Source, Etc

The botanical origin of the drug at present known in commerce and official in the British Pharmacopoeia under the name of Sumbul Root is not definitely known. It is generally referred to Ferula Sumbul, Hooker filius (N.O. Umbelliferoe), a plant of considerable size, growing in Turkestan. This plant, however, according to Holmes, produces a large napiform root that could scarcely furnish the cylindrical pieces, 3 to 6 cm. long, that form much of the commercial drug, although it was probably the source of the drug of twenty-five years ago, which was apparently obtained from a large fragrant root. F. suaveolens, Aitchison and Hemsley, has been suggested as yielding the commercial drug.


Sumbul root occurs in short, more or less cylindrical pieces that are remarkable for their extreme lightness; they vary considerably in size, but are usually from 3 to 6 cm. in width and about the same in length, often dividing in the upper part into two, three, or more branches. The latter are occasionally not more than

1 cm. in diameter, and some of them bear a depressed scar left by the aerial stem after it has perished. Most of the pieces bear numerous short bristly fibres arranged in encircling lines, or at least show the scars of such; these fibres are the remains of the fibro-vascular bundles of leaves that have perished, and prove that most of the commercial drug consists of rhizome, not root. All the pieces exhibit regular transverse wrinkles and are covered with a thin but tough cork, which often shows a disposition to exfoliate, or at least can easily be stripped off.

Internally the drug is whitish or yellowish, spongy and irregularly fibrous, exhibiting numerous fissures which have possibly originated during the process of drying, and more or less abundant soft resin to which dust, etc, rapidly adheres. The transverse section of a small rhizome shows a pale bark, within which is a ring of narrow, finely porous yellow wood-bundles; the central portion is parenchymatous tissue through which vascular bundles pass in varying directions, a peculiarity that is exhibited by many rhizomes, and to which in this case the fibrous nature of the drug is due. In the larger pieces the structure is usually less distinct. The drug has an agreeable musky odour and a bitter, slightly aromatic taste. The student should observe

Fig. 164.   Sumbul root. Slightly reduced. {Pharmaceutical Journal.)

Fig. 164. - Sumbul root. Slightly reduced. {Pharmaceutical Journal).

(a) The transverse wrinkles, from which short fibres proceed,

(b) The whitish, fibrous and spongy interior,

(c) The musky odour.


Of the constituents of the sumbul root of commerce very little is known. Hahn (1896) found it to yield to petroleum benzin 17.25 per cent, of a yellow viscid oil, from which crystals of a substance not further investigated were obtained. The drug yielded 8 per cent. of ash.

Utech (1893) obtained 6.1 per cent, of an aromatic amber-coloured resin having a bitter taste and possessing the aromatic odour of the root.

Heyl and Hart (1916) found neutral and glucosidal resins yielding umbelliferone by hydrolysis, sucrose, levulose, betaine, etc.

The drug also contains free umbelliferone and traces of volatile oil.


Sumbul is considered to possess stimulant and antispasmodic properties resembling those of valerian. It has been given in hysteria and certain nervous disorders, but is now not much prescribed.