Plant of the Month: Cocillana
Guarea rusbyi (Britton) Rusbyi more commonly known as Guapi Bark, Huapi Bark and Grape Bark is a plant native to tropical South and Central America, particularly Bolivia and the eastern Andes. The plant is a member of the Meliaceae family and is an evergreen tree which grows to about 45 m in height. The bark occurs are flat or curved pieces with an outer surface that is fissured and grey brown in colour. It has an astringent taste and is slightly nauseous with a characteristic odour.
The part used medicinally is the dried bark which is a powerful expectorant and the herbal drug preparation containing it is known as Cocillana. It activity is similar to that of Ipecac root but it is more stimulant as an expectorant. The identity of the active principles of the bark remains unknown. The plant was discovered in the 1880s by Henry H Rusbyi during an expedition to the Amazon to document and collect specimens of medicinal plants and he suspected it contained an alkaloid. Subsequent studies done in 1893 described that the bark contained 2% resin, 2.5% fixed oil, tannins, an alkaloid termed rusbyine and possibly a glucoside. However a study done in 1966 which replicated the extraction procedures done in the earlier work was inconclusive as it gave different results. Although the investigators succeeded in isolating an ‘alkaloidal like’ fraction no distinct component was detected in it. The current conclusion is therefore that modern commercial cocillana bark may not be derived from the same species of Guarea as first collected and described by Henry H. Rusbyi in the 1890s. In fact the species Guarea guidonia (L.) Sleumer is an accepted synonym for G. rusbyi so there is uncertainty about the exact identity of the Cocillana bark of commerce.
There are several herbal drug preparations containing Cocillana bark notably Cocillana Liquid Extract BPC 1973 and Compound Syrup of Cocillana BPC 1949. The latter contains Cocillana Liquid Extract plus Liquid Extracts of Euphorbia, Senega and Squill along with preservative, codeine, menthol, Spirit of Chloroform, glycerine, water and syrup. The API is generally used as an ingredient in oral liquid cough mixtures such as the brand Cocillana-Etyfin formerly marketed by the Swedish speciality pharmaceutical company Meda AB. Cocillana-Etyfin contains Cocillana Liquid Extract BPC, Senega Liquid Extract BP1980 and ethyl morphine as the active ingredients.
Ransom Naturals manufactures a concentrated extract of Cocillana, CO/15 – EFM Liquid Extract of Cocillana BPC that can be used to prepare Liquid Extract of Cocillana BPC.