BY CALVIN JEROME HOUCK, PH.G.
From an Inaugural Essay.
This species, which is known in the neighborhood of Lebanon, Pa., by the name of Black Sanicle Root, or Pool Root, is a perennial plant growing to the height of about two feet. The stem is slender, finely grooved, and dichotomously branched above. The stem-leaves are 5-7 parted, the divisions ranging in shape from obovate to lanceolate, and being doubly serrate. The flowers (some of which are sterile) are arranged in nearly simple umbels. The fertile flowers are sessile, and produce a round orthospermous cremocarp which is covered with prickles. The plant grows in abundance in the interior of Pennsylvania, in shady and rocky woods, and flowers in June or July. The root which is the part employed, is short and thick, with many rootlets, has a slight odor when fresh, which becomes more persistent by long keeping, and is light brown in color, but becomes black after drying. It is collected during the month of August, and loses one-fourth (?) of its weight by drying. When boiled the bark is detached exposing the thin white inner root. The root when chewed is strongly acrid, and pungent, and quite aromatic, but leaves a very unpleasant sickening sensation on the tongue and pauces, remaining for a long time. It is an expectorant, diaphoretic; sometimes used in intermittent fever, also in chorea. In the interior of Pennsylvania, it is extensively used in domestic practice for pulmonary affections, with satisfactory results.
Owing to the oily nature of the root, an etherial extract was first prepared from four ounces of the root in fine powder by exhausting it with ether; the extract was oily, resinous, very aromatic, dark in color, with a burning acrid, and nauseous taste, insoluble in water, partly soluble in alcohol and chloroform. A portion of this extract dissolved in an alkaline solution, was precipitated by the addition of a small quantity of acid; upon drying this precipitate and subjecting it to a flame it burns emitting dense smoke.
Four ounces of the root in No. 40 powder, exhausted with dilute alcohol, yielded a soft extract weighing 2 1/2 drachms; only slightly pungent, not very aromatic, but dark in color, containing only a slight trace of oil and no resin, but considerable coloring matter. Eight ounces of the powdered root in (No. 50 powder) were exhausted, first with ether, then with alcohol, and lastly with dilute alcohol. The etherial tincture had scarcely any color, but contained considerable oil and resin. The alcoholic tincture was of a pale straw color, and contained resin and extractive. The dilute alcoholic tincture was dark brown in color and contained tannin, extractive and coloring matters. These tinctures being evaporated to extracts and testing as before, gave results similar to those mentioned before.
The four ounces of root which had been exhausted by dilute alcohol alone, were boiled with water, giving a decoction which was dark brown in color, with but slight odor. By testing it was found to contain gum, starch, coloring matter and extractive.
One ounce of the root was carefully reduced to ashes, weighing 43 grains, and containing phosphate and carbonate of potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron.
The virtues of the root probably depend mainly on the volatile oil and resin; the alcoholic tincture seems to contain all the desirable constituents in solution.
The American Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. 56, 1884, was edited by John M. Maisch.