Medical Herbs Catalogue



Botanical Name: Ferula sumbul (HOOK, F.)
Family: N.O. Umbelliferae

Synonyms: Euryangium Musk Root. Jatamansi. Ouchi. Ofnokgi. Sumbul Radix. Racine de Sumbul. Sumbulwurzel. Moschuswurzel.
Parts Used: Root and rhizome.
Habitat: Turkestan, Russia, Northern India.

Description: The plant reaches a height of 8 feet, and has a solid, cylindrical, slender stem which gives rise to about twelve branches. The root-leaves are 2 1/2 feet long, triangular in outline, while the stem-leaves rapidly decrease in size until they are mere sheathing bracts. The pieces of root, as met with in commerce, are from 1 to 3 inches in diameter and 3/4 to 1 inch in thickness. They are covered on the outside with a duskybrown, papery, transversely-wrinkled cork, sometimes fibrous; within they are spongy, coarsely fibrous, dry, and dirty yellowishbrown, with white patches and spots of resin. The odour is strong and musk-like, the taste bitter and aromatic.

Sumbul - a Persian and Arabic word applied to various roots - was discovered in 1869 by the Russian Fedschenko, in the mountains south-east of Samarkand near the small town of Pentschakend on the River Zarafshan, at an elevation of 3,000 to 4,000 feet. A root was sent to the Moscow Botanical Gardens, and in 1872 two were sent from there to Kew, one arriving alive. In 1875 the plant died after flowering. The genus Euryangium (i.e. 'broad reservoir') was based by Kauffmann on the large, solitarv dorsal vittae, or oil tubes, which are filled with a quantity of latex - the moisture surounding the stigma - which pours out freely when a section is made, smelling strongly of musk, especially if treated with water, but they almost disappear in ripening, making the plant difficult to classify.

The root has long been used in Persia and India medicinally and as incense in religious ceremonies.

The physicians of Moscow and Petrograd were the first to employ it on the Continent of Europe, and Granville first introduced it to Great Britain and the United States.

The root of Ferula suaveolens, having only a faint, musky odour, is one of the species exported from Persia to Bombay by the Persian Gulf. It is the Sambul Root of commerce which differs from the original drug, being apparently derived from a different species of Ferula than that officially given.

The recognized source in the United States Pharmacopceia is F. Sumbul (Hooker Fil.). False Sumbul is the root of Dorema Ammoniacum; it is of closer texture, denser, and more firm, of a red or yellow tinge and feeble odour.

Constituents: Volatile oil, two balsamic resins, one soluble in alcohol and one in ether; wax, gum, starch, a bitter substance soluble in water and alcohol, a little angelic and valeric acid. The odour seems to be connected with the balsamic resins. The volatile oil has a bitter taste like peppermint, and on dry distillation yields a bluish oil containing umbelliferone. A 1916 analysis shows moisture, starch, pentrosans, crude fibre, protein, dextrin, ash, sucrose, reducing sugar, volatile oil and resins. Alkaioids were not detected. The volatile oil did not show the presence of sulphur. Both betaine and umbelliferon were detected. In the resin, vanillic acid was identified and a phytosterol was present. Among the volatile acids were acetic, butyric, angelic and tiglic acid, and among the nonvolatile oleic, linoleic, tiglic, cerotic, palmitic and stearic.

Medicinal Action and Uses: Stimulant and antispasmodic, resembling valerian in its action, and used in various hysterical conditions. It is believed to have a specific action on the pelvic organs, and is widely employed in dysmenorrhoea and allied female disorders. It is also a stimulant to mucous membranes, not only in chronic dysenteries and diarrhoeas, but in chronic bronchitis, especially with asthmatic tendency, and even in pneumonia.

Half an ounce of a tincture produced narcotic symptoms, confusing the head, causing a tendency to snore even when awake, and giving feelings of tingling, etc., with a strong odour of the drug from breath and skin which only passed off after a day or two.

The tincture of 10 per cent Sumbul, with 2 volumes of alcohol and 1 of water, is used as an antispasmodic and nervine. The fluid extract, being superior, superseded the tincture. (Sumbul, in No. 30 powder, 1,000 grams, with a mixture of 4 volumes of alcohol and 1 of water as the menstruum.)

Dosages: B.P., 1/2 to 1 drachm. Of fluid extract, 1/2 to 1 fluid drachm. Of extract ofSumbul or Muskroot, 2 to 5 grains. Solid extract, U.S.P., 4 grains.