in tropical Africa, where it is known as "Gbomi," against dysentery. Externally it is brown or blackish gray, suberous and more or less covered with lichens. Internally, fawn or brownish in color, raised in irregular fibrous plates. Fracture coarse, but little fibrous; odor slight and taste bitter.
Conessi bark.—Conessi Bark or Tellichery is obtained from Holarrhena antidysenterica R.Br. [Wrightia antidysenterica] In its native country it has a great reputation and is known there under the name of Codaga-pala. The true Holarrhena bark is in curved pieces of varying size. Externally it is earthy brown to a light fawn color, irregularly striated with oblique furrows. Internally, the striations are always longitudinal.
The fracture shows an external rose-colored zone, an internal zone with brownish striations. The bark is quite thick. As previously stated it is frequently substituted by products from various species of Wrightia, and to this is attributed the unsatisfactory results obtained in Europe. It is largely used in India as a remedy in dysentery. The bark contains the same alkaloid as the seeds, Wrightine.