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.
Cascarilla is the bark of Croton Eleuteria, a small West India shrub, inhabiting especially the Bahamas, and abundant in the little island of Eleuteria, from which it derived its name.
It is in small quills or pieces of quills, from three or four inches long and half an inch in diameter, down to the smallest fragment. Sometimes it is in pieces curved longitudinally, and appearing as if shaved from the stem, having now and then portions of the wood attached to their inner surface. Externally the bark is invested with a whitish or grayish-white epidermis, which, however, is sometimes wanting, in which case the surface of the proper bark presents a dark-brown colour. The inner surface is of a chocolate colour, and the fracture, which is short and abrupt, is reddish-brown. The odour is agreeably aromatic, and increased by friction; the taste, warm, spicy, and bitter. When burnt, the bark emits an odour, resembling that of musk, though not so strong, and more agreeable. On this account, it is used for fumigation; and smokers sometimes add it to their tobacco. It yields its virtues to water or alcohol, but more completely, it is said, to a mixture of the two.
Active Constituents. These are a peculiar bitter principle, called cas-carillin, and a volatile oil, which is abundant, and may be obtained by distillation.
The first account of the use of cascarilla dates as far back as about the year 1 Goo. It was for a time a very popular remedy in Europe, having been seized upon, as a substitute for bark, by many who were prejudiced against that medicine; and its febrifuge virtues were for some time in high esteem. It came, however, at length to be estimated at its true value; and at present is considered nothing more than a mild aromatic tonic, usually acceptable to the stomach, and, in consequence of the predominance of its aromatic properties, deserving perhaps better to rank in that division of the tonics, than among the bitters. When smoked in connection with tobacco, it is said to have induced vertigo and intoxication; but, admitting this effect, which, however, is doubtful, it must be ascribed, not to the cascarilla itself, but to its empyreumatic product. The strong resemblance of its odour, when burned, to that of musk, would justify an attempt to collect the volatile products resulting from its combustion, and to ascertain whether they might not also imitate that powerful antispasmodic in its effects on the system.
The bark is used chiefly in debilitated states of the stomach and bowels, as in dyspepsia, flatulence, and diarrhoea and dysentery connected with weakness or relaxation of the bowels, or in the convalescence from these affections. It is a good addition to more powerful tonics.
M. Follemberg, a European veterinary surgeon, has found cascarilla to exercise a powerful influence, in the lower animals, in promoting a flow of milk after the birth of their first young. He gives to a mare, in twenty-four hours, about two ounces of the powder incorporated with meal. In greatly reduced doses, it may possibly prove equally useful in the puerperal woman whose milk is retained. (Ann. de Therap., a.d. 1863, p. 84).
The dose of the powder is from ten to thirty grains. The Infusion (Infusum CascarilLae, U. S.) is made by macerating an ounce of the coarsely powdered root in a pint of boiling water, or by percolation in similar proportions with cold water; and is given in doses of two fluid-ounces, repeated as customary with tonic medicines. A Tincture (Tinc-tura CascarillaE, Br.) is directed by the British Pharmacopoeia, and may be added to stomachic or purgative infusions in the quantity of one or two fluidrachms.