145. Nectandra rodiaei, Schomburgk.—The Bibiru or Greenheart Tree.

Sex. Syst. Dodecandria, Monogynia.

History.—In 1769, Bancroft [Natural History of Guiana, 1769.] noticed the valuable qualities of the wood of this tree, which he called the Greenheart or Sipeira. In 1834, Dr. Roder [See the circular issued by Dr. Roder, and dated November 22, 1834; also, Sir Andrew Halliday's notice of Dr. Roder's discoveries, in the Edinb. Med. and Surg. Journal, vol. xliv. Oct. 1835.] discovered that the bark was a good substitute for cinchona, and that both it and the fruit contained an alkaloid, which he used with great success in intermittents: he terms the tree the Bebeeru, and the alkaloid Bebeerine. In 1843, [Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, vol. xv. p. 423, 1843.] Dr. Douglas Maclagan published an account of the chemical and therapeutical properties of the bark, and confirmed the discoveries of Dr. Roder. The following year a full botanical description of the tree, which he terms Bibiru, or Sipiri, was drawn up by Sir Robert Schomburgk, aided by Mr. Bentham. [Hooker's London Journal of Botany, December, 1844, p. 624.]

Botany. Gen. Char.—Flowers hermaphrodite. Calyx 6-parted, rotate; segments deciduous, the 3 outer rather the broadest. Stamens 12, in 4 series; the 9 outer fertile, the 3 inner sterile; glands in pairs, globose, sessile, at the base of the 3 inner fertile stamens; the anthers in the first and second series turned inwards, those of the third series turned outwards, all ovate, nearly sessile with 4 cells arranged in a curve, and distinct from the tip of the anther, with as many ascending dehiscing valves; sterile stamens either tooth-shaped and biglandular at the base, or glandless, and then with a small ovule head. Ovary 1-celled, with 1 ovule in each cell. Style very short; stigma short and truncated. Berry 1-seeded, more or less immersed in the tube of the calyx changed into a truncated cup.—Trees of tropical America, with alternate, feather-veined leaves, and panicled or corymbose, axillary, lax, ample flowers (Endlicher).

Sp. Char.—Leaves nearly opposite, oblong-elliptical, shortly acuminate, coriaceous, smooth, shining, and obscurely netted on the upper side; panicles few-flowered, axillary, much shorter than the leaves, finely downy; anthers all thick oblong, without glands (Bentham).

A large forest tree, of 60 or more feet high, with a trunk frequently above 50 feet high, undivided by branches till near the top, and covered by an ash-gray smooth bark. Leaves 5 or 6 inches long, and 2 or 3 inches broad. Flowers yellowish-white. Berry somewhat obovate, globular, slightly compressed, the longer extension 7 ½ inches in circumference, the less about 6 ¼ inches: the pericarp grayish-brown, speckled with whitish dots, hard, very brittle, and about a line thick. Seed 1 in each fruit, about the size and shape of a walnut, and containing 2 large plano-convex cotyledons.

Hab.—British Guiana: on rocky hill-sides on the borders of rivers (the Essequibo, Cuyuni, Demerara, Pomeroon, Berbice, &c).—The timber is used for shipbuilding, under the name of Greenheart.

Description.—Bibiru or beeberu bark (cortex bibiru), is derived from the trunk. It consists of large, flat, heavy pieces, from 1 to 2 feet long, from 2 to 6 inches broad, and about 3 or 4 lines thick. It is covered externally with a brittle grayish-brown epidermis. Internally, its colour is dark cinnamon-brown. The fracture is rough and somewhat fibrous. The taste is strong, persistent, bitter, with considerable astringency, but with aroma, pungency, or acridity.

The fruit (fructus bibiru) commonly called a nut, has been described above. The seeds (semina bibiru) yield starch, which is used as food by the Indians. A section of the cotyledons, when moist and fresh, was pale yellow, and became brown by exposure to the air. The juice had an acid reaction, and was intensely bitter.

Composition.—The bark and seeds have been analyzed by Dr. Maclagan, and his results are as follows:—

Bark. Seeds.
(much dried by keeping).
Alkalies [bibirina and sipirina] (not quite pure) 2.56 2.20
Tannin and resinous matter 2.53 4.04
Soluble matter (gum, sugar, and salts) 4.34 9.40
Starch - 53.51
Fibre and vegetable albumen 62.92 11.24
Ashes (chiefly calcareous) 7.13 0.31
Water 14.04 18.13
Loss 6.45 1.17
------ ------
Total 100.00 100.00

1. Bibirina; Beeberina; Biberine; Bebeerine, C35H20NO6.—Obtained by decomposing commercial sulphate of bibirina by ammonia; the precipitate is washed with cold water, triturated while still moist with moist hydrated oxide of lead, and the magma dried on a water-bath, and exhausted by rectified spirit. In this way is obtained an alcoholic solution of bibirina and sipirina, while the oxide of lead, tannin, and other impurities are left behind. The alcohol is to be distilled off, and the resinous-looking residue treated with pure ether, which dissolves the bibirina, but leaves behind the sipirina.

Bibirina is uncrystallizable. When obtained by evaporation from its ethereal solution, it is a yellow, amorphous, resinous-looking substance; but in the form of powder it is white. It is very soluble in alcohol, less so in ether, and very sparingly in water. Its alcoholic solution reacts as an alkali on reddened litmus paper. It dissolves in acids, and neutralizes them, forming amorphous yellow salts. Colourless or crystallized salts have not yet been procured. According to Maclagan and Tilley, [Pharmaceutical Journal, vol. v p. 228, 1845.] its composition is identical with morphia. Winckler [Ibid, vol. vi. p. 493, 1847; also, Buchner's Repert. 2ter Reihe, Bd. xlvi. p. 231, 1846.] says, that bibirina resembles in many respects paracine, but differs from the latter in the circumstance of its hydrate being gelatinous.

2. Sipirina; Sipeerina; Sipirine; Sipeerine.—This substance, which Dr. Maclagan at first thought to be a second alkaloid, he now regards as a product of the oxidation of bibirine.

3. Bibiric Acid; Bebeeric Acid.—A white, crystalline, deliquescent, volatile acid obtained from the seeds.

4. Starch.—I am indebted to Dr. Maclagan for some of the starch obtained from the seeds of this plant It is grayish-white, and almost tasteless. When examined by the microscope, it is found to consist of particles which are somewhat smaller than those of cassava starch, but in their external form quite agree with the latter. Schomburgk states that the Indians are obliged to live for months on it. It is prepared by grating the seeds and immersing them in water. Repeated washing he found did not deprive the starch of its bitterness. The starch mixed with decayed wood, chiefly of the Walaba tree (Eperua falcata), is baked into cakes. Winckler has discovered starch in the bark as well as in the seeds.

5. Tannin.—This agrees very much with that found in the cinchona bark; and, like the latter, it yields a green colour with the salts of iron.

Physiological Effects.—Bibiru bark appears to possess the tonic, antiperiodic, febrifuge, and astringent properties of cinchona barks. Like the latter, its bitter, tonic, and antiperiodic powers reside in a vegetable alkaloid; and its astringent property in that kind of tannic acid which strikes a green colour with the salts of iron.

Sufficient experience has not yet been obtained with bibiru bark and its alkaloid (bibirine), to enable us to form an accurate opinion of their therapeutical power in comparison with cinchona bark and quinia. In some cases, bibirina has appeared to produce its peptic and tonic effects with less tendency to cause headache, giddiness, ringing in the ears, and feverishness, than quinia; and it can in consequence be administered to some patients with whom quinia disagrees. On the other hand, it appears inferior to the latter in febrifuge and antiperiodic power.

Uses.—Bibiru bark and bibirina (in the form of sulphate) have been used as a peptic in anorexia and dyspepsia; as a general tonic in debility, protracted phthisis, and strumous affections; as a febrifuge in intermittent and remittent diseases; and as an antiperiodic in periodical headache and intermittent neuralgias. [For farther information respecting the therapeutical value of bibiru bark and bibirina, the reader is referred to Dr. Maclagan's papers on this subject, in the Trans. of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, vol. xv. 1843; Cormack's Lond. and Edinb. Monthly Journal of Medical Science, for August 1843; and the Edinb. Med. and Surg. Journal, No. 163. In these papers will be found the observations not only of Dr. Maclagan, but also of Drs. Rodie and Watt, of Demerara, Drs. Bennett and Simpson of Edinburgh, and of several army medical officers serving in the East Indies.]

BIBIRINAE SUBSULPHAS; Bebeerinae Sulphas; Sub-sulphate of Bibirine; Sulphate of Bebeerine.—The process for obtaining this is essentially the same as that of the Edinburgh Pharmacopoeia for sulphate of quinia. The bark is first boiled with a solution of carbonate of soda to remove the tannin and colouring matter; it is boiled With water acidulated with sulphuric acid, by which sulphate of bibirine is obtained in solution. To the strained liquor carbonate of soda is added, and the impure bases thus thrown down washed, dissolved, and neutralized with sulphuric acid, and the solution decolorized by animal charcoal, concentrated, filtered, and finally evaporated in flat open vessels; excess of acid being avoided in order to prevent charring on evaporation.

There are two compounds of sulphuric acid and bibirina—the sulphate (BiSO3) and the sub-sulphate (Bi2SO3): the latter is the commercial salt which has been prepared for medicinal use by Mr. Macfarlane, of Edinburgh:—

(Trans. Royal Soc. Edinb.)
basic commercial sulphate.
Bibirina 86.39 90.83
Sulphuric acid 13.61 9.17
------ ------
Neutral sulphate of bibirina 100.00 Sub-sulphate of bibirina 100.00

The sub-sulphate of bibirina (Macfarlane's basic commercial sulphate of bebeerine) is not absolutely pure. It contains sub-sulphate of sipirina, sulphate of lime, and colouring matter. It occurs in brownish-yellow, thin, glittering scales, which form a yellow powder, and by incineration leave a mere trace of ash only. It has a very persistent bitter taste. It is soluble in alcohol. It is slightly soluble in cold water, with which it yields a turbid solution, partly from the excess of base, partly from the decomposing tendency of the sipirina. Its solution in water is rendered more complete by a few drops of sulphuric aeid. Its effects and uses have already been alluded to.

It may be administered in doses of from one to three grains as a tonic, and from five to twenty grains as a febrifuge. In substance, it is given in the form of pill made with conserve of roses; and in solution, with dilute sulphuric acid. The following is given as a convenient form for its exhibition as a tonic: Sub-sulphate of bibirine ʒss; diluted sulphuric acid ♏xxv, syrup ℥j; tincture of orange-peel ℥J; water ℥iv. Dose, one tablespoonful three times a day.

It has been recommended as an economical substitute for quinia; its price being about 6s. per oz.; while disulphate of quinia has been lately more than double that price.

The Elements of Materia Medica and Therapeutics, Vol. II, 3th American ed., was written by Jonathan Pereira in 1854.