This section is from the book "A Manual of Materia Medica and Pharmacology", by David M. R. Culbreth. Also available from Amazon: Manual of Materia Medica and Pharmacology.
A concrete, fatty substance from the head of the sperm whale.
Habitat. The Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Syn. Cetac, the Sperm Whale; Fr. Blanc de Baleine, Cetine, Spermaceti, Ambre blanc; Ger. Cetaceum, Walrat, Spermaceti, Wallrath. Phy-se'ter. L. fr. Gr.
a blow-pipe, a kind of whale;
a pair of bellows, wind;
blow - i. e., the sperm whale has a blow-hole near the edge of the snout.
Mac-ro-ceph'a-lus. L. fr. Gr.
head - i. e., animal has a very large head.
Animal. - Usually 18-24 M. (60-80°) long, enormous head, being often 9 M. (30°) in circumference, and composing one-third its whole length; in front of the cranium the upper jaw has a large cavity containing an oily liquid, which, being removed in buckets shortly after death, congeals into a yellow mass. It is drained in suitable bags, pressed to remove oil, press-cake purified by melting in water, impurities skimmed off, boiled with weak potassium hydroxide solution, washed with water, and allowed to congeal.
Cetaceum, Spermaceti. - This (as thus congealed) is in white, somewhat translucent, slightly unctuous masses of scaly-crystalline fracture, pearly lustre, faint odor, bland, mild taste, yellowish and rancid on exposure, sp. gr. 0.940, melts at 50° C. (122° F.), solul)le in boiling alcohol, ether, chloroform, carbon disulphide, fixed or volatile oils, slightly in petroleum hen/in, insoluble in water, nearly so in cold alcohol. Impurities: Paraffin; stearic acid.
Constituents. - Mainly cetylic alcohol or ethal, C16H33OH, combined with palmitic acid, HC16H31O2, forming a fat, cetin (cetyl pal-mitate), C16H33.C16H31O2, also small amounts of fat containing stearic, myristic, and lauro-stearic acids.
Preparations. - 1. Unguentum Aquae Rosae, 12.5 p. c.
Unoff. Prep.: Ceratum, 10 p. c, + white wax 35, olive oil 55.
Properties and Uses. - Lenitive, demulcent, emollient, as a basis for ointments, cerates, etc., alvine and urinary derangements. May be given in emulsion with egg-yolk or almond oil, or powder made by rubbing down with alcohol or little almond oil.
Ambra Grisea, Ambergris. This is a morbid excretion found in the intestines of the sperm whale, also floating on the sea; a single whale has produced 750 pounds (340 Kg.). It is in irregular masses, brownish-gray color, with lighter and darker streaks and spots, fusible in hot water, friable in the cold, sp. gr. 0.800-0.920; soluble in ether, fats, volatile oils, hot alcohol, insoluble in potassium hydroxide solution; odor peculiar, fragrant, nearly tasteless; contains ambrei'n (fatty substance resembling cholesterin) 85 p. c, balsamic extractive, sodium chloride, benzoic acid (?), coloring matter, little ash. Used as stimulant, antispasmodic, mostly in perfumery, for fixing odor. Dose, gr. 5-15 (.3-1 Gm.).