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QUASSIA AMARA. BITTER QUASSIA.
Class X. Decandria. Order I. Monogynia.
Gen. Char. Calyx, five-leaved. Petals, five. Nectary, five-leaved. Pericarp, five, distant, each having one seed.
Spe. Char. Flowers, bisexual. Leaves, unequally pinnate. Leaflets, opposite, sessile. Petiole, jointed, winged. Flowers, in racemes.
The 'Bitter Quassia is a small tree or shrub, rising several feet in height, and sends ofF many strong branches; the wood is white and light; the bark is thin, and of a grey color; the leaves are placed alternately upon the branches, and consist of two pair of opposite pinnae, with an odd one at the end; all the leaflets are of an elliptical shape, entire, veined, smooth, pointed, sessile, on the upper pagina, of a deep green color, on the under, paler; the common foot-stalks are articulated and winged, or edged on each side with a leafy membrane, which gradually expands near the base of the pinnae; the flowers are all hermaphrodite, of a bright red color, and terminate the branches in long spikes; the bractece, or floral, are lance-shaped, or linear, colored, and placed alternately upon the peduncles; the calyx is small, persistent, and five-toothed; the corolla consists of five lance-shaped equal petals, at the base of which is placed the nectary, or five roundish colored scales; the filaments are ten, slender, somewhat longer than the corolla, and crowned with simple anthers, placed transversely; the receptacle it fleshy and orbicular; the germen is ovate, divided into five parta. and supports a slender style, longer than the filaments, and terminated by a tapering stigma; the capsules are five, two-celled, and contain globular seeds. It is a native of South America, particularly of Surinam, and also of some of the West India Islands.
The botanical character of this species of duassia, was known to the ancients long before that of the Simaruba; but its medicinal properties were never fully appreciated until the year 1756, when a negro, by the name of duassia (from whom it derived its name), employed it with uncommon success, as a secret remedy in the malignant endemic fevers, which prevailed to a considerable extent at Surinam. In consequence of a valuable consideration, this secret was disclosed to Daniel Rolander, a Swede, who introduced it into general practice; and numerous testimonies of its efficacy were published by many respectable authors.
Medical Properties and Uses. Various experiments with duassia have been made, with a view to ascertain its antiseptic powers, from which it appears to have considerable influence in retarding the tendency to putrefaction. It is purely tonic, invigorating the digestive organs, with little excitement of the circulation, or increase of animal heat, and possesses, in the highest degree, all the properties of the simple bitters. It is particularly adapted to dyspepsia from debility of stomach, and to that weakened state of the digestive organs which sometimes succeeds acute disease. It may also be given with advantage in the remission of certain fevers in which tonics are required.
It is most conveniently administered in decoctions, or extracts, as the difficulty of reducing the wood into a powder renders it objectionable.
STALAGMITIS CAMBOGIOIDES. GAMBOGE TREE.
Class XXIII. Polygamia. Order I. Moncecia.
Gen. Char. Calyx, four-leaved. Corolla, four-petaled. Stamens, thirty, inserted into a fleshy, quadrangular receptacle. Style, thick. Stigma, four-lobed. Berry, one-celled, crowned by the style and stigma.
Spe. Char. Male. Calyx, Corolla, and Stamens, hermaphrodite.
The Stalagmitis cambogioides is a middling sized tree; the branches are opposite and divaricated; the leaves are opposite, ovate, entire, smooth, coriaceous, riged, and supported on short petioles; the flotcers are hermaphrodite and male; the hermaphrodite flowers are in axillary or lateral whorls; the male flowers are either in distinct clusters or mixed with the hermaphrodite; the calyx in the male flowers consist of four ovate leaflets, the two exterior of which are smaller than the interior; the petals are four, spreading, coriaceous, with ciliated margins, and of a yellow color; the stamens are about thirty, and placed upon a four-square, fleshy receptacle; the anthers are club-shaped,—sometimes there are rudiments of a style, and an unequal, sterile stigma; the calyx, corolla, and stamens of the hermaphrodite flowers, resemble those of the male; the germen is globular, and supports a short style, crowned with a three or four-lobed stigma, the lobes of which are obcordate and persistent; the fruit is a smooth, globular, yellow berry, crowned by the style and lobes of the stigma, and contains several long, triangular seeds.
This tree is a native of the kingdom of Siam and Ceylon, where it is known by the name of Ghokata; but is not the only plant which yeilds the gamboge, although it is probable that the greatest portion which is brought to market, is the product of this tree. The Gambogia gutta, Garcinia celibica, Hypericum, promiferuml and many other plants, yeild a yellow gum-resin, resembling in every respect the gamboge of the shops. It is obtained by wounding the bark of the tree with sharp stones, or by breaking off the leaves and young shoots, from whence the juice exudes, and is collected in cocoa-nut shells, and thence poured into the joints of the bamboo, which gives it the cylindrical form.
Sensible and Chemical Properties. Gamboge has no odor, and but little taste: it is of a golden yellow color, and when macerated in water, forms a fine turbid yellow solution, and about two-thirds of its substance is dissolved. Alcohol dissolves about 90 per cent.; water renders the tincture cloudy and bright yellow; but it is long before any precipitation takes place. Ether dissolves 60 per cent.; the solution is transparent, and of a deep golden color.
Medical Properties and Uses. Gamboge is a drastic cathartic, acting powerfully upon the alimentary canal; even when administered in small quantities, it often produces vomiting, hypercatharsis, and other unfavorable symptoms. Some writers have given it a place among the acrid poisons: they came to this conclusion from the experiments made on animals—finding that it frequently occasioned death by the powerful local action which it exerts, and by the sympathetic irritation of the nervous system. When admininistered with due caution, gamboge often proves a successful hydragogue in dropsy, either alone, or in combination with other cathartics. It has also been given with success for expelling taeniae, and is probably the most active ingredient in most nostrums sold for that purpose. For destroying the tape-worm, it has been given to the extent of fifteen or twenty grains, combined with an equal quantity of vegetable alkali.