Bebeeru Bark.—Nectandrae Cortex, Br. 1885, is the dried bark of Nectandra Rodiaei Hook. (Fam. Lauraceae). The beteeru, bibiru or sipiri, as it has been variously named, is a tree sixty feet or more in height, growing in British Guiana and the neighboring regions of South America, and yielding the wood known as greenheart.
The bark occurs in large, flat, heavy pieces, from 30 to 60 cm. long, from 10 to 15 cm. broad, and about 6 mm. thick, with a short, granular fracture, of a grayish-brown color on its outer surface and a dark cinnamon color on the inner. It has an intensely bitter, somewhat astringent taste. On microscopical examination it is seen to be composed chiefly of very thick-walled parenchymatous cells. The inner bark contains peculiar short, sharp-pointed, undulate bast fibers. Within the cells dark brown masses (colored greenish-black by ferrous sulphate) may be seen. Analyzed by Maclagan, of Edinburgh, it was found to contain tannic acid of the kind that precipitates the salts of iron green, resin, gum, sugar, albumen, fibrin, various salts, and two peculiar alkaloids, named respectively bebeerine, C19H21O3N, and sipirine, the former soluble and the latter insoluble in ether. In the seeds, besides the foregoing principles, Maclagan found 63 per cent. of starch, and a peculiar white, crystalline, volatile acid, which he named bebeeric acid. The alkaloids are extracted together from the bark, in the form of impure sulphate, by a process similar to that for preparing quinine sulphate. This preparation was formerly known as the commercial bebeerine sulphate. The sulphate, hydrochloride and alkaloid are all used in medicine, the dose of either being from one to two grains (0.065-0.13 Gm.). According to Flückiger (P. J., xi, 193, 1869), pure bebeerine is a white, amorphous powder, whose concentrated aqueous solution is not precipitated by tartar emetic, but affords abundant white precipitates with sodium phosphate, potassium nitrate, iodide, or iodohydrargyrate, mercuric chloride, potassium platino-cyanide, and nitric or iodic acid. Its acetate yields yellow amorphous precipitates with potassium ferrocyanide, potassium ferricyanide, potassium chromate, potassium dichromate, or platinum dichloride. D. B. Dott has confirmed the results of Flückiger's examination, although he found a larger percentage of alkaloids than the latter did. Owing to the difficulty of obtaining the alkaloids in crystals, it was almost impossible to ascertain the quantity present. (Y. B. P., 1881, 442; 1885, 420.) Bebeerine was asserted by Walz, in 1860, to be identical with buxine, obtained from Buxus sempervirens. This statement was confirmed by Flückiger, who proved that pelosine was identical with both of the above principles. (P. J., xi, 1870, 192.) (Palen gives C19H21NO3 as the formula.)
By treating the mixed alkaloids obtained from the wood with chloroform, Douglas Maclagan and Arthur Gamgee have separated an alkaloid, nectandrine. It is a white powder, amorphous, and intensely bitter. It differs from bebeerine in being much less soluble in ether, and, when treated with strong sulphuric acid and manganese dioxide, in giving rise to a magnificent green, slowly passing into a beautiful violet, and, lastly, in having a higher molecular weight, its formula being C20H23N4. After separating nectandrine from the mixed bases, the authors succeeded in extracting another alkaloid, different from bebeerine, much more soluble in water than nectandrine, but insoluble in chloroform. (A. J. P., 1869, 453.)
Nectandra is reputed to resemble cinchona in its virtues, although much inferior. It has generally been employed in the form of the impure bebeerine sulphate. In some cases of intermittent and remittent fevers it has apparently exercised a curative effect but it often fails, and cannot be relied on as a substitute for quinine. Bebeerine sulphate has been given in dysmenorrhea, menorrhagia, and leucorrhea. The dose is from two to five grains (0.13-0.32 Gm.). In malaria from ten to thirty grains (0.66-0.9 Gm.) may be given, in divided doses, between the paroxysms.