Monograph of the U.S.D. 1926
Compiled and edited by Ivor Hughes

  CHONDRUS.  N. F. CHONDRUS Chondr. [Irish Moss, Carrageen]
"Chondrus is the dried bleached plant of Chondrus Crispus (Linne) Stackhouse or of Gigartina Maruillosa (Goodenough et Woodard) J. Agardh (Fam. Gigartinaceae). Chondrus contains not more than 2 per cent of foreign organic matter." N. F.

  Caragahen, Fucus Crispus, Pigwrack, Killeen, Pearl Moss; Hen's Dulse; Carragheen; Carragaheen; Fr. Cod.; Mousse Marine perlee, Fr.; Carrageen, P. G.; Irlandisches Moos, Perlmoos, Knorpeltang, G.; Fuco carageo, Musco d'lrlanda, Fuco crispo. It.; Caragaen, Musgo marino perlado, Sp.

Chondrus crispus grows upon rocks and stones on the coast of Europe , and is especially abundant on the southern and western coasts of Ireland , where it is collected. It is also a native of the United States , and is gathered largely on the coast of Massachusetts , below Boston , where it is partly torn from the rocks and partly collected from the beach, on which it is thrown up during storms. It is prepared for market by spreading it out to dry and bleach in the sun. For elaborate accounts of the plant, of its distribution on the sea coast of Massachusetts, and of the mode of gathering and curing, see A. J. P., 1895, 596; 1899, 483.

  Henry Kraemer witnessed the methods pursued on the Massachusetts coast in the collection of Irish moss at Scituate , which appears to be a particularly favorable situation. The season for collection begins late in May and continues to September, June and July being the best months. The moss at present is only found on rocks that are from 15 to 20 feet below the tide, hence women no longer engage in its collection. The men go out in their sail boats or dories at half tide, come in at half flood. With their long rakes they scrape the moss off the rocks, collecting thus about 50 pounds to the boat, the total for the season at Scituate being about 10,000 pounds. The moss is spread out on the high beach for a week or so, the action of the sun and dew bleaching it. It is then enclosed in hogsheads, in which it is again saturated with sea water by rolling them in the marshes; after which it is again spread out and subjected to the bleaching process, this alternate treatment being repeated four or five times, until the product is of a yellowish or white color. The final drying is done in barns, where the moss is stored until it is packed in 100 lb. barrels at the end of the season.

In the course of this journey he had opportunity to observe the Chondrus growing and gathered in different localities along the coast, and found it to consist chiefly, if not entirely, of Chondrus crispus. While it is stated in Dr. Farlow's " The Marine Algae of New England" that the closely resembling Gigartina mamillosa is common from Boston northward, Kraemer is inclined to believe that Chondrus crispus (L.) Lyngbye, is practically the only source of the American drug. (See Proc. Perm. Pharm. Assoc., 1899, 113-116.) Tunmann (Apoth. Zeit., 1909, pp. 91 and 151) has given an elaborate account of the morphology and composition of Chondrus. Gigartina mamillosa Ag. resembles the true Irish moss, and, growing with it upon the rocks, may be gathered with it. It can, however, be at once distinguished by the numerous papillae which cover the surface and margins of the fronds and bear the fruit (cystocarps). In chemical and medicinal properties it is probably identical with C. crispus. The commercial supplies of Chondrus are chiefly obtained from Boston ( Massachusetts ), Nimes ( France ) and Dublin ( Ireland ).

Irish moss when collected is washed and dried. It is probably sometimes bleached by the use of potassium permanganate and sodium thiosulphate by the same process as that used for bleaching sponge. Schack was led to suspect this through discovering the presence of sulphurous acid in a German specimen. (Ph. 'Ztg., 1886, p. 87.) The presence of arsenic has been determined in some commercial lots, being caused, no doubt, by the impurities in the sulphur used for bleaching Chondrus. Some " faked " samples have yielded as much as 35 per cent, of ash which contained a large quantity of calcium sulphate. The gelatinizing value of specimens of this kind is about 60 per cent, below normal. In the fresh state it is of a purplish color, but as found in the shops, is yellowish or yellowish-white, with occasionally purplish portions.

Description and Physical Properties." Whole Chondrus. � Entire plants matted together, consisting of a slender stalk from which arises a series of dichotomously branching, more or less flattened segments, emarginate or deeply cleft at the tips; from 5 to 15 cm. in length, and 1 to 10 mm. in width; yellowish-white; translucent, frequently coated with a calcareous deposit which effervesces with hydrochloric acid; sometimes with fruit bodies or sporangia embedded near the apex of the segments (in C. crispus) or with sporangia borne on short tuberculated projections or stalks, more or less scattered over the upper portion of the segments (in G. mamillosa); somewhat cartilaginous. Odor slight, seaweed-like; taste mucilaginous, saline.

Boil one part of Chondrus for about ten minutes with 30 parts of water, replacing the water lost by evaporation; the strained liquid forms a thick jelly upon cooling. When softened in cold water, Chondrus becomes gelatinous and transparent, the thallus remaining nearly smooth and uniform and not swollen except slightly at the tips; a solution made by boiling 0.3 Gm. of the drug in 100 cc. of water and filtering gives no precipitate on the addition of tannic acid T.S. (absence of gelatin), and when cold does not give a blue color on the addition of iodine T.S. (absence of starch)." N. F. It swells in cold water, but does not dissolve. Boiling water dissolves a large proportion of it, and the solution, if sufficiently concentrated, gelatinizes on cooling. Herberger found 79 per cent, of a mucilaginous substance resembling pectin, and 9.5 of mucus, with fatty matter, free acids, chlorides, etc.

  This gum-like substance, which is known as carrageenin, is distinguished from acacia by affording, when dissolved in water, no precipitate with alcohol; from starch, by not becoming blue with tincture of iodine; from pectin, by yielding no precipitate with lead acetate and from mucic acid by the action of nitric acid. It is probably not a pure principle but a mixture of carbohydrate derivatives. According to Sebor (1900) it yields, when hydrolyzed, galactose, dextrose, levulose and salts of sulphuric acid. Muther and Tollens (1904) found also hydroxy-methylfurfuraldehyde. Blondeau in 1865 prepared a substance which he called goemine by boiling chondrus for several hours and precipitating the resulting mucilage with alcohol. Fucusol is an oily liquid, isomeric with furfural, which is obtained by boiling the seaweed with dilute sulphuric acid.

  Carrageenin has been used as a substitute for acacia under the name of " imitation gum Arabic "; it occurs in three forms, white, pale yellow and yellow. These differ from the true acacia not only in chemical properties, but in being much less adhesive (Federer, Ph. Era, 1887). The ash of chondrus amounts to from 8 to 15 per cent, and contains traces of iodine. On oxidation with nitric acid the dry moss yields from 21.6 to 22.2 per cent, of mucic acid. There is present also about 7 per cent, of protein material. The mucilage of Irish moss has come into considerable use as an emulsifying agent. (Proc. A. Ph. A., 1887; A. J. P., 1888, 170.)

Uses. � Chondrus is nutritive, and, being easy of digestion and not unpleasant to the taste, forms a useful article of diet in cases in which the farinaceous preparations, such as tapioca, sago, barley, etc., are usually employed. It was formerly employed as a demulcent in chronic pectoral affections, diarrhea, and disorders of the kidneys and bladder, but is rarely so employed to-day. It may be used in the form of decoction, made by boiling a pint and a half of water with half an ounce of the moss down to a pint. Sugar and lemon juice may usually be added to improve the flavor. It is recommended to macerate the moss for about ten minutes in cold water before submitting it to decoction; any unpleasant flavor that it may have acquired from the contact with foreign substances is thus removed.

Dose, four drachms (15.5 Gm.).
Off. Prep.Mucilago Chondri, N. F.


See Also .. Demulcents.Veg. Martindales 24th

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