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The roots contain volatile oil, extractive, tannic acid, gum, resin, a crystalline principle, a saccharine principle resembling mannite, and a glucoside resembling senegin. Both the crystalline principle and the impure resin obtained by precipitating with water a tincture of the root have been called Leptandrin and is said to be the active principle. The properties are extracted by both water and alcohol.
An ester of p-methoxycinnamic acid, a phytosterol verosterol, and some dimethoxycinnamic acid are also obtained.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---The fresh root is a violent cathartic and may also be emetic. The dried root is milder and less certain. Leptandrin excites the liver gently and promotes the secretion of bile without irritating the bowels or purging. As it is also a tonic for the stomach, it is very useful in diarrhoea, chronic dysentery, cholera infantum, and torpidity of the liver.
The accounts of its use are conflicting, perhaps owing to the difference in the action of the root in its dry and fresh states. There appears to be a risk of the fresh root producing bloody stools and possibly abortion, though a decoction may be useful in intermittent fever. It has been stated that the dried root has been employed with success in leprosy and cachetic diseases, and in combination with cream of tartar, in dropsy.