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.
Embelia is the dried fruit of Embelia Ribes, Burmann Alius, and also of Embelia robusta, Roxburgh (N.O. Myrsineoe). The former is a large climbing shrub abundant in the hilly parts of India, and the latter a very common Indian shrub or small tree.
These plants produce large bunches of small fruits which are collected when ripe and dried. They are then nearly globular, about the size of a small pea and dull red or nearly black. They are superior, minutely beaked and often attached to a 5-partite calyx and slender pedicel. The commercial fruits are usually derived from E. robusta and have a striated surface, those from E. Ribes being warty or wrinkled and resembling black pepper (in which they have actually been detected). Within the brittle pericarp is a single, globular seed surrounded by a delicate membrane. The seed itself is reddish, has a cavity at the base and is marked with lighter spots which become fainter on long soaking in water and in which minute crystals are visible under a strong lens. The endosperm is horny and slightly ruminate. The fruit has a somewhat astringent and aromatic taste.
The principal constituent of the fruit is embelic acid which crystallises in golden yellow, lamellar crystals, insoluble in water, but soluble in alcohol and ether and yielding wine-red solutions with alkalies. In addition volatile oil (trace), fixed oil, resin, tannin and an alkaloid, christembine, are present.
Both the fruit and the ammonium salt of embelic acid are used as a taenicide.
The drug is sharply characterised by the bluish violet colour obtained by extracting the powder with ether and shaking the ethereal solution with dilute ammonia.