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Abrus Precatorius

USES.—The part of the plant most important in therapeutics is the seed, the size of a small pea, bright red with a black spot, hard and shining

NOM. VULG.—Saga, Sagamamin, Bag̃ati, Tag.; Bag̃ati Gikosgikos, Vis.; Kanaasaga, Pam.; Bugayon, Iloc.; Jequiriti, Prayerbeads, Eng.

USES.—The part of the plant most important in therapeutics is the seed, the size of a small pea, bright red with a black spot, hard and shining. The Filipino children use them to make rosaries and other decorations. In the distant past the Filipinos used these seeds to weigh gold, a practice followed even to-day by the Hindoos. The famous Susrutas, author of the “Ayur Veda,” recommends them internally for nervous diseases; modern therapeutics, however, limits their use to one disease, though that is frequent and stubborn enough, namely chronic granular conjunctivitis.

Some physicians state that these seeds are poisonous and others the contrary, but the fact that they are used as food among the poor classes of Egypt, demonstrates their harmlessness in the digestive tract at least; when introduced into the circulation they undoubtedly exercise a toxic effect. We have already mentioned that their use is limited nowadays to the therapeutics of the eye; the decoction of the seeds known in Europe under the name of “Jaqueriti”—so named in Brazil— produces a purulent inflammation of the healthy conjunctiva and it is precisely this counter-irritant effect which makes it useful in chronic granular conjunctivitis, the persistence of which has defied the most heroic measures of therapeutics. The French oculist, Dr. de Wecker, was the first to employ jequirity for this purpose, in the form of a 24 hours’ maceration of the seeds, 10 grams to 500 grams of water. It is necessary to use a product recently prepared and with this several applications a day are made. It is now known that the inflammation of the healthy conjunctiva is not caused by germ-life contained in the solution but by an inorganic ferment discovered by Bruylans and Venneman and named jequiritin; they state that it is produced during the germination of the seeds or of the cells in the powdered seeds. Warden and Waddell, of Calcutta, have isolated an essential oil, an acid named “ábric” and an amorphous substance called abrin, obtained by precipitation with alcohol from a watery infusion of the pulverized seeds. Its action is identical with that of “jequiritin.” The infusion appears to possess considerable value as a stimulating application to indolent ulcers.

The root is a good substitute for licorice, is emollient and has an agreeable taste.

The extract is useful in catarrhal diseases of the bronchi and in dysuria. The leaves contain the same properties as the root and an extract prepared from them is used as a substitute for licorice.

BOTANICAL DESCRIPTION.—A vine, with leaves opposite, abruptly pinnate, a stylet taking the place of the terminal leaflet. Leaflets linear, entire, glabrous, tipped with a small point. Common petiole with 2 awl-shaped stipules at the base.

Flowers in small racemes. Calyx gamosepalous, caducous, 4–5 short teeth.

Corolla papilionaceous, wings horizontal. Stamens 9, monadelphous with bilocular anthers. Style very short. Stigma globose. Pod 4–5 cm. long, truncate at the ends, with 5–6 red seeds, each with a black spot.

HABITAT.—Common in all mountainous regions of the islands. Grows near houses and roads.

Reference book: The Medicinal Plants of the Philippines

Tags: Medical plants, Medicine, healing, Injuries, Doctors,

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