Cubeba (U. S. P.)—Cubeb.

Preparations: Tincture of Cubeb - Oleoresin of Cubeb - Oil of Cubebs - Fluid Extract of Cubeb - Troches of Cubeb
Related plants: Piper Methysticum.—Kava-Kava - Piper (U. S. P.)—Piper - Matico (U. S. P.)—Matico

"The unripe fruit of Piper Cubeba, Linné filius" (U. S. P.) (Cubeba officinalis, Miquel).
Nat. Ord.—Piperaceae.
ILLUSTRATION: Bentley and Trimen, Med. Plants, 243.

Botanical Source.—This is a perennial plant, with a climbing stem, whose branches are round, of the thickness of a goose-quill, ash-colored, smooth, and rooting at the joints; and when very young are minutely downy, as well as the petioles. The leaves are 4 to 6 ½ inches long by 1 ½ or 2 inches broad, petioled, oblong, or ovate-oblong, acuminate, rounded, or obliquely cordate at base, strongly veined, netted, coriaceous, and very smooth. The flowers are dioecious, and arranged in spikes at the end of the branches opposite the leaves, on peduncles the length of the petioles. The fruit is rather longer than that of black pepper, globose, and borne on pedicels from ⅓ to ½ inch long (L.).

History and Description.—Piper Cubeba inhabits Java and Prince of Wales Island, Sumatra, Southern Borneo, and other isles in the Indian ocean, growing without cultivation in the forests. They are also cultivated to some extent in the coffee plantations of Java, being easy to grow when placed so as to climb the shade trees which are necessary in a coffee plantation. The fruit is gathered before it is fully ripe, and when dried is the part used in medicine. The fruit or berries are nearly globular, rough, grayish, somewhat lighter-colored than black pepper, of a rather pleasant, aromatic odor, and a hot, bitter, and somewhat camphoraceous taste. The cortical portion appears to have been thinner and less succulent than in black pepper, and contains within it a hard, spherical seed, which is whitish and oily. Cubebs are officially described as follows: "Globular, about 4 or 6 Mm. (⅙ to ⅕ inch) in diameter, contracted at the base into a rounded stipe about 6 or 8 Mm. (¼ to ⅓ inch) long, reticulately wrinkled, blackish-gray, internally whitish and hollow; odor strong, spicy; taste aromatic and pungent. Cubeb should not be mixed with the nearly inodorous rachis or stalks"—(U. S. P.). The volatile oil is much used in medicine. The powder of cubeb becomes inert after a time, in consequence of the loss of its volatile oil; hence, it is better to powder the drug only as required for use.

Chemical Composition.—The more important constituents of cubebs are: Volatile oil (see Oleum Cubebae), fatty oil, cubebin, cubebic acid, and indifferent cubeb-resin, the latter two substances alone carrying the diuretic qualities of the drug. Calcium and magnesium malates are also present. Cubebin, cubebic acid, and cubeb resin may be obtained in one operation according to explicit directions given by E. A. Schmidt in Archiv. der Pharm., 1870, pp. 1-49. Cubebin (C10H10O3 according to Weidel, 1877), first obtained pure by Soubeiran and Capitaine, in 1839, is present in about 2.5 per cent (Schmidt). It is an indifferent, crystallizable substance without taste or odor, but is bitter in alcoholic solution. It melts at 125° C. (257° F.), is insoluble in cold, and but little soluble in hot water; requires 16 parts of absolute alcohol for solution, and is much less soluble in weak alcohol. It is also soluble in about 27 parts of ether, likewise in benzene, acetic acid, and chloroform, the solution in the latter solvent being laevo-rotatory. Cubebin is soluble in concentrated sulphuric acid with blood-red color (Husemann and Hilger, 1882). Weidel (1877) found that when fused with caustic potash, cubebin yields carbonic acid, acetic acid, and protocatechuic acid (C6H3.[OH]2.COOH). This fact, in connection with the observation of Pomeranz (1887), to the effect that cubebin yields, upon oxidation piperonylic acid (C6H3:[O.O.CH2]COOH), establish it to be a derivative of pyrocatechin (ortho-dioxybenzene) (C6H4[OH]2). Cubebic acid (C13H14O7, Schmidt; C28H30O7.H2O, Schultze, 1873), was obtained by Schmidt in the quantity of about 1.7 per cent. When pure it forms a white, resinous mass, insoluble in water, soluble in alcohol, ether, chloroform, stronger water of ammonia, and caustic alkali. It forms salts with alkalies and the bases of heavier metals, the former being soluble in water. The sodium salt was obtained in crystals by Schultze. Concentrated sulphuric acid dissolves cubebic acid with crimson color, a reaction pointed out by E. M. Holmes (1885), as useful in the detection of adulteration by "false cubebs (see Related Species). Cubeb resin (C13H14O5) is an indifferent substance, soluble in alcohol and alkalies, sparingly soluble in chloroform, ether, and carbon disulphide.—The yield is from 2 to 3 per cent. F. V. Heydenreich (1868) instituted a series of experiments to determine whether the active principle of cubebs resided in its oil, its oleoresin, or in the cubebin. He concluded that the diuretic property of cubebs resides in its soft resin (now known as being composed of cubebic acid and cubeb resin); that cubebin is comparatively inert; and that the volatile oil is carminative and stimulant, producing in large doses the irritation common to analogous oils. These results were confirmatory of those previously announced by Bernatzik (1863).

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Cubebs are mildly stimulant, expectorant, stomachic, and carminative. They act more particularly upon mucous tissues, arresting excessive discharges, especially from the urethra. In large doses they produce increased frequency and fullness of pulse and augmented heat; occasionally they cause nausea, vomiting, burning pain, griping, or even purging. Sometimes they cause a rash-like eruption on the skin. They exercise an influence over the urinary apparatus, frequently producing diuresis, rendering the urine of a deeper color, with a peculiar, aromatic odor. They have been successfully employed in gonorrhoea, gleet, leucorrhoea, catarrh of the urinary bladder, chronic inflammation of the bladder, abscess of the prostate, chronic laryngitis and bronchitis, dyspepsia due to an atonic condition of the stomach, etc. Generally, it is better to use them after the high inflammatory symptoms have subsided. If they do not afford benefit very soon, they should be used no longer. There has been much controversy as to whether this drug should be employed during the active stage of gonorrhoea, or after the active symptoms have subsided. Prof. Locke, whose experience has been large, declares in favor of it after the active inflammatory stage has passed, and that it should be employed only after the profuse discharge has ceased. He believes it contraindicated in all inflammatory states, and prefers it in the chronic form of gonorrhoea, believing it more successful than in the acute. In chronic gonorrhoea, 30 grains of the powdered berries are to be given 3 times a day to produce an aggravated condition of the disease—a substitutive inflammation—and as this passes off the disease is decidedly better. This method should be persisted in until urination is painful, and then the dose should be lessened from day to day until a cure is effected. Christison states that he has known the use of cubebs to be frequently attended, like copaiba, with an ephemeral synocha, followed by a prompt cessation of the gonorrhoeal discharge; in which disease they may be given in powder, along with water or milk, or made into a paste with copaiba. The following preparations have been successfully used in gonorrhoea and gleet:

  1. Take of ethereal extract of cubebs, solidified balsam of copaiba, and carbonate of iron, of each 2 drachms; resin of podophyllum, 10 grains. Mix, and divide into pills of 4 grains each, of which 1 or 2 may be given 3 times a day.
  2. Take of pulverized cubebs, podophyllum, white pond lily, of each ½ ounce; Holland gin, 1 pint; macerate for several days and give sufficient doses 3 times a day to act slightly on the bowels.
  3. Take of solidified capaiba 2 ounces, ethereal extract of cubebs 1 ounce, oil of juniper a sufficient quantity; mix and divide into pills of 4 grains each, of which 1 or 2 may be taken 3 times a day.

Not only does cubeba affect the urinary tract, but it acts upon all the mucous tissues of the body, restraining profluvia, giving tone, besides augmenting the appetite and improving digestion. While contraindicated in acute inflammations it is often of service in chronic inflammations. When in leucorrhoea the discharge is copious and offensive, give large doses (30 to 40 grains 3 times a day), until a decided effect is made; then diminish the dose from day to day. Chronic inflammatory states of the female bladder and urethra, with constant urging and painful efforts to urinate, are relieved by 5-drop doses of specific cubeba given every 3 or 4 hours. Spermatorrhoea, cystic catarrh, nocturnal urinal incontinence of children, and prostatic abscess, are all benefited when the conditions are first aggravated by the larger dose, and the drug lessened as the treatment progresses. The urethral burning is the indication for it. The greater the debility the more pronounced are its effects. Use it for the scalding sensations often experienced by women in urinating, a condition common to the menstrual period, and for irritation and burning of the vulva. Prof. Scudder suggests the small dose "in debility with irritation of the reproductive apparatus, prostatorrhoea, uneasiness and formication of the scrotum and anus, and diseases associated with reproductive weakness."

Atonic respiratory troubles with profuse expectoration, are benefited by 5 to 10 drop doses of specific cubeba on sugar every hour. It has been given in this manner and the berries smoked for the relief of nasal catarrh. The latter procedure is often beneficial in hay fever. Equal parts of black German snuff and powdered cubebs are stimulating and alterative in excessive catarrhal states of the nasal membranes; snuff into the nostrils several times a day (Locke). M. Trideau found a syrup of cubebs, in connection with one of copaiba, to be almost a specific in croup. M. Berjeron has also met with great success in the same disease, but be prefers to administer the oleoresin of cubebs either in capsules or in emulsion, having the children take according to their ages from 15 to 60 grains per day. Chronic sore throat with great relaxation of the membranes and excessive secretion is benefited by specific cubeba suspended in syrup. Dose of cubebs in powder, from 5 grains to 1 drachm 3 times a day; of the tincture, ½ to 2 fluid drachms; of the oil, from 5 to 30 drops; of specific cubeba, 1 to 60 drops.

Specific Indications and Uses.—Latter stage of gonorrhoea, after profuse discharges have ceased; chronic gonorrhoea; enfeebled states of the large intestine and rectum; subacute inflammations of the urinary passages; urethral burning; scalding of urine in females; irritation and burning of vulva; debility with profuse discharges from the mucous tissues.

Related Species and Products.Piper Clusii, Cas. De Candolle (Cubeba Clusii, Miquel; Piper Afzelii, Lindley). This plant, from French Africa, furnishes a drug supposed to be more closely allied to black pepper than to cubebs; it almost always has a long stalk attached, and its size is about one-half less than that of the commercial drug. The color is ashen-gray, and the taste hot. It is known as African pepper, African cubebs, West African black pepper, Ashantee pepper, and Guinea pepper. The plant with its ripened cluster of red fruit is regarded as one of the handsomest and most conspicuous specimens of African vegetation. Stanislas Martin found the chemical composition of African pepper to be nearly the same as the Sumatra or Malabar cubebs, and believes it to possess the same properties as these, provided it be perfectly cleansed of its stalks. Stenhouse, however, in 1855, states that its proximate constituent is piperine, and not cubebin, thus bringing it closer to pepper than to cubebs. These berries are used as a condiment in tropical West Africa.

OTHER SPECIES.—The following plants also yield berries that more or less resemble cubebs, and some of which have been used as substitutions therefor. They are called "false cubebs." Cubeba Lowong, Miquel (Piper Lowong, Blume); Cubeba canina, Miquel (Piper caninum, Dietrich); Cubeba Wallichii, Miquel (Piper ribesioides, Wallich); Cubeba crassipes, Miquel (Piper crassipes, Korthals), probably the Piper anisatum of Humboldt and Bonpland;and Laurus Cubeba Loureiro (see Pharmacographia). Mr. Holmes recommends as a useful test the bright, indigo-blue coloration that the genuine drug yields with solution of iodine, both in the form of powder and decoction (undoubtedly due to the action of iodine upon the essential oil of cubebs, and not to the presence of starch, as has been suggested), and the crimson color the drug imparts to strong sulphuric acid (see paper on this subject by E. M. Holmes, in Pharm. Jour. Trans., Aug., 1892, or Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1892, p. 494).

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