Cabbage-Tree Bark

Cabbage-Tree Bark. Ecorce de Geoffre, Fr. Kohlbaumrinde, Wurmrinde, G.—The bark of Vouacapoua inermis, Swz. [Andira inermis H. B. K.) This is a leguminous tree, with a stem rising to a considerable height, branched towards the top, and covered with a smooth gray bark. The tree is a native of Jamaica, and other West India islands. The bark, which is the part used, is in long pieces, thick, fibrous, externally of a brownish-ash color, scaly, and covered with lichens, internally yellowish, of a resinous fracture, a disagreeable odor, and a sweetish, mucilaginous bitterish taste. Huttenschmidt obtained from it a crystallizable, bitter alkaloid and named it jamaicine. Two grains (0.13 Gm.) of it produced violent purging in pigeons.

On the continent of Europe the bark of Vouacapoua retusa Poir., which grows in Surinam, has also been used. It is considered more powerfully vermifuge and less liable to produce injurious effects. It has a grayish epidermis, beneath which it is reddish-brown, laminated, compact, and very tenacious, and, when cut transversely, exhibits a shining and variegated surface. In the dried state it is inodorous, but has an austere bitter taste. The powder is of a pale cinnamon color.

Cabbage-tree bark is cathartic, and, in large doses, prone to occasion vomiting, fever, and delirium. It is said that these effects are more liable to result if cold water be drunk during its operation, and may be relieved by the use of warm water, castor oil, or a vegetable acid. In the West Indies it is esteemed a powerful vermifuge, and is much employed for expelling lumbrici; but it is dangerous if incautiously administered, and instances of death from its use have occurred. It is almost unknown in this country. The usual form of administration is that of decoction, though the medicine is also given in powder, syrup, and extract. The dose of the powder is from twenty to thirty grains (1.3-2.0 Gm.); of the extract three grains (0.2 Gm.).

Theodore Peckoldt says of the wood of an allied species, Vouacoupoua Anthelmia (Veil.) O. Ktze, that the workmen engaged in sawing it are prone to be affected with inflammation of the eyes, constriction of the throat, excessive thirst, a bitter, burning taste, a troublesome itching over the body, and sometimes eruptions on the skin. By treating a concentrated decoction of the wood with calcium hydroxide, then filtering after forty-eight hours, evaporating to the consistence of syrup, and exhausting the residue with alcohol, Peckoldt obtained a yellowish-brown coloring matter which he called andirin. (This name has also been given to a glucoside said to have been found in Vouacapoua inermis. See A. J. P., 1885, 558.) Peckoldt also obtained a peculiar resin by treating the wood with alcohol, filtering, distilling off most of the alcohol, and then precipitating by water. The resin is inodorous, of a bitter, acrid taste, soluble in alcohol, and but partially soluble in ether. This resin, and especially the portion soluble in ether, gives its irritating properties to the sawdust. (Chem. Cb., Nov. 17, 1858.)

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