This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Amomum Pharm. Pars. Amomum race-mosum C. B. Elettari primum Hort. malabar. True amomum: a cluster of round fruits, or seed vessels, of an oriental plant. Each fruit is about the size of a middling grape; and contains, under a membranous cover, a number of small rough angular seeds, of a blackish brown colour on the outside, and whitish within: the seeds are lodged in three distinct cells, and those in each cell joined closely together, so that the fruit, on being opened, appears to contain three seeds. Ten or twelve of these capsules stand together, without pedicles, upon a woody stalk about an inch long: each single capsule is surrounded with six leaves set in form of a star; and the part of the stalk, void of fruit, is clothed with leafy scales. - Of the other parts of the plant, we have no certain account.
The seeds of amomum are a strong and grateful aromatic; of a quick penetrating fragrant smell, somewhat like that of lavender, but more agreeable; and of a very warm pungent taste, approaching to that of camphor. They are said to yield in distillation a large portion of a subtile essential oil. The husks have the same kind of flavour, in a lower degree. - These seeds have long been a stranger to this country. They are directed as an ingredient in the theriaca, in which they have been commonly supplied by the seeds of the amomum vulgare; and the London college, under the name amomum, allowed either the verum or vulgare to be taken indifferently. The college of Edinburgh, while they retained that composition, employed cloves as a succedaneum to the amomum.
Amomum Vulgare. Sison quod amomum officinis nostris C. B. Sison amomum Linn. Bastard stone parsley: an umbelliferous plant; very much branched; with a firm stalk higher than the branches; deep green, winged, serrated, parsnep-like leaves; upright umbels; and small, narrow, oblong, striated, dark brownish seeds, flat on one side and convex on the other. It is perennial, grows wild under moist hedges and by the sides of ditches, flowers in June and July, and ripens its seeds in August.
The seeds of the amomum vulgare have a light agreeable smell and a mild warm aromatic taste. They have been sometimes given as carminatives and diuretics, like the other warm seeds, and usually substituted in the shops for those of the amomum verum, from which, however, they are very considerably different, in quality as well as in appearance: they are not near so hot or pungent, nor is their flavour of the same kind.
These seeds, infused in water, give out very little of their virtue: by boiling, their flavour is soon dissipated, and the liquor becomes dis-agreeably bitterish: in distillation with water, they yield a small portion of a yellowish essential oil, which tastes and smells strongly and agreeably of the seeds.
Rectified spirit readily extracts their virtue, and what is pretty Angular, gains from them a green tincture: the spirit, drawn off by distil-lation from the filtered liquor, brings over with it nothing considerable of the flavour of the seeds: the remaining extract tastes strongly and smells lightly of the amomum, and proves a moderately warm, bitterish, not ungrateful aromatic.