Medical Herbs Catalogue



Botanical Name: Dorema ammoniacum (D. DON.)
Family: N.O. Umbelliferae

Synonyms: Gum Ammoniac.
Part Used: The gum resin exuding from the flowering and fruiting stem of Dorema ammoniacum and probably other species.
Habitat: Persia, extending into Southern Siberia.

Description: The plant grows to height of about 7 feet and in spring and early summer contains a milky juice. It is visited by numbers of beetles which puncture the stem and thus cause an exudation, part of which dries on the stem, the rest falling to the ground where it becomes mixed with stones and other impurities found in the gum collected by the natives. The gum resin is found in special cavities in the tissues of the stem, root and petioles of the leaves. The name of the drug is said to be derived from the Temple of Jupiter Ammon in the Libyan Desert where it was collected by the ancients. The gum resin occurs in commerce in two forms, tear ammoniacum and lump or block ammoniacum. The former alone is official in England and consists of pale yellow nodular masses varying in size from a pea to a walnut, brittle when cold but softens on warming, fractured surface, milky white or pale brown in colour. The lump ammoniacum, which is that collected from the ground, is used sometimes but is not official in medicine. The odour of the drug is slight, taste acrid and persistent.

Constituents: The drug contains volatile oil resin and gum. The resin consists of an indifferent resene associated with ammoresinotannol combined with salicylic acid.

Medicinal Action and Uses: Taken internally, it acts by facilitating expectoration and is of value in chronic bronchitis, especially in the aged when the secretion is tough and viscid. The resin has a mild diuretic action. It is antispasmodic and stimulant and is given sometimes as a diaphoretic and emmenagogue, used as a plaster for white swellings of the joints and for indolent tumours. Its use is of great antiquity and is mentioned by Hippocrates.

Preparations and Dosages: Ammoniacum mixture, B.P. 4 to 8 drachms. Ammoniacum in powder, 1 part; syrup of balsam of tolu, 2 parts; distilled water, 30 parts. Dose, 1/2 to 1 fluid ounce. Dose of the powdered gum, 5 to 15 grains, B.P.C. Dose of the powdered gum, 10 to 30 grains, U.S.P.

Other Species: African Ammoniacum or 'feshook,' from Ferula Communis is not a commercial article. The Mahommedans use if for incense; this variety grows well in the author's garden at Chalfont St. Peter.