Araroba powder

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Araroba powder is a drug occurring in the form of a yellowish-brown powder, varying considerably in tint, which derives an alternative name, Goa powder, from the Portuguese colony of Goa, where it appears to have been introduced about the year 1852,[1] and is also known as Bahia powder.[2]

The tree which yields it is the Andira Araroba of the natural order Leguminosae. It is met with in great abundance in certain forests in the province of Bahia, preferring as a rule low and humid spots; the tree is from 80 to 100 ft. high and has large imparipinnate leaves, the leaflets of which are oblong, about 12 in. long and 1 in. broad, and somewhat truncate at the apex. The flowers are papilionaceous, of a purple color and arranged in panicles.[1]

The Goa powder or araroba is contained in the trunk, filling crevices in the heartwood, it is a morbid product in the tree, and yields to hot chloroform 50% of a substance known officially as chrysarobin. It occurs as a micro-crystalline, odorless, tasteless powder, very slightly soluble in either water or alcohol; it also occurs in rhubarb root; this complex mixture contains pure chrysarobin, di-chrysarobin methylether, di-chrysarobin. Chrysarobin is a methyl trioxyanthracene and exists as a glucoside in the plant, but is gradually oxidized to chrysophanic acid (a dioxy-methyl anthraquinone) and glucose; this strikes a blood-red color in alkaline solutions, and may therefore cause much alarm if administered to a patient whose urine is alkaline. The British pharmacopoeia had an ointment containing one part of chrysarobin and 24 of benzoated lard.[1]

Both internally and externally the drug is a powerful irritant; the general practice amongst modern dermatologists is to use only chrysophanic acid, which may be applied externally and given by the mouth in doses of about one grain in cases of psoriasis and chronic eczema. The drug is a feeble antiparasitic, and has been used locally in the treatment of ringworm, it stains the skin and linen a deep yellow or brown, a coloration which may be removed by caustic alkali in weak solution.[1].

Chrysarobin ointment was used in Sherborne School during my attendance there (1957/1958) where it was used to treat tinea cruris (followed by a week of Whitfield’s ointment). At the end of treatment suits shirts and underwear were autoclaved to prevent re-infection; the heat of the autoclave changed the yellow stains to a permanent purple.


  1. ^ a b c d  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Araroba Powder". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 320.
  2. ^ Araroba.—Goa Powder. | Henriette's Herbal Homepage