Dita BarkBotanical Name: Alstonia scholaris (R. BR,)
Family: N.O. Apocynaceae
Synonyms: Devil's Bit. Pali-mara. Bitter Bark. Australian Fever Bush. Devil Tree.
Habitat: India. Moluccas. Philippines.
Description: The genus of Alstonia takes its name from Alston, a Professor of botany in Edinburgh. Grows 50 to 80 feet high, has a furrowed trunk, oblong stalked leaves 6 inches long, 2 to 4 inches wide, in whorls round stem, upper surface glossy, under one white, and marked with nerves running at right-angles to midrib; taste bitter, but no odour. A. constricta, belonging to the same order, is also recognized by the British Pharmacopceia; the bark is quite dissimilar however, and contains different alkaloids, slightly aromatic odour, taste very bitter, used for same purposes, mainly as a febrifuge in malarial fever, tonic and astringent, with much the same properties as Peruvian bark.
Constituents: The strongest alkaloids in A. scholaris bark are Ditamine, Echitanine, the latter in character resembling ammonia other constituents are echierin, echicaoutin echitin, and echitein - these are crystalline and Echiretin amorphous.
Constituents of A. constricta bark, alstonine and porphyrine, is colourless and amorphous; also contains porphyrosine and alstonidine.
Medicinal Action and Uses: Though Alstonia is used in India and Eastern Colonies for malarial conditions, its efficacy in this respect is not to be compared with cinchona bark, though it does not produce the bad effects cinchona does. It is also employed as a bitter tonic, vermifuge, and as a cure for chronic diarrhoea and bowel complaints, both varieties are used.
Preparation: Dita bark: 1 part in 20 for B.P. infusion, 1/2 to 1 fluid ounce; 1 part in 8 Alcohol Tinc., B.P., 1/2 to 1 fluid drachm. Dose, 2 to 4 grains.
Other Species: The A. spectabilis, a habitat of Java, contains the same alkaloid as Dita bark, with the addition of a crystalline alkaloid, Alstonamine.