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.
Ignatius beans are the seeds of Strychnos Ignatii, Bergius (N.O. Loganiacece), a stout climbing plant with woody stem, indigenous to the southern Philippine Islands. It became known to Europeans through a Jesuit, Father Camellus, towards the end of the seventeenth century, and the seeds were called Fabse Sancti Ignatii, in honour of Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the order. The large ovoid or nearly globose fruit contains about twelve seeds embedded in a pulp, from which they are separated and dried. When fresh they are covered with greyish satiny hairs, resembling those of the nux vomica; these, however, are very easily rubbed off, and in the commercial drug are mostly lost, together with much of the thin seed-coats.
Ignatius beans are dull, dark grey, irregularly ovoid and about 25 mm. long. Frequently there is one large curved side and three or four smaller flattish surfaces with rounded angles, but some seeds are irregularly sub-angular. Here and there are patches of the dull, ash-grey seed-coat, which under a lens is seen to be covered with appressed hairs, but these, unlike the hairs of nux vomica, are not so regularly arranged and are destitute of any satiny sheen. Usually, however, the seed-coat, which is very thin, has been removed by the friction of the seeds against one another, exposing the surface of the dark, translucent, horny endosperm. The hilum is generally distinguishable with ease at one extremity of the seed.
Fig. 94. - Ignatius Beans. Natural size. (Bentley and Trimen).
After soaking in water, the large endosperm can be divided into two portions, between which, in a cavity, lies the embryo with its small radicle and leafy cotyledons. The seeds are inodorous, but have an extremely bitter taste.
The student should observe
(a) The irregular shape,
(b) The dark endosperm with patches of seed-coat.
Ignatius beans contain strychnine and brucine to about the same extent as nux vomica, viz. 2.5 to 3 per cent, of total alkaloid, of which from 46 to 62 per cent, is strychnine.
The drug possesses a medicinal action similar to that of nux vomica, over which it has no evident superiority.