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.
Simaruba bark is obtained from various species of Simaruba (S. officinalis, de Candolle, S. amara, Aublet, S. glauca, de Candolle), (N.O. Simarubeae), tall trees with long horizontal roots, natives of Guiana, northern Brazil, the West Indian Islands, and Florida. It was brought from Guiana to Paris in 1713 as the bark of a tree called by the natives simaruba and used by them with great success in dysentery. In Europe it soon gained renown, and was imported in considerable quantity. The bark is stripped from the root, probably after a preliminary beating to loosen it, freed from the outer layer (cork), and dried.
There appear to be three varieties of simaruba bark in commerce, viz. Orinoco, Surinam and Maracaibo. The first two are derived from Simaruba officinalis, de Candolle; the last named from a species of Simaba closely allied to S. suffruticosa, Engler.
True simaruba bark occurs in long, very fibrous strips, sometimes as much as a metre in length, a decimetre wide, and between 3 and 6 mm. thick. These pieces are more or less fissured and rent longitudinally, probably the result of beating. Externally they are of a buff or yellowish brown colour, and rough as though they had been deprived of the outer cork layer by rasping. They are frequently marked with brownish raised corky warts or the depressions left after their removal. The inner surface is yellowish, longitudinally striated, and fibrous.
The transverse section exhibits numerous, narrow medullary rays traversing the bark from the inner almost or quite to the outer margin, and showing therefore that the drug consists almost entirely of bast tissue, the cork and part or all of the cortex having been removed.
The drug has no odour, but a very bitter taste.
The student should observe
(a) The extremely fibrous nature of the bark,
(b) Its yellowish colour and bitter taste,
(c) The characters of the transverse section.
Fig. 121. - Simaruba bark. Transverse section. Magnified. (Berg).
Simaruba bark contains 0.05 to 0.1 per cent. of a colourless, crystalline bitter principle possessing neither alkaloidal nor glucosidal properties and quite distinct from other crystalline bitter principles occurring in plants of the same natural order (e.g. samaderin, quassiin). It also contains a tasteless crystalline substance, fixed oil, a yellow resin, and traces of a fluorescent substance (Gilling, 1908).
Simaruba bark was formerly used for dysentery; it is now seldom employed in European medicine.
The simaruba bark at present (1920) is the Maracaibo variety. It is much harder and less fibrous than the true; the outer surface is hard and finely marbled yellowish and white; the section shows abundant groups of sclerenchymatous cells in the cortex and bast; taste very bitter.
Fig. 122. - Euony-mus root-bark. Natural size.