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.
Sassy bark is derived from Eryihrophleum guineense, G. Don (N.O. Leguminosoe), a large tree widely distributed on the west coast of Africa (Upper Guinea and Senegambia). Possibly other species than E. guineense yield the sassy bark of commerce, as certain differences have been observed in the alkaloid obtained from the bark imported at different times.
It has poisonous, emetic, and purgative properties, and is used by the West African negroes as an ordeal poison.
The bark is collected from the trunk as well as from the larger and smaller branches.
Sassy bark varies exceedingly in size and thickness according to the age of the stem or branch from which it has been collected. Most common are hard heavy curved or flat pieces about 8 or 10 cm. long, 4 to 8 cm. wide, and about 5 to 10 cm. thick; but small quills, not 1.5 cm, in diameter, may sometimes be found.
In pieces of medium thickness the outer layer (cork) is usually of a dull grey colour, but sometimes it is so dark as to be nearly black; it is interrupted by reddish warts or circular spots that eventually fuse together into longitudinal bands. Older and therefore thicker barks are rugged, and have a more uniform reddish brown colour. They often exhibit conchoidal depressions of considerable size (1 to 2 cm. long), the whole surface, elevations as well as depressions, being ruggedly ridged. In these barks most of the primary cortex has been exfoliated by the formation of cork. Very young bark is comparatively smooth and dark in colour; it bears occasional small reddish warts and exhibits longitudinal reddish bands.
Fig. 127. - Sassy bark. A, portion of bark of medium thickness, showing fissured surface; B, portion of very thick bark showing rugged surface, with depressions produced by exfoliation of the outer portion.
The inner surface exhibits shallow longitudinal striations or elevations, and is of a dark reddish brown or, more commonly, dull black colour.
The bark is extremely hard, and breaks with a very short granular fracture. The transverse section examined under the lens is most characteristic. The cork appears as a narrow brownish line; the cortex is narrow and darker in colour, and separated from the bast by a pale complete or interrupted line of sclerenchymatous cells. The bast, which constitutes the major part of the larger and thicker pieces, exhibits numerous large closely approximated groups of sclerenchymatous cells embedded in reddish brown (parenchymatous) tissue. The structure of this portion of the bark is discernible with the naked eye, and is identical in both young and old bark. The bark has no odour, and only a slightly bitter and astringent taste. The student should observe
(a) The reddish brown warts (or outer surface) and the nearly black inner surface,
(b) The hard granular fracture,
(c) The sclerenchymatous cells in the bast.
Sassy bark, which is used by the West African negroes as an ordeal poison, contains a toxic alkaloid erythrophloeine; other constituents are resin (13.5 per cent.) and tannin together with traces of ipuranol, luteolin, small quantities of fatty acids, etc.
Erythrophloeine is amorphous and yields amorphous salts; it has not yet been sufficiently investigated.
Luteolin is a yellow colouring matter, first separated from Reseda luteola. Linne; it is identical with digitoflavone; quercetin is hydroxyluteolin.
Erythrophloeine has been found useful in certain forms of heart disease. The hydrochloride has local anaesthetic properties and has been used in dental operations.