Galipea officinalis. Angustura.
Nat. Ord. — Rutaceae. Sex. Syst. — Diandria Monogynia.
Description. — This is a small tree not more than twelve to twenty feet in bight, and about three to five inches in diameter, irregularly branched, and covered with a smooth, gray bark. The leaves are alternate, petiolate, and trifoliate ; the leaflets are oblong, pointed at both extremities, supported on the common petiole by short footstalks, smooth, glossy, bright-green, smelling when fresh and bruised somewhat like tobacco: they are from six to ten inches long, and two to four inches wide, and some of them are marked with small, whitish round spots ; petioles about the length of the leaflets, slightly channeled. The flowers are numerous, white, hairy, and arranged in terminal and axillary racemes, or with long peduncles ; they likewise exhale an unpleasant odor. The calyx is somewhat campanulate, five-cleft, inferior, hairy ; the corolla is about an inch long, downy on both sides, and somewhat curved before expansion. The petals are five, unequal, oblong, obtuse, and united at the base into a short tube. Fertile stamens two ; sterile ones five, subulate, tipped with a pellucid watery gland. The style is erect with a simple stigma. The fruit consists of five bivalve capsules, of which two or three are commonly abortive ; the seeds are two in each capsule, round, black, of the size of a pea, one of which is often abortive.
History. — There has been much confusion regarding the species from which the Angustura Bark is obtained, but the observations of Dr. Hancock have conclusively shown that the bark of commerce is derived from a tree to which he has given the above name. The tree grows abundantly on the mountains of Carony between the seventh and eighth degrees of south latitude, and is well known in the district of country bordering on the Orinoco, at a distance of two hundred miles and upward from the ocean, and at an elevation of from six hundred to a thousand feet. The bark is generally brought from the West India ports, in casks. It is in flat pieces or incomplete quills, from two to eight inches long, half an inch to one and a half inches broad, and from half a line to three lines in thickness. Externally it is covered with a dirty grayish-yellow, wrinkled epidermis, easily removed by the linger nail, and internally the substance of the bark is yellowish-brown. It, breaks easily, with a short, resinous fracture, and affords a powder of a pale-yellow color, somewhat like that of rhubarb. When macerated in water, for a short time, it becomes soft and tenacious, and may be easily cut with scissors. It has a peculiar, disagreeable odor, becoming fainter by age, and a bitter, aromatic, hot, but not unpleasant taste. Water, alcohol, or proof-spirits, extract its virtues. According to analysis it contains bitter extract, bitter resin, gum, volatile oil, a soft resin, a substance resembling caoutchouc, lignin, and various salts. The volatile oil may be obtained by distillation with water ; it is acrid to the taste, odor like the bark, and lighter than water. It also contains nearly 1.5 per cent, of a peculiar, neutral, crystalline principle, named Cusparin, which maybe obtained by treating an infusion of the bark with absolute alcohol, at common temperatures, and allow it to evaporate spontaneously; the crystals thus obtained are to be purified by repeated crystallization from alcohol, and agitation with ether and hydrated oxide of lead. It forms tetrahedral crystals, is fusible at 112° F., and loses 23.09 per cent, of its weight, is soluble in two hundred parts of cold, and one hundred parts of boiling water, freely soluble in alcohol, but not in ether or volatile oils, readily soluble in the concentrated acids, and more sparingly in the alkalies, and its acid solution yields a whitish precipitate with the tincture of galls. Some years since a poisonous bark was introduced as the true bark, and the administration of which was attended with fatal results. This spurious bark was at first supposed to be the product of the Brucea Ferruginea, but is now recognized as the bark of Strychnos Nux-vomica. It is known as the False Angustura Bark, and may be detected by its greater thickness, hardness, weight and compactness, its more intense bitterness without either aroma or pungency ; by the appearance of its epidermis, which is sometimes covered with a ferruginous efflorescence, and sometimes is yellowish-gray and marked with prominent white spots ; by the brownish-color and smoothness of its internal surface, which is not separable into laminae, like that of the true bark ; and by the white, slightly yellow powder which it yields. When steeped in water it does not become soft like the genuine drug-. An excellent method of distinguishing the two barks is by the action of nitric acid, a drop or two of which, applied to either surface of the true bark, produces a dull-red color, but when dropped on the rusty efflorescent epidermis of the spurious article, induces an emerald-green, and a deep blood-red tint on its internal surface. The false bark is seldom seen in this country.
Properties and Uses. — In large doses, of from twenty to sixty grains, it is emetic and cathartic ; in doses of from five to fifteen grains, tonic and febrifuge. Recommended in bilious diarrheas and dysenteries, intermittents, dropsies, etc. It is seldom used, on account of its liability to adulteration with the poisonous bark of the Strychnos Nux-vomica, known as the False Angustura Bark.