Croton eleuteria. Cascarilla.
Nat. Ord. — Euphorbiaceae. Sex. Syst. — Monoecia Monadelphia.
Description. — Croton Eleuteria is a small tree, said to rise to the hight of twenty feet, and branching thickly at the top. The branches and twigs are angular, rather compressed, striated, downy, ferruginous. The leaves are petiolated, alternate, ovate, with a short but obtuse point, entire, faintly nerved, bright-green above, with a few scattered grayish dots, silvery, and very tomentose beneath ; petioles short, scurfy. Racemes axillary and terminal, branched or compound ; the branches short, divaricating, covered with numerous, closely-parted, subsessile, whitish, monoecious flowers. Sterile flowers above and smallest ; fertile ones below, few, and on short stalks. Stamens ten to twelve. Capsule roundish, minutely warted, scurfy, not much larger than a pea, with three furrows, three cells, and six valves.
History. — The tree from which Cascarilla is obtained is a native of the West Indies, and is found abundantly in the small island of Eleutheria, from which it derives its name. It was, for a time, supposed to have been derived from the Croton Cascarilla. a small tree growing in the Bahamas, Hayti, Peru, and Paraguay, but this is now ascertained by botanists to have been an error. Cascarilla bark comes to this market from the West Indies, in bags or casks, and is had in two forms; in one, it is in rolled fragments of various sizes, having a dull-whitish or whitish-gray epidermis, which is frequently more or less removed, and beneath which it is of a dark-brown color, while its inner surface has a chocolate tint, and its fracture is reddish-brown. In the other variety, it is in very thin pieces, an inch or two in length, not covered by the white epidermis, curved more or less longitudinally, and often with laminae of wood adhering to their inner surface, as if the bark had been removed from the tree by means of a sharp instrument. The first variety is obtained from the Croton Eleuteria ; the source of the second is not so well ascertained, though supposed by some to be the Croton Micans.
The bark is dense, brittle, and easily pulverized, the powder being of a light-brown color, with a feeble aromatic odor, increased by friction and much more so by burning, and having a strong, aromatic, bitterish, acrid taste. On account of its delicate and agreeable odor, it is often added in small portions to tobacco, by smokers, to render the fumes more fragrant. Water or spirit readily extracts its active principles, but diluted alcohol is the proper menstruum. Analysis has detected in it, albumen, a peculiar kind of tannin, a bitter crystallizable principle called Cascarillin, a red coloring matter, fatty matter of a nauseous odor, wax, gum, resin, volatile oil, starch, pectic acid, chloride of potassium, a salt of lime, and lignin. The Cascarillin is white, crystallized, inodorous, of a bitter taste, sparingly soluble in water, but readily so in alcohol or ether, neutral, and without nitrogen. It may be obtained by treating the powdered bark with water, adding acetate of lead to the solution, separating the lead by sulphureted hydrogen, filtering, evaporating with the addition of animal charcoal, filtering again, and evaporating at a low temperature to the consistence of a syrup; this must be allowed to harden by cooling, and the matter thus obtained must be purified by twice successively treating it, first with a little cold alcohol to separate the coloring and fatty matters, and afterward with boiling alcohol and animal charcoal ; allow this last alcoholic solution to evaporate spontaneously. It resembles salicin in many respects.produces nausea, the addition of cascarilla will prevent it. Dose of the powder, from one to two scruples ; of the tincture, from one to four fluiddrachms ; of the infusion, from one to four fluidounces. On account of its musky odor, it is a common ingredient of fumigating pastilles.