Pichurum beans. Sassafras Nuts. Nectandra puchury-major, Nectandra puchury-minor.
Pichurim Beans. Semen Pichurim. Sassafras Nuts. Feves Pichurim, Noix de Sassafras, Fr. Pichurimbohnen, Sassafrasnusse, G.—The seeds of Nectandra Puchury-major Nees v. E., and N. Puchury-minor Nees (Ocotea Puchury-minor Mart.) (Fam. Lauraceae), yielding respectively "Fabae Pichurim majores," or larger pichurim seeds, and "Fabae Pichurim minores," smaller pichurim seeds. The two species are closely allied and both have been known to botanists as Ocotea Pichurim H. B. K. (Laurus Pichurim Willd.). The trees grow in Brazil, Guiana, Venezuela, and other parts of South America, and are sometimes spoken of as Brazilian or South American Sassafras. Carson, of the University of Pennsylvania, had specimens of the fruit and other parts of the trees sent him, sufficient to verify the ascription of the pichurim beans to this source. (A. J. P., xxvii, 385.) The seeds of commerce usually consist of the separated cotyledons. They are plano-convex, from 3 to 5 cm. in length and nearly 2 cm. in width. Externally they are smooth and blackish-brown, being internally light brown. They have an aromatic odor combining that of nutmegs and sassafras, and a spicy pungent taste.
Pichurim beans contain a concrete volatile oil, a fatty matter of the consistency of butter, besides resin, fecula, gum, sugar, and lignin. The fatty matter, which is known as pichurim fat, amounts to about 30 per cent. and contains laurostearin, C3H5C12H23O2)3, and pichurim camphor which appears to be identical with laurel camphor. A liquid product brought from South America and known as the native oil of laurel or sassafras, or aceite de sassafras, is obtained by incising the trunk of the Nectandra puchury. This, as described by Procter (A. J. P., 1851, p. 1) is a reddish oleoresin with a specific gravity of 0.898, a characteristic odor, and an aromatic somewhat camphoraceous taste. It is believed to be the same as that with which the copaiba from Maracaibo is adulterated. It may be distinguished from copaiba by its ready solubility in alcohol of 0.838 and by the fact that its volatile oil is acted on by potassium.
Muller, by distilling the oil in contact with sulphuric acid, obtained a greenish-yellow oil possessing the peculiar odor of the beans. By fractional distillation he separated—1, a colorless oil, boiling at 150° 0. (302° F.); 2, a colorless oil, boiling between 165° C. (329° F.) and 170° C. (338° F.); both of these oils consisting principally of hydrocarbons, C_H_; 3, a greenish-yellow viscid oil, boiling between 235° C. (455° F.) and 240° C. (464° F.), and having the composition C38H58O2; 4, a deep blue oil, having a faint odor, boiling between 260° C. (500° F.) and 265° C. (509° F.).
In medicinal properties the pichurim beans resemble the common aromatics, and may be employed for the same purposes. In South America they are said to be used as a substitute for nutmeg, and have even been called by that name. They are rare in this country. The oil obtained from the tree is said to impart its odor to the perspiration and urine, and to be useful in rheumatism, gout, etc. The bark is sometimes employed as a tonic and febrifuge.