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No. 8: Alstonia constricta,


A "Bitter Bark."

(Natural Order APOCYNEÆ.)

Botanical description

— Genus, Alstonia, R.Br.

Calyx. — Without any or with minute glands.

Corolla-tube. — Cylindrical, more or less swollen round the anthers, the lobes spreading, contorted in the bud, the throat without scales.

Ovary. — Of two distinct carpels united by the style.

Stigma. — Ovoid or conical.

Ovules. — Numerous; in about four rows in each carpel.

Fruit. — Of two long linear follicles.

Seeds. — Oblong, compressed, peltately attached, bordered with hairs of which those of each end are usually very long; albumen scanty.

Trees or tall shrubs with a milky juice.

Leaves. — In whorls of three or more, or, in a few species, opposite.

Flowers. — In terminal corymbose cymes, usually one in the axil. of each leaf of the terminal whorl.

Bracts. — Small.

Botanical description

— Species, A. stricta, F.v.M., Fragm. i, 57.

A small shrub or tree attaining sometimes 40 feet, quite glabrous.

Leaves. — Opposite, on long petioles, mostly oblong-lanceolate, but varying from almost ovate to narrow- lanceolate, acute or acuminate, the primary veins distant, oblique, and not very prominent, 3 to 5 inches long.

Flowers. — Numerous, in corymbose cymes, either solitary and terminal or two together in the forks of the branches and shorter than the leaves.

Calyx-segments. — Ovate, almost acute, about 1/2 line long, with a few minute and irregular glands at the base inside.

Corolla-tube. — About 1 line long, glabrous, or slightly bearded inside at the base, the right-hand edges overlapping in the bud.

Follicles. — From 3 to 4 inches to twice that length.note

Seeds. — Linear, flat or concave, pubescent, 4 to 6 lines long, ciliate with long hairs at the upper end and shorter ones at the lower end. (B.Fl., iv. 314)

Botanical Name

— Alstonia, in honor of Dr. Charles Alston, Professor of Medicine and Botany in the University of Edinburgh from 1740 to 1761; constricta, Latin, the top of the corolla-tube being, constricted.

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Vernacular Names

— "Fever Bark," "Bitter Bark," "Quinine Park," all in allusion to the bitter taste. It is known as "Whitewood" on the Herbert River, Queensland.

Aboriginal Name

— The native name of the tree at the Clarence was "Lecambil," according to the late Mr. J. F. Wilcox, of Grafton, quoted by the late Dr. George, Bennett, in Journ. Bot., v. 150. "Lacimbie" is Mr. Charles Moore's spelling in the Catalogue New South Wales Timbers, London Exhibition, 1862.


— This yellowish-brown, often thick and deeply-fissured bark, is intensely bitter, and possesses valuable febrifugal and tonic properties. It is quoted in London drug lists. A decoction is sometimes sold in the colonies as "bitters." It has been stated that it is used by some English brewers of pale ale for export, as it produces neither headaches nor other ill effects of hops. I have heard of its use by foreign brewers. It tastes remarkably like Cinchona bark, and seems to partake somewhat of the properties of both quinine and strychnine. This drug is undoubtedly worthy of careful experiments by medical men.

From a pamphlet prepared by Dr. Joseph Bancroft, of Brisbane, for the Colonial and Indian Exhibition, 1886, I cull the following particulars in regard to his observations. He obtained the bark from near Dalby, Queensland, some time after 1868: —

It gives out to water and alcohol a yellowish principle, intensely bitter, and not easily made to assume any crystalline form. When the tincture is poured into water, the mixture becomes fluorescent, and excepting a slight yellowness, is not easily distinguished either by colour or taste from a solution of quinine. Its utility as a general tonic is established beyond all doubt. Indeed, if any powers are left, a debilitated stomach will respond to Alstonia. Alstonia has been used in the earlier stages of typhoid fever with considerable success. No unfavourable symptoms are produced by it, but patients complain of a bitter taste in the month, remarking that they consider themselves bilious. After fifteen years' experience of the use of Alstonia the writer is of opinion that there is no better or more generally useful tonic. The tincture made with 3 oz. of the bark to a pint of proof spirit is the form generally used, the dose being from five to ten drops. The powder in grain doses, made up with extract of liquorice, forms a convenient tonic pill. An alcoholic extract made by Mr. Staiger is a much more powerful remedy, but experiments are wanting to determine its special utility.

This action of Alstonia bark is described in a letter from Dr. A. W. Bixby to the Therapeutic Gazette (Detroit, U.S.A.), December, 1880, p. 369, as follows: —

Alstonia constricta (F.v.M.) has a wide range of application and action as a medicine. Its action resembles in many respects the combined action of quinine and nux vomica. It is an antiperiodic of the highest type, giving better satisfaction, to my mind, than quinine or cinchonidine. It is a cerebro-spinal stimulant and tonic; acts positively upon the great sympathetic nerve centres, and consequently increases positively and permanently the vital forces of the entire system. I prepare the system for its use by the administration of the proper sedative; then Alstonia seldom fails. Where quinine fails in chronic cases Alstonia often effects a speedy cure.

He further states: —

In typhoid, synochal, and puerperal fevers, where an antiseptic and nerve tonic is demanded, it answers well. I used it in the treatment of about seventy-five such cases last fall, and with the happiest results. In recent colds or coryza it is an excellent remedy. At the beginning of an attack of this annoying trouble two grain doses of the powder every two hours gives prompt relief. The whole system is soon reinvigorated; the secretions and excretions, which have been more or less suppressed, are re-established, and the patient is all right and feels well.

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He concludes: —

I believe it will become a favourite with all who test it.

I have heard that the bark of A. constricta has been used as a remedy for worms in sheep with "splendid" results.

The bark contains, according to C. Palm, Kopp u. Will Jahresb., 1863 ("Rinde eines australischen, der Faimilie der Apocyneen angehorenden Baumes") Wolff, Aschen Analysen, i., 128. A neutral resinous bitter principle, called by him alstonin, similar to cailcedrin and tulututin, a volatile oil, smelling like camphor, an iron-greening tannin, gum, resin, fat, wax, protein substance, oxalic acid, and citric acid. The ash amounted to 6.06 per cent. of the bark, and an analysis of it is quoted in Watts' Dict., vi., 1st suppt. 101.

Mueller and Rummel, in Wittstein's Organic Constituents of Plants, gives the following account of Alstonin, the alkaloid of the bark of Alstonia constricta: —

Alstonin differs from ditamine chiefly by its behaviour towards concentrated acids, and by its fluorescence, which has not been recorded of the other alkaloid.

The correctness of the above results has been disputed by Hesse, who expressed the opinion that the supposed alkaloid was a mixture of chlorogenine and porphyrine. (Ber. 1878, p. 2175.)

In June, 1879, Oberlin and Schlagdenhauffennote announced the isolation of two alkaloids from this bark, a crystallisable and an amorphous one. They found the bark to be soluble in ether to the extent of 1.038 per cent., and to this ethereal extract their attention was confined. In Pharm. Journ. [3], ix., 1059, is an abstract of their paper, and an account is given not only of the method of preparing these alkaloids, but also of their physical and chemical properties. The crystalline alkaloid occurring in silky tufts of brilliant, colourless, isolated, or stellate crystals, is styled alstonine,note while an amorphous nitrogenous residue, possessing alkaloid properties, obtained by spontaneous evaporation from the mother liquor, which yielded alstonine, is provisionally, termed alstonicine.

In 1881 an exhaustive research on this bark was contributed by Hesse to the Annalen der Chemie, ccv., 360, of which a careful abstract appears in the Pharm. Journ. [3], xi., 775. Palm's alstonin (notwithstanding the alleged absence of nitrogen) was shown by Hesse to consist essentially of an alkaloid which he had obtained from the bark, and called chlorogenine; but as Palm's name had priority, Hesse called the alkaloid alstonine; but unfortunate confusion has arisen in Mueller and Rummel and Oberlin and Schlagdenhauffen (vide supra) also having given so descriptive a name to substances of different composition. The abstract above referred to gives a very lucid account of the overlapping of various researches, and shows how the different products obtained by different observers may be reconciled.

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After this necessary preliminary statement, Hesse gives a full account of the, preparation and properties of the alkaloids found by him. They are:—

1. Alstonine (synonymous with chlorogene, and probably identical with Palm's alstonin). It is a brown, amorphous mass, which can be rubbed to a brownish-yellow powder. Merck (Byulletin, i, 5) speaks of this alkaloid as forming white, lustrous, silk-like crystals, easily soluble in ether, chloroform, or alcohol. It is nearly insoluble in cold water, somewhat soluble in hot water, to which it imparts an intensely bitter taste. It is an antiperiodic, antiseptic, and stimulant, thus uniting the properties of quinine and strychnine. It is employed in typhoid and lacteal fevers.

2. Porphyrine, a white powder found in very small quantity.

3. Porphyrosine, the examination of which is not yet complete.

4. Alstonidine, consisting of colourless, concentrically-grouped needles.

Hesse believes that this list by no means completely enumerates the alkaloids obtainable from this interesting bark.

It is one of the very few Australian barks which have, up to the present, been exhaustively examined. For a list of the researches on the subject see P. 21 of my "Bibliography of Australian Economic Botany (1892)."

There is also a paper in Annalen der Chemie, ccv., 360-371, abstracted in Year-book of Pharmacy, 1881, p. 172.

The list of substances obtained from Alstonia barks (including A. scholaris) are enumerated by Sohn at pp. 7 and 108, and comprise the alkaloids Alstonine; Ditamine, Echitamine, Echitenine, Porphyrine, and Alstonidine; also the non-alkaloidal, non-glucosidal Echitin, the wax-like Echicerin, and the aromatic body Echiretin.

As the bark is described in the Indian and Colonial Addendum to the Pharmacopœia (pp. 4 and 5), it may not be out of place to reproduce. the description here.

The bark of A. constricta is usually in curved pieces or qiulls which may have a width of 2 1/2 inches (64mm.) or more, and 1/2 inch (12 mm) in thickness. It is covered with a thick periderm varying from 1/10 to 1/4 inch (2 1/2 to 6 mm.) in thickness, of a rusty brown colour, strongly rugose, and marked with large deeply-fissured reticula. It sometimes bears small white foliaceous lichens. Internally, the bark is of a cinnamon brown colour, and is marked with coarse longitudinal strive. On transverse section, the bark exhibits the dark brown periderm, covering the inner orange-brown tissues, in which may be observed with a lens numerous small shining particles. The fracture is short and granular in the outer layers, but fibrous in the liber portion. It has a faint aromatic odour, and a very bitter taste.

Following is the most recent research, from a therapeutic point of view. I have condensed the papernote somewhat: —

The genus is peculiar to tropical countries, and the sap of all the species contain caoutchouc or some body allied to caoutchouc. A. plumosa and other species yield the body known as Fiji rubber. Only three species interest us, namely, A. scholaris, A. spectabilis, and A. constricta.

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A. scholaris, R.Br. (Echites scholaris, Linn.), is a native of India, the Malay Archipelago, and tropical Australia. The wood of this tree has received the name lignum scholare on account of the slabs of the close-grained wood being used as school slates, the letters being traced upon them in sand. In Ceylon this light wood is used in making coffins. This tree which, as already mentioned, is widely diffused, attains a height of 50 to 80 feet, and has a furrowed trunk.

The Bark is known by the names dita bark, devil bark, and by the Indian names pali-mara, lutiana, chatin, and satwin. It is found in irregular fragments of 1/8 to 1/2 inch thick, and of a somewhat spongy texture, and having a coarse fracture. The outer surface is unevenly rough, and of a brownish-grey colour, while the internal layer is bright buff. It is important to bear these descriptions in mind, for several specimens have hitherto, been placed on the market which are readly A. spectabilis. The bark is not nearly so bitter as the barks from A. spectabilis and A. constricta. It has no aromatic, nor, in fact, any odour, and in this respect it differs from A. constricta. Underneath the rough external surface are cream-coloured patches which often peel off in flakes, and, indeed, two of the specimens I have are entirely made up of these cream-coloured patches. Mr. Holmes says he has often seen A. scholaris bark like these peelings, but really they are only part of the bark.

Chemical Tests for the Bark. — (1) If strong H2S04 be applied to the inner layer of A. scholaris bark, a bright red colour is soon developed (ditamine test), which in a very short time changes to a dirty brown. This is a beautiful test if carefully applied. Should the inner layer happen to be blackened by dirt or age, carefully scrape away the dirt, then apply a drop of clear pure sulphuric acid to the clean spot. Wait one minute, remove the acid, by drawing the cleansed finger once across the acid, and if the bright red colour has not then developed, it will do so in a very few minutes. (Compare with A. constricta bark.) At first the colour often appears in small dots the size of a pin point, and then becomes general. Note. — The colour soon changes to dirty brown or some dark shade. (2.) Strong nitric acid applied to a similar surface gives very soon a yellowish spot (not bright red as in the case of A. constricta bark). If some of the nitric acid happens to have run in between the outer and inner layers, spots of dark blue may be seen. (1) Tincture of iodine gives a black spot (compare with A. constricta).

Chief Constituents. — O. Hesse found three alkaloids ditamine, echitamine and echitenine. Ditamine has the formula C16H19NO2. It is soluble in most of the fluids employed in exhausting drugs. It is readily soluble in dilute acids. I prepared ditamine or some such alkaloid from A. scholaris by exhausting the powdered bark with boiling methylated spirit, evaporating the spirit to low bulk, and adding very dilute acid to take up the alkaloids. The caoutchouc, which was present in abundance, was removed; then the fluid was filtered, treated with purified and washed animal charcoal to remove the small amount of colouring matters. After filtering a very bitter fluid was obtained. I next added ammonia in excess, and there was thrown down a white precipitate, which was bitter in taste; but not nearly so bitter as alstonine, the alkaloid of A. constricta. This precipitate was washed, dried, and tested for ditamine. With strong H2S04 it gave a bright red changing to various shades of violet on heating. With strong HN03 it gave a yellowish colour. These two tests, taken along with the precipitation from a mixture of all the alkaloids of A. scholaris by excess of ammonia point to ditamine. It is to be remembered that ditamine is white, while alstonine is brown in colour.

Action of Ditamine. — This alkaloid is said to possess an action like curarine — that is, it paralyses the motor nerve endings. I have not experimented with it; but I intend to investigate the exact pharmacology of both ditamine and alstonine.

Therapeutics. — Dita bark was introduced to Professor Christison's notice nearly forty years ago, but I have been unable to find out what he thought of it. The tincture was prepared by Mr. Macfarlan about the same time, so that it has been known in Edinburgh for a long time. Since then it has had ups and downs, but has never been a general favourite. It is, perhaps at best, a good general tonic, which may prove useful in debilitating, diseases.

A. spectabilis, R.Br. (Blaberopus venenatus, De Cand.), yields the poelé bark of Java. It is closely allied to A. scholaris, and the one is sometimes mistaken for the other; but poelé bark is much more bitter — in fact, in this respect, it resembles A. constricta. It yields six times more ditamine than dita. It is a native of Java, Borneo, and the "Challenger" Expedition explorers found it in the South-eastern Moluccas. In that useful manual the "Treasury of Botany" it is stated that in Borneo the wood of a tree allied to A. scholaris is of a white colour near the root, and being very light is used for floats for nets, and household utensils, such as trenchers, corks, &c. This may be A. spectabilis, The two must be very

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much alike, for Robert Brown tells us that so learned a man as Rumphius confused the two species. The Action of poelé bark is the same as dita, only it contains, as I have already mentioned, six times the amount of alkaloid ditamine.

Other species of this genus are met with in South America and the East Indies, and their barks are employed in the treatment of dysentery, diarrhoea, malaria, and debilitating diseases; but they only enjoy a local celebrity.

Alstonia constricta, F.v.M. — The bark is of chief interest to us; specimens vary a good deal in bitterness, and old specimens appear to have lost much of their bitterness. Some specimens have very little periderm.

This leads me to an important point and relates to the question of the wisdom of the compilers of the Addendum in Making no distinction between A. constricta and A. scholaris so far as it deals with the tincture and infusion. The Indian bark may, it is true, be generally employed in India, and the Australian bark in Australasia; but the preparations are sure to be used to some extent in other Colonies and in the home countries, and if a medical man prescribes the tincture or the infusion of Alsionia, it is left to the option of the dispenser to supply what he likes. Now the A. scholaris preparations are light in colour and pleasantly bitter, while the A. constricta preparations are darker and very bitter, and if one pharmacist supplies the first, and his neighbour round the corner supplies the second, the next time the patient has his prescription dispensed, it may lead to confusion. It should be noted that the tincture and infusion are simply called tincture or infusion of alstonia — the specific name is not given. In my opinion the dose of the tincture made from A. constricta is too large. It should be 5 to 20 minims, and not 1/2 to 1 fluid drachm as given in the Addendum. The dose of 1/2 to 1 fluid drachm is appropriate for the A. scholaris preparation.

As to the determination of the relative bitterness of the two barks in a rough way, I do as follows: — I chew the bark and note by the watch the time of the development of the bitter taste, and also its intensity. The bitterness of A. constricta develops in ten seconds at the latest, and is intense; while A. scholaris does not develop bitterness before fifteen seconds at the earliest, and not usually till nearly twenty seconds, and at the end of this time it is only mildly bitter.

Tests applied to the Dry Inner Bark. — The following on being applied to the inner layer of the bark give: — (1) Solution of iodine-mahogany brown (compare dita bark). If a watery infusion be placed in a porcelain dish, and then iodine solution be added thereto and heat applied for ten seconds, a mahogany brown is obtained. On cooling, there may be observed on the bottom of the dish, in parts where the watery portion has evaporated, beautiful puce-coloured masses. (2) Strong FeCL3, no characteristic reaction. (3) Chromic acid solution, no characteristic reaction. (4) Bromine solution, no characteristic reaction. (5) Strong H2SO4, no characteristic reaction. Compare dita. (6) Strong HCL, no characteristic reaction. (7) Strong HNO3, a beautiful garnet red, and not so far removed from the so called blood-red of nux vomica bark. If a watery infusion have added to it a few drops of nitric acid (strong), the same delicate hue resolts, but soon changes to brownish-green. Compare dita.

Active Constituents of the Bark. — There are four alkaloids: (1) alstonine; (2) porphyrine; (3) Porphyrosine; (4) alstonidine. Alstonine, the first, is very bitter, and is the only one of any great importance. Accepting O. Hesse's classification, alstonine is the alkaloid which was formerly known as chlorogenine. Its formula is estimated as C21H20N2O4. This was a brown amorphous powder nearly soluble in chloroform and alcohol, sparingly soluble in water and dilute acids, and insoluble in absolute ether. Some books describe the alkaloid as being of a golden brown colour; but Hesse simply says it is brown. Its solubilities are differently stated in different books. This may be owing to the fact that Alkaloids more or less impure have been employed. My specimen was alkaline to litmus and its watery solution, Yellowish brown, and fluorescent and bitter in the extreme. I tested it carefully with phenylhydrazin for sugar, but failed to get any reaction, so that in all probability there was no admixture of glucoside. It was diflicult to believe that such a brown body did not contain some glucosidal colouring matter. (Peruvian bark is in colour much like bitter bark, and yet its chief alkaloid quinine is quite white.) Alstonine readily forms salts with most acids. I have only experience of the hydrochloride, Which is fairly soluble.

Reactions of Alstonine. — This alkaloid was put through a large number of tests in the hope of finding some characteristic colour or other reaction. Heated with strong HCl, H2SO4, or HNO3, a sweetish odour is developed. Strong H2SO4 by itself gives no particular reaction, but if a small crystal of cane sugar be added, a puce. or garnet results. Like the bile salt tests, it must be carefully carried out in order to ensure success. Strong H2SO4 with a trace of HNO3 gives a brownish red, while HNO3 by

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itself strikes a bright reddish-brown or light brown, according to the accuracy With which the test is applied. Bromine may yield a snuff brown, and iodine a dark pink or garnet. Ammoniated silver nitrate gives nothing in the cold; but when heated, a pinkish colour develops, and when examined by the microscope under alcohols, sheaf-like crystals are seen. In the same way ammoniated sulphate of copper gives irregular tubes. Heat and HCI, with most of the metallic salts in addition, give a purple brown or puce, the antimony reaction being especially beautiful. The purple brown or puce is also obtained with HC1 and bichromate of potassium, while HC1 and chromate of potassium give a greenish-brown HCl and ferrocyanide or ferricyanide of potassium give no particular colour test. These tests require accuracy and experience in application, and I have repeated each one again and again. I may here remark that alstonine costs nearly 4s. a gramme, so that for the present it is outside the range of practical pharmacy and therapeutics.

Pharmacology of Alstonine. — Although pharmacology and therapeutics are not generally disussed at these meetings, yet I find in old numbers of the Journal reference to these subjects at your meetings. Besides the aspect from which I have chiefly studied, the pharmacology of alstonine will, I believe, interest some of you. Let me first state my reasons for following my present line of investigation. Alstonia constricta has been stated to resemble both cinchona and nux vomica- in fact, occupying a position in therapeutics midway between the two. My experiments then were so planned that I might chance to find out the points of resemblance and difference to the two named drugs.

Action on the Small Life of Pond Water and Hay Infusion. — A drop of pond water in a cell and kept at summer temperature was examined by the microscope and found to contain such as Closterium, Vorticella, Paramoecium, Amoeba, and others in active movement. Hay infusion was also placed in another cell and examined, and showed a field teeming chiefly with Paramoecium bounding across the field. These two slides were kept to compare with two similarly prepared slides, to which, however, alstonine alkaloid in solution had been added. The slide of pond water to which has been added 1 in 6,000 alstonine bears a report as follows : — Movements of inhabitants much slowed in fifteen minutes, and all evidently dead in two hours. The animalcules appear to ingest the alstonine, and gradually die, due to coagulation of their protoplasm. When the alstonine is first added, it acts as a stimulant, and the inhabitants rush across the field with increased activity, and even the lazy Amoeba raises himself up; but in a few seconds all is changed, and instead of bounding over the field the Paramoecium moves within a narrower circle, and more slowly, and finally dies. In Rotifera the alstonine seems first to paralyse the fine cilia.

With hay infusion much the same results. A solution equal to 1 in 6,000 of the total mass soon slows the movements, and in fifteen minutes the movements are greatly slowed, and in two and a-half hours only two or three appear alive in a whole field, and they only move with the utmost langour and at long intervals. In three and a-half hours the whole field becomes lifeless. The pigment is seen collected in the centre, leaving a clear rim. At the end of the experiment the two slides, to which no alstonine was added, show their denizens alive and highly active. Alstonine then appears to act like quinine by coagulating the protoplasm, but in its action on amoeba, &c., it is only one quarter as toxic as quinine. Thus there is a sound reason for its employment in the treatment of malaria.

On Frog's Blood. — It is so difficult to keep blood alive for any time in experiments of the kind presently being pursued that my experiments on blood only bear a provisional interpretation. One in 27,000 alstonine in saline solution was found to slow very perceptibly the movements of the ameboid cells.

Action on Beetles. — I next desired to ascertain the action of the alkaloid on life higer than that found in hay infusion and ponds, and to compare it with quinine and strychnine. I selected the common black beetle or cockroach, as it is usually called, but in reality the churchyard beetle (Blaps mortisaga). It is a difficult matter to overcome the disgust of catching and handling this repulsive insect even to one well accustomed to handling frogs and toads. The insect, besides, is not easily caught unengorged, and that is what one wants. He is very lively, and on the first approach of danger makes for his retreat. For my experiments four wide-mouthed bottles were taken, well dried and provided with caps, so that plenty of air was admitted, and each bottle was provided with a tiny flat vessel nearly full of water.

(1.) Contained, besides, cane sugar in powder scattered all over the bottom, for the beetle, although no vegetarian, dearly likes sugar or sweets of any kind. In the midst of this nectarian repast the beetle was planted, and at the end of four days he was evidently enjoying himself when he was killed.

(2.) Contained 1 in 1,000 alstonine alkaloid diluted with powdered cane sugar. At the end of the thirty-six hours the beetle may die, but this is not always the case; he sometimes may live two days. At

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other times one finds him at the end of thirty-six hour so lethargic that he lies and refuses to move even when touched with the blunt end of a piece of stick. In twelve hours the lethargy may wear off, and he, moves a little ; and in twelve hours later the paralysing action of the alstonine has passed off, and he becomes lively, but only for a time, till he evidently has again engorged himself.

(3.) Contained 1 in 5,000 pure strychnine diluted, as in the case of alstonine. Though it may appear strange, it is nevertheless true that strychnine had comparatively little effect on the beetle. At the end of two or even three days he may be as lively as when first caught.

(4.) Contained 1 in 1,000 quinine in sugar, as before. This experiment shows that quinine is more toxic to beetles than either strychnine or alstonine. At the end of twelve hours the beetle is dull, dazed, and unable to walk; and in twelve hours later he lies on his back, and when gently turned over walks feebly, and in thirty-six hours is dead.

Action on Crickets. — In this experiment the house cricket (Acheta domestica) was used. If catching a beetle is ticklish, capturing a live cricket without injuring him is a task nearly as difficult as getting hold of De Wet. You must sit and watch-may be for half an hour-in a dull light till he issues from his lair, and when he has ventured a sufficient distance, and has turned his back upon his place of retreat, you steal up behind him and slowly lower your body so as to rest on your heels, and then as slowly raise your hand so as to get right on the top of him, and then, as swift as lightning, pounce down on him-and then you find he has doubled back and has reached his hole, which he enters with a jubilant and sarcastic chirrup. I found crickets would not take the white sugar or quinine sugar and strychnine sugar, but readily took the nice chocolate brown alstonine sugar. Had the colour anything to do with their dislike? I nicely browned the cane sugar before starting my second set of experiments, and was successful. (1) Plain brown sugar with water trough as in the beetle experiments; crickets lived three days, and were well when they were killed. (2) 1 in 1,000 strychnine; dead generally in eighteen hours. (3) 1 in 1,000 alstonine; appear dead in thirty-six hours, but revive in a few hours, but finally die in fifty- four hours. (4) 1 in 1,000 quinine; experiments too few to be conclusive.

Action on Wasps. — For this the ground wasp (Vespa vulgairis) was principally employed. Catching a wasp is not an easy matter when your desire is to have one wasp in each bottle. You can, by alluring them, get eight wasps in one bottle, but the perversity of the wasp's nature does not allow of eight wasps in eight bottles. You have to catch them by hand. My plan was to wait in a sweet shop in the country about the end of August, put on a thick kid glove, and, when a wasp has comfortably settled down on a sweetmeat, to drop down on him and hold him gently by the head and in such a position that he could not put his body into stinging attitude; and, after having ascertained that he was uninjured, I dropped him into the prepared bottle. Till I got up to his tricks I found a wasp would send his sting so deeply into the thick kid glove that sting and poison gland were pulled away together. With practice a wasp can be so manoeuvred that he is caught without injury. (1) Plain sugar without water; wasps live in this for three to four days and longer, and bore the cork of the bottle actively all the time. (2) 1 in 5,000 strychnine; do not die before two days, and bore the cork actively most of the time. (3) 1 in 1,000 quinine; only live twenty-four hours at, most. (4) 1 in 1,000 alstonine; only live twenty- four hours, and way die in twelve.

Wasps in both the quinine and alstonine sugar bore the cork very lazily, and often lie dazed. Alstonine appears to affect the wasp's equilibrium, for as he walks he often misses his footing.

Action on Frogs. — The frogs were pithed-that is sensibility was destroyed before any experiments were made. The action was found to be rather different from strychnine. The chief action was a marked irritability of the reflexes of the extremities, especially of the upper extremities, so that the, poison evidently acts more directly on the upper. part of the spinal cord,

This work is being carried on, and the results will be published in another quarter.

Therapeutics. — In the Lancet of 9th. February, 1901, I have already expressed my views on this point, and I need only here shortly summarise the same. Alstonia constricta bark is a useful tonic, having some of the advantages of both Peruvian bark and nux vomica, without many of their disadvantages. It is particularly useful in influenza in tincture form and in the dose I have already mentioned. It acts on the skin and kidneys, and so aids in the elimination of the influenzal poisonous products, and thus it can be employed as soon as the acute symptoms have passed off,

  ― 53 ―
Differential Reactions of A. constricta and A. scholaris, when the reagants are applied to the inner layer of the bark—

..  A. contricta.  A. scholaris. 
Strong H2S04  Nothing special.  Beautiful red. 
Strong HN03  Almost blood red.  Yellowish green. 
Tincture of iodine  Brown.  Almost black. 


— Wood of a pale yellow colour, close in grain; warps in drying. (Cat. Queensland Woods, Col. and Ind Exhib., 1886) This tree is largely sacrificed for its medicinal bark, and the timber is not used.


— Diameter, 6-15 inches; height, 30-60 feet.


— This species is apparently confined to New South Wales and Queensland, though it occurs far to the west in both States, e.g., Darling, River, New South Wales. It has not yet been recorded south of Port Jackson. It is found on the northern rivers, and localities connecting the coast and the dry interior are Attunga (R. H Cambage) and Warrumbungle Ranges (W. Forsyth).


Plate 8: A Bitter Bark (Alstonia constricta, F.v.M.) Lithograph by M. Flockton

  • A. Corolla opened out.
  • B. Ovary.
  • C. Unexpanded flower, showing tile constriction of the corolla tube.
  • D. Sessile anthers.
  • E. Follicle.
  • F. Portion of E, enlarged.
  • G, A seed.

Footnotes to Issue No. 8

Supplementary Material Added at the End of Volume 2

No. 8. Part II.

Alstonia constricta, F.v.M.


(Natural Order APOCYNACEÆ.)

Bark. — See vol. i, p. 46.

Alstonia constricta (Fever-bark), of Australia. — This has been woefully abused in the general drug market. Alstonia scholaris, which is utterly unlike the constricia, has been substituted in quantities, whilst we have seen mixtures of wild cherrybark, goa powder, and cinchona that had been powdered and sold under the name Alstonia constricta — (Pharmaceutica1 Review, U.S.A., October, 1905, p. 298.)

Exudation. — It exudes small quantities of a sticky sap. I do not know whether it has been put to any use in this State. The following refers to the closely allied A. scholaris and the Queensland aborigines: —

The sticky exudation on the bark is employed for smearing over the body with which to affix the feather-down, for purpose, of personal decoration. Tully River. — (North Queensland Ethnography, Bulletin No. 7, Dr. Roth.)

Habitat. — See vol. i, p. 53.

Have seen it growing in several places on the Clarence River, not far from Grafton. — (Augustus Rudder.) Acacia Creek, Macpherson Range. — (W. Dunn and J. L. Boorman.)

Supplementary Material Added to Volume 3

No. 8. Part II. Alstonia constricta, F.v.M. A "BITTER BARK." (Family APOCYNACEAE.)

Leaves. — During the last drought, Mr. F. B. Guthrie analysed the leaves of this tree, with the view of ascertaining its fodder-value. Following is his result: —

Water.  Ash.  Fibre.  Ether Extract (Oil,&c)  Albuminoids.  Carbo-hydrates.  Nutrient value.  Albuminoid ratio.   Tannin (oak bark). 
Quinine ... 51.72  3.65  9.22  1.89  9.00  24.52  37 3/4  1:3 1/4  1.7 

(Agric. Gazette, N.S. W., Oct., 1899.)


"Quinine tree," Weelamurra, beyond Bourke. — (Kerry & Co.)

"Quinine." A small plant, Coonamble. — (C. J. MeMaster.) This shows its characteristic habit in its juvenile stage

Supplementary Material Added To Volume 4

No. 8. Part II.See also vols. ii, p. 188; iii, p. 162.

Alstonia constricia, F.v.M. A "BITTER BARK." (Family APOCYNACEÆ .)


(a) Alstonia constricta: A young tree in the Botanic Gardens, Sydney, showing its characteristic habit of growth, with many stems. -( Government Printer, photo.)

(b) "Quinine," Coolabah. — (R. W. Peacock, photo.)

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