BY E. M. HOLMES, F.L.S.,
Curator of the Museum of the Pharmaceutical Society.
In the interesting papers on "Chinese Materia Medica," by the late Daniel Hanbury, published in the Pharmaceutical Journal (, vol. iii., 1862), a seed is described and illustrated under the name of Ta-fung-tsze, which he conjectured to be allied to Chaulmugra. This seed is largely used in China in skin diseases and leprosy, and appears to have been employed in that country for at least three hundred years, since the tree affording the seed is figured in the old Chinese herbal, "Puntsaou," published A.D. 1596. The tree, however, has up to the present time been unknown to botanists.
The Ta-fung-tsze is still an article of considerable commerce, figuring in the Consular Blue Books under Chinese imports by the name of Lukrabo. As much as 48 piculs (6,400 lbs.) of the seed were exported from Bangkok to China in 1871. It is also exported thither from Saigon in Cochin China. The seed in question is about half the length of Chaulmugra seed, but of equal diameter. The shell is thicker and harder, and at one end is marked with a few radiating slightly raised ridges, whereas that of Chaulmugra is quite smooth.
Dr. Porter Smith, in his "Chinese Materia Medica." (1871), p. 140, describes these seeds under the name of Lucrubau, and he also considers them as a variety of Chaulmugra. He states that they are described in Chinese books as being good for leprosy, lepra, itch, pityriasis, psoriasis, syphilis, lipoma, vermes, and chaps upon the back of the hands, and that calomel and the seeds of Robinia amara are used with the Lucrubau, both externally and internally, in the treatment of leprosy. In the northern province of Hupeh the seeds are in great repute as a remedy for parasitic pediculi and the itch insect. In Soubeiran's "Matiere Medicale chez les Chinois" (p. 221), the seeds are erroneously referred to Gynocardia odorata.
In the Kew Report (1878, p. 33) the seeds, under the name of Dai-phong-tu, are said to be used in Saigon as a vermifuge after the extraction of the oil. It is added that M. Pierre has successfully raised some seeds of the plant, and refers it to the genus Hydnocarpus. The species, however, is not mentioned in the Kew Report and no further information has appeared in it upon this point in subsequent years. Having had a specimen of the Lukrabo seed in the museum of the Pharmaceutical Society for some years—without a specific name—I recently wrote to M. Pierre for information as to the species yielding the seed. In response he has kindly forwarded for the herbarium of this Society a specimen of the plant with flowers and seeds, and the following interesting statement: "It is a new species which I have named Hydnocarpus anthelminthica, Pierre. It is very nearly allied to H. alpina, Wight, p. 940, but its leaves are more linear-oblong. The scales opposite to the petals are less long and more ciliated, the stigma is furrowed in its whole extent, and is only toothed towards the extremity of its reflexed margin, while in H. alpina it is furnished with large lobes. The male flower contains a rudimentary ovary; in the female flower this is pyramidal. The seeds are used as a vermifuge by the Annamites. The names given in Annam to the plant are Dai-phong-tu and Thaoc-phu-tu. The specimen sent was gathered in the province of Bien Hoa in Southern Cochin China." A figure of the tree will, I presume, be given in the magnificent "Forest Flora of Cochin China," now being published by M. L. Pierre under the auspices of the French Government.
The botanical source of this important eastern drug is thus at last satisfactorily cleared up.—Phar. Jour. and Trans., July 16, 1884, p. 41.
The American Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. 56, 1884, was edited by John M. Maisch.