The California physicians have, for some time past, used a new drug, called Quillaya Saponaria. It has gained quite a reputation through the West as a certain remedy in common colds and in influenza.
As a separate plant it has never, so far as I know, been proved. But its alkaloid, Saponin, has received a thorough examination by Dr. Hills, of New York.
The QUILLAYA is a genus of plant belonging to the order Rosaceae. The bark of some of the species, notably of the Quillaya Saponaria,is used in South America, and quite generally, too, among the Spaniards, Mexicans, etc, in California, as substitute for soap. Its saponaceous qualities are due to the Saponin, contained in the bark.
Dr. William Boericke , who for eight years had charge of the San Francisco Pharmacy, informs me that he has had frequent calls for the tincture of the Quillaya, and that several physicians have pronounced it an invaluable drug in the beginning of coryza and sore throat. He adds his personal experience also in its favor. It is claimed to cure when there are sneezing, stuffed feeling in the nose, soreness and rawness in the throat, aching all over the body, chilliness etc.
Now, in the absence of proving of the individual plant itself, our next best thing is to examine into the produced symptoms of the Saponin.
Allen, vol. Viii, tells us that Saponin is a ‘glucoside, the active principle of many plants belonging to the Caryophyllaceae, Polygalaceae, etc; principally obtained from Saponaria Officinalis, Gypsophila, Struthium, Polygala, Senega and Quillaya.’
From the symptoms collated in his Encyclopaedia, I glean the following:
Frontal catarrhal headache; sneezing; cannot breathe through the right nostril; dull pain at the root of the nose, and at the temples; tongue yellow-white on the back, edges red and papillae elevated; hard palate rough when touched with the tongue, the papillae are raised. Tenacious mucus from the posterior nares; throat raw, scraped, sore with feeling of constriction on swallowing. Tonsils swollen, bright red. Cough at every forced inspiration through the nose. Muscles ache, feel weak, as after great exertion; numbness; tingling especially of fingers and soles of feet; chilly, feel faint; feel as if covered with cold stockings; head hot, skin dry. Diarrhoea, painless but urgent, 4 p.m.
In the New Yark State Transactions, 1875, Dr. Hills recorded that Saponin, when locally applied to the hearts, retards its action, like Digitatis. When applied to muscles, it paralyzes them. Given in appreciable doses to act, it caused dysphagia, rattling of mucus in the larynx, flow of saliva, loose cough, clay-colored but formed stool or green or offensive; stupidity and inclination to keep quiet. Death is said to result from paralysis of respiratory centers, of cardiac nerves, and of the muscles.
It has been used accordingly for local anesthesia, consistently with its recorded symptoms of formication, numbness etc.
The depressing effects of the drug account for the general feeling of muscular soreness and want of energy, and reminds us of Gelsemium, which, too, is indispensable in catarrhs, occurring in spring and summer, when the heat so depresses both the muscular and nervous systems. It would seem, then, that the Quillaya ought to relieve colds, which are produced by damp, relaxing atmosphere, such as is common enough in our latitude, from May to mid June, and from mid August to far into October, or even November. It exhibits quite a contrast to Aconite, Nux Vomica, Bellladonna, Cepa etc seems to concord with Ferrum, Gelsemium, Mercurius, Ipecac, Bryonia, Carbo Veg., etc.
Like Nux Vom., it is said to be adapted mainly to the initiament of a cold, but the Nux curative when the cause of the cold is exposure to dry cold air, sitting or lying on cold stones, etc. Like Mercurius, there are rawness and soreness in nose and throat, and general muscular soreness; but Mercury suits late in catarrh, when the discharge is thick, yellow or green; or, in the beginning after exposure to wet, to damp evening air, to foggy weather, and when the discharge is watery, burning, and excoriating. There is, also, generally present fever and sweat, the latter exhausting rather than relieving the patient.
Like Gelsemium, the Saponin ( Quillaya), cures colds contracted in warm, relaxing weather. Both have muscular languor, desire for rest and quiet, general bruised feeling, even of the eyeballs etc. The one, however, has more a stuffed sensation in the nose. Gelsemium, cures a fluent, excoriating croyza; and there is generally neuralgia of the face, and even of the head, with pains rising from the occiput to the forehead.