SOURCE.—Physe'ter macroceph'alus, a species of whale inhabiting the Indian Ocean and the southern part of the Pacific Ocean, excretes a substance from the intestines which is found floating on the surface of the water; this is known as ambergris.
DESCRIPTION.—Waxy, grayish-brown, with streaks and dots; odor peculiar, taste slight; soluble in hot alcohol, ether, fats, and volatile oils.
CONSTITUENTS.—Ambrein (brilliant white needles precipitated from alcoholic solution) 85 per cent., a balsamic extractive, and a very small proportion of ash. On account of its high price adulterations of and substitutions for ambergris are common, but the genuine article is easily distinguished by means of its complete solubility in hot alcohol, and evaporation without evolving acrid vapor.
Preparation of Ambrein.—Obtained by crystallizing from hot alcoholic solution of ambergris; it forms white, shining, tasteless, and inodorous needles which fuse near 350°C.
USES.—As a perfume it is highly prized. It possesses very uncertain medical properties and is very rarely administered as a remedial agent.
A Manual of Organic Materia Medica and Pharmacognosy, 1917, was written by Lucius E. Sayre, B.S. Ph. M.