Salep (Persian, sahaleb), a substance consisting of the dried bulbs of various species of orchis, and other plants of the same family. Any of the tuberous-rooted orchids afford it, and it is ascribed to more than a dozen species, natives of different countries from England to India. It is known in commerce by the country rather than by the plant producing it; it is chiefly supplied through Smyrna. Some species have roundish and others lobed tubers, which when taken up are stripped of their epidermis and plunged in boiling water or dried in an oven, after which they are strung together in bunches. In drying they form small, oval, irregular masses, hard, horny, semi-transparent, of a yellowish color, feeble odor, and mild mucilaginous taste. It is used in a powdered state, in which it is also sometimes kept. Salep has long been in use in oriental countries, where it has for ages been regarded as able to restore virility; but at best it is only an article of diet of no special value.
Orchis mascula, one of the plants furnishing Salep.
It contains a small proportion of starch, and 48 per cent. of a peculiar mucilage more nearly allied to cellulose than to gum; it will convert 40 parts of water into a thick jelly; small amounts of sugar and albumen are also present. Salep is hardly known to Americans; druggists keep it to supply the wants of Europeans, who use it in a decoction flavored with spice, wine, and sugar.