This section is from the book "A Text Book Of Materia Medica, Being An Account Of The More Important Crude Drugs Of Vegetable And Animal Origin", by Henry G. Greenish. Also available from Amazon: A Text Book of Materia Medica : Being an Account of the More Important Crude Drugs of Vegetable and Animal Origin.
Cowhage consists of the hairs attached to the fruit of Mucuna pruriens, de Candolle (N.O. Leguminosoe), a climbing plant indigenous to India, Africa, and South America.
The fruit, a small, curved, nearly black legume, is densely covered with stiff yellowish brown hairs which form the commercial drug.
Cowhage appears in commerce as a yellowish brown, loosely felted mass of hairs with occasional small black portions of the pericarp. Examined under the microscope it is seen to consist of one-celled, thin-walled, sharply pointed hairs which are 2 or 3 mm. long, and bear numerous short, often recurved prominences.
The hairs contain a little tannin, but their action as a vermifuge is purely mechanical.