Sassy bark. Doom bark. Erythrophleum guineense.

Botanical name: 

Sassy Bark. Nkasa. Doom Bark. Casca Bark. Mancona Bark. Saucy Bark. Ecorce de Mangoine, Fr. Manconarinde, G.—This bark is interesting chiefly from its employment by the natives of Western Africa as an ordeal in their trials for witchcraft or sorcery. (For details, see P. J.) lxv, 2.) This bark was first studied by C. A. Santos (A. J. P., 1849, xxi, 97), and subsequently by Procter (Ibid., xxiii, 301; xxiv, 195). It is obtained from Erythrophleum guineense Don, and is a large tree with spreading branches, doubly pinnated leaves, flowers in spike-like racemes, and leguminous fruit. The bark is in pieces more or less curved, with or without epidermis, in the former case somewhat fissured externally, of a dull red color diversified by whitish spots, brittle, presenting when cut transversely numerous fawn-colored spots surrounded by reddish-brown tissue, nearly inodorous, and of an astringent taste. A comprehensive description of sassy bark is given in the Commentar zur oesterreichischen Pharmacopoeia, 1890, by Vogi; and in the Resume de la Matiere Medicale et Toxicologique Coloniale, by Corre and Lejuanne, the plant, fruit, seeds, etc., are carefully illustrated. Gallois and Hardy obtained the poisonous principle erythrophleine by making an alcoholic extract of the bark, exhausting this with water, evaporating, rendering this extract alkaline with ammonia, and treating with acetic ether. The alkaloid is a colorless, crystalline solid, soluble in water, acetic ether, alcohol, and amyl alcohol, insoluble in chloroform, benzin, and ether. In contact with sulphuric acid and black manganese oxide, a violet color (less intense, than that produced with strychnine) is developed. Harnack and Zabrocki (A. E. P. P., xv, 404) also prepared erythrophleine, and by the action of hydrochloric acid upon it obtained an acid they call erythrophleic acid, and a volatile alkaloid they call manconine. The bark yields its virtues to water. Power and Salway examined sassy bark in 1912 and confirmed the presence of erythrophleine as described by Harnack. (A. J. P., 1912, 337.)

According to the observations of Savage, made in Africa (Charleston Med. Journ; 1859), sassy bark produces in the natives a feeling of constriction in the fauces, attended by prickling, and followed by numbness, with, after a toxic dose, stricture across the brow, severe pain in the head, coma, and death. The physiological action of erythrophleine has been studied by various observers, especially by E. Harnack and R. D. Zabrocki, Gallois and Hardy, and Lauder Brunton, with results which are fairly concordant. Erythrophleine exercises a digitalis-like action on the circulation causing a slow, strong pulse, with a rise in the arterial pressure. These changes are certainly in great part due to the direct action upon the heart, but are also seemingly in part produced by a stimulating influence upon the muscle fibers or nerves in the walls of the arterioles. Purging was also noted as the result of an increased peristalsis, thought to be due to the local action of the poison. Vomiting is believed by Lauder Brunton to be the result of an influence upon the nerve centers, because it occurs when the alkaloid is given hypodermically. In fatal poisoning in the lower animals, convulsions are pronounced, and the respiration is also markedly affected. In 1888 L. Lewin asserted erythrophleine to be a powerful local anesthetic, whose action is more pronounced than that of cocaine. His paper gave rise to an extraordinary controversy, the outcome of which appears to be that, although the alkaloid is possessed of not very active anesthetic powers, it is for various reasons practically not useful. (See 17th edition, U. S. D., p. 1739.) A solution of the strength of one-tenth of one per cent. is used as an application to the cornea.

Germain See asserts (Med. Mod., Dec., 1891) that, although sassy bark does not act well upon the heart, it gives great relief in dyspnea, the number of respirations being lessened and the inspirations being extraordinarily increased in depth. He gave of the alkaloid from one-fortieth to one-thirtieth of a grain (0.0016-0.002 Gm.); of the extract, from one-fourth to one-third of a grain (0.016-0.021 Gm.).

The Dispensatory of the United States of America, 1918, was edited by Joseph P. Remington, Horatio C. Wood and others.