Ipecacuaniia, a name given by the aborigines of Brazil to various roots which possess emetic properties. The root thus designated in the pharmacopoeias does not appear to be one of these, but of the cephaelis ipecacuanha, called poaya in Brazil, a small plant of the natural order rubiaceae, suborder cinchonaceae. It grows in the thick and shady woods of Brazil and Colombia, flowering in January and February, at which season the root is collected by the native Indians and taken to the chief ports for exportation. The pieces are a few inches long and of the size of straws, much bent and sometimes branched, and in the genuine article always knotted on the surface by rings and depressions which have given it the designation of annulated. The central portion is ligneous, and possesses the virtue of the plant in a much less degree than the cortical covering of the root. The different colors of this portion, sometimes red, brown, or gray, have led to the mistake of referring the root to different varieties of the plant according to these colors. The alkaloid principle, called emetia, has been separated in an impure state from the cortical part of the brown root in the proportion of 16 per cent., and from the red of 14 per cent.
This principle, to which the emetic property of the plant is owing, is hardly to be obtained pure, but is probably a salt, the alkaloid uniting with many acids to form crystallizable salts. It appears as a white powder without odor, and of slightly bitter taste. The root of psychotria emetica, growing in Peru and Colombia, has been known as ipecacuanha striata, and the root of various species of Richardsonia as I. undulata. Various species of ionidium produce white ipecac. All of these roots are emetic, and the I. striata and I. undulata have been found to contain emetia. The British government has made successful experiments in raising ipecacuanha in India, and supplies of the drug will probably hereafter be furnished by that country. The first plants were propagated at the Edinburgh botanic garden and sent out in Wardian cases, but they have since been propagated in India. The plant is readily multiplied by cuttings of the rhizome, but is of exceedingly slow growth. - Ipecacuanha was introduced into medical practice in Europe by John Helvetius, grandfather of the celebrated author of that name, and with such success that a large sum of money and public honors were bestowed by Louis XIV. upon the physician for giving publicity to the remedy, which he had kept secret.
In large doses it is an active and quick but mild emetic; in smaller, a diaphoretic and expectorant; and in still smaller, a stimulant to the stomach. It acts when injected into the blood as well as when given by the stomach, and is consequently entitled to be called a specific emetic. In very large doses it diminishes the rapidity of the pulse. Animals may be killed by it. It is used not only to empty the stomach, but also in small doses in diseases of the bowels especially dysentery and diarrhoea. When first introduced into European practice, it was known as radix antidysenterica. Ipecac is employed also in affections of the respiratory organs, especially in croup and the bronchitis of children. Its preparations are, besides the powder, a wine, fluid extract, and sirup. It is combined with opium in Dover's powder. The dose of ipecacuanha as an emetic is 20 grs. or more; as an expectorant, 1/2 gr. to 2 grs. The dose of the wine varies from a few drops to a tablespoonful, according to the indications of the case.
The sirup is weaker than the wine.