Natural order, Compositae; Tribe, Senecionideae; Sub-tribe, Melampodineae.
BY FRANK B. MEYER, PH. G.
From an Inaugural Essay.
This plant inhabits the central portion of the United States, growing in moist or dry soil in uncultivated fields. It is a perennial, having a large thick root, to which are attached numerous rootlets varying in size and length, some of them being four or five times as long as the main root. After drying, it is dark brown or blackish and internally, when moistened, shows a greenish color. The woody stem, with branches, attains a height of about three feet. The leaves are alternate, the upper ones sessile, serrate, ovate, acute, six to eight inches long below, an inch or less above. The stem terminates with numerous flowers disposed in a dense corymb. Involucre green, bell-shaped. Ray flowers five, white; heads small.
The tops of this plant having been used for several years, in some sections of Indiana, with good results in the cure of fever and ague, the writer was led to make an analysis, but unfortunately he was limited in his undertaking, only one pound of the tops being procurable in a proper condition.
The material was reduced to a coarse powder, since it was found impossible to powder it finely owing to its resinous qualities. Eight troyounces of the powder were exhausted by percolation with alcohol of sp. gr. .835; from the tincture thus obtained the alcohol was recovered by distillation and the residue macerated for two days with water acidulated with acetic acid. The clear yellowish-red filtrate, tested with potassium iodohydrargyrate, gave indications of the probable presence of an alkaloid; on concentration, separated a minute amount of crystals, which were removed, and was then precipitated successively with acetate and sub-acetate of lead, the precipitate by the former being orange-colored and by the latter lemon-yellow. The filtrate, freed from lead by sulphuretted hydrogen, yielded on concentration a little resin-like substance, and afterwards reddish crystals, which could not be decolorized by recrystallization and yielded, with ferric chloride, a crimson-colored solution, and with Fehling's solution a precipitate of cuprous oxide.
The two lead precipitates were suspended in water, decomposed by sulphuretted hydrogen and the filtrate evaporated; the extract was partly soluble in chloroform, petroleum benzin and ether, and wholly soluble in potassa, the latter solution yielding, with hydrochloric acid, a yellow resinous precipitate.
The drug, exhausted with alcohol, was now percolated with water, the infusion boiled to coagulate the albumen and concentrated by evaporation, when it had a dark-brown color and a bitter taste. The residuary powder, boiled with water, yielded a very bitter liquid in which neither iodine water, ferric chloride or gelatin produced any change. The infusion and decoction were united and, on evaporation, yielded an extract which contained considerable gummy matter and yielded nothing to petroleum benzin, and to ether merely a small quantity of greenish substance.
A portion of the fresh powder, 810 grains, exhausted with petroleum benzin, yielded 17 grains of a dark-green, slightly bitter, waxy substance. The powder was subsequently exhausted with ether and the ether evaporated spontaneously. A crop of tolerably pure crystals was removed, the crystals subsequently forming being contaminated with resinous matter. Water, in which the ethereal extract was boiled, became extremely bitter and separated, on evaporation, clear, very bitter crystals which, in watery solution, acquired, with ferric chloride, a beautiful deep-red color and did not reduce Fehling's solution. Heated upon platinum foil, the crystals burned without leaving any residue.
On incineration, the powder left 10 per cent. of ash.
The parthenium tops are employed in the form of hot infusion, the strained liquid being preserved by the addition of a quantity of spirit. It should be mentioned yet that the liquid preparations of this drug possess an agreeable orange-like odor.
The American Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. 53, 1881, was edited by John M. Maisch.