"The dried bark of Daphne Mezereum Linné, Daphne Gnidium Linné, or of Daphne Laureola Linné (Fam. Thymeleaceae)." U. S.
Mezerei Cortex, Br. 1898; Mezereon Bark; Cortex Mezerei, Cortex Thymeleae (vel Coccognidii); Dwarf Bay, Wild Pepper, Spurge-flax, Spurge-olive, Magell; Mezereon ou Bois gentil, Fr. Cod.; Laureole, Thymelee, Fr.; Kellerhals, Seidelbastrinde, Kellerhalsrinde, G.; Mezereo, It.; Mecereon, Sp.
All the species of Daphne are possessed of active properties, but three only are official—D. Mezereum, D. Laureola, and D. Gnidium, all of which are recognized in the United States Pharm., and the last in the former French Codex, 1884.
1. Daphne Mezereum is a very hardy, low shrub, with a branching stem, and a smooth, dark gray bark, very easily separable from the wood. The leaves spring from the' ends of the branches, are deciduous, sessile, obovate-lanceolate, entire, smooth, and of a pale green color, somewhat glaucous beneath. They are preceded by the flowers, which appear very early in the spring, and sometimes bloom even amidst the snow. These are of a purple-rose color, rarely white, highly fragrant, and disposed in clusters, each consisting of two or three flowers, forming together a kind of spike at the upper part of the stem and branches. At the base of each cluster are deciduous floral leaves. The fruit is oval, shining, fleshy, of a bright red color, and contains a single round seed. Another variety produces white flowers and yellow fruit. This species of Daphne occurs throughout the forests of Europe, and extends in Western Asia from the Caucasus to the Altai. It is cultivated in Europe, and is occasionally found in our own gardens. D. Mezereum is locally naturalized from New York and Massachusetts to western Quebec and Ontario.
2. Daphne Gnidium.—In this species, called garou or sain-bois by the French, the leaves are linear-lanceolate, acute, entire, smooth, and irregularly but closely set upon the branches. The flowers are white, downy, odoriferous, and disposed in terminal panicled racemes. The fruit is globular, dry, at first green, but ultimately black. D. Gnidium grows in dry uncultivated places in the south of Europe, and flowers in June. Its bark, which in France is used indiscriminately with that of the former species, is of a deep purplish-brown color, and hairy in the younger portions. It appears to be equally as active, medicinally, as the other official species.
Besides the species above described, Daphne Laureola, or spurge laurel, is said to furnish a portion of mezereum of commerce, and is recognized by the U. S, Pharmacopoeia, but its product is inferior in acrimony, and consequently in medicinal activity.
Properties.—The bark of the root was formerly directed, but the mezereum with which our markets are supplied is evidently the bark of the stem, and the Pharmacopoeias at present very properly direct the bark, without designating the part from which it must be taken. The official description is as follows: "In flexible, tough quilled pieces or somewhat flattened strips, attaining a length of 90 cm.; from 0.3 to 1 mm. in thickness; outer surface yellowish-or olive-brown (D. Mezereum) or purplish-brown (D. Gnidium) or purplish-gray (D. Laureola), smooth, numerous lenticels giving a transversely striated appearance and occasionally with numerous, circular, brownish-black apothecia; outer corky layer easily separable from the middle bark which varies from light green to olive-brown and with more or less detached bast-fibers; inner surface yellowish-white, satiny lustrous, finely striate; fracture tough, fibrous, the inner bark lamellated; odor very-slight; taste at first slight, becoming gradually and increasingly pungent and acrid. Under the microscope, transverse sections of Mezereum show a rather thick cork composed of from 20 to 30 rows of cells, the outer being compressed and with yellowish-brown walls, and the inner more or less tabular with nearly colorless walls; a hypodermis of 3 to 5 rows of collenchymatous cells containing chloroplastids or a yellowish-green resinous substance; an inner bark consisting mostly of nearly colorless non-lignified bast-fibers occurring in loosely united groups, and a few starch-bearing medullary rays one cell in width. The powder is light grayish-brown; bast-fibers numerous, from 0.4 to 3 mm. in length and about 0.015 mm. in width, frequently more or less uneven or irregularly bent and considerably attenuated at the ends, the walls being from 0.001 to 0.005 mm. in thickness, colorless, non-lignified and free from pores; fragments of yellowish-brown cork cells and starch-bearing medullary rays; starch grains relatively few, mostly spherical or elliptical, occasionally 2- to 4-compound, the individual grains from 0.003 to 0.015 mm. in diameter." U. S.
British writers state that the bark of the root is the most active. The berries and leaves of the plant are also active, and the former have sometimes proved fatal to children who have eaten them. Pallas states that they are used as a purgative by the Russian peasants, and that thirty berries are required to act. French authors observe that fifteen are sufficient to kill. A tincture of them is used in Germany as a local application in neuralgia.
Vauquelin discovered a peculiar principle in the bark of Daphne alpina. This has subsequently been found in other species, and has received the name of daphnin. Gmelin and Bar found it in the bark of D. Mezereum, associated with wax, an acrid resin (mezerein), a yellow coloring matter, a reddish-brown extractive, and uncrystallizable and fermentable sugar, a gummy matter containing nitrogen, ligneous fiber, malic acid, and several malates. By J. B. Eng it has been discovered, together with a volatile oil, in the flowers of D. Mezereum. (Wittstein's Viertelj., viii, 23.) Daphnin is in prismatic crystals, grouped together, colorless, transparent, brilliant, slightly soluble in cold water, very soluble in boiling water and alcohol, without odor, and of a bitter, somewhat harsh taste. According to Zwenger (Ann. Ch. Ph., 1860, cxv, 1) it is a glucosidal acid, being resolvable by sulphuric or hydrochloric acid into sugar, and a peculiar crystallizable principle called daphnetin, C9H6O4 + 2H2O. He gives for daphnin the formula C15H16O9 + 2H2O, the same as that of aesculin, of which it is, therefore, an isomer. W. Will and O. Jung (A. J. P., 1885) have investigated daphnetin, which was shown in 1879 by Stunkel to be dioxycoumarin,
|/||O — CO|
|\||CH == CH|
; they obtained but about one ounce of daphnetin from fifty pounds of extract of mezereum, and they proved that it has the same relation to pyrogallic acid that coumarin has to phenol, or umbelliferone to resorcinol. (For a method of preparing the glucoside daphnin, see U. S. D., nineteenth edition, p. 781.) Coccognin, isolated in 1870 by Casselmann from the fruits of D. Mezereum, appears to be closely allied to, if not identical with, daphnin. By the dry distillation of an alcoholic extract of mezereum bark, Zwenger obtained umbelliferone, C9H6O3.
Uses.—The recent bark applied to the skin produces inflammation followed by vesication, and has been popularly used as an epispastic, from time immemorial, in some of the southern countries of Europe. The dried bark, though less active, is possessed of a similar property, and is occasionally employed in France by regular practitioners for the purpose of forming issues. A small square piece, moistened with vinegar, is applied to the skin, and renewed twice a day until a blister is formed, and occasionally afterwards to keep up the discharge. It is slow in its operation, generally requiring from twenty-four to forty-eight hours to vesicate. The ointment was formerly used for maintaining the discharge from blistered surfaces, and may be applied advantageously to obstinate, ill-conditioned indolent ulcers. It was recognized by the U. S. 1880. (See U. S. D., 19th ed., p. 781, for formula.)
An alcoholic extract has also been employed to communicate irritant properties to issue-peas. Internally administered, mezereum is a stimulant capable of being directed to the skin or kidneys, and in large doses likely to excite purging, nausea, and vomiting. In overdoses it produces the fatal effects of the acrid poisons, and a case of apparently severe narcotic effects has been recorded. (Am. J. M. S., xxi.) It had at one time much reputation as an alterative in syphilis, chronic rheumatism, etc., but is of no value as an internal remedy and is almost never administered save as an ingredient of the compound fluidextract of sarsaparilla.
Dose, ten grains (0.65 Gm.).
Off. Prep.—Fluidextractum Sarsaparillae Compositum, U. S.; Decoctum Sarsaparillae Compositum, N. F.; Fluidextractum Mezerei, N. F.; Linimentum Sinapis Compositum (from Fluidextract), N. F.
The Dispensatory of the United States of America, 1918, was edited by Joseph P. Remington, Horatio C. Wood and others.