The bark of Drimys Winteri, Forster (Wintera aromatica, Murray).
COMMON NAMES AND SYNONYMS: Winter's bark, Winter's cinnamon, Cortex winteri, Cortex magellanicus, Cortex winteranus.
Botanical Source.—This is a very large (or very small, according to locality of growth) evergreen, aromatic tree, varying in size from 6 to 50 feet high. The bark of the trunk is gray and wrinkled; that of the branches smooth and green. Branches rather erect, and scarred by the traces of fallen leaves. The leaves are alternate, oblong, obtuse, with a midrib, but otherwise veinless, glabrous, and finely dotted beneath. The flowers are small, on axillary or somewhat terminal peduncles, which are approximated, usually 1-flowered and simple; occasionally divided a little above the base into long pedicels. Sepals 2 or 3; petals 6, and oblong; fruits 4 or 6, obovate, baccate, and many-seeded (L.).
History.—This tree inhabits the southern parts of South America, Chili, Peril, Terra del Fuego, etc., and takes its name from its discoverer, Capt. Winter, who commanded the Elizabeth in Capt. Drake's voyage through the Straits of Magellan in 1578. Winter employed it to cure scurvy. Owing to the difficulty of obtaining the true bark, and the ease with which other barks, notably canella bark, could be substituted for it, the true bark was lost sight of for many years; hence the conflicting descriptions in the literature of the drug. Forster (1773) first correctly established its botanical identity. As a remedy for gastric debility and diarrhoea, it is largely employed in South America.
Description.—The authors of Pharmacographia thus describe true Winter's bark, as found by them upon many examinations: "The bark is in quills, or channelled pieces, often crooked, twisted or bent backward, generally only a few inches in length. It is most extremely thick (1/10 to 3/10 inch), and appears to have shrunk very much in drying; bark 1/4 inch thick, having sometimes rolled itself into a tube only 3 times as much in external diameter. Young pieces have an ashy-gray suberous coat beset with lichens. In older bark the outer coat is sometimes whitish and silvery, but often more of a dark rusty-brown, which is the color of the internal substance, as well as of the surface of the wood. The inner side of the bark is strongly characterized by very rough striae, or, as seen under a lens, by small, short, and sharp longitudinal ridges, with occasional fissures indicative of great contraction of the inner layer in drying. In a piece broken or cut transversely, it is easy to perceive that the ridges in question are the ends of rays of the white fiber which diverge toward the circumference in radiate order, a dark-rusty parenchyme intervening between them. No such feature is observable in either Canella or Cinnamodendron. Winter's bark has a short, almost earthy fracture; an intolerably pungent, burning taste, and an odor which can only be described as terebinthinous"—(Pharmacographia, 2d ed., p. 19).
Chemical Composition.—Winter's bark was examined in 1820 by M. Henry, who found in it a reddish-brown, inodorous, acrid resin (10 per cent), a pale-yellow volatile oil (1.2 per cent), tannic acid, oxide of iron, starch, coloring matter, and various salts. The volatile oil appears to be a mixture of several bodies; P. N. Arata and F. Canzoneri found the oil from a genuine specimen to contain a sesquiterpene which they named winterene (C15H24) (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1890, p. 354).
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Stimulant, aromatic, stomachic, and tonic, and may be substituted in all cases for the canella, cascarilla, and cinnamon barks. It was highly recommended by its discoverer as an antiscorbutic. Thirty grains is the dose of the powdered bark. It is seldom used in this country. A vinous tincture (bark, ℥i to sherry wine, ℥viij) may be employed in drachm doses.
Related Drugs and Substitutes.—Another tree inhabiting Chili, Drimys Mexicana, Sessé (Drimys Chilensis, of De Candolle), has a bark possessing analogous virtues. This species and Drimys granatensis, Linné filius, are regarded as mere varieties of the Drimys Winteri. The second is now adopted by the French Codex as the source of the drug of commerce, which this authority states has the same properties as the original drug from the Straits of Magellan, and even excels the original drug in keeping qualities.
Related entries: Cinnamodendron
Cinnamodendron corticosum, Miers, of Jamaica, has been sold extensively as Winter's bark, and at one time wholly replaced the true article. Canella alba, Linné, at one time was erroneously believed to be the source of the commercial drug (D. Hanbury, 1862; see his Science Papers).
The barks of Drimys lanceolata and Drimys axillaris, Forster, both of Australia, are aromatic and pungent, and the fruit of the first-named is said to be employed as a condiment.
MALAMBO BARK is the name of a substitute for Winter's bark which appeared on the American market about 1856. It was identified by Prof. E. S. Wayne (see Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1857, pp. 1-8, and D. Hanbury, ibid., p. 212).