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Cassia Alata

This is one of the most popular Philippine remedies and its usefulness is vouched for by many physicians practicing in many different lands.

NOM. VULG.—Acapulco, Sp.-Fil.; Katandá, Gamut sa Buni, Sontig̃, Tag.; Suntig̃, Kansitás, Vis.; Pakayomkom-kastila, Pam.

USES.—This is one of the most popular Philippine remedies and its usefulness is vouched for by many physicians practicing in many different lands. Its antiherpetic properties are notable and the Tagalo name of the plant, “Gamut sa Buni,” means literally “medicine for herpes.” The natives use the juice of the leaf applied locally to the affected part. These properties have long been familiar to the Malays and to the Hindoos who in their medical works give the plant the Sanscrit name of “Dadrughna,” meaning “to cure herpes.” The Pharmacopoeia of Bengal recommends cassia in the form of an ointment made by mixing the crushed tender leaves with simple ointment. This preparation is, in our opinion, undesirable on account of its liability to become rancid and vaseline should be the excipient used. Another application for herpetic eruptions is the juice of the leaves mixed with an equal quantity of lemon juice. The Malays use the leaves dried in the sun, adding to them a little water and rubbing them briskly on the affected parts, the vigorous treatment being an important part of the cure.

The decoction of the leaves is a laxative and according to Mr. J. Wood the tincture has an action similar to that of senna. Dr. Pulney Andy of India states that the extract prepared from the tender leaves is a good substitute for extract of colocynth.

Mr. A. Porte claims to have obtained the best results with an acetic extract of the fresh leaves. The following is his formula: Fresh leaves of C. alata 100 grams.

Acetic acid diluted in ⅔ water 450 grams.

Macerate 10 or 12 days, filter and express, then filter again and evaporate to the consistency of an extract.

The seeds contain vermifuge principles.

The activity of this plant in herpes is due to the chrysophanic acid contained in it. The more recent the eruption the more certain is the effect.

The following species, all of which grow in the Philippines, contain principles analogous to those of the C. alata, viz.: C. sophera, L. and C. tora, L., called in Tagalo manimanihan.

BOTANICAL DESCRIPTION.—A shrub, 7–9° high, with a straight, ramose trunk 3–4′ in diameter. Leaves 1½–2° long, opposite, abruptly pinnate, a thick stylet taking the place of the odd leaflet. Leaflets 10–13 pairs, the smaller ones 1–2′ long.

Common petiole with 2 horizontal stipules at the base. Flowers in conspicuous, erect racemes. Calyx, 5 free concave, unequal sepals. Corolla, 5 petals of a beautiful yellow color. Stamens perigynous, 10 in number, 3 upper ones very small and frequently sterile, 3 lower very large. The bilocular anthers open by 2 pores. Ovary many-ovuled with filiform style. Pod long with 2 prominent wings on the sides and many seeds which slightly resemble a cross with blunt ends.

The C. sophera, L., is characterized by 10 stamens, all fertile and a smooth, linear, bivalved pod full of seeds separated by false partitions. The C. tora, L., bears a quadrangular pod about 15 centimeters long by 2 in diameter.

HABITAT.—Grows in all parts of the islands and is universally known by the natives. Blooms in May.

Reference book: The Medicinal Plants of the Philippines

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