Angostura (True)

Medical Herbs Catalogue


Angostura (True)

Botanical Name: Cusparia febrifuga (D. C.)
Family: N.O. Rutaceae

Synonyms: Cusparia Bark. Galipea officinalis.
Part Used: The dried bark.
Habitat: Tropical South America.

Description: A small tree with straight stem irregularly branched, covered with a smooth grey bark, leaves alternate, petiolate and composed of three leaflets oblong and pointed, smooth, glossy and vivid green, sometimes with small white spots on them and in their first state having a tobacco-like aroma, this odour is one of the characteristics distinguishing the true Angostura from the false which is odourless. The flowers also have a peculiar nauseous smell; salver-shaped corollas and arranged in axillary, terminal, peduncled racemes. Fruit has five two-valved capsules, two or three of which are often abortive; two seeds in each capsule, round and black, one only is generally fertile. The tree was given the name of Galipea officinalis to denote the true variety of Angostura and thus distinguish it from the very dangerous substitute and adulterant. The characteristics of the true commercial bark are flattened curved pieces or quills 4 to 5 inches long, 1 inch wide and 1/12 of an inch thick. The outer layer of bark is a yellowishgrey cork which is easily removed, often being soft, the inner surface is lighter brown and sometimes laminated, fracture short and resinous white, points being visible on broken surface; the transverse section shows numerous cells filled with circular crystals of Calcium Oxalate, small oil glands, small groups of bast fibres with a musty smell and bitte taste.

Constituents: The chief bitter principle of Angostura bark is Angosturin, a colourless crystalline substance readily soluble in water alcohol or ether. The bark also contains about 2.4 per cent of the bitter crystalline alkaloids Galipine, Cusparine, Galipidine Cusparidine and Cuspareine, about 1.5 per cent. of volatile oil and a glucoside which yields a fluorescent substance when hydrolysed by heating with dilute sulphuric acid.

Medicinal Action and Uses: The bark has long been known and used by the natives of South America and West Indies as a stimulant tonic. In large doses it causes diarrhoea and is often used as a purgative. Most useful in bilious diarrhoea, dysentery, and diseases which require a tonic. Commercially it is an ingredient of bitter liqueurs. The natives also employ it to stupefy fish in the same manner as Cinchona is used by the Peruvians. Some doctors prefer Angostura Bark to Cinchona for use in fever cases; it is also used in dropsy.

Dosages and Preparations: Infusion Cuspariae, B.P.: Angostura Bark in powder,5 parts; distilled water, boiling, 100 parts; infuse for 15 minutes in a covered vessel and strain. Dose, 1 to 2 fluid ounces. This infusion is the most satisfactory way of taking the bark, but to obviate nausea it should be combined with aromatics. It may be given in powder, tincture or fluid extract. Dose of the powder, 5 to 15 grains. Fluid extract, 5 to 30 minims.

Other Species: Dangerous substitutions are: The bark of the Nux Vomica Tree; this is known as False Angostura Bark; it is much more twisted and bent than the true, has no unpleasant smell, is not so heavy, and is more easily broken.

Copalchi Bark from Mexico, composition similar to Cascarilla Esenbeckia febrifuga (N.O. Rutaceae), contains Ovodine.