Read an Excerpt
A Modern Herbal
In Two Volumes Vol. I
By M. Grieve
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1971 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
A MODERN HERBAL
Polemonium reptans (LINN.)
Synonyms. American Greek Valerian. Blue Bells. False Jacob's Ladder. Sweatroot
Part Used. Root
Habitat . United States
* Description. This plant grows from New York to Wisconsin, in woods, damp grounds, and along shady river-banks. It has creeping roots, by which it multiplies very quickly. The stems are 9 to 10 inches high, much branched, bearing pinnate leaves with six or seven pairs of leaflets. The nodding, blue flowers are in loose, terminal bunches.
The slender rootstock, when dried and used as the drug, is 1 to 2 inches long and 1/8 inch in diameter, with the bases of numerous stems on the upper surface, and tufts of pale, slender, smooth, wiry, brittle roots on the underside. The rootstock has a slightly bitter and acrid taste.
* Medicinal Action and Uses. Astringent, alterative, diaphoretic, expectorant. The drug has been recommended for use in febrile and inflammatory cases, all scrofulous diseases, in bowel complaints requiring an astringent, for the bites of venomous snakes and insects, for bronchitis and laryngitis, and whenever an alterative is required. It is reported to have cured consumption; an infusion of the root in wineglassful doses is useful in coughs, colds and all lung complaints, producing copious perspiration.
The tincture of the root is made of whisky.
* Dosage. 1 to 2 fluid ounces, two or three times a day.
Acacias (nat. order, Leguminosæ) are composed of handsome trees and shrubby bushes scattered over the warmer regions of the globe. The flowers are arranged in rounded or elongated clusters, the leaves generally compoundly pinnate, i.e. divided into leaflets up to the mid-rib and each leaflet similarly cut into narrow segments.
In several of the Australian species the leaflets are suppressed and the leaf stalks, vertically flattened, serve the purpose of leaves. Some species afford valuable timber: the black wood of Australia, which is used for furniture because it takes such a high polish, is the wood of the A. melanoxylon. The bark of another Australian species, known as Wattles, is rich in tannin and forms a valuable article of export. The pods of other species are employed in Egypt and Nubia for their tannin. The pods of the A. Concuine are used by Indian women in the same way as the soapnut for washing the head; and the leaves of the same tree are employed in cookery for their acidity.
Certain tribes on the Amazon use the seeds of another species, the Acacia Niopo, for snuff combined with lime and cocculus. Various species of acacia yield gum; but the best gum arabic used in medicine is an exudation from the A. Senegal. This species grows abundantly in East and West tropical Africa, forming forests in Senegambia north of the River Senegal. Most of the gum acacia collected in Upper Egypt and the Sudan is produced by the A. verek, and is known locally as Hachah.
Synonym. Wattle Bark
Acacia Bark, known as Wattle Bark, is obtained from the chief of the Australian Wattles, A. decurrens (Willd.), the Black Wattle, and, more recently, A. arabica has been similarly used in East Africa for its astringency.
The bark is collected from wild or cultivated trees, seven years old or more, and must be allowed to mature for a year before being used medicinally.
* Description. The bark of A. decurrens is usually in curved pieces, externally greyish brown, darkening with age, often with irregular longitudinal ridges and sometimes transverse cracks. Inner surface longitudinally striated, fracture irregular and coarsely fibrous. It has a slight tan-like odour and astringent taste.
The bark of A. arabica is hard and woody, rusty brown and tending to divide into several layers. The outer surface of older pieces is covered with thick blackish periderm, rugged and fissured. The inner surface is red, longitudinally striated and fibrous. Taste, astringent and mucilaginous.
* Constituents. Acacia Bark contains from 24 to 42 per cent, of tannin and also gallic acid. Its powerful astringency causes it to be extensively employed in tanning.
* Medicinal Action and Uses. Medicinally it is employed as a substitute for Oak Bark. It has special use in diarrhoea, mainly in the form of a decoction, the British Pharmacopia preparation being 6 parts in 100, administered in doses of 1/2 to 2 fluid ounces. The decoction also is used as an astringent gargle, lotion, or injection.
A liquid extract is prepared from the bark of A. arabica, administered in India for its astringent properties in doses of 1/2 to 1 fluid drachm, but the use of both gum and bark for industrial purposes is much larger than their use in medicine. The bark, under the name of Babul, is used in Scinde for tanning, and also for dyeing various shades of brown.
ACACIA CATECHU. See CATECHU
Synonym. Locust Tree
In common language, the term Acacia is often applied to species of the genus Robinia, which also belongs to the family Leguminosæ, though to a different section.
R. pseudacacia, the False Acacia or Locust Tree, one of the most valuable timber trees of the American forest, where it grows to a very large size, was one of the first trees introduced into England from America, and is cultivated as an ornamental tree in the milder parts of Britain, forming a large tree, with beautiful pea-like blossoms.
The timber is supposed to unite the qualities of strength and durability to a degree unknown in any other kind of tree, being very hard and close-grained. It has been extensively used for ship-building, being superior for the purpose to American Oak, and is largely used in the construction of the wooden pins called trenails, used to fasten the planks to the ribs or timber of ships. Instead of decaying, it acquires an extraordinary degree of hardness with time. It is also suitable for posts and fencing and other purposes where durability in contact with the ground is essential, and is used for axle-trees and other mechanical purposes, though not for general purposes of construction.
The roots and inner bark have a sweetish, but somewhat offensive and nauseating taste, and have been found poisonous to foraging animals.
* Medicinal Action and Uses. The inner bark contains a poisonous proteid substance, Robin, which possesses strong emetic and purgative properties. It is capable of coagulating the casein of milk and of clotting the red corpuscles of certain animals.
Tonic, emetic and purgative properties have been ascribed to the root and bark, but the locust tree is rarely, if ever, prescribed as a therapeutic agent.
Occasional cases of poisoning are on record in which boys have chewed the bark and swallowed the juice: the principal symptoms being dryness of the throat, burning pain in the abdomen, dilatation of the pupils, vertigo and muscular twitches; excessive quantities causing also weak and irregular heart action.
Though the leaves of Robinia have also been stated to produce poisonous effects, careful examination has failed to detect the presence of any soluble proteid or of alkaloids, and by some the leaves have been recorded as even affording wholesome food for cattle.
The flowers contain a glucoside, Robinin, which, on being boiled with acids, is resolved into sugar and quercetin.
Acacia Senegal (WILLD.)
Acacia nilotica (LINN.)
Part Used. Gummy Exudation from stem ACACIA NILOTICA (LINN.)
All the gum-yielding Acacias exhibit the same habit and general appearance, differing only in technical characters. They are spiny shrubs or small trees, preferring sandy or sterile regions, with the climate dry during the greater part of the year.
The gum harvest from the various species lasts about five weeks. About the middle of November, after the rainy season, it exudes spontaneously from the trunk and principal branches, but the flow is generally stimulated by incisions in the bark, a thin strip, 2 to 3 feet in length and 1 to 3 inches wide being torn off. In about fifteen days it thickens in the furrow down which it runs, hardening on exposure to the air, usually in the form of round or oval tears, about the size of a pigeon's egg, but sometimes in vermicular forms, white or red, according to whether the species is a white or red gum tree.
About the middle of December, the Moors commence the harvesting. The masses of gum are collected, either while adhering to the bark, or after it falls to the ground, the entire product, often of various species, thus collected, is packed in baskets and very large sacks of tanned leather and brought on camels and bullocks to the centres of accumulation and then to the points of export, chiefly Suakin, Alexandria, or – in Senegambia – St. Louis. It is then known as 'Acacia sorts,' the term being equivalent to 'unassorted Acacia.' The unsorted gums show the widest variation as to size of fragments, whiteness, clearness, freedom from adhering matter, etc. It is next sorted or 'picked' in accordance with these differences.
There are many kinds of Acacia Gum in commerce:
KORDOFAN GUM, collected in Upper Egypt and the Sudan, in Kordofan, Dafur and Arabia, and exported from Alexandria, is considered the best and is the kind generally used in pharmacy. It consists of small, irregular pieces, commonly whitish, or slightly tinged with yellow, and is freer from impurities than most other commercial varieties. But those known in commerce as 'Turkey sorts' and 'Trieste picked,' which are brought from the Sudan by way of Suakin, are equally suitable for medicinal use.
SENEGAL GUM, of two varieties, produced by two different trees, one yielding a white, the other a red gum, is usually in roundish or oval unbroken pieces of various sizes, larger than those of Turkey Gum, less brittle and pulverizable, less fissured and often occurs in long, cylindrical or curved pieces.
The term 'Gum Senegal' is not, strictly speaking, synonymous with Gum Acacia, though it is commonly so used. Gum Acacia is the name originally pertaining to Sudan, Kordofan or Egyptian (hashabi) Gum, which possesses properties rendering it superior and always preferred to any other known to commerce. During the political and military disturbances in Egypt between 1880 and 1890, this gum became so nearly unobtainable that occasional packages only were seen in the market. Among the many substitutes then offered, the best was Gum Senegal, which was adopted as the official equivalent of Gum Acacia. In this way, it came about that the names were regarded as synonymous. In 1890, the original Acacia again came into the market and eventually became as abundant as ever, but it is no longer possible to entirely separate the two names. Most of the characteristically distinct grades of Acacia Gum are now referred to particular species of the genus Acacia. Most works state that both the Kordofan and Senegal Gums are products of A. Senegal (Willd.), the range of which is thus given as Senegambia in West Africa, the Upper Nile region in Eastern Africa, with more or less of the intervening central region.
A. glaucophylla (Staud.) and A. Abyssinica (Hochst.) are said to yield an equally good gum, but little of it is believed to reach the market.
Mogadore Gum, from A. gummifera (Willd), a tall tree found in Morocco and in the Isle of Bourbon, occurs in rather large pieces, closely resembling Kordofan Gum in appearance.
Indian Gum, the product of A. Arabica, the Gum Arabic tree of India. The gum of this and other Indian species of Acacia is there used as a substitute for the official Gum Acacia, to which it is, however, inferior. Indian Gum is sweeter in taste than that of the other varieties, and usually contains portions of a different kind of gum.
Cape Gum is also imported. It is of a pale yellow colour and is considered of inferior quality.
Australian Gum, imported from South Australia, is in elongated or globular pieces, rough and even wrinkled on the surface and of a violet tint, which distinguishes it from other varieties. It is not entirely soluble in water, to which it imparts less viscidity than ordinary Gum Acacia. It frequently contains tannin.
Gum Acacia for medicinal purposes should be in roundish 'tears' of various sizes, colourless or pale yellow, or broken into angular fragments with a glass-like, sometimes iridescent fracture, often opaque from numerous fissures, but transparent and nearly colourless in thin pieces; taste insipid, mucilaginous; nearly inodorous. It should be almost entirely soluble in water, forming a viscid, neutral solution, or mucilage, which, when evaporated, yields the gum unchanged. It is insoluble in alcohol and ether, but soluble in diluted alcohol in proportion to the amount of water present. It should be slowly but completely soluble in two parts of water: this solution shows an acid reaction with litmus- paper. The powdered gum is not coloured blue (indicating absence of starch) or red (indicating absence of dextrin) by the iodine test solution. It should not yield more than 4 per cent, of ash..
* Adulteration. Adulteration in the crude state is confined almost wholly to the addition of similar and inferior gums, the detection of which requires only familiarity with the genuine article.
In the ground condition, it is adulterated oftenest with starch and dextrins, tests for which are given in the official description. Tannin is present in inferior gums and can be detected by the bluish-black coloration produced on adding ferric chloride. Gums of a yellow or brown colour usually contain tannin, and these, together with such as are incompletely soluble in water and which yield ropy or glairy solutions, should not be used for medicinal purposes.
* Chemical Constituents. Gum Acacia consists principally of Arabin, a compound of Arabic acid with calcium, varying amounts of the magnesium and potassium salts of the same acid being present. It is believed, also, that small amounts of other salts of these bases occur. (Arabic acid can be obtained by precipitating with alcohol from a solution of Acacia acidulated with hydrochloric acid.) The gum also contains 12 to 17 per cent, of moisture and a trace of sugar, and yields 2·7 to 4 per cent, of ash, consisting almost entirely of calcium, magnesium and potassium carbonates.
* Medicinal Action and Uses. Gum Acacia is a demulcent and serves by the viscidity of its solution to cover and sheathe inflamed surfaces.
It is usually administered in the form of a mucilage – Mucilago Acaci, British Pharmacopia and United States Pharmacopia – made from small pieces of Gum Acacia dissolved in water and strained (1 in 8·75).
* Dose in syrup, 1 to 4 drachms of the gum.
Mucilage of Acacia is a nearly transparent, colourless or scarcely yellowish, viscid liquid, haying a faint, rather agreeable odour and an insipid taste. It is employed as a soothing agent in inflammatory conditions of the respiratory, digestive and urinary tract, and is useful in diarrhoea and dysentery. It exerts a soothing influence upon all the surfaces with which it comes in contact. It may be diluted and flavoured to suit the taste. In low stages of typhoid fever, this mucilage, sweetened, is greatly recommended. The ordinary dose of the mucilage is from 1 to 4 fluid drachms.
In dispensing, Mucilage of Acacia is used for suspending insoluble powders in mixtures, for emulsifying oils and other liquids which are not miscible with water, and as an ingredient of many cough linctures. The British Pharmacopia directs it to be used as an excipient in the preparation of troches. Compound Mucilage of Acacia – Pill-coating Acacia – is made from Gum Acacia, 1 in 10, with tragacanth, chloroform and water, and is used for moistening pills previous to coating.
Gum Acacia is an ingredient of the official Pilula Ferri, Pulvis Amygdal compositus, Pulvis Tragacanthce compositus, all the official Trochisciy and various syrups, pastes and pastilles or jujubes.
Acacia Mixture, Mistura Acacice of the British Pharmacopia Codex, is made from Gum Acacia (6 in 100) with syrup and diluted orange-flower water, employed as a demulcent in cough syrups and linctures.
Excerpted from A Modern Herbal by M. Grieve. Copyright © 1971 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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