124. Cubeba Officinalis, Miq.—The Cubeb Pepper.

Botanical name: 

Sex. Syst. Diandria, Trigynia.
(Fructus immaturus, L.—Fruit, E.—The berries, D.)
[Cubeba; Cubebs, U. S.]

Synonyme.—Piper Cubeba, Linn. fil. Blume. Ph. L.

History.—It is somewhat doubtful when cubebs were first employed in medicine, and by whom they were first noticed. I am inclined to believe, however, that they are mentioned in the Hippocratic writings [De Morbis Mulierum, lib. ii. p. 672, ed. Foesii.—The term μυρτίδανον was also used to signify a myrtle-like plant, and likewise a rough excrescence growing on the μυρσίνη (Ruscus aculeatus). See Dioscorides, lib. i. cap. 156.] under the name of μυρτίδανον; for 1stly, the remedy termed μυρτίδανον is distinguished from pepper (πέπερι), and is said to be a round Indian fruit which the Persians call pepper. 2dly, the modern Greek name for cubebs is μυρτιδανον. [Pharmacopoeia Graeca, Athenis, 1837.]

The word cubebs is derived from the Arabic name for these fruits, which first occurs in the writings of Serapion, [In his account of cubebs, Serapion has translated what Dioscorides has said of μυρσίνη (Ruscus aculeatus) and added everything with Galen has stated respecting καρπήσιον. But Galen expressly states that καρπήσιον resembles φού (The root of Valeriana Dioscorides); and it is improbable, therefore, that cubebs and carpesium should be identical.] Rhazes, and Avicenna. From the same source Actuarius [C. Bauhini Pinax.—No Greek edition of Actuarius has been published, and I am, therefore, obliged to quote his writings at second-hand. In my copy of the Latin translation (De Medica-mentorum compositione, J. Ruellio interprete, p. 69 b, 1546), the phrase runs thus—"carpesii (cubebe barbari vocant)."] derived the name κομβέβας, by which he has designated cubebs.

Cubebs were in use in England more than 500 years ago, for in 1305 Edward I. granted to the corporation of London the power of levying a toll of one farthing a pound on this article in its passage over London Bridge. [Liber Niger Scaccarii, vol. i. p. *478; also The Chronicles of London Bridge, p. 155.]

Botany. Gen. Char.—Woody. Spikes solitary, opposite the leaves. Flowers dioecious. Ovary sessile. Stigmas 3—5, sessile. Berries, by the contracted basis, apparently stalked (pseudo-pedicillate). Seed roundish, with leathery or horny testa and mealy albumen. (Condensed from Miquel).

Sp. Char.—Leaves smooth; the lower ones unequal, somewhat cordate at the base, ovate, acute; the upper ones more oblong-ovate, with rounded base and smaller; those of the male plant 5-nerved, of the female plaut 5—9-nerved. Fruit globose, shorter than their stalks.—A climbing shrub.

Hab.—Grows wild in Bantam, the western part of Java; also on some of the neighbouring islands.—Cultivated in the lower parts of Java.

The above is, according to Miquel, the mother-plant of the genuine cubebs. But a neighbouring species—Cubeba canina, Miquel—yields a fruit which, according to Blume, also forms part of the cubebs of commerce. This plant grows on the Sunda and Molucca islands. The fruits and seeds of the two species are thus distinguished.

Cubeba officinalis, Miq.Cubeba canina, Miq.
Berries far more numerous, crowded, almost globose, scarcely acuminate; when dry, rugous, blackish brown, having a very acrid, aromatic, almost bitter taste.Fewer, more remote, ovate; when dry, remarkably beaked (rostrate), black, smaller, scarcely rugous, having a weaker, amost anise-like taste.
Seed-coat (spermoderm), grayish brown, traversed by about eight longitudinal nerves, oblong-globuluar.Reddish, almost shining, lined (striolata) longitudinally, spherical.
Fruit-Stalks (formed of the thin lower portion of the berry) longer than the berries.Nearly of the same length as the berries.

Description.—The dried unripe fruit of this plant constitutes the cubebs (cubebae vel piper caudatum) of the shops.

In appearance, cubebs resemble black pepper, except that they are lighter coloured, and are each furnished with a stalk two or three inches long, and from which circumstance they have received their name caudatum ("fructus pedicellatus," Ph. Lond.). The cortical portion of cubebs (that which constituted the fleshy portion of the fruit) appears to have been thinner and less succulent than in black pepper. Within it is a hard spherical seed, which is whitish and oily. The taste of cubebs is acrid, peppery, and camphoraceous; the odour is peculiar and aromatic.

Composition.—Three analyses of cubebs have been made: one by Trommsdorff, in 1811; [Schwartz, Pharm. Tabell.] a second by Vauquelin, in 1820; [Ann. Phil. 2d series, vol. iii. p. 202.] and a third by Monheim, in 1835. [Journ. de Pharm. xx. 403.]

1. Volatile oil, nearly solid.1. Green volatile oil2.5
2. Resin, like that of copaiva.2. Yellow volatile oil1.0
3. Another coloured resin.3. Cubebin4.5
4. A coloured gummy matter.4. Balsamic resin1.5
5. Extractive.5. Wax 3.0
6. Saline matter.6. Chloride of sodium1.0
7. Extractive6.0
8. Lignin65.0

1. Essential Oil of Cubebs.—(See p. 356.)

2. Resin of Cubebs.—Vauquelin has described two resins of cubebs: one is green, liquid, acrid, and analogous, both in odour and taste, to balsam of copaiva; the other is brown, solid, acrid, and insoluble in ether.

3. Cubebin (Piperin).—From cubebs is obtained a principle to which the term cubebin has been applied. It is very analogous to, if not identical with piperin. Cassola, a Neapolitan chemist, [Journ. de Chim. Méd. t. x. p. 685.] says, it is distinguished from the latter principle by the fine crimson colour which it produces with sulphuric acid, and which remains unaltered for twenty or twentyfour hours; moreover, cubebin is not crystallizable.

Monheim, [Op. cit.] however, declares cubebin to be identical with piperin, and that it is combined with a soft acrid resin. In this state it is soluble in ether, alcohol, the fixed oils, and acetic acid; but it is insoluble in oil of turpentine and dilute sulphuric acid. It fuses at 68° F.

Dr. Görres [Dierbach, Neuesten Entd. in d. Mat. Med. S. 253, 1837.] gave cubebin, in both acute and chronic gonorrhoea, to the extent of one drachm, four times daily. But he premised the use of phosphoric acid.

4. Extractive Matter of Cubebs.—Vauquelin says, the extractive matter of cubebs is analogous to that found in leguminous plants. It is precipitable by galls, but not by acetate of lead.

Physiological Effects.—Cubebs belong to the acrid species already (see ante, p. 221) noticed. Their sensible operation is very analogous to that of black pepper. Taken in moderate doses, they stimulate the stomach, augment the appetite, and promote the digestive process. In larger quantities, or taken when the stomach is in an irritated or inflammatory condition, they cause nausea, vomiting, burning pain, griping, and even purging. These are their local effects. The constitutional ones are those resulting from the operation of an excitant—namely, increased frequency and fulness of pulse, thirst, and augmented heat. It probably stimulates all the mucous surfaces; but unequally so. In some instances cubebs give rise to an eruption on the skin like urticaria. Not unfrequently they cause headache; and occasionally disorder of the cerebro-spinal functions, manifested by convulsive movements or partial paralysis, as in a case related by Mr. Broughton. [Lond. Med. Gaz. vol. i. p. 405.]

Cubebs appear to exercise a specific influence over the urinogenital apparatus. Thus they frequently act as diuretics, and at the same time deepen the colour of, and communicate a peculiar aromatic odour to the urine. Their stimulant operation on the bladder is well illustrated by a case related by Sir Benjamin Brodie. [Ibid. vol. i. p. 300.] A gentleman, labouring under chronic inflammation of the bladder, took fifteen grains of cubebs, every eight hours, with much relief. Being anxious to expedite his cure, he, of his own accord, increased the dose to a drachm. This was followed by an aggravation of the symptoms: the irritation of the bladder was much increased, the mucus was secreted in much larger quantity than before, and ultimately the patient died—"his death being, I will not say occasioned," adds Sir Benjamin, "but certainly very much hastened, by his imprudence in overdosing himself with cubebs."

Three drachms of cubebs caused in Pül [Arzneim. u. Giften, Bd. iv. S. 217.] nausea, acid eructations, heat at the pit of the stomach, headache, uneasiness, and fever.

Uses.—The principal use of cubebs is in the treatment of gonorrhoea. They should be given in as large a dose as the stomach can bear, in the early part of the disease; for experience has fully proved that, in proportion to the length of time gonorrhoea has existed, the less amenable is it to the influence of cubebs. In some instances an immediate stop is put to the progress of the malady. In others the violent symptoms only are palliated; while in many (according to my experience in most) cases no obvious influence over the disease is manifested. The presenee of active inflammation of the urethra does not positively preclude the use of cubebs, though I have more than once seen them aggravate the symptoms. Mr. Jeffreys [Observations on the Use of Cubebs, or Java Pepper, in teh Cure of Gonorrhoea, 1821.] thinks the greatest success is met with in the more inflammatory forms of the disease. Cubebs have been charged with inducing swelled testicle; but I have not observed this affection to be more frequent after the use of cubebs than when they were not employed. Mr. Broughton [Med.-Chir. Trans. vol. xii. p. 99.] gave them to fifty patients, and in forty-five they proved successful. Of these only two had swelled testicle. The explanation of the methodus medendi is unsatisfactory. Sir A. Cooper [Lancet, vol. iii. p. 201, 1824.] thinks that cubebs produce a specific inflammation of their own on the urethra, which has the effect of superseding the gonorrhoeal inflammation. The occasional occurrence of a cutaneous eruption from the use of cubebs deserves especial attention, as I have known it create a suspicion of secondary symptoms.

Cubebs have been recommended in gleet and leucorrhoea. [Dr. Orr, Ed.: Med. Journ. vol. sviii. p. 318.] In abscess of the prostate gland, twenty or thirty grains of cubebs, taken three times a day, have in many cases appeared to do good. [Sir B. Brodie, Lond. Med. Gaz. vol. i. p. 396.] They seemed to give a gentle stimulus to the parts, and to influence the disease much in the same way that Ward's Paste operates on abscesses and fistulae, and ulcers of the rectum. In cystirrhoea also they have occasionally proved serviceable in small doses. [Ibid, p. 300.] In piles, likewise, they are given with advantage. [Ibid. xv. 747.]

The efficacy of cubebs in mucous discharges is not confined to the urinogenital mucous membrane. In catarrhal affections of the membrane lining the aerian passages, it proves exceedingly useful, especially when the secretion is copious and the system relaxed.

Formerly cubebs were employed as gastric stimulants and carminatives in dyspepsia, arising from an atonic condition of the stomach. They have also been used in rheumatism. The Indians macerate them in wine, and take them to excite the sexual feelings.

Administration.—Cubebs, in the form of powder, are given in doses varying from ten grains to three drachms. In affections of the bladder and prostate gland the dose is from ten grains to thirty grains. In gonorrhoea, on the other hand, they should be administered in large doses. Mr. Crawford [History of the Indian Archipelago, vol. i. p. 465.] says, that in Malay countries they are given in doses of three drachms, six or eight times during the day.

1. OLEUM CUBEBAE, E.; Volatile Oil of Cubebs. (Prepared by grinding the fruit, and distilling with water.)—By distillation, cubebs yield about 10.5 per cent. of a transparent, slightly-coloured (when pure, colourless) volatile oil, which is lighter than water (sp. gr. 0.929), and has the cubeb odour, and a hot, aromatic, bitter taste. Its formula is C10H8.

By keeping, it sometimes deposits crystals (cubeb stearoptene or cubeb camphor), the primary form of which is the rhombic octahedron. [Brooke, Ann. Phil. N. S. vol. v. p. 450.] They form a hydrate whose composition is C10H8,HO. Their odour is that of cubebs; their taste, at first, that of cubebs and camphor, afterwards cooling. They are fusible at 133° F., soluble in alcohol, ether, and oils, but are insoluble in water. Oil of cubebs is an excellent and a most convenient substitute for the powder. The dose of it, at the commencement of its use, is ten or twelve drops. This quantity is to be gradually increased as long as the stomach will bear it. In some instances, I have given it to the extent of a fluidrachm for a dose. It may be taken suspended in water by means of mucilage, or dropped on sugar; or in the form of gelatinous capsules of cubebs; a combination of oil of cubebs and oil of copaiva forms a very useful medicine in some cases of gonorrhoea.

2. EXTRACTUM 0LEO-RESINOSUM CUBEBAE; Oleo-resinous Extract of Cubebs.— Dublanc directs this to be prepared by adding the oil to the resinous extract of cubebs, which is prepared by digesting the cake, left after the distillation of the oil, in alcohol, and distilling off the spirit. [Journ. de Pharm. t. xiv. p. 40.] The process of Mr. Procter, Jun., [Pharmaceutical Journal, vol. vi. p. 319, 1846.] appears to be a better one. It consists in exhausting cubebs by ether in the displacement apparatus, and submitting the ethereal tincture to distillation in a water bath. The residual ethereal extract of cubebs has a dark olive brown colour, and contains all the volatile oil, cubebin, and resin (the active principles of the fruit) as well as most of the waxy matter, but none of the extractive. 1 lb. avoirdupois of cubebs yields 2 oz. of ethereal extract. One drachm of it, therefore, is equal to one ounce of cubebs. It may be administered in the form of emulsion, pills, or capsules. Dose from grs. v to ʒss.

[3. EXTRACTUM CUBEBAE FLUIDUM. U. S.; Fluid Extract of Cubebs.—Take of Cubebs a pound; Ether a sufficient quantity. Put the cubebs into a percolator, and having packed it carefully, pour ether gradually upon it until two pints of filtered liquor are obtained, then distil off, by means of a water-bath at a gentle heat, a pint and a half of the ether, and expose the residue, in a shallow vessel, until the whole of the ether has evaporated. The above are the directions in full adopted by the U. S. Pharm, from Mr. Procter. The dose is as above stated.]

4. TINCTURA CUBEBAE, L. [U. S.]; Tinctura Piperis Cubebae, D.; Tincture of Cubebs.—(Cubebs, powdered, lb j [℥v, D. (℥iv, U. S.)]; Proof [Rectified, D.] Spirit Oij [Diluted Alcohol Oij, U. S.]. Macerate for seven [fourteen, D. (U. S.)] days, then express and strain.—Dr. Montgomery [Observations on the Dubl. Pharm. p. 439, Loud.] says, "I have found this tincture cure gonorrhoea, both speedily and satisfactorily." The dose of it is one or two drachms three times a day.

Some druggists keep a more concentrated tincture.

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