1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sumbul

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SUMBUL, or Sumbal, also called Musk Root, a drug occasionally employed in European medical practice. It consists of the root of Ferula sumbul, Hook., a tall Umbelliferous plant found in the north of Bokhara, its range apparently extending beyond the Amur. It was first brought to Russia in 1835 as a substitute for musk; and in 1867 was introduced into the British pharmacopoeia. The root as found in commerce consists of transverse sections an inch or more in thickness and from 1 to 3 or more inches in diameter. It has a dark thin papery bark, a spongy texture, and the cut surface is marbled with white and blackish or pale brown; it has a musky odour and a bitter aromatic taste. The action and uses of the drug are the same as those of as asafetida (q.v.) It owes its medicinal properties to a resin and an essential oil. Of the former it contains about 9% and of the latter ⅓%. The resin is soluble in ether and has a musky smell, which is not fully developed until after contact with water.

Under the name of East Indian sumbul, the root of Dorema ammoniacum, Don., has occasionally been offered in English commerce. It is of a browner hue, has the taste of ammoniacum, and gives a much darker tincture than the genuine drug; it is thus easily detected. The name “sumbal” (a word of Arabic origin, signifying a spike or ear) is applied to several fragrant roots in the East, the principal being Nardostachys jatamansi, D.C. (see Spikenard). West African sumbul is the root of a species of Cyperus.