The Physiomedical Dispensatory by William Cook, M.D., 1869
Synonym: Menispermum calumba of Roxbury; Jateorhiza calumba of Miers.
Description: This is a climbing annual plant, native to Mozambique and eastern Africa, and cultivated in parts of India. The stems are herbaceous and twining; root perennial, fasciculated, fleshy, one to three inches in diameter, brownish without, deep yellow within. Leaves alternate, large, nearly round in outline but rather evenly seven-lobed, margins wavy, on long hairy petioles. Flowers on solitary axillary racemes; small, green, dioecious. Calyx six-sepaled; corolla six-petaled; stamens six; pistils three. Fruit about the size of a hazel-nut, densely covered with long spreading hairs, either drupaceous or a berry.
The fusiform roots of this plant appear in market in thin slices transversely. The slices are flat, circular or oval, mostly two inches in diameter and from two to four lines thick, grayish- yellow, bitter. (Pereira.) The root is often worm-eaten. Its powder has a greenish-yellow tint, a faint smell, and an aromatic bitter taste. Water, alcohol, diluted alcohol, and ether extract its virtues, which most abound in the cortical. It contains starch; a colorless neutral principle named calumbin; and an alkaloid berberia or berberin.
Properties and Uses: The root is a bitter of the more relaxing order of tonics, stimulating only to a very moderate degree, and having a slightly demulcent character. It resembles the American article of a similar common name, (Frasera Carolinensis,) but is much pleasanter and not at all astringent. Its chief action is upon the stomach; and it is admirably suited to feeble conditions of this organ, with want of appetite, indigestion, flatulence, and vomiting. It never excites nausea, but on the contrary is an excellent agent to allay all forms of sympathetic vomiting, as in pregnancy; and few tonics are so well received by weak and irritable stomachs. During convalescence from fever, diarrhea, and dysentery, it is one of the most useful tonics; and it exerts a very mild influence on the hepatic apparatus, which well fits it for numerous cases of biliousness. It imparts a desirable tonic influence to the bowels. Some class it among the very powerful tonics, like gentian; but this is a mistake, for it is altogether a milder article, and suited for quite other conditions than those to which the gentian is applied. It is generally compounded with other tonics and with aromatics; and deserves more attention than it receives in America. Dose of the powder, ten to twenty grains three times a day.
Pharmaceutical Preparations: I. Infusion. Calumba in coarse powder, six drachms; boiling water, one pint. Macerate for an hour. Dose, eight to twelve fluid drachms three times a day. By adding a few grains of dill seed or fennel, the flavor is much improved. II. Tincture. This is prepared by macerating two and a half ounces of calumba in a sufficient quantity of proof spirit; transferring to a percolator, and adding proof spirit till one pint in all has been used; then pressing the drugs strongly, and adding enough spirit to the liquid to make the product one pint. Dose, half a fluid drachm to two fluid drachms. This is often added to other tonic preparations, or to such nervine aromatic infusions as may be in use for excessive vomiting. This agent is an ingredient in the compound wine of comfrey.
Medical Herbalism journal and medherb.com