Related entry: Beberinae Sulphas.—Beberine Sulphate

The bark of Nectandra Rodiaei, Schomburgk.
Nat. Ord.—Lauraceae.
COMMON NAMES: Bebeeru, Bebeeru-bark, Greenheart-bark, Bibiru, Sipiri (Cortex beberu, or bibiru, Nectandra cortex [Br.]).
ILLUSTRATION: Bentley and Trimen, Med. Plants, 219.

Botanical Source.—This is a magnificent forest tree, growing from 60 to 80 feet in height, branching near the summit, and covered with a smooth, ash-gray bark. The leaves are nearly opposite, smooth, shining, coriaceous, 5 or 6 inches long, and 2 or 3 broad. The flowers are obscure, whitish-yellow, cordate, and disposed in axillary panicles. The fruit is a globular berry, about 6 inches in circumference, having a woody, grayish-brown, speckled pericarp, and a seed with 2 large, plano-convex cotyledons, which is yellow when freshly cut, and possesses an acid reaction and an intensely bitter taste. The fruit abounds in bitter starch (Schomburgk).

History and Description.—This tree is a native of British Guiana. Its bark was introduced by Dr. Rodie as an energetic tonic and febrifuge. It is in flat pieces of 1 or 2 feet in length, from 2 to 6 inches broad, and about 4 lines in thickness, dark, heavy, brittle, with a rough, fibrous fracture, dark cinnamon-brown, and rather smooth internally, and covered externally with a brittle, grayish-brown epidermis. It has little or no odor, but a strong, persistent, bitter taste, with considerable astringency. The fruit is about the size of a small peach, somewhat heart-shaped, or inversely ovate, slightly flattened, the outside coat being frangible, and the kernel pulpy. It is exceedingly bitter. The sulphate of beberine is obtained from the bark and seeds.

Chemical Composition.—The bark of nectandra contains starch, iron-greening tannin, deliquescent bebiric acid, melting at 150° C. (302° F.), subliming at 200° C. (392° F.), and has two alkaloids—bebeerine (bibirine or beberine) and nectandrine (sipeerine or sipirine of Maclagan, 1845). The British Pharmacopoeias of 1867 and 1885, indicate an elaborate process for the preparation of beberine sulphate from nectandra bark. The product is probably a mixture of sulphates of beberine (C36H42N2O6), nectandrine (C40H46N2O8), and other alkaloids (Maclagan and Gamgee, Pharm. Jour. Trans., 1869, Vol. XI, p. 19).

BEBERINE (C18H21NO3, von Planta, Flückiger) is identical with the alkaloids buxine and pelosine (see Buxus and Pareira brava). It is an amorphous substance, very soluble in alcohol, soluble in ether, sparingly soluble in water.

NECTANDRINE (C20H23NO4, Maclagan and Gamgee) is a white, amorphous powder of an intensely bitter taste, fuses in boiling water, is very soluble in chloroform, but is much less soluble in ether than beberine. One part beberine requires 104.2, 1 part nectandrine, 2500 parts of ether. When heated with strong sulphuric acid and manganese dioxide, a magnificent green color is developed, which changes to violet (similar to the analogous strychnine reaction).

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—The sulphuric acid salt of the alkaloid beberine is employed as a substitute for quinine, in preference to the bark itself (see Beberinae Sulphas).

Related Species.Ocotea opifera, Aublet (Oreodaphne opifera, Nees). Brazil. Source of canella de cheiro. The fruit yields a volatile, aromatic oil, used as a liniment.

Ocotea guianensis, Aublet.—Bark employed in decoction for abscesses.

Cryptocaria australis, Bentham, Laurel, Moreton bay laurel, Gray sassafras.—Australia. Insects dislike the wood on account of its odor. Bark persistently bitter through the presence of an alkaloid, which crystallizes from solution in stellate masses. It is toxic, producing in warm-blooded animals difficult respiration, ending in asphyxia and death (Bancroft, 1887; see Useful Native Plants of Australia, by Maiden).

Mespilodaphne pretiosa, Nees (Cryptocaria pretiosa, Martius).—Brazil. Source of casca pretiosa. A warty, cinnamon-colored bark, having a combined cinnamon-sassafras odor, and a warm, aromatic, sweetish taste.

Nectandra puchury major, Nees, and Nectandra puchury minor, Nees, Pichury bean, Pichurim bean, Sassafras nuts.—Brazil. The halves, or cotyledons, of the two sizes (one about 1 ½ inches long by ½ inch thick, the other about one-half that size) are oblong, or round-ovate, convex on one side, flat-concave on the other, having a depressed radicle scar at one end, deep-brown or chocolate-colored externally, pale-brown internally, interspersed with oil cells, and yellow in color. The small seed are darkest in color. Both taste and odor are aromatic, recalling the combined characteristics of sassafras and nutmeg. Starch, gum, butyraceous fat (pichurim fat) containing laurostearin, solid fat, and volatile oil, possibly containing safrol. The "native oil of sassafras or laurel," from Venezuela, an oleoresin, described by Procter (1851), as having a pale-amber color, a penetrating. peculiar odor, and a pungent, bitter, aromatic, camphoraceous taste, and thought to be the substance employed to adulterate Maracaibo copaiva, is referred, by Prof. Carson, to this species (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1855, p. 387). Used for same purposes as the ordinary aromatics. In doses of from 10 to 20 grains, in powder or infusion, pichurim beans are given as a stimulant tonic in mild intestinal disorders, as atonic diarrhoea and dysentery of a subacute or chronic character, and in intestinal weakness with flatulence. The bark, in doses of from 20 to 40 grains, has been employed in typhoid disorders, chronic vomiting, dyspepsia, intermittents, and atonic menstrual derangements.

King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.