By P. L. Simmonds, F.L.S.
Narthex asafoetida, Falconer; Ferula Narthex, Boissier. The Ferula asafatida, Linne, of Persia, Afghanistan and Turkestan yields the ordinary medicinal gum resinous exudation locally known as Anguzi, but in India the pure drug is called "Hing," and the coarser kind "Hingra." Asafoetida contains two essential oils; although the odors of oil of garlic, oil of onions and asafoetida are similar, asafoetida contains no trace of allyl. An exhaustive paper on this essential oil has been published by Dr. Semmler. Its density is about 0.984.
Asafoetida is commonly used by the Mahomedan population of India and the vegetarian Hindoo classes, as a favorite ingredient in their curries, sauce for pillaus, and other dishes, especially mixed with rice and dal or pulse on account of its stimulant, stomachic properties. The Turkomans are very fond of the young shoots dipped in vinegar. But it is not an article of general consumption in Afghanistan itself. The fresh leaves of the plant, which have the same peculiar odor as its secretion, when cooked, are commonly used as a diet by those near whose abode the plant grows. The white inner part of the stem of the full-grown plant is considered a delicacy when roasted and flavored with salt and butter. India seems to be the principal consumer of this gum resin, as the imports there range from eight to nine thousand hundredweight annually. Its uses in Persia are very numerous, especially as a medicine. There are people there who are so accustomed to its use for nervous complaints that it is like opium to the opium eaters—one of the necessaries of life. Its excellent anti-spasmodic qualities are too little known and appreciated in Europe.
The liquid form of asafoetida has, from the remotest times, been held in great estimation by Eastern doctors, and was once regarded as worth its weight in silver. It is highly esteemed as a carminative and condiment. If taken daily it is said to prevent the attacks of malarious fever.
Among the ancients, condiments to stimulate the sluggish appetite seemed to be in chief demand. Amongst these asafoetida, which is to-day highly relished in Persia and the East, was an indispensable ingredient; and it is even now used moderately by cooks in Europe to give flavor to some dishes and meats.
Opopanax Chironium, Koch. This gum resinous exudation from the juice of the roots is met with in lumps and tears, is opaque, of a disagreeable balsamic odor, of a bitter acrid taste. It has a slight resemblance externally to myrrh. In most of its properties it closely resembles asafoetida, and is now scarcely used in medicine in Europe, although found in the bazars of India.
Papaver somniferum, Linne. The concrete, inspissated juice from the capsules of this poppy, known as opium, is a valuable narcotic and anodyne, obtained by scratching the capsules and collecting the juice. Great Britain imports from 400,000 to 500,000 pounds of opium annually for medicinal purposes, chiefly from Turkey and Persia. The imports into the United States since the duty has been removed, on October 2, 1890, have increased. The imports, in 1890, were 473.095 pounds of crude or unmanufactured, valued at £1,183,712 and 34,465 pounds prepared for smoking, value £269,586.
In the financial year ending to 1893, the imports were, of crude, 615.957 pounds, value £1,186,824.
The chief seat for the production of opium is India, where the export trade to China used to average 126,000 cwts., valued at £10,000,000, but of late years has been falling off.
The exports were:
The exports from India in the recent financial years, ending in March, have been as follows:
|1895 (11 months, to February 7th)||89,865||£8,617,604|
The poppy is largely grown for the opium it yields in many of the provinces of China, hence the Indian exports now go to many other countries, especially Cochin China and the Straits settlements. The export share of the two provinces has been as follows, in late years:
|Cwts. Bengal.||Cwts. Bombay.|
The imports of sorts of opium into China in each of the last two calendar years (January to December) have been as follows, in piculs, of 1 1/4 cwt.:
|1892. Piculs.||1893. Piculs.|
The returns for 1894 are not yet to hand, but the Statistical Secretary of the Customs at Shanghai, in his report for 1893, stated: "The protection of the rupee enhanced the price of opium so greatly that it placed the Indian drug beyond the means of a vast number of consumers, and this rise taking place concurrently with adequate supplies of native opium—which has so improved in quality that, it is averred, smokers prefer it to Malwa—renders it almost hopeless for the imported drug to continue to compete successfully with the excellent and ever-improving home-grown product."
There are two kinds of opium made in India; that for export to China is called "provision opium;" that to be used locally is known as "excise opium," and is moulded into cakes, which are stamped with the device of an Imperial Crown, and the legend "Benares Abkari," from being made in that district.
Excise opium, for internal consumption, is retailed to the consumer as a decoction, or in the form of two smoking mixtures, known, respectively, as Chandu and Madat. The excise opium yields to the Indian Government a revenue of about 1,000 000 sterling.
The opium for export is made up into round cakes or balls, about the size of a 24-lb. spherical shot. These are packed for shipment in chests, in two layers of 20 each, and the chests weigh about 140 pounds.
The expediency of the Government production and supply of Indian opium to China has been much discussed and questioned, and a commission has been taking evidence and reported on it.
It is doubtful whether the moderate use of opium smoking is more injurious to the system than other narcotics and intoxicants, and especially when the habit has been confirmed and is almost general in China, and the culture of the poppy is allowed and fostered in many of the provinces of the Empire.
The stimulant effects of opium are most apparent from small doses, which increase the energy of the mind, the frequency of the pulse, etc. These effects are succeeded by languor and lassitude. In excessive doses it proves a violent and fatal poison.
In disease it is chiefly employed to mitigate pain, produce sleep, and to check diarrhoea and other excessive discharges. It is also used with good effect in intermittent and other fevers. Combined with calomel, it is employed in cases of inflammation from local causes, such as wounds, fractures, etc.; it is also employed in smallpox, dysentery, cholera, and many other complaints. It is taken in various forms in different countries.
The Chinese both smoke and swallow it. In Turkey it is chiefly taken in pills, being sometimes mixed with syrup to render it more palatable.
In England the drug is administered either in its solid state, made into pills, or as a tincture in the shape of laudanum. The natives of India take it in pills or dissolved in water. In upper India an intoxicating liquor is prepared by beating the capsules of the poppy with jaggery and water.
The native practitioners consider opium to be injurious in typhus fever, but they administer it in intermittents, lockjaw, and in certain stages of dysentery; externally, they recommend it in conjunction with arrach, aloes, benzoin and bdellium, in rheumatic affections. They consider, however, after all, that it is merely efficacious in giving temporary relief.
Persian opium is cultivated principally in Yezd and Ispahan, and partly in the districts of Khorassan, Kerman, Fars and Shushtes.
That grown in Yezd is considered to be better than that of Ispahan and elsewhere, owing to the climate and soil of the place being better adapted to the growth of the poppy. The crop comes to hand in May and June, and the greater part of the opium finds its way to the shipping ports between September and January. These ports are Bushire and Bunder Affas. The Persian opium was formerly not much liked in China, owing to its having a peculiar flavor, caused by the mixture of a large quantity of oil during the process of preparation, and owing, also, to its being sometimes found adulterated. It, however, finds a better market in London, inasmuch as it contains, on an average, a larger quantity of morphia. From Yezd a quantity of opium prepared in the shape of small sticks or cylinders, is sent to Herat, and a small quantity in this form is locally consumed for smoking and eating.
Opium smoking is very prevalent in Yezd, and it is said that more is used in this place in that way than in any other town in Persia, with the single exception of Kerman. The habit is gaining ground daily throughout the country.
In late years there has been a decided decrease in the crop of Persian opium. A few years ago an average crop would be reckoned at 4,000 boxes; in 1889, a fair year, it was about 3,000; in 1893 it was only about some 2,000, but for 1894 an area was planted which is calculated to give some 2,500 boxes. It was anticipated that in 1895 a very much larger quantity will be planted. The Persian merchants are looking with keen and anxious eyes to the report of the opium commission in India, and their future conduct will be greatly biased by it.
In Khorassan the cultivation of the poppy has increased ten-fold within the last fifteen years. That destined for China is mixed with linseed oil. in the proportion of 6 or 7 pounds to each chest. That sent to England is pure. Persian opium is fast overtaking Patna opium in Chinese estimation, according to the advancing prices. A very few years ago it was quoted at less than half the price of the Indian drug.
The poppy is now grown in many parts of Europe, France, Germany, etc, and is even extending to Australia and Africa. Opium raised in Europe is stated to yield from 8 to 13 per cent. of morphine. The main value of opium depends on its contents of morphia, for which the genus Papaver (as far as heretofore known) remains the sole source.
Not less than fourteen alkaloids have been detected in opium by the progressive strides of organic chemistry.
The Persian opium is packed in chests containing a little over 1 cwt. The price in 1894 was £71, 10s. to £72, 10s. per chest. It is nearly all prepared for the China market, and there are only one or two native merchants who have sufficient knowledge to prepare the high-class article required by the London market. The crop was smaller than in previous years.
The total quantity prepared in Shiraz was about 1,300 chests, of an approximate value of £93,500.
The partial destruction of the opium crops in 1893 was a heavy blow to Persian commerce. The yield for the year was very poor, and the value of the total export shows a decrease of £132,000 when compared with the export of 1892. The exports from the port of Bunder Affas in 1892 and 1893 were as follows:
Peucedanum Galbaniferum and Polylophium Galbanum (No such plant. -Henriette).—These two plants are said to furnish the medicinal gum resinous exudation known as galbanum. It used to be referred to Ferula galbaniflua, Boissier, a Persian species. Galbanum may be distinguished from other gum resins by its somewhat musky odor, and by being easily indented by the finger nail, especially where the tears have a blueish tint. It is more or less brownish-yellow, at ordinary temperatures tough, brittle when cold, of disagreeable smell, and acrid, nauseous, bitter taste. It is indigenous to Africa and sent to Constantinople under the name of "Khasni." The root is of a roundish form and about the size and shape of a large black radish, with two spreading shoots. The British imports are merely nominal. Galbanum is frequently used for plasters, and inwardly for menstrual illnesses in the country of its growth.
(To be continued.)
The American Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. 67, 1895, was edited by Henry Trimble.