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PURGING CROTON. Class XXI. Monoecia. Order VIII. MonadELPHIA. Gen. Char. Male; Calyx, cylindric, five-toothed. Corolla, five
petalled. Stamens, ten to fifteen. Female; Calyx, many-leaved. Corolla, none. Styles, three, bifid. Capsule, triocular. Seed,
one. Spe. Char. Leaves, ovate-acuminate, serrated, glabrous, with two
glands at the base. Petioles, shorter than the leaves. Racemes, terminal. Stem, arboreous.
This species of Croton is a native of Asia; growing in many parts of India, China, the islands of Ceylon, Java, etc. It is 'a tree that seldom exceeds the height of fifteen or twenty feet; the trunk and larger branches are covered with a soft bark, of a blackish color—the younger ones are green, with a reddish tinge; the leaves, are alternate, ovate-acuminate, serrated, smooth, and of a bright green color when old—downy, with stellated hairs, while young-standing upon petioles about one fourth of their length, with two glands seated at their base ; the flowers are in erect, simple terminal racemes, with downy pedicels; the calyx in the the maleflower, is cylindrical and five-toothed; the corolla is composed of five straw-colored petals, which are very hairy; the stamens are from ten to fifteen; in the female flower the calyx is divided into many obtuse segments, which are reflected under the downy germen; there is no corolla; the styles are three and bifid; the capsule is about the size of a hazel-nut, trylocular, smooth, and containing three seeds.
The genus croton contains upwards of one hundred and fifty species, of which the Tiglium is the only one possessing purgative qualities. In Europe, the seeds have been long known under the names of Grana Molucca and Grana Tiglii ; the former of which names, was derived from the Molucca Islands, whence the seeds were formerly exported into Europe. It appears that the natives of the Eastern nations have for centuries past been well acquainted with the purgative effect of the seeds; and in Europe they were formerly precribed as a drastic purge, but fell into, disuse on account of the very violent and alarming symptoms which so often occurred by their use. Both in this country and Europe, the fixed oil expressed from the seed, has been brought into general use, through the exertions of Drs. Conwell, Nimmo, Frost, and others. .
Oil of Croton is of a deep orange color, with a peculiar odor, sui generis, and an extremely acrid and pungent taste. Dr. Nimmo, of Glasgow, found 100 parts of this oil to consist of 15 per cent. of an active purgative principle, soluble in volatile and fixed oils, alcohol, and sulphuric ether; and 55 per cent of a bland oil, resembling oil of olives, insoluble in alcohol. It appears that the croton oil which is imported into this country, is usually very much adulterated, either with the oil of olives or castor, and differing in strength ten-fold: the consequences of prescribing a medicine of such unequal powers must be obvious.
• Medical Properties and Uses. Every part of the Croton Tig. lium tree possesses medical properties. Among the Eastern nations it is most highly valued for its purgative, diaphoretic, and diuretic properties: the roots, as well as the seeds, are powerfully cathartic, and very much used in some parts of Europe as a specific for dropsy; the wood of the trunk and branches, in small doses, acts upon the skin and kidneys; and the leaves, in powder, are used by the Japanese, as a topical remedy for the bites of serpents. In this country, the expressed oil is the only part medicinally employed, and when genuine, one drop proves a powerful cathartic.