Maranta. Arrowroot. Maranta arundinacea.
Maranta. Arrowroot. Arrowroot Starch. (Fam. Marantaceae.)—Under this name the U. S. Pharmacopoeia, 1870, recognized the fecula or starch obtained from the rhizome of M. arundinacea, L.
The arrowroot plant is a native of the West Indies, where it is largely cultivated for the sake of its fleshy, irregularly cylindrical rhizomes whose cells are gorged with starch granules. It is cultivated also in the East Indies, Ceylon, Sierra Leone, and south of Africa, and formerly in our Southern States, especially Georgia and Florida. The plant is easily propagated by cuttings of the root. An analysis by Macdonald (J. Soc. Chem. Ind., 1887, 336) gives the following as the composition of the St. Vincent root: Starch, 27.07 per cent.; fiber, 2.82; fat, 0.26; albumen, 1.56; sugar, gum, etc., 4.10; ash, 1.23; water, 62.96; total, 100.00. An analysis of the arrowroot starch from the same locality by Macdonald gave: Starch, 83.70 per cent.; fiber, 0.04; fat, 0.07; sugar, gum, etc., 0.18; ash and sand, 0.14; water, 15.8.7; total, 100.00. The fecula is prepared in the following manner. The rhizomes are dug up when a year old, washed, and then beaten into a pulp, which is thrown into water, and agitated so as to separate the amylaceous from the fibrous portion. The tissues are removed by the hand, and the starch remains suspended in the water, to which it gives a milky color. The milky fluid is strained through coarse linen, and allowed to stand that the starch may subside, which is then washed with a fresh portion of water, and afterwards dried in the sun.
The Bermuda arrowroot was formerly the most highly esteemed, but the production of it in the island has almost ceased. The Bermuda arrowroot of the American, and probably largely also of the English, markets, is of various sources, the name seemingly being applied to any superior product. For a list of other sources of arrowroot of commerce during different periods, see U. S. D., 19th ed., p. 1561.
Attempts have been made to substitute finely prepared potato starch for arrowroot, and there is no doubt that, in nutritive properties it is quite equal, but patients complain of an unpleasant taste of the potato which it is likely to retain. Arrowroot is in the form of a light, white powder, or of small pulverulent masses, without odor or taste. It is firm to the touch when pressed between the fingers, and produces a faint creaking sound when rubbed. It is a pure starch, corresponding in chemical properties with that of wheat and the potato. It is liable to become musty, and should then be rejected. The odor and taste are the best criteria of its quality. It should be perfectly free from odor and unpleasant flavor.
The microscope offers the best means of distinguishing the different varieties of fecula sold as arrowroot, or used for its adulteration. The granules of Maranta arrowroot are rarely oblong, somewhat ovate-oblong, or irregularly convex, from 10 to 70 microns in diameter, with very fine lamellae, a circular hilum which is fissured in a linear or stellate manner. (Pereira.)
Arrowroot affords a light, very mild, and easily digested article of diet, well adapted for the sick and convalescent, and peculiarly suited, from its demulcent properties, to bowel complaints. It is prepared by dissolving it in hot water or hot milk, with either of which it forms a pearly, gelatinous solution, and, if in sufficient quantity, a jelly-like mass on cooling. A tablespoonful will communicate sufficient consistence to a pint of water. It should first be formed into a perfectly smooth paste with a little cold water or milk, and the boiling water then gradually added with brisk agitation. The preparation may be rendered more palatable by lemon juice and sugar, or by wine and spices.