Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/111

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103
THE TREE THAT BEARS QUININE.

The drying is thus accomplished, at the lowest possible temperature, without detriment to its chemical qualities. After this it may be stored without danger of deterioration.

3. The medicinal alkaloids contained in the bark are quinine, cinchonidine, quinidine, and cinchonine. Quinine has long been regarded as by far the most important of these, being the great specific for malarious fevers. The price of bark in the market has consequently varied with the amount of quinine it was found to contain, with very little reference to the other alkaloids. Careful experiments have shown that all these alkaloids possess a very high medicinal value, but little if at all inferior to quinine.

Malarious fevers, prevailing so extensively throughout India, and especially among the lower classes, the high price of quinine has rendered it absolutely prohibitory to the masses. Consequently, the Government has turned its attention to the production of an article that should contain, as far as possible, all the febrifuge qualities of quinine, at a rate so moderate as to come within the reach of all. This benevolent object has been fairly reached in the production of what is known as amorphous quinine, or cinchona alkaloid, which sells at about fifty cents per ounce, while quinine is held at from three to five dollars per ounce. The products of the government cinchona-gardens are largely employed in the manufacture of this drug.

The method of preparation is extremely simple. The bark, roughly pulverized, is macerated in cold water acidulated with sulphuric acid, until its properties are quite exhausted. Its resulting liquor is precipitated by a caustic alkali potash. The precipitate is then dried, pulverized, and sealed in tin boxes of a pound each. The powder is of a dull whitish color, very light, almost insoluble in water, but dissolves readily in acidulated water. At the time of issuing the last report, one hundred and forty thousand ounces of this febrifuge were being produced from the Himalaya gardens.

4. At an early period extensive experiments were instituted to ascertain the relative curative value of the different alkaloids. One commission, consisting of sixteen prominent medical officers, reported as follows:

Treated by cinchonine, 410 cases Cured 400, failed 10.
" " cinchonidine, 359 " " 346, " 13.
" " quinidine, 376 " " 365, " 11.

The experiment was then varied, in which the alkaloids were pitted against quinine. The number of fever-cases treated was 2,472, with 2,445 cures and 27 failures. The ratio of failure per 1,000 was as follows:

Treated by quinine ratio of failure 7·092
" " quinidine, "" 5·024
" " cinchonidine "" 9·926
" " cinchonine "" 23·255