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Mr. George M. Smyzer (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1862, p. 200) found the bark of the root to contain gum, albumen, starch, volatile oil, of disagreeable taste and odor, fixed, oil, and probably potassium nitrate. No tannin was present. The active properties of the root he believes to be due both to the volatile oil and an acrid, soft resin, soluble in alcohol and ether; another brittle resin, soluble in ether, but insoluble in alcohol, is inert. The leaves yield to water a bitter infusion, resembling in taste that of hops, and containing tannic and gallic acids. The fruit is likewise bitter, and yields the same resins as the root. Justin Steer (ibid., 1867, p. 337) believes the bitterness of the root-bark and its virtues, as a tonic, to be due to berberine. More recently (Jahresb. der Pharm., 1896, p. 510), E. Schulze found the root of Ptelea trifoliata, to contain the base arginine (C6H14N4O2), a constituent of germinating Lupinus luteus, and other plants, and one of the decomposition products of horn, obtained when treating it with hydrochloric acid and stannous chloride (S. G. Hedin, Chem. Centralblatt, Vol. II, 1894, p. 993; and Vol. I, 1896, p. 118). It is characterized by a dark-blue crystallizable compound with copper nitrate [C6H14N4O2]2.Cu[NO3]2.3H2O).
Properties and Uses:
The bark of the root is used in medicine. It contains a large quantity of a peculiar, pungent, and sickening oil, on which the greater portion of its action depends. It acts as a stimulant and relaxant, slowly exciting the stomach and circulation, and expending a considerable portion of its power on the lungs. It is classed as a stimulating tonic, exerting a mild laxative influence, and employed with much praise in bilious intermittents; but it often proves very disagreeable to the stomach, and can not be used in any considerable quantities without creating a burning sensation, disgust, and a stinging erysipelatous eruption on the surface. Within a few years past, it has been commended in the highest terms for asthma. My own experience scarcely justifies much hope from it in this direction; but it is quite stimulating to the lungs, and may be used, in combination with milder and more agreeable agents, in old and debilitated coughs. Dose of the powder, ten to fifteen grains three times a day. Water does not act well on it; but diluted alcohol forms a tincture of considerable power, of which a fluid drachm may be used three times a day. Not uncommonly a portion of the oil separates and floats atop, on adding this tincture to water or sirup. The oil (oleo-resin) is sometimes obtained by making a saturated tincture with absolute alcohol, adding this to water, and distilling on" the alcohol. The oil remains floating on the water, from which it can easily be removed. It has been called ptelein; and is a yellowish- brown oil, nearly as thick as molasses, of a very disagreeable odor and taste, and acting powerfully on the fauces and lungs.
Lloydia. 1973 Sep;36(3):333-7.
Coumarins and alkaloids from Ptelea trifoliata ssp. pallida var. confinis.
(Szendrei K, Novak I, Petz M, Reisch J, Bailey HE, Bailey VL.)