In the Portuguese language, raijs de Mosambique.
It is produced in Asia, from whence it was trans-3 O 2 planted to Columbo, a town in the island of Ceylon, and from whence all the East Indies are supplied with it.
The plant is not known; but from a note in Commer-son's Herbal, it appears probable that it is a species of the menispermum, which he styled palmated, not known to Linnaeus. It is bristled with hair, has leaves with five lobes, often palmated; the base at the heart and the lobes are often sharp pointed.
It is brought into Europe in circular pieces of different sizes, some of which are three inches diameter; its sides are covered with a thick wrinkled bark, of a dark brown hue externally; when cut transversely, they exhibit a large central disk, with brown. streaks, and yellow points. The root consists of three laminae; viz. the cortical, which in the larger pieces is a quarter of an inch thick; the ligneous, which is about half an inch; and the medullary, which forms the middle, and is near an inch in diameter. This last is softer than the other parts, and, when chewed, seems to be very mucilaginous. Many small fibres run longitudinally through it. The cortical and ligneous parts are divided by a circular black line.
It hath an aromatic smell, but is disagreeably bitter, and slightly pungent to the taste; is supposed to be almost a specific in the cholera morbus, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, bilious fever, indigestion, and most other disorders of the stomach and bowels. It is slightly sedative, corroborant, and antiseptic. The bark resists the putrefaction of animal flesh; and the root exceeds it in preserving the bile from putridity, or in correcting the putrescency which has already commenced. As it is not heating, it may be used in hectic fevers. A tincture of this root in brandy is a very useful remedy for moderating the retchings during the first months of pregnancy. Dr. Cullen says it is a strong and agreeable bitter, and he has employed it in many instances of dyspepsia with great advantage. In checking vomiting it has frequently succeeded; but he has found it to fail even where there seemed to be a redundancy of bile; nor, in correcting the acrimony and putrescency of the bile, has it appeared more powerful than other bitters.
It may be given in powder from ten grains to two drachms, but the common dose is from fifteen to thirty grains, every three or four hours; and in bilious cases it should be joined with an equal part of vitriolated kali. The powder has been applied to ulcers, which, by common remedies, cannot be brought to a healing state; and Mr. Home thinks it next in efficacy, for this purpose, to rhubarb; nay, when rhubarb begins to lose its effect, columbo will frequently renew the healing process, and ultimately be successful.
Distilled with spirit, it sends over little of its taste or smell; but the extract, made by evaporating its decoction in rectified spirit of wine, is better than the root itself in powder: about two thirds of this root is obtained in the spirituous extract.
The London college order the following preparation of the tincture of columbo: Take of columbo root, powdered, two ounces and a half; proof spirits of wine, two pints; digest for eight days, and strain: one or two drachms, or more, may be taken repeatedly in mint water, or in an infusion of orange peel: the last renders it the most grateful. It powerfully and speedily relieves those colic pains which arise from flatulence or indigestion.
The extract of columbo root is made by digesting twelve ounces of columbo root in powder four days, in three pints of rectified spirit of wine. After filtering this tincture, the residuum is boiled repeatedly in different waters, until it yields little or no taste to the liquor. The decoction is then strained and evaporated until six pints only remain: this is evaporated in a vapour bath: and, when nearly finished, the tincture is added, and the whole reduced to the consistence of a pill.
See Cullen's Mat. Med. Percival's Essays Medical and Experimental, vol. i. ed. 2. Notes to Sydenham by Wallis, vol. iv. p. 221.