1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Logwood

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LOGWOOD (so called from the form in which it is imported), the heart-wood of a leguminous tree, Haematoxylon campechianum, native of Central America, and grown also in the West Indian Islands. The tree attains a height not exceeding 40 ft., and is said to be ready for felling when about ten years old. The wood, deprived of its bark and the sap-wood, is sent into the market in the form of large blocks and billets. It is very hard and dense, and externally has a dark brownish-red colour; but it is less deeply coloured within. The best qualities come from Campeachy, but it is obtained there only in small quantity.

Logwood is used in dyeing (q.v.), in microscopy, in the preparation of ink, and to a small extent in medicine on account of the tannic acid it contains, though it has no special medicinal value, being much inferior to kino and catechu. The wood was introduced into Europe as a dyeing substance soon after the discovery of America, but from 1581 to 1662 its use in England was prohibited by legislative enactment on account of the inferior dyes which at first were produced by its employment.

The colouring principle of logwood exists in the timber in the form of a glucoside, from which it is liberated as haematoxylin by fermentation. Haematoxylin, C16H14O6, was isolated by M. E. Chevreul in 1810. It forms a crystalline hydrate, C16H14O6 + 3H2O, which is a colourless body very sparingly soluble in cold water, but dissolving freely in hot water and in alcohol. By exposure to the air, especially in alkaline solutions, haematoxylin is rapidly oxidized into haematein, C16H12O6, with the development of a fine purple colour. This reaction of haematoxylin is exceedingly rapid and delicate, rendering that body a laboratory test for alkalis. By the action of hydrogen and sulphurous acid, haematein is easily reduced to haematoxylin. It is chemically related to brazilin, found in brazil-wood. Haematoxylin and brazilin, and also their oxidation products, haematin and brazilin, have been elucidated by W. H. Perkin and his pupils (see Jour. Chem. Soc., 1908, 1909).