This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Sagapenum Pharm. Lond. & Edinb. Serapinum quibufdam. Sagapenum: the concrete gummy-resinous juice of an oriental plant, of which we have no certain account, but which appears, from the seeds and pieces of stalks sometimes found among the juice as brought to us, to be of the serulaceous or umbelliferous kind. The sagapenum comes immediately from Alexandria, either in distinct tears, or run together into large masses; outwardly of a yellow colour, internally somewhat paler and clear like horn; growing soft on being handled, so as to stick to the fingers. It is sometimes sup-plied in the shops by the larger and darker coloured masses of bdellium broken in pieces; which greatly resemble it in appearance, but may be distinguished by their much weaker smell.
Sagapenum has a strong disagreeable smell, somewhat of the leek kind, or like that of a mixture of galbanum with a little asafetida; and a moderately hot biting taste. It is one of the strongest of the deobstruent gums, and frequently prescribed, either by itself, or in conjunction with ammoniacum or galbanum, in hysteric cases, uterine obstructions, asthmas, and other disorders. It may be commodiously taken in the form of pills, from two or three grains to a scruple or half a dram: in doses of a dram, it loosens the belly.
On boiling this gummy-resin in water, about three-fourths of it are resolved into a turbid yel-lowish white liquor, which smells and tastes weakly of the fagapenum. Rectified spirit scarcely takes up above one half, and receives very little colour: the solution smells weakly, and tastes pretty strongly. Both the watery and spirituous solutions lose much, in evaporation, of their taste as well as their smell; the watery loses most, the extract being very considerably weaker than the fagapenum in substance. It is probable that the more active parts are carried off by the watery vapour, but that in the spirituous extract they are only inviscated by the grosser resinous matter: for the water, collected by distillation, is notably impregnated with the flavour of the fagapenum, and discovers like-wise a small portion of essential oil; whereas the distilled spirit is almost flavourless.