This section is from the book "A Treatise On Therapeutics, And Pharmacology Or Materia Medica Vol1", by George B. Wood. Also available from Amazon: Part 1 and Part 2.
This is the bark of the Galipea officinalis of Hancock, a small tree growing in the interior of South America, on the banks of the Orinoco, It is taken first to the town of Angustura upon the Orinoco, and thence to the West Indies, whence it enters into general commerce.
It is in pieces of various length, usually short, slightly rolled or nearly flat, thin, with edges pared obliquely, externally covered with a soft, yellowish-gray or whitish epidermis, internally yellowish, and when pulverized yielding a pale-yellow powder. It has a peculiar odour becoming fainter with age, and a bitter, slightly aromatic, and adhesive taste, leaving a sense of pungency on the end of the tongue.
Active Constituents. These appear to be a peculiar bitter principle soluble in water and alcohol, called angusturin or cusparin, a hard bitter resin, a soft acrid resin, and a volatile oil; but it may be questioned whether the bitter resin referred to may not owe its taste to an unsepa-rated portion of the proper bitter principle. The soft resin is probably the oxidized volatile oil.
Angustura was employed by the aborigines, who appear to have made it known to the early settlers. From the continent it passed to the West Indies; and was not introduced into Europe till about ninety years since. Its effects on the system are those of a stimulant tonic, in small doses acceptable to the stomach, but in larger apt to vomit and purge. Its tonic property depends probably on the bitter principle, the stimulant on the volatile oil. It has no special influence on the brain or nervous system. In South America and the West Indies, it has been used as a substitute for cinchona in intermittent and remittent fevers, and is said to have proved very efficacious in the malignant bilious fevers of those latitudes. Experience in Europe and this country has not proved favourable to its claims as an antiperiodic, and it probably possesses no peculiar property of this kind. Though it has succeeded in arresting some slight cases of ague and fever, which almost anything capable of impressing the system at all will occasionally do, yet in the more obstinate kinds it has failed, and can be certainly relied upon in none. Another application made of it has been to the treatment of bilious diarrhoea and dysentery, as they occur in tropical countries; and it may have been useful as a tonic and stimulant in some of those cases: but, in the diseases as they occur with us, it would in general probably do more harm than good. It is little used in this country.
It may be given in powder, in the dose of from ten to thirty grains. The Infusion (Infusum Angusturae, U. S.) is, however, preferred. It is made by macerating half an ounce with a pint of boiling water; or, in essentially the same proportions, by percolation with cold water; and given in the dose of two fluidounces, three or four times a day. The Tincture is no longer officinal. The dose of it, as formerly prepared, was one or two fluidrachms.
False Angustura Bark. Under this name, a bark, now believed to be the product of Strychnos Nux Vomica, has sometimes been sold for genuine Angustura bark, with fatal consequences. This could happen only before attention had been called to the subject. Such a mistake would be unpardonable now; for there is little real resemblance between the two barks, and it is only necessary that the slightest caution should be observed. In this country, I do not think that the substitution has ever taken place. I have never seen false Angustura bark in the United States, except parcels which have been sent hither as specimens. It is not used in medicine, but, containing a large proportion of brucia, and probably also strychnia, it might be employed for the extraction of those principles.