USES.—This plant is official in the Pharmacopoeia of India as an alterative, tonic, diaphoretic and emetic. J. J. Durant, having observed that the natives used it for dysentery, experimented with it quite successfully in that disease. For adults he gradually raised the dose from 1.10 to 4 grams, preferring smaller doses, however, for mild cases. To children he prescribed 5–10 centigrams for each year of age, 3 or 4 times a day. He remarked that the effects produced were identical with those of ipecac administered in Brazilian fashion.
The part of the plant used is the dry root powdered. The usual dose is 15–50 centigrams 3 times a day, gradually increased; as an emetic 2–4 grams.
The milky juice that escapes from the stem on the slightest abrasion is a drastic purgative, given commonly in dropsy, lumbricoids, etc. Pledgets of cotton impregnated with the juice and packed in the cavities of carious teeth, relieve toothache. It is applied locally for various skin diseases, including syphilitic ulcers, and as a depilatory.
Some races of India, such as the Rajputs of the districts of Allahab and of Khangor, use this milk-juice to poison their female infants whom they are accustomed to regard as a vexatious burden. Therapeutically they use it with honey, locally for sore throat.
The dry and powdered juice has been used in small doses as an alterative in the treatment of tuberculous leprosy, but it has not given results any better than many other drugs. In syphilis and mercurial cachexia its results are less doubtful.
In 1881 Dr. Riddell obtained a sort of gutta-percha from the juice, previously observed by Professor Redwood.
Mooden Sheriff states that the most active parts of the plant are the root bark and the dried juice. He adds that the action of the juice is irregular and even dangerous, and that the bark is active in direct proportion to its age. He recommends that the inert tuberous layer of the bark be removed; prepared thus and powdered it is emetic in doses of 2.50–3 grams.
Duncan claims to have isolated from the bark an active principle which he called mudarin from “mudar,” the Indian name of the plant. Following the same process Flückiger was unable to obtain the substance, but did isolate 1½% of an acrid resin, soluble in ether and in alcohol; a mucilage and a bitter principle decolorized by chloroform and ether. It is probable that this is the active principle of the “Calotropis gigantea.” Warden and Waddell in 1881 isolated a substance crystallizable in nodular masses, with the formula C17H28O, analogous to the albana of gutta-percha.
BOTANICAL DESCRIPTION.—A small tree, 7–8° high, with straight stem, branched and woody. Leaves sessile, opposite, cleft at the base, oval, fleshy and woolly.
Flowers lateral in simple umbels of 3 or more flowerets. Calyx 5-cleft. Corolla monopetalous, 5 acute lobes, white, of rare and beautiful form. Nectaries 5, united throughout their length with the receptacle, their bases curved like the sides of the fleur de lis.
Above the nectaries is a 5-angled crown, the extremity of the receptacle; in each angle a black anther. Two large follicles narrowed at the ends, woolly, the apex somewhat curved to one side, containing many imbricated seeds, each with a tuft of long hairs.
HABITAT.—Bauang, Taal and the volcanic island of Taal. Blossoms in April.
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