041. Croton cascarilla. Cascarilla, or, Willow-leaved croton.

Botanical name: 

041. Croton cascarilla. 041. Croton cascarilla. C. Synonyma. Cascarilla. Pharm. Lond. & Edinb. olim
Elutheria dicta. Ricino affinis odorifera fruticosa major, rosmarini folio, fructu tricocco albido. Sloane Jam. p. 133. tab. 86.
Croton (Rosmarinifolium) foliis lineari-lanceolatis, glabris, subtus argenteis, caule fruticoso, floribus spicatis terminalibus. Mill. Dict.
Croton lineare foliis linearibus integerrimis obtusis subtus tomentosis, caule fruticoso. Aiton. Hort. Kew. vol. iii. p. 374. Jacquin Stirp. Americ. 256. tab. 162. Am. Acad. 5. p. 411.

Class Monoecia. Ord. Monadelphia. L. Gen. Plant. 1083.
Ess. Gen. Ch. Masc. Cal. cylindricus, 5-dentatus. Cor. 5-petala. Stam. 10-15.
Fem. Cal. polyphyllus. Cor. o. Styli 3, bifidi. Caps. 3-locularis. Sem, 1.
Spec. Char. C. fol. lanceolatis acutis integerrimis petiolatis subtus tomentosis, caule arboreo.

This shrub never rises to any considerable height; it sends off several round branches, and is covered with a brown bark, the external coat of which is white and rough: the leaves are long, narrow, entire, somewhat pointed, placed on short footstalks, above of a bright green colour, beneath downy, and of a silvery whiteness; the stipulae, or scaly leaves, are narrow and lance-shaped; the flowers are produced about July, in a long terminal spike, and are both male and female: the male flowers are placed uppermost, and are furnished with a cylindrical calyx, cut at its extremity into five segments; the petals are five, small, oval, and of a white or yellowish colour; the stamina are numerous, commonly from ten to fifteen. The female flowers have no corolla; the calyx consists of five or six oval leaves; the styles are three, forked; the capsule divides into three cells, each of which contains a single seed.

Writers on the Materia Medica have differed much reflecting the plant which produces the officinal cortex cascarillae; [This may be understood from the following names:
Cortex Thuris. Dale Pharmac. p. 346.
Cortex Thuris nonnullis dictus, vel Thymiama. Raii Hist. 1841.
Storax rubra officinarum. Bauh. Pin. 453.
Thus Judaeorum. Park. Theat. 1602.
Schakarilla, Chakarilla. Mout. Exot. 8.
Kina-kina Aromatica, Cascarilla, Cortex Eleterii sive Scacarilla officinarum, Cortex peruvianus griseus sive spurius. Geoff. M. M.]
and even now this point does not appear to be sufficiently ascertained: the London College has therefore cautiously avoided making any botanical reference to the plant which affords it. Linnaeus, whose authority is certainly the best, in his first edition of the Mat. Med. considered the Cascarilla as a species of the Clutia; but in the second edition it is described as a Croton, and in his Amaenitates Academicae we are again presented with the Clutia Cascarilla. [Vide vol. 5. p. 411.] What adds to this uncertainty is, that under both these genera it is referred to the same synonyma of Sloane and Browne; yet it is remarkable, that neither of these authors notices the medicinal uses of its bark, [It is mentioned only as being used in medicated baths, and for fomentations. Vide Sloane l. c. The Ricinoides Elaeagni folio of Catesby, is stated by him to be a good aromatic bitter, and, on being burnt, to yield a fine perfume. Carolin. vol. 2. p. 46. Walter, in his Flor. Carolin, does not mention the Cascarilla, though he discovered a new species of the Croton.] although so long known as a medicine in great estimation in every part of Europe.

The plant, [This specimen was procured from the garden at Sion-House, the seat of his Grace the Duke of Northumberland.] from which the annexed figure of the Cascarilla is taken, was found to agree very accurately with the generic character of the Croton, as the plate itself must evince: we are therefore under no difficulty in assigning it to that genus. Whether the Cascarilla then is really a Croton or a Clutia, depends upon the fidelity and precision with which the synonyma have been reflectively applied. [Murray, Bergius, Spielman, the Edinburgh and most of the foreign Pharm. make it a Croton.] According to Lewis, the cortex cascarillae is imported into Europe "from the Bahama islands, particularly from that which is called Elatheria, in curled pieces, or rolled up into short quills about an inch in width; covered on the outside with a rough whitish matter, and brownish on the inner side, exhibiting, when broken, a smooth close blackish brown surface. This bark, freed from the outer whitish coat, which is insipid and inodorous, has a light agreeable smell, and a moderately bitter taste, accompanied with a considerable aromatic warmth; it is very inflammable, and yields, whilst burning, a remarkably fragrant smell, somewhat resembling that of musk. Its virtues are partially extracted by water, and totally by rectified spirit. Distilled with water it yields a greenish essential oil; of a very pungent taste, and of a fragrant penetrating smell, more grateful than that of the Cascarilla itself, and obtained in the proportion of one dram from sixteen ounces of the bark." [The analysis, given by Böhmer, differs from this; for which see Diss. de cort. cascar. p. 29.] The agreeable odour which this bark produces during its burning, induced many to smoke it mixed with tobacco, [When used in a considerable quantity in this way, it is said to produce intoxication.] before it became known as a medicine in Europe, which was not till towards the latter end of the last century; when it was recommended by Professor Stiffer, [Anno 1690. Vide Act. laborat. chym. specim. cap. 9.] who found it to be a powerful diuretic and carminative, and who used it with success in calcalous, asthmatic, phthisical, scorbutic, and arthritic complaints. After this it was sold at Brunswick as a species of the Peruvian bark, and many physicians in Germany experienced its good effects in fevers of the intermittent, remittent, and putrid kind. [Ludovicus Apinus first employed it in fevers, and experienced great success by its use in an epidemic, which raged in the neighbourhood of Nurenburg, (by Lewis erroneously called Norway) during the years 1694 and 1695. Feb. epidem. historica relatio.] But while the facts establishing this febrifuge power of the Cascarilla are supported by authors of great respectability, [Junker, Fagon, Werlhof, Santhesson, and others.] they are yet so little regarded, that this medicine is now very rarely prescribed in fevers, either in this country, or on the neighbouring continent. In intermittents however there can be no doubt but this bark, or indeed any other medicine possessing tonic and aromatic qualities, may frequently effect a cure. The German physicians have also given much credit to the Cascarilla as an astringent, and recommended it in hemorrhages, and various alvine fluxes, in which several instances of its utility are recorded. [Degner de dysent. bil p. 164. Bergius Mat. Med, p. 766. Hist. de l'Acad. Royale des Sc. pour l'ann. 1719.]

Dr. Cullen was in doubt whether to class this drug with the aromatics or with the tonics, but he determined upon the latter as the most proper; besides its being stomachic and corroborant, it is also reported to be diuretic: but proofs of its efficacy in particular diseases have not (as far as we know) been ascertained, nor even attempted by any adequate trials made in this country. [What is said of it by Monro, (Milit. Hospit. p. 202.) and by Lind. (Diss. in hot climates) cannot be considered as exceptions.] We shall not therefore follow a late ingenious author, in depreciating this medicine, from a mere speculation on its sensible qualities, but rather recommend it to the medical practitioner, as deferring a farther trial. It promises most advantage given in substance, the dose of which is from 15 grains to a dram.

Medical Botany, 1790-1794, was written by William Woodville, M. D., and illustrated by James Sowerby.