The seeds and oil of Gynocardia odorata, Robert Brown (Chaulmoogra odorata, Roxburgh; Hydnocarpus odorata, Lindley).
COMMON NAMES: Chaulmugra seeds, Chaulmogra.
ILLUSTRATION: Bentley and Trimen, Med. Plants, 28.
Botanical Source, History, and Description.—This is a very large and handsome East Indian tree. The leaves are glossy, entire, and alternate; the flowers yellow and sweet-scented. The fruit is round, ash-colored, and when mature, averages in weight from 10 to 20 pounds. The numerous seeds are imbedded in its pulp, and contain an oil, which, according to Roxburgh, is mixed with fresh butter, and used by the natives as a remedy for cutaneous diseases. They are known as Chaulmoogra (or Chaulmugra), and are said, when powdered, to have been used with advantage in scrofula, skin diseases, and rheumatism, the dose being about 6 grains. The seeds are grayish, irregularly ovoid, compressed, somewhat angular and smooth, a little over an inch long, and have an oily taste and a peculiar, nauseous odor.
Chemical Composition.—Chaulmugra oil was obtained by pressure from the seeds about twenty years ago, and has attracted some little attention outside of India, where it has long been used. It is said that, in consequence of its high price, it is extensively adulterated by the natives of India, and so adroitly as to cause even the physicians in India to discontinue its use (New Remedies, 1879). This oil is granular, melts at 42° C. (107.6° F.); but after melting may be reduced much below this point without solidifying, and has, at 42° C. (107.6° F.), the specific gravity of 0.930. It has an acid reaction, an acrid taste, and a slight scammony-like odor. It is insoluble in water, partly soluble in alcohol, and, excepting impurities, seems to perfectly dissolve in ether, chloroform, carbon disulphide, and benzin. Mr. J. Moss (Pharm. Jour. Trans., 1879, Vol. X, p. 251), found it to yield, upon the application of appropriate reagents, palmitic acid; a new acid, to which he gave the name, gynocardic acid; hypogaeic acid (named from the seed of Arachis hypogaea), and cocinic acid. Of these four acids palmitic constitutes the largest proportion (63 per cent), altogether making 81 per cent, the weight of the oil. These acids exist in the form of glycerides, as fats, the first two acids also in a free condition. Gynocardic acid (C14H24O2), however, is the important constituent (11.7 per cent), and gives the burning taste to the oil. Chaulmoogra oil strikes a green color with sulphuric acid.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Chaulmugra oil is used both internally and externally in leprosy, secondary syphilis, rheumatism, scrofula, and in phthisis. The dose for an infant is 1 or 2 drops daily; for an adult, from 2 to 4 minims, repeated 3 times a day. Drachm doses are said to have been given without any unpleasant results. As a remedy for leprosy, it has been thought by some to give good results in the macular and anaesthetic forms (early stage), while other and equally good authorities pronounce it inoperative. The seeds, when powdered, are reputed more active than the oil. The oil has relieved the dyspepsia and bronchitis occurring in lepers. Externally, it has been successfully applied in the above-named diseases, likewise in herpes, tinea, stiffness of joints, ulcers, and various cutaneous eruptions. In the latter class it generally proves too irritating except in eczemas and psoriasis. It is said to destroy pediculi and the itch insect. It is usually triturated with from 4 to 6 parts of simple ointment, and thoroughly rubbed in with the palm of the hand, or with the fingers' ends. Moss recommends the following formula for its economical use: Take of chaulmugra oil, 2 parts; paraffin wax, at 41° C. (106° F.), 1 part, and ozokerine, 5 parts, and triturate thoroughly together. (Ozokerine is produced from ozokerite, or earth wax, and forms a tasteless and odorless basis for preparing ointments.) He also advises, as a more pleasant mode of administration, the use of perles or capsules, each containing the required dose. Children may take it in a little warm milk. It may also be given in emulsion with oil of almonds or glycerin. The powdered seeds are given in pills, from 3 to 6 grains being a dose. Salt meat, sweetmeats, spices, acids, and tobacco are strictly forbidden while taking this oil. Webster (Dynam. Therap.), praises chaulmoogra oil in the anemia of syphilis, and states that by its action as a deobstruant, it averts indurations and banishes skin and mucous patches. He believes it to promise more than any other remedy if used early, to abort the constitutional effects of syphilis. Prof. Scudder mentions its internal and local use to allay itching and burning, being specially beneficial where the circulation is feeble and common sensation impaired.
Hydnocarpus Wightiana, Blume. Western India. The seeds of both this and the preceding species yield an oil which may be used for the same purpose as Chaulmugra oil. It resembles the latter in odor and color, and strikes with sulphuric acid a blue coloration, not so pronounced, however, as that produced by Chaulmugra oil. This coloration is due to the presence of gynocardic acid, which Moss also found in this species (Dymock, Mat. Med. of Western India).