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.
Galls are excrescences upon the young branches of Quercus infectoria, a small tree growing in Asia Minor, Syria, Persia, and other parts of central Asia. They result from punctures in the tender shoots, made by an insect, which deposits its egg in the puncture. They are brought from the Levant and India.
Sensible Properties. Galls are spherical, varying in bulk from the size of a pea to that of a large cherry, studded with small tuberosities, but smooth in the intervals; of a dark-bluish, greenish, gray, or yellowish-white colour; inodorous, and of a bitter, very astringent taste.
Varieties. There arc two varieties, one denominated blue, green, or black galls, the other white galls. The former are smaller, harder, more compact, relatively heavier, and of a darker colour than the latter, and, having been gathered before the escape of the insect into which the deposited egg has become developed, have no hole leading to their interior. The white galls are large, light, frequently hollow in the centre, generally of a dirty yellowish-white colour, with a round perforating hole in their surface, through which the insect has escaped; and are much inferior in astringency to the other variety.
These are tannic acid, of the variety which forms bluish-black precipitates with the salts of the sesquioxide of iron; gallic acid; and probably a distinct bitter principle. It is the tannic acid upon which the virtues of the medicine chiefly depend. Galls impart their active properties to water and alcohol.
Incompatibles. A strong infusion yields precipitates with concentrated muriatic and sulphuric acids; lime-water; the carbonates of po-tassa and ammonia;. the soluble salts of iron, manganese, lead, and copper; the nitrates of silver and mercury; tartar emetic; the infusions of all vegetable substances which contain an organic alkali, as opium, ipecacuanha, Peruvian bark, etc., and of various other active vegetable medicines, as columbo and digitalis; and solutions of starch, albumen, and gelatin.
As galls contain a very large proportion of the astringent principle, they are among the most powerful medicines belonging to the class. Their effects are those already described in the general observations on astringents; but they exercise also some tonic influence, probably connected with their bitterness.
Though not less efficacious than other astringents, in the diseases in which simple astringency is indicated, they are little used internally; and of late have been almost entirely superseded by the tannic acid extracted from them, which has their astringent virtues, in a concentrated state, without their bitterness-They are, however, occasionally used in diarrhoea; and may be advantageously employed in obstinate flatulence and tympanites, dependent upon an atonic state of the stomach and bowels. I have, in this affection, prescribed with great apparent benefit an infusion of galls and fennel-seed, made in the proportion of half an ounce of the former, and two drachms of the latter, to a pint of boiling water, and given in the dose of a small wineglassful three times a day. It probably acts, in the correction of flatulence, in some degree, by constringing the capillaries, and preventing the evolution of gaseous matter from the blood.
Galls have been recommended as an antidote to the vegetable alkaloids, and the medicines containing them, as opium, belladonna, stramonium, hyoscyamus, conium, and nux vomica, upon the supposition that, the tannates of these principles being insoluble in water, they are rendered less active by the combination. But it has been shown that. in respect to one at least of these alkaloids, namely quinia, the tannate is scarcely if at all less efficacious than the soluble salts; and the same is probably true of all of them. Galls should not, therefore, be relied on as an antidote in any case of poisoning with these organic alkalies, whether isolated or in their native state of combination; and, if exhibited at all, should be used merely as an adjuvant to measures calculated to evacuate the poison from the stomach and bowels. The same may be said of their presumed efficacy in cases of poisoning from tartar emetic; at least this antimonial has been repeatedly known to vomit actively, when prescribed, in the ordinary emetic dose, in connection with substances containing tannic acid.
The dose of powdered galls is from ten to twenty grains, which may be given three or four times a day. An infusion, made in the proportion of an ounce to a pint of boiling water, may be administered as often in the dose of a wineglassful.
The officinal Tincture (Tinctura GallAe, U.S.) is more used as a chemical test than as a medicine, but may be given in the dose of from one to three fluidrachms. By time and exposure the tannic acid contained in it is apt to be converted into gallic acid; and its virtues, whether as a test or as a medicine, may be thus impaired.
A powerfully astringent preparation was much used, in obstinate cases of diarrhoea, by the late Drs. Physick and Parrish, of this city made by introducing into a cup two or three drachms of coarsely powdered galls, pouring over the powder three or four fluidounces of brandy, putting upon iron skewers placed near each other over the top of the cup several pieces of loaf sugar, then setting fire to the brandy, and allowing it to burn until the alcohol was so far consumed that it would burn no longer. The sugar was melted in the flames, and, falling into the liquid, made a rich syrup, which was carefully poured off from the dregs, and given in the dose of a fluidrachm.
Externally galls are much and efficaciously employed. In the form of infusion, prepared as above mentioned, the medicine may be used as a gargle in chronic angina and relaxed uvula, as an injection in gleet, leucorrhoea, and prolapsus of the uterus and rectum; and as a lotion in piles and flabby ulcers. A strong decoction, made by boiling an ounce and a half of galls, for fifteen minutes, in half a pint of water, and filtering, has been strongly recommended in chilblains, with or without ulceration; being applied two or three times daily to the diseased surface.
The Ointment of Galls (Unguentum GallAe, U. S.), made by rubbing one part of powdered galls with seven parts of lard, is an excellent local application in piles, prolapsus ani, and flabby and indolent ulcers; and may be rendered still more efficacious, in the two former affections, particularly when in an irritated state, if combined with a little powdered opium, as in the Unguentum Gallae cum Opio of the British Pharmacopoeia, which contains thirty-two grains to each avoirdupois ounce of the simple ointment of galls, equivalent very nearly to thirty-five grains to the troyounce.
Two officinal preparations considerably used are made from galls, namely, tannic and gallic acids.