Description: Natural Order, Lauraceae. This is a very large forest tree, native to the northern provinces of South America. Leaves four to six inches long, smooth, leathery. Flowers whitish, small. Fruit a very large, hard and brittle pericarp, with a single very large and fleshy seed.
The bark of this tree is ash-gray, compact, smooth, dense, and brittle; and comes to market in flat pieces two to four lines in thickness, and several inches broad. The bark and the fruit are both intensely bitter, and quite astringent. "They contain two alkaloid principles, named respectively bebeerin and sipeerin. These are extracted together, in the form of sulphates, by a process similar to that for preparing sulphate of quinia. The preparation is of a dark color, and has the appearance of an extract. Messrs. Madagan & Tilley obtain pure bebeerin by the following process: The impure sulphate is dissolved in water and precipitated by ammonia. The precipitate, mixed with an equal weight of recently precipitated oxide of lead, and dried, is treated with absolute alcohol, which, being [poured off and] evaporated, leaves the two alkalies in the form of a translucent resinoid mass. The bebeerin is separated by means of ether, which yields it by evaporation. It is pale-yellow, of a resinous appearance, uncrystallizable, very soluble in alcohol, and very slightly soluble in water. It softens and melts with heat." U. S. Dispensatory.
Properties and Uses: Bebeerin, and also the sulphate of bebeerin, as above prepared, are quite strong tonics, promoting digestion, sustaining the circulation, and mildly stimulating the nervous system. Many persons compare it to quinine; but it is not such an intense nerve stimulant as that article, and is more distinctly favorable to digestion, and to the improvement of the general tone of the system. Of late years it has been used in agues, and deserves more consideration than some physicians are willing to give it; for though not such a powerful antiperiodic as quinine, it is yet a good one, and is not so liable to cause retention of the secretions and ringing in the ears. In cases where the nervous system is sensitive, and quinine is likely to cause excitement, bebeerin is a preferable agent. As a tonic in periodical neuralgia, atonic prolapsus and dyspepsia, and low forms of periodical hysteria, it can be used to much advantage. It relieves passive menorrhagia; and I have employed it to advantage in some cases of exhaustive discharges, as colliquative diarrhea, and hectic from excessive suppuration.
Dose, as a tonic, one to two grains every six hours; as an antiperiodic, five to ten grains, repeated twice at suitable intervals before the chill. It may be mixed with mucilage, or formed into pills.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com