This section is from the book "Materia Medica And Therapeutics - Vegetable Kingdom", by Charles D. F. Phillips. Also available from Amazon: Materia Medica And Therapeutics: Vegetable Kingdom.
Active Ingredients. - Bibiru bark contains an alkaloid called Beberia or Biberine, C19H1INO3, a yellow resinous-looking body, which does not crystallize, is soluble in alcohol, slightly so in ether, and sparingly in water. In acids it dissolves, neutralizing them, and forming amorphous yellow salts which are uncrystallizable. There is also a certain quantity of tannic acid, which gives a green color with a salt of iron. The Beberire sulphas of the Brit. Pharm. (C35H10NO6HOSO3) presents itself in the form of thin brown scales, which are translucent, becoming yellow when pulverized, very bitter in taste, and soluble in alcohol and in water. The bark itself is hard, heavy, and brittle, cinnamon-colored within, and very bitter and astringent.
Physiological Action. - The properties of Bibiru bark are tonic, anti-periodic, and febrifugal. The physiological action of biberine has already been described under the subject of Buxin.
Therapeutic Action. - Although noticed as far back as 1769 by Bancroft, in his "Natural History of Guiana," it was only in 1834 that the value of Bibiru bark as a medicine was made public. In that year Dr. Rodie discovered that the alkaloid contained in the bark and also in the fruit could be used as a substitute for cinchona, and employed it successfully in intermittents. His discoveries were announced in the Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal for October, 1835.
In 1843 Dr. Douglas Maclagan published, in the "Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh," a full account of the composition and properties of the bark, confirming all that had been stated by Dr. Rodie; and at the close of the following year we have in Hooker's London Journal of Botany the full botanical account of the tree itself.
In practice, the peptic and tonic effects of Biberine appear to be produced without causing at the same time the headache, giddiness, and ringing in the ears, which often accompany the exhibition of quinia. Hence, with patients with whom quinia disagrees, it becomes an exceedingly useful substitute.
In febrifugal and in anti-periodic properties Bibiru bark appears, however, to be inferior to the Peruvian drug.
It is distinctly stated at the same time by Dr. Rodie that biberine, when properly administered, generally cures intermittents which quinine has failed to remove, and that it appears not to affect the head, and not to produce its effects by counter-morbid action, in the way that the alka-, loids derived from the cinchonas usually do, or are supposed to do.
Both bibiru bark and the sulphate of biberine have been exhibited as a peptic in anorexia and in dyspepsia; also as a general tonic where the constitution is debilitated; as in protracted phthisis, and strumous affections. As a febrifuge, bibiru has been employed both in intermittent and remittent complaints. As an anti-periodic it has also been resorted to in headaches requiring such a medicine, and also in intermittent neuralgias.
Preparations And Dose. - The dose of the sulphate of biberine is from one to three grains, when employed as a tonic; and from five to twenty grains, when given as a febrifuge. In substance, bibiru is given in pills, prepared with conserve of roses.