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.
Origin and Properties. Rhatany is the root of Krameria triaiidra, a shrub growing in Peru. It is usually in long, cylindrical pieces, from the size of a straw, to half an inch or more in diameter, sometimes in the form of radicles attached to a short, thick, common head. The root consists of a reddish-brown bark, in which the virtues chiefly reside, and of an interior lighter-coloured, but still reddish ligneous portion. It yields a reddish powder, is inodorous, but of a slight peculiar smell in decoction, and has a bitter, very astringent, and slightly sweetish taste. Its virtues are extracted by water and alcohol, but are impaired by boiling. The infusion and tincture are reddish-brown.
Active Constituents Its chief active principle is a variety of tannic acid, somewhat peculiar in properties, affording a deep grayish-brown precipitate with the salts of sesquioxide of iron, and converted by oxidation, especially at an elevated temperature, into an inert apotheme. It contains, also, bitter extractive, which may have tonic virtues; and a peculiar acid called krameric, for which some influence over the system has been claimed, but of which little is known.
Its chemical reactions are the same essentially as those of the other vegetable astringents in general.
Ejects on the System. Rhatany combines the effects of a powerful astringent with those of a gentle tonic, and does not, in these respects, differ observably from kino and catechu. Like these, also, it may operate less forcibly, through the route of the circulation, than the tannic acid of galls or the astringents containing it; because its active principle, instead of being converted by oxidation into gallic acid, which is at once absorbable and astringent, becomes under that process an insoluble and inert apotheme. But this view of its action on the system must be considered as somewhat theoretical.
Rhatany has been employed for all the purposes of the vegetable astringents generally, and may be considered as identical in its therapeutic application, both internal and external or topical, with kino and catechu. To mention, therefore, in this place, the several affections for which it has been recommended would be mere repetition. There is one use of it, however, which requires special notice; as, though there can be little doubt that either of the astringents just mentioned would answer the same purpose, yet they have not been put so fully as rhatany to the test of experiment. The use referred to is in the cure of that most painful and obstinate affection, known by the name of fissure of the anus. M. Bretonneau found injections of kra-meria an almost certain remedy in that complaint; and his experience has been confirmed by that of M. Trousseau. The injection employed by him consisted of a drachm and a half of the extract of rhatany, dissolved in five fluidounces of water, to which about a fluidrachm of the tincture of rhatany was added. This was administered daily, the rectum having been previously cleared out by an enema of warm water, or some mucilaginous fluid The patient usually experienced relief in the course of a week, and was effectually cured in two or three weeks. In the use of the remedy, the pains are at first sometimes aggravated; but this should not prevent a perseverance with it. Great care must be taken, after the cure, to keep the evacuations, by means of laxatives if necessary, in a soft state, so as to prevent a reproduction of the fissures. MM. Trousseau and Blache have employed the same remedy, with great benefit, in the treatment of fissures and excoriations of the nipple in nursing women. They first wash the part with a liquid consisting of 5 parts of the extract, 10 of the tincture, and 100 of water, and then introduce into the fissures the extract brought into a proper consistence by means of the white of eggs.
The dose of the powdered root might be from a scruple to a drachm; but the medicine is seldom used in this form. The most elegant preparation, and one of the most useful of all the vegetable astringents, is the officinal Extract (Extractum Krameriae, U. S.), prepared according to the directions of our national code. The dose of it is from ten to twenty grains. The Tincture of Rhatany (Tinctcra Kra-meriae, U.S.), and Syrup of Rhatany (Syrupus Krameriae, U.S.), are also officinal preparations, the former of which is given in the dose of one or two fluidrachms, and the latter, which is especially adapted for children, in that of half a fluidounce for an adult, and twenty or thirty minims for a child a year or two old.