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Angostura bitters

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A substance derived from Cusparia febrifuga, a tree in the family N. O. Rutaceae.

Description

A substance derived from Cusparia febrifuga, a tree in the family N. O. Rutaceae. It was so-called because this tree grew at Santo Tomé de Guayana de Angostura del Orinoco, known simply as Angostura, on the Orinoco River in Venezuela. The town changed its name to Ciudad Bolivar in 1846.

The chief bitter principle of Angostura is Angosturin, a colourless crystalline substance readily soluble in water alcohol or ether. The bark also contains about 2.4 per cent of the bitter crystalline alkaloids Galipine, Cusparine, Galipidine Cusparidine and Cuspareine, about 1.5 per cent of volatile oil and a glucoside, which yields a fluorescent substance when hydrolysed by heating with dilute sulphuric acid.

The bark has long been known and used by the natives of South America and West Indies as a stimulant tonic. In large doses it causes diarrhoea and is often used as a purgative. Most useful in bilious diarrhoea, dysentery, and diseases which require a tonic. The natives also employ it to stupefy fish in the same manner as Cinchona is used by the Peruvians. Some doctors preferred Angostura Bark to Cinchona for use in fever cases. It is also used in dropsy.

Commercially angustura is an ingredient of bitter liqueurs and the name of a bitter, aromatic spirits produced in Trinidad. It was originally used as a febrifuge and appetizer, now it is mostly used as an ingredient in cocktails. Don’t get bitter.

We thank Shaunette Babb for information submitted.

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