Winter's bark. Wintera. Drimys winteri.
Winter's Bark. Wintera.—The bark of Drimys Winteri Forst. Cortex Winteranus. Ecorce de Winter, Cannelle de Magellan, Fr. Winter's Zimmt, G. (Fam. Magnoliaceae.)—For descriptions of tree, see U. S. D., 16th edition. The tree is a native of the southern parts of South America, growing along the Strait of Magellan, and extending as far north as Chile. According to Martius, it is found also in Brazil. The bark of the tree was brought to England, in the latter part of the sixteenth century, by Captain Winter, who attended Drake on his voyage round the world, and while in the Strait had learned its aromatic and medicinal properties. Since this period, from time to time various barks have appeared in European commerce as Winter's bark, although not any that was the genuine bark. Among those in the London market was at one time the bark of Cinnamodendron corticosum Miers. (Fam. Canellaceae), of Jamaica, which is pungent like true Winter's bark, but is of a much paler brown color, and resembles canella bark except in the absence of the chalky-white inner surface. More recently this bark has been replaced by the bark of Croton Malambo Karst. (Fam. Euphorbiaceae), which resembles in color and thickness the bark of the Cinnamodendron, but has a bitter taste and a calamus-like flavor. For the description of a specimen which was in possession of George B. Wood many years since, see U. S. D., 19th ed., p. 1696. P. N. Arata and F. Canzoneri (P. J., June 14, 1890) describe a bark which they assert to be a genuine Winter's bark from the Strait of Magellan. From this they separated a volatile oil by distilling the bark with water, exhausting the distillate with petroleum, and distilling off the solvent. The crude oil, amounting to 0.64 per cent. of the weight of the bark employed, was a mixture of several substances. Winterene, C15H24, is the essential oil separated from this by fractional distillation. It is readily oxidized on exposure to the air, becoming yellow. The formula C25H40 was calculated from the ultimate analysis and vapor density, but the authors consider that the ready oxidizability of winterene and its analogy to similar essences point rather to the formula C15H24, which would place it in the group of sesquiterpenes, such as cedrene, cubebene, etc. The presence of tannic acid and ferric oxide, according to Henry, serves to distinguish Winter's bark from Canella alba, with which it has often been confounded. The bark above described as commercial Winter's bark is destitute of both tannic acid and ferric oxide, and cannot therefore be the bark examined by Henry.
The bark of the Drimys granatensis L. f. (now regarded as identical with D. Winteri Forst.), has been imported into London under the name of Merida coto, and it has been stated that it contains cotoin. It occurs in short pieces of a yellowish-gray color, traversed longitudinally by hard cellular layers, which distinguish it at once from coto and paracoto bark. Its odor resembles that of true coto, but is more feeble. A careful chemical study of it by O. Hesse (P. J., vol. iv) shows that it contains no cotoin, but a crystalline substance, C13H14O4, to which the name of drimin was given. From the leaves Hesse obtained a wax alcohol, drimol, C28H58O2. As Drimys granatensis L. f., is recognized as D. Winteri Forst., it is plain that Merida coto must be looked upon as a form of Winter's bark coming from Venezuela.
Winter's bark is a stimulant aromatic tonic, and was employed by Winter as a remedy for scurvy. It may be used in half-drachm (2.0 Gm.) doses for similar purposes with cinnamon or canella alba, but is scarcely known in the medical practice of this country. Drimys chilensis of De Candolle, growing in Chile, yields a bark having similar properties (Carson, A. J. P., xix, 81); also D. aromatica F. Muell., of Australia. (P J., xxi.)